Tag Archives: folklore

Summer Solstice

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Watercolor printed on tiles by Lauren McCarter

Summer Solstice by Carrie Richards

This was when the whole world measured time
This is when the light would turn around

This is where the past would come undone
and the spinning earth will mark a new beginning
Let’s go back in time, to when it all began

To the breaking of new dawns
Where moments bright with fire, would light the chanting song
Where pagans worshipped sun, and danced among the trees Wore strange masks of covered straw, and blessed cold ash with awe Wreaths hung upon the door against all spirit’s, dire
and when the winter’s grasp let go, the sun reversed the pyre
This was when the whole world measured time
This is when the light would turn around So that spring arrives, and seeds will sprout and grow
Oh, radiant sun, stretch the day, shorten night
Return earth’s darkness into light
This is where the light will turn around
And this was where the past has comes undone

 

Lauren McCarter is a watercolor artist living in Boise, Idaho. She generously gifted this art piece to me at a time when I needed a boost. Thank you, Lauren!

 

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Masks Keep Order in Transylvania

I’m always delighted to see hand crafted masks and those I encountered in Romania were most impressive. Masks represent the strange symbolic world. They serve to protect the home by warning off evil or beckoning good wishes. Romanians hang masks on their homes, in the forest, and display them on mantles and walls. They create masks and wear them in ritual dances for life’s greatest passages like birth, marriage, and burial. As the year passes through time, masks worn in ceremonies ease the passage from one world of time, or season, to the other, especially at New Years rituals. I photographed the masks I saw on my tour with the Horror Writers Workshop Transylvania. But fear not, the faces I encountered were not all so scary. Some were downright fun. Petre Vlase tells about Romanian masks expertly here if you want to learn more about the tradition.

Wood masks 3Our inn’s host Lorenzo at, Mamacozonacilor Pensuine in Bran set these on the mantle in the dining hall to scare off evil during our writers workshops and tours. These two were hand carved by an elderly man in Bran.

Richard's chairLorenzo gave this mask to Richard Thomas, our guest horror author and instructor in exchange for Richard’s promise to return next summer. Richard took this protection home to guard his writing chair where he composes some wicked tales. Photo by Richard Thomas, enhanced by me.

masks and flowersRomanian masks aren’t all so frightening. These fiber masks hang on homes. The male head of the household wears one in a ceremony and asks for certain wishes or hopes for the home. I found these displayed on ancient homes that were moved from various sites in Romania into Herastrau Park in Bucharest. They are hand crafted from fabric, animal hair, fibers, dried beans, and other materials. The inside where you put your face is all black felt. In some mask wearing traditions the person wearing the mask goes into the void when putting it on, becoming the character of the mask. That’s why masks are often black inside. I don’t know if that’s true in Romanian tradition.

2 masks on treeMany of these furry masks have something dangling off the nose. Most wear this sort of hat attatched.

1 more mask on wallThe teeth are made from dried beans drilled and sewn in.

1 mask on wallFur can be real or otherwise.

3 macrame facesThese look to be more for display than wearing. They are macrame, probably hemp. Now here’s a use for wooden spoons.

4 macrame facesNo two are quite alike.

wall of masksOwls see more than we can, so useful to display on the home.

2 white fur masksThese are the only old man masks I saw. They are at a souvenier shop at an ancient fortress we visited.

blood drooling faceRather absurd, don’t you think? This face is on the wall in Dracula’s birth home, now a bar and restaurant. I couldn’t hold the camera still. Yikes!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASome masks like this ceramic candle holder in a restaurant in Brasov are just decorative and plain old fun.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA mask on the wall helps set the tone of the place. Relax and enjoy a pipe

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or whatever.child faceChilren are represented in some masks. The lighter side. It’s not all dark and scary.

horse faceAnimals, too. This is not really a mask. It was made by a film crew that used the Bran Castle as a setting. Now that’s scary. It inspired a new horror story for me. You can’t miss this monster and rider as you enther the fortress.

skull with horns at Bran entranceWe couldn’t figure out the meaning behind this but no doubt it means to be scary. This was at the top of the steep path to Bran Castle.

face in forestFigure out this one. It’s on a hill alongside the road in one of Transylvania’s most haunted forests. We were warned that wolves do live in this forest. If you were in the Horror Writers Workshop Transylvania, dont’ tell what we discoverd about this spooky sight.

