Darn his hide!

15 June, 2014            Darn his hide!

At my grandfather’s funeral in 1980 one of his buddies said “We miss old Jimmy, darn his hide!” Today is the second Father’s Day since my dad died in November of 2012. I still miss old dad, darn his hide! Here we are at his parents house in 1962:

A boy and his father, photographed by his FATHER's father! How's that for Father's Day?

A boy and his father, photographed by his FATHER’s father! How’s that for Father’s Day?

Dad’s father took that picture – he was a terrific photographer.


Since that was taken in 1962, dad was 26 years old. Today I’m 52, or 26 years older than 26. So that could easily be me looking at a picture of my son – holding my grandson. Who, in this picture, is in fact looking at his grandfather. Isn’t that cool? An echo chamber of generations.


I am not a father, but I was raised by the best one I’ve ever known and I will be grateful  as long as I live.


Today my feeling about dad is similar to what Granddaddy’s friend said – I miss him, darn his hide! I also believe Granddaddy’s friend was saying “I miss him, but I know we all go away.” There’s not a great deal of melancholy, just stuff I liked to share with Dad. He was encouraging when I began this blog in March of 2011, as he was with any effort his children undertook. I think he’d enjoy the way this blog is evolving. I know people who like to learn, but I don’t know anyone who likes to learn as much as he did. My last blog post before he died was my race report from my 2012 Ironman, More fun every year! The first one I did after he died was Good man. I’ll bet we hadn’t had a “nuclear family” picture taken in three decades or more, but we put one together by chance just three weeks before he died. The picture’s in that blog post. There’s also a link to the superb obituary my brother Kevin wrote, ending with “Mike’s kindness, sense of humor, curiosity, love of reading, and love of animals lives on in his children and grandchildren…”


Speaking of Mike’s sense of humor, I don’t recall ever talking about that picture with him. I think it turned up after he died. Dad was as sentimental as the next guy, but his sentimentality – and nearly every other emotion – was always laced with pragmatism. It’s tempting (for me, anyway) to look at that picture and see a bright-eyed little boy and his loving father. If you knew my dad, you know he would also immediately say “they’d also both have those expressions if the little boy had just pooped in his pants.” And then – this is just the way dad was – you’d go back and take another look at the picture. And that could easily be what just happened. He wouldn’t smile when he said that, very deadpan, wouldn’t let on that he was joking, even though he knew he was joking, and he knew you knew he was joking, and that made it even funnier. Dad took being a father very seriously, but he knew how to find humor in nearly any situation.

= = = = = = = = = =

Pony Pasture clears out a lot in the winter but I always tell people it’s a great time to visit – no mud and no bugs. This summer (and other summers) I’ve had a lot of fun taking pictures of bugs. And learning about them. There’s a phenomenon in animals – including bugs – called “sexual dimorphism.” It means for instance the ability to distinguish between genders by looking at an animal. Here’s an obvious example: mallards. If you saw a dozen mallards sitting on a pond, anybody can tell a male (green head) from a female (mostly brown). My Birds of North America guide says of mallards: “Strongly sexually dimorphic.” If you moved down one pond and saw a dozen Canada Geese, you would have no idea how to tell males from females. I’ve been learning the sexual dimorphism of a lot of birds for some time but only recently begun to learn how to distinguish gender in bugs. The obvious ones, anyway. You may recall an earlier post that had a pair of dragonflies called Whitetail Skimmers. They too are “Strongly sexually dimorphic.” Here’s a male (white tail) and female (brown tail):

Male Whitetail Skimmer

Male Whitetail Skimmer

Female Whitetail Skimmer

Female Whitetail Skimmer

Here are a pair of damselflies – which are not dragonflies, but close. They are also sexually dimorphic (I learned) although not as strongly as the skimmers. Females have a white spot on their wings and males don’t. I was fortunate to get one of each. They’re so pretty:

Male damselfly

Male damselfly

Female damselfly - you can JUST make out the white spots on her wingtips.

Female damselfly – you can JUST make out the white spots on her wingtips.

It’s really more obvious in the woods than it is in that picture. If you were looking at damselflies you’d know right away which was a male and which was a female. These are called “Ebony Jewelwings.”

People tell me from time to time that they enjoy the things they learn on this blog. I can assure you, no one enjoys it more than I do. It’s a pleasure every week to find out about this stuff.


Before I learned about gender differences in dragonflies (who even knew?) I learned the difference between dragonflies and damselflies. A few readers of this blog know the difference but many don’t – but you will now. It’s easy. I showed my sister Katie a picture I’d taken once and said “it’s a turtle with a dragonfly on its shell.” She looked at the picture and said “that’s not a dragonfly – it’s a damselfly. Dragonflies have their wings level at rest and damselflies have their wings folded at rest.” As you can see in the preceding pictures. New fact! Isn’t that fun?


