In February while Karen and I were vacationing in Florida, we learned of the tragic loss of my Uncle John. As the family prepared to go to Texas to honor him at his internment ceremonies, we had another bit of bad news: my brother Merle had a stroke and could not travel. Fortunately he received quick and good care and was recovering. His mind was sound and his speech was unaffected, but his mobility was impacted. I needed to see him and make sure that he was doing okay, so I made a trip to the farm that he and Liz have had for many decades near Berea in the Southeastern corner of Ritchie County, West Virginia. The farm is rural, of course, and the roads approaching it are not improved, to say the least. So I rented a truck from Enterprise for the trip. I thought I was getting a Ford F-150, but I got an F-250 Super Duty with the Larado option. It is one big-assed truck, taller than I am.
Below: Merle and me in his kitchen (I’m the one with the hair); and the big-assed Ford:
I was very happy to find that Merle was thinking and communicating very well, unimpaired, though his energy level was down and his ability to walk was severely diminished. He can get around with a walker and for a few steps with a cane. The really good news is that he is improving each day. I was delighted to see him and Liz and to enjoy their company and the farm (they call it “Mudville”, only partly jokingly).
I got to see all the new building that they have done: a new goat barn, new chicken coop, new pig barn, and so on. And each morning I accompanied Merle and Liz to milk the goats, though I left the actual milking to them. The goats were wary of me, and they are much stronger animals than you might expect. It was all an education to me and fun. We walked around the area near the farmhouse, generally with the dog running ahead. It is a beautiful area and is full of small farms and some tourist and/or hunting cabins.
Below: The new goat barn; and Merle ready to milk a goat:
Below: Me with a goat; and another goat eyeing me warily:
Merle honored me by giving me two of his favorite hunting rifles. One is a 7 mm Mauser with a Bushnell scope (it uses a 7mm x 57 mm round), and the other is an 8 mm Mauser (it uses a larger, heavier 8 mm round). They each hold five rounds in their internal clips, and rounds are loaded into the firing chamber through a smooth bolt action. They are exceptionally accurate hunting rifles, which my brother has used extensively. The 7×57mm cartridge, also known as the 7mm Mauser, 7×57mm Mauser, 7mm Spanish Mauser in the USA and .275 Rigby in the United Kingdom is a first-generation smokeless powder rimless bottlenecked rifle cartridge. It was developed by Paul Mauser of the Mauser company in 1892 and adopted as a military cartridge by Spain in 1893. It was subsequently adopted by several other countries as the standard military cartridge. It is recognised as a milestone in modern cartridge design, and although now obsolete as a military cartridge, it remains in widespread international use as a sporting round. The 7×57mm has been described as “a ballistician's delight”.
The 7.92×57mm Mauser cartridge of the other rifle was adopted by the German Empire in 1903–1905, and was the German service cartridge in both World Wars. In its day, the 7.92×57mm Mauser cartridge was one of the world’s most popular military cartridges. In the 21st century it is still a popular sport and hunting cartridge that is factory-produced in Europe and the United States. I plan to take the rifles and Karen to a range to practice some shooting.
Below: Scene from a walk with the dog - see Mudville in the background:
In late June, 2007, we gathered at my brother's farm in West Virginia to celebrate my Mom's life and prepare for her internment. Merle and Liz were there, Nina and Art and their son Dean and his brand new wife, Holly, our cousin Mike McKetta, and Karen and I were there. Later we went to the gravesite and buried Mom's ashes alongside Dad. (See Grandma's life and burial.)"Mudville" is the name of the farm my brother Merle and his wife Liz occupy and farm.
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