Tuesday, August 28, 2007


Matty was 6 foot tall and weighed 195 pounds at 19 years of age. He worked hard on his fathers farm since he was ten years old. Every pound of him was solid muscle. His family did not have much worldly worth and lived in a one room log cabin affair that his father and mother, together, hastily constructed on a tract of land in North Cumberland, Maryland. His father started the farm with two oxen, seven chickens , two pigs and a cow. The cabin had to be erected quickly because the land had to be cleared and tilled for crop planting. In the early years, at age 6, Matty would sit astride one of the two oxen as his father plowed the soil in preparation for seeding. At age 7, Matty walked behind the plow. His mother did her best to educate Matty in the evenings after chores, but Matty was usually exhausted and showed little interest in reading, writing and arithmetic. When he had time to himself he would spend it in the forests. This was usually on Sundays. He was intensely interested in all animals and plant life of the woods. He would watch deer, elk, otter and was especially curious about eagles and hawks. Those high flying, soaring birds fascinated him. He soon became a part of this wild environment. Matty took only what he needed from it to live. He respected the natural world and always was amazed by it. Everything seemed dependent on something else. All things, plant and animal, were interwoven together to form a circle of life.

Matty knew that the farm could not hold him. He was 19 years old and wasn't really sure what he wanted. But he was certain it wasn't the plow. He needed to leave. The forest pulled him with the strength of an oxen. He could wait no longer. It would be Sunday in three more days and he would leave then.

"What will you do and where will you go", his mother said. "Your father and I have built this farm knowing that someday you and yours would family here." "How can you just leave?" "Emily, the boy is his own master." "He can do as he pleases." "We came to this land to escape the lords who all but enslaved us into labor." "We are free to work the soil, to raise children, and to assume wealth, little that it is." "Matty is my son and I'll not be forcing him to a life he does not want." "Son, go yer own way." "But set the path back to yer mother and me well in yer head." His father's eyes were glassy and a tear trickled down from the corner of his left eye. He extended his right hand out to his son. When Matty grasped his fathers hand, the old man leaped to his feet pulling Matty toward him, released the hand shake grip and threw both arms around Matty's back and held his son tight to him. He whispered in Matty's ear, "I'm proud of you son." "Follow yer dream." "And remember the path home." Matty's mother sat in a stick chair, sobbing. She seemed small and frail all of a sudden to Matty. Matty walked over to his mother and embraced her. "I'll be back mother." "I'll not be gone forever." "Maybe in the Spring." "Yes, the Spring." "I'll return in the Spring; no later than May." "I'll have lots of stories to tell you both." Sunday finally came. The sun slowly began it's climb from the East, Matty had collected a few necessaries, laid them on an open wool blanket and rolled the blanket over them into a tight cylindrical shape. A four foot piece of rawhide was tied to both ends of the blanket. The rawhide was just long enough to sling the travel roll over his shoulder. At 7:00 AM Sunday morning, Matty hugged his mother on the cabin porch. He used light but firm pressure to hold her against him. His father came onto the porch carrying a package wrapped in heavy paper saturated in bear grease. The bear grease would make it water proof. The package was tied together with a single piece of rawhide. "Something for your journey". "No need to open it now." "Wait till tonight." Matty embraced his father and then his mother. He stood back away from the porch and gave them both a long endearing stair. He then turned and walked down the path and entered the woods at the South side of the farm. He didn't look back. If he did he might lose his resolve to leave. No, he would hold his course South. He was on his own.

By night fall he had happened onto a small stream that flowed North to South at the base of the Allegheny foot hills. Up until now the going had been easy. The ground was flat and lightly forested with tall, slender pines. In short, he made good time travelling more than 23 miles since sun up. He would camp here for the night under a huge hemlock that towered above the tallest tree in view. He unrolled his blanket and spread it on the ground and laid down upon his back. He looked up through the tree, his eyes searching through the branches. It was interesting how the limbs all seemed to grow straight out from the trunk then slope downward and out at an Angle. When viewed altogether as a whole, the traditional pine tree shape was created. Round tree, larger at the bottom, and tapering to a point on top. "Amazing," he thought! He rolled onto his right side and noticed the box his father had given him. His eyes came alive. Reaching out with his right hand, he hooked his index finger under the rawhide tie and pulled the box to him. While untying the package, his thoughts returned to his mother and father. Both had tried to be strong and sympathetic with his wishes to leave home. But he saw through their charade. His mother constantly blotted tears from her cheeks with the bottom edge of her apron and his father often looked past Matty's head to avoid eye contact while concurring with his reasons for his leaving home. The package had a heft to it. The opening had a flap that was held closed by a narrow rawhide strip twisted around a wooden dowel that pushed through the box from the inside. The dowel protruded through a hole in the flap thereby holding the flap closed. He turned the box upside down dumbing the contents out onto the ground. There were five pieces of jagged flint and a six inch long, 1/2 inch diameter piece of iron stock. This was perfect for fire starting. An old, worn wet stone tumbled out followed by a small tin of whale oil. There was something heavy that was wedged tightly against the sides of the interior. It would not fall out. When he turned the box over and looked inside, he saw a knife and a leather sheath. His eyes grew very wide, and he sat up to inspect this find. The blade was a good seven inches Long with a stag bone handle. The top of the blade was thick and two inches from the tip was sharpened like a razor and sloped down and slightly up again to a needle point. The bottom edge was sharpened from the hilt all the way to the blade's tip. That edge gently curved upward to the point of the knife. A very wicked piece of craftsmanship he thought. It was of heavy steel with impeccable craftsmanship and contained a finish as smooth and bright as a mirror. An inscription was etched on the left side of the blade. It read; Solomon 1750. Solomon - Father - Did his father make this blade? He must have. But when and where? It had to be back in England. Father only had Coopers tools good only for making barrel hoops and wagon wheel bands. Could his father have created this fine crafted knife with a hammer and anvil? He must have. It was a fine gift. He clutched it in both hands and pulled it to his chest as he lay on the blanket on his side and fell soundly asleep.

