Posted tagged ‘marbles’

the NYC grands at Roundrock

July 26, 2021

The NYC grands have been here for the entire month of July, but their social calendars are so busy that we had to find a time in their schedule to go to my cabin. This ended being last Wednesday, so I took off of work and we traveled down there with the promise of a fire, S’mores, and maybe chopping down a tree.

My daughter took the photo above, which is a panoramic of the lake, so it’s a bit distorted and looks larger than it is. (Click to embiggen.) In the foreground on the left you see some of the branches of a fallen tree. This was one of the few trees right up at the lake’s edge that the builder had left (actually a cluster of three trees) when he pushed everything else down to make the basin. It was a nice tree, but it was slowly dying, and I feared that it would fall into the lake, which would make it a lot harder to deal with. But it turns out I didn’t have to deal with that outcome because another builder brought it down on the land instead.

Here is some other, nearby handiwork* of that builder;

The beavers have moved their operations to the cabin side of the lake now. Not sure why since there are plenty of waterside trees near their den. (See the embiggened panoramic above.) And the mostly gnawed-through tree you see here will likely fall into the lake, which won’t be a problem for the beavers, but will make swimming and fishing there more challenging. (I’ve read some recommendations that you don’t really want to swim in a lake beavers use.)

So that was this trip’s surprise, but the grands loved it and the fact that wild animals did the work. We visited and talked about it a couple of times that day. The oldest one, Kenneth, who is six and a half, had been to the cabin once before, but that was more than three years ago. He claimed to still have some memories. The twins, Rett and Evie, had not been before but had been regaled by Kenneth, so they were excited by everything.

The first task of the day, once we unpacked and completed our inspection of the beaver doings, was to build a fire. The grands helped, though Evie didn’t understand why I was tearing pages out of a notebook and crumbling them. Until she did, and then she did so as well. I topped the crumbled pages with an egg carton (thank you for this suggestion, Ellen!) and then began adding sticks on top of that. When I had sufficient kindling in place, it was time to bring out the one match. Kenneth wanted to be the one to light the fire, and he did successfully strike the match, but holding it to the paper was a bit beyond him since he was afraid of getting burned. So I did that part, but he get’s the credit for lighting the day’s one-match fire.

As the fire burned to cooking coals, I got the grands busy with scattering marbles in the gravel around the cabin. I’d been hoarding marbles for a long time in anticipation of this, and when I poured them out with instructions, the grands got to it.

Here you see Evie selecting all of the blue marbles, which I told them I wanted scattered on the west side of the cabin. There is also a gravel bed in front of the cabin that is for only red, yellow, black, and white marbles. These are the colors of the Kenyan flag, and Small Paul, who is half Kenyan, gave me those marbles as a gift. Once the visiting grands understood this, they supplemented that bed with the proper colored marbles too. It was fun and exciting work for them. (Good thing, too, since I expected the gravel pile to really interest them, as it does Emmett, but they took no notice of it.)

When the fire had burned sufficiently, we got started on cooking our burgers and later S’mores. An innovation my daughter introduced was to use Double-Stuffed Oreos in place of Graham crackers for the S’Mores. That’s much too sweet for me, but the reports I received gave them an official thumbs up.

Then it was time to cut down the tree, as I pretty much promised Kenneth we would do. There was one in the place where I park that I wanted to take down and so double the parking area. It was less that a foot in diameter and should have been easy work except for two things. One is that it was leaning toward the cabin, with enuf heavy branches on the cabin side to make it want to fall that direction naturally, regardless of how I cut it. The second problem was that it was a Black Jack oak, which pretty much dulls a sharpened chain maliciously.

Part of the solution was to tie a rope to the tree as high as I could reach and then take that around another nearby tree. Thus my helpers (son-in-law, mostly, though the grands wanted to participate) could pull the rope from around the “corner” of the second tree and help direct its fall while being out of its way.

