Tuesday, May 29, 2007

More Delighfully Dippy

Last week I posted a little thing about my wife's quirky ways when it comes to the English language. I survived--meaning she hasn't offed me yet or banished me to the couch. Not one to laugh in the face of danger, I feel compelled to write a little post script. See, my wife's best friend from high school was reading my account of how Goody Two Shoes butchers the English language. She liked it, by the way, and had a good chuckle as well. That said, instead of leaving me a comment, she e-mails my wife. The gist of it being that my wife hasn't always talked like that--her own sweet way of saying I've made my wife what she is. To reenforce her argument, her friend added that she understood my wife's comments perfectly, she then stated that she's known Goody Two Shoes longer than I have. To which I respond, yes, but I sleep with her! Ha, ha, ha! Who got the last laugh on that one, eh! Guess I win that one.

Now, getting back to Goody Two Shoes. She snapped off another good one the other night. We were lying in bed bantering back and forth and I was in a particularlly silly mood. At the hight of the shenannagins she bemoans for the whole neighborhood to hear, "oh, great, the children are gone and I'm stuck with you."

Oh, and here's one of her best ones. I forgot to post this the other day. A year or two ago were had gone out for a ride on our bicycles. Later, after returning home, we were talking about our ride. At some point, Goody Two Shoes got confused and tried to say either, biking or cycling, what came out was "bikling." Now when we load up our bicycles to go for a ride, we're going bikling.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Duke Turns 100

The image of John Wayne that I always take with me. The Duke, sitting tall in the saddle.

"Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway."

"Talk low, talk slow, and don't say too much."

"I won't be wronged, I won't be insulted, I won't be laid a hand on. I don't do these things to other people and I expect the same from them."
John Wayne

Oh, I could write for days about my favorite movie star. Instead, I thought I'd let my favorite John Wayne movies talk for me. I'm only listing 10. I have more...25 or so...but these 10 will do the job nicely.

#1 El Dorado. Classic good guys vs the bad guys. You already know who's gonna win, but who cares. It's not the Duke's best, but it's my favorite. A good story, with a great cast: Robert Mitchum, Arthur Hunnicutt, Edward Asner, Christopher George, James Caan, and Michelle Carey. A great movie for a lazy Sunday afternoon or late night.

#2 The Quiet Man. The Duke's best non-western. His performance should have gotten him the Oscar but it didn't. Shot mostly on location, the scenery takes my breath away and makes me wish I was Irish. Again, another great story, a great director in John Ford, and a great supporting cast: Maureen O'Hara, Barry Fitzgerald, Victor McLaglen, Mildred Natwick, Ward Bond, Arthur Shields, Francis Ford...and are you ready for this...Ken Curtis, Festus, from Gunsmoke, playing an accordian and singing. This movie has it all, including the best fight scene on film, and the prettiest leading lady ever...Maureen O'Hara.

#3 Rio Grande. One of the Duke's best! Another John Ford movie, shot on location in Monument Valley. As the story goes, Ford wanted to make 'The Quiet Man' and no studio would touch it. John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara had a handshake deal with Ford to make The Quiet Man if it ever came about. Finally, RKO Pictures stepped in and said they'd make Ford's Irish tale if he'd agree to do a western for the studio first. RKO figured The Quiet Man would lose money, but the loss would be offset by what they would make from Ford's western. Ford went and got Wayne, O'Hara, McLaglen...who would later star in The Quiet Man, along with Chill Wills, Ben Johnson and Harry Carey Jr. And the result is Rio Grande, a classic western.

I'd like to pause a moment to pay tribute to the Duke's favorite leading lady, Maureen O'Hara. They made five pictures together: Rio Grande, in 1950; The Quiet Man, in 1952; The Wings of Eagles, in 1957, McLintock, in 1963; and Big Jake, in 1971. A combination of timeless beauty, toughness, and a will of granite, Maureen O'Hara was the Duke's only leading lady that was capable of going toe-to-toe with him and giving as good as she got. In The Quiet Man, she broke her hand in an on-screen slap of Wayne's face. In spite of her broken hand, she carried on with the making of the picture...which included her being drug...on her backside...across a field that was full of sheep dung. In McLintock, she endured being coated in slimy, gooey clay in the fight scene alongside Wayne...again, she held her own with the Duke. She could act, and she was a real pro. There'll never be another like her. When I was a kid I thought she and the Duke were married for real. Pity they weren't.

#4 She Wore A Yellow Ribbon. Another of the Duke's finest performances. He should have gotten the Oscar for this one as well. John Ford used his stock company to surround Wayne in this picture, many of whom are in Rio Grande and, or The Quiet Man: Victor McLaglen, Mildred Natwick, Arthur Shields, Ben Johnson, Harry Carey Jr. The reult was another classic western set in 1876 just after Custer's massacre on the Little Big Horn. Wayne plays an aging cavalry officer on the verge of retirement, trying to keep the fragile peace in the west. He does well in this movie, and with the make up, he looks twenty years older than he really was at the time.

