↓ Archives ↓

Posts Tagged → family

Remembering US Army veteran Paul Marino

Today is Memorial Day, devoted to remembering the US military service personnel who devote their lives and safety so that the rest of us civilians can sit back and crack a cold beer and marvel at how life in America is oh, so good. So easy.

Out of the many hundreds of thousands of US military veterans who have contributed to my own daily sense of settled well-being, one recently caught my attention. Not because he was a super warrior who killed many enemies, nor because he was a battlefield hero who risked his own life to save many of our own wounded. What actually struck me was the clean, all-America way that Paul Marino lived his life, raised his wholesome family based on time-tested simple values, worked for a living, contributed to his community and neighbors.

Not that military veterans hold these kinds of qualities exclusively, but we all know many veterans, if not the vast majority, who are exemplary citizens and neighbors. Real stand-outs in terms of their public service, their charitable giving, their easy way with strangers and neighbors. US Army veteran Paul Marino exemplified all of this.

Here is the thing: I did not know or meet Paul Marino. He only came to my attention because he was recently executed with his wife, Lidia, while visiting the grave of their son Anthony in the Delaware Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Bear, Delaware. For years they visited Anthony’s grave there almost daily.

Paul and Lidia were shot in their heads execution-style, from behind, by a 29-year-old man named Sheldon Francis. He used a handgun, up close and personal. By all appearances this was a classic hate crime, Paul and Lidia targeted because of their skin color by a hateful man amped up on a constant barrage of racial hate and jealousy messaging from American campuses, activist groups, American media people, and even from some religious institutions.

Some people have surmised that Paul and Lidia were murdered by Francis in retaliation for the racially motivated murder of Ahmad Aubrey in Georgia earlier this year. I suppose to some people this might make sense, or even be justified. It is not justified, and I have no question that Paul and Lidia would disagree, also, were they alive today to have an opinion on it. After all, they believed in hard work, simple family values, church attendance, community, home, and service. Blind retribution was not in their lexicon.

As a little girl, Lidia remembered the German soldiers marching through her town in Italy, and she also remembered the American GIs marching through from the other direction as the Germans skedaddled in retreat. Lidia knew the value of family, community, and practicing good deeds.

Whatever the reason for Francis gunning down two people in their eighties in a cemetery, the fact remains America is much the poorer for their loss. We lost a solid veteran and his life partner in an unexpected, avoidable, unnecessary, evil way. Paul and Lidia represented the very best of America. The murder represents a culture clash that must be resolved, peacefully and with love, and firmly.

Modern America was built by people like Paul and Lidia Marino. In fact, it is impossible to think of an America without them and their important small, humble, daily positive gifts and services back to all of us. The solid communities they built, the sense of reliable neighborliness they brought to any community they lived in. And the US Army that Paul Marino served in did not so much build Paul up, as people like Paul built up that institution and made it the effective fighting force and great equalizer for Americans of all skin colors and religions that it remains today.

Rest easy, Soldier, and thank you for your many different services you provided to all of us Americans.

Democrat Party: Burn Down America and See if Donald Trump is Still Standing

Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf just issued another edict: Nothing really opens in Pennsylvania until June 4th. Because he says so.

No science supports his action. All the Wuhan covid19 data now pouring in from around the country, and Pennsylvania, demonstrates the virus is an urban problem, a nursing home problem, an old age and bad existing health problem, an I-95 corridor problem that stretches from Richmond, Virginia, to Boston, Massachusetts.

Covid19 is most especially a New York and New Jersey problem, where the overwhelming proportion of deaths and hospitalizations have occurred. Thanks in great part to the decisions of Governor Cuomo and NYC Mayor de Blasio, both of whom encouraged sick people to move about freely, to ride the NYC subway, and for nursing homes to take in sick people known to be infected with covid19.

While Wuhan Flu is here because China wanted it to be here, if any one or two people in America are responsible for its spread and damage it is Cuomo and de Blasio.

Across America Democrat governors like Tom Wolf are throwing down the gauntlet, issuing fatwas, edicts, executive orders all extending the stay-the-f*k-at-home demand that has shut down businesses and bankrupted tens of millions of Americans. Putting people in jail merely for opening their barber shops and hair salons. None of these edicts are constitutional. None of these decisions emanate from the powers granted to elected officials. None of these are about health, they are about power. These are simply power grabs by elected officials looking to give themselves more power and to damage America.

