Saving the Shawshank Tree

Five years ago, the landowners made an heroic effort to save the iconic oak tree featured in “The Shawshank Redemption.” Straight-line winds had torn away about half of it.

When they were done, what was left of the tree remained standing for prosperity. I believe some of the wood was salvaged for the same purpose.

This morning, a thunderstorm snapped off what remained of the trunk.

I happened by in 2011 when the salvage operation was underway and took photos. (Using a little Canon G-10.)

Here are a few of those photos — for prosperity.





Closeup of trunk.


Semi with the main section pulls out onto Pleasant Valley Road.


The Shawshank tree today — sad.


Glazed and Diffused

Stepped out onto the deck this morning, camera in hand, looking for something interesting to shoot in the morning light. I was intrigued by this reflection of the deck and the house in a black ceramic planter.








(Gratuitous Selfie)



Paddle Your Kids – Tips for Canoeing with Young Children


When canoeing with young children, it’s important to stop along the way and allow them to play.

You shouldn’t hesitate to paddle young children.

I’m not talking about corporal punishment for toddlers; I’m talking about canoeing.

The most important thing to remember is that you don’t want canoeing to seem like punishment. With a little preparation and planning, you can make it a safe and enjoyable experience for them. And yourself.

Safety is the main concern.

The use of life jackets for children is mandatory. And should be. Ohio law requires that children under 10 years of age must wear a life jacket while aboard watercraft under 18 feet in length. That would include most canoes and kayaks.

Adults must have life jackets in the boat, but are not required to wear them. However, except in extremely low water conditions such as shallow streams with little current, it’s a good idea to wear a life jacket for two reasons — to set a good example and to be better able to respond in the event of a capsize or kid overboard situation.

Fit is important. Life jackets come in many sizes and styles. (In fact, manufacturers recently started making them to accommodate the adult female anatomy.) Generally speaking, youth life jackets come in three sizes — for children under 30 pounds, 30-50 pounds and over 50 pounds.

You probably won’t find life jackets for children under 30 pounds at your local department or sporting goods stores. They can be special-ordered online for store pickup or purchased online.

Price ranges vary. Form-fitting life jackets tend to be more expensive — $40 and up — but it’s important to provide a life jacket children will want to wear in lieu of the cheaper, bulkier horse collar variety.

Conditions are another safety concern — weather and water.

I wouldn’t recommend taking young children out in less-than-ideal conditions. Rain and high wind can make for an unpleasant and potentially unsafe experience. Even on a warm summer day, getting drenched by a downpour can cause hypothermia, which can be fatal. For that reason, it’s a good idea to pack rain gear in case of an unexpected shower.

It’s equally important to prepare for sun exposure. Don’t forget hats and sunscreen. I also pack a salve, such as After Bite, to treat insect bites and stings. Hydration is also crucial, so make sure you bring water or juice. Also, it doesn’t hurt to pack a little snack, if just to keep them entertained.

The less-than-ideal rule also applies to water levels and current. Even with a life jacket, a child can become trapped in a strainer (tree debris) or other obstacles.

In short, if the weather and river conditions aren’t perfect, wait for another day.

Create a safe, comfortable environment inside the canoe. I learned this lesson the hard way. Actually, it was my daughter who learned this lesson the hard way. On her first canoe trip, we bottomed out on a gravel bar. The canoe came to an abrupt stop. She didn’t.


Foam rubber noodles protect kids from banging their heads on the thwarts and gunwales.

Since then, whenever canoeing with children, I pad the thwarts (crossbars) and gunwales (side rails) with pipe wrap. More recently, I’ve switched to hollow-core foam “noodles.” They provide more padding than pipe wrap and come in bright colors, which makes them more appealing to kids. Simply cut the noodles to size, slit them lengthwise and slip them over the thwarts and gunwales.

A yoga mat placed on the floor of the canoe provides better footing and comfort for children. My daughter also found hers very tasty, judging from the bite mark she left on the edge of it. Yoga mats can be somewhat pricey. Higher-quality ones run $20-$40 or more. But, when not lining the floor of the canoe, they can be used for other purposes — such as yoga.

