Category Archive 'Pennsylvania'
01 Nov 2019

“We Took Our DNA, and Left Town”

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A view of my hometown, Shenandoah, Pennsylvania, from the southwest, in the vicinity of the West Shenandoah Colliery, overlooking the culm banks, circa 1910. The writing says in Lithuanian: “Ar ne grazios apylenkis?” (sarcastically) “Are not the surroundings beautiful?” The location of the Lithuanian church is also marked by hand.

The Economist quotes a British DNA study contending that it wasn’t brains or character or superior family culture that caused the lucky ones who got out to leave. No, it was deterministic genes.

To establish baselines for their work, Dr Abdellaoui, Dr Visscher and their colleagues turned first to 33 published studies that used a technique called genome-wide association study. This is intended to discern the contributions to a trait of large numbers of genetic differences that each have a small effect. It concentrates on so-called single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs)—places in the DNA where an individual genetic “letter” routinely varies from person to person. There are, for example, about 100,000 SNPs that affect height. On average, each makes a contribution, either positive or negative, of 0.14mm to someone’s adult stature. This is in contrast to Mendelian variations, where a single difference between individuals has a pronounced effect—such as the difference between brown and blue eyes.

Each of the 33 baseline studies identified large numbers of SNPs that had positive or negative effects on a particular trait: extroversion, heart disease, height, body fat, age at menopause, recreational drug use and so on. The researchers then applied these SNP patterns to the records of 450,000 UK Biobank participants, and asked various questions. One thing they looked for was geographical clustering of SNPS related to individual traits. This, they discovered in abundance. Of the 33 traits under consideration, 21 showed evidence of SNP-related geographical clustering.

The most strongly clustered of all, they found were SNPS for educational attainment (ie, how many years an individual had spent at school and college). SNPs lowering educational attainment were particularly clustered in former coal-mining areas. These are places that have seen a lot of internal migration, both inward, when the mines were developed during the late 18th and 19th centuries, and outward, after the second world war, as mining shrank from being one of Britain’s biggest employers to its current state of near non-existence.

Dr Abdellaoui and Dr Visscher were able, from their studies of the biobank’s records, to chart the effects of the more recent, outward migration. They divided participants into four groups: those born in mining areas who had subsequently left; those born in mining areas who had stayed; those born outside mining areas who had moved into one; and those who had never lived in a mining area. The results were stark. People in the first group, outward migrants from mining areas, had significantly more educational-attainment-promoting SNPS, and fewer damaging ones, than any of the other groups, while people in the second group, stay-at-homes in mining areas, had the opposite.

Though not quite so sharply as with educational achievement, this pattern was also reflected in all but one of the other 20 SNP-related traits the researchers looked at. With the exception of bipolar disorder, the best outcomes were found in outward migrants from coalfields and the worst in stay-at-homes. The healthy, in other words, depart. The less healthy remain.

The upshot is a vicious spiral. That young, ambitious, healthy people tend to leave economically deprived areas is hardly news. But to see that written clearly in their DNA, which they take with them when they leave, while the converse is written in the DNA of those who stay behind, raises questions of nature and nurture that society is ill-equipped to answer, and possibly unwilling to confront.

RTWT

27 Jun 2019

Baby Alligator Found in Little Juniata at Tipton, Blair County, Pennsylvania Last Monday

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PA Home Page:

A possible alligator is captured near Altoona.

Blair County crews were busy trying to capture the elusive reptile. Crews tried to snag the scaly creature for about an hour before finally wrangling it.

They’re not sure yet if the three-foot reptile is an alligator or caiman. It was taken to a Wildlife Care Facility while they work to determine who let it go in the wild.

Officials suspect the animal was dropped near the river by an owner.

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Centre Daily Times:

Adding to the recent string of alligator sightings throughout Pennsylvania, Blair County law enforcement captured a 3-foot-long baby alligator in a creek near Tipton Township Monday night. The reptile was transported to Centre Wildlife Care in Port Matilda, where it will stay until it can be transferred elsewhere.

Centre Wildlife founder and Executive Director Robyn Graboski said law enforcement called late Monday night and asked if they could bring the gator to the wildlife rehab center.

“We will work with law enforcement to find an appropriate placement for it,” Graboski said. “We don’t know yet whether or not there will be charges filed.” …

Graboski said the alligator cannot remain at Centre Wildlife because its facility is not equipped with the housing needed in order to sustain a proper habitat during the winter. She added that just because it is legal to keep an alligator as a pet in Pennsylvania does not mean everyone should.

