My interest in German history was initiated through the words of my father, Allen K. Smail. My father, a World War 2, veteran talked of such things occasionally. We watched the old series, Hogan’s Heroes with laughter. One thing I remember was the mindset of the SS soldiers as he told me. My father who was part of the military police. (MP) would have the occasion to watch over German prisoners. He spoke of the differences between the regular German soldier and the SS soldier.

The German word, Schutzstaffel was abbreviated to the SS. Such men were originally formed to be only dedicated to the armed protection of Adolf Hitler and the NAZI party ideals. One truth I learned from the reading of the above book; The Waffen-SS is one of around twenty separate SS divisions. The Waffen-SS was the combat unit.

Of course, some of the SS units were responsible for the terrible atrocities committed upon the Jewish people as well as many others.

Another interesting aspect of the SS units was as the war progressed conscriptions were being done to supply the numbers. Also, there were men from other countries part of the SS soldiery. even French men. the earliest SS men had to meet certain qualifications including complete loyalty to Adolf Hitler m nd the NAZI war machine even to their deaths. The strictness would be lessened as time moved along during the war.

One story my father told to me concerning the SS was how evil the men were. he said you didn’t dare let down your guard to the SS of the earlier prisoners. They would kill if a chance was afforded to them. remember my dad was an MP, so he was around these soldiers at times. However, he, also, stated later in the war the prisoners were kids and elderly. The young Germans would throw down their rifles upon seeing the American soldiers. My dad said these young people were pests. they loved riding in the jeeps.

I enjoyed the read as I always do on such things and would recommend reading it to anyone interested in World War 2 history.

Blanket Hill Night- September 7, 1756

Pennsylvania in the mid-eighteenth century was a very much different Pennsylvania than today! Most of the population were to be found east of the Allegheny Mountain range. West of the mountain range was forestlands intermingled with native Indian villages. French soldiers were building forts along the Allegheny River to the dismay of the Bristish and colonists of the colony of Pennsylvania. The French and Indian War was reality by the midcentury beginning in 1754 with George Washington’s force firing on some French soldiers in southwestern Pennsylvania.

The painting shown above has received much interest on another site, so much so, I decided to give a brief story about the event. However, to tell the Blanket Hill event story there is a need to give a few details as to why it happened.

Pennsylvania, at this time, was an ally with England for it was one of England’s colony and not a state until after the War of Independence. The natives of the village of Kit-Han-ne (Present-day, Kittanning, PA.) The Indians located here were mostly of the Lenni-Lenape tribe commonly referred to as the Delaware. They, because of various reasons, allied themselves with the French cause launching raids into the frontier lands of the colony. Upon hearing of any Delaware Indians close would send settlers in a panic traveling as far as Philadelphia with nothing but the clothes on their backs. The threat of death was real!

Moving ahead to the summer of 1756 another event occurred. The defeat of Fort Granville would lead to the above incident. This fort was located near present-day Lewistown, Pennsylvania. The man-in-charge of the fort was Lieutenant Edward Armstrong. This man would be killed in the attack. Note the name!

The lieutenant’s brother was Lieutenant Colonel John Armstrong. This man sought the authorities to launch a raid on the Delaware’s chief village of Kit-Han-Ne. He, obviously, had thoughts of avenging his brother, but, also, wanting to destroy the village, burn their fields and rescue some one hundred prisoners being kept at the village. Some three hundred and seven men began the trek west to accomplish this feat.

Armstrong sent scouts ahead to watch for Indian activity. The scouts found a fire and believed three to four warriors were present. This was on September 7, 1756. The officer placed a Lieutenant James Hogg with twelve men to attack these Indians at dawn. Armstrong continued west towards the Indian town of about six miles away. Horses and baggage were left close to the area, too.

At dawn Hogg’s ordered the attack only to discover there were many more Indians present. A few prisoners gathered at Kit-Han-Ne during the following morning’s attack claimed about twenty-five natives had left the town. No doubt these were the men. The skirmish began!

Lieutenant Hogg’s was wounded twice and would die. Others were killed or wounded. The others took off out of fear leaving their blankets, horses and other gear behind! The battle was a moving skirmish as the Indians searched for the fleeing soldiers. The site became known as “Blanket Hill”. The area is still called this to the day.

My great, great, great grandfather purchased the land in the 1800 era. I was raised a few miles away from the site. I had walked the area in my youth before learning of the actual site of the beginning of the skirmish. In recent years I have hunted and harvested deer with my smoothbore sixty-two caliber and my fifty caliber flintlocks.

The painting depicted above shows four Delaware Indians at the fire the night before the attack at dawn.

Frank Maus

A better title might be Our Annual Spring Hike since we have had no winter this season and many spring-like days. Regardless, traditionally, this is our winter hike.

