Wednesday, July 31, 2013

catamount classic

this weekend is going to be the catamount classic pro XCT, which is kind of a big deal.

eric working on the course
the course is solid and fun and designed and mostly built by eric bowker and marc stannard. a truckload of sponsors and volunteers will be making the race run, and while i do not know yet to what jobs eric will assign me come race weekend, i have been very busy making accurate course maps and GPS data files so that racers and spectators can look at the maps and also download the files onto whatever devices they are using.

this helps the riders in their course inspection and study, and it helps the spectators know where they want to stand.

it's also important for the UCI officials who will come in a day or two to have the map for course inspection. there are rather a lot of rules.

so here's my fully annotated map of the course. isn't it pretty?

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

how's your clean logic?

i notice that more and more the toilet paper i buy is cheaper, flimsier, and more expensive.

but toilet paper commercials have now moved on to selling us expensive stuff we don't even need.

i mean seriously.

my asshole just doesn't need to be that clean all the time. sure, i wipe it off and once a day i give it a good cleaning while i'm in the shower, but nobody is going to inspect it, i'm not going to put it on the furniture, and i'm not preparing or serving food with it.

in fact, not only is it going to stay hidden away in my pants, but it's snugly nestled out of sight and away from accidental reach deep between my ass cheeks.

so no, i do not need expensive, space hogging, landfill-using manufactured merchandised stuff to improve my "care routine" and i do not need a greedy money-grubbing corporation to start selling me substandard toilet paper that doesn't work as well just to help shame me into buying more stuff that i can't afford, either for my budget, or for the budget of how much stuff we can cram into landfills.

if i'm doing a colonoscopy prep or have an injury or something i might need and use some kind of wet wipe but i really resent the trend in industry to oversell to an already strapped american population.

my asshole is clean enough, thank you. and cottonelle, you're just assholes.

all the way down.

Monday, July 29, 2013

bike up ricker

last monday i had a little bike adventure. i told you about the injury, but not the awesome adventure.

it takes longer to tell you about the adventure, because i have to assemble pictures and videos to show you.

and granted, there are pictures of the injury, but i am NOT showing you those. while the wound and the bruises were kind of awesome and the kind of thing you might WANT to show all your friends, in all of the pictures those are most definitely, obviously squishy bits no mater how you crop the frame.

so the photos of that are just for my personal reference.

but there are photos of the adventure! and video! and that all takes a little time to organize and sift through, so i'm finally ready to tell you about last monday.

see, i'm getting ready to do the bitter pill, which is an adventure race. a lot of adventure races are populated by fit little people who can just go out and traipse around on rough terrain for twelve hours and not think too terribly hard about it.

but i am not naturally athletic. to compound that, when i became very ill some years ago i also became very fat and although i'm only just chunky still, i have a bubble butt and thunder thighs and it is much harder to build conditioning than it is to lose conditioning and let's face it, i'm not getting any younger.

so what i lack in strength and ability i have to make up in preparation and planning. i will finish that race if i use my skills and resources well.

part of that is course recon and map study (which i will go on at length about later) but part of it is just wearing the pack for a lot of hours and spending hours on the bike and on foot and just getting used to it. part of it is just doing a lot of climbing, on foot and on the bike.

with the pack.

early in the dayit is possible (and last monday i thought it was likely) that the course will go up the BVAR (that's Bolton Valley Access Road for all you foreigners) and up ricker mountain by way of the ski trails.

and even if the course doesn't go there, that would be an excellent training ride, because nothing on the course will be much harder than that.

it can't be. the terrain won't allow it. there are some bigger hills, but you can't ride your bike up them.

awesome plan, right?

but flask, you might be thinking. what if the ski trails are too rough for you to ride? won't you have to carry your bike up a very steep hill?

why, yes. the race will include a good deal of hike-a-bike (which is code for "the terrain is too rough for you to ride, but you will still have your bike with you"), so i am PLANNING on having to do this. it's good practice. i am thinking early in the day that maybe if i get to the top of vista peak i will hang a left and hike-a-bike over to the ricker summit, just for training purposes.

and i think maybe if i happen to be in the neighborhood i will scoop up that geocache that i STILL haven't found, but i'm not counting on it because it's an ambitious project already.

so i start out at the bottom of the BVAR with my pack and everything and at first i'm thinking what a lovely ride it will be and then i hit the first steep grade.
i simply revise my expectations.

it is going to be a slow, ugly slog and i'll be happy to make it to the top of the road.

view from sherman's passbut then i get to the top of the road and i'm feeling jaunty so i decide to try going up the mountain because, hey, it's a MOUNTAIN bike, right? amirite? who's with me?
and it turns out that riding up the mountain with the pack and everything isn't all as difficult as it could have been and i felt pretty good, considering, so i just kept going, although i was making a LOT of mental notes about the relative dangers of the terrain on the way down and beginning to experience some anxiety about that.

steep terrain + sharp rocks = scary

but then i was on the long flat part of sherman's pass and really, once you've made it that far there's no point in not going all the way to the top and once you're at the summit of vista you might as well just take the hike-a-bike over to ricker summit because you're so close; why NOT go look for that cache?

now, see, the walk over from vista peak to ricker summit is difficult in winter but in summer (particularly a wet summer) it is a wonderland of wild vegetation, sharp rocks, and bottomless mud suckholes-of-doom. what i have since learned is that crews servicing the communications towers up there are frequently injured on the trip and that they will sometimes put off non-emergency maintenance for MONTHS waiting for better conditions.

but parts of it looked entirely rideable to me, and this is where i made THE MISTAKE.

i was riding a little part of it between suckholes and looking at the upcoming suckhole and slowing down and thinking about where i wanted to foot down and all of a sudden i was going down -hard- onto a rock on my left.

but oh, no. i was not simply falling to the left first.

first my front wheel was going to come to an immediate stop and i, carrying a good deal of inertia, was going to slam into the top tube, which was rebounding toward me thanks to modern shock technology.

imagine, if you will, having someone swing an aluminum bar with deadly aim right into your crotch.

for two or three minutes i simply lay on the ground howling.

there was no one to whom i could express my pain; it was the involuntary howling of a beast.

