Extraordinary Stories

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Sunday, September 24, 2017

The "American Robin Winners In the LCBC Contest" Story

Lancaster County Bird Club Logo
It was an ordinary day.  Looking at a beautiful red-tailed hawk sitting on a post on our rear deck.  You can tell by watching him that he is using both his vision and hearing to try and find his next meal.  Carol said I should grab my camera and take a photo of the bird, but before I could return from my office with my camera, the hawk had taken flight.  Would have made a neat photo had I been slightly quicker.  A few days ago I was viewing the winning entries in the Lancaster County Bird Club's American Robin Competition which had two categories: Youth and Adult.  The photos were both colorful and interesting.  Ever wonder how you would judge a photographic bird competition?  What criteria do you look for when judging a  contest such at that?  Should color be one of them?  Hey, a robin is black with an orange beast.  Not much color to judge.  And, its a bird.  What can you do to make it an interesting photo; one that is worthy of a prize in a photography contest.  Well, the winning entries were fun to view and I thought I would share them with you so you can also see what was picked as a winning entry.  I would have loved to see what was eliminated during the competition, since I taught photography in high school for many years.  Did they consider "rule of thirds"?  How about depth of field?  I know, it was a bird competition, but did the photographs that won illustrate both birds as well as photography techniques?  You be the judge based on what I have posted here.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.  PS - If interested, you can check out: Lancaster County Bird Club Facebook page.

Youth 1st Place winner (Andrew Shenk from Newport))
Youth 2nd Place winner (William Keller from Ephrata)
Youth 3rd Place winner (William Young from Willow Street)
Adult 1st Place winner (Dale Matuza from Murrysville)
Adult 2nd Place winner (Kyle Dunbar from Mount Joy) 
Adult 3rd Place winner (Bill Friggle from Denver)

Saturday, September 23, 2017

The "Pure Lancaster County" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Reading the Farm Market Report in the Lancaster Newspaper.  Something I do from time to time, but more than likely something you have never seen in your newspaper...ever!  For the past eight years I have been extolling the fertile farmland and gorgeous scenery of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.  
Lancaster County newspaper.  Click on photos to enlarge.
Long known as the "Garden Spot of America" and with good reason.  The soil is rich in nutrients which is essential for plant growth and the farmland is known as the #1 non-irrigated area in the country.  But perhaps the best part of the area is the people who till the soil.  Hard working farmers who live and die by how well they work their land.  Whether they be crop farmers or livestock farmers, they work the land to help feed many of you who read this blog.  As you can see in my attached photograph, we have towns in Lancaster County with names such as New Holland, Paradise, Blue Ball, Bird-In-Hand, Smoketown, Bareville, Mt. Joy, Goodville, etc., but the all-time favorite with tourists has to be Intercourse.  
Map of Lancaster County with names of towns and villages.
Most bring a smile to the faces of tourists from all over the world who love to travel the back roads trying to find an Amish or Mennonite farm so they can stop and take photos.  Well, Lancaster County residents, me included, have every right to be proud of their heritage of hard workers even if they don't till the soil in the county.  Every week farmers take produce and livestock to local auctions to try and get the best price for their efforts and the accompanying photo above shows you the prices received for hogs and cattle for that particular day.  
Posting on the Internet showing sign in Intercourse, PA.
I'm not sure if the prices were good or bad, but I do know that without those farmers, the county, state and country would go hungry.  Recently the local paper also published a series of black and white photographs to show what farming was like years ago; even before I became a resident of this world.  I have posted some of them so you can see that farming is much the same today as it was years ago; except for technological advancements.  Take a look at the photos and see why Lancaster County is considered one of the best places in the country for farming as well as having some of the best farmers who toil in the fields.  It was another extraordinary in the life of an ordinary guy.

