Monday, November 11, 2019

Firefighter Jarrod In Training

This is my little baby boy, Jarrod Fuhrman, hanging from the side of a building, honing his rappelling skills and GIVING HIS MOTHER A HEART ATTACK.

Grandfather and Grandsons

Here's a blast from the past. My two grandsons and I getting ready to shoot up the countryside with a Remington .22 rifle. We were celebrating (a late) Christmas, January 2, 2012. It was cold as Hades, as you can tell by the look on little Kaid's face.

The Bond Between Grandmother and Grandchildren

One of my favorite photos of all time. The expressions captured on all three faces - Nana, Jayla and Kaid - are priceless. Circa 2006.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Paula Rocked It!

Back when we lived in Livingston County, Michigan, Jodi, Jarrod, Paula and I each had a set of cross country skis. And we'd take them to the nearby golf course and go crazy. This is a photo of Paula doing her thing.

He Walks In His Father's Footsteps


Wow. Who is that badass on the left? Number 16.
Why, it's Jarrod Fuhrman when he played semi-pro quarterback for the Roanoke Rampage.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

The Life of Orlean Puckett

While driving up Groundhog Mountain yesterday Paula and I came upon this cabin. It and its owner have an interesting history. It's a testament to the courage and stamina that the people - especially the women - living in the mountains two hundred years ago exhibited.
From "Virtual Blue Ridge":
"It is a historic site that stands in tribute to the legendary midwife Orlean Hawks Puckett, who to many symbolizes the strength of the Appalachian woman. Orlean Hawks Puckett had little formal education and married at 16. In her own young adulthood, she gave birth to and lost twenty-four children. Many were stillborn, and the rest died in infancy. Several theories exist today about why Orlean’s body was unable to carry a pregnancy to term, but her losses are particularly striking when placed next to the 1,000-plus babies she successfully delivered as a midwife.
"When Orlean was in her 50s, a neighbor went into labor and no doctor could be found. This began her career as a midwife, and for the next nearly fifty years, she traveled the Virginia countryside, never charging for her services, and becoming known for her compassion and skill. In more than 1,000 deliveries, she never lost a mother or a baby. Orlean delivered her last baby at age 94, and died in 1939. The cabin was her last home."
Her husband, John, deserted the Confederate army during the Civil War and hid in the mountains until the war was over. He built this cabin in 1865. 

John Puckett died in 1912 while Orlean lived on, by herself, until she too died 27 years later.

- - - - - - - 

*Paula wanted me to let Gregory Woodfill, an OB-GYN in Wilmington, NC, know that Orlean Puckett, acting as a midwife, was paid the sum of $6 for her labor and delivery services when the family she was helping could afford it. When they couldn't - which was often - she worked for free.

** Orlean Puckett was known to travel as far as 20 miles - often on horseback - through the mountains - to deliver babies.

*** Though no one is sure as to when exactly she was born it is thought to have been around 1844, which made her 95 when she died. Orlean Puckett was still delivering babies until 1938, when she was 94 years old.

**** In 2012 Orlean Puckett was selected by the state of Virginia to be a member of "Virginia Women in History."

***** Despite the fact that John Puckett had quit the Confederate army and had hid out for the duration of the war, Orlean Puckett, in 1913, applied to the state of Virginia for a widow's pension, her husband having served … for a time.

****** Because she was illiterate Orlean Puckett's spelled her first name over the years at least five different ways. It just wasn't high on her list of priorities back in the day.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

A Look Into The Past

Check out this photo that I took the other day when I was bicycling the New River Trail. Unless you know how railroads work and how Norfolk & Western Railroad operated its 57.1 miles of track in southwest Virginia, you wouldn't know what's depicted here.
I've mentioned before the fact that N&W ran trains from Pulaski, Virginia to Galax for almost eighty years (1904 to 1981). It subsequently abandoned the track and turned it over to the commonwealth of Virginia so that a public park could be created. (Thus, the New River Trail.)
I took the photo at the point where the track once came to an end, north of Galax. Did you ever wonder - since the trains ran on a single track - how they turned around once they reached that dead end? There was no loop. There was no locomotive at each end, one pulling cars south, the other north. How did they turn around?
The proper answer is, they didn't.
But the locomotives did.
Norfolk & Western ran this 57.1 mile route twice a day, six days a week, for many years, hitting its peak right at the end of World War II. The company hauled north shipments of livestock, iron ore, zinc, lead, furniture, wood chips, pulp­wood, tan bark, crossties, lumber, cloth from Washington Mills in Galax and milk from the old Carnation plant there. The trains brought in coal, feed, fertilizer, produce and bar­rels of oil.
Brought to a dead end. Hmm...
So how did the locomotive turn around?
Here's how it worked: When the trains reached this point the freight and passenger cars (N&W provided passenger service until the month after Randy Fuhrman, my brother, was born - which means N&W quit hauling humans a long, LONG time ago) were separated from the engine, the cars going onto a siding for unloading and the locomotive brought to this point.
A turntable.
The engine pulled onto a short track in the center of this circle, a steam-powered motor was fired up that turned the track, the track literally revolved 180°, and the locomotive went back the way it came. It then coupled with the freight and passenger cars - all having been unloaded and reloaded - and made its way back north. Twice a day.
In the 18th and 19th centuries - into the 20th century - roads in southwest Virginia were so deplorable that travel was prohibitive, except on horseback. The railroad provided the one means of getting in and out of the area easily. Thus, N&W did a thriving business for decades. But when "modern" roads were laid, and trucks started hauling freight more cheaply (and the iron mines in the area petered out), the railroad became obsolete.

