Sunday, December 13, 2015

Aunt Bea's Plymouth: "The Gad-abouts"

Somewhat strange, I suppose, for a twelve-year-old to tag along with his aunt as she made her rounds for the church. Yet, calling on old members and friends, new families fresh with babies or Beagle pups, farm folks and city dwellers––every visit made a memory for me.

One could peek down the hall or up the stairs of the homes we entered. I'd note the Victorian antiques or if the television was a DuMont, Philco, GE, RCA, Sylvania, or an Emerson. Then record what calendars or portraits hung on the wall, find the creaks in the hallway, smell the aromas that clung to the wallpaper. 

Church visitation was no respecter of persons: some homes reeked of old times and infirmities; others were upscale where finned Cadillacs were berthed and, on the Hi-Fi, lush violins played country club music to complement the plush draperies and polished heirlooms.

The Breathwaites lived close to the "fashionable" side of town and life back then. Often pictured in the Tribune, they could out-Carnegie Dale Carnegie, author of How to Win Friends and Influence People––a very popular book back in those days. They drove Buicks. A dignified Roadmaster sedan for Cecil; a smaller, sportier Century hardtop for Virginia.

We were ushered into the stone foyer just as Cecil's cousin was leaving, and my Aunt Bea was elected to negotiate an argument.

Yes, Cousin Jim told us, the elder Breathwaites were still holding forth on the family place. "Mom and Pop rent most of the land and pasture, and that's fine with me since I din't want to farm. And, . . . so here I am, trying to get these two down yonder to see 'em while they're still around."

"We're driving down soon's we can," Cecil laughed, embarrassed enough that even I could see it.

"That's what I heard the last time we had this discussion," Jim told us. "Every time we get into this."

"Jim," Virginia piped up, "we're busy people, just like you and Karen."

"I painted this house a year last summer," Jim told the both of us. "So I kept track of the to and fro around this place. Cecil would pull out, first thing in the morning. Then there goes Virginia, driving off. Cece comes back, then he leaves again. Virginia comes back. Cece drives back in, then Virginia takes off. Then Cecil takes off, and Virginia, in the meantime, comes back––"

Cecil shook his head and laughed, "Oh, Jimmy, now––"

"Y' might as well leave the garage door open––be easier. Needa traffic cop out here."

"Jim, we're social people––"

"Gadfly gad-abouts, I say."

"Well, you saw us on a Thursday and that's our busiest," said Virginia. "Miss Cotton knows all about how many things go on in this town." Jim started ticking off his fingers.

"They sing in two different church choirs, Presbyterian and Stone Methodist––practice every week for that. Then, Ginny plays the organ over at St. Paul's. They're both Gold Coaters, so have to get out and meet the tour buses comin' through. Then there's Rotary, and her garden club, Kiwanis, and the library board, something up at the college, and the Art and Book Guild, the Bird and Tree Club, the balloon fest, the pancake breakfasts––"

"And there's always work to be done and volunteers have to do it," Virginia pled her case.

'Well, Gin, let someone else take that stuff on." Jim scowled her way. "They pawn these jobs off on you two 'cause they know it'll get done."

"Jim, Ginny and I've talked about this very thing. We're going to bring the kids––"

"Dad's got four tracks for his trains now. Goes clear down one wall and around the corner, across the other. Mom's family tree quilt is done finally. Th' folks would be tickled to death to show those grandkids around . . . and get acquainted a bit."

"Yes, just as soon as they have a free weekend, we'll load 'em up––"

"Do it before they turn sulky, . . . couple pouty teenagers don't want to bother with us old duffers."

"We will, we will. We'll get it done."

Jim made his way to the front door of oak and wrought iron. "One of these days, Cuz, you're gonna get the call, 'The funeral's on Friday, hope yunz can make it.'" 

The cousins said their goodbyes, and Aunt Bea and I were ushered into a den cozy with tartan upholstery, bookshelves built into the pickled oak paneling and a robust rock fireplace, trimmed in copper.

Church stuff took up most of the visit and most of which I don't remember. I do recall, though, the bit about pouty teenagers and pawning jobs off on folks entrusted and known to get such done.

Monday, December 7, 2015

The Boys of Summers Run, a novel swimming upstream

The Boys of Summers Run is written for seniors . . . parents . . .  grandparents . . . middle-grade teens . . . and boys, likely the reluctant readers in most households.

The back cover reads:

Fatherless boys become the Four Horsemen of the Outfield

Autumn, and high above the fields and forests of his family's historic farm, Claude Kinkade surveys his life there thus far. His future in rural Pennsylvania remains cloudy. His mother's marriage may move him to the deserts of Las Vegas and far away from his beloved Little League Baseball team, the Panthers.