My old work friend, Frank “Muskie” Maus and I were planning a hike. He suggested a trail at Crooked Creek, not remembering if he had ever been on the trail. The trail is known as the Longpoint Trail. I am not sure exactly how long this trail is, but it runs alongside of Crooked Creek Lake in Armstrong County, Pennsylvania. At the point where the trail turns and begins to circle back is a well-known Bald Eagle nest across the water. I showed Frank the nest and we were fortunate to watch a mature Bald Eagle fly along and land in a tree beside the nest.

The dam was backed upon a little due to recent rainy weather.

The hike yielded many nice natural landscapes. The hike produced some other wildlife to see, too. We saw a Great Blue Heron, Common Mergansers, Canada Geese and I saw a flock of Buffleheads.

We stopped to set on a log and catch up on things when I noticed something white…it was a golf ball! How the ball got in these woods will be forever an unknown.

Afterwards we went to a couple other areas to look things over. One site had a report of another eagle nest. We didn’t believe the words and upon checking we realized no eagle nests were present.

Early leaf buds

Recently, another spring-like day was being forecasted. A hike was definitely needed, and I elected to do so along Mahoning Creek.

Although the day was to reach into the sixty degrees even seventy degrees the early morning was frosty.

Teasel backlit by the early morning sun.

A most interesting view occurred early when I was able to observe a flock of turkeys fly across the waterways. I had to wonder why they flew across for the very same food supply was on both sides. They are turkeys and turkeys do what turkeys do.

The walk was somewhere between eight of nine miles in total and my old knees and lower back were aching by the time I returned back to the jeep. I had hoped to see a Bald Eagle and I may have seen two immature ones far upstream flying from the trees. I heard a lone gobbler gobbling across the Mahoning but high up the slope.

First Coltsfoot blossom of the year.

Skunk Cabbage

Over the past two weeks I have noticed the Killdeer, Common Grackles and Red-wing Blackbirds are filtering back from their annual migration.

Ringneck Pheasants

I had not walked more than fifty feet when I heard the first crow of a male Ringneck Pheasants. Another short distance and I could see one up the hill on a cut over area. The walk continued and I would hear two other birds crowing. I thought that is a god sign. The birds have made it through the worst of the winter season, although this has been a very mild winter.

I walked over an hour as I began to circle back towards the jeep. Suddenly I saw some movement in the dried vegetation. One, two, three…four male pheasants were sulking around in the cover hoping I would not disturb them. I maneuvered around to a more open area and behold, here come da birds! I began taking photos whenever more open shots came about.

The morning temperature was 56 degrees with a high reaching the upper sixties, maybe even seventy. Sure, feels like spring though the date is February 15. Laurie’s surgery is a month old, and she is getting around fairly well, although she is still required to wear a boot. She uses a knee walker and crutches. Anyway, I felt comfortable to leave her alone for an appreciative time. She agreed.

My hike would last for a little over four hours and was totally enjoyable being out in this weather. However, the winds were rough as it howled through the trees. One could refer to these winds as, the “blowing the hat off the head” winds.

One of the first interests were the two Turkey Vultures enjoying floating in those high winds. Normally, for this area the buzzards don’t migrate here until around mid-March. I watched for a few moments before proceeding.

The walk discovered many signs of the wildlife in the area. I found a tree with a hollow near the base. I gazed into the hole and saw piles of Porcupine scat. The prickly feller was, no doubt, somewhere up that hollow. probably would not be a good idea to reach was up in that hollow.

Porky scat in a hollow tree.

Porcupine gnawings

I found bear sign a few times. The bruin used the tree as a marking zone. The outside was gnawed and/or dug into with their claws. Such sign lasts a long time.

Bear sign, one of several I found.

Although I didn’t hear any gobbling, I did see turkey scat and scratchings here and there. Later I saw a gobbler far off moving left to right. His journey found him behind some briars. I moved quickly utilizing the briars and the wind to my advantage. I went around a contour and spotted the bird feeding within shotgun range. I readied the camera and waiting for a photo opportunity. There would be two gobblers…a longbeard and a Jake. I managed about eight or ten pics before they disappeared after they spotted my presence.

I circled around on my return trip towards the Jeep, I happened to look down and spotted a buck shed. The antler was a two-point. I looked around but failed to find another. Not many years ago I found two shed within a few feet of each other.

Deer shed

The Fiddle

I have wondered about obtaining a fiddle for a few years now. The hope for me is to learn enough to add some fiddle notes on the CDs I make. A month ago, I acquired a fiddle, but as the photo shows the instrument is in need of some love and maybe a few repairs.

Inside the fiddle states this instrument is a copy of a Jakobus Stainer and made in Germany.

The neck was completely off the fiddle’s body. The fiddle nut was missing. the nut is a wood or bone piece that fits at the end of the neck board. There was no bridge for the strings to rest on. Two metal fine tuners were missing. Also, the bow used to drift along the strings to make the sounds did not have any horsehair. The horsehair is stretched on the bow.

So, once I assessed the needs I began searching and ordering parts. I have all the parts needed including strings. I have been working on making the nut out of bone. The neck and other wood repairs have been reglued with Hide Glue. My next step is to glue the nut in place once I have all the sizing completed with the string guide slots filed in.