This is the last train to leave Galax, Virginia. October 15, 1985.

- - - - - - -
People riding by on their bikes who didn't know the history of the N&W railroad would miss an important part of history (probably thinking that this area surrounded by a circular stone wall, almost hidden now in a wild forest of Viburnum, Arrowwood, Blackhaw, Gooseberry, Maples, Walnuts, Oaks … was some kind of ancient Satan-worshipping site). Too bad for them.****
- - - - - - -
* Note: In 1945, N&W moved 8,282 cars to and from Galax, an average of 26 cars a day.
** Note: There was a daily passen­ger train that ran between Pulaski and Galax. The passenger train made its final run on Sept. 5, 1951.
*** Note: The last passenger was a woman traveling the 9.4 miles from Galax to Gambetta, the exact route that I biked the other day.
**** Note: Despite the name given to a nearby creek - Chestnut Creek - there are no chestnut trees here. Or most anywhere else. All the American Chestnut trees in the area - and across the entire United States - were killed off by blight around the time that the railroad was built. 30 million trees. A species that survived three thousand years and was destroyed in three.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

You Never Know When Your Plans Are Going Off The Rails

About a year ago Jarrod and I went biking on the New River Trail here in Southwest Virginia. I posted the journey on Facebook at the time and remarked to the effect that he and I had gone some thirteen miles and that I found out I was good for only twelve. Dehydration set in in that last mile and laid me out. 

And, of course, Jarrod has had great fun retelling the tale ever since (but I'd be doing the same to him so that's okay). 

So today I decided to do a different leg of the Trail by myself. I had it mapped out and planned to travel from the terminus of the old Norfolk & Western track in Galax, Virginia to a point of interest 6.4 miles north called Chestnut Falls. 6.4 miles up and 6.4 miles back. 12.8 miles is pushing the envelope to be sure but the weather was nice and I intended to take it slowly and enjoy the ride. 

Little did I realize that the Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Natural Resources doesn't consider Chestnut Falls to be interesting enough to mark it on the trail. 

So ... 

Because it was down below me, behind a bunch of trees, and off to the right, I rode on past it. 

And kept on agoin'. 

After a couple of miles I realized I had missed the landmark but I kept peddling anyway looking for another sign telling me how far I'd gone. 

I peddled and I peddled ... 

I finally came to Gambetta Road (State Route 793), which crosses the New River Trail 9.4 MILES NORTH OF GALAX. 

I stopped for lunch. And to ponder. 

And thought about calling Jarrod to see if he could pull some strings and get his Life Flight helicopter sent in. 

Instead I headed back south. That thing about taking it slowly and enjoying the ride? Forget it. 

Just as happened a year ago, it was now an endurance test. 

Oh. To make it more interesting? The first 9.4 miles - being the old railroad bed and being therefore almost level - is actually on a one-degree downward slope, following the course of the waterway. So the 9.4 miles back? Up-freaking-hill. 

At about 9.5, miles my thighs were feeling the burn. 

At about 14 miles I ran out of water. 

But finally at 16 miles I made it back to Cliffview Station (a remodeled old railroad station) (see photo) and bought a Gatorade. Life was once again good ... 

… until the 77-year old clerk, seeing the sweat rolling down my face, decided she had to remind me that I still had two miles to go. Thanks. I needed that.

This - sad to say - is a photo of yours truly standing in front of the old station. When I showed it to her, Paula looked at the photo and said, "You look pale." I replied, "Ya think?" 

To make a long story a bit less long I made it back to my truck. 18.8 miles, baby. 

The best part? I rode the first leg in 90 minutes. The return? 95 minutes. 