Worse, Claude's loyalty is spreading its cloak over Shadeland, his father's ancestral acreage. He senses his departed father's shadow following him as he becomes the "farm-boy-in-training" of Summers Run. Must he forsake the memories he yearns to make among the Clan Kinkade? Will Shadeland suffer in his absence?

"Runs" are the brooks and streams linking the countryside together in Claude's new world. Summers Run is one of these, and The Boys of Summers Run is a story of deep roots and timeless springs, nurtured by traditions of family and folkways. It describes the friendships only boys can forge while learning of life and loss, the triumphs and tragedies of it all. One unsolicited reviewer writes:

"I think this is the best book I've read in a long time. I enjoyed it because it taught so many lessons. . . . I would recommend this book for all ages."

Be aware Boys is not a sports story. Nor the typical coming-of-age account. It is a story of a family preserving the land and the values it is duty-bound to protect and honor.  

To order from Barnes & Noble: The Boys of Summers Run

From Amazon: The Boys of Summers Run 

From IndieBound: The Boys of Summers Run

(IndieBound is a huge community of independent bookstores found in your hometown and on the street corners across the nation. IndieBound members offer all manner of book services, shipping, and ordering of ebooks for your tablets and readers or softbound versions for your nightstand. Patronize them whenever possible.) Remember, Boys is an IndieB.R.A.G. Medallion winner.

And, Pennsylvania, . . . folks, is the setting featured in this work. Yes, there are detours taken through Las Vegas and Montana, but P. A. is where most of Claude's story of his search and grounding take place. Read Boys and discover if it rings true.

Sunday, December 6, 2015


Can't seem to pass a bowl without looking at its contents. Folks get pretty creative. 

This time of year, a bowl often contains the season's holiday greeting cards. Some are receptacles for the more mundane things of life: car keys, cell phones, the dog's leash, a shopping list, mail coming in or going out, and the like. Here's one of ours:

Along with a couple Amur Maple leaves, you might recognize seeds from one of our favorites, the milkweed. Not a glamorous plant, it makes itself useful as well as ornamental as the perfect nesting perch for the Monarch caterpillar and butterfly. A much preferred habitat for this threatened or endangered species.

When fields are farmed right to the road, beneficial plants such as the milkweed are often the victim of overly aggressive weeding programs. If you have a ditch bank or area that's perpetually moist, try planting some milkweeds. While the flower isn't pretty, the seeds are among nature's most exquisite we think. Plus our world's dwindling Monarchs will thank you.

It was an "off" year for our little orchard. So no McIntosh for us in 2015. But, the apples and bowl below were set on a table by my wife more than 40 years ago. A good harvest in both fruit and film.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Mum's Not the Word

One of the pleasures of the season . . . when the Mums give us a last burst of flowering blooms. Mixed with maple leaves one morning at the Riverside Inn, Cambridge Springs.

And along a country road,  somewhere in Crawford County.

Monday, October 26, 2015

A Little Bit of Big Sky in the Keystone State

That's an appetizer of fried green tomatoes with balsamic vinegar drizzled over the top. A speciality and highly recommended! As is, the seafood bisque.

There's an eatery just west of Meadville, Crawford County, in the northwest corner of the state called the Montana Rib & Chop House. Good fare with a few Montana touches such as the map shown below. Janene is pointing to the Bitterroot Valley where your blogger hangs out.

The company's "PA"locations include Meadville, Hermitage, and Canonsburg. Others are out west in Cody, Sheridan, and Cheyenne, Wyoming and of course, Livingston, Billings, and Miles City, Montana.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Found in the swine barn at the Crawford County Fair

This youngster shared a nap with her entry. 

From this year's Crawford County Fair, northwest P. A.

This is a Holstein. Yes, the familiar black and white cow seen along the back roads of the Keystone State can occasionally throw a red gene. Enthusiasts have taken the idea and created a substantial following and some call the sub-breed, "Red and Whites." More about them later.

And here are Ginger and Clover, enjoying the beautiful and very comfortable new dairy barn on the grounds. Always photogenic, those Jerseys.  The diffused lighting from the fabric roof overhead makes for congenial shooting for any photog strolling through the alleys.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Close to P. A.

We occasionally venture beyond P. A.'s borders to close neighbors, such as the Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History, near Jamestown, N. Y. and Lake Chautauqua.  The best access for those unfamiliar with the area is off I-86 to 311 Curtis Street. Watch for signs. It's tucked back into the trees and is a bit obscure. Phone for hours and directions. Usually open on Sundays, 1 to 5 pm.

A special exhibit by the Society of Animal Artists is currently on display as well as the works, tools, life and times of one of America's most influential "birders." Well worth the trip if you are in the area or live nearby.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Pennsylvania-based novel honored

Many thanks to indieBRAG for judging our novel, The Boys of Summers Run, worthy of its Medallion program.