Also – if you’re not overwhelmed with bugs – a little bit more information. Both dragonflies and damselflies are carnivorous and eat lots of mosquitoes. And I’m going to put a link here to the page where I learned about the damselflies. It’s called “BugGuide” and it’s loaded with fascinating stuff. Great pictures too.

Here is another dragonfly I photographed this week but haven’t yet identified. It’s so fun to get a nice picture like this:

Another big dragonfly. Waiting for a hapless mosquito to pass by.

Another big dragonfly. Waiting for a hapless mosquito to pass by.

= = = = = = = = = =

I noted in last week’s blog post (Eventful) that the Race Across America was beginning Tuesday, June 10. It is under way, and the racers are beyond compare. The current leader, 31 year old Christoph Strasser is really beyond compare – he has crossed the Mississippi River and is an astounding three hundred miles – that is not a misprint – ahead of the person in second place. Of course, RAAM isn’t over until it’s over, and a lot can go wrong between Mississippi and Annapolis. But Strasser won last year as the first person to finish in less than eight days in the race’s thirty year history, so I wouldn’t bet against him. He is amazing.

Anyway, Happy Father’s Day to everyone. I hear from time to time about how things are getting bad in America. It must be a different America from the one I live in. Because I know so many excellent fathers, and to a man they’re raising excellent children. Our future is in capable hands. My brother Kevin is a great father, and my sister Katie’s husband Jim and my sister Sheila’s husband Greg, and my friends Gus and Mark and Lee and Lou and Pat and Gilpin and Jason and John and Andrew and his brother Peter – both great fathers – I even know two great fathers named Chris G! I’m sure you know a lot of excellent fathers yourself. Or maybe you’re one too! Keep up the good work. And have a great week! All best,


PS – an aside – Ev’s visiting her family in NJ. This morning I went to the river and took this picture:

A picture I took in Richmond around 7:30 this AM

A picture I took in Richmond around 7:30 this AM

Meanwhile – and neither of us knew – Ev was taking this picture in NJ at 7:30 this AM:

A picture Ev took in NJ at almost precisely the same time

A picture Ev took in NJ at almost precisely the same time

Isn’t that remarkable? Neither of us knew what the other was doing until we saw one another’s pictures. Very fun!

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.
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6 Responses to Darn his hide!

  1. Gilpin Brown says:

    Another encouraging blog, Jay. I agree – we live in the midst of a great time. Some say it’s the “worst of times and not the best of times”. I’m with you – just look around and be thankful!

    I wish I had known your dad.

    More great photos also!

    Thanks, Jay.

    • Hi Gilpin!
      And thanks for the response! And great to see you at the Y today! Hearing the news, it’s easy to get the impression things aren’t going well. Some things aren’t, and there have always been problems and there always will be problems. But in my opinion, for a majority of Americans, life is better than it ever has been. And is likely to continue to improve.

      I wish you’d known my dad too – he would have been thrilled to meet you. The two of you share a similar sensibility. I’m glad you and I have met anyway!

      And I’m glad you enjoy the photos – that means a lot coming from a photographer of your caliber.

      Looking forward to seeing you soon at Pony Pasture or the Y or Martins or somewhere around town. Thanks again for the response and have a great day,


  2. Clare T says:

    i grew up in a time when Capt Kangaroo, Mr. Wizard and Jacques Cousteau were my educators from an RCA bunny earred tv – so cool now to be able to sit at the laptop and learn new things thru the eyes of a friend.

    glad you had a good fathers day weekend – as you said, these weekends; heck! these Many DAYS have been full of springtime which RVA rarely gets to see – so we have been blessed this year.

    thank you as always for the great pros & photos – and that was so cool about the pix you & Evi took “together” 🙂


    • Hi Clare!
      And thanks for the note. And I’m glad you’re enjoying this blog. And yes, this spring has been a treasure nearly every day. It feels now as if summer is here to stay but that’s as it’s always been in Richmond. I’m glad you enjoyed my prose and photos – and I hope you continue to! Have a great day,


  3. Clare T says:

    double post – allowable????

    i was also thinking about the state of things – the world around me and closer to home

    paraphrasing from the “philosophies acccording to the greatest dogs” – i was reminded that many times i will, just like some dogs, seek out pooh and roll in it

    i may know the pooh is there, and even some days, i may linger for a moment – but today i’ll clean up what i can on my side of the street, then admire the day – sunflowers just beginning to show, 3 stringbeans hanging off the bush, a green tomato

    please forgive the double post

  4. Hi again –
    And double posts are not just allowable – they’re encouraged! I might even do more blog posts but I’m trying to keep it to 1x/week. I enjoyed your comments about admiring the nice things in a day. It’s a concept I’m thinking about for a blog post. As in, the more we pay attention to something, e.g. sunflowers or damselflies, the more often we notice it. And perhaps that’s the same for good things in life – people holding doors or saying thank you or what have you. The more we pay attention to that stuff, the more it becomes a part of our lives, and the more it seems like good experiences are the rule rather than the exception.

    Thank you for BOTH posts! Have a great day,


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