THE MARCH ISSUE COVER CONTEST WINNER
Â is Joshua Stough of Millstone with “Spring Blossom.â€
See more of his work HERE.
A Minute Saved is A Project Completed – These days,Â stores even have “penny catchers” on their counters, where folks can leave their pennies if they donâ€™t want them, and others who donâ€™t have a penny can take one if they need one…
Duct Tape Therapy – After living here a couple of years, I’ve come to realize this: to survive in the country, you have to have common sense, a good attitude, physical ability, the right tools – and most importantly, a whole bunch of duct tape….
Time To Cut Firewood – I don’t know about you, but I like to have all of my firewood for next winter in the shed by April 1…
Auction Fever – Spring really begins the last Saturday in March for Jackson County. That’s the date for the annual Ravenswood FFA Farm Equipment Auction at the Jackson County Fairgrounds in Cottageville, WV…..
Grave Creek Mound Archaeological Complex -Â The best known of the early mound-builders are the Adena people of the central Ohio valley (800 BC to 100AD)…
Write On The Radio - Eddie Stubbs can rattle off facts and history (without notes) as good as anyone alive.
Ode to Compost - Compost – a luxury every gardener can afford, a necessity passionate gardeners won’t grow without…
New Endeavors – We travel the same roads, hunt and fish the same spots and camp in the same areas year after year, because of the comfort factor…
Spinal Disk Issues – There are three basic types of disk problems…
In Search of Phthalate-Free – Americans’ bodies are virtual stewpots of industrial chemicals…
Always At Home – Is it possible to love your child too much? Absolutely not!
Waste Not, Want Not – Household Uses for Salt
Scratches, Dents & Dings - Apples to Apples
Mom’s Recipe of The Month – Kathy’s Bean Dip
See all this month’s updated columns online at www.twolanelivin.com.
Some years it â€œfeels like Christmas,â€ and some years it doesnâ€™t. Most people will relate the years that donâ€™t to a limited budget, dramatic events, or scrooges that wreck the Christmas buzz. Some people just donâ€™t get that Christmas feeling because the Christmas spirit starts with a spark, and you either catch it or you donâ€™t.
Some people catch their Christmas spirit shopping. Others find it in melody of a carol or the smell of evergreen. Some spark their Christmas spirit by decorating, sending cards, or lighting advent candles. Some donâ€™t ever catch the spirit of Christmas, and donâ€™t know, or care, what it is that could light their spark. Some people just arenâ€™t Christmas people–by religion, objection, or other personal choice.
I tend to be a Christmas person myself. I also happen to be one of those people (or the one person) who knows what holiday highlight gives me that Christmas feeling. When my sister and I were young, and the day came to decorate and set up the Christmas tree, the first thing we did was run to Motherâ€™s stereo cabinet and dig out the Christmas albums. We had Bing Crosby, The Nutcracker, and the Tabernacle Choir. My favorite Christmas album was â€œSnoopyâ€™s Christmas.â€
The title song of the album tells of a battle between Snoopy and the â€œbloody Red Baronâ€ on Christmas Eve during World War I. As the fighterâ€™s plane screamed and shot through the dark night sky, Christmas bells rang in the villages below: Christmas bells those Christmas bells Ring out from the land Asking peace of all the world And goodwill to man. The Red Baron, when he had the chance, did not shoot Snoopy out of the sky; instead, he forced Snoopy to land behind enemy lines, and just when Snoopy thought he was dead, the baron cried out, â€œMerry Christmas mien friend!â€ The two soldiers then had a holiday toast, drank together, and parted ways, â€œknowing theyâ€™d meet on some other day.â€
I would think it obvious why, as a child, I was so fond of this song. As I grew older and learned history, I realized that this childrenâ€™s song wasnâ€™t based in fantasy.