He awakened at sun up, rolled onto his back, yawned and stretched and stood up. He reached down and picked up the wicked looking knife and the leather sheath. The sheathed knife was inserted behind his pant belt on his right side. All seemed right with the world. He felt more complete and somehow, more secure with the knife at his disposal. He gathered up his belongings and moved on toward the South at a brisk pace.

Matty would stop at small homesteads and villages along his path and work at odd labor for meals and at times meals and a few shillings. After three months he found his way to Fort Cumberland in Maryland. Fort Cumberland was located on Wills Creek in Maryland near the Potomac River. The Fort was built as a depot to house and stock pile supplies on the South side of the Potomac River. As the French and English relationship deteriorated on the frontier, there became a need for a military presence in those territories. The old depot was expanded and a formidable defensible fortification was created. It was here, at Fort Cumberland, that Matty Soloman wandered into on July 3, 1755.

"Yo, yo, hold up." "Wait." Matty grabbed hold of the brake arm of the wagon and pulled himself up over the side and onto the seat of the wagon. The driver a boy of 19 yelled "what happened?" "How close are they?" He meant the French and Indians. "There must be over a thousand of em to make the red coats turn tail like this," Matty replied. The wagon driver spoke in a loud voice; "we can't cover ground fast enough with all these soldiers all over the road." He would whip the two horses with his buggy whip only to yell "whoa" when a group of red coats would step in front of the wagon. Matty and the wagon driver could hear the rifle cracks behind them. They were about an eighth of a mile back, but that was too close for Matty. "What's your name?" "Boone, Daniel Boone."

Boone was all of 6'3". He was dressed head to toe in dirty deer skin garments. The deer skin over shirt was worn on the outside of the pant. On his feet were leather moccasins. His hands were large. His left hand held the traces that controlled the team and his right held the buggy whip. Boone's head was bare, but a colonial tri corner hat lay in the bed of the wagon. His skin appeared weathered and sun tanned to the darkest brown. Boone wore a trusting face and his gray eyes were constantly moving, constantly searching the woods trying to penetrate deep inside the tree lined perimeter.

"Here; take this." Boone's eyes fell to the rifle that leaned against his right side. Matty grasped the rifle and laid it across his knees. "She's primed and all set to touch off," Boone said. It was a beautiful long rifle of Kentucky make and origins with double set triggers. The shoulder strap of a powder horn and shot pouch were wrapped around the rifle stock. Matty had fired his father's musket but never a weapon such as this. Boon reached over toward Matty, touched the shot pouch and told him "reload without the patch." "Its quicker loaden and the shooten will be close range, if there is any." "Probably won't need to be dead on for long shooten." Matty couldn't believe what he was hearing. This man in buckskin was talking about killing human beings as if it was nothing out of the ordinary. Matty looked down at the rile again and allowed his gaze to wander over the length of the weapon. It was constructed as a full stock rifle with the stock flowing on past the trigger guard and quickly tapering down to form a forearm (under barrel support) that extended below the barrel to the end. He noted the calibre to be .36. The inscription was on the lock plate. Someday he would own such a rifle.

Boone drove the team at a steady pace. Actually it was a snail's pace. The path was congested with panic stricken soldiers and terrified women. The women followed along with the supply wagons well behind the advance force. Most of them were entrepreneurs of the battlefields. Many of them had followed other military engagements and were familiar with roaming the battle field for spoils. Those battles were fought in the traditional European style of warfare. Battles on European soil saw regiments and companies of combatants align themselves parallel with each other, stand and fire into the ranks. They would be torn with rifle ball and grape shot until one side called retreat. The women would appear for the treasures that lay about amongst the fallen. They would rifle each fallen man's garments for loot. It didn't matter which side was the victor. Spoils of war were spoils of war. However, the fighting here in the Americas on this frontier was vastly different. The Indian's and the French did not line up in ranks to be decimated. They would take positions of relative safety where they could lay down fire without being seen. They fought crafty skirmishes for the most part. A new style of warfare had come of age. Guerrilla fighting. The British were slow to take note. The Colonials, however, knew no other way of fighting. The Indians were the teachers to all.

The sharp crack of distant rifles could be heard from behind them. The Indian's were murdering the wounded lobster backs. Those who could not keep up were left to their own fate. A loud shriek off to the right caused Boone and Matty to both snap their heads in unison in that direction. A naked savage broke out of the forest and was running full out toward four wounded red coats who were limping along the road. The easy prey must have proven too enticing for him. He brandished a war club in his right hand. An awesome weapon! It had a two foot long handle with a round stone the size of a grape fruit bound to the business end of it. He raised the club above shoulder height as he ran down a gentle slope, jumped high over the trunk of a fallen tree screaming at the top of his lungs. He was heading for a wounded Scott's Guardsman who was leaning on the butt of his rifle, muzzle to the ground. He was stationary. Blood covered his right leg which he had lifted and bent at the knee. Matty was spell bound as he watched the painted savage charging the soldier in kilts. He snapped out of it when he heard Boone yell "shoot, shoot now!" "Hurry, now!" Matty acted dumb founded. He appeared at a loss for action. He felt Boone snatch the long rifle out of his hands. When he glanced over at his companion, Boone had just settled the stock of the weapon to his shoulder, pointed it and the weapon cracked loudly. The Indian shrieked, and fell forward and lay still, flat on his stomach, face down. A gentle zephyr blew away the white smoke from the fritzen and the muzzle blast. The wagon slowed near the injured red coats and Matty jumped out to assist them into the wagon box. He then climbed back up next to Boone on the driver's seat. "Why didn't you shoot?" "I never shot at a man." "These men will kill you if you don't shoot first." " And there methods ain't christian if they ketch ya." Boone had a disgusted look on his face when he told Matty, "don't think of em as men right off." "Think of em as vermin." "Later, when ya git used to killen em, you can think of em as enemy men." Matty felt embarrassed. He did not act quickly. He didn't act at all. Boone did it all. He handled the wagon team, shot the savage and saved the red coat. And even now he was reloading his long rifle and handling the leads to the horses at the same time. He had just pushed the ball home with the ram rod and slid it back into the thimbles. Then Boone sat the rifle, butt first, onto the wagon box floor so that it was propped beside him within easy reach. Matty's hand gripped the handle of his knife and he felt more secure. The knife now represented something more than just a sentimental gift. It was a survival tool. It was necessary to his existence on the frontier. And so would a rifle be. Some way, some how, he would own a rifle. After witnessing Boones's handling of his rifle, Matty realized it was mandatory he acquire one of his own. One like Boone's.