Reflecting on the series of sightings — including three in the Pittsburgh area in a month — Graboski said alligators are not just showing up on their own.

“They’d never survive our winters,” she said.

Instead, people are buying them as pets and releasing them when they become too big to care for.

26 Jun 2019

“Don’t Ever Hit Your Cobra With a Shovel, It Leaves a Dull Impression on His Mind.”

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USA Today:

Brave grandma kills 4.5-foot-long cobra with shovel to protect neighborhood kids.

Animal control said the snake that grandma Kathy Kehoe killed was an Asian cobra, and was about 4.5 feet long.

Animal control said the snake that grandma Kathy Kehoe killed was an Asian cobra, and was about 4.5 feet long. (Photo: Getty Images)

First she snapped photos.

Then the 73-year-old Pennsylvania grandma smashed the snake dead with a shovel. Animal control says she slayed a 4.5 foot Asian cobra.

Kathy Kehoe said she knew instantly it was a cobra when she first spotted it on her patio. Birds were screeching outside at about 2 p.m. Monday when she stepped outside see why. “Oh, it’s a snake,” Kehoe told ABC 6.

“When I opened the screen door to see what kind of snake it was, the birds flew away and I saw the spot on its back, and I kind of nudged its tail and it came up and spread its hood and I said ‘that’s a cobra,'” she said.

The snake slithered away, but Kehoe chased after it.

    “He went this way. I stalked him and when he got over to here, I tapped his tail. He went up and that’s when I did the deed and held him there,” she said.

The grandma said she wasn’t about to let the cobra get away because of children in the neighborhood of Falls Township, Bucks County, 25 miles from Philadelphia.

“I was like ‘this animal can’t be here, it’s a poisonous reptile,'” she said.

In March, officials removed 20 venomous snakes from a neighboring apartment, including 12 cobras.

RTWT

25 Jun 2019

“Tales of an Inn”

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Nancy Mohr, of Sevynmor Press, is generously sharing her publication company’s first book, Nancy Nicholas’s Tales of an Inn, memories of Fox Hunting and Equestrian Life in post-WWII Chester County, Pennsylvania, on-line.

Sevynmor Press popped up in 1989, by happenstance, with its first book Tales of An Inn. Twenty-six years later, it’s time to share the little book again – without any cost to the reader. Some of the characters emerge in The Lady Blows A Horn and Delicious Memories. Look at the end of this page, click the link. Start reading!

Several generations were blessed by Nancy Nicholas’s enthusiasm for Unionville, and her love of horses and foxhunting. Weekends found her deserting her New York office and hopping on the train with brother, Harry. In the mid-1980s, Nancy developed rheumatoid arthritis, no longer able to ride. Eventually she had to leave her beloved “fox-hunting lodge” on the Upland corner. She moved with Timmy, her little white dog, to Waverly on the Main Line. This wasn’t quite the life she loved, but the book helped.

John and I suggested that all those hunting stories needed preservation, and volunteered as editors. Nancy Nicholas moved her energy to the desk, notes and letters, memories … kept Unionville a little closer. A full year saw a completed manuscript, with designer Virginia Sloss and Ann Armstrong’s beguiling sketches — and the birth of Sevynmor Press and Tales of An Inn, published in 1989 with 700 copies. Nancy had a marvelous time signing books. She died in 1995 at 80.

The author.

22 Jun 2019

George Bird Evans’ Hunting Diaries Online

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The George Bird Evans Collection at the West Virginia Regional History Center at West Virginia University has digitized 65 years of the great George Bird Evans Hunting Journals. There is a treasure trove of great reading here, folks.

The George Bird Evans Digital Collection, part of West Virginia & Regional History Center’s extensive Evans collection, contains sixty-five years of detailed hand written hunting journals, which document George and Kay’s pursuit of both woodcock and grouse behind their personally created line of Old Hemlock setters, in varied coverts mostly in West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

The journals are rich in the experiences and natural observations of a keen intellect and perceptive observer. They are further enhanced by his lively and expressive pen sketches which illustrate many of the entries. These unique journals were the original source material for many of his books and numerous magazine articles, and remain an important resource for understanding his and Kay’s chosen lifestyle and principled sporting ethic.

Covering the years 1932 to 1997, the hunting journals can be downloaded in PDF format. The West Virginia & Regional History Center also holds significant additional Evans material which is not available online. Please refer to the collection finding aid to learn more about the contents of the George Bird Evans Collection.