Snoopyâ€™s Christmas is a song based on fact. The Christmas Truce of 1914 really happened. World War I was in its fifth month when Christmas came in 1914. The first war fought with machine guns, it was already proving to be the bloodiest war in history. It had been pouring rain, and mud lay deep in the battle field trenches, which were only a few hundred feet apart, less than 60 feet apart in one place. The men were muddy from head to foot, and were just lying about the trenches getting stiff and cold. On Christmas Eve, many German soldiers put up Christmas trees decorated with candles on the parapets of their trenches. In some areas, the two sides exchanged Christmas carols. At some point in the evening, men became brave enough to meet on â€œNo Manâ€™s Land,â€ where they talked, shared pictures, and exchanged buttons and food–they even played a soccer game. During the night, troops negotiated an unofficial peace for Christmas Day to gather the dead off the battle field and provide a proper burial. This strange, unofficial truce actually lasted for several days.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, writing a year later, called the truce â€œan amazing spectacle . . . one human episode amid all the atroci-ties which have stained the memory of the war.â€
I imagine that those with loved ones overseas fighting in todayâ€™s â€œglobal warâ€ are having a hard time catching their Christ-mas spark this year, but Snoopyâ€™s Christmas bells, the Christian story of Christâ€™s birth, and the Christmas truce of 1914, all show what miracles can happen when peace and goodwill prevail. The spark of Christmas is that feeling of goodwill, and the spirit of Christmas is joy, and peace.
I still have the Snoopyâ€™s Christmas album, but no longer have a turntable to play it on. So it seems, we all know in our hearts that peace and goodwill exist, but we no longer have a mode to access these joys of the season; so we are left waiting for someone else to spark our spirits, for someone else to offer tidings of goodwill, and greetings and gestures of peace.
Let us wish this year for a Christmas spark for everyone, for the spirit of joy to spread. Let us wish this year for a Christmas miracle . . . the miracle of peace.
Off The Cuff appears weekly in The Calhoun Chronicle. You can see this and past installments online at www.calhounchronicle.com.
Last Friday, it was possible to stand at the thermometer and, literally, watch the temperature fall. A day that reached tempera-tures above 70 degrees, had temperatures that evening below freezing. A drastic change in less than 24 hours.
Although the official start of winter is more than two weeks away, the dropping temperatures before the Christmas holiday bring to mind snowy images of Christmases past. Those of us who are willing to date ourselves remember winter seasons that were nearly always white, with ground that was buried beneath multiple layers of snow, ice and sleet.
I remember a year when we received two inches of snow, followed by a day of sleet, which froze on top of the snow. More snow fell, than another day of sleet, then more snow. As a child, I stood on the top layer, and with a small bounce, broke through the frozen layer to the next section of snow. My father, walking out to shovel the driveway, would break through the various layers, struggling to reach his destination.
I remember another year when high winds blew across the snowy fields of the Marietta suburbs, making â€œsnow rollersâ€–a rare phenomenon. Once the initial â€œseedâ€ of the roller is started by the high wind, it begins to roll, collecting additional snow from the ground as it rolls along, leaving trails behind it. It was as if invisible children had played in the fields in the night, leaving behind not a single footprint.
One year, the snow-covered ground was coated with a full day of flurries, and when night fell, the street lights and Christmas lights shimmered and sparkled, as if the ground had been scattered with miniature diamonds. My mother and I walked around the block that night, not to see the Christmas decorations, but to watch the world glitter and glow as if the stars themselves had settled in the snow.
I remember one year we let our dog, a Chihuahua, outside for a break, and when she left the porch, she disappeared. We had to shovel out a space in the yard where she could do her business. Another year, we had to shovel snow on building rooftops to keep the beams from collapsing.
To think, some Calhoun children have never seen more than an inch of snow.
I always dream of a white Christmas, not only because my best childhood Christmas memories were white, but also because a white Christmas seems so rare any more. No one wishes for a red-clay mud Christmas, though sometimes it seems thatâ€™s all we get anymore.
The Farmerâ€™s Almanac barely gives hint to the possibility of a white Christmas this year, noting, â€œWinter temperatures will be slightly below normal, on average, with near-normal snowfall. The coldest temperatures will be around Christmas and in early, mid, and late January and early February.â€
Of course, our â€œnear-normal snowfall,â€ looking at the past several years, could mean â€œnone.â€
The song, White Christmas, is ranked as the most famous and popular of all the Christmas songs. I think this is because so many of us really do dream of a white Christmas, just like those ones we used to know.
