Monday, January 18, 2021

Covid Journal, Day 305: Internet Limbo and Road Trip

Cold and snowy. The same as it's been since Friday--flurries, occasional a little accumulation which melts off quickly, then more flurries or occasionally rain. Definitely inside weather. Temperatures in the low 30's during the day, and not much change at night.

Well. I often brag about my internet service and how good it is, and then wham, it goes down. For days. 

At first it was a network outage, but now it seems the problem is with our equipment and the tech can't be here til Wednesday. 

So this old dog is learning new tricks. I had eBay sales that needed to be shipped, but without my computer, how could I get to the printer to print them? There is, it seems, a way. Actually two ways.

First I found that I could buy the labels on my phone and download them. Then I could hook my phone to my laptop via USB, and eventually get the labels to download to the laptop and thus to the printer. It took a lot of time, and I could not find a way to adjust package weight if it needed to be done, so some had to ship as they were, a little over the weight I'd entered when I listed the items. I think the Post Office will bill me for the overage, but I hate having them have to do an extra step.

Then a Facebook eBay group with lots of younger people told me I could make a hotspot with my phone. I'd heard of this but was absolutely clueless how to do it. Much finagling this morning and this afternoon, a useless call to the ATandT store where I bought the phone, more finagling and finally it's working. Fingers crossed. 

Technology is amazing, and sometimes an amazing and total pain in the patooty.

And then there's the old tech--our septic system. Suddenly the toilet does not want to flush. Larry spent a few hours of quality time with the snake, with no luck. So now he's digging up the lid to the septic tank, and probably we'll have to get it pumped out. Guess where out little stimulus check is going? Down the toilet, literally. 

But despite all this hassle we have had some fun. I bid on another online auction and we picked up our stuff Saturday in the beautiful little town of Mount Hope, in southern WV. It was a squally day for travel, lots of white-out snow, then sun, then snow, etc, etc. But the roads were fine and it was nice to go to a town in this state we'd not yet visited. With my storytelling we have literally been all over the state and seen hundreds of little towns and communities so I was surprised to find we'd not been to this one.

A few pics from our trip:
On the way down, it was pretty snowy, but not much traffic.

It was a pleasure to see the Capitol dome finally cleared of scaffolding and tarps. Apparently it needed a lot of structural repair, which has taken a couple years to complete.

In the town of Mount Hope, there is evidence everywhere of a prosperous past, with many beautiful homes and businesses.

And this was the source of the prosperity: The New River Coal Company, which mined the regions rich seams of smokeless coal. Larry talked to one old miner in the town who said he always worked in coal seams that were 6 to 8 feet tall, a luxury to a coal miner. Often they had to crawl in seams as low as 24 inches.

We think these may have been company houses at one time, owned by the New River Company. The above photo is the building that must have been the company store, and is now a church.

This large, stunning building must have once been a hotel. I am not sure what its use is today; perhaps apartments. 

Sadly, this town, like many in Appalachia, is dying out. It looked like the downtown might have been on the verge of a new start, because there were several businesses that looked as if they'd opened recently, only to have to close because of the pandemic. The auction was the sellout of an antique store that was closing up shop, and most of Main Street was empty storefronts. So sad.

A few miles away, we saw a former stripmine site, or perhaps one if the new infamous mountaintop removal mines. Churches are everywhere in the coalfields, with good reason. It's a dangerous occupation.

And on the way home, several whiteouts made drivig interesting, but not dangerous as there was little traffic and people slowed down. These squalls would last maybe 10 miles, then it would be clear again.

And at home the next day, we had several beautiful snowfalls with the sun shining. A sparkly sight indeed.

Yesterday morning, we were covered again with a light snow cover. Today is more of the same. January weather for sure.

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Covid Journal, Day 300: Home Front

25 and clear this morning, with a heavy frost.

I am listening to the impeachment debate as I work today. These politicians certainly like the sound of their own voices. The arguments will not, I think, sway anyone's opinion or vote. They are talking for the record, to be sure history has their name and what they thought and said, and to promote and protect their own careers. Cynical? Yes, I suppose I am. I think I have been more productive doing laundry and cleaning house today than these people have been with their long-winded speeches.

But enough. They will do what they will do, and I will continue to clean house and sort laundry and enjoy this bright but cold day.