George Bird and Kay Harris Evans generously endowed the Old Hemlock Foundation in order to preserve and support their passionate lifelong interests. Today the Foundation preserves and shares with visitors Old Hemlock, their eighteenth century home and surrounding forest near Bruceton Mills, Preston County, WV.

HT: Gregg Barrow.

20 Jun 2019

“The Lonely Valley”

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Birdseye view of early Girardville.

Nice article on the foundation of the mining industry and the founding of towns in the Valley of the Mahanoy Creek, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania by Jake Wynn.

I grew up in Shenandoah. My father’s family had settled in Mahanoy City.

Out of wilderness came the wild towns of the Mahanoy Valley.

Ashland. Girardville. Mahanoy Plane. Gilberton. Shenandoah. Mahanoy City.

These communities and the patch towns that surrounded them suddenly appeared in the 1850s and 1860s out of pure wilderness. All built to mine black diamonds from the mountains surrounding the area in every direction. …

The Mahanoy Valley became home to a series of boom-towns in the 1860s and early 1870s. And with boom-towns come the inevitable problems of a population explosion. Lawlessness reigned in these years after the Civil War. These towns had major problems with violence and liquor in their early years. And they also became the seat of unrest directed toward the large mining interests that sought to absorb the patchwork of independent operators in the 1870s. Many of those hanged as Molly Maguires came from this narrow valley.

Developing the Mahanoy Valley came as a direct result of the Civil War and the sudden emergence of life in the wilds of the “Middle Field” created a situation as close to the “Wild West” as would ever be seen in the Keystone State.

Walter Winchell, back in the Prohibition Era, referred to Shenandoah as “the Only Western Town in the East.”

14 Apr 2019

The Bygone American Small Town

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Vanderleun has some elegies to the American small town so many of us grew up in.

RAY: I was born in the late fifties into the same small Kansas town where my mother and father grew up.

    My grandparents all lived in that same town. Everyone was basically German, with a smattering of other northern European ethnicities thrown into the mix. The Main Street had everything anyone could possibly need to buy, from groceries to hardware. There were several Protestant churches that were always packed on Sundays, and one Catholic church on the edge of town, as well. There was no crime to speak of… we had one policeman, who spent most of his time bringing groceries to shut-ins. (He was a friend of my father’s, and my dad would joke about it.) We kids (and there were tons of us!) were outside from sun up to sun down, playing and fishing and riding bikes and building things. Every family had a garden out back, and sometimes a small orchard, and some folks raised a steer for winter beef, or kept chickens. That was in town! Every holiday was an opportunity for everyone in the family to get together and have some fun and good food. It was a warm, safe, sunny, idyllic way to grow up.

    That all began to change in the seventies. People became much more materialistic, thanks in part to Mom taking a job outside the home and having all that extra cash. The new color television encouraged people to buy buy buy. Parents began divorcing and all my friends’ families disintegrated. People began staying inside from sun up to sun down. Where were all the kids? Inside, playing those new video games! The gardens went to weeds.The first black family moved into town. Hey, where’s my bike?

    After college, I moved to another state for a job. When I returned home for a funeral last summer, I didn’t recognize the place. It was like that scene from “It’s a Wonderful Life,” when George Bailey gets to see what his small town was like without him in it. The streets had all been widened, there were cars everywhere, and the town had become mile after mile of shopping and fast food joints. Main Street was dead and boarded up. There was a new GIGANTIC shopping Mall, though. It had been built on top of the land where my grandparents’ farm had been.

    I sat at a table outside of one of the Mall’s restaurants, sipping a coffee and watching the people as they came and went. Most were fat, poorly dressed, and had a generally unhealthy appearance. They all looked so sad and stressed.

    I thought of that YouTube video “Never Forget,” showing archival footage of daily life in a small town in South Dakota in 1938. A town filled with happy, healthy, well-dressed people. My home town used to be that way, too.

    But now it is gone. The modern way of life is a curse, for sure.

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DETER NATURALIST: We grew up in the same town, or nearby.

    Your reference to Pottersville (It’s a Wonderful Life without George Bailey) is razor-sharp. My “home town” grew 800% since the mid-1960s and now looks like it’s the back-lot where every single TV commercial is now filmed. In my old neighborhood literally every eighth 1950’s vintage house has been torn down, replaced by a “mansion” whose walls extend to the utility easements.

    I remember climbing a fire escape on a downtown building with Jr. HS classmates and watching a parade from the roof. Imagine trying that now.

