An Interesting Nocturnal Encounter

 , By Ronald Howard Livingston
on Saturday, February, 06 2016 08:16:00 am   , 873 words  
Categories: Uncategorized , 2058 views

With Super Bowl 50 approaching an unusual encounter which happened to me in the early morning hours of Super Bowl Sunday 2010 comes to mind.  I wrote about the incident in my Multiply (social network) blog in an entry I called "My Little Excellent Nocturnal Adventure." It was posted 8 February 2010, and is here re-posted.



It's not at all unusual for the electricity to go out here in this rural subdivision of fifty-plus houses along the slough.  In fact, Hurricane Ike gave its residents a prolonged spell of power outage of two weeks. (It did little good at that time to call the light company to tell them that power poles were snapped off at the ground on my lot right across the street.)  Anyhow, even during the mildest of weather, it seems barely to take much more than a hoot owl fart to knock out the power in the area. Overhanging limbs shaken loose by winds with each rain are most often the culprits.  Anyhow, this past (Super Bowl) Sunday [2010] morning, in the pre-dawn hours, I noticed that the electricity was off and in checking out the situation I had a rather unusual yet very pleasant encounter.


I've been dreading a huge white oak, killed by borers, falling toward the slough and thus taking down the lines that run along it, so as I stepped off the back stoop I shined my light to my left and over the garage. I then decided to walk across the driveway  and beyond to shine the light at the oak.  I walked on out beside the garage and to the slough in order to shine the light down it to the huge pasture at the end of the subdivision. There was nothing that I saw that could have knocked out the power, so I turned back toward the house with the intent of walking back behind the garage. As I did so, I shined the light down the slough in that other direction and saw eye-shine.  In fact, there were a lot of eyes shining. At the very first I thought a dog was near the water, but the eyes were too high from the ground to be a dog's.  The flashlight I had is a very bright, heavy-duty rechargeable and as I adjusted it to shine more directly I saw that I was looking at four whitetail deer hemmed in between the neighbor's hurricane fence and the slough. There is a spare lot that is grown up beyond the fence's end, and the deer seemed not to want to go further in that direction. The next neighbor, beyond the brushy lot has some border collies, and I believe the deer were aware of them.  This sighting alone (four deer right out the back door) was fascinating enough, even for here in a wooded area of coastal Texas, but what happened next was really unusual.


The lights for the entire area were off, and though it was a clear starry night, the moon wasn't out so it was really really dark.  I stood still, just shining the light. The deer slowly walked back in my direction. At the corner of the hurricane fence they paused briefly looking over the yard toward the roadway, but decided to continue in the same direction and then trotted straight toward me. As they got closer, I could see that all were bucks. Though one (the largest of the group) halted briefly and looked between the house and garage, he decided to continue with the others toward the light.  Their trot became a slow run, and I gradually moved to the very edge of the slough to give them room since not far from the slough and a bit behind me was the trellis behind the vegetable garden (and I didn't want to cause them to attempt to jump it).  The first to pass me was a four-pointer (two points on each antler) who gave a little snort as he hurried past. The next, likewise was a four-pointer with rather small irregular antlers.  The next one to pass had an antler missing but the one which it retained had about three or four points and would have had a trophy rack, had he not already lost the other antler.  Finally the last one, a gorgeous eight-point buck a bit larger than the others, passed by and once beyond me really sped up and then took off like lightning, as though the nearness of the light had suddenly frightened him. I could easily have reached out and touched any one as it passed.


I watched them run behind and then around the end of the trellis-fence (used to grow cucumbers and pole beans). I stood there a few moments longer to savor the experience, as big a rush as the time I was a bit farther along the slough during the late afternoon when a bald eagle swept from over the pasture down through the trees of my lots, over the back yard, and down and then over the slough.  Many people see the sight of a deer fleeing, running away from them, but few ever will have such an experience as this one of four bucks running to and beside them and beyond.

Cemetery Ghosts: Johnny Morehouse and His Dog

 , By Ronald Howard Livingston
on Friday, October, 09 2015 05:02:00 am   , 822 words  
Categories: Uncategorized , 5586 views



          Quite an industry-culture and folklore developed in the United States during the short history of canal building and operation prior to and coinciding with the early construction of railroads, which had by 1860 displaced canals as the chief means for moving goods and people. Numerous ghost stories are associated with the many canal communities of the region between the Atlantic and the Great Lakes. Readers may recall an earlier entry in this blog concerning the deaths by drowning (murder-suicide) of members of the Bissinger family in the Union Canal in Reading, Pennsylvania. Another of these canal-related ghost stories is the tragedy of the drowning of John ("Johnny") Newton Morehouse.