Hopped in the truck, stopped off at the Galax Lowes to buy a weed trimmer, and 45 minutes later pulled into the driveway at home. I put the bike in the barn, covered it, and walked up to Paula - who was giving me a worried look - and said to her: "Want to drive in to the library?" 

Next week: Gambetta Road to Byllsesby Dam. The map says its only ten miles ... 

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Ugh. Those German Dialects.

I originally posted this to the "I Love My German Heritage" Facebook page. 

Special Note: I had a German instructor once in high school who told me that my vocabulary and comprehension were good but that I spoke German with a "Mississippi drawl."
Besonderer Hinweis: Ich hatte einmal in der High School einen Deutschlehrer, der mir sagte, dass mein Wortschatz und mein Verständnis gut seien, ich aber mit einem "mississippische Drawl" Deutsch spreche.
- - - - - - - -
Diejenigen von Ihnen, die in Deutschland geboren und dort aufgewachsen sind, könnten dabei helfen. Sind Dialekte in verschiedenen Teilen Deutschlands so schwer zu verstehen? Unterscheidet sich "Niederdeutsch" von Bundesland zu Bundesland?
Hier ist ein Artikel aus einer amerikanischen Zeitung über deutschen Dialekt.
Du entscheidest.
- - - - - - - -
Those of you English-speaking folks who have tried to master the German language - like me - at some point - have run into the problem of "dialect." The native language spoken in Bavaria - for example - is standard German but with slight regional variations, different from those you'd find in Thuringia. Or Berlin. It can give you fits.
Well, you're not alone. But there's hope for us.
Here's an interesting article from the Wausau (Wisconsin) Daily Herald, dated July 23, 1994, entitled:
"Dialects of German Speech Dying Out."
("Dialekte der deutschen Sprache sterben aus")
Don Zamzow remembers a trip to Germany.
We met some people up north, and I was talking to a lady, struggling with this "high German," he said. Finally, I blurted out to her in "low German."
"She answered, 'It's clear.' She literally started to cry."
The tears were for joy, because the low German Zamzow spoke - Pomeranian - had virtually died out, even in its homeland.
Low German is a generic term for a variety of provincial dialects which differ in pronunciations and contractions. Low German/Pomeranian, for instance, is different from low German/Bavarian or low German from Mechlenburg.
Every diverse country has such differences. Take someone from West Texas, someone from Minnesota, someone from south Alabama, and someone from Maine - and listen to them talk.
But Ray Schield of Merrill [Wisconsin] says that just as the Southern drawl is disappearing, so are differences in German speech.
"There is a fear that the language is dying, because it's almost extinct in Germany," he said. "With modern communication, everything is done in the same dialect."
That's called high - or "standard" - German, the language American students learn.
There just isn't a need, or even an easy way, to learn Pomeranian anymore.
"When you had multiple generations in a household, that's how languages got carried forward," said Zamzow. "Grandparents spent time with the little kids."
In Schield's home, his grandmother insisted that he learn and speak standard German. His parents, though commonly spoke 'platt Deutsch' - low German.
"I learned most of my English when I got into elementary school," he said.
Just as with newer immigrants, the older the child, the better the speaker of the native tongue.
"I'm 58," said Zamzow. "I can speak it and understand it. My brother, who is four years younger, can understand it but can't speak it.
"My sister, who's 10 years younger still, can't understand it at all."
Zamzow and Schield hope the 'Pomersche Verien' - the Pomeranian club - can help preserve the language. Zamzow's goal is to at least get the language on tape, so other people can hear it.

"I'd like to get these people around a table and have them talk on video tape," he said. "Then we can get that in the historical museum for everyone."

Monday, October 07, 2019

Tuesday, October 01, 2019

On Germans and Their Humor

Note* This was originally posted to the "I Love My German Heritage" Facebook page. 

Who says Germans don't have a sense of humor?
Wer sagt, dass Deutsche keinen Sinn für Humor haben?

This is a photo of me at breakfast in the lounge at the Art Hotel, Paul-Heyse-Straße, Munich. December 4, 2018.
Dies ist ein Foto von mir beim Frühstück in der Lounge des Art Hotels, Paul-Heyse-Straße, München, 4. Dezember, 2018.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

I Don't Speak Chinese German

Note* This was originally posted to the "I Love My German Heritage" Facebook page. 