and when i finally gathered my wits about me, i stood up and said simply well. that would have killed a man. it gave me precious little comfort to know that having been born sans Y chromosome meant that i was going to get out of this without a trip to the emergency room.

but did i turn around and start for home? no, i did not.

very carefully and gingerly i started to walk it off, in the direction of the summit.

i thought about what good practice this would be for race day. i thought about testicular injuries and how glad i was not to have taken that blow with a vulnerable testicle inside the damaged structure. i thought about whether or not blisters were forming on my feet. i thought about whether i had enough emergency gear to last me the night in case i didn't make it down. i kept imagining the summit to be "right around this next corner"

and of course, eventually, it was.
i was maybe 250 meters from it when i decided i was not having fun anymore and that maybe i should turn around and go home, but then i thought: that cache. i want to find that cache and not have to come back up here.

the winter trips were fun and all that, but i am not getting any younger and maybe this is hard for you to understand but the pain of having to jam my left foot into a ski boot that's not all warmed up is a pain i can very much do without. the first time i did it, it was a surprise but i was on a mountain top and it was ten degrees out and i HAD to do it. by the second time i did it, i had forgotten how painful it had been.

but now, in my pain i was remembering clearly how much my left foot does not bend where it needs to to slide into a ski boot and i was thinking that i maybe do not ever want to have to plan for that pain again.

it's nonsense, of course. later on i will plan to do things just as painful, but i will plan them from home where i am comfortable and rested.

my lost ski pass!so i get to where the cache is supposed to be, and i can't get a good view of the spot so i step down off of the summit and -well, look over there!- is it?

why, yes, it is.
it is my lost ski pass, the one i had replaced after the first time i was here in winter and the nice lady at the desk thought if i had lost it during the day maybe someone would turn it in and i said i din't think so because if i had to guess where i  lost it, it would have been while i was butt-up in a snowbank at the top of ricker.

oh. you were up there? she said.
yes, i was.
yeah, probably nobody will turn that in, she giggled.

so there it was. just lying where i thought i had probably lost it.

and then kind of anticlimactically, i found the cache.

view from cacheit is um, interesting to note that in the video where i think i am feeling and looking all triumphant and happy, in fact i look ENRAGED.

i can only ascribe this to the extreme pain i was in.

and fear.

i was afraid of the ride down. the ride down was going to be frightening enough if i had been fresh and strong and NOT injured, and the prospect of a steep mountain descent on loose pointy rocks in extreme fatigue and pain was the most daunting thing about the whole day.

so i made the walk back, and i made the ride down, passing one young man pissing off to the side of a mountaintop trail as if he were the only one on it, a young man who exclaimed approvingly MOUNTAIN BIKE! as i passed. i decided to go down by way of swing and work road, in case they would maybe be a gentler descent, with less technical bike handling required.

i got down to my car and fatigue hit me in big giant rolling waves and i got myself home and in a shower, which is where i discovered, suddenly, the torn flesh at the squishy bits, and i got myself dinner and i put a good ginger beer into me along with one o' them rehydration drinks and then i got to bed.

grim determination i smile, walking around these days, because i know i am way more awesome than i look.

i look like a dumpy little middle aged lady, but i am a BEAST who rides a bike up ricker mountain.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

on the trail, with my pack

bit by bit i'm going through all my pictures and video. do not expect them in any kind of sensible order,  please.

this is a little video of me out on a wide flat trail at catamount with my pack. since the day i shot this, the weight of the pack has doubled, and i'm working more advanced terrain.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

put down your coffee before you look at this.

last sunday i went out with a 2/3 full pack and did four hours of nav practice on foot.

here is a picture of me in full geek ensemble, complete with super-goofy face.

there. isn't that awesome?

why, yes, i DID need a bug hat.

Friday, July 26, 2013

ass kissing

he just comes and looks at your ice cream
william, just looking
william, i suppose, more strictly belongs in the petting paddock at allenholm farm, but he wanders at will around the parking lot and porch because he seems to enjoy hanging out with people. he doesn't mind if you get up on his back, not even if you are a grownup. and while he doesn't so much beg, he will come and look over your shoulder at whatever you are eating and you'd best not set your ice cream down and leave it unattended because unattended food belongs to the donkey.

you can kiss william right on the lips, too, but you'd better have a peppermint candy in your teeth. do NOT ask me why anyone wants to do this, but diana did it TWICE.
left to right: ray, william, diana
diana seated on william

allenholm is a real working farm but these days it gets harder and harder to make a small family farm work and pam and ray are making it work with the help of tourist dollars. they're on a popular bike route, and they serve refreshments at the farm store. they aren't always serving the exceptionally fine apple pie, but you can always get one to take home and bake yourself if you have the cargo space.

last saturday they weren't serving the pie, which is how i came to be introduced to the maple float. oh, my goodness! why was i not aware that such a thing existed? it's not on the menu, but when you buy your maple creemee tell them you're making a float and they know right what you're talking about and put it in a right-sized cup.

artist paula bradley touches up a bench
you go to the freezer and buy a maple soda and pour it in there with the ice cream and it is so good you get the feeling your life is now complete.

and a word about maple creemees: i style myself something of an expert on the maple creemee in vermont. you're always hearing from this or that person that some local stand has the best maple creemee in the state and pretty much the standard to which i hold them all up is the maple creemee at morse farm.

get the maple float
the maple float
so before i make my float out of the allenholm creemee i have an obligation (it's research!) to critically taste this creemee and see how it stacks up.

it is every bit as fine, and i don't notice a difference. so now there are two creemeee stands sitting as gold standards.

here's the thing about maple: good maple, made with care, tastes pretty much the same regardless what sugarbush it comes from. and in terms of creemees, what makes one stand out over another is the quality of the custard mix and the quantity of maple that goes into it.

your perfect maple creemee starts out with a high quality high-butterfat content mix and what gets added is a whole LOT of grade B maple. there is no getting around it and there is no cutting corners.

the maple float is so mind-bendingly good that i sit in one of the chairs on the porch and if prompted even slightly i tell people who only got the maple creemee that they have made an error and they must go back and do it properly, with the float.

next time you're near there, go have a visit with the allens. sit on the porch and have the maple float. the whole world will be better for it.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

saturday on the casueway

a week ago last saturday i went with my friend diana to ride the burlington bikepath and up into the champlain islands.

