BALANCED

Dad was looking to buy a farm in Hunterdon County not long after I was born. By that time he must have been satisfied that there was sufficient critical mass of sons in his family (3) that would grow into the labor force necessary to keep a dairy herd.

Hell of a reason to have kids, wouldn’t you think? Call it Milk House Manifest Destiny ! It is unfair that I should even write this anyway. Dad’s no longer here to offer his side of the story. Sorry, Dad. I’ll find myself in the same predicament someday.

And how about that male chauvinist comment that I just wrote? Something about “critical mass of sons”. As though daughters can’t work the dairy ! Sorry ladies. Regarding that, I hold one truth to be self-evident. Generally speaking, boys are more brute-like than girls. Dairying is brute-like work. What’s good for the gander is not always good for the goose.

Notwithstanding such mundane details , Dad had certain qualifications in mind as he hunted for a farm. To this day, I remember him saying to me, “ I wasn’t going to buy junk.”

Turns out, he didn’t. In fact, the purchase he made augured to my favor many decades later when Judy and I purchased Dad’s purchase, minus the farm house, barns and 15 acres. When all was settled, we wound up with a farm that was nicely balanced, essentially half open, half wooded with all sorts of water flowing through it, a total of 62 acres and change.

Several springs, a few creeks merge to a single brisk flow as it exits at the farm’s western border and heads to the Delaware. The farm is a sweet balance of fields, paddocks, woods, a pond and comfy farm house.

Did I ever thank Mom and Dad enough for selecting this lovely patch of ground and enabling us to buy it? Quite probably not. Was it just a matter of being in the right place at the right time? I suppose. That and paying attention.

Advertisement

THE VERANDA REVEALED

Wonderfully populated with flowers, we have seemingly outdone ourselves this Spring with colorful collections in whatever direction you might look.

I say “we”, not to infer that I’ve been out there myself digging the garden, pulling the weeds. I am more the self-appointed flower enthusiast; shall we say the in-residence floral aficionado to the nth degree who just exults in this stuff.

We’ve just sort of “re-modeled” this whole garden, ripping out a tired boxwood border and replacing with far more visually pleasing flower plantings. A dirty Plum tree is replaced by a gorgeous Red Bud, complete with heart-shaped leaves; a subtle suggestion.

Yes, we’ve had professional help and, Yes, Judy gets a ton of credit for the new look. It’s just one huge improvement.

Just this morning while luxuriating in the surrounds, I was joined by a hummingbird. Most everyone has watched the dizzying pace with which this little guy flaps it’s wings; would you believe about 53 beats per second?

Not to be out done, a flying flower itself makes the scene. The Garden State’s official bird, the Goldfinch lingers not much longer than the Hummingbird. The Finch, however, seems to be up to a little unabashed mating, apparently having taken a cue from the Red Bud tree.

Ah, the subtitles of it all!

The Big Lie

I can hardly bring myself to do it. To tell the truth, that is. The question, however, is one that I am asked every day by well-meaning people.

“I’m doing OK, thanks. How about you?”

I then silently muse to myself over the truth of the matter. The truth is that I just told a big lie. The truth is that if the well-meaning questioner ever saw what I experience every day, the correct answer would be clear. I’m not “doing OK”.

My intent here is not a self-pity session. I can sit up and take nourishment with the best of them. I just need to take a little truth serum now and again. After all, I strain my guts out just to get dressed in the morning. My balance is so out of kilter that every day devolves into a contest not to fall down. Doing anything in public is a tribute to the efficacy of my wheelchair! MS is a deliberate, slow-moving insidious disease.

What’s next? I’m afraid to ask ! You’ve heard it said, “The damage is already done.” Is modern medicine about to quell, rather reverse the ravages of MS? I’m not holding my breath. Such a reversal would mean cleaning or eliminating the lesions that have accumulated on nerve endings in specific areas of my body. Those lesions define Multiple Sclerosis.

Is there a silver lining? Definitely!! Will an eventual vaccine serve to eliminate those lesions?

Hey, They’re working on it. One has to believe that this code will get cracked. I just wish that they’re getting close !

I’m tired of telling the big lie !

On Being a Mets Fan… Yo la Tengo.

It was 1962. At the tender age of 9, I loved baseball. I loved to play it, I loved to listen to pro games on the radio. Inside the family’s dairy barn wasn’t always the best venue for listening, but the drudge of barn work was much better wiled away by an entertaining game.