#5 McLintock. Another John Wayne-Maureen O'Hara classic. The movie is warm and hysterically funny. The fight at the clay slide is priceless as is the constant banter between the Duke and his leading lady. Usually when it's movie time around our house we can never agree on what to watch...most of the time. This is one movie we can all agree on.

#6 Rio Bravo. Directed by Howard Hawks, Wayne is a small town Marshall trying to hold onto a prisoner until the U.S. Marshall can arrive. He's up aginst a lot of bad guys, but he's got help: Walter Brennan, Dean Martin, Ricky Nelson...I understand he can sing a litte, too...oh, and a young Angie Dickenson. Good, solid movie. The formula worked so well, Hawks and Wayne used it again in 1966 when they made El Dorado.

#7 The Searchers. John Ford brought out a side of John Wayne no one had ever seen before. As Ethan Edwards, Wayne doesn't wear a white hat. He's dark, brooding, a loner. His motives, and his methods are questionable, even though he does the right thing in the end. I must admit I didn't like this movie at first, but over the years it's grown on me. The photo I chose for this spot is from the very end of the movie and shows Wayne standing in the doorway, holding his right arm with his left. Wayne was paying trbute to his late friend, Harry Carey Sr. who often stood the same way.

#8 The Horse Soldiers. John Ford directs John Wayne and William Holden in a Civil War era picture about a cavaly raid in Mississippi. Good picture, good story and another good supporting cast. As Wayne's chief antagonist, Holden holds his own rather well, he even sucker punches Wayne in the fight scene. My only complaint with this movie is the leading lady. Constance Towers, while quite lovely, doesn't stand up to Wayne very well. I always wondered where Maureen O'Hara was when they were casting for this picture. Oh, those delicious little what-ifs.

#9 In Harm's Way. I've seen better WWII movies, but the Duke is good in this farce about the war in the Pacific. Kirk Douglas, Carroll O'Conner, Dana Andrews, Patricia Neal, Slim Pickens and Brandon De Wilde round out an outstanding cast.

#10 The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. Another pairing of Wayne with John Ford. This movie also marks the first on-screen collaberation of Wayne with Jimmy Stewart. Ford always brought out the best in his prize pupil, and Wayne delivers. But as mush as this is a John Wayne movie, it's also a must for Jimmy Stewart fans as well. So, who really shot Liberty Valance?

John Wayne left a legacy that few can match. Many have tried, some did quite well: Clint Eastwood, Robert Duvall, Tom Selleck, and Sam Elliott. But none can step out of his shadow let alone fill his boots.

"I grew up dreaming of being a cowboy, and loving the cowboy ways. Pursuing a life of my high riding hero, I burned up my childhood days. I learned all the rules of a modern day drifter. Don't you hold onto nothing too long. Just take what you need from the ladies and leave them with the words of a sad country song. My heroes have always been cowboys, and they still are it seems. Sadly in search of, and one step in back of, themselves and their slow moving dreams."
Willie Nelson.

Me, not quite so tall in the saddle, but I got my boots on. Now if I could just find my hat! Oh, well. THANKS DUKE!

Monday, May 21, 2007

More of 734

The last two weekends I've expanded my horizons, thanks to the Highlands Trail. On May 13, I shot these photos from just above of Helmstetter's Curve.

Yesterday I went to Corriganville, where I grew up, by the way. I rode my bicycle up the Highlands trail to the big sweeping curve just below 'Bone Cave.' That's right 'Bone Cave.' When they were building this piece of the Western Maryland in 1912, workers stumbled onto the cave. Inside, the science nerds of the day found skeletons that go back thousands of years, including a sabretooth cat.

Ya just can't beat steam!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Delightfully Dippy...and Proud of It

Here we are, Goody Two Shoes and the Filthy Beast, in 1979.

If you're around someone long enough you'll eventually see and hear things that'll stop you in your tracks. In the case of the latter, my wife...a.k.a. Goody Two Shoes...has snapped off some real beauties over the last 28 years.

I've never known another person with a greater talent for taking the English language and rewriting it. Her little phrases come out sounding completely backwards. She always says they make sense to her. And her gift for twisting the Queen's English is also matched by a wacky sense of humor that cracks me up almost daily. But make no mistake; for as silly as she can be, she's a smart lady. Hey, she married me after all.

Most of her little gems are lost to time, but over the last five or six years I've begun to write down some her better ones. So here goes. I'll try and explain them as we go along. My the Lord have mercy on my memory.