this is an extremely festive and beautiful ride because it involves riding out across the old railroad causeway and across the gap by way of the bike ferry and, well, it's just really pretty.  and fun. 

here's our route:

and some pretty pictures:

here's diana's video about the causeway:

tomorrow, i think, i will make a separate post about allenholm farm.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

squished bits

today i had a real bona fide adventure and i have nice photos but right now i'm just too distracted by the pain which is creeping up on me. it is going to be a bumpy night.

today i decided to go for a little bike ride.

i rode up the bolton valley access road, a roughly four and a half mile ride with approximately eighteen hundred feet elevation gain.

you know, just for giggles.

and then i decided to ride up the actual mountain because, you know, it's a mountain bike. so that's another mile and a half with nearly a thousand feet elevation gain.

and i am wearing a 20 pound pack.

so then from the top i decide to do a little light geocaching and draaaaaag my bike across another 3/4 miles of rough terrain and that's where i got into trouble.

i took a little biff and it totally wouldn't have been a bad fall at all except that i fell with my full weight and the additional weight of my pack with my squishy bits on the top tube.

for several minutes all i could do was lie on the ground and howl with pain.

there's a lot in the public sphere of knowledge about how much it hurts to get kicked in the balls.

what many people (gentlemen especially) do not take the time to consider is that  there's a point in fetal development when the y chromosome works its magic and a little nub of flesh becomes scrota. those of us without y chromosomes still have that homologous structure and it still has just as many nerve endings. it's smaller and less exposed but a good smack to it will make you re-evaluate very sharply how your week is shaping up.

so to recap: i have just taken a concentrated blow with a narrow object (my top tube) to this very point of anatomy with sufficient force as to tear the flesh open for a little over a centimeter. i did not bother to take of my shorts to check it, though. the compression of bike shorts helps keep in check the swelling and sometimes you really don't want to know how bad that's going to be until you get home.

so i got back on my bike and rode it.

i didn't have a choice, really. when you head off into the wilderness and you get a boo-boo you have to get your pretty little self out the way you came unless you are hurt bad enough to scramble a rescue squad.

i've been home a couple of hours and i can tell this is not going to be a restful night.

the pain is creeping up on me. there's going to be ice packs and NSAIDS and not a lot of sleeping. tomorrow the bruising will be more evident, but maybe the swelling will have gone down.

one can hope.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

response to peg

normally i'd just put the responses to the comments in the comment section, but i suspect there are going to be rather a lot of words, so i'm just making a post of them.

if you'd like to be all caught up on the conversation, you can start here.

part the first: in the video you don't see much of barb's crankiness any more than you see my constant complaining that i have not pooped enough to be comfortable.

suffice it to say that over a period of four days that tollbooth was the subject of several hours of discussion.

barb was mostly upset that when we got on the road there was no sign that eventually a toll would be collected and that by the time we knew there was going to be a toll we were ONLY TWO EXITS AWAY, plus where do they get off charging toll for THAT road when it doesn't even do anything special but it's out in the middle of nowhere?

i tried to suggest that maybe two exits was proper advance notice that a road was going to be a toll road later on, but barb was having none of it.

did you want them to put up a sign the second we got into new brunswick that there might be a toll section three or four hours along? should they notify anyone getting on the highway at any point to travel any distance that somewhere along the way there MIGHT be a toll booth?

furthermore, when you get on interstate 87 crossing from canada, nobody bothers to put up a sign warning motorists that there's going to be tolls charged when they get to albany three hours down the road.

i suggested that this toll booth out in the middle of nowhere was actually a great move on the part of the highway people in that most of the people paying the toll are long range users of the road and not the locals going about their daily business. it makes sense to pick a nowhere section of road and charge toll on it.

but barb wasn't having any of it.

it was a main topic of conversation for DAYS. this would not have surprised me had it been, say, my grandfather sitting in the car next to me, but barb is usually much more easygoing and comes equipped with an understanding of how things are done.

so. cranky.

part the second: yankee doodle makes perfect sense in this context when you realize that yankee doodle was originally a british song intended to poke fun at the colonials for their backwardness. it was subsequently adopted by the colonials as an anthem of "oh, yeah? we may be backward, but we are kicking your butt. how do you like us NOW?"

so it may be used effectively by canadian reenactors as both friendly gesture AND snarky commentary.



Monday, July 22, 2013

artistic advice

no matter how cool and arty you think it's gonna be to line up your banana peels from every day and take a picture of them, you will have second thoughts on the third day you have ninety degree weather and 45% humidity.

plus fruitflies.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

fun for the ladies

ok, here's a fun little exercise all you ladies can do!

take a little segment of rubber band, about a centimeter and a half long.

ok, now choose a spot along one of the inner sets of your squishy bits and prep the site real well with an alcohol swab or something and let it air dry.

are you still with me?


now superglue that little piece of rubberband right there and when it's good and attached, go about your daily business.

only make sure your daily business includes a couple of hours of bicycle riding.

when you're ready to have it removed, be told that the earliest available date is eight weeks from now.


skin tags, even big ones: not medically a big deal.


location, location, location.


so here's a funny little story: when you're at the doctor's, they ask you how you came to notice the thing the visit was about.

"well, i was taking pictures of this really big bruise on my butt, because i wanted to see it and it's just easier to take a picture and i've been riding a LOT lately and have this irritation and i thought as long as i was taking pantsless photographs, i might as well see if i have bruising or saddle sores, you know, to check on that discomfort and see if i need to do anything about it... and when i saw the picture i was all like JESUS CHRIST! WHAT'S THAT THING?!?!? i am pretty sure THAT thing does not belong there."

Saturday, July 20, 2013

things that go bump

i was out riding wearing my big honkin' pack and things were going really well until the point at which, on an easy trail not going particularly fast, i simply fell over.

 it happens sometimes. here's a thing a lot of people do not know about falling from bicycles: the slower you are moving, the more it generally hurts.


because when you are moving, you might bounce or skid. when you are moving slowly or not at all, you simply fall directly with your full weight (and the weight of your gear) right onto the ground.

i happened to have fallen so that a sticky-up rock was right under my left thigh, just below the hip. it's a good wide muscle to land on if you're going to go down, but the sticky-up rock kind of makes what i'll call a "pressure point" and it was a few minutes of really stunning, spinning, subsuming pain.

everything's all ok, now, and i have this cute little bruise to show for it. oh. by "cute little", i mean "it's three and a half inches across".