          Johnny's burial site in the Morehouse family plot in Woodland Cemetery and Arboretum in Dayton, Montgomery County, Ohio, is marked by a rather unusual, attractive, and interesting sculptural headstone. The burial site is one of the most popular and oft-visited graves in the cemetery, which is quite a circumstance considering that the cemetery is the resting place of many famous cultural and historical figures, including aviation pioneers Orville and Wilbur Wright, writer and humorist Erma Bombeck, cash register inventor James Ritty, African American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar, Ohio governor James M. Cox, and many more. The distinctive marker depicts a large dog, posed loyally and nobly protecting his young master, recumbent amid some of his belongings, a cap, a harmonica, a ball, and a top. The statue base is inscribed "JOHNNY MOREHOUSE." on the front and "SLUMBER SWEET." on one side. The sculpture is the work of Dayton stone cutter, sculptor, and businessman Daniel LaDow (of the prosperous marble works LaDow and Winder). The monument was erected at the grave in 1861.

          Johnny Morehouse was the younger of two sons of John Newton Morehouse and his first wife Mary Margaret (Browning) Morehouse, daughter of Jacob and Edna (Bodwell) Browning.  John Newton Morehouse, Sr., was the son of John and Nancy Morehouse.  Little Johnny, as he is called in most recountings of his story, was born in Ohio in 1855. His older brother, Horace B. Morehouse was born in 1852, also in Ohio.

          The story goes that Little Johnny, who lived with his family behind his father's shoe-repair shop, was playing with his dog (whose name, oddly enough, has not survived the passage of time and the frequent relation of the tragic event) near the Miami and Erie Canal, which used to run where Patterson Boulevard now exists in the downtown part of Dayton, when he slipped or lost his balance and fell into the canal. His steadfast canine playmate jumped into the canal to save his young friend, but Johnny drowned before the dog could pull him out. Some versions of the story aver that Little Johnny met his demise by freezing, but that cause simply could not have been, since the tragic event took place on August 14, 1860. The August 17, 1860, issue of the Dayton Daily Journal reported Johnny's exact age thus: "4y 11m 14d, youngest son of John N. & Mary M."

          Though some renderings of the tale have it that both the boy and the dog drowned, most versions relate that within days of the burial of Little Johnny his faithful pal began lingering at the grave in ceaseless vigil over his young friend and playmate. The persistent presence of the loyal canine was soon noticed by the community. The dog would not leave the presence of his young master. Concerned for the health and safety of the noble beast, people began to bring him food, thus setting in motion a tradition manifest at the site even today. Moved by the story of the young boy's drowning and the heroism and touching grief of his loving pet, a tradition ensued whereby visitors show their respects by leaving coins and toys at Johnny's grave. Some versions of the story of Johnny and his heroic pet even state that the dog too is buried at the site of the marker and Johnny's grave.

        In recent years, it was alleged briefly (late March to about mid-April of 2008) that not all visitors, however, had come to Johnny's grave to give respects. Pictures of the stone, sans dog's head, were even placed online to show the perceived callous act of disrespect for the young victim of the waters of the Miami and Erie. The missing piece, though, soon reappeared on the sculpture, and it was eventually revealed by cemetery personnel that the head had simply fallen off due to age and weathering.

          It is said that in the present day from time to time the ghosts of Little Johnny and his faithful pet are witnessed playing in the cemetery. Sounds said to be the little boy's laughter and the dog's barking are heard on occasion, reverberating throughout the cemetery grounds. People also say that the statue of the dog even breathes, some claiming that the breath can actually be felt coming from the nostrils of the stone figure.


(Photo credit:

Easy-to-Make: Paper Mache Briquettes

 , By Ronald Howard Livingston
on Friday, September, 25 2015 10:42:00 am   , 1032 words  
Categories: Uncategorized , 157814 views



    Now that autumn is finally here, cold weather will soon be upon us and likewise the need for materials to fuel the various means to stay warm.  In some locales, depending mostly upon really low temperatures and their duration, the cost of heating fuels can be a real budget wrecker. So why not diminish that problem and reduce and reuse materials that we often have to pay to be rid of, such as waste paper, wood wastes, and leaves?

