Tuesday, January 31, 2006

41-North to Hanson

Driving a 1950s route

Factory Outlet Store at Hanson, KY

Dennis has been wanting some more work pants, so today I drove up to the VF factory outlet store at Hanson, KY. Since I had plenty of time, I took the two-lane Highway 41 instead of the four-lane Pennyrile Parkway.

Before the parkway went in, Highway 41 was a major north-south route, and you can still see some of the gas stations, cafes, and motels that served the travelers. Most of them closed years ago, of course.

Going north from Hopkinsville, Highway 41 passes through Kelly, Crofton, Earlington, Morton's Gap, Madisonville, and finally Hanson. In addition, there are probably names that I don't know for some of little crossroads communities along the way. The railroad runs alongside the highway, and it goes right through the middle of most of these towns, too.

From Hopkinsville to Kelly, there are far too many delapidated trailer houses, but beyond Kelly, there are interesting things to see: pine-topped hills, long stretches of woods, farmer's fields, and roads that cut off and disappear into the countryside. Hopkins County is coal country, and it feels to me like it's a little higher in elevation than most of Christian County. On the map of Hopkins County, there are several large areas with no roads. I don't know if those are coal mining areas, or if they are just rough terrain where very few people live. (Or maybe both?)

I've always been curious about Morton's Gap because it has an interesting name, so I drove down its main street. I was disappointed not to see anything strikingly picturesque. I saw a tiny vacant building built in the 1920's that was inscribed, "City Hall". A big Catholic church sits on the hillside and a nice old brick house beside it is probably part of the church property. Nearby, I saw the nicely painted house in the photo below.

From Morton's Gap on to Hanson, it could be called "Greater Madisonville" because Morton's Gap flows into Earlington, and Earlington melts into the south side of Madisonville, and Hanson is a suburb on the north side of Madisonville.

On the south side of Madisonville, I saw some of the damage from the bad tornado that hit last fall. Dozens of trees are snapped off and some buildings are still strewn across the ground.

Hanson has several attractive old buildings in the business district. (Part of the north side of the main street is shown in the photo.) The factory outlet store gets a lot of traffic, so they are trying to make the downtown area a secondary destination. There are three antique stores (the doorway of one is shown in in the photo at right) and a couple of restaurants in the one-block downtown area.

I arrived at the outlet store about 9:40 and it didn't open until 10:00, so I parked the car and waited. I had plenty of time to observe the building. It has no architectural pizzazz at all. It's a big, metal building, designed strictly for function.

As opening time approached, more customers began arriving. A van from the Elkton Baptist Church pulled up and half a dozen gray-haired ladies got out and waited by the door. They were ready to do some shopping. I had relished the journey; they were eager to arrive at the destination. (Or so it seemed to me, but maybe they thought they were just beginning their journey. Journey? Destination? Where does one stop and the other begin?)

The doors opened and we all went in. I bought Dennis three pairs of work pants and Isaac three pairs of jeans for school.

Monday, January 30, 2006

A Genuine Flea Market

Dirty, but interesting

I  snooped around in the J & J Produce and Flea Market this morning. It's located at 7th and Campbell in a big building that used to be a lumber yard. The showroom area is full of fruits, vegetables, and dozens of resin figurines. Most of the flea market merchandise is kept in the adjoining warehouse that used to be the lumber barn.

The proprietor (one of the J's?) is a thin, white-haired gentleman who appears to be about 70 years old. He stocks the flea market by going to garage sales at closing time and making a bid for everything that has not sold. When not hauling in new merchandise, he spends his days in the store. He has a TV and an easy chair, and he sits and smokes when he's not busy.

These photos give an idea of the state of the warehouse, but not the scope of it! It is a huge room, and it is packed with miscellaneous household items -- everything from sofas to silverware. Some stuff has been roughly sorted, and some of it is still sitting in the boxes in which it was packed out of someone's garage sale.

The place is dirty and dark and I always have a feeling that mice are lurking about, but I have found some useful things there. The price is always very cheap. Today, I bought a leather belt, a basket, and a piece of white satin fabric. These items cost $1.50.

After I had put my bags into the car, I used a wet wipe on my hands and removed a piece of gold pipecleaner that was stuck to one of my shoelaces.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

A Good Sunday

A surprise visit by Keely

Dennis went to Chattanooga, or thereabouts, to do inventory at a small AAFES facility Saturday and spent the night, so Isaac and I went to Sunday School and church this morning by ourselves. I was really surprised when Keely slipped into the pew beside me a bit after church started. I hadn't realized she was coming home.

By the time we got home from church, Dennis was back. He was surprised to see Keely too! I had put a roast in the oven this morning before leaving, so it was ready, and we had a good and fairly quick and easy lunch of roast beef, baked potatoes, lettuce salad, and fruit salad.

After lunch, Keely and I looked at the garb I have been sewing and discussed it thoroughly. Then she showed me some of the moves and stretches she has been learning in her Tai Chi class. It reminded me a little of ballet because the movements are very graceful. She seems to like it.

