Monday, June 28, 2010


My mind has wrapped itself around an intriguing problem to which I can only offer tentative conclusions. Why do communicants cease to communicate when e-mail is so cheap? It seems like it is a bargain too great to pass up. I will address only the persons who own or have access to a computer, although currently the price of a computer is no longer beyond the financial range of most.

I'll address first the most obvious excuse: I don't know how to type adequately. I never learned to type in the seventy-five years since in high school when I decided to take Typing I. My father bought me a Corona typewriter but instead of two ranks per key it held three. In no uncertain terms the teacher referred to it as a maverick so I dropped the course and learned to make do with what I had. My "one finger method" got me through high school and college. With my spelling finger it turned out credible work for my wife too as I fingered out her papers. With care, you can do better than that with a computer keyboard.

The death of a spouse often terminates e-mail. Perhaps there will be an obituary or a brief summary of the life of the deceased. Often that concludes all normal contact with the surviving individual. This would seem like an important time to maintain connections with friends who can be an encouragement.

Some people would mention busyness as the reason for discontinuing regular or sporadic correspondence. Granted that certain individuals are always involved in a plethora of activities. Yet these are the ones who find time to write. Those who use busyness as an excuse are the ones who fritter away opportunities but have a penchant for other activities.

Yet another activity replaces e-letter writing. I refer to the phonaholic who can go on interminably, often repeating the same information over and over. This takes the time of the person listening. How frequently the individual calling goes on and on when Betty is trying to get supper on the table. Also I notice how much the absence of bafflegab from E-mail typically reduces the content of the message to its essential parts. Writing a letter on e-mail forces a longwinded phonaholic to reduce the message to the essentials. Figuring out what information is essential can do a lot for clarity in all communication.

My mind can conjure up other reasons for failing to keep up e-mail and just letting silence reign. But my strong preference still is for cheap and lucid communication.

Monday, June 21, 2010


These were the magical words I had been long awaiting: "I've found a bobsled for you," my father announced at breakfast that Saturday morning.

"Where?" I eagerly questioned.

"Over at Mertie Freeborn's place on Lover's Lane at Cattaraugus," was father's response. He sounded cautious as he added, "It's not in very good condition. In fact, it may not be fixable."

"Let's go and get it right away," I urged.

Showing an obvious amount of reluctance, he finally agreed to go after the chores were done. On the way over I chattered about the possibilities. When we arrived at the Freeborn home, Mertie directed us to the back porch beneath which lay the remains of the bobsled that had been used by grandchildren Sanford and Beatrice.

It had lain there, abandoned, so long that it appeared to have given up hope of ever zooming down the slopes again. The front set of bobs was broken and the steel runners were gone. Without great enthusiasm I suggested to father that we take it home and see what could be done with it. We tied the wreck to the old trailer and on the way home discussed what needed to be done.

Father thought some oak boards would make good runners. But the metal for the runners would require the help of the blacksmith to turn some old hay rake teeth into proper form. I was eager to transform the eight-foot length of plank into a shining seating surface. Addition of hand rails would give the riders something to hold on to. With the woodworking skills of my father and the aid of the blacksmith, I was able to achieve a respectable sled after what seemed like a. long wait.

The urge to get my resurrected bobsled operative was spurred by my best friend, Don Sprowl, who had constructed his version from brand new materials. Two coats of scarlet paint and much elbow grease to smooth out the pitted runners added the finishing touches. Snow that year was slow to appear and over a week elapsed before I was able to show my sled to Don. It was exactly as long as his.

Hammond Hill rose sharply after passing the Pratt Homestead. That was before the Highway Department sharply cut the grade back to its present more modest size. Horse-drawn sleighs tended to create firm tracks for the bobsleds. No gravel, cinders or salt were applied to provide traction for tires.

The intersection where West Road took off was one hazardous spot that had to be reckoned with. The arrival of another vehicle at the same time a bobsled was coming down the hill had to be avoided to escape a collision. Under ideal sliding conditions, we could zip past Pratts, zoom on by the school and church, and with icy conditions almost make it to Gene Wing's farm across the valley.

"My bobsled can go faster than yours," Don gave voice to what had been on my mind.

"You can't prove it", was my retort.

"Sure I can," was his instant response. "We'll measure the course and then calculate the speed using my dad's stop watch."

Upon my acquiescence, the trial was arranged. The track was too narrow to run it simultaneously, so it was a timed test. We convinced our parents to be the timekeepers for three consecutive runs. The track was in perfect condition and the results jockeyed back and forth. The speed clocked was in the 36 mph range. Not bad for the amateur and his sled. We agreed that the result was a tie.