I’m thrilled that as soon as I came home from Transylvania I was asked to direct a spooky play this fall. You can be darned sure I will use some of this inspiration for masks, props, and the set.

Harv

man walking away on prairie

In the Depression Harv moved around. He didn’t have his own home. Harv stayed with different relatives. He’d stay on one ranch and help them out. Then he moved on to another kin’s place and helped them do chores and fix things. He tried to be handy, but he was more in the way than useful. He stayed a couple of months usually. He wasn’t always appreciated, but he was family, so folks let Harv live with them to help him out. For a while. Harv made the rounds living with one brother or sister, then the next, and that’s how he got by in those days. After several rounds of putting him up,  Fred had had enough of his mooching brother . You see, Harv drank a lot and wasn’t at all helpful.

Fred liked to get up early and get at the chores. There was a skating rink in the town and Harv would go there every night and drink himself blind. He came home, Fred and Letha’s home, when the joint closed and slept it off until late in the morning. Every day. One morning when the shadowed edges were beginning to darken into things we know, Fred took Harv’s knife while he lay sleeping. He walked to the chicken pen in dim lantern light and selected a young hen. He twisted her head until he felt her spinal cord snap and then he cut her throat with the blade. Then he plucked out her feathers , dressed her out, and sliced her in pieces. He dropped the pieces in a pail hanging on the side of the hen house. He tossed the slick innards into the hog pen. And then Fred carefully slipped back into Harv’s bedroom and put the bloody knife back where he found it. Letha came humming across the yard to the hen house swinging a basket for fresh eggs, the way she did every day. She folded up the bottom of her apron forming a pocket and held it tightly in one hand. Then she picked up the bloody chicken parts and dropped them into the fold. She carried the flesh into the kitchen, rinsed them in the sink, and put the pieces in a bowl in the ice box next to the new eggs. They’d have chicken dinner tonight.

When the sun was well up, Harv sat in a kitchen chair waiting for his breakfast the way he did every day. Fred poured a cup of weak coffee for each of them and looked down at his brother. “Harv”, said Fred as he set the cups on the embroidered table cloth, “Were you at the skating rink last night?” “Sure I was” said Harv. “Every night.” Fred looked at Harv for a long silence. “Harv, the Sherriff was here this morning. He wanted to talk to you. Said there was a fight at the skating rink last night and a fellow got stabbed. He didn’t think he’s gonna live. Sherriff wanted to ask you if you saw the fight, if you know anything about it.” Harv looked at his steaming cup for a long silence. He didn’t remember any fight the night before. He didn’t remember much at all from last night. Harv left Fred and Letha’s ranch that day and he never came back. That’s the way Aunt Jewel always tells it about Harv.

About this story: Duree Shiverick, Eagle, Idaho, told me this story in her shop January 22, 2015 while she replaced the string attachment cord on my antique violin. I was wandering the shop examining imaginatively carved fiddle heads while she spoke. And then I sat on a beautifully upholstered chair opposite her while she worked and gave me the tale. I asked her permission to embellish the story and use it in my storytelling bag. Harv’s name is real but I created the others. After telling the story several times it will change. When I am telling stories to an audience, that’s often when the language emerges by itself and makes a better fit. Repetition of words and phrases like “every night” is common in storytelling. I tried to keep the language simple and straight forward. I am putting more dark or magic or mythical elements in my story making since taking a writers workshop last year in a http://www.mccallarts.org/cabinfever program sponsored by the McCall Arts and Humanities Council, and in anticipation of the Horror Writers Workshop in Transylvania this summer.

How this story originated. After I published this story I was contacted by Miki Odendahl who says she is the original author. She says she wrote it in a high school creative writing class. Duree, who gave me the story, is her mother. I put my own storytelling style to it and the tale above is the result. Stories change over time when they are passed down orally. I want to give credit to the young lady who first composed the plot. She owns the story, though her version is much different from this. I am grateful that she came to me and set me straight, and allows me to publish it here.

In the original author’s words:

Duree is my mother. I grew up in Eagle, Idaho–first on Pimlico Drive, then in the cul de sac on North 2nd Street where she now lives with my 96 yo grandmother, Velma.

