Sunday, August 31, 2008

Git 'R Done!

Click over to Mr. Completely, click on his link for the E-Postal match, print your targets and the rules for this month, go out and shoot! Scan your targets and send them to Ahab by midnight.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Weekend Steam

The Kitten engineer is keeping a close watch on her trusty steed as it powers a threshing machine at Midwest Old Settlers and Threshers. The show continues through Monday.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Crankin' It Up

Isham Jones Orchestra performs a very nice dance number. Coal Black Mammy was a popular Al Jolson song; this version is less well known. This disc was given to me by a dear great-aunt many years ago. It is embossed with: Orms Piano House, 112-14 No Main Street, Burlington Iowa, Licensed Brunswick Dealer.

This week's Harry Lauder special is 'I Love A Lassie.' We still have a couple of Harry's numbers to record, so be sure to check in again the next few Fridays if you are one of his fans.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Jewel Weed Soap

One of the interesting plants you can find in the woods is Jewel Weed. It has a reputation of being an antidote to poison-ivy, and it does seem to work in preventing or relieving dermatitis from poison-ivy contact.

Susan is an experienced soapmaker, and this year she has begun making extract from Jewel Weed. We use it as an ointment, and as an ingredient in homemade soap. It really does work! Here is Susan showing the plant to a class of soapmakers.

Discussing oil selections for various types of soap.

Measuring lye: a postal scale is a necessity for consistent results. Lye is difficult to find nowadays because dopers use it to make some of their poison.

Pouring the Jewel-Weed extract.

Adding lye to the Jewel Weed extract; very carefully and slowly.

Adding the lye solution to the oils.

Mixing it up. Stick blenders sure are an improvement over the spoon!

Pouring the mixture into a mold.


One of her finished bars. This one is lavender.

Free Samples!

The finished Jewel Weed bars.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Not My Victrola

Here is a jazzy number to help you get your feet moving on Monday morning. KSPM01 posts a lot of great old records, doesn't he?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Monday Again!

Back to the old grind!

E-Postal Shooting Match Reminder

You only have one more week to enter the Mr. Completely's E-Postal contest. The host this month is Ahab. Click over to his site for the rules and the targets, and go out to shoot with family or friends. You don't have to shoot well to have fun, and if you are afraid of embarassing yourself you need the practice anyway. Get Going!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Small Town Skylines

A Tin Man water tower and a grain elevator mark little towns like Donnelson, Iowa. Lots of these communities survive as bedroom communities where housing is less expensive than in towns where the jobs are. Motorists don't usually stop to look around unless they need coffee and gas at the convenience store.

County seats in the midwest are often marked by ornate courthouses that were built in the late nineteenth century. This courthouse is in Washington, Iowa, and there is lots of activity going on around this landmark.

The town square is in the process of a major facelift, and the activity has been entertaining. A couple of buildings have been demolished on the south side of the square and a new library is going to take their place. The rebuilt sidewalks have electric heat to melt the ice during the winter. I guess they don't believe in Global Warming.

Monroe, Wisconsin has the prettiest courthouse I have seen. Catty-cornered from this magnificent edifice is the Huber brewery, and right next to that is tavern where you can partake of good food, Wisconsin Cheese, and brewery fresh beer. Just remember to think of your head in the morning.

Animal Rescue

Last week we were working in the front yard when we heard a car stop about 1/4 mile from our driveway and then start up again. They drove by us, and then this little dog showed up. He is a Miniature Pinscher, and he was pretty shook up about losing his people. All of our pets are strays, and we get really mad about people who dump animals. Min Pins are indoor dogs, and we don't want a dog in the house right now, so we have found a home for him.
Here he is getting acquainted with Hey Joe, a dog who was dumped on us in 1998. Hey Joe has been a very faithful watch dog out here on the farm. We have named the Min Pin Otto, and we are taking him to his new home on Tuesday.

Weekend Steam

You meet the nicest people on a steam train! This charming lady is one of the dancing girls who will entertain you in the saloon at Midwest Old Threshers next weekend. A word of caution to middle age guys: If you stand in the front row during a show in the saloon, you may be hauled up on stage so the girls can embarrass you. Great Fun!

