Sunday, July 31, 2011

Central Ohio

We are spending a week in the Columbus, Ohio, area
-- taking care of some personal business.
But even with busy days we still find time for our daily walk
and for enjoying the out-of-doors.
This lake view is at the Berkshire Lake Campgrounds, near Galena, Ohio

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


In downtown Marietta, Ohio, on the bank of the Muskingum River, is a large city park.  This statue, sculpted by Gutzon Borglum of Mt. Rushmore fame, is entitled "Start Westward."  It summarizes the history of the city.  Marietta, located at the convergence of the Muskingum and Ohio Rivers, founded in 1788, was the first settlement established in the Ohio Territories.  Thus the city opened the door to migration in the United States westward from the original 13 colonies.
But the city also preserves evidence of much earlier inhabitants.  In the center of the city cemetery, there is a very large burial mound of pre-historic native cultures.
The Hopewell and Adena civilizations lived in the southern Ohio before 100 B.C.  Their ceremonial structures and artifacts, including this mound in Marietta, have been preserved in many places along the northern bank of the Ohio River.
Just across the Muskingum River from Marietta is Harmar Village, a small suburb which predates the main city.
The two cities are connected by highway bridges, of course, but we chose to take the scenic route!  This walking/biking bridge across the river is built alongside a long abandoned railroad bridge.  It was a lovely walk, but the floor boards squeaked and trembled a lot!
Harmar Village, with its brick streets and hanging baskets of purple petunias, is a quaint mixture of closed down businesses, run-down buildings, antique shops, a children's toy museum, a "soda museum" and Italian restaurants offering delicious food.
Every part of the city breathes history.  Here at the Ohio River Museum, this model of an Ohio River flatboat of the early 1800s has been reconstructed.  It recalls the days, before the invention of the steam-powered boats, when Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana farmers would float their produce down the Ohio River in just such a craft.  Joining the Mississippi River at Cairo, Illinois, they would float on down to Natchez, Mississippi or New Orleans, Louisiana to sell their goods.
The steam powered paddle-wheeler, the William P. Snyder, Jr is the kind of boat that made the flatboat obsolete. It has been retired and reconditioned after a career of nearly forty years of towing barges of coal, grain, and other produce up and down the Ohio River.  It is securely moored to the riverbank to prevent its escape in the floods that continue to occur in this River City.
The paddle-wheeler, The Valley Gem, continues to take passengers on excursions along the Muskingum and Ohio Rivers. But the museum is closed on Tuesdays, the only day we were there!
In the 91 degree heat of the day, with humidity to match, we retreated to the truck for a driving tour in our vehicular air conditioning!  St. Paul's Evangelische Kirche (Evangelical Church) was founded in 1849, the second oldest church in the city.  Sermons here were in German until 1909.  The earliest church in Marietta is the Congregational Christian Church, founded in 1796.

Tomorrow we are off to spend a week with our son in Athens, Ohio.  From the weather predictions, we may be spending a lot of time running our generator to provide air conditioning for our rig since our site at his house does not have electricity!
Vaya con Dios. Travel well -- thru life or on the road!
Bruce and MarySue


Saturday, July 16, 2011


Dueling went out of style over a century ago, but last week I revived it temporarily! Dueling, you will remember, was the practice of fighting one on one with a social equal who had insulted or cheated a gentleman. Usually the challenge was given as a means of "restoring one’s honor" which the irate gentleman considered to have been damaged. The practice dates back at least to the 1500s when the weapons of choice were swords. Two centuries later, pistols became the preferred weapon. Some wealthy noblemen had "dueling pistols" specially built for such a use.

The goal of the encounter was for the injured party to "gain satisfaction" for his wounded honor. Sometimes the duel was halted at the first sign of blood; sometimes at the first severe wound; occasionally only the death of one of the antagonists brought the duel to an end.

Alexander Hamilton was shot to death in a duel with Aaron Burr in 1804. Andrew Jackson survived duels in 1803 and 1806. Abe Lincoln and Mark Twain narrowly escaped involvement in duels in 1842 and 1864 respectively.

The challenge to duel which I accepted last week had more to do with tires than pistols. You see, our truck has dual rear tires and the inside ones were slowly losing air pressure. The tire store technician quickly removed the tire stem caps and inflated them again to a safe level. That’s when the challenge came to me to "duel with the duals."

Our truck is equipped with a tire pressure monitoring system. Each tire of the truck, and of the trailer, carries a pressure assessment guage. Each is about the size of half a roll of Life Savers and it must be screwed onto the top of the valve stem. Removing and replacing these gauges on the trailer tires, front truck tires and the outside duals is simple.

On the inside duals, however, replacing that little cylinder is more challenging. It requires a hand small enough to slip through the openings in the outside wheel’s hubcap, feel for the inside valve stem, get it lined up at the proper angle and be steady enough to screw it back on. Guess whose hands are small enough?