Finally, canoe trips should be tailored for children’s brief attention span. They won’t be as enthralled as you are with the scenery and wildlife

I recommend providing child-sized paddles. Most kids, especially younger ones, won’t use them much. Except perhaps to resolve sibling rivalries. To kids, dipping a paddle in the water is like fledgling birds testing their wings; they aren’t ready to fly, but they will begin to get the feel of it.

More importantly, stop along the to way to play, to wade in the river and skip stones. While you’re at it, collect large quantities of “balooking stones,” so called because of the sound they make when they hit the water. Children enjoy tossing stones into the river and you’ll probably find yourself making frequent stops to replenish their supply.

When your children get to the age when they stop throwing “balooking stones” in the water and throw them at you instead, it’s probably time to buy them their own canoe.

This article originally appeared in the July 14, 2016, Ashland Times-Gazette.

Remembering the Flood of ’69

In response a recent thread of Facebook comments on the Flood of 1969 I dug out this Ashland Times-Gazette article from June 29, 2009.

It was my contribution to a whole section with archival photos on how the flood impacted Ashland County and the Mohican area.

Hope the T-G puts together a similar section on the 50th anniversary of the flood.

Here it is, sans photos:

Perhaps Trudy Knowlton-Bates best summed up the flood of July 4, 1969, when she said, “This was truly one of the most profound events in my life.”

Judging from news clippings following the flood and accounts recently submitted by readers, it was a profound event. The flood of 1969 changed the way Ashland County residents looked at life. Individually and collectively.

It struck on a Friday night, the Fourth of July. It was the start of a holiday weekend, when people were looking forward to family outings, camping, canoeing and relaxing.

It was a time when such things were taken for granted. For most, creature comforts were readily available, there was a strong feeling of self-reliance and our infrastructure seemed adequate.

That perception changed overnight.

Friday was a typical Fourth of July holiday. Hundreds of campers had settled in at the campgrounds around Loudonville. Families gathered at homes or area parks to picnic.

As evening arrived, storm cells formed on both sides of a stationary front over the area. Few, if any, saw it coming. Weather warning systems were woefully inadequate.

It rained hard and steadily throughout the night. In a 24-hour period, rainfall amounts in Ashland County ranged from 8.5 to 16 inches.

In the early morning hours of Saturday, July 5, 1969, waterways had become overwhelmed. Around 3 a.m., flash floods developed, gathering debris. The debris, which included vehicles and travel trailers in some cases, lodged against bridges and culverts, backing up the churning water, widening the path of destruction. Murky water surged into basements, undermining foundations. The pressure of the current pinning debris against bridges out in the county caused many of them to topple into the water.

The most crushing blow to the county’s infrastructure was the collapse of the dam at the Ashland Reservoir northeast of the city off U.S. 42. It sent about 110 million gallons of water gushing into the already-flooded Jerome Fork Watershed.

During the early stages of flash flooding Saturday morning, a rural Ashland woman and her 9-year-old niece were swept away by the current after the car in which they were riding stalled on Ohio 58. Their bodies were found 12 hours later about a mile away.

One other person drowned in Ashland County flooding. At about 8:30 a.m. Saturday, a Dalton truck driver was trapped in fast-moving water east of Rowsburg on U.S. 250. By the time would-be rescuers were able to get a boat to the truck, the driver was gone. His body was recovered three days later along Muddy Fork of the Mohican River.

In spite of the danger, more than 100 people joined the rescue and recovery efforts. In the case of the truck driver, his fellow employees from Orrville Milk Co. drove here from Wayne County to help look for him.

What made the 1969 flood a profound experience was not just the extent of the destruction; it was the extraordinary effort on the part of so many people. Emergency responders, public officials and everyday people rose to the occasion, forsaking their own self-interest to help others.

