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Archive for June, 2013

The Hunt For Carp

A slight fog at 6:30 A.M.

A slight fog at 6:30 A.M.

At least once a year I enjoy the mile long hike into State Game Lands 247 to pursue some carp hunting. I am not actually using a firearm to hunt this specie of fish but my tactics may be similar to hunting. A more correct word might be stalking since I creep around the sedges and wetland grasses attempting to locate a carp by sight.

The early morning walk was comfortably cool, but I knew walking out wouldn’t feel so fine. The temperatures were scheduled to rise as was the humidity. I saw two deer sneaking among the woodland trees. I hoped to see a hen and her poults, but tat hope didn’t happen this day.

As I came into the vicinity of the pond I began searching and peeking to see if any other critter might be drinking or swimming. Later, I would see a great blue heron circling  the pond. The awkwardly gracious bird wanted to feed on the little bluegills of the pond. Many tracks could be viewed in the water’s muddy areas.

I immediately began seeing some carp slurping in the shallows and among the vegetation. All attempts for me failed. the fish just were not interested in the bait I was casting around them. Since the fish were mostly less than fifteen feet from shore I did not have any weight to aid in distant castings. many of the carp would be observed within ten feet. I would cast around them and the carp simply ignored the bait. I was believing I just might go home “skunked” when my line took a rapid heading of the pond’s center. I set the hook and held on for a few minutes until I could reach into the water and subdue the beast.

The Carp!

The Carp!

The carp was between sixteen and eighteen inches. I released the golden fish back into waters.

I continued fishing for another ten minutes before packing up to begin a hike out. I chose a different direction to exit the game lands.

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Todd Sanctuary Hike

IMG_1067  Friends, Larry and Ruthann, as well as, Laurie and I visited the Todd Sanctuary near Sarver, Pennsylvania. These lands are controlled and maintained by the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania. The 176 acres was originally donated by W.E. Clyde Todd in 1942.                                         DSC_0027                                                                                                                           IMG_1071

The woodlands consists of varied habitats. One will walk through high canopy big timber at times and later walk into an abandoned field in the early stage of successional growth. Other sites demonstrate an abandoned field of many years with younger tree growth. A northern slope is dominantly hemlock.

 

The pond

The pond

A nice feature for me is a vernal-style pond with lots of duckweed on the surface. Hundreds of frogs are throughout this pond. A rather large water snake came to the bank as we watched. Dragonflies flutter everywhere! the sounds of the bullfrog permeate the quiet, peaceful area.       DSC_0032                                                                                               IMG_1073

The site includes many marked trails. The longest trail is 2 miles in length. All others vary. I enjoy the Polypody Trail with big rocks covered with boulder ferns. the Ravine Trail follows a rock-based stream that meanders among steep and rocky sides.

Laurie was chosen trail leader which proved interesting at times but we all made it out alive. Laurie doesn’t care for spider webs stretched across the trails!

Trail leader

Trail leader

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Ron Steffy and Danna Vernon at the Monticello Furnace.

Ron Steffy and Danna Vernon at the Monticello Furnace.

Yes, we were in a motorized vehicle and driving upon the Armstrong Trail located here in Armstrong County, Pennsylvania. I was in luck as my friends, Dick and Danna Vernon asked if I would be interested in tagging along with the two of them under the control of Ron Steffy of the Allegheny Land Trust and thus the man to see in regards with this trail. Of course I quickly agreed! What an opportunity to see miles of trail and that beautiful Allegheny River!

Lock & Dam # 8

Lock & Dam # 8

We piled into Ron’s truck shortly before 1:00 P.M. and we returned to Kittanning prior to six o’clock. We crossed the Cowanshannock creek heading north prior to stopping at the Monticello Furnace remains. This site built in the late 1800 era still yielded big, cut stones carefully placed those many years ago by seasoned stone masons. The craftsmanship still look remarkable. Trees had taken growth and have serpentine throughout the cracks.  Workmanship is rare today!     Another such site is known as the Ore Hill Furnace near Lock & dam # 8.

After we had passed this dam, Ron stopped to show us where an eagle nest is located. Unfortunately, the tree’s foliage failed to allow viewing the nest. he told us of eagle actions here in the past months. Later, near Lock & dam #9 we saw an immature bald eagle. We saw this bird a few other times as we moved north along the trail. At that dam a very low flying military transport plane flew over our heads!

The rock formations with the "hole".

The rock formations with the “hole”.

As we approached Templeton, Mosgrove and later past the small community of Mahoning, Pennsylvania we could easily view the smokestack of the recently closed Armstrong Generating Station at Reesedale. This high tower is across the river. A wetlands area with beaver dams borders the trail and river.

Lock & Dam # 9

Lock & Dam # 9

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Coaling Tower

Coaling Tower

Immature bald eagle

Immature bald eagle

Our   travels lead through the very small community of Hook’s Station. We continued to another site known as Rimer. I remembered seeing a number of aspen trees cut down by a beaver some years ago. The fallen trees had encompassed a camp. Rimer consists of many camps and some permanent homes as well.