Submissions are juried and then judged by a panel. As a rule, fifty percent of those works are then passed on to a reader group, hence the title, Book Reader Appreciation Group or B.R.A.G. 

Forty percent of those submitted are winnowed down to ten percent as deserving of a Medallion.

We are pleased and humbled to be included in this exclusive group whose works are recognized for their excellence. Here's a link. . . .

When there, click on the "home" link to find our novel among those recent inductees. Works are judged on plot, writing style, characters, copy editing, dialogue, and cover/interior layout.

One final criterion readers apply?  "Would I recommend this book to friends or family?"

Ordering this work is easy. Click on the "Summers Run" blog listed on the right of this one.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Late Summer's Greenery . . .

Sweet corn: Around 16,000 acres of the state's farmland is devoted to this specialty crop whereas in Iowa, sweet corn accounts for less than 4,000 acres.  Annually, Iowa plants 12 to nearly 14 million acres of its farmland to field corn, however.  P. A.'s acreage averages 1.5 million acres annually.

and gold. . . . Plying the back roads soon

Every township, district, and community will be launching its fleet of yellow buses this week or next. 

"Riding the bus" is part of socialization and growing aware of one's community and its expectations. Many memories, good and ill, were fashioned on the bus.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Aunt Bea's Plymouth

Aunt Bea's Plymouth is my collection of short stories and essays from the farm largely and from Pennsylvania most often. Most appear on a sister blog, Along Cotton Road, its link to the right on this page. Since they are set in "P. A.", I tend to post them here as well. Hope you enjoy.

Orlo and Eva”

“Oh, Miss Cotton, grand to see y’.” 
“Well, Eva, so good to be here, and may I present my nephew, Jimmy. He likes to tag along.”
We were ushered into the dining area of the huge country kitchen where a sweating pitcher of lemonade awaited on a checkerboard table cloth. A cup full of spoons sat precisely in the confluence of red and white squares, the cup a fixture for the morning’s “coffee time” and, if the workload permitted, one in the afternoon. With a sigh, Eva heaved herself down to the table after pouring us the home-squeezed juice sweetened by sugar and a dash of maple syrup. 
She was not a heavy woman, in fact, rather spare. But her manner told us she was dealing with weighty matters. Her complexion matched the checkerboard, flushed and dewy with exertion or concern.
“I do need a visit . . . and I know you’ens will keep this to ourselves here.” She managed a smile in my direction. My Aunt Bea cocked her head, her gesture of concern and concentration. Eva smoothed the table top, clearing it of any ripples. “We’ve just had a family . . . well, not a rift. . . . Guess y’ might call it a ‘little tiff,’ or such like.”
“Oh, unsettling, those.”
“Yes’m. We finally got enough money from the insurance company to pay the kids a little wages after their old house burned down. An’ Bill, that’s our new son-in-law, asked Orlo if the check was for Linda too. Linda’s our daughter here on the farm,” Eva told me.
“So, Bill tells Orlo, ‘She’s been working as hard as I am.’ Well, truth of it, the kids have been working ‘specially hard, y’ know, cleaning up the mess over there and sortin’ through what they might salvage, plus all the haying and startin’ now on the grain. Linda milks in the morning and I try to help at night. That’s how we do in the summer when there’s so much to do.
“Well, Orlo came in all fussed up about it and said, ‘Guess Bill thinks Linda needs on the payroll now.’
“Orlo din’t know quite how to answer Bill. An’ later that next morning, Bill met me in the garden and said that he and Linda were a new ‘unit’ now and that since she got married, she can’t be what he called ‘your dutiful daughter any longer. When Linda and I married,’ Bill tells me, ‘it meant she became . . . separate . . . and needs to be paid by the farm for the work she doeson the farm.’
“Well, I din’t know what to say neither. He said it nicely, kindly, but Orlo, like he does, got all huffy ‘bout the matter to me. He said, ‘I know there’s nothing writ down but we’re fair and honest people. Have been since we first settled this valley. Shysters didn’t last back then.’”
“An’ I told Orlo, ‘Times are a-changin’, Dad. Now I’m sorry we din’t pay them more like I wanted. It’s not easy, them just married and living in a tent.’”
“‘We’re gonna help them rebuild,’ says Orlo, meaning the money’s comin’ out of our pocket which is only right. An’ fair. We can’t expect those kids to pay much as they’re both just startin’ out an’ all.” Eva hoisted the pitcher and refreshed our glasses.
“I dunno. Family matters get complicated. Bill’s a nice enough boy and is educated about how things should be done these days.” Eva looked my way. “He just graduated from Penn State in the ag department. Orlo says books and lectures only go so far, that Bill would be better advised to shed some of those notions and accept things that are proven. What do you think, Miss Cotton? You’ens been through some of this, I ‘spect, coming from a big family an’ all.” 
“Yes, one can have some misunderstandings, especially when there’s land and the farm involved and passing it down. The Cottons tried to be fair but realistic.”
“We only paid Bill $250 for nearly two months of work, hard work, way long hours. I din’t feel quite right about it but with the crops not in yet and Orlo death on going to the bank, it just din’t work very well right now. I told Orlo we prob’ly oughter pay Linda a little somethin’. 
“An’ he just clammed up like he can and then y’ know nothing will get done unless everyone sees things his way. I dunno.”
“Perhaps, Eva, there’s someone you could talk to at the bank or with the county agent about wages and what arrangements some of the other families have made around here.”
“We might,” Eva nodded. “I might. I’m just afraid Bill and Linda might take a notion to move down with his people and settle there. There’s no place for them on the farm down there but they could get town jobs at State College, and he knows a lot of folks in the extension service. Problem is, we’ll need more help here some day as it’s gettin’ harder for Dad to roll out in the morning.
“An’ Orlo says, ‘Kids today gotta accept that farming’s their life and not their nine-to-five job. Y’ give up high wages and vacations to live on the place your forbears built for y’ and make it your own and for your kids some day.’”
“An’ I tell him, ‘We’re not getting any younger and what am I to do if you go first?’” 
She stood and closed the kitchen window now being spattered by the afternoon shower.  “Linda said the check was less than minimum wages today in 1955 and Orlo says right back, ‘Well, you’ll have a house soon enough, better’n the old house, plus there’s meals here and we pay the co-op for the lights an’ such. Gas to go to town, if y’ like.’
“I’m just afraid Bill will decide he’s just the . . . h-hired man around here and there’s no future,” Eva said over the quiver in her voice. “Bein’ a hiredee is not what I want for my daughter. My own father lived such a way and it’s no good for a man, not someone of Bill’s ambitions.” She leaned on the table and didn’t hide her anguish. 
“Orlo’s aging and he won't go to the doctor. We both live in the past like it was today––I know we do.” Eva sat down and studied the checkerboard covering the worn and creaking table, then poured herself a lemonade to the rim. 
“One thing, we gotta change the cows out, quit milking day and night and buy sucklers at the yard and let them graft when the cows freshen . . . I say. Orlo says, ‘Not until I cannot do it anymore. Those Guernseys are my father’s legacy and not to be abused with bein’ bunted around by a bunch of sickly Holstein calves and crossbred mongrels.’ So there we are and here we are,” she laughed. “Two hundred years of history and a hundred years behind the times.”
We left once the shower had passed on. As we drove down the lane and passed their mailbox, Aunt Bea noted the lettering: “Orlo Fisk and Eva”. 
“That tells you a lot,” she said.