They drove till night fall. The main contingent of French and Canadians had left the battle field and returned toward Ft Duquesne. Some indians still followed along keeping well hidden far back in the woods. An occasional shriek or whoop would sound just to keep the British and colonials nervous. The guards were posted heavy around the encampment. Boone and Matty struck out before sun up in hopes of being in the front of the weakened column thereby avoiding the congestion of foot soldiers, wagons and civilian women on the path. There were already dead and dying British soldiers who pushed on past last night's encampment due to terror. One of the horses went lame after only six miles. Boone jumped down to inspect the lame horse's hoof. A large stone was embedded in the pulpy part of the hoof. If allowed to continue the horse would lose its ability to walk. Boon walked to the front of the horses and stood between their shoulders grasping the harness at their jaws. He walked them off the trail a short ways into the woods, wagon and all. He withdrew his trades knife and took a step toward the animal to his left. Matty was observing the scene and immediately understood Boon's intention. "No, wait!" Matty yelled. Boone glanced his way and waited as Matty strode up to him. " "Cut them loose," Matty exclaimed. "Their capture will not win or lose this conflict." Boone replied "its our duty to deprive the enemy of supplies." "These two horses are to be killed. " "We will go on foot." "No!" Matty replied. "Turn em loose now!" "I can't let you kill them." Boone took another step toward the horse and Matty grasped his knife in his clenched fist and struck Boone from behind as Boone was walking past him. By clutching the knife handle tightly in his fist, his fingers became hard against the knife handle creating a more solid fist - and a harder hitting fist. When Matty hit Boone on the back of his head, Boone fell to the ground stunned. Matty lead both animals a little further into the forest and removed the rest of the harnesses. Then he swatted the rump of the white horse and repeated the action with the brown one. Both horses moved out of sight back into the woods. They were safe from Boone. Passing ladies and more wounded men helped the four Britts climb down out of the wagon. Matty grasped Boone under his shoulders and hoisted him to his knees. Boone stared at the ground with unclear eyes and inquired "what the hell happened?" I couldn't let you kill them horses, Danel." "Like I say, their lives won't lose or win this fight." "I'll have to keep my eye on you from now on Matty Soloman" Boone replied., Boone slowly brought his right foot up under himself and raised to a standing position. Matty took two steps back away from him not knowing what to expect. Matty reached down and picked up Boone's knife. "Here you dropped this," and handed it handle first to his friend. Without a word, Boone walked to the wagon and picked up his rifle and possibles. "Guess we may as well hi tail it outa here on foot," Boone exclaimed. "Agreed." There were many soldiers sitting and lying about while the two worked out the disposition of the horses. Most were badly wounded. Some were dying. As the two started off, Boone noticed a red coat sitting with his back against the fence. A large hole was in his red coat just above his heart and the white blouse beneath the coat was soaked with his blood. Boone walked over to him and discovered he was dead. Across his knees lay a Kings Army issue 54 Calibre musket. The accessories to this gun would be in the pack lying beside the fallen man. "Matty, here's your gun." "This one won't be needen it no more." Sporadic rifle cracks could be heard, and not too far away. Occasionally a zinging sound could be heard from a ricochet ball. Sometimes the rifle balls could be heard passing through tree limbs and stopping with a thud in a thicker piece of tree wood. The indians were playing their harassment game. They would follow the retreating army and snipe at them from far back in the darkness. "Lets get goin", Matty said rather urgently. Boone lead the way and instantly fell into a sort of trot holding the rifle in his right hand straight down. Frontiersmen can keep this pace up morning till night covering as much as fourty to fifty miles in a single day. Matty fell in stride behind Boone. He continuously twisted his head from side to side searching the shadows under the trees for their adversaries. At a small creek Boone stopped and they drank. Boone exclaimed "We'll stop for the night just over the crown of that hill there in front of us". As they topped the small hill, both stopped simultaenously. There before them stood a small fort in the center of a meadow. Fog surrounded it and gave the old stockade a macab appearance. It was constructed simply by stripping the limbs from four to eight inch diameter trees, cutting the trees to eight foot lengths and inserting them in a dug ditch so that the cut lengths of wood stood vertical. A circle about 40 feet in diameter was created by the poles. In the center of the circle was a small one room cabin. Mounds of dirt were created thirty feet from the stockade to provide troops protection while they fired on the enemy. The meadow itself was protection as anyone attacking the small stockade would have to come out of the woods and cross the open expance of ground between forest and stockade. This was Great Meadows better known as Fort Necessity. It was constructed quickly out of dire necessity. George Washington and two companies of Colonials hastilly threw this little fort together in winter two years ago when they discovered a large contingent of French and indians closing in on them. The French laid seige to the fort but could not break the will of its inhabitants. They finally sued for terms of surrender and Coloonel Washington and his men were allowed to depart with weapons and colors. Matty and Boone entered the stockade and decided the old cabin would do them for the night.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007




