Friday, March 30, 2018


A message from the Thorntown Toan Board president was included with a recent utility bill advising that prominently displayed house numbers are needed to help emergency personnel to respond to calls for help.

Our house at 515 S. Pearl St. is among the offenders. I don't recall if it was us or the renters who did it, but there were stick-on numbers - they looked like the numbers the Department of Natural Resources requires on boats - on the north side of our mailbox. They faced north and couldn't be readily seen from the street and the "1" is missing. I peeled them off and threw them into the trash.

"To aid residents with updates to their homes Boy Scout Troop 743 plans to provide decals and help with installation if necessary as part of an Eagle Scout project," the notice says.

Rather than wait for the Scouts to bring me cheesy-looking boat numbers, I bought some fancy brass numbers at Menards and installed them to the base of a front porch column last week.

As far as emergency responders are concerned, we are a little more than 500 yards east of the Sugar Creek Township Volunteer Fire Department's main station, which also includes an ambulance. We can see the station from our front porch.

I was reminded of that about 4:30 a.m. today when Jack and Dora howled long and loud in response to a siren from the fire station, waking us from a sound sleep.

Friday, March 16, 2018


I'm testing the AcuRite 5-in-1 weather station, courtesy of the Amazon Vine Program.

The mounting site on the privacy fence between our house and our utility shed isn't perfect, but it seems to work OK.

It took me about an hour from the time the UPS guy delivered it until I had everything set up and functioning, which is pretty good.

So far, the rain gauge hasn't gotten any action, but that should change overnight.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Disaster averted

The Samsung microwave oven we bought on Dec. 30 and installed the next day, began emitting an odor suggestive of burning or melting plastic when we used it last week.

We used it sparingly for a couple of days, then stopped using it altogether, pending inspection by a service technician. It is, after all, under warranty from Samsung in addition to a Lowe's extended warranty.

The tech showed up yesterday afternoon and discovered that one of the plugs had been incorrectly installed at the factory in Malaysia, causing a short circuit that was melting the plug and would eventually cause a fire.

He didn't have the replacement parts with him, but I expect him back today or tomorrow to complete the repair.

Thank God, we didn't burn the house down.

Friday, March 09, 2018

Hard day's night

I covered the graveside services for Boone County Sheriff's Deputy Jacob Pickett this evening.

It was the most technically challenging shoot I've had as long as I can remember. I shot more than 400 frames and ended up with only 9 that were worthy of publication. The problem was low light because the funeral procession didn't start to arrive at the cemetery until sundown. But the time everyone was in place, it was full-on dark. If it hadn't been for lighting provided by the TV stations, I wouldn't have gotten anything at all.

I was shooting for the Lebanon Reporter and Maria said she was pleased with the images, but I am painfully aware that my 12-year-old Nikon D200 was right at the edge of its capabilities. If I'm going to keep shooting, I want a new camera. The guy standing next to me had a digital SLR that sounded like a machine gun to my bolt-action Nikon.

This is my favorite shot of the evening. A trumpeter playing taps.

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Like the swallows returning to Capistrano, the turkey vultures are back in Thorntown

They’re back.

The sky over our back yard is full of turkey vultures.

They soar silently on huge black wings, seeking out rising warm air and flapping in to a landing in the tops of a line of tall trees 74 yards behind our house. The trees separate a broad expanse of lawn from an abandoned railroad right-of-way that is now the Big Four Trail, a hiking, biking trail that runs from here to Lebanon.

We noticed them for the first time in the spring of 2005. It seems unlikely that we would have missed a roost of 50-or-so turkey vultures for the four consecutive springs that we lived here, so maybe they relocated to our neighborhood after something forced them to move.

I’ve long enjoyed watching them fly. I used to see them when my ex and I took our sons camping at Turkey Run State Park a few miles southwest of here back in the 1970s. That’s when I first looked them up in Roger Tory Petersen’s "Field Guide to the Birds of North America" and learned they are the second-largest birds in North America - eclipsed only by the nearly extinct California Condor, itself a form of vulture.

I admit I was mildly concerned about all those vultures peering down at my 4-month-old Australian shepherd puppy Pete back in 2006.

So I went online to learn more.

Turns out, there’s no need to worry. Turkey vultures don’t kill anything. They won’t touch anything that isn’t dead. Besides that, they will pass on dead carnivores like dogs, cats and coyotes, preferring to dine on dead herbivores like sheep, goats and cattle.

The Cherokees called the turkey vulture the “peace eagle” because it soars like the predatory bird, but does not kill.

They are about 25 inches from end to end with a six-foot wingspan. The average adult turkey vulture weighs in at 6 pounds.

The turkey vultures around here are migratory, wintering in the U.S. south or perhaps as far south as Central America.

I remember seeing a humorous piece on the old Disneyland TV show back in the ‘50s about the festivities surrounding the return of the turkey vultures each spring to Hinkley, Ohio, much the same way the swallows come back to San Juan Capistrano on the same day each year.

My first sighting back in 2006 was on March 8 and here they are on March 8 again.

I also discovered turkey vultures even have their own fan club - The Turkey Vulture Society (

Bill Kohlmoos, president of the Turkey Vulture Society, wrote a fascinating piece about the birds in which he points out they have a rich social life, like to play aerial tag, and will invite other roosts to join them if they find a particularly large meal.

In California, he said, they’ve even been known to tell condors about major feasts and guide them to the scene.

Among his anecdotes:
“…it was reported by a person who had studied turkey vultures for many years that one would wait every morning for his son, a young school boy, to come out of his house. The vulture would follow the boy several blocks to the school bus stop and then wait on top of a telephone pole until the boy got on the bus. In the afternoon the bird would be back on the pole waiting for the boy's return, and then follow him home.”
“One lady wrote us that she has built a small wooden tower-like feeder in her back yard and puts out food for her friends each day. One day she noticed that after eating their breakfast, the vultures had gone down to the lawn in her yard and six of them were in a circle around a soccer-size ball left on the lawn by her grandchildren. The vultures were hitting the ball back and forth to each other by butting it with their head and beak. Each day thereafter they played this game. And although there were four balls of different colors, they always picked the orange one.”
“Turkey Vultures are affectionate and often make good pets. When a bird is injured and taken into rehab he will become emotionally attached to his handler and follow him around and watch him, much like a pet dog. They love to bring an object to a person and then play tug-of-war.”
“A lady in Southern California wrote that she and her husband would drive their car five miles from town and take a daily walk in the country with their dog. A turkey vulture would join them, soaring above and watching them. And then one day at home she broke a leg and the walks were not possible for a while. One day she was in her back yard on crutches and there was her turkey vulture sitting on the fence, waiting to say hello. He had found her in a town of 12,000 people!”

Turkey vultures are covered by an international migratory bird treaty that makes it a federal crime to kill or injured them or to possess one without the appropriate permit as a wildlife rehabilitator.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Great series

We like to find an engaging series on Netflix or Amazon to watch in the evenings and just finished one of the best so far.

Babylon Berlin is a tense, dark German-made series on Netflix set in Berlin in the late 1920s.

If you're up for 16 episodes, totaling 12 hours, I heartily recommend it. (It helps if you know a bit about the Weimar Republic and the political turmoil of the period just before the economic crash.)