The story about Harvey was originally written for my creative writing class at Meridian Senior High School, about my own rabbit in the guise of another, and was a tribute to my friend, Valerie Harvey’s, brother who drowned when we were in grade school at Eagle Elementary. Yes, my mother can spin a yarn, and does so often, especially about me (according to her, I’m a serial killer, too), but this particular story was entirely mine.

Your story was forwarded to me by one of my childhood friends, who knows this story well.

About this photo: Someone took this photo of my nephew on either his family ranch near Sweet and Ola, Idaho, or in Wyoming. I adjusted curves and gave it a shape blur in Adobe CS4. I think it gives a ghostly image illustrating Harv leaving that day, although it’s a sunrise shot. Memories and stories retold have a blurry quality, rather dreamlike and that’s the mood I was trying to capture in this photo.

Mining the Red Ledge, an Oral History of a Life in Idaho’s Seven Devils Mountains.

Hugh Addington, born November 24, 1894, was the mine mechanic at the Red Ledge mine on the Eagle Bar in Hell’s Canyon, Idaho. The Red Ledge and associated mines, Landore, Peacock, South Peacock, and the Blue Jacket, operated for about two years in 1926 and 1927. Hugh was one of the first men into the mining area, setting up camp and the machinery. He was one of the last to leave, closing up the operation. A map is at the end of this post.

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Hugh and Olive Addington in a wedding photo, 1916.

He was married to Mary Olive Emery Addington for more than sixty-five years. Olive coordinated education and taught at the only school the Hell’s Canyon had then. The one-room-school house, along with the mining camp and other buildings, are now under water backed up by the Hell’s Canyon Dam.

school in canyon
Olive Addington’s school at Eagle Bar.
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Hugh Addington on right with students and parents from Olive Addington’s school on Eagle Bar, 1927

Here is Hugh’s account of the mining operation as told to me, his granddaughter, in November, 1978. Tape recordings of this and other accounts of the mine and early life in Idaho are archived at the Adams County Library in Council, Idaho.

SEPTEMBER, 1926. HORNET CREEK ON THE EAST SIDE OF PECK MOUNTAIN:

Hugh: “They sent me up on Hornet Creek on the East side of Peck Mountain to set up an engine and compressor up there. I was supposed to be workin’ for the Red Ledge and my checks was comin’ from the Red ledge. I thought there was something spooky in it but I stayed there and worked and then they sent me up to the Peacock to go to work.”

They skidded all their groceries and supplies to Snowline, a dry camp, by way of six horses pulling wagons on skids.

“See, there was no road in there at all. Morrison Knudson was buildin’ a road along the edge of the river. It was a regular Klondike deal. We lived in tents for dog-goned near a year before we got any building set up and…heh…fifty men…and I’ll tell you, when you house up fifty men, and they can’t get away from each other, you better be careful, you could get a fight any time you wanted one. Oh! They get cranky! Holy Jesus, they get cranky and ornery.

Miners built the steep narrow road up Deep Creek to the mnes.
The steep narrow road up Deep Creek to the mnes.

They was fifty of us there. Heh, heh…something funny happened. The man that was buildin’ the trail down there, Jess Ward, sent up to the Peacock for a gallon of oil. Frank Louzon, the superintendent at the Peacock, went up to the cook shack and went out behind there and found a Rosebud Syrup can and he took it down to the compressor house and he filled it up with Mobile A oil and sent it down there. Well, the darn thing got tangled up in the groceries somehow. So along in the winter…heh, heh…the boy that was waitin’ the tables and takin’ care of things there ran out of syrup, oil,  and he didn’t know; it looked like syrup. He filled up every dog-goned pitcher with that oil. Well then, it was pretty dog-goned touchy, I’ll tell you.”

Olive: “They didn’t take it as a joke, did they?”

Hugh: “They didn’t take it as a joke! I’ll tell you they didn’t! I was sittin’ right by the superintendent eatin’ breakfast. We always had hot cakes for breakfast and, of course,  I poured a whole lot of it on my plate. I heard somebody down at the other end of the table…they was three tables, long tables…say, ‘It’s oil!’. Well, I took a bite and the minute I took it I knew it was oil and I spit it out! I was sittin’ there with the MP and he took a mouthful of it and he swallowed his! And then he threw down his knife and fork and out of the tent he went. I thought, ‘Damn you. If you can eat that, I can too!’ and I tried another mouthful but I couldn’t go it. I spit her out. Finally they was just about to hang the superintendent. [ Hugh broke up laughing here.] There was an awful rumpus. Jess Ward, the mine foreman, he come to his senses and he said, ‘I made that mistake. It was a can of oil that I was supposed to have got and it got in, tangled up, in the groceries.’ Jess got the men settled down. I’ll tell you, they was about to hang the superintendent! Heh…heh…heh.