Thursday, July 18, 2013

pack training

it's been official for about a week now: barb and i are going to race in the bitter pill, which will be my first adventure race.

i have just begun pack training.

let's start at the beginning, shall we?

i'm not naturally athletic. i was a skinny, scrawny kid with no concept of how to throw a ball or where to run or any of the things kids kind of normally do. it's not that i didn't enjoy sporting activities; i simply have no aptitude.

i'm pretty good with endurance, though. when i was a tiny slip of a thing i learned to sail in a sunfish and my parents, wisely, thought it best i not take the boat out by myself unless i'd demonstrated that i could swim the width of the lake.

my little five-year-old-self was OUTRAGED.

well, i'll show THEM, i thought. i will swim the LENGTH of this thing.

so i did.

and in my early teens i took up backpacking and if you have been following my story for more than ten minutes you know that i am always going off to some wacky adventure or something.

bitter pill is a race suitable for first timers, and i have begun my training in earnest. by "training", i mean the part of the work you do in preparation for a specific event and not just the miles of running or biking or what-have you that you rack up just because.

i have to think carefully about my gear because i have some limitations in what kind of shoes i HAVE to wear on account of all the arthritis damage/ bone spurs in my left foot, and i don't compensate too well because of my general failure to have a full set of connective tissue in either knee, so going minimalist with shoes is not an option, nor is going without poles.

but whatever you carry for one of these things is what you carry for the WHOLE thing except there's a place i think you can drop your PFD and maybe your helmet when you're not required to have it, but everything else stays with your pack and you have to carry it.

and back in the day we didn't just have to break in our hiking boots, but our bodies and the packs. it's like saddle conditioning when you start riding a bike in the spring.

a lot of people think they have an uncomfortable saddle because they're sore after their first few hours of riding but the truth is you have to get used to any piece of equipment that you're going to use a lot, especially if it bears weight.

your saddle area WILL be sore until you're conditioned to it. likewise with a pack. until you're used to it your shoulders and hips and every part of you that bears the weight of it will be SORE.

and if you're going to be on the racecourse for eight or ten or twelve hours, you WILL be sore.

one way you can minimize this is by pack conditioning. you start out with a light pack (getting progressively heavier) and you wear your pack every day. doing the laundry? wear your pack. going for a walk? wear your pack.

you are excused from wearing the pack in public because a person in a grocery store with a full pack just looks dorky.

but the more you wear your pack, the more it will fell natural on race day. plus the more you take it on and off and adjust it and unpack and repack it, the faster you will do those things when you have to on race day.

doesn't that sound like fun?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

vacation photos!

hey, that's me!i know, i know. you just LOVE other people's vacation photos.

i do; why shouldn't you?

later on i will tell you about where we went and stuff but for now here are some pretty pictures.

go on, go look at the whole set. tell me those young men in period uniform aren't dashing. just try.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

horse of a different color

i think i mentioned that i had been in a cemetery in varick, NY.

besides the fossil, i also found the headstones of two men i thought interesting enough to photograph at the time.

stinson mcduffeeone of the guys had a lot of stuff on his headstone, including his two infantry units, which i thought might reveal an interesting story, and the other guy was listed as a corporal on his plain stone and often those guys have field promotions and there is something to learn.

so, first the guy with the two infantry units.

it's kind of a stylish headstone, not the usual veteran's benefit issue.
and we already know more or less the regimental history of the 148th infantry, because that's lemuel and james cross's  unit, although not the same company. he mustered in on 28 december, 1863 and when the larger part of the regiment's term of service was up he was transferred to the 100th infantry for the remainder of his time and was mustered out with that unit on 28 august 1865.

McDUFFIE, STINSON H.—Age, 18 years. Enlisted, December
26, 1803, at Varick, to serve three years; mustered in as private,
Co. D, December 28, 1863; transferred to One Hundredth Infantry, June 22, 1865.'

McDUFFEE , STINSON H.—Private, Co. D, One Hundred and
Forty-eighth Infantry; transferred to Co. G, this regiment,
June 23, 1865; mustered out with company, August 28, 1865, at
Richmond, Va.

the other guy, however, has kind of an interesting story. he is only listed on his headstone as a corporal, which may or may not be a political thing.

thomson barrickBARRICK, THOMPSON.—Age, 24 years. Enlisted, August 11,'
1862, at Albany, to serve three years; mustered in as corporal,
Co. E, September 25, 1862; wounded in action, July 2, 1863,
at Gettysburg, Pa.; discharged, March 26, 1864, to accept commission as first lieutenant in U. S. Colored Troops.

the 44th NY infantry regiment was formed as "ellsworth's avengers", and it's worth looking up who elmer ellsworth was. it's interesting, though, this sense of indignation that a soldier on our side might be killed in a war and have to be specifically avenged.

i think this is the same instinct that causes us in modern day to call everyone who is against us "terrorists".

new company E of the the regiment was formed primarily of students and graduates of the new york normal school, a predecessor of SUNY albany.

three men of this regiment were commissioned officers of US Colored Troops and it will be worth your time to read this article on the formation of those units and the obstacles they faced.

there's a photograph of the staff of this regiment, the white officers and in the background some of the black soldiers, and although the men are not identified beyond being the staff of the 39th USCT, it is likely that one of the lieutenants in this photo is thompson barrick.

so thompson barrick's headstone only bothers to list his service and rank with the normal school regiment and not his service or rank with the USCT.

paperwork oversight? political expedience? racial bias?

i don't know.

Monday, July 15, 2013

the US in the international sphere: a short story

so, like, there was this country that we were all mad at because of some mean things they did, some of which we TOTALLY did not deserve so we decided to go liberate a second, different country from its oppressors without even asking them if they wanted to be set free and join our club and there was a whole war about it and everything.

(does this sound familiar? it should.)

so this second country, the one that didn't want to be "liberated" from from the first one because they were totally fine with it and everything, they came over here and burned down the white house and in the end we decided to put that one in the "win" column in all our schoolbooks and stuff, which only makes that second country giggle when we say it.