The day was hot and humid. Bruce eased the rig into an abandoned parking lot, and I had no choice but to duel with the duals. The weapons of choice were persistence and stubbornness; the distance was fixed by the width of the outer tire. I sat down on the warm pavement and began my attack.

My fingers found the valve stem several times, but the angle didn’t allow screwing the monitor on. I dropped the gauge at least once and we had to carefully move the whole rig to rescue it from the inside of the outside tire! Cars passing by on the street beside the parking lot slowed down as their drivers gawked. Sweat ran down my tense body and my butt felt every stone beneath it as I tried – again and again – to replace that little round monitor on the tire stem.

Finally, success. I felt the threads mesh and the gauge screwed on where it belonged. I stood up, dusted myself off, wiped the sweat from my face, and heaved a big sigh of relief. Then it was time to attack the tire on the other side! I wish I could say that practice makes perfect, but the second one took as long as the first. After nearly an hour of dueling, I had redeemed my honor as "Pressure gauge replacement expert." Bruised and weary, I had won my duel with the duals!

14 July 2001 - mshr (with the help of Wikipedia)


Grudge-toting is hard work! Spendiung weeks, months, or even years carrying around a load of repressed hatred or simmering anger is exhausting and useless labor. Like gun-toting, grudge-toting is dangerous. A firearm can wound either the bearer or another person. A grudge, however, wounds only the bearer. Guns have safety locks; grudges do not. Some states require safety instruction and a license to bear a firearm. Grudges have no such safety requirements and seem to be carried most often by those most lacking in good, safe judgment.

Concealed grudges can be carried secretly for years without public knowledge. The grudge-toter trudges through life mistakenly believing his hidden malice is injuring the one who gave it rise. Instead, it nurtures self-righteousness and consumes the natural compassion of the bearer’s heart.

Unlike a gun, there’s no danger in disarming a grudge. No explosion, no smoke, no power struggle or hand to hand combat. All it takes to disarm a grudge is a strong will and a simple decision to free oneself from those self-constructed blinders. No hero’s medal or parade is the reward; only a new lease on life.

How do I know so much about grudge-toting? I’ve carried several around for years. Recently I decided to lay them down. Oh, what a relief! I feel twenty pounds lighter, although the scales won’t confirm that! Toting grudges is hard and heavy work!

6 July 2011 - mshr

Friday, July 15, 2011

Mill Creek Campground -- Berlin Lake -- Ohio

We spent last week-end at a reunion of Bruce's many cousins. We visited, caught up with each other's lives, reviewed genealogy data, and laughed ourselves silly at some old pictures and home movies. 
So we were ready for some time to ourselves for relaxing, walking, reflecting, and catching up with some of our own responsibilities.  Mill Creek Campground on Berlin Reservoir in northeastern Ohio was the perfect place.
This Corps of Engineers Park, like all the others, is located on the shore of a lake managed by the Corps.  It includes areas for swimming and boating which are very busy this time of year. 
Jet skies are popular on the lake.  But they are not nearly as graceful as the sailboats we saw two nights ago.  There must have been eighteen or so taking advantage of the steady breeze that evening.  They lazily drifted to and fro and back again, like white doves on the water.  The next morning we were blessed with the sight of about the same number of Canadian geese quietly paddling about for their morning constitutional and breakfast.
Fishing, too, is popular on the reservoir.  We're wondering how successful the eager anglers are because we have not yet seen a fish pulled out of the lake! 
We have caught glimpses of deer on our daily walks.
After a few more days of rest and Sunday worship at a congregation served in the 1970s, we will be off to spend another week with our son, Joel, in Athens OH.
We hope your summer is as enjoyable as ours!
Bruce and MarySue

Family Reunion

We spent the weekend of July 8-10 in the Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania near Mt. Pleasant for a reunion of the Neiderhiser Cousins -- the grandchildren of Norman and Keturah Neiderhiser whose family farm was near Mt. Pleasant, Pennsylvania.
Norman and Keturah had 13 children and 26 grandchildren.   Of those 26 (Bruce and his cousins) there are 22 still living.  As we are all aging, there are some who could not attend because of health or distance.  However, we were happy that twelve were able to be together for this special gathering.

Sunday, July 3, 2011


     As children, many of us daydreamed that we possessed magic powers. We could fly like Peter Pan. We could become invisible when Mom was looking for us. We could open doors to wealth and adventure with only a word: "Open Sesame!"

     Then we grew up and got trapped in the narrow limits of reality. We couldn’t fly without an airplane or hot air balloon. We could never become invisible, especially when we were in trouble. Doors to wealth and adventure open only to hard work or brute force, not words. Except for one, that is.