This is economic warfare against the citizens of America. You and me.

Why would anyone want to damage America’s economy, you ask?

Because it is the only thing the Democrat Party has left to try to damage President Trump. They have tried everything else: False accusations, the Russia collusion hoax, the Ukraine hoax, fake impeachment hoax, hookergate, etc and at every turn, Trump has beaten them. Now all the Democrat Party has left is a scorched earth policy, burning down and blowing up America, and the Chinese covid19 virus is the last card in their hand for doing it.

Covid19 has given the Democrat Party their ability to try to blow up America and everything around President Trump, and then see if he is still standing. Never mind the collateral damage, like you, your job, your family, your business, your children. You and I are simply cannon fodder in the Democrat Party’s attempt to wrest control away from the one person who has the strength to stand up against them, against their media arm, and the GOPe (Republican establishment, AKA spineless jellyfish).

But Josh, the Risks!

Josh: Horsesh!t.

The epidemiological data shows us now exactly what the covid19 risks are and are not. Generally speaking, the risk from this virus is extremely low. America can function just fine going forward, and at-risk people will need to change their habits a bit, and there is no justification for this stay-the-f*k-at-home crap any longer.

But since November 10, 2016, the goal has been to get Donald Trump, no matter what.

And so now we are watching one aggressive political party blow up America in their pursuit of getting Donald Trump, while the opposing party is full of milquetoast, soft spoken, reasonable sounding, carefully coiffed, preened, gentlemen who would like nothing more than to have an early round of golf before going out to dinner and then to cocktail parties, where they can get their next insider information for their next big investment. That is why they got into politics in the first place.

Welcome to America 2020, where most of the politicians are utterly worthless. People, we ourselves are going to have to solve this ourselves, without the politicians. We cannot let them bankrupt us and destroy our families.

Stand up, stand tall, and tell Governor Tom Wolf to Stay The F*k At Home if he has a problem with you leading your life as you choose. Go get your hair cut.

UPDATE: After this was written, Dauphin and Lebanon counties joined Beaver and Greene counties in defying Governor Wolf. Thank God we have strong leaders here like commissioners Jeff Haste and Mike Pries.

A silver lining

It is easy to become angry as it becomes clearer every day that the coronavirus lockdown response has been a partisan media hype job without any basis, and we have all been deprived of our most essential civil rights by a bunch of power-mad politicians.

After all, as of today’s Pennsylvania Department of Health statistics, exactly 2/3 of the deaths here attributed to covid19 Wuhan Flu occurred in nursing homes and other elder care facilities, among vulnerable elderly people who already had serious health problems.

And we are also learning that a great many of the Wuhan Flu – related deaths are not actually related to the CCP Wuhan Flu. But they are chalked up to it to artificially inflate the numbers, to make it seem worse than it is.

And we are also learning that the death rate of the Wuhan CCP Flu is actually very low. Lower than ye olde regular annual flu! In other words, a lot lot lot of Americans contracted the CCP Flu, showed little or no signs of it, and did not die or become hospitalized.

So as a bunch of justifiably angry Michiganders storm their state house, and as sheriffs in barely-touched rural areas defy state governors’ over-reach, and as counties and townships begin to open up for business on their own terms (with people wearing masks and standing apart), it is easy to see that a public powder keg could go up in dramatic fashion. Why not? It is the American way. It is how we founded our great nation. Hang ’em high!

But there has been a silver lining to all of this stay-the-f*ck-at-home stuff, and that is the result that American families have spent more time together, as families, than since 1952 and the advent of the television. Families have been forced together. In our own home we have had regular family dinners, family conversations, some doozy family fights, and lots of really valuable, really enjoyable, really loving time together. This has been the upside of all the artificial insanity.

And that said, I will also say that I lost a lot of acquaintances and some friends in New York City. They were mostly much older, almost all with some existing health challenges. Some died alone in a hospital, their family members unable to be with them at their time of passing, as they choked to death alone in unfamiliar surroundings. Bad deaths, really hurt and very sad families. There is no question that New York City and its environs have been the hardest hit from the Wuhan Flu, and it is turning out that most of their deaths were also in nursing homes, where Governor Cuomo ordered sick people to go, even as the virus spread.

