Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Blame Game

I was taking some portraits of the kids last night in the office and started trying to move the light around for a different look.  After the kids got bored and ran off, I decided to take a few self portraits before putting everything away.  I mounted the flash on top of the door with my flexible tripod to get the light up high.  

I took a few shots and then went back to the camera to see the results.  As I was knelt down reviewing the shots, the flash came falling from the sky and landed beside me with its guts spilled on the floor.  The sound it made on that hard floor was sickening.  

Immediately, I looked for someone to blame.  The kids were no where near me.  I checked to see if a cat had bumped the door, but didn't see a kitty.   Unfortunately, there was nobody to blame but myself.  

The top heavy flash had succumbed to the power of gravity and fell to its death.  I popped the batteries back in but the flash would not power up.  I put in some new batteries hoping that would fix the nasty rattling I heard inside the flash.  Still no power.  I did a quick search online to find that I was not the first one to have killed a $180 camera flash.   Cari was out with some friends while I did this.  When she got home I had to tell her what I had done.  

As I told my story, she realized that I wasn't going to blame her cat or our kids.  She comforted me and assured me we would work the budget to purchase a replacement.  Cari also let me know how grateful she was that it was my own fault.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Murphy's Village

You're driving down the highway. As you pass the ramp to the interstate, you see a few gas stations scattered along the intersection. You continue down the highway through an undeveloped stretch of road. There are a few auto mechanic shops and a few industrial looking buildings. There are no retail chains or restaurants. It's a rough looking area that is in need of maintence.

As you pass a mechanic shop with cars spread across a grassy field, you look next door. An enormous house that must be worth half a million dollars appears. It looks brand new and has paper taped over the windows. Nobody appears to live here. Why? Why build this beautiful home on a highway and in this area of town? Across the street is a bigger house. Next door to it is a brick mansion. In all, there are roughly ten mansions along the street. Side streets would probably reveal more. They all look new and they all have paper on the windows. No cars are in the driveways. You spot a mobile home parked behind one of the houses.

Welcome to "Murphy Village" near North Augusta, South Carolina. Home of the Irish Travelers. Also known as, "Gypsy".

View Larger Map

The Irish Travellers have their own language. For the most part, they only marry within the group. They arrange marriages for their children. They don't use public schools. They are known to be scam artists in the area. They use a lot of the same names supposedly to confuse authorities. They will dress their little girls up in extravagant dresses and big hair. The largest community of them is located in Murphy's Village.

I have heard that the local buisnesses prefer not to do business with them. The phone company makes it difficult for them to get service, if at all. Also, I was told that the they live in the trailers for an additional year after the house is built to allow the bad spirits to leave.

You may have heard of them because they have been featured on programs such as 20/20 in the past. They really have a bad rap around town. If you ask anyone about the mansions that look out of place you immediatly get stories of shoplifting and scamming. They spend their summers traveling around the country looking for work. Some may offer to paint your house, only to use watered down paint. Others may offer to fix your roof, only to find that it still leaks when they are done. I'm sure there are some that are doing honest work and are good people but their reputation as a group is to not trust them.

In the winter they come back to South Carolina and live in their mansions in the middle of an industrial park. The next time I take a trip down to North Augusta, I'll take a few shots for you. You have to see it to understand the scale I'm talking about. Don't expect to see any people in the photos, they are well hidden. Just another part of being in Murphy's Village.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Rec Football

Meredith has become a cheerleader for the rec center this football season.  Thursday night she went to a game for the younger group of players.  We were the second game of the evening and as we got there the first game was ending.  The announcer was saying all the boys did good and then he said to give a special thanks to the coaches because, ". . .it's like managing an ant farm out there."

Sure enough the same held true for our game.
I spotted one player from the other team (thank goodness), trying to make an escape up the hill.  It wasn't long before a coach spotted him and chased him back onto the field.  

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


"That stuff tastes like dirt."  Cari said as she scrunched her face at my breakfast this morning.  
"Grape-nuts is the best cereal of all time," I replied as I extended a spoonful her direction.  

She asked me what's so good about it and I told her, "There is no sugar".

"Like dirt," she replied.

"It's full of minerals such as iron and zinc," I continued.

"Like dirt," she replied.

"It's crunchy," I said with a smile as I took a bite. 

"Like dirt," she replied.  

I finally had to admit it may have the texture of a gravel road, but it's still my favorite breakfast cereal.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Price to Pay

Being parents requires Cari and I to be a team.  We each have to give in sometimes times to make it work.  Sometimes you just have to take one for the team.  

This morning Cari woke me up while she was getting ready for church.  Normally, she will get up and take the kids to Sunday school and I meet them for service an hour later.  She sat on the bed and told me that Randy wasn't feeling good and asked if I would miss church to stay home with him today.  

I did my very best to mask my sarcasm when I answered her, "I'd really hate to have to lay in bed for an extra hour this morning, but if that's what you need me to do, I'm here for you". 

Friday, September 19, 2008

Almost a Year

Here's some recent photos of baby.

