Posts Tagged With: Wood carvers


William Gillette may have something over Eric Jaillet, but not in this family. We attended Eric’s baseball game early Saturday morning. He plays catcher, and third base. First up, first pitch of the game, he hit a single and ran it home.
Eric is 12 years old and plays for a team that ramps that ball around like a fast pitching pro team. Its not the Little League my kids grew up with. I was on the edge of my seat watching these kids field, pick up that ball,  and blast it to the base; no missed catches; everyone on point; disciplined to their position; never missed a cue. Just like the pros. WOW!
Eric went on to make a double play and a home run. The opposing team had a better pitcher, but his team, The Gamers, won by a strong lead.

Here the team pummels and praises a fellow player after a home run. These are 12, 13 and 14 year olds. I felt like I was watching the pro players of tomorrow enroute.

Eric playing catcher while the opposing team is up. The pitchers, on both teams, cover the catcher when he chases a foul ball. The pitcher and catcher watch those batters trying to steal a base. Batters watch for a hole in the field; Eric says if the fielders step back, he tries for a line drive. If they come forward he hits to the outfield. These kids know where to hit that ball to bring runners home. Fantastic discipline and dedication for young people who love this game.

In this advanced league, you hear no complaints about the umpire’s calls, from kids, coaches or parents. Everyone is civil and professional. They have base coaches on the field. Sportsmanship and civility are practiced here. The teams high five each other as they leave the field at the end of the game. They’ve learned the important art of winning and losing gracefully.

Yes, there is proud dad and grandpa at the end of the game. But, Eric, is THE MAN.

After the game, Jim and I visited the nearby Gillette Castle State Park.
Gillette and Jaillet are pronounced the same way. William Gillette was an actor/playwright who perfected and personified the role of Sherlock Holmes. He wrote the plays and gave personality to Watson, making memorable the  phrase, “Elementary my dear Watson.” It was his hawk like profile that is the rememberable and thereafter copied vision of Holmes, along with his choice of the hat and pipe. He wrote a novel, invented many stage tricks, props and lighting techniques. And, he made a lot of money.

He was born in Hartford, CT. but decided to retire to this beautiful area in the Seven Sisters mountain range next to the Connecticut River at East Haddam, CT. He designed and had built a medieval looking stone castle in 1919-1924. It took twenty five craftsmen five years to complete the structure.

As fascinating as the rough hewn rock castle is, the inside is innovative and quirky as well. Gillette invented a sliding table on runners; mirrors strategically located can check on his guests in various places in the house; secret stairs allowed him to make a surprise entrance where he was least expected; The guy was obviously a bit eccentric, but practical too. He had a system of piped water all through the house and a ceiling sprinkler system that could be set in motion at the pull of a handle in the event of fire.

The 24 room castle had 47 carved wooden doors, no two alike. Even the electric light switches were carved wood. He designed a carved wooden apparatus to turn out the light over his bed.

It was difficult to believe the apparatus above is light switches. The castle has beautiful grounds, a huge, free picnic area near a small lake, hiking trails and remnants of his fascination with trains, a station, some of the original 3 miles of track and a couple of engines in the visitors center. The castle tour has a charge. It has sisal wall paper, carved wainscoting, stained glass pieces, giant fireplaces, an indoor waterfall, and his original beds, china and books. For anyone interested in wood carving or stone work, this is a must see.

After the castle visit, Jim and I took the ferry to Chester, drove to Essex, had lunch and visited the Connecticut River Museum. More on that tomorrow.

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Today is a travel day, heading north for Kanchanaburi through lush river country. Our goal the famous bridge over the River Kwai. But, traveling with OAT (Overseas Adventure Travel) is so much more. Panu points out the salt flats, where ocean water is piped into clay pads. Salt is made only in summer. With the intense hot sun, ten inches of water can evaporate in one day. The farmer uses the salt for pit toilets, house use, preservative and to put in the soil to sweeten the mangosteens and coconuts. When the rains come, the same flats are used to raise fish and shrimp. They produce fish sauce for sale. Thais have used windmills for years to pump water and are now experimenting with wind power.
Panu stops at a fruit stand and buys for our tasting pleasure, Longan, Mangosteen, Pomelos, lychee, and tangerines.
Our second stop is this amazing woodcarving company that ships beautiful pieces all over the world. Oh, how I wanted the bench above with its bird arm rest and pheasant back piece. Gorgeous. The pieces are drawn on paper and deeply chiseled to produce a dimensional work of art. The piece is drawn on a paper and pasted to the wood. The carver below is nearly finished.
Next stop a coconut processing plant. Its a family affair, not for export. People in the region produce for their own use and barter with neighbors. Transportation was made easy by the canals built by the king before good roads were built.

It was absolutely fascinating to realize this wok is boiling coconut milk into a syrup using the coconut shells to fuel the stove. The foaming sugar boils up but instead of boiling over onto the stove, it seeps through the bamboo slats and drips back down into the wok again. So clever.
This photo shows ground coconut meat fried until it releases its oil. Then the oil floats and is separated. A tool called a rabbit is used to remove the fresh meat from the shell easily. We tasted, fresh, juicy and delicious. I learned that coconut milk is plentiful in a green coconut. When the coconut ripens, the meat gets thick and is taken for oil and food. This family allowed us to traipse through their house and see how a typical,middle class Thai farm house looks inside. People here live simply and spend much time out of doors. Can you imagine us allowing 10 people to roam through our houses?

Our next stop was the floating market, kind of carnival in atmosphere. This farmer augments his income by bringing his elephant to town. People pay him to have their picture taken with the elephant. It is against the law to have an elephant in town, but in this country place, the people seem to ignore the law. Most Thais have no refrigeration, or traditionally had no refrigeration and they bought their daily food fresh from the market. Everything transpires here on the canal. Goods brought to town from outlying farms, they cook on the boats, eat, sleep and socialize. At one time they threw all their garbage in the canal. The king beseeched them not to do that and a market place on land as well as on the canal developed. Toilets and washing places and garbage containers helped take the stink away and what is left is a fascinating, wonderful place.

This woman is cooking and arranging her wares on banana leaves.
Fruits and flowers of all types are available as well as dry goods like hats and pots and tools. In recent years, souveniers as well.

When your shopping is done you can sit in the Gossip Cafe for a sip and a treat.
Or, have your picture taken with a snake.
We finally reach Kanchanaburi. Above is one of the original Japanese steam engines used on the rail over the River Kwai.

At lunch, we view the new Bridge over the river Kwai. We walked the bridge and could see a small remnant of the original bamboo bridge that was blown up by the Brits.
Later we visit the War Museum and War cemetery with graphic pictures of the Allied POWs and the Asian conscripts forced to work themselves to death on the infamous railway.

200,000 Asian laborers and 61,000 Allied POWs built a 260 mile stretch of rail in abominable conditions. For every half-mile of track, 38 POWs died, 700 Americans, 13,000 Aussies, 18,000 Dutch, 30,000 Brits. If a prinsoner had no solid feces, they were made to catch 2000 flies a day before they died. They actually counted the flies.

The Chinese cemetery.
Flat Stanly managed to hook a ride on a wooden elephant at the market before we got to our hotel and dinner.
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