EJ is shown getting some pictures of the reversing gear linkage on a very rare Colean engine built in Peoria. Old Threshers is more fun than Christmas and the Fourth of July all rolled up into one. You will take home some great memories.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Crankin' It Up

Tonight's selections are Rudy Vallee, and Harry Lauder. I still have three more sides of Harry Lauder to post, so everyone can have a nice collection of his delightful records. Rudy and his Connecticut Yankees perform 'Lover Come Back to Me' from "The New Moon," a musical comedy. This song was recorded in 1929, so it was an electrically recorded performance. You will notice that Rudy croons instead of shouting into the recording equipment. My dad's mother idolized Rudy Vallee, and I think this was one of her records. When she came to visit she always greeted us with a 'Heigh-Ho Everbody!'

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Business Risk

One of my landowners purchased this very nice white oak/red oak/ hickory woods when he was twenty-five years old. He is now fifty-seven, and we have done a couple light commercial thinnings and two non-commercial thinnings. We will be doing some burning in the next ten years to improve his advance regeneration, and he is planning on doing the final harvest of the current stand when he is seventy. The trees will be about 120 years old then. The tree you see with the ring around it is a hickory he has killed to make a little more room for his white oaks.
One of the summer storms that went through recently had a little twister that reached down and tagged one of his choice white oaks. We know it was tornado because the top that was ripped out is upwind of the tree it came from. This was a close call. One white oak damaged is not a real big deal, and he can leave it alone and accept the damage, or harvest it now.

As timber nears maturity you worry about it more, and after a storm front goes through, wise landowners go out to check for damage.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Only A Week Away!

The Midwest Old Settlers and Threshers annual reunion will start the Thursday before Labor Day!
On display will be an astounding variety of old machinery.

Free entertainment is available on the grounds, and it is guaranteed to make you feel like a kid again. A favorite of mine is the medicine show featuring Professor Barnswallow T. Farquar and his lovely wife, Polecat Annie. His songs are all at least 100 years old, and his jokes are even older!

Major Watkins has been showing old cars at Mt. Pleasant every year since the reunions began in 1950. He was one of the "Youngsters" back then.

You can't see it all in a day, so block out the weekend and head for Mt. Pleasant. Our family usually attends four days, and sometimes we stop in for part of Labor Day, too. I'm already dreaming of steam whistles.

The last two photos have been graciously donated by Engineering Johnson. Thank you, EJ!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Where There's Smoke

During a recent Iowa trip to see Mom, we were out for a walk at 7:00 in the morning. I stopped during the walk because I had caught a whiff of white pine smoke, which can mean fire in an old house in much of the Mid-West. We looked at every house around us, but saw no smoke, and couldn't catch another smell of it either. We decided it was probably someone's backyard fireplace, since there was construction nearby with lots of old white pine scrap.
During our 5:00 PM walk, the fire trucks ran. A house was on fire six blocks from where I had smelled it ten hours earlier. A neighbor had spotted smoke leaking out of the house. No one was home, but three dogs died inside.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Sandbars Make Me Nervous

I always preferred camping on shore; here's why. If they had been camping on a bar in the river they really could have lost everything.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Not My Victrola

'Keep You Sunny Side Up' is from the 1929 movie 'Sunny Side Up.' This is a great song to help you get moving on Monday!

Monday Again!

Back to the old grind!

Projects Without End

We are always working on something out here in the country. Last summer we began rebuilding this little storage building, and now it has lots of new treated wood, new siding, new tin roof, and 'new' porch posts. The barn is calling now.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Weekend Steam

This is a very nice photo from the March, 1923 American Thresherman. Mr. Thies and his brother are moving an old school building with their Reeves 16 HP engines. We learn from this Mr. Thies' correspondence that it wasn't only George and Abraham gazing down at the students in one room school houses; this particular school also had Martha Washington to inspire the kids. I hope she survived the trip. The building had 10" x 10" oak sills, 2" x 10" oak floor joists, and 2" x 8" joists overhead. It had a double floor and a 1" ceiling. They dragged it down the road three miles on two 8" sills. I bet those engines were snorting.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Crankin' It Up

Tonight's Harry Lauder special is "She is My Daisy" Harry recorded this one in 1909, and again in 1924; this is the latter recording.