Two hundred axes slammed into tree trunks creating a constant staccato of thuds. Morning till night the sounds of men felling trees continued. Boys and women were busy hacking and pulling the cut brush as far back into the woods as possible. Ten teams of oxen were hitched repeatedly to fallen trees. Their groans and grunts of displeasure mingled with the sounds of axes striking wood filled every waking moment of the day. Red jackets and green shirts were thrown in disarray on every shrub or low tree limb that would bear the weight of the garments. The men swinging the axes were shirtless for the most part, but many still wore their white silk undershirts. The women were wives, sweethearts and ladies of ill repute who had been following the large group of men since the 29Th of May. It was now July 5, 1755. There were twenty two hundred men with General Edward Braddock on his march to capture Fort Duquesne on the west side of the Monongahela River. The going was slow. Less than two miles per day was made. A road had to be cleared through the dense forest in order to pass canon and supply wagons onward to the point of future conflict with the French. The pace was far too slow. The closer his army moved toward the Monongahela the greater the odds of discovery and retaliation. A meeting was held with his commanders, Charles Lee, Thomas Gage and Horatio Gates to determine the most advantageous course of action. After thirty short minutes it was decided that General Braddock would split his forces. He would take 1500 men (a flying column) and push on ahead at great speed. Colonel Thomas Dunbar would command the supply column and baggage wagons. This supply column would fall far behind the main thrust. July 7 and 9 found the flying column being harassed by occasional rifle fire from deep in the woods. Their adversaries could not be seen. The only indication of the enemy was the lingering puff of white smoke from the shot. The General could now assume that the French and indian defenders at Ft Duquesne would be alerted to their presence and a surprise siege was out of the question. The intelligence of that time indicated the fort contained approximately three hundred French regulars and seven hundred indians comprised of Ottawas, Ojibwas and Pottawatomie's. That small contingent of French regulars and savages would be no match for crack, seasoned British regulars and Scott's Guard troops.

July 9, 1755 found Braddock crossing the Monongahela River. Braddock split his 1500 men yet again. He sent colonel Thomas Gage ahead at a fast pace to try to find siege positions on the South side of the French fort. It was during this maneuver that Gage ran directly into a large party of French, Canadians and Indians. The enemy scattered left and right disappearing into the forest. Seconds later the sounds of musket and rifle fire could be heard and the associated white puffs of smoke could be seen from whence the shots originated. The shooting began as a few occasional sharp cracks and gradually accelerated to a continuous barrage of rifle and musket fire. The French with their Indian allies had taken positions on both sides of the British column. Colonel Gage and General Braddock both whipped the lobster backs into long ranks and had the men step out away from the line in groups of forty men. These groups of forty would split again and reassemble in a line with twenty riflemen in front and twenty more directly behind them. In this way the row of riflemen in the rear could fire a volley while their kneeling comrades in front reloaded their muskets. While this military posturing was being undertaken; the colonial militia took cover behind whatever was available and returned fire. They aimed a foot under the white puffs of smoke that lingered above a fired enemy gun. Balls could be heard whizzing by and smacking hard into tree wood with a sound resembling a large stone striking a tree when thrown. Sounds of Ka Thunk, were led balls striking human bodies. That sound was on the increase. The British formations were being decimated. Some formations of forty men were quickly reduced to ten and less. The air was thick with the smell of burned gun powder. It had an acrid stench to it and burned the eyes. Screams could be heard from the forest as Indians were growing eager in their success. An occasional savage would run full out and into a formation of red coats swinging his tomahawk wildly, striking one or two troopers and exit out the back side of the line before anyone could react.

A commotion toward the front of the fighting!!!!!!! General Braddock can be seen, left foot in a stirrup, mounting a horse. His white mare has been shot from under him and he had commandeered another. Not a heart beat later and his newly acquired gray stallion was felled by a bullet to its forehead. It lay on its side, legs thrashing as it neared death. General Braddock was given yet another horse and mounted it from the right side in an ungraceful manner.

The British formation blocks were deteriorating. The dead and dying were many. Soon groups of red coats were breaking away from the conflict and running back toward the rear. They were terrified! Many more started and a general route was taking place. General Braddock and Colonel George Washington charged through the men on horseback and blocked the escape route in an attempt to turn the tide of desertion. It was here that General Braddock threw up both arms and tilted his head back, face to the sky, and fell from his horse. He was quickly picked up by four aids and carried along toward the rear of the fighting, shuffling through the hoards of frightened red coats who ran, crawled and limped as best they could. The entire fifteen hundred man force was in retreat. The Colonials held their positions, laying down heavy musket fire, to cover the British exit. The French pushed forward until the militia found it prudent to evacuate. They ran on and on. They were beaten. They had ideas of surrender. But they ran harder at that thought. They had heard of what becomes of prisoners taken by savage indians. The French and Indians played a harassing game. They were like mosquitoes ; here, there and everywhere. Lobster backs were falling from their rifle cracks. The holes were in the back; not in the front. To make matters worse, the supply caravan was rushing toward the fight and was startled to be confronted by what was left of the flying column. The two groups collided on the small road. The fleeing troops instilled terror into the wagon drivers and the two columns of troops that travelled beside them. In two's and three's the wagons were stopped, backed up and joined the retreating British. Oxen pulled hard as the heavy wagons creaked back toward the South East. Drivers were jumping off the slow moving wagons pulled by oxen and hitching rides on the swift moving horse drawn supply rigs. Soldiers tried to cling to the wagon boxes with one hand and attempted to run along side only to fall and be run over by the wagon wheels. Their haste to get away would assure their capture by the enemy. There was no time in the retreat to pick up stragglers. They prayed the French would find them before the savages. Edward Braddock lay in misery on the bed of a jostling wagon. A rifle ball entered his body from the right side, passed through his stomach and out the other side leaving a gaping hole above his hip. He was gut shot. He passed in and out of consciousness until finally he expired. His cadre instantly dug a grave in the middle of the wagon road, wrapped the general in white linen and lay him in the hole on his back. The hole was covered with dirt. The hope was that the wagons and horses they would drive over the grave site would obliterate all traces of it from the enemy, who surely would decimate the generals remains if found.