The other part of the solution was a careful cutting of the wedge and the back cut to help direct the fall. Unfortunately, the tree wasn’t interested in cooperating. I think I should probably have started with a new chain, freshly sharpened, but I didn’t have one. I managed to make my cuts, but the back cut was on the cabin side, and when that was done, the tree began leaning toward the cabin. The back cut wasn’t far enuf through the meet the wedge cut, but the leaning was a problem, even with the gang pulling on the rope. The solution was to put a wedge in the back cut. And I happened to have a nice steel wedge in the cabin that I use for splitting wood. We worked that into the back cut and then took turns slamming it with the sledge hammer to persuade the tree not to fall on the cabin. With a little more very careful cutting with the dull chainsaw and some serious effort with rope pulling, the tree began to fall in the proper direction. And immediately got caught in the branches of another tree. So it was off the stump but still standing (more or less). This was, of course, a dangerous situation, especially with three grands (and three dogs) underfoot. But the whole tree cutting operation was out of order, so why not?

I grabbed the rope and moved into the road so I could pull it more directly in the direction we needed. My SIL pushed on the trunk, and together we managed to drag the base a few feet across the gravel while the top of the tree remained in the embrace of its kindred. But we kept at it, and when we got a rocking motion going, we could see progress.

The tree eventually fell on the gravel pile with a mighty crash, which was about ten feet from its intended destination, but that was still well away from the cabin. Then we gave the grands each a handsaw and they got to work removing branches, that we carried into the woods. The trunk of the tree lay across the parking area (we had moved our cars up the road before this), but the chainsaw had decided it had had enuf. We could start it but couldn’t keep it running. So my SIL and I grabbed the end of the shorn tree and carried it to the side of the parking area as it pivoted on its base.

Then it was time to go home. We packed up, which took more time than normally since so many things were brought out to entertain the grands. We made sure to splash through the stream we have to cross to get to the main road (Kenneth loved this), and by the time we got to the paved road (only two miles from the cabin), the twins were already asleep from their big day. Kenneth followed soon after.

I’m having all five (!) of the chains I have sharpened, and the next time I visit my woods, I’ll cut up the remains of that fallen tree beside the parking area. (Unless the beavers do it for me?)

Here is a recent picture of Small Paul, just because:

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*I’m not sure what the equivalent for “handiwork” would be for tooth work.

back again to Roundrock

February 26, 2020

My wife used to complain, half seriously, that I went out to my cabin in my little bit of forest on the edge of the Missouri Ozarks every weekend. Not so! Though the last two weekends I have gone out there, and she’s gone with me.

You see that I’m now burning my undergraduate days. I have a box of old papers in my closet that I had pulled out to find an early short story (written in the days of typewriters), and while I never found it, I did find several old notebooks from my St. Louis life and the college work I did then. Having never looked in these notebooks in more than thirty years, I suspected I didn’t need to know what was in them to continue thriving in my fabulous life, so off to the cabin they went. My original thought was that I could use the individual pages as tinder for fires, but I get such satisfaction from tossing the whole notebook on the flames, that I get the fire roaring by some other means (egg cartons — thanks, Yellowstone!) and then consign the pages to the flames thereafter.

Two weekends ago, our trip involved a return to the acre below the dam where I have been clearing out upstart trees and plants among my pecan plantation. (Pecans have a close appearance to hickories, so the “pecans” I am finding in the tall grass, aligning properly with the grid I had planted them in years ago, are given a reprieve until they leaf out and show their true selves.) I’ve subdued most of the upstarts I can with the loppers, so the remainder are chainsaw work. And that was what I was up to two Sundays ago. But the chain was being balky and I had to adjust the tension on it several times. Finally, it just leapt off the bar as I was cutting a tree. I didn’t lose any fingers or toes or eyes or ears, but I suspect it’s time to get the saw into the shop again for a tune up and look-see.

Just as well since our visit this last weekend included one of the grands: Emmett, who will be four next month! He had come out with us once last fall on a mild, sunny day, and he spent most of his time playing in the gravel with one of his toy trucks. In anticipation of this, he had packed three trucks in his backpack, and while they did some serious delivery work back and forth on the pile, he had also discovered the many marbles I’ve placed in the gravel and it became his job that day to rearrange them, especially the two large shooter marbles that he carried around and rolled on the porch floor and buried and dug up and reluctantly left behind when it was time to leave.