Monday, August 3, 2015

A Summer Scene Fading down Memory Lane

Here's my cousin Jack on the left, his cousin and uncle putting up hay, loose and pitchfork style. Wonder if pitchforks aren't becoming relics today, hanging on the wall as decor rather than tools used daily around the farm and especially at haying time back in the 1940s and Fifties.

Note the big lamps this John Deere is sporting. And the quality of this black and white rendering: really crisp detail and nice contrast.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Pittsburgh Airport

Shot this scene at the Pittsburgh Airport during a recent layover there. The ramp was closed until this storm passed through the area.

Whether Summer or Winter . . .

horse shows are frequently in season. There is nothing quite as exciting as watching a six-up hitch come boiling into the arena. This big guys know they're the show and they're ready to show off!

Pennsylvania hosts a variety of these all across the state. State and county fairs are good places to view. This scene is from the Keystone International Livestock Expo, Harrisburg.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

In Memory . . . . .

A farm family's tribute to its son lost at age 17 from a traffic accident.  A soccer field dedicated to his memory and youth of the area.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Two Books on Pennsylvania's Trees

The hardbound book pictured is the well-respected work by Ann Fowler Rhoads and Timothy A. Block with drawings by Anna Anis'ko. Published by the Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005. 

Excellent reference material showing the distribution, bark, leaf, and nut or fruit, with short and thorough (pithy?) descriptions of its form, bark, twigs, pith, buds, leaves, fall color, stipules, leaf scars, flowers, seeds, plus rating the value of its wood. I especially like the notation where the largest P. A. specimen may be found: what county and the height and diameter of the monarch. Range across the continent is also given. 

Trees of Pennsylvania is the authoritative companion to Stan Tekiela's Trees of Pennsylvania, a field guide and paperback one can slip into a jacket pocket easily and find equally useful. "Stan's notes" are also "pithy" and lend perspective and understanding. 