The Red Label record is John McCormack performing a popular number. I tried looking up the date for this record, and couldn't find it in the online discographys. I will have to do some more looking to find the age of this one.

Thursday, August 14, 2008


Spike is another wayward cat that began showing up for meals. We cornered him, caught him with welding gloves for personal protection, and took him to the vet. He was a HARDBODIED cat! When the vet tried to put a needle in him, the needle bent. That's how he earned his name. He is still semi-wild, and he likes to maintain a safe distace from humans. Funny thing is, he likes dogs. Put a dog on a leash, march him up to Spike, and the cat is ecstatic. You can reach over the dog, pet Spike, give him belly-rubs, even pick him up. Eventually he will make up with us, I think.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Gone, And Apparently Forgotten

I just recently ran across this old barn melting into the landscape. This woods doesn't look like old field timber to the casual observer, and I doubt anyone is alive that remembers when this was an active farm. Old homesteads are usually melted down to just the foundation stones, but the tree species will give them away as you walk into them.

Black walnut is usually growing around old home sites, even if it is not a good walnut site. Do you see the depression about ten feet beyond the tree? That is a partially collapsed well. It pays to be on the lookout for wells when you are tromping about. I was following a compass line one very wet day, and stopped in mid-stride because I couldn't see the bottom of a puddle that I was about to step in. I picked up a long stick and checked the depth, and it was no puddle. Old wells are one reason I always carry a whistle with me in the woods.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Gas Engines At Boonville

Here are a couple more videos of engines we saw at the Boonville summer show.

Geologically Speaking.... just missed us! (Click on Link!) This photo was taken only five years ago.

What they obviously needed was an Arch Supporter!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Bad Examples

A few posts back in "Tipping Trees" I discussed the importance of making the two front cuts on a tree correctly; meaning that they should meet exactly. This little sassafras illustrates why technique is important in falling a tree. The person cutting this tree made one front cut on the heavy side of the tree, then cut in from the back, creating a very impressive miniature barber chair. The forward momentum of the tree even mangaged to split the stump! The tree begins to tip, then is blocked as the improper cut closes, and something has to give. Either the hinge fails, or the tree splits lengthwise. The cutter in this instance wisely quit while he was ahead.

These two hickory butts show that the cutter was trying to make an open face cut, but was bypassing the face with his horizontal cut. These trees were much bigger than the sassafras, and had real potential to kill, but luckily, the hinge let go in both cases. One of my landowners died making this mistake many years ago. The hickory he was cutting split lengthwise like the sassafras above, and the tail end smashed the man's ribs in.

Don't let these lessons discourage you. When you learn how to do it right, dropping trees is a blast, and it is a necessary skill if you are a landowner/homeowner. You can see the various techniques you need to know by clicking on the chainsaw label and viewing some of my previous posts; or by going to and clicking on the Tim's Tips.

Not My Victrola

Alternative energy to move you on Monday!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Monday Again!

Back to the old grind!

Wait and See?

I recently had a call to look at a shade tree which had been struck by lightning. The homeowner wanted to know if the tree was going to die, and if it should be taken down right away. The tree is a very nice American elm, and it did take a good hit, which blew a hole a few feet away from the tree, indicating that the bolt did severe damage to one of the main roots. The tree still was green, and it has no targets. It can be dropped easily if it ever needs to be taken down, so the diagnosis was to leave it alone and see if it survives.

A few feet away from the house there was a large red maple. This tree was perfectly healthy, but it forked at about 12 feet up, with included bark, and one side was leaning right over the house; it was set up to smash the home if a big wind gust came out of the northwest. I recommended that they remove this tree as soon as possible, because it has great potential to kill.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Weekend Steam

This Kitten engine was powering a threshing machine at the Boonville, Indiana summer show on July 26. The Pinckneyville show is next week, and Old Threshers at Mt. Pleasant, Iowa will be on Labor Day weekend. The weather is great this month, gas prices are going down, so load up the family and go to a steam show!