So yes, there are going to be some lessons learned here. Some painful ones and some good ones. The main good one being that American families are still intact, much more so than we might have thought just eight weeks ago. Let’s not forget this nor let it go. Spending family time together is one of the very best ways to spend time. Hopefully we don’t need a public health emergency to remind us in the future.

A fish tale

What I enjoy most about the summer time is spending that time with my family, my wife and kids. Especially outdoors. Hiking, fishing, boating, target shooting, camping, and cutting firewood with the promise of grilled meat and cold beer at the end is all part of the family experience here.

So here is a fish tale, or the tales of two fish, a punny phrase if ever one swam.

First one up is high school and college friend Jeff called out of the blue.

“Come down on Tuesday. Paul will be here with his son. It will be a fun reunion and we will all have our boys together, out on the boat, fishing.”

Jeff was a varsity wrestler from our arch-rival school, one weight class below me. In college we were separated by three weight classes. Now we are both fat and happy dads, coaching our boys through life the best way we know how – in the outdoors.

An invitation to salt water fish hardly ever goes neglected, especially with two other friends from high school and college, and within 24 hours my boy and I had rolled into town, found our hotel, gone to sleep at 4AM, and risen at 7:30AM ready to spend the day in the salt and sunshine with old friends. Paul and his son showed up from across the country, and we piled food, cold drinks, ice, and gear into the boat and headed out. Jeff is an old salt hand, and was a masterful captain. His friend Brian served as first mate and heartily complimented the wolfed-down sandwiches we brought, while Paul threw his overboard, complaining that they were soft. Some things just never change.

“You are a spoiled princess, you know that?” I scolded Paul. “We were up all night making these delicious sandwiches.” He asked for another sandwich; dry this time, he said.

Aside from catching up among the three of us, and introducing our boys to each other, we caught a pile of mackerel, some bluefish, and we lost one or two large cobia. Here is how the mackerel were prepared.

Captain Jeff, a friend since 1979

 

Happy and proud dad, tired and satisfied son

Fileting fresh mackerel

Brining filets and whole fish for smoking

Brined mackerel on smoking rack

Smoked mackerel…for dips, treats, scrambled eggs, yum

Fast forward a week later and the boy and I are fishing in Pine Creek, which is still running high, for two years now. This means that trout are not only holding over in great numbers, but are thriving in a big freestone stream that nonetheless usually hits 80 degrees and gets skinny by July, an environment where trout are normally picked off by eagles, mink, otters and herons this time of year.

I cast the Rebel Crawfish across a familiar riffle and hooked a large fish, which turned out to be a fat 16 inch rainbow trout. On a tiny ultralight spin rod with four pound test, it felt like the proverbial whale. He came to hand after a noble dispute.

“Do you want to keep him,” I asked my boy. “We haven’t kept a trout out of here in I forget how many years.”

“Yes,” he said, firmly and without hesitation.

This is a kid who really enjoys eating fresh fish, so setting aside my usual aversion to killing trout, I slid it into a small pool of cold spring water cascading down the bank, where the fish could breathe and stay fresh, and also remain within eyesight. That heron kept circling, and I wasn’t about to lose my prize to him.

The boy was admiring the beautiful trout, which had the healthy fins and magically vibrant colors of a native fish, or at least a hatchery fish that had spent an unusually long time in wild water. A fierce, or jealous, look came over the boy’s face and he asked which lure it had been caught on. Instead of tying one on to his rod, I just handed him my rod. One trout among the dozens splashing for emerging mayflies was enough for me, enough for the year. Watching my son catch fish is better than me catching them, and so I stood in the cool shallows with the current tugging at my Crocs, and supervised his casting. The late hot sun beat down harsh and merciless.

“Where did you catch him?” came the unexpected question.

Normally I advise where to cast, and since he was about nine, the boy will cast in the opposite direction of where I suggested. Even if it means getting tangled in a tree or snagged on the bottom. He has been improving on his independence for years now, if not improving his fishing skills. This time, however, he was on a mission. He cast a few times to where he was directed, gaining his bearings, and on the third or fourth splash the plug went exactly where it needed to go, over the fast current and just upstream enough to get a drag-free drift with some natural wobble. He immediately connected, and gently fought another perfect 13-inch rainbow into the shallows.

“Do you want to keep this one, too?” I asked.

“Yes. One fish for each of us. Or both for me – One for dinner and one for breakfast tomorrow,” he replied. Without a hint of irony.