Next month she will turn one. She still doesn't talk very much but seems to be trying more recently. She doesn't walk but likes to stand up. If she sees something she wants, she can crawl faster than Michael Phelps can swim. Once she gets what she wants it almost always goes straight to the mouth, especially if you tell her "NO".

She likes to dance to music. The secret to making her stop crying is to sing Itsy Bitsy Spider (and you have to do the hand motions).

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Hike with a Crazy Man

I went on a hike with a co-worker recently. He doesn't hike around here very often so I gave him a choice. Take a shorter hike that will be more of an adventure or an easier hike that is longer. He chose adventure. Cari shook her head as we got into the car. I guess that's cause she knew where I was taking this guy.

The trail is visible but is not located in a park. It's not maintained by a ranger and there is no parking lot. You just park on the unmarked forest service road and head into the trees. About half way through our hike I saw a tree with a ribbon tied around it. I pointed to it and kept leading the way through the forest. That ribbon just re-assured me we were still on some kind of trail.

We went about an hour into the forest and finally came to a point so choked off we had to stop. He asked me where the waterfall was. There was no waterfall where I thought one would be. After eating our lunch (I saved my apple in case we got lost, but he ate his) we started back out.

Not far from the lunch spot we found this red lizard. The thing is pretty freaky looking. My buddy looks at it and reaches out to grab it. I hollered at him, "Don't touch it! It's poisonous." I didn't really know if it was, but I've never seen a good critter that color of red. He held it in his hand and examined it. After he put it down, I was thankful he didn't eat it.

We got back to the tree with the ribbon that I pointed out earlier and I stopped to look at the creek. That's when I saw the CORRECT trail that crossed the water. D'oh! My friend looked back at the tree and saw that someone had carved three arrows into the bark pointing toward the creek trail. How did we miss that? These arrows were large and carved deep into the trunk.

He said, "I tried to tell you earlier. I thought it was funny someone would carve an arrow into a tree".

I didn't reply, but I knew what my answer would be. "Next time, when you see an arrow carved into a tree and we are in the middle of nowhere, please make sure I hear you".

Monday, September 15, 2008

Poor Instructions

This is the door to my office.

My family has been adding stickers to it lately. Based on the height of the stickers, I should say Cari has been adding stickers to it.

I was in there trying to ignore the world one morning and Randy popped the door open.

I turned and looked at him, "What do you need"?

He said he was just curious because the sticker says "Look Inside".

I'm currently in the market for a sticker that says "Don't".

Saturday, September 13, 2008

History Lesson: Pendleton

Somehow, we have avoided Pendleton, South Carolina since we have lived here even though it's only about twenty minutes from the house. Last week, Cari and I decided to check it out. When this area was being settled by Americans before the war between the states, the town of Pendleton was the place to be. Many prominent families either lived or vacationed in Pendleton. The Pendleton district (before counties) was a large area. When counties were drawn up, the Pendleton district was split into three areas. Fortunately, many (over 40) structures have survived from the mid 1800's. In fact, the entire town is listed on the National Historic Register of Historic Places. Over 6,000 acres!

Cari and I took a quick walk around town that day but had to get home after a short time. A few days later we returned and took another walk. The homes are beautiful.
This home was built in 1811 and had additions built during the 1800's.
Dr. Pickens built this home in 1860 for his bride. She refused to live in it, preferring the home her parents owned. I wonder if there was an argument that night?
This brick home was the first brick residence in Pendleton. Built in 1859. The post office was also located in a room of this house for a time. Just before I took the photo of the brick house, an elderly lady came from the house and got into a car. I asked Cari if she thought the lady was original to the house. After some thought, Cari said she wasn't sure.

This white, wooden home was built in 1860. It is identical in plan to the above brick home.
If you copy someone's house design, that probably shows how much you love their home. What does it mean if you copy them AND build directly across the street?

We walked past an oil mill that looks to still be in use. The original purpose of the mill was to extract oil from cotton seeds.
During our second visit, we spent most of the morning in the cemetery at St. Paul's Church (1822).
The amount of prominent persons buried here is amazing. There are countless stories and tons of history with every step. Politicians, the founders of towns and universities (Clemson), and some Confederate generals have all been laid to rest here. One monument told a story of Harry Miller. A student that left school to join the Confederate army. The stone tells his story of training and going to fight in Virginia. He would be killed fighting for the cause he believed in.
I saw several of these medals on the ground. There are a lot of Confederate soldiers and sailors buried here. Did you know the Confederate States had a navy?

Before we left Pendleton, we walked down to check out a few of the other old church buildings. Absolutely beautiful buildings were up and down every street. This is the Prebyterian church built in 1897. The congregation was organized in 1789.
Our very last stop was at the Village Baker. Wow! This bakery has some amazing food. If you have an opportunity to get into Pendleton, SC, take it! The history, beauty, and awesome bakery will not disappoint you.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

You Crack Me Up!

I was sifting around some of the archieves of this blog last night and found some posts that I didn't remember writing. I'm certain I wrote them. I just didn't remember them until now. That's why I have a blog. To remind me of the stuff I don't want to forget.

