Time spent with friends brings joy to our lives

George Brown and fellow Rotarian Tom Cole, 950 feet below ground at the Arch Materials limestone mine in Jackson Township.
I’m feeling a little bit like the “Ole Fisherman” this week. It was a busy but interesting week. Mostly I was busy at work, but I’ll share a few other experiences that made this past week especially enjoyable.

I’ve been a member of the Batavia Rotary Club since 1992 and have made many friends there. Last Tuesday morning some of our members gathered at Arch Materials for a tour of the mine. Arch Materials is a deep limestone mine located on Route 276 in Jackson Township.

The mine happens to be about halfway between my home and the office, so I drive by it everyday. Arch Materials is a big operation and, understandably, when plans first got underway several years ago to develop the mine some of the local folks were concerned about the long term safety of living nearby. As it turns out, there was no need to worry.

This $50 million project, which went into production a little over a year ago, is a state of the art mining operation, complying with every state and federal regulation you can think of. The owners are good people and have proven to be good neighbors.

The Rotarians divided into groups of 10 and suited up in safety gear, including hardhats with lights, for the long drive down to the bottom of the mine. It was a dark and eerie descent with only the headlights of the truck to light the way, as we slowly drove to 950 feet below ground where the blasting goes on to harvest the limestone. But when we got to the bottom the large work area was well lit and it was interesting to see how the stone is mined. After the stone is blasted loose, big loaders dump the stone into a crusher that breaks it down to a size that can safely travel up the conveyor to the surface for processing. Once above ground, the stone is sorted by size to be used for construction projects large and small throughout the tri-state area.

There is much more I could share about our tour of the mine, but I’ll just mention that it has been my good fortune, as a resident of Jackson Township, to serve on the mine’s Citizen Oversight Committee.

This committee met periodically with officials of the mining company throughout the construction period, and we continue to do so to stay informed about the safety of mining operations. I told Yvonne I am chairman of the dust management subcommittee, and I must be doing a good job because there is never any sign of dust coming from the mine.

On Saturday morning I went over to visit my old neighbor Rick Tarter and take him to the Clermont County Park District’s pancake breakfast at Pattison Park. Rick and Edie lived next door to us for about 15 years. For several years one of our drivers, James Johnson, picked Edie up at 4:30 a.m. three times each week to transport her to a 6 a.m. dialysis appointment.

James had to start that early because Edie was the first of three people he picked up for the 6 a.m. appointment. Edie passed away five years ago. After a couple of years Rick decided that keeping up the house and yard was getting to be more than he could handle so he moved to the senior community on Eastwood Road off Route 32 just across the Brown County line.

Rick and I had visited on the back patio of his house almost every summer evening for 15 years so I couldn’t let our friendship slip away. I try to go over and visit with him a couple of times each month. This past Saturday I visited with Rick and his brother-in-law Bucky for awhile, then Rick and I headed to Pattison Park for the pancake breakfast. It was a beautiful day and they had a great crowd.

Chris Clingman, director of the Park District, was running the cooker making maple syrup and gave us the whole rundown on the process. It brought back memories of my Mom and Stepdad tapping maple trees when I was a boy to make a small batch of syrup, which they boiled down to make maple sugar candy.

We enjoyed some good pancakes, sausage and coffee, and visited with a few friends who were also there for breakfast, then headed back toward Rick’s house. We got to talking about going for a Sunday afternoon drive like our folks used to do when we were kids, so I suggested we take the scenic route back to Rick’s house and call it a Saturday morning drive.

On a sunny spring day the drive along Brushy Fork Road, and then along Monterey Road to Route 50, is about as pretty a drive as anywhere in Clermont County. The nice thing about this drive is that it passes by the Rose of Sharon Cemetery that lies in the valley on Monterey Road where Edie was laid to rest in March 2006. Brushy Fork Creek is little more than a trickle at that point, as it passes just a few feet away from Edie’s grave in the shade of some old locust trees. We paused quietly for just a minute as we passed by.

Yvonne and I topped off the weekend by having dinner Saturday evening with her cousin Mary Ellen and husband Bob at Copper Blue, a new restaurant in Milford. As always, we had a wonderful time visiting over a good meal. I had the Chicken Thumb Salad, and then made up for the loss of calories by having the Drunken Carrot Cake Volcano for dessert. Copper Blue is a nice family restaurant which I heartily recommend.

All of these experiences remind me of why I enjoy living in Clermont County so much. I’ve met a lot of good folks over the years and appreciate the friendship of each one.