These are not the two marbles he carried about, though he did take note of them. These illustrate a little puzzle I have out at my cabin. When I cast marbles on the gravel, I step on them to press them into the gravel. Yet when I return, several of them rest atop the gravel rather than in it, such as the red one in the photo. Why does this happen? I suppose some critters come along and fool with them; I have found marbles out among the leaves beyond the edge of the gravel. But if that’s what’s happening, the gravel doesn’t appear disturbed, and the marbles are still there.

So I have this hypothesis (or would it be a theory?). I suggest that the earth’s crust is constantly, though imperceptibly, vibrating. I’ve tried to find any confirmation of this, but so far only vague, sciencey stuff that’s way beyond my comprehension. Still, if so, it would seem likely that the gravel, as it is settling, works some of the round objects in it to the surface. (But I’m willing to entertain other explanations.)

here and there

November 18, 2019

Where have I been that I haven’t made a post for two weeks? Well, here and there, but mostly here, without a lot of motivation.

Two weekends ago — a four-day weekend for me — my wife and I went to Paducah, Kentucky to see my mother. She is not doing well, and all of my (many) siblings are making their farewell visits. She is resigned to what’s coming, and she’s well cared for; her sister and my sister, both nurses, live in town. Still . . .

The drive home from Paducah to Kansas City was harrowing. An early season sleet and snow storm, and ridiculous temperatures for early November in the lower Midwest, meant our drive was pretty much white knuckles the whole way. (My drive, that is. My wife sat in the passenger seat and did the navigating and running commentary on the weather, the road conditions, the wiper blade conditions, the nearness of semis, and whatever else came to mind when she lifted her eyes from the book she was reading (about arrowna fish, of all things!).)

The photo above is what a wheel cover on my truck looked like the next day. The freezing rain had fallen on it, was spun out, and froze like this. The rest of the truck was about the same. All better now, but yikes!

This same sort of thing happened last year when we went down for a film festival and had to come back in a wicked storm.

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On our way down to Paducah, because we were passing only six miles from the cabin, we detoured and made a quick visit. We spent less time there than the detour took to get there and then back to the highway, but it was a nice little chance to see the cabin. (On our way back, we passed again within six miles, but we did not choose to detour off the highway. All we wanted was to fetch the dogs from “camp” and get our tired selves home.)

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However, last weekend, we did make a trip to the cabin. The weather was dry and the sun was out and the temps climbed into the 50s. Plus we had grandson Emmett for an overnight, and we asked him if we wanted to see our cabin. His enthusiasm for this prospect warmed my black and shriveled heart. So we moved his car seat into my truck, packed a day’s worth of gear, squeezed the two dogs in with us, and drove to the cabin.

Emmett had a grand time, in part because Grandma bought him a monster truck to play with when we got there. That’s Emmett you see at the top of the photo, pushing his monster truck up the gravel pile, which proved to be the most interesting feature of the whole place. That’s also another successful one-match fire I made to burn our hot dogs over. (I don’t think I ever need to eat another hot dog in my life.)

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Emmett also found some of the many, many marbles I have scattered in the gravel around the cabin. He collected a few of these and then buried them in the gravel pile, only to “discover” them later.

I’m okay with this. The marbles in the gravel are for whimsey and color, and I hope that as the grands visit the cabin, they will find them and delight in them, just as Emmett did. If they sneak some away in their pockets after a visit, that’s fine with me. (I have plenty more.) Emmett brought these three to me as I sat in the comfy chair on the shady porch overlooking the sparkling lake. Before we left for the day, I returned them to the gravel, but we have a traditional Black Friday visit to the off-the-grid cabin coming up — I refuse to be a Consumer Culture Casualty — and Emmett may “find” them again.

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Yesterday I spent two hours preparing a submission of One-Match Fire for a potential publisher and, due to some unholy state of sin on the part of Submittable, I lost all of the work I did! Microsoft teased me by saying the document was in auto-recovery, but I couldn’t access it, so I just re-did all of the work. I eventually made the submission successfully though I have no idea what my prospects are. I’ve submitted OMF to six publishers/contests, and so far I’ve received two rejections. One must have a thick skin for this business.