Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Don’t Go Near That Quarry!

Hi Bill

Once again, I have been thinking about the acreage on West Plank Road (Route 220) that our family moved to during the summer after I finished 1st grade. Uncle John and Aunt Helen lived next door with their little dog (Tippy) on an identical acreage between us and the Alto-Reste Cemetery (now known as Alto-Reste Park). We had been living in Altoona with our grandfather, but we had moved to the “Country” into a very small, and crude, house that was on the acreage, which Dad eventually rebuilt into a wonderful home for us.

Anyway, moving from Altoona to the acreage was a traumatic move for both of us. However, the parents let you finish high school (10th, 11th and 12th grades) by commuting to Altoona HS, but I had to attend a different school.  I wasn’t the most outgoing kid and it took some time for me to adjust, although you helped me meet other kids in that rural neighborhood and you hung out with us sometimes.

Eventually I adjusted to the new environment and made friends with the local country-bumpkin kids. In fact that neighborhood turned out to be a wonderful place to grow up. I quickly gained an array of both younger and older friends who welcomed me into their midst.

Clark: 1959
 Today I remembered a very interesting area in the mountain woods behind the cemetery hill. I believe you and some of the older kids, possibly Mike H or Michael O, took some of us younger kids into that woods sometimes to play or just to walk through the dense foliage and over the steep hills that were there. It was always very exciting for us younger guys to accompany the older guys into the wilderness. Surprisingly, I don’t remember any of us younger guys getting lost during those treks in the wilderness. I guess you older guys were responsible and good people.

One of the big attractions in that mountain forest (at least for us little explorers) was the old abandoned rock quarry. The walls of that old quarry revealed a longstanding and relentless struggle with the elements and we always wondered who had worked that quarry in the distant past. Huge portions of the rock had dislodged from the steep and very high quarry walls and piled up at the bottom. I and the other kids close to my age were always excited to hike to the quarry, but we were strictly warned to not visit it without older chaperones. We were also warned not to attempt climbing the walls of the quarry or climbing over the big rock piles on the ground of the quarry canyon. It would have been very easy to slip and fall among those huge rocks and sustain serious injuries.

Clark: 1961 with the forest on the mountain
behind the cemetery in the background 
Well, us younger kids adhered to those admonitions for a short time. However, once we had learned our way through the forest to the quarry, we visited it whenever we wanted. We also discovered a path that provided an easier, and much safer, access to the bottom of the quarry instead of climbing down the quarry walls. However, it was fun (even though it was also frightening) to climb down (and up) the quarry walls. Parental warnings were forgotten and we often climbed on the quarry walls and over the huge rock piles at the bottom of the quarry. It was an extravagant-fantasy wonderland for us youngsters. We played monster attacks, hunting safaris, lost-in-the-woods scenarios, and any other adventures that we dreamed up while we were in the quarry. We mostly didn’t worry about following our parents’ orders to stay away from dangerous places. Why worry about the dangers of the quarry cliffs, e.g., falling while we were hanging on the rocks, or getting pulverized by a huge piece of rock falling on us from above, or twisting our ankles trying to walk in the rough terrain among the rocks, or getting bitten by huge (possibly prehistoric) poisonous snakes, rats, and ponderous nasty bugs, or getting poison ivy or poison oak, or getting kidnapped by some demented criminal who might be hiding in the quarry, etc. Why worry! None of that would happen to us strong, and invincible men of the forest! 

Clark: 1959/60 5th or 6th grade
Believe it or not, I don’t remember any of us sustaining any serious injuries while playing in that quarry.  However, I do remember that we encountered plenty of toxic plants and animals that didn’t hesitate to sting, bite or irritate us in that quarry area. I remember crawling over a nest of nasty yellow jackets on the quarry cliffs and they left me with several very painful stings. I screamed bloody murder for a while until my friends got me under control. It was a long trek home that day and my parents were not pleased that I had wandered into a nest “in the open field behind our neighbor’s property” (of course). It was only one of many injuries that I sustained while trying to grow up in the wild and magical environment that surrounded our property. I often suffered injuries and pain, but they taught me to be vigilant, to be tough, and eventually (after much pain and frustration) to be smart.

I wonder if that old quarry is still entertaining inquisitive and imaginative children! I doubt that those exciting quarry walls and rocks are providing adventures for current children. I believe at least some of the woods still remains on that mountain above the cemetery, but I doubt that many children are exploring it. That neighborhood area has been overtaken by big-box chain stores and other retail establishments, which provide much more appealing stimulation to young children these days.

Bill, I am grateful that you helped me and my friends to find that quarry in the mountain forest. It has obviously left fairly vivid (and wonderful) memories for me. I would be pleased to hear your recollections about that quarry and any other magical memories from back in those days.

Well, it was fun to revisit some of those long-past exploits near west plank road today and I hope memories of other adventures from the past will surface in my brain, or yours, sometime in the future. Also, what’s happening in your neck-of-the-woods these days?

Take good care of yourself and your family.