Anyway, I found some stuff that got me laughing. I picked September in 2005 and 2006 and scrolled down. Maybe I was just laughing at myself because I'm kinda like that. Maybe it's actually funny.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


I've only had Cheerwine a few times since I've been in South Carolina. Cari and I were out on another adventure Tuesday (more on that in a few days) and I stopped and got a bottle of Cheerwine on the way home.

I was sitting in the office drinking it and wondered why I haven't purchased it more often. I really like it. I handed it to Cari for her to try and she said it reminded her of Dr. Pepper with cherry. That or Cherry with a hint of Dr. Pepper.

Dr. Pepper was, before now, my favorite softdrink. After Cari made the suggestion, I agreed that it does have some similar qualities. Still, there is something unique to Cheerwine. It is lighter than Dr. Pepper and a black cherry taste to it.

The drink is made in North Carolina and has been around since 1917. They still use the same recipe, but I think they have purchased fresh ingredients since then. For a long time it could only be found in the Carolina's. I've done some reading and it seems in the past few years they have made more distribution deals to get it into other areas. If you have never tried it and happen to see it in a store, don't pass it up. It just passed Dr. Pepper on my favorite drink list.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Disc Golf

I first learned of disc golf while on a geocaching trip with Rake and Roadrunner. In case you aren't familiar with the game, I'll explain.

Think of golf. Replace the holes with baskets mounted on poles. Eliminate the clubs and golf balls and replace them with plastic discs (frisbees). You start on the tee and throw your disc until you get it into the basket. Count how many throws it takes. Now you know how to play disc golf.

Cari and I purchased some proper discs and headed out for a game last week. The discs have a smaller diameter and are heavier than a Wallmart variety frisbee. They are also a bit expensive at around $8 per disc. That reminds me of another difference between this and regular golf. When you hit a golf ball into the swamp you drop another ball and try again. When you throw an eight dollar disc into the swamp you go find it.
Along the trail I found a fallen tree laying over a marshy area. I decided to practice the swan kick I learned from the Karate Kid. You wouldn't believe how quick Cari could get to her camera.
We had a great time but we didn't score very good. Apparently, people who are good at the game have learned to avoid hitting the trees.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

I'll be in My Office

When the girl turned seven last month she decided to have a slumber party. That means when I got home from work there were more seven year old girls than I could count. They watched movies and painted toe nails. I went into my office and barricaded the door after my daughter asked me what color I wanted my nails painted. I didn't come out until they were all asleep.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Engine Repair

I built my computer piece by piece.

I fixed the flat tire on my bike.

I can unpack and assemble children's toys.

I can not fix a gas engine.

My lawn mower has been sounding different the past few months. I checked the oil and gas and nothing got better. It also didn't get worse, so that made me happy. To my untrained ear the engine sounded flat. It didn't sound as strong. I was starting to worry that it was breaking in ways I couldn't fix so I turned up the volume on my MP3 player as I continued cutting the grass. If I can't hear it, it must not be happening. It's the same rule I use when the car makes a strange sound - turn up the radio.

I decided that maybe the spark plug is going bad. It sounded like an intelligent reason to me. I ran over to Lowe's and picked up a matching plug. I'm not sure what causes a spark plug to go bad and I don't really care. If spending two dollars fixes the mower, that's all that maters.

This morning I installed the part and started the mower. Cari was sitting on the swing watching. Immediately she looked at me and shook her head. I cut the engine off. It didn't sound any better. Cari walked over and suggested that the air filter might be clogged. My response was to stare at her.
I got her a screwdriver and she took the plastic cover off of the filter. She handed me the pleated filter jammed full of dirt and grass clippings. I removed some of the big chunks and hit it on the wall a few times. Cari put it all back together and started the mower. It sounded MUCH improved.
She turned the mower off and started to head inside. As she went she looked back at me and gave me the look that says, "I fixed your mower for you, now get to work". This time I did respond, "Hey! I changed the spark plug"!

It's like loosening the pickle jar lid without actually getting the jar opened.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The Bottom of the Lake

The above is an image from Google of a park on lake Hartwell in Anderson, SC.
Here's a few shots I took while on lunch break last week.
This pier is on the bottom left of the land in the satelite image. There are many Christmas trees tied to cinder blocks near the end of the pier. People buy up the unsold trees after Christmas for almost nothing and then toss them into the lake for fish habitat.
There are old tree stumps litering the new shoreline. All of this has been under water as part of the lake for years. In many cases the soil has been washed away exposing the roots.
Beer. Beer bottles and beer cans are common litter at the bottom of the lake. Some of them look pretty old. Is it odd that there aren't any coke cans?

No Wake. Another common site is all the floating markers. Some markers are completely on land now. Some are so near the land and in such shallow water that their message is so out of place it is funny.

The lake is around thirteen feet low right now. Many areas that have been covered by water for years is being exposed to the sunlight and air again. It is interesting to walk on land that was previously covered by so much water you couldn't see it. It is interesting discover the things that have been sitting at the bottom of the lake.

Monday, September 01, 2008


While driving through a construction zone, I saw a sign that said, "Drive with extreme caution". The rest of the sign went on to warn of construction for the next six miles.

After we left the construction area Cari said, "You can drive normal again".