Red Ledge 1978
The Red Ledge 1978

RED LEDGE MINE ON THE EAGLE BAR 

“We started to tunnel into that tunnel there. Instead of startin’ that tunnel in the rock they started it into the dirt and we went a hundred and seventy-five feet into that hill. It was an eight-foot square tunnel and I’ll tell you, that dirt was heavy, before they hit solid rock. But when they hit solid rock, it was just a wall, just like a cliff. They came down in the night and got me out of bed to start the compressor and they started drillin’.

Well, we had good machinery, good drills. We had English Sawl Rand water liners for drills and they was some good hard rock miners. They set those up and put up three drills on a bar. Now, a bar is a thing that reaches across a tunnel and it’s kinda like a screw jack and you screw it into the wall good and tight and hold it. Then you set your drill on top of that. Then they run air and there’s water that goes right down through the center of ’em and down through the drill. The drill is hollow, right down to where the bit is because you’re not allowed to run a dry drill through a tunnel because you get that rock dust in your lungs. It doesn’t make any dust. It comes out and it’s all kind of a mud. They set three of those on a bar and started drillin’. That rock was hard. I tell you, that rock was hard, that old diorite. The fire would just fly when they started drillin’.

mine tunnel 1926
8 foot square tunnel into Red Ledge mine 1926

They was drillin’ twenty-four holes in the face of that thing, in that tunnel. They couldn’t pull it at first. They was pullin’ around. Now, pullin’ around is blastin’ it out. They was drillin’ five feet holes, five and six feet deep. You know, them electric caps are in what they call ‘lays’. One bunch’ll shoot. Then another bunch’ll shoot. Then another bunch’ll shoot. They was a shootin’ it with electric caps. So they drove, drilled, this wedge in there like this, in a ‘V’. Now, those are ‘best holes’; the first or the middle holes are ‘best holes’. And, then, they drilled their uppers and then they drilled their lifters. They’d shoot the best holes out first. They’d shoot that ‘V’ out and then down would come the uppers, would blast, and then the lower ones would blast. There’d be a big pile of muck there then, and they’d shovel it out. That was the only way they could pull that ground, it was so hard to pull.

It was an eight-foot-square tunnel. We were really goin’ into that mountain. We got in there seven hundred feet when she shut down. They bought a lot of street car rail in Boise and hauled it down there for rail. We had forty-pound steel and six by sixes for ties. They had an electric locomotive and eight three-ton ore cars that were on Tempton bearings and everything was a workin’ just wonderful.

They had two Butler muckin’ machines. Now, these muckin’ machines, they’d run one in, in front of the train, and then they would wedge it to the track so as to hold it. That muckin’ machine would reach out nine feet and then it would double right up and it would spin right around, it run by air, and dumped it into the car behind it. It was awful fast. The man that run it, he strapped himself to it to keep from getting thrown off.

A compressor house for one of the mines, Claude Perkins name on the door
A compressor house for one of the mines, Claude Perkins name on the door
1978 mine compressor house
The compressor house from Deep Creek 1978 near the Hells Canyon highway.

We had two of those and two machines on a bar and two jack-hammers runnin’ outside and I could hold a hundred pounds of air with that compressor. We had a wonderful compressor. We had a two stage compressor that had high and low cylinders, low compression on one side and high on the other. A big flywheel was in between. It weighed seven tons, that compressor, and the engine weighed nine tons that run it, a diesel engine. The fly-wheel that run it weighed a ton. The belt pulley on the engine was four feet in diameter and the one on the compressor I think was seven and it was an eighteen-inch leather belt. Boy, I’ll tell you, they had a fine bunch of machinery.

Harold Burns with Hugh Addington hauling diesel engine to the Eagle Bar mine 1926. Horses behind are pushing on a pole.
Harold Burns with Hugh Addington hauling diesel engine to the Eagle Bar mine 1926. Horses behind are pushing on a pole.

They brought it there on a loggin’ truck with six horses. When they took it up the mountain they had six horses in front [pulling] and four horses behind pushin’. They had them hooked up to a pole pushin’ on the back. They were pullin’ but we called it pushin’ because they were behind, shovin’.