(yes, i am talking about canada.)

if you spend any time at all in halifax, it's hard not to notice that the entire history of the city is kind of built up on the idea of defending canada from INVASION but since haligonians are, after all, canadian, they are fairly polite in the way they talk about the need to protect canada from invasion but don't dwell on the fact that the country they needed to protect themselves FROM was the US and boy, there sure are a lot of stupid american tourists wandering around up there who don't seem to realize it.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

crossing over

william h. cross and lucy boardman married and had seven children; six sons and a daughter.

no, no, no. ok, wait. i was GOING to say that, but then i was checking facts and i discovered they had a TRUCKLOAD of kids. thirteen or fourteen of them. i say thirteen OR fourteen, because there appears to be an emma l. cross born in 1838 and an emma s. cross born in 1851.


barely a month after the civil war broke out, the second son, amos, 24 years old, enlisted in the army at seneca falls, new york. he was mustered into company K, 33d NY infantry on may fifth, 1861.

the 33d infantry for a time was mostly employed in northern virginia building forts and bridges and was engaged in some small skirmishes with no casualties.

in september of 1861 amos's father, william h. cross sr., went to the enlistment office in seneca falls and signed up, mustering in two days later on september 18th with company K, 50th NY infantry. william's service record states a muster in of september 28, but the regimental histories all give the muster in for that company as the 18th AND the unit left for training in washington on the 20th.

it is maybe a lot to assume, but a man forty-three years old with a wife and children still at home is unlikely to run off early to join that war unless he has strong feelings about union, or abolition. the draft hadn't been started yet, and if it had he would have been low on the list because of his age and family.

william's unit arrives in washington a few days before amos's unit, the 33d infantry, sees its first small skirmish. the unit takes no casualties, and moves to its winter quarters in camps outside lewinsville, VA.

on october 22d a special order of the war department redesignates william's unit a unit of engineers, and they begin specialized training in construction and demolition. engineers typically did not come back from war all covered with "glory" and their regimental histories are comparatively dull reading, but if the army needed a road to travel, the engineers went and built it, sometimes under fire. if a river needed crossing, the engineers went and built a bridge, often while being shelled. and in the rare moments where they weren't needed to build or dig or mine, they could be pressed into service as regular infantrymen.

here's a nice essay on the general history of engineers in the civil war, if you're interested, and it does touch on william's unit and their recruitment.

through the fall and winter of 1861 the 50th engineers are busy with bridges, forts, earthworks and escort duty. they are attached variously as needed to different battles and projects.

meanwhile the 33d infantry is involved in a series of small battles and skirmishes, and still have no casualties. so far it's still a pretty good war for them.

in the spring of 1862 the war hots up a little bit and both the 33d infantry and the 50th engineers are involved in the month-long siege of yorktown VA and still neither unit sees any casualties until the 33d engineers take their first casualties at the battle of willliamstown, where 3 are killed and 7 wounded.

i'd like to pause here and tell you that in the adjutant general's reports they make a distinction between "killed" and "mortally wounded", and they make a point of counting dead officers separately from dead enlisted men. for my purposes they are all dead the same. i have grouped the totals for the telling of this story simply as dead, wounded, and missing.

after yorktown the 50th engineers are still sent in detachments to various places they are needed, but in may they are also building and maintaining at white house landing, VA one of the union army's largest supply depots.

the 33d infantry fight at mechanicsville and are involved in the seven days' fighting. the 50th, according to their service record, transport the army across the chickahominy on 1 june. it doesn't take much detective work to figure out that this is the battle of seven pines.

according to record, the 50th engineers take no casualties in that operation, but on 12 june william is discharged from the army for disability from fairfax seminary hospital. it is hard to know exactly why a soldier becomes disabled; we can only guess based on the action of his unit and the place from which he is discharged.

we know that roughly 2/3 of civil war fatalities were from disease and not battle, but for a sick soldier to be sent to a hospital he had to be very, very sick and even cholera or typhoid didn't get you discharged. if you lived, you went back to the war.

so i'm going to take a flyer and say that when william is sent to the fairfax seminary hospital, he is injured. somehow it just makes sense that a man in his mid forties doing heavy labor under fire might have been injured too severely to continue that work, or to continue soldiering at all.

so they sent him home.

he's not so disabled that it puts much of a dent in his fathering of children. after the war there are three more cross children born.

that i know of.

on saturday 9 august 1862 james cross enlists at seneca falls and the following tuesday lemuel follows suit. james is 21 years old and apparently single, but lemuel is 23 and already has two young children.

it's here that i run into my first real problem in the sequence of the story. if i were writing historical fiction, i would just have to pick one version of the story and tell you that. but there's a change of mood here and how these men moved in their world changes depending on which date is the true one.

what we know for certain is that amos cross dies. we know where he dies, and we have two sources that give conflicting dates.

the headstone under which he is buried tells us that he died on 11 september 1862 in newark, NJ. if this is true, he dies between the time his brothers enlist and when they are mustered in. if it is true, we also have no good explanation for how he comes to be evacuated, by train, to (probably) ward hospital in newark. they typically didn't bring guys there if they had a little  wound that was going to heal up fine. it was largely a huge depot where men with horrific injuries were treated until they died or could be sent home.

so i'm going to tell you that i think the headstone date is incorrect, and that he fights with the 33d infantry in the battle of crampton's gap on 14 september, which is coincidentally the same day his brothers james and lemuel are mustered into company A, 148th NY infantry.

in the next week, on 17 september, the 33d infantry suffers serious losses at antietam. the 33d infantry is right in the thick of the fighting, and 9 men are killed, and 38 wounded. two men of the unit are awarded the medal of honor for their courage.

it makes sense to me, then, to think that amos is wounded here and eventually shipped to ward hospital.

five days after the battle of antietam on the 22d of september the 148th infantry, with james and lemuel, leaves new york and takes up garrison duty in suffolk, VA.

by october the 148th infantry has garrison duty in norfolk.

amos dies in ward hospital, newark, NJ  on 11 november 1862.

in 1863, asa cross is 28 years old and living in rochester, probably with a wife and possibly a child. he enlists in the army in rochester on 6 june and on the 21st musters into the 11th NY artillery, later designated M company, 4th heavy artillery.

george cross is 21 years old and on 30 april 1863 he enlists and is also mustered into the 11th Ny artillery on 6 june.

the 11th artillery has an interesting history, and a whitewashed one. you should compare the regimental histories with the newspaper clippings.

on 1 july the 11th artillery is involved in the shelling at carlisle PA, a small skirmish that delays confederate troops on their way to gettysburg.