I read Amy Joanna's post to this page yesterday in which she wrote that she was making plans to travel to Germany and wanted to sharpen up her language skills, asking about books that might help her improve her German literacy. For some reason it reminded me of a funny thing that happened when I was in Munich in December. AWKWARD FUNNY.
First, I should mention to Joanna that my experiences there have taught me that if she's in one of the major cities in Germany she'll have little trouble finding people who speak English. In the countryside, though, it's another matter. So, yeah. it would be a good thing to be able to speak the native tongue. Plus, it's a common courtesy.
That said, I think I know German reasonably well. The written language very well. The spoken language too, until I come upon some slang word or colloquial term that gives me pause ("Sie gleichen sich wie ein Ei dem anderen." What?) (But that holds true for Germans trying to learn English as well - "I'm gonna open a can o' whoop-ass!" Gott im Himmel.) Overall, I can "hold my own" (another term that doesn't translate directly into German) when I'm wandering the land of my ancestors.
So I'm in Munich in December, 2018. Staying at a hotel near the Hauptbahnhof downtown. My grandson and I decide one evening that we are going to get Chinese takeout for dinner (hey, when you're in Germany you have to eat Chinese, right?). We had earlier in the day, on our way to Marienplatz (to enjoy the fabulous Christkindlmarkt festivites going on there), passed a small Chinese restaurant (see photo) on Paul-Heyse-Strasse and decided to go there.
It wasn't late in the evening but it had been dark for a while so I wasn't surprised to find that there were no customers in the place. It was, when we entered, me, my grandson, an elderly Chinese cook leaning out the kitchen window into the restaurant area, and an elderly Chinese woman doing the customer service. Probably the elderly gentleman's wife.
I mentioned that I have reasonably good German comprehension skills. But I don't know Mandarin-German. Or Seshuanese-German. Or Shanghai-German. Or whatever language the little Chinese woman was speaking.
I had picked up a menu and, when she came up to us, I pointed out an item and said, "Hallo. Ich möchte die Nummer M8 bestellen: Kung-Pao gebratenes Schweinefleisch mit Buttergemüse, bitte."
Seemed simple.
And then it went off the rails (another colloquialism, sorry).
The Chinese woman, standing not much taller than 5 feet, rather plump, replied, saying ... something.
But I had no idea what.
Not one syllable was discernable.
It wasn't any German that I'd ever heard.
It could have even been Chinese, for all I could tell.
I tried to compare what she said to what I would have said had I been selling dinners there. Did she ask me if I wanted fried rice rather than white rice? (Gebratener Reis oder weißer Reis?) No. Did she ask me if I wanted an egg roll with the meal? No way. I didn't have a clue.
So I looked at her and said, "Entschuldigen Sie bitte?"
She asked again. I think.
Now we reached the point where I stood there with nothing to say. Like an idiot.
So I did the cowardly thing and turned to my grandson and asked, "Any idea what she's saying?" (Oh, yeah, he can speak all of ten words of German. And no Mandarin.) He was no help.
Then I went to the old standby. "Sprechen sie Englisch?"
I stood there. Hmm. How to get food out of this woman ...
I pointed at the menu again and said, "Kann ich Nummer Acht bekommen, BITTE?"
She smiled.
The cook smiled.
I smiled.
She and he chattered for a moment. He disappeared into the kitchen.
I have no idea what was discussed but it was probably a hoot. Something about the miracle of Americans landing on the moon.
Bottom line?
The food was absolutely ausgezeichnet.
The name of the joint? Asia Today on Paul-Heyse Strasse, Munich, near the Hauptbahnhof. I highly recommend it.
Just have someone with you, Amy Joanna, who can speak Mandarin. Or Seshuan. Or ...

Monday, September 09, 2019


Here's a photo of the first school built in Shawano County, Wisconsin. The photo was taken sometime around 1920. The school was called the Kolpack Schule. It was built by German immigrants out of rough-hewn logs and German craftsmanship and was utilized for their burgeoning flock of German-American kids.
Lessons were originally taught in German. It was only when the school became part of the state's public education system that English was required.
You'll notice that most of the smaller boys - and a few of the girls - have no shoes. Resources were scarce back in the day.
My grandfather, Heinrich Emil Fuhrmann, attended the Kolpack School in the late 1890's.
My grandfather's sister, Louise Amanda Fuhrmann, married Otto Kolpack, a descendent of the builder of the school.
Although my father, Harold Heinrich Fuhrman, attended a newer school in the county he - like all his friends and neighbors - spoke only German in his youth, well into the 20th century.

Saturday, September 07, 2019

Me and My Hiking Buddy

Paula and I hiked to Brush Creek Falls in Mercer County, West Virginia this afternoon. Perfect day for a hike.

Thursday, September 05, 2019

Ah, Retirement

I made a vow when I retired that I would not be one of those guys who makes bird houses and drinks beer each day. So I make suet feeders for woodpeckers...
… and drink beer each day.