Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Chopsaw Girl

From 1972 to 1980 I worked in town at a cabinet making factory before the accident. I was a "chopsaw girl." The factory had all sorts of stations such as sorting, stacking, sanding, planing, inspecting, and chopping. The job involved looking at a long plank of wood as it came down the line and immediately deciding how many of certain length cuts could be made from it while eliminating (chopping out) flaws and cracks and knots. There were all sorts of lumber going through the molder, run by a man, including oak, basswood, poplar, pine, cedar and more. There were two of us chopping and I was front chopper. That meant that the first board was mine, the next was the girl's behind me, and the one after that was mine again. We had to go very fast so we didn't get behind. If I missed my next board it meant that the other chopper would get mine in addition to hers. Then I would have to go like hell to do two in a row! (Something like Lucy in the chocolate factory!)

When the molder man went to get a new load, we got a break to catch up if we were behind. A coincidence is that her name was also Geraldine May!!! TRUE!  We also could work at the other stations but at chopping we were the most competent. We had thick rubber pads to stand on, knee pads to protect the punch knee and wore goatskin gloves because splinters were horrible. Twice during the day we got a 10 minute break and 30 minute lunch. We punched in and out of the time clock for all.

The machines had a spinning blade and when I punched the knee lever with my knee, it would jump up (activated by air compression) and chop the board I held in place for the chop. It's hard to explain. To chop out a knot, it was chop! Move board. Chop! move board on to next chop. I pushed away the waste pieces with the board moving to the left, readying for the next chop. There was a poster board pinned up in front of us telling us how many pieces of a certain size we needed to get out of the actual order.  For instance, the order might read: 3,000 12" - 8,000 24" - 800 45" - and so on. 

We tossed our good chopped pieces to the left conveyer and they went on a roller trolley to a sorting roundtable that moved slowly so the sorter girl could stack the pieces by size, on separate pallets. Many times she would get behind with the table piling up like a pyramid, and wood cuts falling on the floor;  we would stop the molder and line and go help her stack and then start up again.

The shadow guard over our saw blade would come down when the blade jumped up to cut. Sometimes it got loosened by all the action. We each had a wrench on the saw table and we would tighten the nut often. One day my wrench slipped off the nut, hit the blade and pulled my hand into it. I knew it was BAD when it happened but felt no pain -  saw no blood -  I just grabbed the injured hand with my other one, ran up and over the belts away from the work station, while telling the other chopper I cut myself, and headed for the boss's office. He took me to the hospital. When I got there as an emergency patient the pain set in as they tried to see exactly what the injury entailed. My left hand that was holding the injured right hand would simply not release! They gave me a shot of morphine in my neck and I remember my legs both pounding up and down hard on the table. The next thing I remember was being in a hospital bed with my hand all wrapped up and pins sticking out everywhere. 

The local surgeon had pinned it together as a temporary fix until I could be shipped to a Philadelphia hand injury orthopedic surgeon in a large hospital for repair surgeries and therapy. They said our local man actually saved my thumb. The ring fingertip went up the waste chute at the factory, along with the tip of the glove. 

Dear friends drove me to the hand center at Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia and they had never even been out of our area! They were horse friends and truly country folks. My husband never even offered. Another friend drove me back and forth to the Philadelphia hospital for surgeries and therapies very often. It took over a year for me to finally be discharged. When there, I saw so many other severe and horrible hand injuries that I felt I didn't deserve to have so much attention to my small one. 

If you have never injured a hand severely, you can't understand how many things you do with your hands. Try hanging clothes on a clothesline, or emptying a pot of boiled potatoes or spaghetti into a colander. How about changing a sanitary napkin, or wiping yourself, shampooing, fixing hair, tying shoes! All were very difficult to do. 

Gerri and I were excellent choppers and worked the 7 to 3 shift. We both had kids in school and it worked out fine.  There were two other choppers who worked the night shift. We actually liked our job. It was both mentally challenging and physically active. After my accident, Gerri soon left and I went to work at a personal care boarding home, doing all the laundry for 30 residents and doing all bookkeeping, including payroll. I liked this job too. The owner is now in his late 80's and we are still friends. After 5 years there, I left to go to work for the County as the 4-H Coordinator, planning and executing programs for over 500 county youth and 200 leaders. I was already a leader and never dreamed I would be chosen as coordinator when I applied. I was also put in charge of the county horse and pony program, and was on regional and district and state committees, executing shows and activities. I stayed in that position until 1998 when I retired. 

TODAY Most of what we did at the wood plant is done with computers!!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

My Mind's Memory

All memory is flawed, weighted and skewed by individual perception. What has happened doesn't matter as much as what we remember. The mind-mirror freezes its own images.

I have not followed meekly behind anyone. This much I know. However, I may do some a little bit, now. It's convenient and easier than balking.

I remember feeling very bold and individualistic when a young teen wearing my boy cousins' hand me down pants with a fly and belt. It was unheard of, in those days, within my circle of friends and schoolmates. It made me feel powerful and stronger than the girly girls. I knew I was all girl but the desire for special attention then, meant dressing in bizarre outfits - for my sex.
Anyway, my memory sometimes has limitations. I freely admit this. The world around me might just be perceived and interpreted by relying on my individual frame of reference. It certainly has diminished with time and I may conveniently fill the gaps and bits between the fragments which I do remember with my own details.
That's OK. It's just my mind's memory.