Some even risked their lives, including State Highway Patrol troopers Frank J. Iley and Roger E. Teague, tow truck operator Larry Aber and gas station owner Dave Shafer. They came to the aid of a family of four from Nashua, N.Y., who became stranded when their van was swept off the pavement on Interstate 71 and pinned against a fence.

Similar incidents were reported, including one north of the city on U.S. 250 in which firefighters were pulled from a rushing creek after a bridge collapsed.

These and other rescue efforts — including some that probably were not reported — prevented further casualties.

Disaster relief efforts began early Saturday morning and escalated as more and more people began to realize what had happened. Forty years ago, there wasn’t the luxury of instantaneous communications. Those living on higher ground didn’t realize at first just how bad the situation was.

That included County Engineer Howard Maxheimer. In a series of articles published 10 years after the flood, T-G staff writer Frank Telakowicz wrote that Maxheimer “said he didn’t know anything about the flood until he went downtown to buy a plug for the basement to stop water from coming into his house.”

“I was stunned, but I went right to work,” Maxheimer told Telakowicz.

When it came to disaster relief, jurisdictional issues and geographical boundaries went by the wayside.

Sheriff George Wissler invited the City Police Department to set up temporary operations in his office. The City Police Department sent four officers to Wooster to help out. Nine people had died in flooding there, including two police officers. Meanwhile, Mansfield sent four officers and two cruisers to assist the Ashland Police Department.

Ashland, Wooster and four other municipalities had signed a mutual aid agreement in 1967. Ashland and Mansfield had an informal agreement that, if aid was needed in a crisis situation, it would be provided. The Mansfield Police Department made good on that agreement.

Local Red Cross volunteers began relief efforts at 4 a.m. Saturday. Two days later, the Eastern Area office set up disaster processing centers in Ashland, Nova and Loudonville.

Even the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts did their part. Troops from Christ United Methodist Church volunteered to help in cleanup efforts.

Ashland County REACT, an organization of amateur radio enthusiasts dedicated to providing emergency communications assistance, had scheduled a jamboree at the fairgrounds that weekend. REACT members were pressed into service, assisting with communications and helping with rescue efforts.

Local businesses also contributed to the relief effort.

Employees of the All Star Dairy on Clark Street packaged water into half-gallon milk containers to be distributed in the city.

Faultless Rubber contacted its parent company, Abbott Laboratories in Columbus, and arranged to have 48,000 chlorine tablets flown in for Samaritan Hospital and the Good Shepherd Home.

Hess & Clark provided water for city residents from its research facility outside the city.

F.E. Myers Co. supplied water pumps and 300-gallon water tanks, which were placed for residents at locations around the city.

Pepsi Cola Bottling Co. in Mansfield also supplied water tanks.

In the southern part of the county, flooding had routed hundreds of campers and stranded motorists. Residents of Loudonville and Hayesville were quick to respond.

Loudonville residents gathered truckloads of shoes, clothing and bedding for a relief effort in Killbuck.

“People were generous to the point of purchasing new items such as towels and bedding to be given to the victims,” Cecelia Weakland wrote in the July 9, 1969, T-G.

The response was so great, more than three truckloads had to be stored in the Youth Building, where it was boxed and sorted by children from a local Sunday school class.

Campers who had been evacuated from Loudonville area campgrounds and Charles Mill and Pleasant Hill Lake parks descended on Hayesville. Accommodations were set up for them and stranded motorists at Hayesville Elementary and Hillsdale High School. Village residents prepared food for them. A few homeowners even volunteered to put up families for the night.

News stories and personal accounts suggest the flood of 1969 profoundly affected the residents of Ashland County. They saw firsthand how fragile life can be, that death and destruction can come quickly and with little or no warning. They also learned their weather warning systems and infrastructure were inadequate.

Since then, steps have been taken at all levels of government to improve both. Some of those measures were a direct result of the flood.

City Engineer Mel Bauer acknowledged years later that the storm had served as a learning experience. It was. But its lessons went beyond meteorology and infrastructure. The response — individually and collectively — was an example of what can be done when people from all walks of life reach inside themselves for an extra measure of courage and compassion.