Sliding on a moonlit night had its exhilaration. It had its benefits over the use of a flashlight whose yellow beam soon faded out. Batteries were expensive and didn't last. Nights with a full moon were best. An advantage was that the lights of vehicles on the highway offered better warning than during daylight hours.

My attempts to devise adequate brakes for the bobsled had mixed results. My best efforts were chains that dropped down over the rear bobs at the request to the rider. Once applied, they acted to stop the sled and couldn't be released without stopping the sled. This required close communication with the brakeman. It was strictly an emergency brake but was one innovation that Don's sled did not have.

Moving to Gowanda put the Clipper into even more challenging an environment. The hills that surrounded the town had notable distinction for steepness and sharp curves. To try these out were worth waiting the four months for winter to get started. But when the time arrives, the Clipper was ready.

Just one block from home was Hill Street. A last portion of it made a precipitous drop to connect with West Main Street. In winter that portion of it was too steep a grade for the snowplows to attempt. A "ROAD CLOSED" sign delegated that part of the street to pedestrians and sliders. Stopping at the intersection proved to be the tricky part. Here at last was where my improvised chain brakes came in handy. A definite stop was in order. The Clipper had a definite advantage.

Winter's progress led to further challenges. Just before the village limits a truly S curve wound down from the plateau above to intersect with the main highway to Dayton. This street was regularly plowed. At the bottom of the hill where it reached the highway, proceeding directly across it, was another road carrying the traffic over the rail line to Dayton.

The idea struck me that it would be neat to start at the top of the hill, zip through the S curve, cross the highway and go over the railroad tracks to end the run down that street. It seemed like a perfectly logical plan. For it to work, I needed someone to halt traffic on the main road. It was easily arranged with my pal Bob Rabe to do this small favor.

I started down the hill, proceeding full tilt around the curve, until I reached the road to Dayton. To my consternation, there was Bob, red-faced, with cars lined up in both directions, holding an animated conversation with a State Patrolman. It wasn't long before I found myself a part of it. I was obstructing traffic on a main road. That proved to be against the law. Pleading ignorance, the officer chose to not press the case but let me go after some stern warnings.

I chose to avoid that street after another narrow escape. I was barreling down the grade when an icy stretch forced me to the edge. I struggled to hold the path that took me right towards a poplar tree. Struggling to gain control, I missed the tree but the speed clipped off the footrest adjacent to my left foot. It would have damaged my whole leg or worse.

One winter Saturday Dr. Cole, our neighbor across the street, offered to give me a ride on the bobsled behind his Buick. The standard plan was to leave the lead rope to the sled attached to the car bumper in such manner that it could be cut loose in case a problem occurred. We zoomed along with the snow flying wide. It seemed like a big lark until I noted that one side of the hitch had come loose, causing the bobsled to careen wildly from side to side. No way could I signal him to stop. He caught sight of my predicament in the rearview mirror and pulled safely to a halt. I was thankful to be alive.

The Clipper was a great sled. I vowed to keep it. I did, until I turned sixteen when riving a car seemed much more exciting. I said a fond goodbye to Clipper, turning my attention to father's Pontiac.

Friday, June 18, 2010

65th Anniversary

Today, June 18, is Arnold and Betty's 65th wedding anniversary!

Because you have shared in their lives by your friendship and love
We invite you to join in the celebration of the 65 year Wedding Anniversary of
Arnold and Betty Cook
on Sunday, the 20th of June 2010 from 2:00 – 4:00 p.m.
Beachwood Lounge, Warm Beach Senior Community
Stanwood, Washington

Tina Jeffords, Danny Cook and Judi Mayhle, children.

Monday, June 14, 2010


The happy moment had arrived. Three little great grandchildren were containing their exuberance following dessert after dinner that stifled the desire for only one more experience - Christmas presents. Daniel, the eldest of the siblings, gladly offered his services as dispenser of the trove under the tree. With adult aid to guide him to the proper recipients, he manfully attacked his duties of dispensing the mother lode, assisted by his sisters, Mercy and Gracie.

Opening gifts began quite mildly, with each present delivered to the proper person. It wasn't long before the desire to speed the process was nurturing the alacrity with which the opening took place. Less attention began to be devoted to the gift by the distributor than to the method of its opening.

Meticulously wrapped articles covered with matching paper and ribbons to enhance their beauty received no more attention than if they were covered with a wrapping of newspaper or the store bags in which they were originally purchased. Speed in arriving at the contents seemed the prime consideration. Tearing through the outward covering seemed to be prime objective. Golden cords, shiny papers, prettily tied bows and nicely arranged accompaniments were not given a second consideration.