Friday, August 8, 2008


The August 2008 ‘American Rifleman’ has a brief article about Plinky Topperwein under the heading of ‘100 Years Ago.’ The feat written up in the article is Mrs. Adolph Topperwein (Plinky) breaking 961 out of 1000 clay pigeons in 4 hours and 35 minutes on July 18, 1908. Consider the numbers: she broke 96 out of the first 100 in 20 minutes, and 98 out of her last 100 in 16 minutes. She missed only 15 out of the first 500, and the sun was in her eyes! She and her husband were both incredibly good shots, and while reading this article, I remembered that Ernie Pyle once visited the Topperweins and preserved the precious meeting in writing for us. Here it is from 'Home Country'. “They called him Ad, which was short for Adolph. They called her Plinky, because when she was learning to shoot she’d keep saying, “Throw up another one and I’ll plink it.” Ad and Plinky Topperwein of San Antonio were one of the greatest shooting teams in the world. A gun-toter in the old Southwest wouldn’t have stood a show if he’d had to draw against Ad Topperwein. Yet Topperwein had never been called upon to defend his life with a gun. The nearest approach was many years ago when an escaped lunatic tried to get in the house. And on him Ad used a club! Ad, the son of a gunsmith of German descent, was born a few miles north of San Antonio. He started shooting when he was six. He would be seventy on his next birthday, and apparently he was shooting as well as ever. He and Plinky had a farm outside of town where they went to shoot whenever they could. Their son Lawrence was telling me about his father’s pulling off a series of difficult shots out there. And about Plinky’s saying, “Isn’t he wonderful? I don’t see how the old fool does it.” Which I suspect was slightly rhetorical because, if there was anything Plinky Topperwein loved more than shooting, it was her husband. She almost got tears in her eyes when she talked about him. They’d been married nearly forty years and earning their living together all that time by fancy shooting, and she still adored him. Topperwein was also an artist. His first paying job was as a chalk etcher on one of the San Antonio newspapers. Even now drawing was his hobby and an outlet for some of his nervous energy. He always carried crayons in the breast pocket of his coat, and he sketched on trains and in restaurants whenever he felt like it. His drawings could be found on windows, walls, doors, and mirrors all over the Southwest; the owners were proud of them. His favorite subjects were Indian and cowboy heads and comic-strip characters. Lawrence was even better at it than his father. He too had worked for years as a newspaper artist. But now he was reporter, and he loved the newspaper business. Incidentally, he couldn’t hit the Municipal Auditorium at twenty paces. When he was young, Ad Topperwein traveled with a circus doing trick shooting. The Winchester Arms Company heard of his prowess and hired him to go about the country giving sharp-shooting exhibitions. That had been thirty-nine years ago and he was still at it, for the same company. On one of his early visits to the Winchester plant in New Haven, Connecticut, he met a girl and married her. Things were pretty tough for her at first. She either had to stay home or else go on those exhibition trips and just twiddle her thumbs. She didn’t like it. So she made Ad teach her so shoot. It wasn’t long before she was as good a shot as her husband. And then Winchester hired her too. For twenty-nine years the world’s greatest shooting couple traveled the North American continent together. But always, the home they came back to betweentimes was San Antonio. Six years ago the Winchester people, probably for economy, had dropped Mrs. Topperwein. It almost broke her heart. Left at home, Plinky turned to other things for recreation, for she was a large woman with tremendous energy. She started bowling, and joined four bowling clubs. She was so interested that for a year she hardly shot at all. Then one day her husband, somewhat critically, said he felt she’d been bowling too much and had forgotten how to shoot. You have to know how intense was their pride in shooting to realize what sting that remark carried for Plinky. To them, their guns were human, and their marksmanship was an emotional thing. To neglect it was like neglecting your family. So they drove out to the farm. Plinky was not only hurt but scared stiff too. Maybe I have forgotten how to shoot, she thought. Maybe I have been bowling too much. If Ad was right, she was as disgraced in his eyes, and in her own too, as if she had struck their child. They got out there, and Ad started tossing targets into the air. One by one, Plinky picked them off. Her old confidence came back, and she called for more and more difficult shots. Before