Sound logic it was, and so we placed this trout next to its confined but quite alive mate in the little spring pool in a hollow of rock up on the bank.

With a fine trout under his belt, now it was his turn to sit in the cool shallows and watch me, as I went back out to catch a few bass lurking in the deeper current below the ledgerock. A couple came to hand and were released, and a couple got away. The sun then set over the valley, illuminating the Camel’s Hump and Trout Run in a magical Summer glow. The kind of day’s end that is so beautiful and perfect that you are sure you will remember it clearly forever just as it is experienced in that moment. And we probably will remember it clearly, mostly because the next morning he ate that fish down to the bare bones and then went outside to shoot his flintlock with true professional calm, hitting the distant bulls eye over and over and over. He made his dad proud.

A brace of fresh trout

Perfectly pan fried trout with butter and herbs

Someone really likes fresh trout

Our family’s best and favorite summer vacation route

When our kids were younger, say from ages seven and up, we would take them on an annual vacation through Upstate New York. The trip was devoted mostly to Revolutionary War history, but also to American frontier history, American Indian history, and natural history. All kinds of historic forts dot  the Mohawk Valley, and in between these places are all kinds of incredible natural history places, like the Herkimer diamond mines in Middleville, Moss Island, and the Canajoharie River carved pool. Lots of places to fish at every stop and everywhere in between.

We always started at Fort Ontario in Oswego, NY, and working east we would end at Fort Ticonderoga on the New York/Vermont border. Since we started this trip the forts have all gotten better and better. Fort Ontario refurbished all of their cannons a few years ago. Fort Stanwix has been majorly upgraded and has regular re-enactments. And Fort Ticonderoga now has the biggest private cannon collection in America, so get your tickets to the night time cannon shoot.

The Mohawk River is now largely a canal, and from Oswego to Moss Island you can watch small pleasure boats that started in Florida being raised from lock to lock as they make their way to Lake Ontario, and then to the Ohio River and back down to New Orleans, where they will circle back through the Gulf of Mexico to Florida. Many of the boat owners will stand on the deck to make sure their boat does not bang into the walls of the locks, and they are happy to tell you all about their trip so far. A few years ago one guy told us how his wife had just left the boat and him, and had rented a car to drive home. By the time he expected to arrive back in Florida in the Fall, her things would be gone from their home and the divorce papers would be waiting for him on the dining room table. He actually seemed pretty cheerful about it and said he was still excited to complete the trip, even by himself. By the time he was done telling us this short story, his boat had gone from one end of the lock to the other and was about to start sailing up river.

Our kids had never heard such a thing in their lives, and it gave us plenty to talk about the rest of the trip.

So here is the Revolutionary War route that our family has taken many times over the years, often summer after summer. As our children gained age, they gained new abilities to comprehend and appreciate what they were seeing. Definitely start at Oswego, and do not miss Fort Stanwix. There are all kinds of places to stay each night as you make your way east. Most of them are inexpensive, and many are historic, the the old hotel in Rome, NY, which is actually pretty nice. We usually spend at least one night camping at the Herkimer KOA in Middleville, NY, where we will spend one day mining Herkimer diamonds and another day exploring Moss Island and the historic General Herkimer homestead, which has real cannons and lots of history.

The Oriskany Battlefield monument is one of those places you can’t believe no one talks about, and when you get there and learn and see what took place, you realize how the entire Revolutionary War’s outcome hinged on this one fierce battle between Mohawk Valley patriots and British Regulars, with Indians on both sides.

Moss Island is incredible; I won’t spill the beans and you have to go see for your self, but you absolutely have to go, wearing hiking boots or good trail sneakers. The little town there has a great ice cream store, and my kids always liked fishing under the bridge as well as at Moss Island.

The Canajoharie River has the carved rock pools you can wade in, which I do not identify on the map because I ran out of label room.

Saratoga Battlefield is where a certain famous and then infamous American general made his name. Fort Ticonderoga is AMAZING, and if you are able to get tickets to the night time cannon shoot from the ramparts, you will not be left unimpressed. Trip home to Central or eastern PA, or NYC/New Jersey, is via the NY Throughway south to any number of state routes and highways, depending on how much time you have. We usually do this trip in seven days, though it can be done in ten or even five. The Remington factory tour tickets should be secured beforehand. It is an incredible tour, or at least it was. I think we took it before OSHA stepped in and limited it. The museum there is excellent in and of itself.