Cousin Joyce said the big book was a great source for those school projects her children were assigned, those that sent them trekking through the woods, collecting leaves, and identifying the wonderful trees surrounding us. 

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Seen in Titusville

Touring Titusville's impressive array of oil-era mansions. we found this fellow harvesting the rhododendrons in full bloom. Churchyards too were blessed with color from these faithful shrubs that survived a long and deep winter. Like this photo? More scenes at Jim Cotton's Rural Photography

Well worth it

If you're not subscribing to Pennsylvania Magazine, you're really missing some of the best information about the state's attractions to be found anywhere. It's reasonable, well written, and contains compelling, high-caliber photographs and features. Great source of tourist ideas for P. A. folks and visitors alike.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Remodeled Birdhouse

Continuing our bird housing theme, . . . here's one along a country road with a fresh roofing job. How many of the country's birdhouses can boast an asphalt shingle roof? Like this photo?

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Rentals Available

Did you clean out your Purple Martin House? Better do so. Mosquito season is just around the corner.  Like this photo? More like it at The Photography of Jim Cotton.

Monday, April 27, 2015

"The Girls with the Grandma Faces"

“The Girls with the Grandma Faces” were known to travel around and about in their “machines.” Only three drove, however.
My Aunt Bea’s 1939 Plymouth did not qualify as a suitable “machine.” It was but a three-passenger coupe and too old to stretch its tether from Pennsylvania to Montana in that autumn of 1966. Besides, it had no radio, a deficiency Aunt Bea considered correcting. 
“I talked to Mister Lamb about it and he’ll see if he can fit one in. Now that Erie might get an NPR station, I think I’ll try it.” Two other machines were enlisted for the trip west. 
Gladys Teasdale volunteered her pea-soup green Dodge. “The trunk’s big enough to fit eight two-suiters side-by-side.” Irene Waterhouse offered her new Olds, a Suitably Gray ’65 Eighty Eight with front seats that reclined.  
And so with transportation secured, “The Sisters of Sacajewea” set off for Yellowstone, Glacier, and Mount Rushmore on the return. United by the First Presbyterian Church, the Bird-and-Tree Club, the college, the Daughters of the American Revolution, and arthritis, they bundled into the “machines,” four apiece, silently acknowledging this might be their most ambitious and perhaps their last and grandest effort yet. Together.
They’d known each other for decades, some from girlhood. While most were amused by one honest young nephew’s label, the “girls” shared more than grandma faces. Bound by family ties, career and community, hope and disappointment, retirement, resignation, they decided a little folly might do them all “a world of good.” Fanylla Harper, Rebecca Cooper, and my Aunt Beatrice were cousins. Pearl and Gladys Teasdale, sisters. Irene Waterhouse and Virginia Carelton were fixtures at the college. Virginia Fendershot recently retired as the area’s Red Cross Administrator.
Yellowstone entertained them as predictably as Old Faithful. The Mission Range was mistaken for Glacier by one of the girls. They marveled and toured the birding sights as described by the guidebooks, rode the “Jammers,” luxuriated in the lodges, and pledged to paint the vistas of Russell Country when back home.
The arrivals and departures were captured largely by Irene Waterhouse and her “kodak.” Postcard memories were framed by “pleasant weather, though nippy . . . not an anxious moment . . . wonderful colors and wildlife . . . drove there and back, 4,000 miles and more, and not a hint of car trouble.” And, later, whenever my Aunt Bea shared her highlights, no account failed to mention what she called “the Missoula morning.”
“We’d left very early, wanting to reach our Glacier stop before nightfall,” she would say, “and the sunlight was just wonderful, with the sun following us along the river. The trees––we learned they were Cottonwoods––were turning nicely and led us right to Missoula where we tuned in and heard Mozart . . . Mozart in the morning on their national public station there! Oh my. It just set the tone. Both cars stopped for gas and then up the road for breakfast and we made sure everyone found the station.
“And we all agreed: if there’s an NPR station on the frontier of Montana, why can’t we have one back home?”
“The Sisters of Sacajewea” and the grandma-faced girls coasted back to old lives and some to new. Over the years that followed, a couple left the area to be closer to family. Another moved in with a daughter nearby. My Aunt Bea’s “machine”––the black 1939 Plymouth Road King Coupe––was sold to Mister Lamb who had maintained it faithfully all its years, and Aunt Bea settled in to what we call assisted living today. 

Erie did indeed acquire a National Public Radio station much to her pleasure back then. She became a faithful listener and supporter. “One of my treasures,” she’d say, then repeating Missoula’s magic morning from the grand tour. “We were escorted by Mozart one morning and drove to the sun, the next.”