We left the trail at Rimer since Ron and erected some barricades by the dam. We drove some roads and entered the Village of Redbank. This road dead ends at the mouth of Redbank Creek and the Allegheny River. Just north of the creek the newer Redbank  Valley Trail begins. this trail is 41 miles long ending in Brookville, Pennsylvania.                              IMG_1034

Brady Tunnel

Brady Tunnel

Here we stopped at an old coaling tower  where coal would be dropped through shuts into railroad cars. it is quite an impressive building.

Ron stopped and we walked a bit to a rather hidden historical gem known as the Brady Tunnel. The tunnel is currently plagued with a water issue. An old wooden water chute is located above this tunnel. Ron hopes to restore both of these old treasures. This tunnel was built in 1916. later, Ron showed us where the tunnel exits. It ends up below the East Brady Overlook along Route 68. The length of this tunnel is quite an engineering feat.

Water Chute over the Brady tunnel

Water Chute over the Brady tunnel

Turntable

Turntable

I had never seen a railroad turntable. I was amazed as to see how they work.  Ron stopped and we discussed this amazing idea. The railroad engine car would drive onto this turntable. the car would then be turned completed around to go in the opposite direction,. Ron would like to see this restored as the years go by.

Overlook

Overlook

At the community of Phillipston, we headed up the grade to Route 68. here is where we viewed the Brady overlook as earlier mentioned. the majesty of the river hills and hollows can be viewed from many sites along this road.

Redbank Creek

Redbank Creek

The time was winding down as we headed towards New Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. We turned right towards Armstrong County to see the Climax Tunnel along the Redbank Creek again. This tunnel built in 1876  is closed. I enjoyed our walk through it to see the workmanship involved. Plans may be happening to see improvements here and a future re-opening of the tunnel.                       DSC_0073

Climax Tunnel

Climax Tunnel

The afternoon proved quite interesting and informative. I would like to thank Dick and Danna for asking me along and, of course, Ron Steffy for his knowledge of the trail and kindness.

To read more on the trail visit: www.armstrongtrail.org and www.redbankvalleytrails.org

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New Friends

I have seen this happen time and time again over my years. That “thing” occurs when people of like thoughts gather together and the new faces immediately appear to be as if they have known each other for years.

This event happened just like that this day. My friend Robert “Slim” Bowser and I met some individuals for lunch at Harmarville, Pennsylvania. The primary reason we were to meet stemmed from a joint interest in the Civil War especially with local regiments and such from the 1861 through 1865 period of time.

A second joint interest is with a Civil War book written by Arthur Fox. Although, most of the groups listed in his upcoming book were originally from Allegheny County, Art chose to include a chapter on the Company D, 62nd Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry many of which originated from Armstrong County. This is the county Slim and I call our home. Slim is the highly interested in the story of the 62nd. He, also, has included my painting image of; “The Wheatfield-Whirlpool of Death.”

Others in attendance were Tom McMillan who is the vice president of communications for the Pittsburgh Penguins and John Haltigan another Civil war buff involved with Art’s book. The topic was Civil war and the excitement in our eyes was prominent as you might have imagined.

My father would have called such an exchange as a “Gumsuck.”  he would often refer to parties my mother would attend as such. As children we would always get a chuckle of the term.

Art’s book is scheduled to be out by November of this year. I will include purchasing details upon knowledge.

To read more info on the 62nd PVI visit Slim’s blog site at: http://62ndpvi.wordpress.com/

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On Saturday, June 15th, my sister, Ruthie Wolfe and I were honored to be in attendance for a Civil war memorial hosted by the Apollo Area Historical Society . Of course this event was in Apollo, Pennsylvania at the old Apollo Cemetery.

Naval Gun Pointing Upward

Naval Gun Pointing Upward

The memorial service was a rededication for naval gun pointing upward. This upward pose is referring to peace. The 4, 521 pound memorial was first erected in 1907 through efforts of the Grand Army Republic (GAR) Post 89. This post was organized in 1878. Surrounding the memorial are Civil war veterans buried here known as the Circle of Honor.

Ancestor Henry Blystone at rest

Ancestor Henry Blystone at rest

The reason my sister and I were asked to attend is we have an ancestor who had been a member of this post. His name was Henry Blystone. He was part of the 46th Pennsylvania and marched to the sea under general Sherman during that great war. henry was one of seven brothers in the Civil War. Of these seven, one was killed at the Wilderness; one died at Petersburg; one was wounded and was hospitalized throughout the war; one died from typhoid and one (my great grandfather) was wounded and survived. (See my entry under FAMILY for May 29th. ) Henry was buried at the Beulah Cemetery several miles from Apollo.