Men walked behind to drive the horses and keep them on the narrow road. A hot and dusty job.
Men walked behind to drive the horses and keep them on the narrow road. A hot and dusty job.

[Photos illustrate two pairs of horses behind the truck harnessed to a pole that ran between them. The horses pulling on their harnesses forced the pole to push the truck. To turn the sharp switch backs on the steep grade the crude road had a flat stretch at each corner where the truck would stop. The horses were unhitched and turned around. The harnesses and the pole were reversed so that the rear of the truck now became the leading wheels and the teams started up the grade again.]

horses resting with wagon
Rest stop while hauling diesel engine.
hauling hoist drum
Hoist Drum going to South Peacock Mine

That country is a pocketty deal. There’s no ledge. Those mines all through the Seven Devils and up there were in what we call kidneys. They’d find a body of ore and dig it out and they’d have to hunt for another one. There was no continuation of a ledge.  That’s all that Red Ledge is, is a great body of ore sittin’ there. It’s been spewed up from down underneath in the makin’ of the world. All that whole country, Landore, Peacock, Blue Jacket mines and around there, they was all in pockets. [He explained that the Red Ledge is like a layer cake, layered with rich ore, then none, then ore, and so on.]

The man that was runnin’ the diamond drill there, Lindsey, he was paid five thousand dollars a month to diamond drill. He was down about four hundred feet and the diamond came off the end of his bit. He couldn’t drill anymore. He had to get that diamond out of there or drill another hole. He tried and tried to get that diamond out of that hole. He finally went down to the cook shack and mixed up a batch of dough, a heavy, thick chunk of dough. Then he put that on the stem to the drill and he shoved it down that hole and brought ‘er up. There stuck that little ol’ diamond right on the end. (sourdough starter) and (sourdough whole wheat bread recipe)

 

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Red Ledge mine tunnel, 1978

BLUEPRINTS FOR THE TUNNEL

That tunnel was to be nine thousand feet long when it got under Deep Creek and Deep Creek was to be nine thousand feet above it. They were goin’ to bring that water down through a shaft, bring it out and make their own electricity. Kennedy, the engineer, told me, ‘We’ll never get back under Deep Creek. That ledge is on a dip. We’ll get ore in about four thousand feet and we’ll have all the ore to run for years and years’. They had surveyed out where the mill was gonna be just about a week before they shut down.

SHUTTING DOWN THE MINES

The mines shut down because of a lawsuit. The Peacock, the South Peacock, which was never any good… We shipped only two carloads out of there in the two years that we run it. They were sellin’ stock in New York on the Peacock to develop the Red Ledge. Butler was a smart old cuss. Everybody lost their money. I never bought any stock in it at all. I was afraid of it. They got into a lawsuit and he beat everybody out of it and got away with the money. They didn’t sell stock on the Red Ledge because they didn’t want it to get tangled up. There was too much money in it.”

[According to Hugh, when the lawsuit came about, mostly mail and stock fraud, the Red Ledge was hardly involved. The mines were only open about two years. The Red Ledge is supposed to be rich in copper ore still but Butler (who may be dead now) is supposed to be so rich that he doesn’t want to waste his time with it.]

BLASTING FOR STURGEON 

several sturgeon hanging on a rod
Mining foreman Jes Ward with some of the sturgeon mined by the night crew.
cleaning sturgeon
Cleaning 19 sturgeon caught by the night crew at Eagle Bar mine.

[The night crew threw 40 sticks of dynamite into the Snake River at Eagle Bar and captured 19 sturgeon as a result. They ate what they could and took the rest up and down the river to share with other mining camps. Hugh did not eat sturgeon because they are scavengers, “hanging around the bottom of the cliffs where we threw our garbage”.]

Map

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Red Ledge, South Peacock, and other mines are in white, private lands.

Red Ledge and South Peacock mines are west of the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area (dark green) and east of the Snake River. Eagle Bar and the Red Ledge (horizontal marker, the triangle) are closer to the Snake River. Blue Jacket mine is southwest of the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area. The 1978 photos were taken when I hiked down Deep Creek with my dad, Bruce Addington, to visit the Red Ledge mine. We actually started our Deep Creek hike from the Peacock mine. Deep Creek runs from Smith Mt. to the west.