Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Lessons Learned From An Orchard Man

It was with measured sadness when I learned of the end of operations at the Ringing Hill Orchard last week. The Mercury reported the end after seventy some years in operation. Thinking back, it was seventy some years ago since I worked there. Mr. Bill Hampton, grandfather of the present owners, was running the orchard on a day to day basis from his roll top desk when he hired me.

Even during my elementary school days I was big for my age so Mr. Hampton assigned me to be a ground man. I was to walk along side of the wagon and lift the picked fruit baskets from the ground and place them on the wagon for another boy to slide them into place for the ride back to the sorting station. I was happy and willing to trade hard work for the experience of earning a few dollars. Dollars which went home to mom for house expenses except for a small allowance for me to buy candy or a movie ticket. At 30 cents an hour, I wasn't a big earner.

Mr. Hampton was old to me then, like an old gruff grandfather, running a tough business based on the weather and fruit trees which needed constant attention. He seemed to have plan and under his wing things happened in positive ways, the fruits matured and were brought in then off to final market places. He taught me one of life's universal lessons.

"Hey boy !" he hollered at me, " Get that broom stick and get in my truck". The truck was a car chassis, roof cut off with and a homemade stake body where the rear seat once was. Off we drove up through the orchard stopping at a quite young tree maybe 3 or 4 inches in trunk diameter just up from ground level. Hop down he said and take that broomstick handle and beat that tree trunk, all around it. I timidly hit at the trunk and he, very agitatedly, scolded me for my timidness and, with some strong language, urged me to be more aggressive which I was. The bark cracked in places which pleased him so we moved on to other trees of similar size and age where I applied my vigor to them and his pleasure.

On the ride back to his office in the storage barn Mr. Hampton explained the reason behind what we had just done. Fruit trees, like all living organisms, produce, when under stress, more flowers therefore more fruit which are the carriers of seeds. Seeds are the ultimate extenders of the species. Even in humans, stress in a sector of a society will increase the birth rate so that society will have a better chance to live on. Scarring the trunk was an early orchard man's way of tricking fruit trees to do his bidding. The scars healed and gave no lasting affect to the trees except getting them to produce earlier and in more abundance. 

"Spare the rod, spoil the child" rings yet in my ears.

Ronald C. Downie

Monday, October 20, 2014

Living Longer

The scientific community must be crazy thinking a guy like me should live decades longer just because they've isolated a gene or two that will give me replacement organs for those I've worn out. Hell, I've already out lived many of my buddies that I grew up with. 

We were from that generation just post depression, pre- WW2. That generation that was too young for a big war- too old for the next, some undeclared conflict. We were big on butter and lard, on hotdogs and bacon, on cigarettes and booze, on drive-in-movies and drag racing; yea, we rarely took care of ourselves.

Maybe, I've outlasted my friends because of my ancestral genes. Genes that were nurtured in the rugged upslopes of Scottish Highlands covered in heather and free range game. Did genes gain their grit from tossing of the caber or wielding a broad sword ? Or could it be from eating oatmeal and haggis a diet my ancestors cut their teeth on, that produced these genes I possess.

No, most likely it is by chance that I'm here instead of them. Probably it is because of my wife, Constance, who is my caregiver, the mother of our two daughters and a son, the keeper of the homestead, and she remains today the earner in the family. She keeps stresses to a minimum as those who know her will attest to. Please, I'm no candidate for longevity, neither by chance nor choice, so I'm here until I expire from normal causes.

Ronald C. Downie

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Wedge Issues

Way back then, mid 1940's, post WW2, Ringing Hill.
Here from hills overlooking Harmonyville, Chester Co.

Moved into our new two story home on N. Keim St.
Early spring before leaves unfolded summer's form.

A wooded lot demands certain tools for groomin :
An ax for sure, a grind stone to sharpen it, a saw, 

Not any old saw, a man's saw, well really, a two man
Saw to fell tall trees blocking out all the sun light.

Dad had a garden in mind and gardens need sunshine
And he'd have sun no matter what. "Timber" echoed 

That spring. Save the house, save the chicken pen 
Turned into our tool shed, don't drop it on the car.

Gathering more tools for the job, Dad read about 
Felling trees the proper way. Sight the desired drop

Line, notch the tree trunk with an axe two foot up 
From the ground anticipating the path tree is to fall.

A two man saw takes team work, once started each
person manning opposed ends must only pull the saw 

To them and relax when your team mate pulls back.
Pushing back is a no-no and only causes buckling up.

It's called pinching when the weight of the tree 
Exerts down pressure on saw blade stopping sawing.

Then a wedge must be inserted in the cut to spread
The saw line gap so pinching stops, cutting continues.

