Sunday, February 24, 2013

What Can Brown Do For You?

By Joann M. Ringelstetter

Prior to September, 2010, the slogan for UPS (United Parcel Service) was “What Can Brown Do for You?” The “brown” in this slogan referred to the brown color UPS uses for its vehicles and uniforms. In May, 2012, on a photography trip to Ohio, Ruth and I discovered “what brown could do for us,” and it had nothing to do with shipping or receiving packages.

On May 1, we started the day on the backroads of Muskingum County, which is in the southeastern part of Ohio. As we headed further south towards Morgan County, we approached a rural intersection that had a steel truss bridge over Meigs Creek. Looking down the crossroad, we discovered a similar steel truss bridge crossing the same creek.

After photographing both of the bridges, we continued on our way down a narrow tree-lined backroad. As I drove along, Ruth said, “Hey, I think there was an old well at that last place.” So I stopped, but I had to wait for a UPS truck to pass us before I could turn the car around.

After photographing the well, we drove to the end of that road and, as we were discussing which way to turn, the UPS truck pulled up beside us and the driver asked us if we were lost. We assured him that we weren’t, but we had a nice discussion about what we were doing “out in the sticks.” He told us to have a great time and then he headed down the road.

A short time later, we stopped to photograph an old building that looked like it might have been a school at one time. After taking a few photos and heading back to the car, I saw a pickup truck pull out of the driveway of a farm down the road. As the truck neared us, I flagged the driver down and asked him what he knew about the building. He said it was always a house and that his wife’s parents had lived in it at one point. As we finished talking, that same UPS driver passed us, heading in the same direction as we were going.

We then headed into the city of McConnelsville. Ruth had discovered that there was an old diner called the Blue Bell 50’s Diner in the center of town, so we stopped to photograph the diner, which has been there for 80 years. It was lunchtime, so we only took photographs of the outside of the building and the sign.

A short distance from the diner was a small riverside park along the Muskingum River, where we hoped to find a good view of the shiny Veterans Memorial Bridge, which was built in 1913. I parked the car and walked along the river’s edge, passing two people who were sitting at a picnic table enjoying the nice spring day.

Our main reason for coming to the McConnelsville area was to find an old dungeon that Ruth had discovered in her research. However, as is often the case, she didn’t have exact directions to it. So I took the opportunity to ask the people at the picnic table if they knew where the dungeon was located. Unfortunately, they didn’t. So Ruth and I proceeded across the bridge to the small town of Malta to hunt for the dungeon.

In the interest of saving time, I stopped in downtown Malta and asked a woman if she could tell me where the dungeon was located. As she began to tell me that she didn’t know where it was, the UPS driver pulled up in his truck and asked me again (with a smile) if we were lost. When I asked him if he knew where the dungeon was, he said, “Sure, it’s a short distance from here,” and he gave us directions.

The Ohio historical marker next to the dungeon says, “Prisoners convicted of rioting, larceny and adultery in Morgan County between 1833 and 1839 were confined to a dungeon near the Court House in McConnelsville. This stone vault, 11 feet high, 5 feet wide and 12 feet long, was discovered in 1964 and is believed to have been used as the county dungeon.”

According to the Morgan County Historical Society, the dungeon “was discovered in 1964 during excavation for the present sheriff’s office and jail. Located beneath the basement in the old jail, the dungeon contained several artifacts and is a stark reminder of how criminals were dealt with in the 19th century.

As I was exploring and photographing the dungeon, our favorite UPS driver pulled up and said, “Great! You found it. Anything else I can help you find?” We told him we were leaving the area and thanked him for his help and the smiles he brought to our faces. And that’s what Brown can do for you!

Happy Shunpiking!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

With a Job Like That...

By Joann M. Ringelstetter

In the autumn of 2011, Ruth and I passed through the small town of Wayland (pop. 966) in the southeast corner of Iowa. As we drove down Main Street, we saw an old building that looked like it might have had quite a history. It was then the Wayland Museum, but I wanted to know more.

Recently, through the kindness of Larry Roth, owner of the Midwest Memories Museum in Wayland, I discovered that Wayland was called Crooked Creek in the late 1830s when the first settlers arrived. In 1851, its name was changed to Marshall and then changed again around 1879 to Wayland.

A man named Thurston Mosher constructed the building around 1856 and opened a store, which also served as the local post office. Over the years, this building was home to a variety of businesses, including a meat market, a picture studio, a doctor’s office, and a millinery shop. After the millinery shop closed, it served as a private home.

As I photographed the museum building, I noticed another old building on the corner and I knew I wanted to photograph that building, too. As I pointed my camera toward it, a man came around the corner and said, “Hurry up and get your photos. We’re tearing it down tomorrow.”