'There's grammar, then there's talking grammar.' How true...in her case.
'It's the best time we ever missed.' We had plans to go somewhere--can't remember where now--but we got side tracked and did something else instead.
'If I knew it was a race I would have tried harder.' We were working around the house and I got done first. Ta da!
'Ignoring is not being ignorant.' I'm just as confused now as when she said it.
'The longer you live with me the smarter you'll get.' The jury is still out on this one.
'The amount of mud on you is not a measure of the fun you’ve had.' We went out to cut a Christmas tree at a local tree farm about three years ago and had to go through some pretty deep mud to get to where the trees were. I had a blast, slipping and sliding, but not the Little Woman--she was convinced we were going to die any minute. Looking at the photos we took that day I looked at my 1998 GMC Jimmy and commented that we didn't have as much fun as I thought cause we hardly got any mud up on the fenders. Hearing this, my wife snaps off this little gem.
'Get it right what I was wrong about.' I was reminding her of something she had done a while back and wasn't getting it quite right and she put me in my place.
'Sometimes perception is good for your mental state.' I guess that's so.
'I don’t want to do something without knowing I’m doing it.' On why she doesn't drink.
'We’re two individually different people.'
'Life’s too short to be in that much of a hurry.'
'Ding dong, stupid person that you are!' She was mad at me at the time.
'You’re always thinking about thoughts.' Yep, that's me.
'There’s no fair fighting between a man and a woman.' How true, how true!
'I like being just who I am; anonymous.' One reason I love her so much.
'You’re not nobody; you’re just not anybody.' She's talking about me.
'If you don’t ask you shouldn’t care what you get.' She asked what I wanted for dinner one night and I said I didn't care. I then had the nerve to act surprised when I sat down to eat.
'I can’t find something I’m looking for.'
'If I remember to do any of it, I’ll do it all.'
'Fluffered.' She was mad at me, again, and tried to say flustered.
'We ain’t been just married.' She was referring to our 28 years of wedded bliss. I laughed so hard I nearly peed myself.
'Quit laughing at me, I didn’t know how to say it.' This came on the heels of her 'We ain't just been married crack,' and my laughing fit.
'I was right about one thing, maybe I’ll be right about that.' No idea what she was talking about.
'Everything I didn’t learn I learned from my husband.' Her way of saying I'm an idiot.
'You’re not then and I’m not now.' I'm just as confused as you are about this one.
'I’m gonna kick you so hard your teeth are gonna bleed.' Yep, she was mad at me again.
'I’m not that into beauty that I give myself pain.' On why she doesn’t pluck her eyebrows. Then she added, 'I colored my hair, what more do you want?'
'You want to hear me gesture or see me gesture.' To which I said, 'you can’t hear a gesture.' And she said, 'you can if words accompany it!' Yes, she was mad at me again.
'I was changing my clothes and I haven’t gotten around to it yet.' Said half an hour after she'd gone upstairs to change. Pay attention guys! This why they're always late!
'Once you come without your pillow, you never come without it again.' If we're gonna stay overnight somewhere she always takes her pillow.
'Things I haven’t thought out yet.' Don't ask me, I'm still scratching my head over that one.
'If Clinton can interpret the English language his way so can I.' An even better defense than 'they make sense to me.
'You’re dumber than I am sometimes, and that’s saying something.' She was referring to me.
'Nothing sounds like life in the country more than the sound of a screen door opening and closing.' Sometimes she snaps off a beauty. I told you she was smart.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Spring is Here!

April showers might bring May flowers, but steam engines bring cinders. Can you tell I like trains...especially steam engines. This weekend was the opening of the 2007 season of the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad. Their showcase locomotive is 734. Built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works of Philadelphia in ca. 1915, the old engine never looked better, and never fails to excite.

However, if I may be allowed to gripe about one thing...wait a minute, this is my blog...I can gripe about whatever I want. Whoa, this is cool. Now, where was I? Oh yes, I had a gripe. About 10 years ago when the 734 came to town, someone in, I think, County Tourism decided the engine needed a catchy nic-name. So they came up with...drum roll, please...are you ready for this...'Mountain Thunder.' Now, put on a sweater and in your best Mr. Rogers voice say, 'today's word boys and girls is cheesie. Can you say cheesie, boys and girls?'

It's complete and total cheese! Corny too. But someone high up thought is was cute. So we have a steam engine called Mountian Thunder. That's like buying a purebred dog and naming him Rover. It's stupid, as well as annoying. But that's enough of my inane blathering.

Here are a few photos from opening day on the WMSRR.

734 pounding up Cash Valley, half a mile below Helmstetter's Curve.

734 rounding the upper end of Helmstetter's Curve, passing the Helmstetter barn. Since the track here is in the shape of a giant horseshoe, all I had to do after shooting the previous picture is walk west 20 feet and wait 45 seconds for 734 to come along.

734 exiting the upper end of Helmstetter's Curve and beginning the run up to Brush Tunnel.

What was it I said earlier about cinders? 734 was nice enough to deposit a few on my camera bag as it passed by.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Busy, Busy, Busy!

It's the busy time at work; we're working six days a week at the moment and nine hour days. So my time to post and do other things has been cut back drastically. So instead of trying to corral the thoughts running around in my head I thought I'd share a few photos. Enjoy!

Vince Gill at the Grand Ole Opry, in July, 2006.

'The Last Full Measure of Devotion.' Culp's Hill, Gettysburg, July, 1994. Lest we forget.

The Statehouse dome in Annapolis.

Rail historian and photographer Don Ball once wrote that 'the grandeur of steam locomotion is such that little comment is needed.' With you on that one, Don! Western Maryland Scenic Railroad #734 blasting out of Brush Tunnel.

A lone cannon near the Miller Cornfield at Antietam.

Storming the beach. Viewed from the landing craft ramp at the National D-Day Museum in Bedford, Virginia. April, 2004.