Yesterday warmed up a little in the afternoon, and I finally got myself out there to plant the remaining spring bulbs. Why do I procrastinate like that?? Well, I know the answer to that: I don't like to be cold, and it hurts my knee to dig. Pushing down on the shovel, standing on uneven I whining? Anyway, the bulbs are planted and I hope they have time to establish themselves before Spring. I planted snow crocus, winter aconite, snowdrops, and a few others, all early bloomers that I have lacked in my gardens. I so want some Lenten lilies; maybe I can get some of those this year.

I cooked another turkey, and this time decided to can all of it except for 1/2 of the breast. 

It's handy to have canned meat in the cellar, ready to use in soups, casseroles, and the like. I can quickly fix a meal without having to thaw it out. I should have canned some of the deer meat but most years it seems to come at a time when I am so busy that I can't even think about taking the time to do it. And this year, we were out of jars too. I am happy to have this turkey meat done; now I am cooking a bone broth with the carcass and will can that as well.

Owl image from Wikipedia

While I was outside yesterday I heard a screech owl. I was so excited and surprised, because it has been a long time since we've had one around. Larry heard it too, a sweet, tremulous little voice from deep in the woods. I do hope he will stay around. 

According to the Book of Days, this was the date in 1752 that the British Parliament voted to change the start of the legal year from March 25 to January 1. And they "adjusted" the calendar by changing the day after September 3 to September 14. And just like that 11 days disappeared. Why the adjustment? This was the year that the old Julian Calendar was replaced by the calendar we now use, the Gregorian Calendar. Until this date, some countries used one calendar while others used the other, resulting in a great deal of confusion and "double-dating" on legal documents. Even now, scholars sometimes struggle with exactly what date an event might have occurred. The Gregorian calendar seems to be working pretty well, at least for the Western world, for the last 250+ years. But maybe one day someone will come up with a new system for counting time, and then where will we be? At least back in the 1700's they took a gradual approach to implementing the new calendar, so people had a little time to adjust. 

Would that we could make the next 7 days magically disappear from the political calendar so that this dark time in our history can be over and we can move on as a country.  But as my mother used to say, if wishes were horses we'd all be riding, so I'll just keep busy here, keep an ear on the news, and pray that this week will be peaceful and the inauguration uneventful. Keeping the home front on an even keel is about all any of us can do right now, so I will hope that all is calm wherever you and your family are.

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Covid Journal, Day 299: Goodbye, Powerhouse: Fred Powers

29 this morning, warmed to about 40 with a little sun this afternoon.

Fred Powers, telling tales at a storytelling festival, the first time I met him.

I was stunned and so sad to hear of the death of my dear friend, Fred Powers. Fred was a force in this world, a man who started work in the coal mines on his wedding day, went to college while working full time as a miner, retired from mining to become a middle school teacher, and went on to earn his Master's degree while teaching. He became a storyteller while he was a teacher and traveled extensively telling the story of his life as a miner.

Thousands of adults and school children learned about the rigors of mining through Fred's presentations. He brought the tools of his trade with him, and often this was the first time people had ever seen or even heard of the kinds of tools necessary to a miner's existence. He earned the WV History Hero award and published a book or two of his stories. He was always working on new stories. His nickname in the coal mines was Powerhouse--he was a powerful man in more ways than one. The name followed him into storytelling.

With Fred--in the yellow shirt--and other West Virginia storytellers at a storytelling event. 

But wilth all of that, Fred was about the most humble person I ever had the privilege to meet. He didn't think he was smart--although he certainly was--and he worked hard to learn and explore new ideas. We spent many  hours together on the storytelling trail, often sharing the same stage, and frequently just hanging out with other storytellers after performances to talk and laugh and just be together. Fred was never one to demand the limelight; often he just sat back and listened, which is after all the mark of a good storyteller. His wife often accompanied him on his travels, and began doing presentations of her own on Appalachian games; they were a good couple, sharing Appalachian culture wherever they went.

I learned a lot about coal mining from Fred. When I met him I was already collecting some mining tools and telling a few stories from my husband's childhood in a coal camp. Fred was my go-to man when something puzzled me about a tool, or I needed to better understand some aspect of mining. We did a few presentations together and talked about doing more of them; our work complemented each other. Now that possibility is gone, and now telling the stories and singing the ballads will always remind me of my missing friend and the pleasure of listening to him. Fred's stories were always insightful, weaving humor, grit, determination and hope even when the story was about near-death experiences. What a storyteller. What a man.

Goodbye, my friend. You had a big, big heart, but in the end that heart just wore out. Your light has gone out of this world, and you will be sorely missed by all who were lucky enough to know you. 

If you'd like to see and hear more about Fred and his work, this link will take you to his website. Be sure to scroll down to watch the videos. 

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.
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