    I remember buying rocket engines and cannon fuse with cash at the downtown hobby store (rode there on my bike) at 11 or 12 years of age. Imagine trying that now. We launched rockets at an open field near a grade school and a college. No one bothered us. When I tried to launch rockets at a county-owned field with my kids 15 years ago we got hounded by a deputy sheriff.

    When I was a kid my home town had TWO stoplights. When I moved out 30 years ago it took literally 45 minutes of stop-and-go to drive from a house on the south edge of town to the north edge of town on a Saturday morning. How many “new Americans” have joined us since then?

    An ice age cometh.

And he links the more hard-line Alt Right perspective of Chateau Heartiste.

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I find it amazing sitting here, aged 70, looking back, and realizing that the whole entire active, complicated, functioning-in-a-lot-of-ways-better-than-today’s-America small town world I knew as a boy is as dead as Nineveh and Tyre. Who could have imagined this would happen?

When I was young, my small town was already a provincial relic, home to an industry in its final death stages. The coal was below the water table and post-WWII environmental regs stopped them from pumping out the water anymore.

A lot of people had already left to find work in the modern, economically thriving America of cities and suburbs, but a lot of people, too, clung to home and church and family, and their small town middle class status. Moving to the city involved an instant demotion to the bottom rung on the social and economic ladder. Moving to the city also involved the loss of ready access to the out-of-doors, and hunting and fishing were like religion to people like us. Families were close. Everyone showed up for weddings and funerals, and you were in touch with grandparents and aunts and uncles all the time. People who moved away lost all that.

But alternatives to moving away ended with my parents’ generation. I and my contemporaries grew up feeling confined by the narrow intellectual horizons and thoroughly conscious of the lack of opportunities of small town life. We were eager to get out and take on the great big outside world. Only losers and criminals stayed behind.

A lot of this had to do with the vast 20th Century growth in personal and social mobility. I had an uncle, born in 1910, who was an all-around able and intelligent man, with natural dignity and a sense of style. He had to leave school after third grade and go to work. He was stuck as a coal miner all his life. If he’d been born 40 years later, he’d have taken standardized tests and scored well, and elite colleges would have been recruiting him.

In the old days, a small town was full of able and talented people. After WWII, social mobility dispersed all the competent younger people to the four winds, leaving behind the hapless and unlucky.

Nobody today, not even the hapless and unlucky, is willing to work hard to make a small living. The malls killed Main Street, and now Amazon is killing the malls. Costs and regulations have piled up, and starting a small business is much, much harder today. When I was a kid, there were barrooms and mom-and-pop little convenience stores on every block. The latter opened at 7 in the morning and closed at 10 or 11 every night. The kind of people living in today’s small town cannot be bothered to do all that. They’d rather take relief. Personal character has dramatically decayed and our society is sclerotic with regulations and red-tape.

We’ve gained a lot with mobility and economic growth, but we have also lost so very, very much.

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22 Jan 2019

Cold Today

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15 Jul 2018

A Pennsylvania Mystery

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(from the Danville Morning News)

Narratively:

On a damp Thursday morning in May 1938, hundreds of workers from Western Pennsylvania oil fields, given the day off to look for a missing girl, walked through the Allegheny Forest at arms’ length. They traversed the tangled underbrush alongside police with bloodhounds, World War I veterans, Cornplanter Indians, coal miners, and assorted others who’d responded to the local mayor’s call for 1,000 volunteers. They killed rattlesnakes and were careful not to drop a foot down into one of the hundreds of oil wells dug during the area’s petroleum boom in the 1870s.

But by nightfall, the “haggard, sleep-robbed faces of scores of men,” as the Bradford Era newspaper described them, told onlookers the grim truth: another day had passed without finding the little red-haired four-year-old, Marjorie West.

Eighty years ago today, Marjorie vanished while at a Mother’s Day picnic in the forest with her family. To this day she is the subject of one of the oldest unsolved cases recorded by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Her search was one of the largest for a child since the Lindbergh Baby kidnapping six years earlier. Residents of Western Pennsylvania and Marjorie’s surviving relatives still hold out hope she’s alive. If she is, she may yet celebrate her 85th birthday next month.

RTWT

04 Jun 2018

Photographed in Eastern Centre County, Pennsylvania

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(photo via Dennis Motz) “He’s estimated to be over 900 lbs. [408.23 kilos]. Game wardens say he’s too big to fit their live traps.”