GMR - April 6, 2011

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Upgrade and Update


There is a man here installing a storm door. His name is Don and he works with a local construction business belonging to a long-time friend. This old cabin never had a storm door in front and the old screen door was doing the job of keeping bugs out but it scraped the porch floor and wouldn't open wide any more. That's because the concrete porch floor has gone askew over the years due to numerous ground freezes and thaws. My husband has been wanting a storm door for several years because the inner main door boards have shrunk and cold air (and dust) seeps in.

The new door had to be special ordered in a custom size because the doorway opening is not of a "normal" size, being shorter and wider than regulation ones. The carpenter has to add wood, make the frame plumb, and, hopefully - by the end of the day it will fit snugly and open and close properly! You wouldn't believe the cost!! At least the new door was ordered in brown. BUT! the dog won't be able to look out any more because the openings don't go to the floor as before. No door like that was found to be available in a custom made size.

I intensely dislike change! Even if it is sensible and "necessary." This blog could have been titled "Character versus Function."


Monday, August 16, 2010

Heritage Tomatoes

In 2004~~~~~~~~~A camping friend from Pittsburgh PA gave me a couple of these. She said her dad (he was 86) starts them and gives her some. He was from old country, Lithuania or Czechoslovakia. She brings them to the beach in SC in September every year. I saved some seeds in 2006 and brought them back to PA. I forgot all about them until April 2007 when we were getting ready to head to SC, so I just threw my saved seeds into an outdoor container. Well when we returned in July, the container was full of tall spindly ugly tomato plants. Missy tore all out and threw them away except for four. They grew and grew in July and August and thrived. When we were preparing to head to SC in September I brought only 6 ripe ones those four plants produced. There were plenty of green ones left. Too bad. Guess the slow start hindered their growth and they matured too late. Be sure that I have saved seeds to start some more in 2008.

They're a heritage tomato and very tasty and meaty with few seeds. Now I have saved seeds 2008 and 2009 and will in 2010 too.



Old Fashioned Red Oxheart Tomato
Red Oxheart is an old favorite. This is a large large, fleshy red tomato that matures mid season with smooth firm fruit. Tasty to eat. The Red Oxheart Tomato requires staking.
An old-fashioned favorite with heart-shaped pink fruit that weigh up to 1 pound. Very meaty flesh contains few seeds making this a favorite for slicing and for sandwiches. Good flavor and productivity keep gardeners growing this heirloom variety. Non-acidic too!

Hungarian Heart
Oxheart tomatoes have been popular for generations because of their excellently flavored, meaty, large tomatoes that provide lots of solid good eating with very few seeds. The fruit of Hungarian Heart follows suit, with large, pink heart-shaped tomatoes that become 1 lb. and are just luscious. As a bonus, these plants are not shy bearers, but rather quite productive for an oxheart type. Hungarian heirloom.

Bull's Heart
This is a very old Russian variety bearing large pink oxheart-type tomatoes with excellent, sweet flavor. Strong plants produce abundantly, with some fruit growing to 2lbs. and more.

Thursday, August 5, 2010


Surprisingly, on June 12, the day before Jimmy Dean died, I was playing his song, "Big, Bad, John." I remember this experience because it was my wedding anniversary and I was listening to music being played as sound background at a fish stand at the campground in SC.

On July 29, the day before Mitch Miller died, I was playing his songs, "Ja Da" and "The Yellow Rose of Texas" while checking out my web music playlist. Ask my husband for verification if you doubt the genuiness of my musical memories.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A Tangled Mind

Computer Creation by GMR 07/30/05
"Tangled Star"

Yes, that's a song and I listened to it just yesterday, but this is about my dreams of last night. First, a bit of background is essential here: I have WILD dreams - VIVID dreams - dreams that involve ALL of my senses. Often! Yes! I can hear all sounds and voices, see all sights including colors; I smell pleasant and distasteful odors, I taste salty, sour, bitter and sweet things. In these dreams I actively touch and feel all textures, and characteristics such as hot, cold, rough, smooth, and flexibility. I feel both physically and emotionally all experiences and encounters involved.

To go on.........Dreaming, dreaming, dreaming.........I was sitting on a concrete garage floor, preparing to bake a batch of cookies and gathering the ingredients together. The recipe called for crumbled graham crackers. (For cookies?? Well, remember it's a dream.) I searched all the shelves in the garage but couldn't find them but found bread crumbs. Not a good choice because they were seasoned with Italian spices. What to do? Aha! Just the right thing! Kitty litter! There it was. In the corner by the tires. I proceeded to scoop it out of the litter pan into my large square yellow plastic cookie mixing tub. (WHAT! Let me finish.) I hand picked all the clumps out and it was perfect.

New dream.........I was in a kitchen and didn't like the end of the wall cupboard because it was put together in two parts forming one triangle. The thickness of the left side board was thinner than the right side board. There was a strip of 4 inch wallpaper joining them together and it wasn't a smooth appearance. I proceeded to peel off the strip and when I finished, the boards came apart exposing ALL SORTS of pipes and wires and dark spaces above the cupboard. It was so very interesting that I just left it open for all visitors to examine and also enjoy.

Today, on a monthly 25 mile trip to Walmart, I saw a newly killed kitty lying in the road. (I haven't seen any other cat for quite a long while.) On the way home, I heard Perry Como singing "Dream On Little Dreamer" on the car radio. Triangle signs in the road warned of pipes and wires being installed by roadside utility workers. And....I followed a large truck which was tailing road painters putting down a new yellow line.

I don't believe in coincidences. KITTY - TRIANGLE - YELLOW - PIPES - WIRES - DREAM.

That's my kind of tangled mind or is it just complicated?