13 july the unit is sent by train to new york to put down the draft riots. on 25 july an order of the war department redesginates four companies of the 11th artillery as new companies of the 4th heavy artillery. asa and george are among those men who are transferred.

in october 1863 james and lemuel move with the 148th infantry to yorktown for garrison duty there. on 18 november they have their first small skirmish at gwynn's island. there are no casualties in their unit.

on 6 may 1864, the second day of the battle of wilderness, asa cross is reported MIA. the adjutant general's report says he is never heard of again. later on there will be clues of what happened to him, but not yet.

starting on 9 may 1864 the 148th infantry begins to fight the bermuda hundred campaign. during this three weeks the unit has 20 men killed, 47 wounded, and 2 missing. they move on immediately to a skirmish at white house (near the supply depot), a precursor to joining the battle of cold harbor on 1 june. the battle goes on until 12 june, but the heaviest of the fighting is on 3 june.

the 148th infantry has 36 killed, 86 wounded, and 2 missing. lemuel is among the wounded. we don't know when, but he returns to his unit and the active duty later.

on the tenth of may the 4th heavy artillery enters the spotsylvania courthouse campaign. somewhere between here and the end of the war george is wounded, but since no date is given and because he is discharged for disability very late in the war, i am going to write this story as if he is wounded nearer the end of the war than now, but the truth is he could be wounded and spend the rest of the war in a hospital at any time from here forward.

during the month of may the 4th heavy artillery marches and fights its way toward cold harbor where the 148th infantry will also be fighting. both units sustain moderate casualties.

three days after cold harbor, on the 15th of june,  the both the 4th heavy artillery and the 148th infantry are among the units fighting in the petersburg assault. james cross, along with 23 other men from this unit, is taken prisoner. it is probable that lemuel is not among the captured because of his wounding at cold harbor.

it's easy to forget completely that a sixth brother, norman, also enlisted in the army, but i am unable to find his service record. there's at least one source that says norman came back from the war, but none i can find that record his actual service.

a possible explanation for this is that his service record is simply lost. that's not unheard of, but i think it probably has more to do with him being underage. in 1864 he would have been fifteen years old, and depending on where and when they signed up and tried to serve, fifteen year old boys were either kept on or sent home.

there are some other things we simply don't know. lemuel's 1927 obituary says two brothers "starved to death in libbyville prison", but although at this moment we know one brother is missing and a second is captive, it is unlikely that either starved in libby prison. and there are problems with the idea that "another was never heard from after the war ended".

it's possible that the obit is just plain wrong, that one brother died at newark and two starved to death in prison, but we know mostly what happened to james and we know at least how amos's life ended.

we never do find out what happened to asa after wilderness. it is most likely that he is the brother never heard from again. his service record supports this. if there really are two brothers who starve to death in prison, they would have to be james and amos.

but we already know that amos dies at ward hospital in newark.

although i have told the story as if amos survives with his unit as far as antietam, it is possible that he is among the 20 missing men from the seven days fighting. it is possible he was taken prisoner then. prisoner exchanges were still taking place in 1862 and if he was starved in prison, he may have died after he was paroled and transferred to newark.

it is sadly not unusual for the paroled prisoners to die after they are home of the starvation they endured while in prison.

we can almost certainly dispense with the idea that either brother starved in libby prison. libby prison was for the most part the main processing center for union prisoners in the eastern theater. nearly every captured union soldier passed through libby prison, but was sent to another prison for the remainder of his incarceration. officers were kept in libby prison, and all the rest sent on.

but it was common to say someone had starved in libby; it was kind of a shorthand of the time and libby was famously used in memoirs by veteran prisoners who could not until 1890 receive benefits unless they could show that their imprisonment had made them disabled.

there was a profusion of libby prison memoirs.

what happened to james is somewhat clearer. after his capture on 15 june 1864 he probably was processed at libby. his service record states that he died at florence stockade with no date given. the date of death given on his headstone is 16 september 1864, but i think it's a fabricated death date for the sake of having something to put on the headstone. i'll get back to that later.

florence stockade started taking in its first prisoners three days after construction began on it on 12 september. in order for james to have been there at all, he would have had to have been transferred from another prison since he had been in custody since 15 june.

in fact, many of the first prisoners at florence stockade had been moved from andersonville. when it was feared that union forces might take andersonville, a large number of the prisoners were moved to florence. those who were too sick to make the trip were left behind.

so while james may have been intended for transfer to florence stockade, there is a record of his death at andersonville on 13 september 1864.

here, not for the squeamish, is a photo of a federal prisoner after his release.

it is possible and even likely that the cross family did not learn the date and place of james' death until after they had erected the monument to mark their three dead sons. amos' death date is given because it is more or less known. for both james and asa the date is given as 16 september 1864 even though we know this is an incorrect date for james, and there is no information at all about asa.

so they just picked one.

meanwhile, lemuel cross, still with the 148th infantry is still on the field until the end of the war. george cross, as i have mentioned earlier, is probably also still on the field through the end of the war.

lemuel is present at chaffin's farm, and at second fair oaks. he is there when petersburg finally falls on 2 april 1865. he is there to chase lee's army all the way to appomattox courthouse.

george's unit is active in another wing of the chase to appomattox; it fights nine more battles including weldon railroad where it 38 of the men are killed and 66 are wounded, and ream's station, where 21 are killed, 28 wounded, and a whopping 316 go missing.

george cross is discharged for disability on 25 july 1865 three months after the war ends, but three months before the rest of the 4th heavy artillery musters out.

lemuel b. cross musters out with the 148th infantry on 22 june 1865 at richmond VA.

he returns home to his wife margaret and their children. he is active and well liked in the community. he owns the first automobile in seneca county, and in 1920 he rides in an airplane.

but he never, ever misses a GAR reunion, not until the year he dies.

the local GAR post, when it is chartered in 1868, is named james and lemuel cross post #78, probably because you can't name a post "james and lemuel and amos and asa and william and george and even norman cross post".

here's my timeline of the cross family's civil war service:

and here's my annotated map:

View crosses to bear in a larger map

Saturday, July 13, 2013

box of eggs

sometimes when you get eggs from my chicken lady, you notice that each egg is labeled by the date it was laid.

sometimes it is even labeled by the chicken who laid it.

homer is a special chicken, kind of close to being a housepet.

