Only the beginning…

20 April, 2014        Only the beginning…


The title is a snippet from the song Beginnings by Chicago from 1969. Wow – I was eight years old. I’ll return to that at the end of this post.


I’m doing a post a week now (for the second consecutive week!) so the week-to-week pictures will pile up a bit less.


Some of us have noticed a bit of pollen around. In Richmond, it’s hard not to. Even if you don’t have allergies, your car will be covered with it quick. But guess why there’s so much pollen:



A dogwood in our frontyard. One of Dad's two favorite trees.

A dogwood in our front yard. One of Dad’s two favorite trees.

Red maples:

Red Maple closeup - another of Dad's favorite trees. Maybe a better picture next week.

Red Maple closeup – another of Dad’s favorite trees. Maybe a better picture next week.

Purple lilacs:

So beautiful and so fragrant - the other plants can hardly compete.

So beautiful and so fragrant – the other plants can hardly compete.

White lilacs:

The only plant that really gives a purple lilac any competition

The only plant that really gives a purple lilac any competition


Pawpaw JUST beginning to open up on the edge of the river at Pony Pasture.

Pawpaw JUST beginning to open up on the edge of the river at Pony Pasture.

I love every flower in this area. Including dandelions! And there’s more to come. My azaleas are not yet in full bloom, and not a honeysuckle or multiflora rose in sight. They’ll be here any week. Dogwoods and red maples and paw paws and redbuds and azaleas so forth are beautiful but they don’t smell. When the honeysuckle and multiflora rose begin to open up the smell is spectacular. I can hardly wait!


I’ve hiked Pony Pasture for miles and miles and years and years and never gotten a decent picture of a Pileated Woodpecker. Until this morning! This is not the quality I want. But it’s much better than I’ve ever done. They’re roughly the size of a crow. From far away it’s difficult to tell a male from a female. But with a closeup like this it’s obvious. See the white band below her eye, and the black band below that? Males look just like that, except the black band below the eye has a big red spot in it. Here she is, so gorgeous:


Beautiful female Pileated Woodpecker at Pony Pasture this morning.

Beautiful female Pileated Woodpecker at Pony Pasture this morning.

Also I haven’t done any movies lately but I got a quick one while riding at West Creek last week. Some people have already seen this on fb. This time of year at West Creek they cross between the ponds and get stuck. I picked this one up and carried it across and let it go. Elegant half-gainer with tuck, followed by a reptile (turtle) demonstrating a perfect frog kick (amphibian):

Mackey and Turner and I went to The Ridge Dog Shop last week. Ridge always does an exceptional job and this is what they looked like afterward. They’re handsome boys!:

They're handsome and  happy and ready to go home!

They’re handsome and happy and ready to go home!

Until next week,



= = = = = = = = = = =

The cabin – only the beginning


I began this post with a Barbra Streisand song but swiftly (happily, for me) switched to a song by Chicago. This post is about the cabin, but it is only the beginning (see?) of posts about that subject.


Here are two old pictures of the outside of the cabin:

The cabin in the summer

The cabin in the summer

The cabin in the winter

The cabin in the winter

I could write a year’s worth – more, really – of blog posts about the cabin. I could write ten blog posts about just one season there, or one drive up, before we even arrived. Its impact on my life is rich beyond measure.


Mom says we bought it in April of 1974 and sold it in 2005. So we got it when I was twelve and sold it when I was forty-three or forty-four. I cannot overstate its impact on my life even today, nearly a decade after we sold it.