I think most teenage kids will enjoy researching each of these sites ahead of time, and you parents can research where you want to stay each night.

Paddling with Hollywood

Cheerfully our little crew paddled down the river, enjoying small Class II splashy whitewater rapids here and there, swift enough currents everywhere else that we need not really paddle much, if at all.

Turning aft, I squawked captain-like from my otherwise supine perch in the bow “Hard to the oars, ye pack o’ worthless lazy bones!”

The kids would laugh a bit at my best captain o’ the high seas bit, tepidly dip their paddles in the water like they were thinking about trying to paddle, and then go back to chattering amongst themselves about school, fellow students in school, classes, interpersonal politics and Politics with a capital P in school. Overall it was what had been hoped for when I made reservations with the outfitter the week before. Time with my kids and their friends, in nature, floating down a river, watching bald eagles, osprey, mergansers, wood ducks, migratory songbirds, deer, and on the lookout for bear.

Pausing to listen for and then spot white waterfalls cascading steeply out of the high canyon walls, I, the lookout, would occasionally point out where the crew could perhaps look up to if but briefly admire these little moments of grandeur passing by us. They did look the first half dozen times, and then tired of being bothered to do anything. I ended up dragging my hands in the cold foamy water, hoping to create some drag that would necessitate some serious paddling. When my hands turned red and then a purplish blue and stopped responding to commands to open or close, I gave up on influencing the kids in any way and just quietly admired the ride.

About two and a half hours into the drift, the kids started to sing. At first these were summer camp songs, and then theme songs from movies complete with beat-box noises from my daughter, and then songs from movies, mostly being rap-like. Their voices were sweet, and they would constantly run over each other, and then good-naturedly correct someone, and then try to get back on track in harmonic unison. Being of free and easy spirit, the kids were into having fun, and they would individually or together abruptly break out into a song-ending editorialization about the singer, the performer, the musician, or the movie the particular song came from.

The Earth Day environmental song, apparently popular now, was a big hit on our boat. They sang it over and over and over.

“And the zebra, I like how he says ‘I’m a zebra, I am striped, and I don’t know if I am black or if I am white’,” said the girl of this apparently surprising revelation, unaware that Dennis Prager, Rush Limbaugh, Larry Elder, and a slew of other radio talk show hosts and conservative politicians have been preaching an equal opportunity color-blind society for many decades.

And after about half an hour of back and forth chatter about this environmental planet cartoon movie and its song, it dawned on me that these kids are deeply enthralled by Hollywood and its entertainment business. They and their young impressionable minds are completely captured by images and made-up voices from highly paid songwriters and movie scripters, whose lines become memorized as moral guide posts along their young lives.

Many adults over the past ten or twenty years have bemoaned the advent of and then exponential increase in realistic at-home video games, the prevalence of handheld devices, and the trance-like state our children have grown up in glued to and Matrix-like plugged into these things. Well, I saw that we have transitioned beyond the gluing-in-and-tuning-out stage where we had to scream two inches from our kids’ face to ask them what they wanted for dinner.  Now we see the fruits of others’ indoctrination labors playing out over a decade or more: Our kids are wholly owned little robots of the entertainment industry, which is vacuous, morally bankrupt, materialistic, shallow, value-less, corrosive, and meaningless. No wonder our kids parrot all kinds of silly nonsense that emanate from movies and popular music; they are constantly bathing their brains in it.

And people like me thought the fight for America’s soul was a political one in Washington, DC!

Nope.

I learned on that day-long raft trip through spectacular natural beauty that the fight for a solid America is still at home, where we thought we had some influence, and we still might, and on college campus, where our parenting has been outsourced to welcoming Marxist professors eager to turn our kids inside out.

Yes, on this trip I had been paddling along with my kids and their friends, enjoying their happy company, but really I had been secretly and unknowingly paddling with Hollywood that whole way, and did not realize it until the very end, when I could say nothing.

The sea captain and his crew taking a break in a wondrous, magical waterfall in the middle of nowhere, on the run from Hollywood and pop culture

Twenty-five years of sitting by the warm fire

Our family burns a lot of firewood every cold season. Usually beginning in late October and going through February, sometimes into March, we burn split oak 24 hours a day.