From our recurring series published across our family of blogs and titled, "Aunt Bea's Plymouth." This vignette, an entry in Montana Public Radio's recent short story contest, was written to comply with the station's rule to celebrate its 50th anniversary. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Here's Route 6 from VISIT PENNSYLVANIA

U.S. Route 6, which stretches for more than 420 miles in Pennsylvania, is lined with vast forests, fertile farmland and understated small towns.

View how local photographers interpret Pennsylvania’s natural landscape at The Potter County Artisan Center in Coudersport, which displays images of the PA Wilds by award-winning photographer Curt Weinhold and other local shutterbugs. Visitors can also shop for jewelry, books, treats and handicrafts created by other Potter County artisans.

Christian Dorflinger’s elegantly cut lead crystal adorned the tables of U.S. presidents, including Abraham Lincoln and Woodrow Wilson. See the largest collection of his work at the Dorflinger Glass Museum in the tiny village of White Mills and meander the walking trails within the serene 600-acre wildlife sanctuary that surrounds the museum.

Pick up some special stationery at Laughing Owl Press’ gift shop in Kane. The old-fashioned letterpress printing company ships its creations all over the world.

Sweet-smelling natural soaps are made at Sea Hag Soaps & Art Mercantile in Brackney (located in Susquehanna County). Locals love their natural formulas, commitment to local ingredients and delightfully named concoctions like “Plumeria — I Wanna Marry Ya” and “Prudish Potpourri.”

The Endless Mountains’ fiber artisans are the stars at The Home Textile Tool Museum in Rome — where you can try out old-fashioned spinning wheels, looms, and tools — and at Quilter Corners of Wyalusing, a self-guided driving tour of barns, businesses, homes and historic sites festooned with handmade quilts.

Artists at Pine Creek Pottery near Wellsboro incorporate local creek clay, wood ash, and cornstalk ash into wheel-thrown pottery pieces.

Many culinary craftsmen, who are using locally farmed materials and introducing new techniques and products, have set up shop on Route 6. Sample the sweet Allegheny Gold wine at Conneaut Cellars Winery and Distillery, the handmade Pennsylvania Jack at LeRaysville Cheese Factory or the aptly named Route 6 Red Ale at River Barge Brewing Company in Wyalusing

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Just had to do it !

A mural by Wayne Fettro along the Lincoln Highway

This month's VISIT PENNSYLVANIA  posted such an outstanding "keeper," just had to trumpet it here on our blog. The article features the artistic treasures to be found on two highways crossing P. A.  Highlighted are the Northern Tier (US 6) and the "Lincoln" that winds its way further south from York through Gettysburg and beyond, US 30.

We're simply going to cut and paste the intro here. We're making plans to visit and we hope you'll be inspired to do the same. First the Lincoln Highway. . . . 

The nation’s first coast-to-coast highway, the Lincoln Highway spans nearly 3,400 miles, from San Francisco to New York City. The route celebrated its centennial in 2013, and the portion of the highway that runs through south-central Pennsylvania is peppered with quirky stops and inventive attractions that highlight the area’s history. 

Don’t miss the Lincoln Highway Experience in Latrobe, where you can learn about the highway and iconic Pennsylvania roadside architecture situated along the route, including a lunch stand shaped like a coffee pot, a hotel shaped like a ship and a house shaped like a shoe.

The Pennsylvania Artist Experience Trail, which runs along the Lincoln Highway from York to Lancaster and continues on to New Hope, boasts a significant number of artistic landmarks. Notable stops include Keystone Art and Cultural Center and Phillips Museum of Art in Lancaster, Chester County Art Association in West Chester and Wharton Esherick Museum in Malvern.

While Gettysburg teems with storied battlefields and historical sites, the city is also home to a thriving community of artisans. Eat your way though the city with Savor Gettysburg Food Tours, which takes visitors on a tour of esteemed locally owned restaurants and confectionaries. Or visit downtown Gettysburg to peruse artsy shops like Gallery 30 and Lark Gift Shop.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Jean Bonnet Tavern in Bedford is a worthy stop right off the highway for a nourishing meal, a night’s rest, or a souvenir. The establishment’s Cabin Shoppe offers books on local and state history, Pennsylvania metalwork and handmade soaps, lotions and candles.

Sign up for a workshop at Touchstone Center for Crafts in Farmington, where renowned craftsmen teach classes on blacksmithing, ceramics, jewelry, textiles, glass, painting, drawing, photography and more.

Spend an afternoon at the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art in Ligonier, one of the museum’s four branches in central and southwestern Pennsylvania. Be sure to check out the museum’s exquisite paperweight collection, including vintage, antique and rare pieces in all sizes and shapes.