One of the oxen pulled supply wagons became lodged between a boulder and a large spruce. The right rear wheel was broken off the axle. The driver quickly jumped off the seat and ran up to the two oxen in harness. He withdrew an especially long knife and sliced through the harness straps that secured the beasts to the wagon tongue. The proper thing to have done, per orders, was to cut the throats of the oxen in order to deprive the enemy of their use. But the young man grew up on a farm in the colonies and his father taught him to respect animals and to treat them with dignity. Animals were the earths fruit. They sustained human life and provided "everything" the pioneering people required to make a go of it on the frontier. Animals were revered and their lives taken only for human sustenance. So he set them free. They lumbered off a short distance into the woods and started grazing. The indians would probably feast on them tonight, but at least they were free to stand or run.

The young man's name was Matthew Solomon. He was known as Matty for short. His father was a farmer and a black smith in the colonies of Central Maryland. Most children of the time would follow their father or mother's foot steps and simply continue on in life as tillers of the soil or farmers wives. But young Matty always had a wander lust about him. He spent his time in the woods hunting or tracking when he could get away from the farm crops and chores. After a few years he would succumb to the lure of the wilderness and the unknown. He left the farm at 19 years of age and travelled over the frontier. He would work temporary, odd jobs in towns that had no names. Enough money would be collected to sustain him with food, gun powder and ball for his rifle and eventually a horse. His movements took him South along the Allegheny Mountains to Fort Cumberland in the colony Maryland. It was here that he saw the poster tacked to the tail gate of a colonial militia supply wagon. It read "Experienced wagon drivers wanted. Men of adventure needed. Must be over 15 years old and healthy. Inquire at Quarter Master's tent, first on left." Why not? There was nothing else to do. Matty tore the poster from the tail gate and sloshed through the muddy path called a street to the quarter master tent. "Yes sir. The pay is ten cents colonial per day, mess provided by the king twice daily." It was better than nothing. Matty would report to the quarter master in the morning to receive his wagon rig. One thing bothered him Why would they want men of adventure? He would find out. He made his appearance at the appointed place at 6AM next morning. There were already forty men there standing about or leaning against hitching posts or wagons. Many were older and their leathery, dark skin proved that their lives were spent in the wilderness. They were filthy and their clothes were buckskin. Others were obviously straight from the farm. For the most part they were young and, at the least, clean. A militia man appeared with a roster and called out the names of the new hires. "Aye!" and "here!" were yelled after the names were called out. There were many names called that were followed by silence. The militia man named Colonel George Washington appeared from a nearby tent and stepped upon a nail keg to gain the advantage of height. He stared out upon the assembled rabble and moved his head left and right with eyes unblinking and mouth tight shut. He appeared stern and quite serious. Then he spoke. "Men! We are about to embark on a campaign against the French and Indian at Fort Duquesne on the Monongahela. I am not at liberty at this time to state numbers, but General Edward Braddock of His Magesties Army will lead the 32nd a foot, Royal Highlanders and a contingent of colonial militia over the Alleghenies to lay siege to the French stockade that lies where the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers flow together. You men will drive the supply wagons for the venture. We depart in four hours after noon. So, say your goodbyes to loved ones and God speed and stay you safe". So this was it., The promise of adventure made his blood hot. He was almost giddy with excitement. He waited there by his wagon until the British General Dunbar directed the assemblage of teams into military order. One column of wagons two abreast flanked by colonial militia. The lobster backs were assembled four abreast and formed in front of the wagons. The column of soldiers was so long that Matty could not see the beginning of it., "There must be over a thousand of em, he thought. In reality, there were 2200 red coats and Colonial Militia total. The wagon drivers were extra. And so, off they went,. The adventure had begun.


It seemed lately that everything was closing in on me; stifling me. I had to get away. People, the dogs, bills all of it. I needed an overnight on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Up there everything would be alright. Up there, out of the heat. And it was beautiful. I started at the bottom of the Blue Ridge Parkway and worked my way North toward Ashville and a motorcycle campground. No cars allowd. A great, cool night in one of their mini cabins set everything right. The next morning I slowly pulled out of the campground and eased up the winding road that leads to the parkway. It was cool and a jacket was necessary. Hard to believe that folks were facing a hundred degrees down in the valleys below. As you can see, I used a different bike for this trip. This machine quite possibly may be the ugliest motorcycle on the planet. Although I have been told the Yellow Harley was. I do not find it beautiful in any way. But it is superbly functional. This "Bug" is an engineering wonder and is capable of cruising dirt road and broken pavement with ease as well as touring the big highways. It is more than capable when negotiating twisty roads with tight corners and glorious sweeping curves. Just enter the corner and roll the power on slowly and lean and lean. There seems to be no limit to how far this "Bug" will lean over to either side. There is of course. But it negotiates curvy roads with ease. It loves challenges. It is a Buell Motorcycle with a 1203cc Thunderstorm engine. It is powerful and it is forgiving in its driveability. It is form with function. The further it leans into the corners the bigger the smile gets on my face. There is no luggage attached for this trip as none was available in time. But it will be installed this week. For some of you who understand a bit about mechanics, the engine oil is located in the rear swing arm and the gasoline is located in the huge frame members on either side of the false fuel tank. It may not be pretty, but it is capable and very functional. You will see more of this "Bug" in the future. It made me happy on this trip.
Could anything on the planet be more gorgeous!?
One can seem to see for ever........
Yet another motorcycle shot taken in front of the 6053 FT sign. I've lost count of the bikes I have photographed in front of this sign over the thirty five years I have been stopping here.
This campground is located just off the parkway near Bovard, North Carolina, I believe. It is motorcycles only. No cars. The little cabins contain two beds each and are very comfortable. And its quiet there! And they have coffee in the morning!!!
This pond is in the campground. It is full of huge trout. Machines are located in the building where fish pellets can be bought to feed them. They are monsters. I threw saltines in the water and they ignored them. As the crackers became waterlogged and sank; the trout would suck them in. Once acclimated to the white cracker, they would strike viciously at the floating pieces. Great excitement. Well, for me it is....
There are many tunnels on the Blue Ridge. Fourteen I believe. I have travelled this road for thirty years and you would think I would know for sure. The stone work is fantastic. Quality meant something back in the twenties and thirties.
I thought I would take a side trip up to Mount Mitchell State Park. I love it up there. Quiet and clean. Everything is sweet.
View from the parking lot just below the observatory at Mt Mitchell
The Blue Ridge Parkway viewed from the road leading up to Mt Mitchell
Mt Mitchel. Note the dead and dying trees. Spruce I believe. The moisture holding clouds cling to the mountain top and saturate the trees with caustic pollution. This pollution is killing all the trees. And that is not an over generalization. Ozone is getting the ones the pollution isn't. Auto emissions are the main culprit. Millions drive the Blue Ridge and visit Great Smoky Mt National Park each year. Millions! And they ain't walking.
View from road to Mt Mitchell just off the Blue Ridge Parkway