In fact, well before my day, baseball had been a steady diet of Yankees in post-season play. Later on, when whichever National League team won the pennant, who did they play in the World Series? Chances were, the NY Yankees. Much to their credit, it was a steady drumbeat… Yankees, Yankees, Yankees.

As a kid, I had no particular allegiance to any team. Often a youngster follows his Dad’s baseball preference, but my Dad was from Michigan. He could have cared less about the Detroit Tigers, much less the Yankees.

So when an expansion team was born to the National League, I was due to root for them. Not that they were close to home, but the New York Mets were close enough. It wasn’t as though I’d ever be going to a live game, anyway. Anyone who doesn’t understand that, never milked cows.

At least the Mets would be a needed diversion from the same old Yankee drumbeat. I was in. So was older brother, Dave. We’d root for the New York Mets.

It is here, I realize, that some readers may take leave of me. After all, the ‘62 Mets were one hapless baseball team. I invoke the words of their beleaguered Manager, Casey Stengel, “Can’t anyone here play baseball?”

Indeed, the Mets record for that year was 40 wins/120 losses. Nevertheless, fans loved them. The National League hadn’t had a New York team since 1957. Fans took a leap of faith that their Mets would improve.

They did. You may recall a pejorative reference to “the greatest miracle since the ‘69 Mets.” They did beat the Baltimore Orioles that year, 4 games to 1 in the World Series. That is still considered one of the greatest upsets in World Series history.

Nonetheless, I still harken back to those original Mets. Perhaps you were with me in those days. If so, you will recognize names like Marv Throneberry, Chris Cannizzaro, Elio Chacon or Frank Thomas. Oh, lest I forget, Choo Choo Coleman.

Frank Thomas hammered 34 home runs that year with 94 RBIs, a season otherwise obfuscated by the team’s dismal performance. Thomas and Chacon did display some colorful fielding antics born of their respective languages.

Thomas, in left field, would be focusing on a very short fly ball that he had to run like hell to catch, but he got there. He was calling the catch, “I got it. I got it.”

Chacon, the short stop, had hustled to catch the same fly ball. He, also, was calling the catch. “Yo la tengo. Yo la tengo.”

Thomas knew not a word of Spanish. Chacon knew not a word of English. The two of them collided in spectacular fashion, neither of them catching the ball.

That very scene magically encapsulated the first season of the Amazing Mets in 1962. Since then… well, it’s been a tough row to hoe. They won it all again in ‘86. They’ve won 5 National League pennants. 6 National League East Division titles.

And, yes, as I write it is early in the 2022 season. For now, the Mets command the best record in baseball. Would it be presumptuous to suggest that the Mets have come full circle?

JackPot

Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda … played the lottery this morning .

I awoke and glanced at my digital clock. What did it read ? … 333 , as if to suggest that they should be the numbers to play, were that I a gambler.

I did briefly indulge the moment. What were the chances that I should arise at 333 ? Never mind, I dismissed the matter. There is a reason that long ago I opted out of that probabilities course.

A full moon glowed, illuminating the nighttime sky. I listened intently for a moment. Something was out there, so hopelessly distant as to evade recognition. But, yes, it was out there.

Many don’t realize this, but the nighttime woods are often a killing field. Oh, the battles one hears, not to suggest that many of the sounds are identifiable. Sometimes the noises yielded by an animal fighting for its dying breathes are, by their nature, not recognizable.

If there are any clueless tree huggers wigged out by reading this, do bear in mind, the phenom here discussed occurs quite naturally.

At at any rate, the wee hours ambled to dawn and I lay abstractedly ‘til daylight beckoned me to push the pen a bit. Thanks for your indulgence. You see, writing is my fixation.

A WELL-MADE DECISION

March 17, 1980.

What was going on tonight? Nothing in particular, as far as I knew. Wait a minute, though. It was St. Patrick’s Day. Maybe there will be a little frivolity going on at the Pittstown Inn.

Better yet, why not phone that sweet young damsel, Judy Thomas, whose path I’d crossed a time or two recently. How would this be for an inspired interlude, I asked of her when she answered. The Pitt is advertising Green Beer Night!

Judy didn’t have any problem with green beer. In fact, her enthusiasms for a host of subjects rendered a superlative visit that night at the bar. Turns out, I married her a year or two later.

Consider deliberately, my friends, the decisions that you make. Today’s just might be your best ever.

WHO’S LISTENING TO YOU ?

Surely there is an explanation for this. It escapes me, but I’m right here in the room. So must be the explanation. Hell, it’s in my lap.