Friday, July 12, 2013

you all look alike to me...

the other day i ran into one of my neighborhood kids out in the driveway and i wanted to ask 'hey was that you that did that run thing last week? how did that go?"

but she's one of the black kids and i didn't want to look like that lame-assed white lady who can't tell the difference between one black kid and another.

the truth is that i can't tell the difference between the white kids, either.

i wouldn't have hesitated to say it to a white kid and have the kid say, no, that was someone else.

to me they're all "that kid with the nice bike" or" those kids with the basketballs" or "that kid who never wears a helmet on his scooter"

without his scooter, i have no idea who he is. likewise the kid with the nice bike. if he's ON the bike, i know which kid he is. even if he's on some other kid's bike i can sometimes pick him out because he is the best rider in the neighborhood.

i can figure out pretty quick which kids are black and which ones are white because that's a pretty obvious visual indicator (my neighborhood has no light brown people) and if you line 'em all up i can sort 'em by height.

but pretty much they all look like kids to me.

i also can't identify by sight any of the grownups in my neighborhood, either. some of their cars, i recognize. my neighbor with the back problems, i know by his walk. motorcycle guy is only recognizable to me when he is with his motorcycle. the people with the aged german shepherd? i have no idea what they themselves look like, unless they're with their dog.

but i didn't want to say "oh. must have been some other kid."


you all look alike.

how could i explain?

without sounding really lame?

Thursday, July 11, 2013

end of the campaign

hello, people nearly two weeks in the future.

i've been working on my posts about the cross family in the civil war, and also some other things and i've just been letting my posts run out ahead of me because later this week (my time) i'm going on a short vacation to nova scotia and i may not have internet access at all.

so it's the afternoon of 1 july and i have been sitting here at my desk for many hours over many days trying to sort out where the cross family was during the civil war, or at least the men of the cross family who fought in that war.

you know, because i happened to have walked by their headstones two months ago.

and i thought: wow. there are some stories there.

and there are.

but i can't just look up a few facts and figures to tell you the story, and i'm not in the habit of writing historical fiction. so to sort out all the threads and tell you about this one family i hadda make a huge detailed timeline and map, with every movement reported in all of their service records.

and i don't want to give too much of a spolier, i guess, not all of those guys make it to the end of the war.

so after painstakingly going through all the maps and placing them best i could according to the records and following them from muster in to the one muster out, i'm looking at a map of appomattox courthouse and suddenly i have a much keener appreciation for the weariness of the men.

just sitting at my desk assembling the details of these few threads a feeling of relief and sorrow washes over me and i don't know what to do but cry.

i was in appomattox courthouse, once.

ok, twice.

the same week.

i was in pretty rough shape and i'm driving around that first time, looking for a safe place to stay and i come into town and it all looks very strangely familiar and i cannot figure why i have seen this before but then i realize: THE PHOTOGRAPHS.

i have seen all those photographs of appomattox courthouse and there it is, looming up out of the dusk at me.

some days later i went back on purpose, doing a civil war battlefield tour which you might think is a questionable move for an emotionally fragile person far from home, but it was an interesting thing, and an absorbing thing and it's what i would have been doing if i had been in better shape.

and i didn't mean to talk of it except when i was there i went to visit the cemeteries, both the union and confederate.

i took some pictures.

and i think now, all this time later, i will wish to show them to you.

so i'll put that on my list.

right now, (now, present my time, two thirty in the afternoon on the 1st of july) i'm going to go take care of the laundry and think about maybe a bike ride and in an hour or two i'll start to try to assemble for you the story of the crosses.

later on maybe i'll make banana-mango bread. i'll pack for my trip.

but right now i am looking at the map of appomattox courthouse, and

nope, i'm not going to finish that sentence.


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

unexpected results

some weeks ago i was yelled at by a very angry man because i was making too much noise and he was having difficulty sleeping after having worked a night shift.

he opened the conversation by shouting loudly, making threats that were colorful and suggestions for activities that would be anatomically impossible.

but the thing was there: i had been noisy. and he was cranky.

so i said i get it. ok.

and he continued to yell at me, embellishing both threats and suggestions.

ok, i said.

there was a great deal more shouting, after each installment i simply and quietly said ok.

and after a while, the man just looked really confused, grumbled a few more hostile things and went about his business.

i do not know what he was expecting from me, but apparently quiet acquiescence was not part of how he imagined the course of the conversation. he had all this ANGRY to express and my instant capitulation i think simply did not fit his expectations.

he was confused.

here's sort of how it goes:

i understand. ok.
i am going to grumble some things now so i will feel i had the last word.


Tuesday, July 09, 2013

cross roads

earlier i started telling the story of the cross family in the american civil war, but ended up writing a whole post on just tracking down who was whom in that field.

i was going to pick up here in the narrative by saying that william h. cross married lucy and that they had seven children, but then i thought i'd toss in some parenthetical observations about lucy's place in this life, because the family headstone is kind of unusual for the era in that it gives her a lot of space.

it's more typical for women to be mentioned barely as an adjunct to whatever man she is buried with, as property of her father or of her husband.

but lucy is buried with her first and middle names, and the names of her parents are given, which i like to think indicates that she was thought of in her own time as a formidable and respected person. it isn't necessarily true, but carvings on headstones often indicate a lot about the importance of a person in the eyes of those paying the stonecarver.

so i thought: well, i'll just see if i can find anything about miss lucy and her parents, you know, just to see if there was going to be any support for my idea in the historical record.

right sideLUCY AMANDA
wife of wm. h. cross
& daughter of
deming & polly boardman

you will notice here that polly's name is given. (she's a crane, by the way, in case you want to look her up.)

so i looked up deming boardman, and it turns out that there's a truckload of guys named deming boardman, or "c. deming boardman" or some other first-initial-deming-boardman.

deming? is that even a thing?


it turns out that deming boardman came to central new york from his birthplace in ST. ALBANS, VERMONT (you know, near where i live?). his parents were elijah boardman and nancy DEMING.

so there's a familial culture of women who are not only important enough to be called by name, but their names can be transmitted.

this is where i was sort of going to go back to the original thread of the story, but along the way i found some newspaper articles you might find amusing.

your horse gone?

seneca falls excitement

these are but two of the many interesting records of demings boardman. if you're looking at that second one, the demings boardman come in pretty far down the column, but you should start reading at the top anyway.