Muralist Wayne Fettro’s 11 works portraying life along the Lincoln Highway can be spotted while traveling along the route. In Bedford County, visitors can see his interpretation of two vintage cars traveling on the highway painted on the side of a barn near Schellsburg. Or stop in the small borough of Irwin to see a Fettro mural representing the community’s mining and industrial history.

We'll post more on US 6 tomorrow.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Late Frost in early April

Robert Frost, the poet, that is. From a biography by Jean Gould, she writes: "Spring flowers, always so slow to come to New England, seemed later than ever the next year.

"When there was still no sign of blossoms at the end of March, he 'made some out of paper and put them down the roads on April Fool's Day.' And if the neighbors saw him strewing the bits of colored paper along the path, he paid them no heed––or if he did, it was just to give a friendly wave, inviting whoever wished to ask just what he was about." ––Jean Gould, Robert Frost, The Aim Was Song.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Back when . . . .

the federal government used to erect durable buildings built with timeless style. My father worked as a city carrier out of this U. S. Post Office in Meadville for 31 years. 

It says "elegant, strong, enduring" to me. Beautiful brick with the quoins on the corners. Quoins? Those light-colored stones reinforcing the structure's corners. A very good Scrabble word.

Friday, April 3, 2015

From the Online Book Club: A review

"One gripe I had with this book is the meandering plot. I am normally a fast reader, but this book took me an unusually long time to finish. Some readers may not mind this, as some of the side stories and passages are absolute gems. 

"This isn’t a book you should race through, as you might with a thriller; you should savor every sentence. The writing is lovely and lyrical. I enjoyed reading the book as much for the author’s use of language as for the storyline itself. The story is quite engaging and Claude is a likeable main character. All of the characters are vividly written, particularly Claude’s friend Tim, who is deaf and an orphan.

"The dialogue is easy to understand, even with the heavy use of rural Pennsylvania dialect. I usually find the use of a dialect distracting, although it was natural and flowing in this case. I felt like I knew these people well and became used to their manner of speaking.

"I rate this book 3 out of 4 stars. I wish I could have given the book 3.5 stars. The story will tug at your heartstrings. This book would appeal to anyone who likes to read wholesome stories about country life and boys growing up. Actually, I would recommend this book to anyone who appreciates good writing."

Thanks, Carolyn, for this insightful and accurate review. The Boys of Summers Run is now available through as an e-book or in a softcover edition.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Percheron Draft Horse

Here's my Uncle Fritz with one of my Grandfather Cotton's mighty Percherons. Alfred Banks Cotton became a noted breeder in the early 1920's and also maintained a "fine herd of Holsteins." Note the milk cans in the right of this photograph.

Quoting from the website The Percheron Horse Association in America, Fredericktown, Ohio: 

"This is how Alvin Sanders, author of A History of the Percheron Horse (©1917) describes the race of men who developed this race of horse: "Their horses are a part of their inheritance, particularly prized and accustomed to the affectionate attention of the entire household. Their docility, growing out of their intimate human relationship, is therefore an inborn trait".

From the Percheron website: "Traditionally it has been a race with a preponderance of greys. Old paintings and crude drawings from the middle ages affirm this. The French Knight is almost always portrayed on a grey or white charger. Their mounts are depicted as horses with considerable substance for that time, but without coarseness. . . .

Continuing: "When the day of the war horse (thanks to gun powder) was over, this color and that substance with style, was made to order to provide France with horses to pull heavy stage coaches.What was needed was a horse that could trot from 7 to 10 miles per hour and the endurance to do it day in and day out. The light colored greys and whites were preferred because of their visibility at night. . . .

"The Percheron is very versatile. They are readily adapted to varying climates and conditions. They have the strength to pull heavy loads and the graceful style to pull a fine carriage. Percherons can be ridden and some have been known to make fine jumpers. . . .

"The Percheron is very handy in saving the young trees in smaller wood lot operations as they do not need a wide road everywhere they work. They can get on and work ground where even the most modern tractors fail. Their independent four wheel drive conquers mud and snow to the shame of all man made machines. There is a definite place on almost every farm for a team of Percheron horses, whether it be for work or play. . . .

"The decades of the 1870s and 80s were years of massive importation's from Europe. Literally thousands of draft-type horses, especially stallions, were imported primarily from France and Great Britain. . . .

"The decades of the 1870s and 80s were years of massive importation's from Europe. Literally thousands of draft-type horses, especially stallions, were imported primarily from France and Great Britain. . . . 

"As the trade grew and importers ventured further inland in search of the best kind, the little old province of Le Perche was discovered. Or, more to the point, the superiority of its draft horses was discovered. For France had and still does, several races (breeds) of draft horses. . . . 