We never had a television at the cabin. I don’t have one now. We washed dishes by hand, and I continue to do that. We heated it with a woodstove. I do that here too, although I have a great furnace if I get too lazy. There was no air conditioning, but I won’t do without that here. There are no cool mountain breezes in my particular zip code. The cabin was ten minutes from the river, and I’m ten minutes from the river here, except I walked to the river at the cabin. We didn’t drive very much up there. The river at the cabin was the South Fork of the Shenandoah River. You could stand with one foot on our property and one foot in the Shenandoah National Park. You cannot miss our location with this map. It is impossible for anyone to miss – no matter how poor your map skills. It’s worth a look, just to get oriented – that’s what this blog post is for. When you click on the map link you’ll see “Maps – Getting to Shenandoah”. Beneath that, a green map of the entire 100+ mile long park. It extends from Front Royal to Waynesboro. Almost precisely in the center of that map – this is what you cannot miss – there’s a long finger of the park jutting out to the left. Our property was precisely on the tip of that finger. Click on the link here: park map  


And from there we did everything. When you don’t have a television it’s astounding how many other things you find to do. Any time of the year in any weather. We had friends named Doug and Doris. They were native to that area and a little bit older than mom and dad. They lived there year round. If you look again at that finger of the park sticking up, our property was on the north side of it and theirs was on the south. I guess it was fifteen minutes or so walk from the cabin to their house. We visited them whenever we were at the cabin, and we were there frequently. Doug and Doris were in many ways an extra set of grandparents to us. Grandparents who in no way resembled the set who shared our DNA. When we first visited Doug and Doris in 1974 I recall their party line telephone quite clearly. If you picked it up, you might hear a neighbor talking with someone else. There was no paved road in view from their house. I’ve been up there within the last five years; there is still no paved road in view. Only railroad tracks. When we were there it was the Norfolk and Western Railway. Now it’s the Norfolk Southern. And – this is another way they didn’t resemble our parent’s parents – they had a horse. And a cow. They drank milk from the cow and made butter. They had chickens. If the cow had been eating onion grass, the butter tasted like onions. They had chickens, including Araucana chickens, which lay colored eggs. They had pigs. Every autumn they slaughtered one and let us help. And made ham and sausage and bacon and lard and scrapple and ate it all year round. They got their water from a spring. They had dogs and cats but their dogs and cats were dissimilar to the ones my biological grandparents had.


To help you understand how close we were, Doris asked when we were younger that dad and I be pallbearers at her funeral. We of course accepted that honor, and she died up of natural causes in the valley in 1999. The funeral was at the Rest Haven Cemetery in Shenandoah. She was seventy-four.


I’d planned on keeping this section brief and now it’s not. I’ve stuck to my goal of adding a section at the bottom for two consecutive weeks now – so I’m happy. More next week, hopefully. Until then, all best,




PS I couldn’t stop so quickly. I’m enjoying this section. I found an old, old picture of Doug and Doris. Mom might know where this was taken, I don’t. Doris smiled a lot. Doug smiled when we were working outdoors but I don’t think he cared much for being indoors. A man after my own heart.

Doug and Doris. My third set of grandparents. A lot of my current personality came from those two.

Doug and Doris. My third set of grandparents. A lot of my current personality came from those two.

Another picture of our 1971 Ford Econoline van parked behind the cabin. We bought it new and had it forever. We made many memorable trips to the cabin in that van. We got a good deal on it because the shade of blue on the top didn’t match the shade of blue on the bottom.

Our 1971 Ford Econoline parked behind the cabin.

Our 1971 Ford Econoline parked behind the cabin.

= = = = = = = = = = =

About Jay McLaughlin

I am a rehabilitation counselor. I have many friends with autism and traumatic brain injuries. They help me learn new things constantly. I hike with dogs at the James River in Richmond - a lot. I've completed an Iron distance triathlon a year for 11 years. My most recent was in Wilmington, NC in November, 2013. I currently compete in mid-distance triathlons. And work and hike and take pictures and write and eat.
This entry was posted in Birds, Dogs, Flowers, Fun, People, Rivers, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!), Trains. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Only the beginning…

  1. Pingback: More fun! | NEWFAZE

  2. Pingback: Stirring up a hornet’s nest | NEWFAZE

  3. Pingback: My chauffeur really flies! // Gone to the dogs | NEWFAZE

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s