Thursday, June 17, 2010

Places I Remember

There are places I remember
All my life though some have changed
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places had their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I've loved them all

John Lennon



cemetery (1 of 3)


During my trip to the east coast last month, I took the opportunity to visit one of those places I remember from childhood, the cemetery.  I remember it fondly because it was where I made my entry into the working world.  In the spring of 1966, I obtained a work permit promptly after turning thirteen, and hired on as a seasonal grounds keeper.  Our work force was composed of three middle school boys and as I recall, the job paid one dollar per hour!

In those days, the working world was all about the cycle of the seasons.  In late March would find us clearing the countless tree limbs that had fallen during the winter storms.  We didn’t have a chain saw so an especially large limb would be hefted to the burn pile by two of three of us.  Yes, we worked harder, not smarter!  Next we would spend about two weeks raking all of the turf grass.  Talk about a boring task!  Finally by late April it was time to begin the turf mowing.  To a middle school boy, there is nothing like the sound and smell of a gasoline powered engine!  We loved our mowing machines but hated using the hand clippers to trim the grass that grew next to the head stones. 

The fall of the year was a magical time as the maple trees began to shed their colorful leaves.  We would spend our after school hours raking the leaves into huge piles, the bigger the better.  Next with the strike of one match, we set the piles ablaze sending flames soaring ten or more into the afternoon skies.  Nothing beats the smell of burning maple leaves!


cemetery (3 of 3) 

I worked seasonally at the cemetery until the fall I left for college.  I never noticed until this visit how often the obelisk style monument was used in early 1900s.  The monument in the foreground is nearly sixteen feet in height, constructed of solid granite, and likely cost a king’s ransom when purchased.


cemetery (2 of 3)

The Burton family marker is without question my most favorite headstone.  The central portion is a solid chunk of polished granite that is three feet wide and nearly four feet in height.  The ball that balances on the top is just over twelve inches in diameter; I always wondered how in the heck the stone masons moved it.  Legend also has it that if you walked by this stone at night, a hand would reach out and attempt to grab you.  I can’t testify one way or the other regarding the legend because I always made it a practice to be safely home before sunset.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

To Fly A Plane

column (6 of 6)

Pictured above is the Astoria column as it appeared on a soggy morning in May.  The “column” as it’s commonly known stands proudly atop Coxcomb Hill, the highest point within the city of Astoria.  From its base, the column soars 125 feet into the sky and its observation deck is reached by climbing 164 steps.  So what does all of this have to do with flying a plane you may ask?

I recently learned from a group of fifth grade students that the column’s observation deck is the ideal place from which to launch a wooden glider.  After living in Astoria for thirty plus years, the thought never occurred to me that such an activity was possible not to mention legal.  As it turns out, the visitor’s center offers the gliders to future pilots for a small fee.  So in the interest of “lets see what this is all about”, I set out one morning at 6:30 AM to fly a glider.

column (1 of 6)

So in no particular order, I offer my observations on my latest experience.

  1. I was reminded that it’s a long hike to the top of the column!  It’s probably been 25 years since I last climbed the 164 steps to reach the top.  While making the accent, I wondered if the force of gravity had not somehow increased in the immediate vicinity.
  2. If you intend to photograph yourself doing anything, bring along an assistant!  If for no other reason, they can pack the camera and tripod.

column (2 of 6)

3.  Read all the instructions before hand!  Assembling a toy plane in the fog and drizzle is not as easy as one might think!  A far better plan might be to have a competent assistant do all necessary assembly for you.

4.  Always bring along a pair of gloves when venturing to great heights on a cold and foggy morning.

column (3 of 6) 

5.  Once your plane is assembled, there is little more to do than launching it and hope you will not lose sight of it as it slowly descends.

6.  That which is great fun for a 5th grader may not be so for someone over the age of fifty.  Maybe I should have brought along some 5th graders to cheer me on.

In case you are wondering, I launched two planes.  One slowly spiraled to the ground and landed safely atop of the bushes.  The other quickly entered into a steep nose dive and crashed into the base of the column.  All was not lost however because I took time to savor the view and believe me, that alone was well worth the climb!

column (4 of 6) 

Looking to the northwest is the city of Astoria and the Columbia River

column (5 of 6)

Looking to the southwest, one will see Young's River and Saddle Mountain


If you ever want to fly a plane from atop of the column, let me know because I still have one unopened glider and will gladly part with it!!  I may ever come along and help pack your camera equipment.