Monday, July 08, 2013

open letter to motorists coming down bolton notch road

dear motorists coming down bolton notch road,

on my bicycle i am already egregiously in violation of the 35 MPH speed limit on a crooked gravel road.

you do NOT need to pass me.

you just don't.


Sunday, July 07, 2013

crosses to bear

cross family

in a back corner of the restvale cemtery in seneca falls ny stands a family monument with a line of those civil war era veteran headstones. this is the cross family, whose sons who went off to fight in the civil war and of whom three didn't come back.

these are the five that we know of because of these grave markers:

william sr.CROSS, WILLIAM H.—Age, 43 years. Enlisted, September 16,
1861, at Seneca Falls; mustered in as private, Co. K, September 28, 1861, to serve three years; discharged for disability, June 12,1862, at Fairfax Seminary, D.C.

regimental history, 50th Ny engineers

asaCROSS, ASA D.—Age, 28 years. Enlisted, June 6,1863, at Rochester; mustered in as private, Co. D, Eleventh Artillery, June 21, 1863, to serve three years, which became Co. M, this regiment, July 25, 1863; reported missing in action, May 6, 1864, at the Wilderness, Va., and at muster out of company; no further record.
regimental history, 4th heavy artillery


CROSS, AMES N.—Age, 24 years. Enlisted, May 18, 1861, at Seneca Falls, to serve two years; mustered in as private, Co. K, May 22, 1861; died, November 11, 1862, at Newark, N. J .

regimental history, 33d NY infantry

CROSS, LEMUEL B.—Age, 23 years. Enlisted, August 12, 1862, at Seneca Falls, to serve three years; mustered in as private, Co. A, September 14, 1862; wounded in action, June 3, 1864, at Cold Harbor, Va.; mustered out with company, June 22, 1865, at Richmond, Va.

CROSS, JAMES G.—Age, 21 years. Enlisted, August 9, 1862, at Seneca Falls, to serve three years; mustered in as private, Co. A, September 14, 1862; captured in action, June 15, 1864, near Petersburg, Va.; died, no date, at Florence, S. C.

regimental histories, 148th infantry

lemuel's obituary reads in part:

Full Masonic Funeral
Services for L.B. Cross
Seneca Falls, Aug. 24—The body
of Lemuel B. Cross. 89, who died
in Syracuse late Sunday following
several years illness was brought
here at noon today and taken to
Sanderson's Undertaking rooms
in State Street. Full Masonic ritualistic
funeral services in charge
of Pocahontas Lodge 211, F. & A. M.,
of which Mr. Cross
was the oldest member were held at
Sanderson's Undertaking rooms
at 2:30 o'clock this afternoon with
a Masonic burial In Restvale cemetery.
Mr. Cross was born in the town
of Tyre, six miles north of this
village and made his home here
for more than 80 years. Six years
ago, owing to falling health, he
moved to Syracuse to make his
home with his daughter, Mrs. Edward Kuney,
where he died sunday.
Mr. Cross was the owner of
Seneca County's first automobile
which created much curiosity as it
ran through the streets of the village.
He was a veteran of tho Civil
War and a member of Cross Post
78, G. A. R. serving during the
four years of the war with the
old 14Sth regiment, New York
Volunteer, in many of the major
battles of tho war. With his father
William H. Cross and five brothers,
Lemuel B. Cross enlisted at the beginning
of the war. He and his father and two brothers,
George and Norman, returned;  two other brothers
starved to death in Llbbyville Prison and another
was never heard from after the war ended.
Cross Post, 78, G. A. R. here
was named after the father and
six sons that enlisted for the war.

george cross's service record can be found in the roster of the 4th heavy artillery, along with asa:

CROSS, GEORGE M.—Age, 21 years. Enlisted, April 30, 1863,
at Seneca Falls; mustered in as private, Co. D, Eleventh Artillery, June 21, 1863, to serve three years, which became Co. M,
this regiment, July 25, 1863; wounded, date and place not stated; discharged for disability, July 25, 1865, at Harewood General Hospital, Washington, D. C. 
norman is harder to track down.

we know that the william h. cross of the 50th engineers is william h. cross senior. there are two other cross men named on the grave marker, william h. cross junior and norman p. cross.

there were only two norman crosses listed as fighting for the whole of the union side in this war, and one of them is a new york man listed as norman f. cross. it would be common and quite frankly expected for either a headstone or the military record to confuse an "f" for a "p", but given norman's birth year, 1849, he would have been very young (fifteen) at his enlistment in 1864, which is not impossible or even all that uncommon, but the service record lists him as being 21.

still, large farm boys were known to pass for older so it's not impossible. what strikes me as very, very improbable is that a sixteen year old passing for 22 a year later would be commissioned a second lieutenant in the cavalry.

what i think most likely is that the record of norman going to fight in the war is simply lost, which kind of makes sense if you consider his age at the time of the war and a newspaper account from 1867 in which he is caught stealing wheat.

if you're eighteen years old and you're back form a war that you joined underage and your father came back disabled and three of your brothers didn't come back at all, you might not be equipped ideally to support yourself and might take up stealing turkeys to get by.

Norman Cross, living near Seneca Falls,
has been arrested for stealing 30 bushels of.
wheat from the barn of Michael Hoster.—
Cross is of a respectable family and has hitherto sustained a good character.
He confesses the wheat theft, and also that he recently
stole some turkeys from another neighbor,
giving as the motive—want of money.

so here's what i'm going with, by grave monuments, newspaper clippings, and census data: there was william and lucy, with their sons asa, amos, lemuel, james, george, william, and norman, and their daughter harriet.

william senior and six of his sons fought in the war.

three sons returned.

i started out wanting to tell the story of those men in the war, but took up a lot of space figuring out who the players are, so i'll split that into a second post.


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