Lititz area farmers loading food for livestock onto a wagon in November of 1942.
1942 photo of boy giving water to a horse.
Butchering pigs on a farm in Ephrata, PA in March of 1942.
Hex signs and a cow likeness on a Terre Hill barn in March of 1942. 
A Mennonite farmer is preparing to place the wagon of tobacco into his barn in May of 1941.
1938 tobacco drying.
1939 photograph of cows grazing in a Lancaster County field.
Women going home from market in 1941.
Lancaster Central Market stand taken in November of 1942.
Bags of Lancaster County potatoes in a potato cellar ready for market in 1938.
Farmer Herbert Royer is feeding his chickens on a family farm in 1938.
1939 Lancaster County farmland.
1941 photograph with a farmer and his children traveling by horse-drawn wagon.


Friday, September 22, 2017

The "The Mighty River Oyster: Part II - Commerce On/Over The River" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Visiting a new building in the city of Columbia, Pennsylvania called the Columbia Crossing River Trails Center.  
Columbia Crossing River Trails Center
Beautiful place that has photograph after photograph hanging from the walls of the center telling of the beginnings of commerce on the river which flows directly in front of the building.  Interesting story of the beginnings of commerce on the river are traced through photos dating back to the early 1800s when mills started to appear along the banks of the Susquehanna River.  
View of the Susquehanna River and bridge in Columbia.
Raw materials were needed to be sent south along the river for processing.  Cities such as Baltimore and Philadelphia were the cities that would receive the materials that could be transported by a variety of methods during the 1800s.  But, the lower Susquehanna was both rocky and shallow, making it both dangerous and extremely hard for transportation.  Arks and rafts were an early answer, but the danger involved led to other methods of transport.  Canals were the next method tried and I wrote a story a few years ago about the Eastern Division Canal on the upper Susquehanna to Columbia, PA and the Susquehanna-Tidewater Canal from Columbia to Havre de Grace.  Eventually bridges were built across the Susquehanna River and the transportation of raw material to the West began.  Follow along as I give you a visual journey showing the start of commerce on the Susquehanna River and the building of bridges over the river for commerce to the West.  The Susquehanna winds over 400 miles through three states, affecting the lives of thousands of people.  It is the longest non-navigable river in the United States and possesses great natural power.  The river has been crossed thousands of times by canoes, ferries, arks, rafts, horses, carriages, canal boats, locomotives and vehicles.  I'm sorry to say that my name is not one of those who have been brave, or should I say stupid, enough to attempt to cross it by walking/swimming across.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Rafts were a popular, but dangerous means of sending lumber down the Susquehanna.  Lumber rafts were lashed together into fleets of two.  Each fleet carried at least four crewmen: a pilot, two steerers and one more man, just in case.
Arks carried cargo such as milled lumber, charcoal and agricultural produce.  Arks, much like their predecessor, could withstand only one trip down the river.  The rafts could be up to ninety feet long and twenty feet wide and pointed at both ends.  The crew would steer using oars and poles to avoid sand bars, rocks and rapids.  In 1827 it was documented that 1,600 rafts and 1,300 arcs passed Harrisburg, PA that year on the Susquehanna.
In the late 1820s a canal was built on the Columbia side of the Susquehanna which brought materials from the north to Columbia.  
Early canal boats were primitive and provided few comforts for passengers.  A lock system, as seen here, was used to ferry boats across the river to switch canal systems, eventually taking the goods to Havre de Grace and the Chesapeake Bay.
Bridges were a means of transporting goods across the river to either take them from one canal on the east shore of the river to the west shore for further transportation by canal, or for transportation to western Pennsylvania.  This was the first bridge built in 1814.  It was a covered wooden bridge that was 5,600 feet long on 53 stone piers.  Thick ice hardened in the winter of 1832 which came down the river and created an ice jam which caused flooding and lifted the bridge off the piers.
The second bridge was built from 1832-34 with the same length as the first bridge.  Along the outside of the bridge were two tow paths for moving canal boats.  They were added in 1840.  A double railroad track was added in 1850.  This was the bridge that was burned in June of 1863 to prevent Confederate troops from crossing the Susquehanna River on their way to Philadelphia.
This is a stained glass representation of the burning of the bridge over the Susquehanna in 1863.
Another depiction showing the burning of the bridge.
The third bridge was also a covered wooden bridge with two Iron Truss Spans and was constructed in 1868-1869.  It was 5,390 feet long.  In September of 1896 Cedar Keys Hurricane hit Columbia and swept the bridge from its piers to the nearby town of Marietta, PA.
Another view of the wooden bridge.
The fourth bridge was constructed in 1896, less than a month after the other bridge was destroyed.  The plans called for two decks; one for rail traffic and one for all other traffic.  Didn't happen so when rail cars crossed the bridge, all other traffic stopped traveling between Lancaster and York, PA.  This bridge was dismantled in 1962.
This photo shows two cars next to one another on the bridge.  You can see the railroad tracks under them.
The fifth bridge was a reinforced concrete arch bridge built in June of 1929.  It cost $2,484,000 and was just south of the fourth bridge.  Tolls were charged for vehicles until 1943 when the construction debt was paid off.
Car that didn't make the correct turn.

