Friday, February 4, 2011

Birds, Bulldozer, Blocks--Catching Up With My Week

Since J. pruned the "burning bush" outside the dining area glass doors we have had a clear view of the feeder which holds the black thistle seed. The usual visitors are these goldfinches,
juncos and the occasional purple finch.
As if in payment for our balmy weekend of sunshine, the weather has been drab all week
with a raw bluster that has invaded my bones.
Perhaps the chilly weather has brought out some latent beligerence in these beautiful little birds, as they have jostled for best advantage at the feeder.

I stood watching the birds late this afternoon, camera in hand.
J. joined me and we soon determined that of the half dozen or more birds swirling round the feeder there was definitely a bully who didn't want to share.

There was a near collision or two as the goldfinches battled for position!

Several finches perch just to the right of the feeder waiting for an oportunity to
snatch some seed.

Now, for the bulldozer episode.
On Wednesday I was invited by J. to ride with him to a town on the Kentucky/Tennessee border to look at [oh, joy!] a second hand bulldozer which he had discovered on craigslist.
[If you're counting, this is the second such which he has acquired since moving here.]
The destination was the hamlet of White Oak near Jellico, TN.

Once we left the interstate highway the road wound tortuously upward around the side of a mountain. The terrain is very like that in the coal mining areas of eastern Kentucky and West Virginina--deep valleys so narrow that even sunny days scarcely brighten the gloom of the valley floors. Small houses are shoved against the steep dark sides of the mountain, the serpentine road almost at the front doors.

We stopped by arrangement at a convenience store where J. phoned the owner of the dozer. Not knowing how long we would have to wait, I bought an ice cream bar, J. bought a Coke. The proprietor of the store was a burly man in a camoflauge sweatshirt, his hair styled in a pompador modeled on the look of "country" singers popular in the 1970's.  Two middle-aged woman clad in baggy sweat pants and camo "hoodies" poked past the shelves of  canned Spam, rows of snack food, stood to comment on the gaudy covers of the "tell all" celebrity mags which hung in their wire rack near the check-out counter.

We had barely settled in the car with our goodies when a battered, mud-smeared pickup truck lurched off the mountain road and drew in beside us in an odiferous oily aura. The driver cranked down his window and suggested that J. follow him to the site of the bulldozer. The cigarette adhering to his lower lip wobbled as he spoke.  On the passenger side of the truck another man, beard flowing down over his camo jacket, nodded vigorously and removed his cigarette long enough to jab helpfully in the direction from which the truck had appeared.

More winding road, past trailer houses and small cottages, yards crowded with disabled vehicles, rusting bits of unidentifiable machinery.  In many of the dooryards groups of men stood, most of them camo clad.  They clustered around  old trucks with raised hoods, smoking, gesturing, talking.
I wondered if the landscape looked better in summer, if the women planted flowers, tried to tidy and civilize a space in the cramped dooryards.

Our guides slowed at a small house, the yard littered with several junk cars.  A bevy of hound dogs gave voice and climbed on doghouses for a better view.
The battered truck jolted to a stop at a metal gate and the bearded man appeared at J.'s window. He gestured at the muddy track beyond the gate, and inquired politely if J. would like to ride the rest of the way with them.
J. declined, and put our car at the rutted muddy road. [It does have 4 wheel drive!]

The bulldozer, engine bellowing, sat at the bottom of the washed out track amid a strewing of old tires and tin cans. Nearby a small bonfire of trash smoldered in the damp air.
Several horses and four young boys appeared from somewhere and milled about.
I was quite intrigued by this gathering, but thought it might not be kosher to hop out and record the transaction with my camera.
I contented myself with a shot taken through the car window.

Rather a desolate appearing hamlet.  There seemed to be no order to the layout of the street, and small houses and trailers, some abandoned, perched at odd angles with an air of impermanence.

The road down the mountain curved under great overhangs of rock.
It is a road where you feel that you meet yourself coming back!
J. returned there on Thursday to haul the bulldozer home behind old Snort'n Nort'n.
I decided I'd had enough adventuring and would stay home and stoke the fires.

I kept the fireplace and the basement fire tended all afternoon against the chilly day.
Knowing J. would be home late I brought in more wood, topped up the bird feeder, gave the barn kittens a treat.
I then happily retreated downstairs, mug of tea in hand, to create more of the Civil War quilt blocks.
I put on an audio book, pulled out my Kansas Troubles fabrics, thoroughly enjoyed my creative afternoon and evening.

An odd blog post this, no doubt. Somewhere I think I "lost" a day this week, perhaps because other than the trip to Tennessee the days have been spent in small homely chores, reading, sewing, bundling up in warm clothes to venture outside for awhile. I've ridden along when J. had errands in town, stopped for a visit with a friend, ordered tomato seeds.
I sit here tonight rather sleepily. Behind me on the bed Charlie Cat and his family are sprawled companionably.
Cats, birds, horse, humans, have been well fed, the little house is warm.
Time for bed!


  1. It may be just an ordinary day or locale to you, but for me, I think it would make a good start for a book. I loved the description of the journey to the bulldozer. But I must say I love the photographs of the cats on your side bar, more than the bulldozer. Glad the barn kittens got a treat. Our last young kitten at the shelter was adopted today. There is still one about 7 months old - a tortie - who is just a sweet love. I would love to bring her home, but we are getting our new carpet next week and I don't dare mention cats for a while. It's not just the new carpeting, but also all the moving of furniture, book cases, video player,TV etc and all the re-hooking up of everything. Oh dear, next week doesn't look very promising as far as being peaceful goes! This too will pass - I hope.

  2. Lovely post - I like an adventure! I am just wondering though where the heck your "hillbilly" family got that "gypsy cob" (the mostly white with a bit of black one in your rear window photo). They are indiginous over here and I didn't know they turned up in the States too!

    I love your quilt, especially the block bottom right. Lovely autumnal colours too.

  3. Your photos bring back memories from when I drove truck with D, and our route was in your beautiful Kentucky and Tennesee Valleys.
    I cannot remember the village we were in, but the road wasn't really a road but a very muddy and slick dirt path to a tiny place that had a general store and a gas station and a bar. I almost was panicked from Dan taking a fully loaded 80,000 truck down this rain soaked road to this place.
    When we got to the general store to unload our partial meat load with them. I got out of the truck and the women that were there almost fell over. A female truck driver! I remember the general store had everything from tires to fabric and everything in between. The area was coal mining territory and was just like the photo to the bottom, with very delapidated trailers and cabins. I felt like I was in Deliverence the movie. I do remember the people were very leary and wary.
    The best part of the trip was after we dropped our load of meat, we got to pick up a load of ole'number 7 at the Jack Daniels distillery and got to have a personal tour. It was great.

  4. Sounds like a scene from Deliverance. When you get off the main road here in Georgia it's all trailers, sand and red clay.

  5. Loved the post .
    I love the blocks you are creating ..what fun to see one of your creations grow. Those bird shots are brilliant too.
    I thought the account of your trip to see the tractor was so well written ...I could see the characters.

  6. I found myself riding along with you two and remembering my travels through that part of the country. You painted the picture well. I also found myself laughing at the thought of you "hopping" out and recording the transaction on camera! Good idea to just snap a shot inside the vehicle.

    I love the quilt squares - beautiful pattern and colors!