Friday, August 3, 2007


Kyker Bottoms is a wildlife refuge cared for by Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. It contains about 140 acres of swamp, wet land, Meadows and trees. Just about anything can be found here. The species of birds is profound. Otters, eagles, vultures, raccoon, beaver, varieties of mice and deer are just a very few._The last two pictures on the page are discouraging. Remember Hiwassi and the Sand Hill Cranes? Here we go again. What brain is in charge in this state?
This building is near the parking lot and contains information about the refuge with posters and signage.
An interesting poster. If you click on the picture, it will enlarge.
Hum; Wren nest boxes I'm guessing. That's about the only thing that would fit through that tiny, tiny hole. Chickadee would fit through I guess.
One of the views from the trail that meanders through the refuge. There is a wet land marsh out by the tree line. This is home to many varieties of ducks.
A viewing shed (blind). Explained in next picture
This is the inside of the viewing shed. Note the "view" cut outs at odd heights. Yes, there are some sensible children out there who appreciate our natural heritage.
The building ahead lies on a walking trail at Kyker Bottoms. It is a viewing shed with peep holes with lids that may be opened and closed. The animals and birds are not stressed while being scrutinized by watchers.
So here's the newest thing going on in Tennessee. Every wildlife sanctuary will eventually have its own housing development installed adjacent to it. This will allow all the wild animals and birds an opportunity to visit with their new human neighbors-------------------------who will try to push them out of what's left of their environment.
This incenses me!