This building was built in 1883 as the home of Adoniram Lodge #120, an organization for Masons living in the Marshall (Wayland) area. Adoniram Lodge was officially chartered in 1858, occupying two prior buildings that were both destroyed by fire – the first one in 1858 and the second one in 1883.

Masonry (or Freemasonry) is the oldest fraternity in the world. Many of the Founding Fathers of our country were Masons. Masonry emphasizes self-improvement and social betterment. During the 1800s and early 1900s, before many of today’s governmental social programs were established, Masons provided much-needed assistance to members of the community.

The minutes from Adoniram Lodge meetings, which have been preserved through the years, bear witness to the Masons’ goal of making the world a better place. Funds have been used to supply food, clothing, fuel, rent, medical services, and assistance for widows.

Both the store building and the Masonic Hall served their communities well. According to Mr. Roth, the Masonic Hall was indeed torn down and the store building will soon suffer the same fate due to its state of disrepair. The good news is that, in May of 2012, the Wayland Museum merged with the Midwest Memories Museum.

As I stood photographing that day and chatting with the nice gentleman who informed me of the fate of the Masonic Hall, the following conversation took place. (I never got his name, so I will refer to him as Gentleman).

Gentleman: "So, do you and your sister just spend your time traveling around the country photographing old buildings?"

Joann: "I wish that’s all we did, but we both work in high-stress Information Technology jobs. Every chance we get, we hit the backroads. Photography is my meditation."

Gentleman (after giving my comment some serious thought): "Well, I suppose with a job like that, you NEED medication."

Oh, how that struck my funny bone, but I didn’t want to offend him, so I thanked him for the conversation and headed back to the car.

As soon as I got in and slammed the door, I burst into laughter and shared the humor with Ruth, who also got quite a charge out of it. With smiles on our faces, we left the small town of Wayland and headed for the backroads of Iowa to finish out our day.

Happy Shunpiking!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Winter on the Backroads

By Ruth A. Ringelstetter

It’s hard to believe we’re halfway through winter now. We’ve had a blizzard, days so far above average temps that the blizzard snow has melted, and then more normal Wisconsin winter weather, with cold wind chills and a little snow.

Whenever the timing of snow is right (snow during the week so that driving conditions and the snow cover are good on the weekend), yet warm enough that Joann’s face doesn’t freeze off immediately, we take to the backroads to capture winter scenes. We have to have a blanket of snow. (Brown is not our color.)

On one of our trips several years ago, we headed out into Richland County. Driving around on the backroads, we came across a barnyard with a herd of pigs. Now, normally when we see pigs, or should I say when the pigs see us, they run for the barn or shed, and there is no opportunity to photograph them. These pigs, however, were different. They came to the fence and were very curious. They were enjoying the sunshine, and we were enjoying them.

Another favorite spot in Richland County is an old abandoned farmstead. The barn is only a foundation now, but the farmhouse and windmill still stand. I always detour our route to stop in front of it whenever we’re in the area.

Some locations, like this one, draw us to visit over and over again in different seasons of the year. Depending on the weather conditions, and the time of year, we come away with very different photos.

The sky conditions, the season of the year, the time of day, all make a difference in what any scene looks like.

Another favorite stop in any season is the Conkle School. It is a well-preserved school, but we don’t have any information about who preserves it. It sits on a country road across from a cemetery.

We often participate in the annual Christmas Bird Count that takes place in Sauk County. Most years we are lucky enough to have snow cover. This makes it easier to find some species of birds, as well as gives us a few opportunities for photography. When we stop to photograph a scene, I keep counting any birds that I can see.

In 2009, the Christmas Bird Count was the day after Christmas and there was a good snow cover. As we counted birds, we kept seeing scenes to photograph. One such scene was this goat He had his hayroll spread out enough to use it as a bed, and close enough to munch on when he was hungry. We love finding cute animals.

These days there are no typical Wisconsin winters. We might have snow on the ground that lasts all winter, or the snow may all melt down to the grass several times before spring finally arrives.

One winter, it snowed every week during January and we went to the Stoughton area often. We found one of my favorite winter farm scenes on one of those trips. I love the red of the barn against the bright white snow in the scene below.

We also love churches in the snow, and on one of those Stoughton area trips, we found a church and cemetery across a snowy field. Depending on what would get planted in the field, this scene might not even be visible during other seasons of the year.

We know there are a lot of other ways to enjoy winter. Many people ski, snowmobile, snowshoe, or go ice fishing. Winter can offer something for everyone. Our pleasure is to see how the snow changes the landscape and to capture it in photographs.

Happy Shunpiking!