Monthly Archives: July 2014

One small step for … wait a minute.

Buzz Aldrin on the Moon / NASA Photo

Did you believe it when you heard the news that man—two men, actually—had walked on the moon?

On Sunday, July 20, 1969, 45 years ago Sunday, we watched the flickering TV images of the moon landing. CBS was providing live audio coverage, with simulated pictures of the historic moon landing. You remember, when Neil Armstrong stepped out of the lander and declared:

“That’s one small step for a* man, one       giant leap for mankind.”

I was a reporter living in Evansville, Indiana, then. The moon landing was exciting news, the dawn of a new space frontier and the fulfillment of John F. Kennedy’s promise that we would put a “man” on the moon. It would quash the green cheese myth forever and redeem my lackluster submission to seventh-grade science.

Yet when I returned to my room at the YWCA, brimming with wonder and pride, the reaction of my fellow housemates, girls up from Kentucky to find work, was flat.

“It didn’t happen. That was all a simulation. They never put a man on the moon,” one girl said plainly as she made supper in the common kitchen. The others agreed.
The parking garage attendant across the street wasn’t impressed either, though he didn’t exactly doubt the miracle.

“I’d say if God wanted a man to go to the moon, he’d have put him there,” he drawled matter-of-factly.

The US went to the moon five more times and after 1972 stopped going. That was probably enough for a non-believer. But those were days full of promise for those of us who saw and believed, and felt that if it were really possible to land on the moon, anything was possible. “If we can put a man on the moon, we can____________.”

You fill in the blanks.

*Historical reports often drop the “a” but Armstrong said he said it, and many researchers of Ohio-ese support him.


20140718-123254-45174598.jpgBottle trees are often found growing in backyard gardens in this area. Their colorful leaves, while rigid in structure, pick up the sunlight at various times of the day, sending sparkles of color through the atmosphere.

The species originated in ancient times after the invention of glass bottles. People heard eerie sounds rising from the bottle’s opening whenever the wind blew across it. These sounds were identified as evil spirits who became trapped in the bottle. Today, bottle trees help protect homes by trapping the spirits inside their colorful glass and keeping them from entering the home.

Bottle trees grow in almost any soil and are hardy in any climate. They need little if any water. And they are lovely.

We watch as fledglings leave the nest

IMG_4212We had been watching the nest for weeks, ever since I nearly chopped it from its moorings at the end of our privet hedge. I cut the power to my trimmer and parted the branches of a little maple that had invaded the old hedge. There, four feet above the ground, was a robin’s nest, stitched with brown mud, twigs and string and inside, a fuzzy head with its beak wide open begging for food. Papa Robin flapped in circles overhead warning, “Get away! Get away!”
I retreated and watched as the robin flew into the bushes to his baby. There may have been even two nestlings in that rough shell.

We’d have to be vigilant now. There’s a bird-stalking cat in the neighborhood. More than once, we’d seen the black-and-white meanie with moist feathers hanging out of his mouth.

IMG_4227 Bird on window sillWe watched the birds in the days ahead, taking a minute here and there to check on them. We saw the mother bird sitting on the nest. We’d see the red-orange breasted dad reeling in wiggly worms from the front yard. We peered in the nest and saw little feathers sprouting among the fuzz. Both parents kept watch and provided food, dive-bombing potential predators as needed.

On Saturday, July 5, the nest was empty. But a mini flurry of activity sounded in the
back yard. The fledgling, in his junior feathers, was hopping about, testing ground-level rain gutters, window wells and railroad ties for launching pads. He wobbled and teetered as he tried to fly, now and then catching air a few inches from earth. Papa robin was constantly nearby, circling overhead or perched on a post, chirruping encouragement, nature’s original “helicopter parent.”

A little robin will be able to sustain flight about two weeks IMG_4228 - Version 2after he has fledged–acquired the kind of feathers that will allow him to fly. He’ll have to watch out for cats, hawks, cars and lawn mowers on his own and forage for his own worms and berries.

Oh no! Now the little guy was hopping into the street, faster now, with dad right overhead. He made it across, hop-flying into the neighbor’s bushes and from there they both disappeared.

The robins still sing constantly in our yard midsummer but our little family is not among them, for all I know. The nest is empty. More robins will build new nests and settle them with pale blue eggs, beginning the cycle all over again.