A trip to Mars (my little town)


It is late spring and nestled in a valley surrounded by lush hills of maturing foliage is a borough called Mars.  It was probably named after an early settler (abbreviation of Marshall), but the town has sold the connection with the planet and it is located about 20 miles north of Pittsburgh Pa.  The town developed as a center for natural gas production and a stop on the railroad.  The natural gas is gone (It is coming back around us), but the railroad still has a single track through town. when I first moved to Mars over thirty years ago there were still two tracks.  The town was laid out around the time of the American Civil  and the streets bear the names of such notables as Lincoln and Stanton. I live on Lincoln Avenue (All north south roads in Mars are called Avenues), which is is still paved with yellow brick that now undulates with repairs and the general ware and tear of many years.  My home  (craftsman style) was built in 1925 and has a large porch that is only about twenty feet from the road.  Its wooden clap board sides have been painted barn read with cream trim since I have owned the house.  Inside the house has a large living room that takes up the front half of the first floor.  The kitchen is nice since we put in a custom cabinetry and new appliances before my ex-wife left most of twenty years ago.  I built an addition where there use to be a back porch, that measures about 12 feet by 14 feet and has a small powder room.  Up stairs has a large bed room that projects over the porch and two smaller bed rooms.  It does not have a finished attic and the space under the roof can only be reached by a trap door.  The basement is deep and I appreciate that since I am tall and is under everything, but the porch.  In the small back yard stands a 10 by 20 foot building is half in the ground, that I built as a green house.  Materials failed and now it is covered over and not being used for much.

The area around Mars has been mostly rural, but is being rapidly built up since they constructed an interstate link to Pittsburgh from the north.  It is sad to see the farms and orchards go, but it is nice to have easy access to the city.  Most of the development is still a few miles away.  The hills around Mars are caused by the erosion of a piedmont by the Ohio river drainage system.  There is very little flat land and what there is, it is only parallel to the streams.  The principle stream is called breakneck (I am sure that someone did break something along that stream sometime)and forms the path for the railroad.

I am at peace in my little town.  I do not participate in any town functions, but I love the rich jungle-like atmosphere of the forest in the late spring before we dry out later in the summer.  We can have harsh or mild winters, but the trees are always beautiful when the change color in the fall.  The town has a bank, a food store, hardware store, drug store and a half dozen other buildings.  We are trying to upgrade the business area to keep from being overwhelmed by the commercial area that is developing 5 miles away in Cranberry.  The largest employer is Mars is a Lutheran home for infirm people.  There is no alcohol sold and the streets grow quite very early in the night.

You could feel lonely in a such a place like Mars, with no family or friends, but I work constantly with the stones or my other projects when I am not out of town.  I need to create beauty and pass time without thinking about the the loses that can come from life.  When a new gem is revealed I feel a renewed sense of value and beauty.





About Bruce Fry

I was born in Summit, NJ in 1947 and graduated from Summit High School in 1966. I graduated from the Colorado School of Mines in 1970 and after spending another year in graduate school, I left to see the world of Brazil. After spending some more time discovering myself, I ended up working for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for 32 years as an Air Quality Engineer in the Department of Environmental Protection. I retired in 2007 and took up faceting gemstones again after a long hiatus that reached back to my twenties. I had started cutting cabochons when I was 13 and bought my first faceting machine when I was 15, but ran out of money and time until I retired. My great love in gemology is tourmaline and the collection presented here represents my effort to get as much beauty and variety in the colors of tourmaline as I can. I was particularly lucky in being able to get unheated cuprian tourmaline before copper was discovered in gem grade tourmaline from Mozambique.
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