Nothing heats up a room better and takes the chill out of the air than a fire in a modern wood or coal stove, and nothing provides a better centralized gathering place for people to read, doze, study, or talk than a fire place or stove. It is a real comfort, and if we think about it, humans sitting by a comforting fire goes back what, 100,000 years? Or six thousand? Either way, a long time.

We are back at it once again today, tending a fire, having now endured Winter’s recent biting return without a fire the past week or so.  Something about this late season chill just works its way into the bones. Maybe we kind of let down our guard, anticipating Spring, eager to shed the heavy coats and boots, and enjoy the warm air and freedom to lounge outside once again. Whatever  the reason, the harsh cold issues a strong call for the fire today, and so we lit one. We will run it constantly until we are fully out of Winter’s grip, and enjoying the comfort of the warm sunlight.

There is another sort of fire, however, and this one will never die out.

It is the fire of human passion, and love, and friendship.

It is that kind of fire which two people share after twenty five years of happy marriage together.

Sure, there are some tough times along that twenty-five years, some hard words, some bruised feelings in that period. Birthing and then raising three kids in that time means some disagreement and frustration are inevitable. But these things are part and parcel of living a committed life. And in a way, resolving the disputes makes the fire hotter, Polonius’ hoops of steel stronger. There is no walking out or walking away, quitting when the going gets tough. There is only commitment, fire. Ebbing, flowing, sometimes blazing hot, sometimes a bed of coals, but always a lit fire.

As a much missed now-deceased life advisor used to say to me, two married people are like two knives, constantly rubbing against one another, sharpening one another’s blade. The knives are working tools, cutting through life, getting work done, and by working together side by side, they also continually sharpen each other’s blades, their cutting edges, the working parts. Once in a while they nick one another. That is just the nature of the tool, the nature of married life. The little nick goes with the territory of work.

It is a good analogy, good enough for me. Because when I look back on twenty-five years of good marriage, as marked today, I feel like we are both still sharp, the Princess of Patience still looks sharp, and our cutting edges are holding up strong.

Said  the other way, I have been sitting by a particular fire now for twenty-five years. Once in a while, while tending it, it has singed me, or given me a minor blister, reminding me of its inherent powerful force. Given that I am klutzy, it is logical that I earned those little burns.

But usually this fire is my friend, my best friend, in fact. I am looking forward to another twenty-five years of her warmth and comfort.

 

Old relationships die on new battlefield

If I have had one conversation about old friendships suffering from our prolonged political war, I have had a hundred.

Most people do not have comfort zones big enough to encompass people they politically disagree with, but those who do experience the deaths of those relationships, nonetheless.

Despite their big-hearted best efforts at disagreeing without being disagreeable, and making room for all opinions, it is mostly people on the right who watch their circle of family and friends getting smaller and smaller. The people whom they love or respect cannot return the favor when political disagreements stand between them. Even though each side holds views that the other strenuously objects to.

Fall-out from family holidays, a wedding invitation not extended to an old friend, and so on.

Once again, conservatives believed they were merely under disagreement, a fact of life that happens all the time, when in fact liberals were at war with them, family and friendship be damned. It seems that to liberals, relationships are a natural sacrifice in their “progress” forward and leftward.

Historians have written a lot about the long-term effects of old wars, like the American Civil War, or World War I. Hundreds of thousands of young men dead, maybe a million or more badly disfigured, missing limbs, half of a face, a hand. Not to mention the psychological trauma. Impacts on business and industry, farming, families, grieving parents and children forever unable to form strong emotional bonds as a result.

One can only wonder what will happen in the coming years when this quiet non-shooting civil war we are in here in America is over, and people are trying to move forward with their lives. What will be the effects, the results.

No amount of late night talk show humor will paper over the pain, and even some of those late night comedians are now saying “the fun times may be over.”

My take is this: If you take your political views so seriously that you cannot abide the company or fellowship of others who see things differently than you, then you are missing the key to being a peaceful person.

Gentle acceptance is the way to go. Something about tolerance, I think.

Yay, it’s county fair season

No matter where you live, it is county fair season.

County fairs everywhere are celebrations of community, family, simple pleasures, and simple, easy fun. That fun usually includes eating really naughty, high-fat, high-carb, high sugar food you would never, ever eat any other time of the year, like funnel cakes.

Yum!