Thursday, August 2, 2007


How fortunate I am to be able to dance on the mountain tops with an iron horse, where the road touches the sky and seems to leave the earth. How fortunate indeed!
The model "A" John Deere tractor trundled across the hay field pulling an old hay baler that would push out a rectangular bale of hay every minute. The heavy bale would fall off a chute that protruded out the rear of the baler. Another John Deere tractor slowly made it's way around the hay field pulling a huge wooden wagon. It would slow to a near stop by each fallen bale of hay while a farm hand would grasp the twine that held the bale together and heave it up into the wagon. Another hand working in the wagon would place the bale neatly in the wagon bed to maximise the load. Loaded wagons of hay would be towed to a large red barn and either pushed or backed in by yet another tractor. Inside, two other men would work to unload and stack the bails into a large containment within the barn called a hay mow. It was strenuous, hot work done by hearty people. As my school bus pulled up in front of our farm house, I could see that my mother and aunt had four long picnic tables set up in the front yard with a warehouse of food set upon them to feed all the hungry men who would soon stop their field labors and descend on the prepared feast. It would rain this night and it was imperative that all the hay was bailed and put under roof. I jumped out of the bus and immediately ran to the wagon that was gathering the hay bales. I would do my part. Such as it was on this day in August of 1964. I was seventeen years old and a senior at East Huntingdon High School.
The men in the field were neighboring farmers and the ladies preparing the dinner on the lawn were my mother, aunt and her daughter. The whole affair was a communal thing. People helped each other out without asking. My dad and uncle simply started making hay and the others just appeared to help. My mother and aunt saw the situation and reacted with an all out effort to feed the hungry men.
These routines were reenacted countless times over the years until the farm could no longer prosper. I went off to war and returned to jobs in industry, and even tried a few years at owning a business. Mom and dad both passed on in the eighties leaving only my aunt. Two families were raised in the big farm house. My dad and mom raised me and dad's brother, my uncle, and his wife, Josephine, raised a son and daughter. I view these people as the last of a vanishing breed. Now in 2007, only one remains. My Aunt Josephine Taylor Loucks. She has been a pillar of strength to the family all these years. She shared the farm work load with my mother during those farm years. She nursed her husband through his losing fight with cancer and then again was nurse and keeper to my mother through her battle with lung cancer. When my dad lost both his legs to pernicious anemia she was there again. Lucky Strike; dad thanks you. So does mom. She breathed his second hand smoke. She somehow always managed a smile and her flashing eyes were always bright and saw only the good things in folks. Wash clothes, cook, can vegetables, clean house and nurse sick people is all she has known. In later years she retired to a small house located on a piece of farm property near her daughter. Then moved again a few years ago, due to age issues, into her daughter's home. I had moved to Tennessee in 2004 in search of country living. At least that's the reason I give. Pennsylvania was filling up and home didn't feel like home anymore since the farm was split apart and sold. This was the course of things that lead up to the present time in 2007.
The big yellow motorcycle crosses the Tennessee/Kentucky line cutting its way up interstate 75 North in a steady rain. I would normally go to Pennsylvania via interstate 81 North to Interstate 79 North and on through West Virginia to Pennsylvania. A check with the weather on Wednesday morning indicated that strong storm fronts were moving up those interstates all the way to Morgantown, West Virginia. I opted to drive an extra one hundred miles on my new route to avoid the agony of driving five hundred miles through interstate rain at seventy miles per hour.
I normally would not start a trip in such obviously foul weather but I received a call from Stella, Aunt Josephine's daughter in Pennsylvania, that things weren't good. When I questioned her more thoroughly she indicated that Aunt Josephine was gravely ill and would not be with us for long. Aunt Josephine is 95 years old and suffering with cancer. She had been placed in a nursing home because her daughter could not offer the care any longer that her mother required. I told her I would be right there. I threw some clothes in the big Harley and left the next morning for Pennsylvania. Six hundred and eighty miles later I arrived at Stella's house in Scottdale, Pennsylvania the same day. I drove without stopping for anything but gasoline. I was tired and worn out. The following morning we drove to the nursing home to visit Aunt Josephine. I didn't drive all this way to watch her die. I drove here to let her see me. I wanted her to know I cared enough to pull all the stops out to get here for "her". She is 95 years old, deaf and almost blind. Last year she was strong as a horse. I couldn't believe she or anyone could deteriorate so quickly.
We entered the nursing home through a service door in the back of the building. Doors were open to patient rooms and we could see into the rooms as we walked down the halls. The sights I saw sickened me. I became instantly depressed and nauseated. As we walked I noticed a lady on a bed in the room to my right lying on her back with a pillow under her shoulders. Her head was tilted back, her mouth open. Her hands were clasped together on her stomach and bound at the wrists with a nylon strap. Her eyes were wide open and staring unmoving at the ceiling. She appeared dead accept for the shallow rise and fall of her chest as she breathed. Her long silver hair was pulled down along the left side of her head and rested on her shoulder. To my left, another room contained an aged occupant on a bed with her left leg protruding out from under the white sheet that covered most of her. Her foot was deformed by arthritis and the slender fingers on her hands were bent in all directions. A surgical mask covered her nose and mouth. With eyes closed she lay as if dead, unmoving. Other rooms contained more aged folks, most women, in a state of what appeared near death. They all were totally helpless, totally unable to do anything without assistance. I was sickened. The reality hit me hard. They were all awaiting death. That is all that remains for these aged folks. This was the last stop before they would be no more. All that was left for them in this life was to die. Each would have to let go of it all in their own way and find relief from the misery of old age and the burdon of uselessness. It became extremely difficult for me to realize that my Aunt Josephine was here. She also was waiting. The strong lady with the laughing eyes and smiling face that I remember was now residing in death's waiting room. We rounded a corner and entered room number 115. The first bed closest to the door contained an aged lady with dishevelled long silver hair. Her eyes closed; she was peacefully sleeping away the day. The next bed held my Aunt. She was sitting up in bed with a pillow behind her back. A sheet covered her legs from her ankles to her waist. She wore pajamas tops. She was very thin. The cancer was working its despicable magic on her body. I approached the bed expecting her to throw her arms out to me as she has always done through the years. Instead she looked at me and said "is the snow laying?" Then "its a nice Christmas Tree isn't it?"; as she pointed toward the wall at the left side of the bed. She could not recognize me. I leaned close to her right ear and said "I'm Gary". "I came to see you." She replied "oh yes, I see." "Is it still snowing?" A tear fell from my eye as I leaned down to her and kissed her forehead. I felt many emotions simultaneously. I felt love for her, anger at the cancer and anger that I wasn't here a day sooner when she was lucid. I was in disbelief that this wonderful farm woman I knew all my life was reduced to this helpless miserable state. Her thin body barely made bumps under the sheet that covered her. She was in a fight for her life and she wanted to lose. An overwhelming feeling of sadness came over me. There was no dignity in dying like this. No dignity what so ever. She looked straight at my face and did not know me. She practically raised me. She would stare at me for ten seconds and look another direction and comment on the recent snow fall. Soon she would look left and right and babble about occurrences from the distant past associated with the farm. This babbling was very coherent. She spoke definitively about things in the past. Nothing of the present. A nurse brought in food which she refused to eat. It has been four days since she has touched food. She was ready for the inevitable. It is plain she will not delay her final sleep by eating. She wants this misery to end. The combination of nutrient deprivation and the advancement of death''s disciple, cancer, will surely end her life soon. I am sickened by this situation. Better to fall asleep and not awaken than to undergo this miserable existence. She babbled on and still did not recognize me. I leaned and kissed her forehead and left the room as quickly as I could. The place reeked of misery and death. I needed out. Now! It was closing in on me. Once outside I would feel better. Those poor people in death's closet! They laughed and cried, they raised families, fought wars, defended their families and worked hard all their lives. They now are reduced to a state of aged, crippled human beings with very limited movement and less than limited thought process totally dependent on the system to keep them in limbo until they expire. It makes me think about and wonder why we humans continually try to find new ways to extend the human life span. Why? There may even be dollars associated with the extension of useless human life. Too political. Not here.
