The Erie Canal: The Road West


by Mary Jo 

I've got an old mule and her name is Sal,

Fifteen years on the Erie Canal!

She's a good old worker and a good old pal,

Fifteen years on the Erie Canal!

We've hauled some barges in our day,

Filled with lumber, coal, and hay,

And every inch of the way I (we) know,

From Albany to Buffalo!



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Christmastide: Trees and Reindogs

Cat 243 Dover

by Mary Jo

I have an adorable picture of myself when I was three or four sitting on Santa’s lap.  (All kids that age are adorable, it’s a law of nature.)  Unfortunately, since I have to finish a book by the end of the weekend, I haven’t the time to figure out my recalcitrant scanner, so I can’t scan the picture.  Maybe next year.

But I can talk about bringing in the tree.  I grew up in the snow country of Western New York, where green Christmases were unheard of and I thought it normal that snow drifts were routinely above my head.

The Great Tree Hunt

We lived on a 70+ acre farm, with the back section woods, including some 3000 Scotch pines that my father got from the extension service and planted back there.  DSCN0096 (He had a degree in forestry and liked trees.)

So come December, he’d hitch the tractor to the wagon (think of the buckboards in old TV Westerns and you wouldn’t be far off) and we’d go bouncing over snow hills to pick a Christmas tree.  Despite all those long-needled Scotch pines, we wanted a short needled spruce, and we had those, too.

A suitable tree would be chosen (my father’s vote was the deciding one), and he’d chop down the tree, put it on the wagon, and back to the house where with luck, my mother would have hot chocolate waiting.  She wisely avoided the expedition to the back 40. <G>

Interestingly, when I talked to my older sister last night to confirm details, she said I didn’t much like these expeditions because it was Cold!  And Wet!  And Uncomfortable!  Apparently I am my mother’s daughter, though I have no memory of disliking the process.  But I do remember the tree trips.

Putting up the Tree

Even more I remember erecting the tree with an old tobacco can as a base.  The physics of this were not geared for stability, so guy wires were improvised of heavy twine and fastened to doorknobs and hinges in the corner of the living room. 

Then the decorating.  My sister, who has always had more class than I, would careful drape each strand of tinsel in an exact place.  Then, and now, I have always believed that good taste can be overdone, especially at Christmas.  <G>  I liked lots of tinsel, glittering madly. (This was the old fashion lead foil tinsel, by the way.  The kind that breaks if you look at it cross-eyed.) 

Reggie at Christmas 001 Cats in Trees 

In an amazing bit of synchronicity with Joanna’s post yesterday about feline box sitting, it is also true that cats have a great affinity for trees.  Especially indoor trees.  With branches well spaced for climbing. 

More than once, I remember a tree crashing over despite the guy wires.  Smashing ornaments, swearing parents, and one or more cats hightailing it to the high timber, wearing their best “Who, me?” expressions. Ah, those were the days…!

Many things have changed over the years, but I am here to tell you that cats still like to climb Christmas trees.  No, the cat above is not from my childhood, but entirely current.  He is Reggie the Rascal, whom I have twice this year removed from the middle branches of the tree when he’s decided this isn’t a good idea, but he doesn’t know how to get down. 

The tree hasn’t fallen—yet—because bases are a lot more stable these days.  But all bets are off if Reggie decides to climb higher, since he is small but amazingly dense. 

Other Christmas Critters?

In keeping with the theme, here are some of Laura Resnick’s pictures of this year’s Cincinnati Reindog parade, sponsored by the Cincinnati SPCA to raise money and also provide great entertainment for all concerned.

Almost as good as riding in a car! 

Hannukah hundt 

Like my horns 

So—how do pets figure into your Christmas?  Cats in trees, dogs treating the tree as if it was outdoors, parrots perching in the branches?  If you have any good seasonal pet stories, by all means, share!

Santa's Elves Mary Jo, adding that this is your last day to make a comment that will enter you in our Word Wenches giveaway — a Word Wenches Library with a book from each of us for a winner picked at random from among all those who post on the blog in December! Good luck!