     There are many interesting videos that have been posted onto YouTube featuring the manufacture of bio-briquettes (biomass), homemade and otherwise. Some of these videos feature a small device that makes briquettes in brick shape from paper mache, whereas others for utilizing similar components make round, tube- or pipe-formed, briquettes. Especially for making these round briquettes, a number of homemade presses are demonstrated on YouTube. These devices range from very simple to rather tedious and complex.

     After viewing many such videos, I decided to experiment with paper mache briquettes, making them and using them to see how long they burn and how much heat they produce.  Shown here is the very simple way I came up with (which does not require breakdown of the device for removal of the briquette after compressing each one---a tedious and rather discouraging factor I observed in many of the demonstrations I'd watched).

     Following are pictures of the simple method and materials I devised in order to quickly make biomass briquettes.  One can mix with the paper mache other cellulosic materials used in making fuel briquettes: straw, sawdust, and dried shredded leaves. (Generally, sawdust is mixed with paper at the rate of one part sawdust to three parts paper.  You will need to experiment with proportions in order to find the mixture that best works for you.)



     Biomass briquettes are often touted as an environmentally-friendly green solution ideal for resource-strapped developing nations where wood scraps, twigs, leaves, and grass are readily available for use as briquette fuel for cooking and heating.  There, too, paper is in abundance for fuel recycling.  Yet developed nations have a resource with which developing ones cannot compete: junk mail! Many of us now have paper shredders so that we are not throwing out identity-sensitive information and thus risking identity-theft.  (I do caution, however, that you remove plastic address panes from envelopes should you decide to utilize envelopes for paper mache. The plastic interferes with good-forming of the briquettes, plus burning plastic pollutes. Also, when shredding junk mail, be sure that you remove staples which can really wreck a good expensive paper shredder! Likewise, in order to save wear and tear on the shredder, I do not shred large amounts of paper at a time, just as junk mail avails itself.) Newspapers can be used just as well as junk mail. When making these briquettes at one time, I use about half the shredded paper in one of these baskets, placed into a 5-gallon bucket, and then I put enough water to cover the paper.  The paper in one of these baskets will make you about 15 to 18 briquette logs.  (My last batch from these baskets made 34 logs.)



     (Above)  Half of one of the aforementioned baskets of shredded paper in a five-gallon bucket. Do not leave the paper in strips when you make the briquettes. Allow the paper a day or two to soak and soften.  Before using, mix the paper, stirring well before molding into briquettes. (Not mixing well or leaving the paper in strips will cause gaps in the compressed log that will allow the logs to break apart.)



     Stepping stones, surrounded by grass make a good place to compact the briquettes.



     The "set of tools." (Yep that's a closet, clothes-hanger rod!  The hanger flange acts as a plunger to push down and compact the paper. The pipe is 2-inch pvc, drilled with holes the entire length to drain the water. Make these holes small enough that the paper doesn't try coming out the side-holes of the pipe. The pipe was arbitrarily 29-inches long. Twenty-five inches would be more convenient in allowing the plunger to push the log on out once compressed.  As it is, I made the rod shorter, so I have to use another stick in order to be able to push the briquette and the rod on through.)



     Ready to make!  Using your hands, mix the paper thoroughly to be sure there are no drier areas in the mass.



     Grab a handful of the wet paper (while holding up the pipe with the other hand) and place it to fit into the pipe. (Do not squeeze out too much water before placing the paper wad into the pipe, since doing so can leave gaps in the log---the idea is to get the needed amount, three or four hands full, into the pipe to be compressed to coalesce as one unit.)



     Gently tap down each hand full until it drops on down to the stepping stone (or whatever base you are using).  Once you have enough for the size briquette you want, add steady pressure, and then body weight, to let the water seep on out the side drain-holes.



     (In other words, squeeze!)



     Ready to remove the log.  Notice that the briquette is expanding out the end, most of the moisture having been drained out.



     There's not much of the rod protruding, but I can kneel at the end of this glider and use my hip bone at this point to shove the compressed mass part of the way out. To do this, you will need to have dry hands and a dry pipe. A small block of wood over the rod end will help give you some backing.



     Another stick with which to push. Be sure you have dry hands to hang on to the pipe.



     The ejected briquette. (Ta dahhhh!)



     The entire "production line"!



     Ready to be placed aside to dry. In direct sunlight on a hot summer day, the briquette will be completely dried in three days.


     Seventeen logs finishing up drying on the back porch and deck.  Most of these (that is, each of the larger ones) will burn in a wood- or cook-stove for about an hour.















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