Mercy appeared to be taking pleasure in ripping off each bit of paper. Gracie felt it her duty to gather up the bits and pieces and deposit them in the carton where the trash was being accumulated. It operated as a special game, not competitive at all but thorough. Each shred of wrapping and binding were carefully accumulated and tossed in with glee. When the contents of a package were for one of the children, it was greeted with enthusiasm and then the game began again.

Soon the number of offers of help for Betty and me were diminished as we didn't enter into the thrill of ripping off the paper. Eventually the pile of presents was depleted until a single gift remained - a huge bulk on the top of the coffee table. The paper to cover it was significant. It enveloped the entire structure. When the task of revealing the contents was taken over by the children, that started slowly and then increased to a frenzy as the roof and sides of a huge doll house appeared. In much less time than it must have taken to cover it, the entire structure was clearly made visible including the contents of each room. The revelation of the home was impressive and all three of the young ones were soon engaged in checking out the features.

The debris from all of this ripping filled a sizeable carton. The youngsters, meantime, were engaged in examining their gifts as the remains were toted to the garage.


Christmas morning of 1952 came alive early on Weatherwax Road in Elba. Tina, Danny and Judy were ready for the day before their parents, who had stayed up late putting the finishing touches on the gifts. The whole crew was ready for food before the opening of the presents. Finally the moment had arrived to discover what had been so long awaited.

The array was welcomed with hats, mittens, scarves and jackets. Shiny boots were a real hit. Some dolls and trucks rounded out the children's share. Everything was appreciated, even the wrappings in which they appeared.

Care was exercised in the removal of the coverings in which the gifts were nestled. Loosening the wrappings was calculated to preserve intact the pretty paper in which they first appeared. Opening one present at a time helped to keep to keep the process moving. The old black flatiron was kept warm on he back of the oil fired kitchen range to smooth out any wrinkles. A special box was kept to hold the reprocessed sheets and partial sheets for reuse. Commendation was given for skill in removing the covering, especially keeping an entire sheet whole. The accumulated wrapping was carefully stored in readiness for the coming years use.

In the celebration of Christmas, keep the exhilaration present, for children's sake.

Monday, June 7, 2010


"Were do we begin to furnish a house?" I asked the question but no answer was forthcoming. This obvious query needed a prompt answer. At the close of the war, we had moved from Burlington, Vermont to Elba, New York. All of our possessions were contained in the trunk of the Lincoln Zephyr. The vacant tenant house seemed like an answer to the place but where were the goods to fill the completely empty space. What a place to bring our new baby, Bettina Marie!

The weather-beaten house had been trashed and the front door was completely off its hinges, Trailer-loads of waste were taken to the dump and coats of fresh paint attempted to make the place livable. But the furnishings that would make the place habitable were remarkably lacking. The normal source of new items was excessively high due to the emphasis on war goods making both price and availability out of our reach.

"Auction" trumpeted the newspaper. Betty and I were intrigued to learn of the right things to be auctioned off. On Saturday morning my father hooked up the old trailer as we headed to the farm where the sale was to take place. It came as a surprise that all sorts of things were offered first. Numerous items of doubtful value took what seemed like an unconscionable to work through. After some time had passed, the livestock and crops commanded a fair amount of bidding. It turned out to be along in the afternoon when the goods in which I was interested came up for bidding. By that time a misty rain had started to fall and the crowd dwindled.

The auctioneer decided to lump off some items that still remained. It was then that I saw my opportunity to offer low prices as he wished to complete the task and depart. My purchases included a heavy dining room table with concealed leaves that could double its size, eight chairs of varying vintage, a kerosene fired cook-stove, a double-bed including mattress, a molded glass china closet and a kitchen cabinet with a built-in flour sifter. Some other kitchen utensils and a set of washtubs on a stand rounded out my purchase for a grand total of $22.50.

After the required ten-day stay in the hospital to have he baby, it was time to bring Betty and Bettina home to this odd collection of furnishings. My parents had come over from Albion the day before to put it all in place. What a start it was for a new father! All the water had to be pumped from a well located where the barn had stood some forty yards away. At least it was spring so most of the snow had melted leaving a muddy track for the multiple trips for water.

When we drove in the yard, the shabby appearance of the house was obvious. When I opened the door, a small drift of snow had been deposited across the kitchen floor by the west wind. Thus our sojourn of seven years had begun.