20 Apr 2018

Enter Pursued By a Bear*

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* Antigonus in Winter’s Tale, Act III, Scene 3.

It is a standard hazard of life in Appalachia that, in mid-to-late April, Ursus Americanus, the native, killed-off-by-the-pioneers-but-returned-by-the-conservationists Black Bear wakes up hungry from his winter slumbers and embarks on a temporary annual reign of terror, leaving no bird feeders or garbage cans left outside safe.

It must have been a young, apprentice bear who showed up Tuesday night. He could not bend the pole reinforced-with-rebar that holds up two feeders, and he was also foiled by the sturdy pipe holding the much-bear-destroyed-and-then-always-repaired ancient red feeder that predates our 30-year ownership of the farm. He merely bent down the un-reinforced, limber pole, pushed open the bottom of the tall, tin feeder with his nose, and inhaled its sunflower seed contents.

He must have taken bear lessons before he returned Wednesday. The rebar-reinforced pole was bent. The pipe pole was pushed so hard that its cement base was tilted out of the ground, and a piece of board from the bottom of the old red feeder was artfully removed. Every single feeder was emptied.

All this criminal activity on Tuesday and Wednesday nights took place discreetly late at night after the humans and dogs had gone to bed.

Last night was different. Karen and I were sitting here, around 9:30, watching a movie on tv. The ten-month-old Taigan puppy was outside exploring. Suddenly, the door flew open, in came the puppy who ran all the way across the room to a position of comparative safety on the stairs at the far end of the room before he began barking.

This puppy has been notoriously unperturbable. Nothing has seemed to intimidate him previously. Certainly, not me. Not even his older brother, Uhlan, who once sent him to the vet for stitches.

So, I got up, took the loaded Model 629 from the bookcase by the door, stepped outside and applied a little .44-caliber fumigation to the general vicinity.

Amusingly, both dogs were still leery and looking around carefully last night and again this morning.

There was one small (mildly appalling) denouement. This morning the puppy was out running around for the second time, and after a bit came trotting down the slope from behind the cabin with something black in his mouth. “He’s playing with another black walnut from last fall.” I thought. But, no, he sat down, and I saw it was too large. He had found himself, and was dissecting and devouring, a black bear turd.

03 Mar 2018

Deserving Porcupine Shot

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Yesterday was one of those days.

We woke up to a chilly house. The winds roaring like a freight train overnight knocked the power out. Happily, though, we are in Pennsylvania and the lights (and the furnace) were back on at 9:00 A.M.

When our seven-month-old-but-monstrously-huge Taigan puppy came back from his first morning outing, he had something sticking out of his nose. Short little spikes? Some kind of burrs? Karen brought me some needle-nose pliers and held him, and I reached out and extracted three in one swipe. The puppy yipped.

On close examination, the little spikes proved to be tiny porcupine quills. It seemed strange that he had only three, right in the nose, and they were all short and about an inch long. Did he meet a baby porcupine? we wondered. Or did he just reach out and sniff one’s head?

But it was not to be quite so simple. A bit later, I saw in his profile view one more quill, bent against his nose.

Efforts to restrain this 75-pound seven-month Central Asian puppy failed. We could not hold him and keep his head still. He had to go to the Vet and be sedated, for one tiny quill.

Well, this morning the dogs were barking about something, when I got up. I looked out the back door and there was a full-sized adult porcupine sitting high in a tree about 50 yards or so from the back door.

I had Karen bring me a Winchester Model 1892 .25-20 Saddle-Ring Carbine (made in 1915) that I acquired in a recent auction and a box of cartridges. The trick would be figuring out where exactly you had to hold.

I fired a shot, which I thought went high. My second shot, held lower, seemed possibly to have struck. The porcupine seemed perturbed. Karen wanted to try her hand. She took aim and definitely hit him. The porcupine began trying to descend. I tried another shot, aiming distinctly below the varmint’s body, and that one really had an impact. The porcupine was hard hit and its paw was shaking in distress. I fired one more time and this last one knocked him right out of the tree.

The .25-20 is clearly an anemic round, not a lot more powerful than a .22 Long Rifle, but it is a good round for this kind of thing. It makes little noise and it took the porcupine a long time to figure out he was being shot at. Long enough for Karen and me to figure out the sights on an unfamiliar new gun.

So perish all our enemies!

(Porcupines are kind of cute but the injuries they can inflict on a dog are horrific. That last one quill yesterday also cost a hundred fifty bucks for veterinary services.)

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