I know! It’s some sort of sophisticated algorithm . As far as I know, there’s not a listening device in my IPad, but that’s what I’m using to type these very words that you’re reading.

I’ve been talking with people here in the room, talking with them about what I’m writing about. How does it do that, though? I’m writing a sentence and my device fills in my next intended word.

Hey, good guess IPad. I love your artificial intelligence. Just don’t get to thinking that you’re some sort of know it all!

You see! This thing has me talking to myself. No, talking to you. No, talking to my IPad. Am I losing you ? No, am I losing it ? What is “it”? Oh no . I’ve lost it !

HAPPENSTANCE… The Larsens

It is a remarkable adjunct to writing a book. People who you don’t know come out of the woodwork, sometimes with notable circumstance.

Not long ago I was contacted by a chap named Arnold Larsen of Wilsonville, Oregon. He had read both of my memoirs books and wanted to convey his appreciation.

Then just a few days ago a lady, Aleyne Craig of Fountain Hills, Arizona wrote a very complimentary letter, again regarding MEMOIRS of a JERSEY FARM BOY.

I never met either of these individuals, but something told me that I knew their names, both of them. It didn’t take much discussion to figure it out.

Aleyne and Arnold are brother and sister. Further, not only did they once live here in NJ, Hunterdon County., Alexandria Township. Their folks used to own the farm contiguous to mine!

The coincidence doesn’t entirely end there. Aleyne and my older brother, Dan (RIP) were chums for years on the school bus.

Can ya make this stuff up? I suppose, but it’s not too likely.

Why, you ask, didn’t I know Arnold and Aleyne? After all, they were the next farm over. Well, it’s simple. They’re about 10 years my senior. When you’re kids, that’s a lifetime.

Wilsonville, Or.

DRIVE YOUR TRACTOR TO SCHOOL DAY

No, they never had this at Alexandria Township School, although I can picture a few classmates who would have loved it. Where, you ask, did I even get the idea ? Where else? A vintage farm tractors page on the internet featuring the Allis Chalmers ‘breed’.

I had a couple of them in my day, so stumbling upon this page compelled my interest for a bit. What a walk down memory lane ! On the very outside chance that I’ve corralled a reader who is remotely familiar, I had a model 185 and a much older WD 45 Allis Chalmers. Without boring you with further specifics, I’ll move on.

Try to picture this at your old grade school. What’s that you say ? At your old school kids didn’t have tractors. Well, they didn’t at mine either. They were Dad’s tractors. Mom’s too. The kids just spent long days in the field with them.

Back up, though. Surely you remember “show & tell” episodes at school, or maybe set-asides of a day to display something you’d found or wanted discuss. But how about DRIVE YOUR TRACTOR TO SCHOOL DAY ? This must have been an idea straight out of the Midwest. In Jersey, the whole notion smacks of lawsuits.

What if Johnny flips his Minneapolis Moline on Rt. 513? No, that wouldn’t be good.

What fun, though. You know how kids banter about cars. Chevys are better than Fords. No, Fords trump Chevys.

In other parts of the country, you’re more likely to hear a kid telling his buddy that his John Deere 4020 can outpull his International 1056.

Where am I going with this? Only to the parking lot at Alexandria Township School. Otherwise, I didn’t mean to get carried away! Have fun, Johnny.

THE “SHUT IN”

Mom spent her final days living in her own little house in Franklin Township (Hunterdon County) . In almost story book fashion, the house was a “stone’s throw” from Capoolong Farm where she grew up. Capoolong, as we always called it, is a story for another day.

We visited Mom frequently. From time to time we’d take her to Clinton for grocery shopping or the like, just to give her a break from the house for a while. She never complained of boredom, but that almost had to be part of her day to day existence. She was a trooper.

An old gentleman lived next door to Mom. He, like Mom, was essentially incapacitated. Ironically, though, Mom always referred to him as “the shut in next door”, but truth be told, they both were in the same boat.

Fast forward Lord knows how many years. The irony continues. I have contended with MS for 40 years now; to the point of being wheelchair bound and essentially incapacitated. Now who is the shut in next door ?

It would follow, I suppose, to wallow in self-pity here. That ain’t gonna happen. I only note this to mention life’s remarkable trials . Back in the old days, after having fitful attempts to load a cow onto his truck, the local cattle dealer, Mr. Kadezabek, would shrug his shoulders and demure,”Whattcha gunna do ?”

I say the same, Mr. K. It is what it is.