"The age of purebred livestock had dawned, stud books, herd books,  and flock books were rapidly spawned on both sides of the Atlantic.  In the winter of 1875-76, in Chicago, Illinois, a National Association of Importers & Breeders of Norman Horses was launched. By the time the 2nd volume of the stud book was published the name was altered to Percheron-Norman. In a matter of just a few years the hyphenated version became simply 'Percheron'. . . .

According to the website: "The Percheron quickly became America's favorite horse. In the decade of the 80almost 5,000 stallions and over 2,500 mares were imported to this country from France, mostly from Le Perche. The number exceeded importation's from Great Britain and the rest of continental Europe
. . . .

"Those heavenly days, leaving millions of dollars in little Le Perche, lasted until the financial panic of 1893. There were virtually no importations from 1894-1898. Breeding in this country came to a standstill. Much of the seed stock from the earlier period was lost or squandered as people were either broke or too cautious to spend it if they had it. One of the tens of thousands of businesses that went bankrupt was the young Association. . . . 

"The recovery was almost as abrupt as the downslide. Importations were resumed in 1898, averaging about 700 head a year from that time to 1905. In 1906, they reached the enormous number of 13,000 stallions and 200 mares. Happy Days were here again, both in places like Crossroads, USA and Le Perche. Annual registrations reached 10,000 per year by the teens. . . .

"In 1902, a new breed association was formed, picking up the records from the old. . . .

"These fortuitous circumstances were rudely interrupted in 1914 by the outbreak of World War 1. The days of great importations were over once and for all. . . . 

"The position and role of the draft horse was being threatened by trucks in the cities and tractors on the farms. The equine population of the Unites States crested about 1920. While the draft horse waged a determined campaign to "keep its job" it was a losing battle, particularly on the city streets. On the farms, the draft animal pretty well held its own during the 1920s, but the decade was a lackluster one for the heavy horse interests. You can't be loosing a substantial part of your market and be singing Happy Days are Here Again at the same time. . . . 

"The 1930s census is a good indication of the affection Americans had for the Percheron. Over 70 percent of the purebred draft horses in America were Percherons. Every major land grant school in America maintained a stable of Percherons. Much of the farm press was still loyal to the horse as the most economical source of farm power. . . . 

"Then came the great depression of the 1930s and the draft horse made a dramatic comeback. Corn was cheap, farmers were broke, gasoline wasn't free. Registrations more than doubled in a few short years. In 1937 they reached 4,611, a figure not seen for over a decade. Importations of a few quality horses were resumed on a modest scale. . . . 

"But the tractor had also been improved, put on rubber, and was selling like hot cakes as the decade closed. . . .

"Then came the 1940s and World War 2 and an almost complete mobilization of manpower. During that war an awful lot of the farming got done by old men and their wives, and high school and younger kids. Gasoline was plentiful. The use of drafters during the war declined. When the veterans came home they were, for the most part, mechanically inclined and their fathers were tired. The greatest liquidation of draft horse stock in history started and kept right on going clear through the 1950s until they were no longer considered worth counting in the official agricultural census of the United States. It was truly a vestige that was left as the 1960s dawned. . . . 

"The low point in Percheron registrations came in 1954 when just 85  head were recorded. The term endangered species was certainly appropriate though not yet in common use. . . .

"It was a relative handful of people, dedicated to the breed, unconvinced of the wisdom of the course being pursued by agriculture, and unwilling to relinquish their equine heritage, that kept the Percheron alive. They were aided in this by the thousands of Amish farmers throughout the country who stuck with the draft horse as their source of motive power. . . .

"This determination and patience was rewarded. Americans rediscovered the usefulness of the draft horse. Other Americans discovered the pleasure of working with them at a non-farm tasks. The shows welcomed them back. The growing recreation business discovered their attractiveness at ski lodges, etc. The wood lot owner looked around for a horse logger that would take out a few trees without ruining the rest. It became a combination of niche markets. . . .

"This resurgence in numbers and values has been nothing short of amazing. The growth of the breed in the last ten years bears testimony to that. Registrations totaled 1,088 in 1988, ten years later that had grown to 2257. Transfers numbered 1794 in 1989 grew to 3287 in 1998. Perhaps most significantly, members grew from 2155 to 3095. . . .  

"This is not, as was sometimes true in the old days, a case of a few people importing and recording hundreds of horses. The ownership of the breed is in many hands for many uses. . . .

The Percheron website reports: "And the sculpting goes on. In the 1930s the conventional wisdom was that the battle to the truck was lost completely and the heavy tillage on the farms was as good as lost, so a deliberate effort to downsize the breed was undertaken. Now, the appeal of the big hitches, has reversed that trend."