DSC_0067 The John T. Crawford Camp #43 Sons of the Union Veterans and Sarah A. Crawford Auxiliary participated in the honor ceremonies under Robert (Slim) Bowser Camp Commander. Flowers and flags were placed at the memorial’s base.                                                                                                                      DSC_0058

Featured speaker was Mr. Michael Kraus. Michael is curator of the Soldiers and sailors memorial hall in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He was responsible for the restoration of a Union uniform which was unveiled later.

DSC_0060  Several trumpets were placed around the cemetery and a very moving series of TAPS could be heard at varying distances. This was a very somber moment.

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One never knows where my art might appear. I have painted on many interesting items over the years. I have painted on old weathered barn boards; sides of old wooden crates, old nail kegs, wheel covers; saw blades, cross-cut saws, fungus, feathers, banjo heads; guitar cases and many more things.  Another “kind of canvas” is the shoulder blades of deer. Here is an example of a painting on such a shoulder-blade.

The fawn was painted with acrylic paints on the seasoned shoulder-blade of a deer. My friend, Randy Tost found the slightly, rodent-gnawed shoulder-blade on his property and wished something painted on it. I told him that, indeed, painting would be possible.

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A long time ago, in the year 1923 on June 4th, a baby was born in Mutton Hollow north of the Cherry Run intersection near Whitesburg, Pennsylvania. His parents were Alpha Kline Smail and Joycie (Blystone) Smail. He was the middle child. He would in later years become my father!

My dad attended the one-room schoolhouse known as the McIntosh School and later the Elderton High School as a boy and young man. The little one room schoolhouse is still standing just  a short distance from the Cherry Run crossroad intersection. At this intersection my father grew up. The house and barn have been long gone. Foundation stones are all that are left of the buildings.

My dad was a special young man. He was the class president and valedictorian of the class of 1941. He was very much respected.

My father, Allen K. Smail on the right, somewhere in Europe in World war 2

My father, Allen K. Smail on the right, somewhere in Europe in World war 2

In December of 1941, he was setting in a car at Reedy’s Gas Station. (This station has been a home now for many years. The station was about half a mile east from the earlier mentioned intersection.) He was listening to the radio when word of the attack on Pearl harbor occurred. In 1942 he was off to war  not to return unil the fall of 1945. He spent his war years in England; France; Belgium; Holland and Germany. He would become a member of the  Military Police with a German Shepard dog named Wolf. He arrived in Kittanning via train in the fall of 1945 and began the long walk home to Cherry Run. Fortunately, neighbors happened to be coming by and picked him up.

He began his work again at the Schenley Distilleries near Leechburg, Pennsylvania and remained there until the plant’s closing in eighties. His father was becoming increasingly ill due to asthma and he remained with his parents helping out the family with his pay. My grandfather, his father, passed away in 1950 and he married my mother Ruth (Yount) Smail in 1953. My sister Ruthie and I would be children of this marriage. (One sister, Glenna Mae passed away as a newborn baby. in 1962.)

My father was a simple and quiet man content to do his part in the American dream of the post war years. He worked hard to supply his families basic needs. Luxuries were not everyday expectations. My dad wasn’t a drinking man and he was a non-smoker. I guess he would have been considered “non-cool” by many individuals. At times I, regretfully, considered those thoughts. He wasn’t a jokester, but he enjoyed laughter. He was not a cussing man very rarely expressing such words  even when injured by a hammer on the thumb. I became very proud of him as I grew up.

My father was an exceptional man. He would take along neighborhood friends or relatives on fishing and hunting excursions. Many times I would gather bait during the summer days and have the rods and tackle ready for when he would return from work. I am sure many times he, probably, would have rather rested or worked on home chores.

As the years rolled along I can look back and see changes in my dad. He was getting tired. A man capable to become much more than he did in life. He was in ways the “George Bailey” from the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life”. He was always whistling while working during my youth. At sometime over the years this stopped. He may have thought as he aged, he missed so much of the life he had originally dreamed for. This we can never know. I, certainly, understand such things as I grow older and witness many lost dreams.

My interests in history came from the two of us watching westerns and war movies as a boy. I tagged along on morel and arrowhead hunting excursions from an early age. I trapped as a young boy through his guidance. I was proud to catch my first bluegills as he coached. I remember my first harvest of squirrels. The thrill of seeing my proud father with my first buck. These reasons and many others are why I love the outdoors with such a passion.

My father was having difficulties with walking as those years advanced. The family later learned he was the victim of some mini-strokes. On June 20th, 1999, Father’s day, I rushed to the Harmarville Rehab Center and had to be the person to tell my, later arriving,  smiling mother that my dad, her husband, had passed  away. Life changed drastically that day and it has never been the same. He has an arrowhead in his pocket, art prints and turkey feathers with him as he rests. I missed him in 1999 and I still miss him in 2013.

This brief memorial is for you dad on your 90th birthday! Thank you for the influences making me the man I am today!!!

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