they were through, she had gone through their entire old routine without missing a shot. There was never a happier woman. Friends told me you could start an argument anywhere in San Antonio by saying that Ad was a better shot than Plinky, or vice versa. But the Topperweins said there wasn’t any argument; Plinky was better at some kinds of shooting, Ad was better at others. I spent a fascinating evening with the Topperweins. It was just luck that I caught Ad at home, for he was on the road most of the time. If he liked you, he’d talk guns all night. And Plinky was emotional—loved everything almost to heartbreak. We sat for hours in their den, which was a remarkable, helter-skelter, gun-infested room. There were guns everywhere—in cabinets, hung on the walls, standing in corners. And from under the couch Ad would pull suitcase after suitcase, each one full of six-shooters; there must have been scores of them. He took special ones out and fondled them, always looking to see if they were loaded. He said he had found cartridges many times in guns that he absolutely knew were not loaded. And that brings up what was, to me, the most amazing thing about this couple’s long career as professional crack shots. In forty years of almost daily shooting, they had never had any kind of accident. Never a split barrel, never a stray shot hitting anybody, never any kind of accident at all. I asked about the wild west custom of “fanning” a gun, and Ad showed me how fast he could do it. Fanning means knocking the hammer back with the back of your hand, instead of pulling the trigger. He admitted you could fire faster that way, but he said there wasn’t any advantage in it; when you hit the hammer it threw the gun out of line. “You might fire three times while the other fellow was firing once,” he said, “But your shots would be wild, and the other fellow would kill you with one good shot.” One day Plinky started out the front door, and there was a rattler coiled on the porch with its head up. It may have escaped from the reptile museum a block away. Anyway, its head went off with one blast from her six-gun. Next day she heard her neighbor screaming. She grabbed a rifle and ran over. The rattler’s mate also went to heaven via the Plinky route. Ad and Plinky held some remarkable records. In 1907 Ad shot steadily eight hours a day, for ten days in a row. He was firing a .22 rifle at 2 ½ - inch wooden blocks tossed into the air. He shot at 72,500 blocks, and missed only nine. Out of the first 50,000 he missed four. He had a number of runs of more than 10,000 without a miss, and one run of 14,540. But the strain of it, day after day, almost drove him insane. His muscles and nerves were in painful knots. At night he had horrible dreams: the blocks would be a mile away; the bullets wouldn’t come out of the end of the gun. As for Plinky, her trapshooting record of 1,952 hits out of 2,000 targets was a world’s record for anyone, man or woman. She shot for five hours straight, using a pump gun. It raised such a blister that a few days later the skin came off the whole palm of her hand. Neither of the Topperweins drank, but Ad smoked cigars and Plinky smoked cigarettes. She wondered why some of the cigarette companies didn’t ask her for a testimonial, since smoking hadn’t hurt her nerves. “Now, you don’t want any stuff like that,” Ad said. When I started to go, they refused to let me call a taxi, and drove me downtown. They said the next time we were in San Antonio we had to come out for dinner or get shot. All right, I’d come. But not because I was scared. I figured they’ve never shot at anything as thin as I am, standing edgewise.” From: Chapter XXV. Texas; Home Country by Ernie Pyle, William Sloane Associates, Inc. Publishers, New York, 1947

Crankin' It Up

This week, Harry has a bad cold; listen to what the doctor says about that! Comedy worked at a slower pace eighty years ago.

The Brunswick disc is the flip side of last week's obscure number. This song should be more familiar to everyone.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Range Time

The August E-Postal match has begun! This month is different, and participants must shoot at a 4 inch bullseye five times as quickly as possible, shoot at a second bullseye five times, and repeat. I am more of a deliberate shooter, so I am not a threat to anyone else's pride. I drove up to see Mom today and she had her range bag packed and ready when I arrived. Neither one of us turned in a stellar performance at the thirty foot contest distance, but after we had shot our targets for the record, Mom let fly with a couple of magazines at 15 feet. She put every shot on the paper, and very quickly, too. She really likes her little Walther.

Now, click on the link, read the rules, print your targets, and go have fun at the range.