     The words which can open this exciting door are simple: "Tell me about...", or "What’s happening with you?" These, or some similar, open-ended phrase, can open the door to a wealth of adventure and wisdom stored away in the mind of another person. Accepting silence, a nod of understanding or a grin of appreciation will keep these stories coming.

     I have discovered that listening is an adult form of magic. It lets us into hidden and secret places where others have locked away their life adventures. Listening blesses us with a form of wisdom not available on Wikipedia. It can let us glimpse the pits of pain that silently fester in hearts we thought were happy and take us to mountaintops of hidden joy.

     Listening, like magic skills, must be learned. Our Creator gave us two ears and one mouth, obviously intending for us to listen twice as much as we talk. Most of us tend to reverse that balance, so listening must be learned. (Or is it keeping quiet that must be learned?)

     Hearing the sounds in the world around us only involves our two ears and the auditory nerves that connect them to our brains. Listening to a fellow traveler on the pilgrimage of life involves much more of us. It requires a "third ear" to hear what’s not said, a heart that cares, and a zipper on the lips. How hard it is to keep our opinions, our own stories, and our self-righteous judgments unspoken!

     So, as adults, we’ve not completely outgrown magic! Listening well can still miraculously open to us doors of wisdom and adventure far beyond our own experiences.

16 June 2011 - mshr

Song and Story Fest, 2011

Last week we attended the annual Song and Story Fest of the Church of the Brethren.

Camp Brethren Heights, in the forest and lake country of central Michigan, welcomed the gregarious gathering.
They had prepared to meet our every need: food service, meeting rooms,and some dormitory sleeping space were available in this main lodge. Many Port-a-Pots had been located in strategic places around the campgrounds. The little red tent was prepared for registration and information.
But, before I go on with my tale, you need some information, too!  "Just what is this 'Song and Story Fest'?" I can hear you asking.  It's not easy to describe, but I'll try.  Song and Story Fest is a week-long family gathering and celebration held the week before the annual business conference of the Church of the Brethren.  Wherever Annual Conference is located, Song and Story Fest is held at the closest Brethren camp.  The only agenda of the week is having fun and assorted musicians, poets and storytellers lead in that endeavor. But perhaps more pictures will help you understand!
Housing for the week is simple and varied.  The camp's cabins or a family's tent provided shelter from the weather and the mosquitoes!
Some folks chose their own locations to set up camp.
The waterfront swimming and boating area on Jehnson Lake was a popular place, especially with the children.
The chapel, with its beautiful view of the lake, was the setting for some of our workshops.  Daily devotions became a creative process as we "acted out" the scripture texts for each day.
"Three Cross Hill" was a favorite meeting spot.
Even the hiking trails through the forest provided lovely views of Lake Jehnson and the nearby summer cottages.
Campfire was one of the highlights of each day.  Even when the "fire stick" didn't do its thing, matches worked fine!
The kids, under the guidance of a few brave adults, really got into the "rhythm circle" that called us to campfire each evening.
There, story tellers entertained and informed us with tales from Brethren history, talking animals, reconciliation of conflict, environmental tragedies, and heroes such as Johnny Appleseed.
Musicians, too, lent their talents to enrich us.  The sounds of violins, guitars, banjos, a keyboard, drums, a mandolin, spoons and tambourines echoed through the woods and into our hearts.
VietNam era songs, such as Alice's Restaurant, were revived and and delighted us all over again.
Morning and evening concerts were another highlight of each day.  Here, under the "big tent on the hill," we sang and danced and laughed and clapped our hands and stomped our feet to the beat of an amazing variety of musicians.
Bill Joliff, Quaker songster, delighted us with several new songs as well as inviting us to sing along on old favorites.  His son Jacob, a mandolin player par excellance, joined him on several numbers. 
Jacob also plays with Mutual Kumquat, a talented bunch of up-beat young 'uns.  They offered up "good music" with a distinctly modern beat. Rhonda and Greg Baker shared their own unique and gently disturbing songs.  Tim and Byron Joseph entertained us with songs, both old and new, about peace and social protest.  LuAnn Harley and Brian Krushwitz took us on a musical world tour, including Hawaii, Iraq, Mexico, Holland, and other countries.
But, as all good things, Song and Story Fest, too, had to come to an end.  After nearly a week of such fun, fellowship, mosquito-dodgin' and guitar-pickin',praying, clapping, and creativity, it was time to move on to other things, including Annual Conference, the business gathering of the church. Having just spent a week with the heavenly harmony of the community of saints, it was time to deal with the dilemmas of the church on earth!  As we went on our way, we were reminded of the bittersweet truth of a cynical old  poem:
"To dwell above with saints I love.  Ah, that will be the glory!
To dwell below with saints I know.  Now that's a different story!"