Sunday. I told Stella I would meet her at the nursing home at 1:30PM. I needed to feel the wind on my face and experience the "aloneness" that a motorcycle offers. I headed for Bridgeport Dam. It is a small lake that I used to fish on as a kid growing up. The area has been renovated with the addition of tables and benches all over the lawns. It is a small lake and compared to Tennessee lakes, a pond. The usual piles of trash are strewn about by non caring Saturday night, partying teenagers and visitors. It seems that the nicer these natural spots are made, the more trash and garbage that appears. It must be some internal desire for individual humans to contribute their own personalized efforts to add to the destruction of the planet. On the positive side of it; clean up crews have job security.
This may be my last visit to the nursing home and the last time I see my aunt alive. As I said before; I came here to see her and have her know I made the effort to be with her in her time of need. But she does not recognize me or her own daughter. It seems useless to continually visit that building that houses torment and pain. The atmosphere there is dismal. There are no smiles or laughter. Bells and buzzers cause nurses to jump and run to multiple emergencies that are occurring in the many rooms. Ancient looking women are made to rise from their wheel chairs or beds and forced to cling to walkers. They shuffle along an inch at a time. I'm told this prevents bed sores. Yes, it is a dismal place to visit. I can only imagine how the in- patients feel about it; that is to say the ones who can see and think at all. Yes I am repulsed by what I see. But Aunt Josephine must endure it day and night. How ridiculous and selfish I feel about my petty feelings! I am a visitor and can leave. She is awaiting her final moment - her release - her total freedom. I'm concerned about my personal discomfort. I'm ashamed of my self for it.
I guess I feel this way because I love her. She is the last of her unique kind. She has represented family history all these years. She is the last of the farm people. The old farm never really disappeared from my mind as long as she was here. When she is gone farm memories will truly be just memories and she will be relegated to one of those precious memories. I could be a coward and ride off from all this, but I love my Aunt. I miss this sweetest of ladies even though she doesn't remember me. It is a terrible truth.
Sunday - Something was very different as we entered the room. Aunt Josephine was lying in bed quite still. Normally she is sitting up in bed or in a chair. She is also usually very vocal. Her eyes were closed but would occasionally flutter open and hold a vacant stare at some invisible object, only to close again. The rise and fall of her chest under the sheet seemed normal and steady. At times her face would contort or she would grimace with pain. The cancer was obviously helping her reach her final goal. A nurse was called and a strong narcotic was administered orally through an eye dropper. The small lady on the bed instantly relaxed and turned her head to the side. Her breathing appeared more shallow and she seemed to have found peace from the woes that ravaged her body. I leaned close to her face and laid my hand on her forehead and leaned close to her ear and said "I have loved you as if you were my mother, sweet lady, but never more than this moment". "I hope your journey is swift. Farewell to you". I kissed her cheek.
Tuesday - 7-31-07 - It is time to leave Pennsylvania. There is nothing more I can do here. My Aunt Josephine has not given in to the reaper yet and I must give in to time constraints. I still work to make ends sort of meet. A family relation drove in yesterday from Ohio and will stay with my cousin Stella for awhile. I feel better about that. It will not be long now. Soon, very soon, all will be at peace here. A great lady will pass into family history and become a memory. She lived a gracious, full life and gave and gave to so many. She will be missed by many. I will miss her, my second mother.
As I carry things to the bike in preparation for departure; I turn and look toward the old farm one last time. A vision of them all comes to mind. They are all still there. All I need do is care enough and I can envision them all and hear them speak. "Good by Aunt Josephine". "I gotta catch the bus for school". "OK, get going. Don't forget to take your lunch bag". "It's there on the kitchen table". "Come straight here tonight. Your mother wants you to get a hair cut right after school". "Yep, I will". See ya later Aunt Jo. Yep; later.....
It's the house I grew up in. The roof is original slate to this day. It is well over a hundred and twenty five years old. Probably more like a hundred and forty. It still has the granite window headers and sills. I see the owners have kept the original wooden sashes. Maybe they had new ones made. When I lived there the window glass was distorted and wavy. That's how they made them in those days. Two families lived here and worked the farm. My dad and mom and his brother (my uncle) and his wife. My folks obviously raised me and my uncle and aunt raised a son and a daughter. It was a wonderful time in life. Just wonderful!
The concrete drive and the metal roof are only a year old. The old home place changed hands and the new owners opted to get rid of the gravel drive and the tar paper roof. Oh well-------
This is the old farm barn. It was a hundred years old when I was in high school. And it's still there. The silo came along in the sixties. The whole thing has been renovated on the inside but the original timbers still are holding it up. The boards on the outside are the same ones my dad and uncle nailed on before I was born in 1946.
This is the place where I wrote the story about my experiences in Pennsylvania on this trip. It is called Bridgeport Lake. A pond by Tennessee standards for sure. But it is quiet and pretty. I could think here.
Can't buy a decent hot dog in Tennessee. Bob and I both love hot dogs. Look what we found while driving through West Virginia. Yum!
A welcome site when one drives up onto the Blue Ridge Parkway. No rain today.
At last. We are on the most fantastic road in America. It will take us back to Tennessee.
In the old days this Howard Johnson Restaurant was a booming place. There used to be an enormous hotel behind it that has been torn down. It was a stopping place for us when we would either ride down the Skyline Drive from Front Royal, Virginia or up the Blue Ridge Parkway North from Cherokee, North Carolina. But it's just memories now. Skyline drive ends and Blue Ridge Parkway starts South just up past the Ho Jo's about five hundred more feet.
This is my friend Bob who lives here in Tennessee. He rode the Blue Ridge Parkway back with me on this trip. He had his hands full with me as I was less than a perfect riding companion. I had a lot on my mind. But he's a great guy and the Blue Ridge Parkway is a great place to air out the inner brain cavity. The motorcycle is a 2000 BMW K1200 RS.
On the edge of the world
This is Mabry Mill. It is the most photographed item on the parkway. There are calendars designed in Holland and Germany that have this picture in them
Wow! Check out that view. And they get better and better the farther up you go on the parkway
One can see forever up here on the Blue Ridge Parkway
Tuggles Gap Hotel. I'm working up the nerve to stay there again. Read below.
Tuggles Gap on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The hotel appears to be renovated. A close friend and I stayed here back in 2003 I believe it was. We thought Pumpkin Head haunted it. We tried to stay but left in a rush around 11:00PM. I ran out the door and jumped on the bike and forgot to put my shoes on I was in such a rush. It was a scary place back then.