Wednesday, January 4, 2017

This & That - January 4, 2017

Hi Bill

It has been awhile since I have communicated with you. I hope you had a wonderful holiday season with your family and friends. Pat and I had a wonderful holiday season, but it is nice to resume our normal lives. Today I thought I would provide you a glimpse of our life on the frigid plains.


Well it’s January and if you know anything about the climate in the northern plains states, then you realize that it is cold here in South Dakota. Last night it was a few degrees below zero and today it got up to about 10 degrees or so. Pat and I consider ourselves to be South Dakotans now since we have lived here for more than 30 years, although some of the born-and–raised South Dakotans would still not call us real South Dakotans. However our 30+ years in SD has taught us that single digits below zero is really not extremely cold. A few weeks ago we endured temperatures of -30 degrees, and below -20 degree temperatures are routinely experienced during our winters. Anyway the last few days it has been subzero during nights and in the single digits during the days, which has been more than cold enough for me, especially when there are winds blowing in the 20-30+ mph range to help cool us down outside (and inside). The amazing thing is that we actually feel lucky that this cold wave did not bring much snow. We have only about an inch or so of snow on the ground – at least when the wind lets it lie around.

So what the hell does a retired couple do when it is snowing, blowing, and cold enough to cause frost bite on any carelessly exposed body parts that might be swinging in the breeze? Believe it or not, in South Dakota we pretty much try to do whatever we want. Even retired people try very hard to do whatever strikes our fancy without worrying about the weather. Unfortunately, some people take that stubborn attitude to an extreme point and sometimes find themselves in bad situations. I mean whenever the temperature is -25 degrees, with two feet of snow on the ground, and the wind is blowing the snow around you don’t want to take your Fiat out for a drive on the interstate! Sometimes, doing whatever you want is not smart, but luckily we really don’t see that many Fiats around here.

So Pat and I are not planning on driving to Sioux Falls today, even though we have a much bigger vehicle than any Fiat. However, we may drive a couple of blocks to the Shopko, or to the County Fair, here in Dells to pick up some things and give our legs a little stimulation. I may also just drive around town to warm up the car and give it some exercise. I like to drive the perimeter around our charming little town during these “exercise the car” episodes.  It would be nice to visit a Starbucks for coffee and a snack, but there are no Starbucks in Dells. However, there is a local coffee shop that does serve lattes.

So what do we do when we don’t want to go outside on a wintery day in January? Well there are always the Major Crimes DVDs to binge-watch. We recently finished watching the entire Sopranos series again on DVD and then we started re-watching our collection of Major Crimes DVDs. In addition, both of us read a lot of books (fiction) and that consumes some of our time. Pat also spend much time doing cross stitch and I am obsessed with vinyl music albums. We also like to talk to each other, although sometimes my babbling can irritate Pat. Go figure! Anyway, neither of us has much of a problem with boredom.


Like most people who know me, you may have seen some of the music posts that I have been posting on Facebook and other platforms. I love listening to music and I’m addicted to vinyl, which I have a lot of and the stock continues to grow. Maybe some people believe that I choose to force the music I listen to onto all my friends via those Facebook posts. If you like music you may understand that we who love it, tend to be overly pushy about getting our friends (or even acquaintances or perfect strangers) to listen to (and appreciate) the music we consume. Let me say that I do not consider myself to be any music authority. However, posting the cover of the albums that I listen to, with a brief description of them, is an excuse for me to listen to (and buy) more albums. It also provides a sort of visual and written inventory of my albums and a reminder of the last time I listened to them. I have accumulated a large collection of vinyl over the years and most of the albums that I purchase recently are secondhand and acquired for only a few dollars each. Of course I do occasionally buy some new albums. Well, I probably have said enough about my music fetish and everyone should feel free to ignore my music posts. However, I would be very happy to read your thoughts and opinions about them, even about the albums that you don’t like. I also welcome recommendations for album posts.

Bruce and Clark at Pat's parents house
sometime in the 1980s.
Longtime Friend

Last week I got a call from Bruce, one of my best friends during my last two years as an undergraduate at Pitt. Bruce and I met while we were each living in one-room apartments in the basement of an old apartment building at 317 North Craig Street. We quickly discovered that we had similar personalities and interests and became very good friends. We still remain friends, even though we haven’t seen each other for many years. Bruce lives in California where he has worked for a correctional institution for many years. We try to keep in touch via email and occasional telephone calls, but it had been a long time since we had last spoken via telephone. We had a very enjoyable chat about old times and current times. It was great to learn that even though we are both getting older and we are coping with some health problems, we are still enjoying life. Bruce is able to take advantage of the exercise equipment where he works and he seems to be in much better shape than I am. Hopefully, that fact will prod me to exercise more regularly. I can always be hopeful!

You’re Almost Finished

Well, this post has not gone where I thought it might go when I began writing. I just don’t seem to be very focused today. Pat would inform you (maybe warn you is a better phrase) that Clark has a tendency to sort of lose his focus sometimes (actually often) and things sometimes get weird. I fear that has happened this morning. However, I figured: Why should I not subject you to my rambling? Who knows what people will enjoy?

I believe it is time for me to bring this missive to a pleasant and fulfilling conclusion.

… ?

… !

… ?

I’m done!