This old postcard show the toll booths on the bridge on the Columbia side of the bridge.
This photo shows the bridge from the water.
Photo from 1976.

A postcard showing the tool booth on the York County side of the bridge.  The bridge became known as the Veterans Memorial Bridge and carried Interstate Route 30 from the east coast to the west coast.  
The following show different views from different seasons of the current bridge.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

The "The Mighty River Oyster: Part I - The Beginning" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Driving along Rt. 30W, over the mighty Susquehanna River that divides the two Pennsylvania counties of York and Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  As I looked over the side of the concrete-mile-long bridge I could see both the north and south sides of the river.  Boulders rise from the river's floor on both sides of the bridge and I often wondered if I could enter the river on one side and manage to walk most of the way across the river via the rocks.  Being I'm not a good swimmer, I have never attempted the feat.  
Aerial view of Columbia, Pennsylvania with the Sus
After a few recent trips, and blog stories, to the town of Columbia, Pennsyl- vania, I thought it would be interesting to learn a bit more about the Susque- hanna River and how it played a big part in our nation's history.  Lancaster and York Counties as well as the Susquehanna River have been a key to our nation's political, cultural and economic development over the past two centuries.  The mighty Susquehanna is one of the oldest rivers in the world and spans more than 700 miles from its headwaters in Cooperstown, New York, to were it empties into the Chesapeake Bay at Havre de Grace, Maryland.  
The Susquehanna River watershed.
Centuries before Europeans began to arrive in North America, American Indians used the the Susquehanna River for trade, transport and warfare.  Actually the name Susquehanna is a name derived from the Delaware Indian name "Sisa'we'had'hanna" which means River Oyster.  It was near the end of the last Ice Age, more than 12,000 years ago, that Native Americans arrived in the Susquehanna River Valley.  They became the area's first farmers growing corn, beans, squash and tobacco.  They were known as the Susquehannocks who survived until the Europeans arrived.  
An early Native American fort along the Susquehanna River.
It was reported that in August of 1608, Captain John Smith traveled the length of the Chesapeake Bay in search of the Northwest Passage.  As he entered the Susquehanna River at a small town known as Havre de Grace, he encountered what eventually would be called Smith's Falls.  Their journey ended at this point, but they did meet and trade with the Susquehannock Indians.  By the 1690s Susquehannocks were dispersed by their enemies and many joined other refugee peoples to form the Conestoga Indians.  It was in 1763 in the city of Lancaster that a group of frontiersmen killed the last of the peaceful Conestoga Indians.  
Susquehannock artifacts in the Pennsylvania State Museum.
Years ago many petroglyphs were found along the river's edge from the town of Columbia to Conowingo, Maryland.  The carvings included images of birds, animals and humans.  More than 300 of these petroglyphs still survive on the rocks along the river near the Safe Harbor Dam.  Eventually Europeans focused on using the Susquehanna River for trade.  By the early 1800s many mills lined the shores of the river near Lancaster and York.  Raw materials from the area needed to be delivered to areas such as Philadelphia and Baltimore.  It was determined that the lower Susquehanna River was the way to transport consumer products.  But, how could all that be done?  There had to be a way.  Many schemes were developed which I will tell you about tomorrow.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.