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ROAD TRIP: If Trees Could Talk

Alderbrook, New York

 

          

   
    Our century-old homestead stone walls were laid by John McKillip by the time the largest geomagnetic storm hit Earth in 1859. Two years after my great-grandmother Margaret McKillip was born (1857) the Carrington Event (the largest geomagnetic storm) hit Earth causing an aurora over Australia and gave electrical shocks to America’s telegraph operators. In the late 1800s scientists in the Adirondacks discovered the climate was warming as the lumber was cut.  We were warned then about the ecological turbulence we face today. 

     On August 12, 2018 our Adirondacks relative Hugh Law showed my daughters and I the way to our family’s 1834 McKillip homestead in the Adirondacks. Annually, Hugh joined his father to help my great-uncle Eddie McKillip post the edges of 15 chains measure of land that included “Eddie McKillip Mountain.” Hugh’s great uncle was Theodore Roosevelt’s favorite guide before the President protected the Adirondacks as a New York State Park-one of his first preservation acts. “What have you brought for them?” Hugh asked me. “Not many have made it this far.”  Our one-hundred-year homestead was kept by Eddie, my great-grandmother’s brother until the 1970s.  It is now deeded to the Adirondacks State Park with his abandoned automobile and a nearby horse-drawn butter churn. Caught empty handed, I wrote a message for our ancestors on a dry cleaner ticket zipped in a plastic bag and tucked into the front door foundation where the knob was. 

On July 8, 1962, when I was four years old, a similar explosion called Starfish Prime was launched into outer space to blast a 1.4 megaton bomb, 500 times as powerful as the one that hit Hiroshima at an altitude of 250 miles above Hawaii.  It caused the street lights to go out in Hawaii and an aurora as far away as New Zealand.  The Earth is encircled by donuts of intense radiation held in place by its magnetic field called Van Allen belts. (James Van Allen, University of Iowa).  The bright ball of plasma of the nuclear blast generates a colorful artificial aurora called “Rainbow bombs.”  Starfish Prime made a new radiation belt that lasted for 10 years destroying television broadcasting satellites that entered it strata. 
            Geoff Reeves, at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico has found a way to eliminate radiation belts made from nuclear blasts by hitting the radiation with AM radio waves.  My brothers and sisters didn’t know about Starfish Prime in the 1960s, but nuclear explosions were part of the games we played.  Here is an excerpt from If Trees Could Talk:
 
“In the east woods by the lake, we decided to dig a hole to China. It had to start off pretty big. Enough for four shovels to fling dirt on top of ripe “stink bombs”, white fungi balls that grew as big as volley balls. “Those smell so bad!!” “Hey, let’s used them for nuclear bombs!!” We tossed, as high as two of us could to explode their stinking white and black powder all over the freshly mowed lawn. The whole yard and woods stunk. We went back to digging. Over time, our hole got pretty deep. Deep enough to let us know we were not going to get to China that summer. Thin plywood was laid over our hole and branches and leaves laid on top. We slipped into the hole and slid the mossy cover shut so nuclear bombs couldn’t get us. We planned to store dried milk, more water, chocolate and beef jerky for that ominous imagined day. Dad’s old Army mess kit with metal spoons and fork was set on a board, then we ran to the basement to make pottery vessels.

         Once Dad made us wooden rubber-band guns in his basement wood shop. Carefully and slowly he carved in jointed wood, with minute detail, a replica pine .45 pistol with a wooden clothespin screwed on top. The rubber band on the barrel head was stretched to the closed-pin mouth. “Only aim at fences,” he said. The older boys had aimed and shot rubber bands at each other before they were up the back-basement steps. Immediately, all the pistols were confiscated by Dad. “And don’t chew a gun from your peanut butter sandwich either,” we heard at the table.” 

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/article/why-the-us-once-set-off-a-nuclear-bomb-in-space-called-starfish-prime

 
Above: The white frame schoolhouse beneath McKillip Mountain collapsed recently. Below: Eddie McKillip's abandoned 1920s car and a nearby horse-drawn butter churn. Center: Relative  Hugh Law showed us the homestead where he used to visit Eddie with his father. 
Above: Aubrey sits on the home foundation. Right: Irene, Aubrey, and Margot in the 1834 homestead just below McKillip Mountain. Center Below: In the 1800s Alderbrook community were loggers who are measuring logs.






 
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Read these Books from your Library

 
Shades of Positively Pandemic Anthology
With short story Soul to Soul by Margot McMahon
Is available on Amazon
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Above: Saint Rose of Lima Catholic Church was built with the staunch support of the McKillip family from Northern Ireland.
 
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If Trees Could Talk

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