If you get the powdered sugar on your funnel cake, don’t take it on a ride until you’ve eaten it, or you will have a white powder imprint of the funnel cake on your face or shirt. Guarantee it. The small-town carnival machines populating county fairs everywhere specialize in jerky motions to entertain the riders, and those jerky motions always catch people unaware, shoving their food right back into their face or chest.

The fresh smell of farm animals there for show mingles with the smells of the fried food, and it is an acquired taste of a smell, I must say.

Last night I was at the Perry County Fair, which I have gone to for years, out near Newport.

Volunteering at the Duncannon Sportsmen booth is a lot of fun, because I get to interact with the happy public, as they good-naturedly try their hands at small games of chance for a non-profit, educational purpose (the club). Such as, when a little kid lines up the little plastic crossbow loaded with the plastic dart, getting them to shoot it at one of the club members’ hat, instead of the deer target that will win them a soft (“plush”) toy. Laughs all around, as the club members good-naturedly take the abuse. The kid gets the toy anyhow.

One thing we are missing is a dunking pool. I’ll work on that for next year, because there are several guys I just really want to see get wet, in public. And no doubt, we could raise a lot of money with a dunking pool. The Duncannon Sportsmen money goes right back into Perry County, like local 4-H, Boy Scouts troops, volunteer fire and ambulance crews, etc. As my folks would say, the money is just making the rounds, going from one hand to another to another and eventually it finds its way right back to where it started. That right there is the essence of community, ‘all in this together’.

And that is probably my biggest enjoyment of local county fairs, including the Gratz Fair in northern Dauphin County, where I live: The sense of community, the ties that bind us all together. In a time of really fractious political rancor, pushed by the establishment media more than anyone (I mean gosh, have you noticed how all the mainstream media outlets have the same exact message, which is 97% hyperventilating and aggressively negative about President Trump, all the time?), isn’t it nice to get a breath of fresh air and hang out with your fellow citizens in an environment of fun and relaxation, away from all that noise?

County fairs are like a big family picnic, where long-lost cousins show up once a year. Friendly people you wouldn’t otherwise see or interact with, but now you do, and you enjoy it, because people are neat. And at county fairs, everyone just wants to have a fun time.

I like that.

 

It’s berry season!

For about 150,000 years we humans have been hunter-gatherers, living a nomadic or semi-nomadic lifestyle that follows the migrating animals and the growth of plants our bodies can eat.

Edible plants were a huge component of hunter-gatherer food, easily dried and carried, many of them lasting well into October and November after plants have gone dormant in most places. Unlike meat, dried edible plants do not easily rot, or attract nibbling animals.

Among edible plants, fruits and wild berries reign supreme.

That is because fruits and berries contain an unusual mix of carbohydrates, sugars, minerals, and vitamins, all of which are necessary for survival. Especially vitamin C, a crucial ingredient in a healthy human body (think scurvy).

The fact that wild berries taste especially sweet and supplement other foods with extra flavor is a big draw.

Sweet-tasting foods rarely occur in Nature.

Blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, huckleberries, wineberries, and many others grow abundantly here in Pennsylvania and across the Eastern US.

Plains Indians like the Lakota, Pawnee, and Comanche made a mix of red meat and berries called pemmican. Ripe berries were turned into a big mush and then worked into meat strips. Usually the mixture was dried on wooden racks in the open air and sunlight, and the dried slabs and sticks were then put under the horse saddle to be worked and broken down into what we would call jerky today.

“Jerky” gets its name from the gentle jerking motion of the horse saddle, as horses step forward. The motion slowly breaks down the meat fibers, making them easily chewed and digested.

So here we are, a bunch of sedentary Americans, mostly eating out of cans and bagged frozen foods.

One antidote to this somewhat unhealthy arrangement is to go outside and do stuff.

Hike, walk, sit and read or sit and chat with someone face to face, fish, canoe, grill out, etc., so many easy outdoor activities.

A really easy outdoor activity is berry picking. Sure there are some thorns, but so what. The benefits are fresh, delicious, healthy berries that are not sprayed with chemicals, or bagged in plastic bags, or frozen. The whole family can do it. Go find a field edge, and bring some hard containers, and start picking.

Humans have been berry picking in that Summertime window of opportunity for a really long time. So long that it can be measured in ice ages come and gone, ice sheets advancing and retreating. That is a lot of years.

If we have been doing that activity for that long, you know it is good and natural. That the whole family can do it, and then make pies together afterwards, makes it all the better.

Just watch out for poison ivy!