Those wedge issues were simple compared to today's.
Politicians try to spread citizens apart over hotly 

Contested topics : abortion, contraceptives, taxes,
Gay rights, segregation, wealth disparity, and debt.

The wedge to the tree was for a corrective action ;
For politicians, wedge issues are designed cancerous,

They are to slowly fester while gathering up speed 
To do the most harm, monkey wrenches of discontent.

When a tree falls its branches are removed first,
The trunk is cut up in lengths suitable for stacking,

Then stacked loosely so they dry out for more easy
Splitting into useable pieces, in our case was bon fires.

Summer memories were of Jersey relatives arriving
For vacations with tents tied to their old car roofs.

A sight similar to a religious tent meeting popped up  
In our wooded back yard, our vegetable garden used.

Rarely seen today would be a tent city sight, except
What we've all seen on television, viewing "Occupy" 

As well as me. Kindred spirited people are gatherin
Not unlike relatives did in my youth. The web of life.

A hunk of pie shaped iron, four inch tapering down to
A quarter inch a foot long, sledge hammered smartly 

Into a cut or later used to split the logs fire ready,
Is the main reason to have a wedge when logging.

The wedge is a very valuable tool to fell trees or split pieces for burning. Wedge issues are opposite.

They are surfaced to fell cooperation while splitting
The masses into rigid positions free of compromise.

Ronald C. Downie









Saturday, October 18, 2014

Questions Seeking Answers

Before the pools of dementia become too deep for me to climb out of, I wish to record some thoughts itching to see daylight. On my mind is : is there any truth to the rumors going around about the real reason the Texas deceased Ebola patient was sent home from the hospital with a temperature of 103 degrees on his initial visit was because he had no health insurance coverage? If so, why wasn't this reported immediately ?If so, is this an indictment of just Texas's health system or our entire country's system ? May the truth have a chance to set all men free.

Ronald C. Downie

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Sage

Gran'Pa Downie was a wizened wise, old sage
Who's needs were few, his wants even less.
With a huge bald head, both forearms bowed,
His spine was so calcified it bent him forward
Making him unable to look up without sitting down.
His Scottish brogue, heavy RRRs, spoke of his birth.

His physical look was not him; he was truly a sage.
This ship's joiner, carpenter, traveled Cape Town,
South Africa to home port, Glasgow, Scotland.
His disfigured physical features developed from,
We thought, deficiencies in his diet during long
Trips at sea aboard tramp steamer cargo ships.

Is one born a sage or does it slowly develop 
Through adversity during a health decline ?
Or does Man temper, as steel from iron does,  
When it's super heated molecules implode   
Making them much stronger through firing ?  

From this sage we find his strength in words.
           Gran'Pa said : 
" A good job is it's own reward ."
" Please measure twice so you must cut just once ."
 "A job worth doing is a job worth doing well ."
 "I don't care ! " - "Just is not a good answer ."

For My Grandfather, Andy Grey Downie,
Love, Ronald C . Downie 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Introduction

Have you noticed the sun lowering in the sky daily ?
Colors become more pastel, like being washed out . 
Something again is happening in our World ,
Another new season approaches quickly upon us.
Nothing new , happens every year,
But do we really notice ? No ! Not really !
It takes something special, say like:

First Blizzard Of The Season

Relish the first blizzard of the season
Watch for swirls of yellow and brown ;
Autumn early seems the true reason 
All the lawns are covered in the town.

            It's a time when :

Damp mist steams up from the river,
Foot steps leave their prints in the dew. 
Morning sun gets red and redder,
Vast flocks fly all birds but a few.

Thin herringbone clouds stripe the sky,
Heading south geese V in a flock,
Crows land and depart with a cry.
Farmers watch weather like a clock.

Goldenrods garnish the meadows
Stately corn tans tall on the stalk,
In home gardens wilt the tomatoes,
Deep breaths smoke great puffs as we walk.

Pumpkin orange rough petal's fashion,
Straight up, smoke stretches chimneys tall.
Witch and goblin excite a child's passion.
Snowing down - leaves announce - Fall !

Ronald C . Downie 
  

Monday, October 13, 2014

Sonnet 28

Sherri's Force

When a loved one plants a lush garden scene
To capture life forces that tugs at the heart ;
Will a sharp spade edging arcs and curves mean
Same as a painter's brush for an artist's start :

Then, from the Good Earth : sun kissed, reaching, 
Elongating, branching, replicas drawn of eternity;
How many millennia stacked up to Heaven, seeking
Their chance to bust forth in color, cell's maternity :

And then, trimming and grooming, set and resetting
Creating a look pleasing to the minds eye and heart.
Complimentary to picture's size and shape getting
On to maturity, plants which grow love their start.

It's the artist in the planter, green of thumb, driven 
From Nature's depths creating scenes, she's given.

Ronald C. Downie