May the days of this holiday season be merry and bright, and may this, and all our Christmases, be white.
This installment and archives are available at www.calhounchronicle.com.
Frank and I went camping this past weekend, exposing ourselves to the first below-freezing temperatures of the season. Of 66 campsites on the grounds, only two others were taken–all of us camping in tents. Even the campground attendants thought we were crazy.
I have a hard time explaining why we go on these adventures. We do it because we think that survival skills are important skills to have. We do it because we are forced, by nature and environ-ment, to work together to keep warm, fed, and comfortable. We do it because it takes us away from everyday life and brings us closer together.
We do it because we believe it makes us better people–not only for immediate stress relief, but also because we are practicing our skills for planning, preparing, and being responsible for our own enjoyment, comfort and survival.
If you forget something, or overlook something while pre-paring for a camping trip, you could freeze, or starve, or be eaten alive by bugs. If you discuss how to build a fire for too long, you get cold. If you donâ€™t strategically plan the placement of the tent, you wonâ€™t sleep well. If you donâ€™t clean up your mess before night-fall, youâ€™ll be raided by raccoons and bears. If you donâ€™t read the directions on the lantern, you could get burned, or start a forest fire.
If you arenâ€™t prepared for everything that could possibly happen, at the very least, you wonâ€™t be comfortable; at worst, you could die.
Because of our planning, forethought, and preparation, Frank and I survive cold freezing weekends just as well as sunny week-ends. We werenâ€™t always so practiced, but now, because we prepare for the worst no matter what the weather forecast, we can survive whatever comes our way.
You canâ€™t throw a bunch of food and gear in the back of the truck and go. You canâ€™t muddle your way through a camping trip. You canâ€™t survive in the woods by giving less than 100 percent.
There are times when I would like to pack up several prominent leaders of our community, give them the necessary gear, and drop them off in the woods for a weekend. You know, force them to work together for their survival.
You canâ€™t survive in the woods on words. Your survival is a direct result of your own actions. Life in the rest of the world should be much the same.
The skills needed to survive a camping trip are skills thatÂ Â can be used in any situation. Planning, preparation and self-sustainability are useful traits–for personal living, business, and even government. Responsibility for our own actions, gear, warmth, food and survival is important in every facet of life.
Sometimes it seems we need to be stuck in the woods to truly comprehend how weak our survival skills are.
Challenge yourself. You may not want to camp outside when itâ€™s below freezing, but you can challenge yourself to be a thorough planner, to be prepared for anything that comes your way, to be responsible for yourself, your actions, your survival.
These skills are essential for healthy living and a prosperous community, even when you arenâ€™t in the woods.
There are two gates between the house and the road,
Two gates to open, two gates to close.
Two gates ï¿½round the horses, one on each side,
Two gates blocking my daily drive.
The inner gateï¿½s held by a black bungee cord,
The outterï¿½s propped open with a scrap piece of board.
Gate one is in the sunlight, gate two in the shade,
And often two horses will be in the way.
(And when the gateï¿½s open, horses try to get through
So you have to hurry, before they do.)
Iï¿½ve opened and closed in the cold, wet and dry
Opened and closed as lightning flashed ï¿½cross the sky
Iï¿½ve opened and closed in sunshine, in rain,
When night was so dark my eyes had to strain.
And if I am running five minutes late,
Iï¿½m fifteen behind once I deal with the gates.
And if I forget something and have to go back,
Iï¿½ve dealt with six gates once Iï¿½m back on my track!
Open and close, open and close,
I get my hands wet, get mud on my clothes
Open! Close! Open! Twice a day ï¿½ sometimes more!
Close! Open! Close! Also with the car door!
Two Gates! Two Gates! Not just one, count them, TWO!
Two gates in the way, and horse clods too!
Two Gates! Two Gates! They are racking my brain,
These two bloody gates will soon drive me INSANE!
There are two gates between the house and the road,
Two gates to open, two gates to close.