I as given a fiddle this past week. It too has seen past issues, but it helps to use it for the measurements often in millimeters.

One point all the readers of this post must know. I do not know how to play a fiddle! Ha ha. I hope to work on that once the fiddle is all completed. Wish me luck!

Winter Escape

Late last year (2022) I began sketching some ideas down for a Whitetail Deer painting. The plan was to work on a number of thoughts and being finalized by early January. The plan fell in place on the time schedule. Laurie was scheduled to have a food surgery on January 17th. I imagined I would work on the art while being near to help as needed. However, since I quit hunting with the flintlock early, I began the painting process for the above completed painting.

I made a number of “thumbnail” sketches. The thumbnail is an artist term used to make small sketches or thoughts. These thumbnails are studied until a direction is finalized within the thoughts. I made around six or seven of those thumbnails,

The thumbnail I decided to work the plan on. This sketch is around 4 by 6 or so.

After the thumbnail idea is decided on, I then think about what size the finished art is to be. The original size was 16 by 20. However, once I sketched the rough to that size and deemed my concept was “crushed” mush too much and elected to the size of 16 by 24. What that term of crush means here is that the drawing was too busy within the space. the 16 by 24 allowed to put my desires in the painting and not having the details to be lost with the elements of the painting. BUT… I happened to have a frame of 16 by 23 on hand so I shortened the length by an inch and adjusted the sketch as needed.

Notice some changes here with some rough ideas of farm buildings.

I began actually painting earlier this month of January and finished it rather quickly.

Another rough sketch drawn to size. Notice the varying ideas being adjusted on the two.

It is up to viewer to decide what the deer are escaping from. Was it a human? Was it a coyote? was it a much bigger buck challenging this buck? It is up to you!

I was unsuccessful during the flintlock season. However, I should not have been unsuccessful. Something has happened to me as I aged. Readers of my blog know of the sighting issues I have had in recent years, and I had taken steps to try to curtail those problems. I am going to take the long barreled flinter to the range under extremely controlled conditions to rule things out in regard to the sights. I have lost confidence in my abilities, and I am thinking the loss of confidence has affected my psyche. I am believing my issue is in my head telling me I am going to fail, and I do. Whatever, three misses that should not have been misses caused to quit hunting this year. Also, dealing with health issues with my mother and stepfather has me feeling down.

With all of this being said I did have some interesting events unfold while hunting. I will include a few here for my personal journal remembrance. First of all, I saw a lot of deer! I saw a flock of turkeys, a couple of rabbits, fisher tracks, lots of squirrels and various other small wildlife.

One day behind my homestead, I saw five bucks running together. They were out of range, but I went at an angled and circled around and crept upon them to about forty-five yards. I was bringing up the rifle on one I deemed legal because I could easily count the legal points, as per Pennsylvania law, when the buck spotted me. I froze, but he and the others walked off and crossed a township road into posted properly. I would have missed anyway, no doubt.

One day, I stalked a feeding doe. I was closing the gap when she began walking towards me. I eased Old Jacob out from behind the tree and shot only to see the doe standing. She walked off turned and returned. I had reloaded behind the tree and missed again. I was frustrated.

I crept into a wooded area and sat down to watch one morning. Shortly I could see a doe feeding towards me. She bedded down. Too far for me to shoot, but close enough I could see her chewing her cud. The doe eventually put her head on the ground to sleep. Isat for almost three hours and I was shivering at times and cramping up. I decided to crawl while her head was down to close the gap. I hadn’t moved far when her head came up again. I froze. After a bit she arose from her bed and began to walk towards me again, but gradually moved away at an angle. Interesting to be part of, to say the least.

The day I quit hunting found me watching four deer, one being a six-point buck. The buck was nice but illegal, so I eased my camera out of my shoulder bag to attempt a photo if he allowed for it. Meanwhile, a doe that had walked at an angle out of site returned and walked close to me at about forty yards or so. I missed. I spent an hour and a half searching to make sure. The decision to abort the became reality.

The future of my flintlock hunting has many opened-ended questions and concerns for me to resolve. I really do enjoy the flintlock season and hope with some range work and possibly some soul searching, I can resume next season as a new and confident hunter.

The man in the above photo has been a friend for a number of years. I believe we first met some years ago after the formation of the Kit-Han-Ne Local Chapter of the Pennsylvania Wild Turkey Federation. With time I became less active in the organization, but Bill still stayed on fulfilling various positions and committees. We worked together a long time with local chapter banquets, too.

Late last year I received a message of Bill’s son, Greg about the painting, “LAUREL FLUSH.” Greg wanted to surprise his father with the original painting for his birthday. Discussion followed and Greg recently picked up the painting.

Laurel Flush has found a home and I am pleased to see the painting was received by Bill. The son said Bill was surprised and a few tears of emotion were viewed. As the artist, I can’t ask for much more than such reactions. Thank you, Greg and happy birthday, Bill.