I have been sewing this evening, and with a couple more hours, I should be finished with a wool tunic that I will either try to sell at Keely's SCA event this spring, or give to Isaac to wear to it. It looks pretty good, but now that I'm nearly done, I have some ideas about how I should have done it, of course.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Little River

The bane of Hopkinsville

Little River, near the Hopkinsville water treatment plant

The Little River meanders in, out, around and through Hopkinsville. I can't say that the city has a love/hate relationship with the river, because the city has little (if any) love for the river and wishes it would just go away. Little River is ignored during dry spells, but when there's a big rain, it comes out of its banks and then it gets some attention.

We had a bad flood earlier this winter. Now the city council is asking, "What can we DO about the river?!" They have formed a new commission that is supposed to supervise things within city limits to help prevent flooding, but in my opinion, the best thing to do is to clean the river out (note the fallen tree limb in above photo), move people off the flood plain, and let the river rip.

I often take my morning walk in one of the subdivisions that was badly flooded a few months ago. Some of the homes are still standing empty. I guess their owners are just not coming back. It is a beautiful area with mature trees. The homes look like they were probably built in the 60's or 70's. Most are nice ranch-style houses, and the river runs right through some of their backyards. Did no-one ever consider that the river might get wild someday? Of course hindsight is perfect, but those homes should have been built on 6 foot foundations instead of sitting right on the ground.

I wish Hopkinsville could make the river more of an asset for the community. If Little River were cleaned out, maybe it could be canoed or kayaked.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Back To The 50's

An elegant home remembered

Yesterday, I bought a curious book at one of the thrift shops. It is the 1954 edition of Ladies' Home Journal: Book of Interior Decoration by Elizabeth T. Halsey. It is a large book, the same size as the Ladies Home Journal used to be. Do they even still publish that magazine? If they do, they must have gone to a smaller size by now.

When I opened the book and looked through the pages, I knew I had to buy it and preserve it as a historic document. The photographs give me a sense of déjà vu, and it's no mystery why; they are images of home decor that was fashionable when I was a child.

Specifically, the book reminded me of a long-ago visit to the Arthur and Mary Mallory home, somewhere in Iowa. I suppose it was in the late '50's. The Mallory Brothers (I think it was Arthur and Dwight) raised and sold Black Angus breeding stock. We were there to buy bulls, and we spent the night -- an uncomfortable night, in my opinion. Mary Mallory's home was so elegant that I was afraid to speak in more than a whisper. It was not a place where a child could relax. If she had ever had children, her house had made a total recovery.

I don't think the Mallory house was quite this fancy,
but this picture illustrates what it felt like to me!!

The photographs in this LHJ decorating book show slipcovered armchairs that match bold curtains. Bright patterns and stripes are popular. Rooms are decorated with strongly contrasting colors (such as red with white and dark aqua -- wow!) Walls are painted in bold colors or papered in emphatic patterns. The dust ruffles on the beds match the pillowcases, and the bedspreads match the ruffled skirts of the vanity tables. Homemade quilts or rag rugs are nowhere to be seen, but in the dining room, hand-crocheted doilies and table linens are acceptable.

The book contains some useful and/or interesting information, such as the photographic examples of different furniture styles. For example, the illustrations of chair styles include wainscot, slat back, bannister, Windsor, India, Queen Anne, ladderback, and Chippendale. It even has directions for sewing slipcovers, curtains, and throw pillows. If I ever want to do my home in 1950's sophistication, I've got the manual.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Senior Moments

Getting older all the time

I joke about senior moments but I had a real one today. And yesterday, too.

After I walked yesterday morning, I went into Arby's to get a soda. The lady at the cash register said it would be 53¢ and I thought, "Wow, that's pretty cheap."

So after I walked this morning, I stopped in at Arby's again to get a drink. I took a dollar bill with me and left my purse in the car. I told the girl at the register that I wanted a medium soda, and she said that it would be $1.55 (or whatever).

"I didn't bring in that much money," I said. "How much would a small drink be?"

"$1.26," she told me.

I started to go after more money but she said, "No, wait -- I'll give you a senior drink, and it will be just 53¢."


It reminds me of the first time I ever had a clerk refer to me as a lady -- as in, "This lady needs some help with ..." That was a shocking experience also.

The Life and age of woman, stages of woman's life from the cradle to the grave.
New York: James Baillie, c. 1848. What a depressing image!

Signs of Days Goneby

Historic buildings in Hopkinsville, KY

Ghost paintings on an old building in Hopkinsville, KY
Old painted sign at delivery door, Hopkinsville, KY

I took these photos today in downtown Hopkinsville. The old advertising signs for the Forbes Mfg. Co., Mogul wagons, buggies, garden seeds, etc. are painted on the east side of one of the taller downtown buildings. I think the building was part of the Cayce Yost department store complex, and apparently it belonged to the Forbes Brothers before that.

Cayce Yost (where draymen should ring for service at the back loading dock) thrived on Main Street for decades. In the early 1990's when we moved to Christian County, the Cayce Yost store was in its death throes. I bought a stove-top coffee percolator at the going-out-of-business sale.

Music that Might Have Been Lost

Unique recordings preserved

A Manhattan record label and a Minnesota distributor/publisher of spoken word audio, including books and radio programs, are among the companies that have expressed interest in a rare collection of Jewish liturgical recordings made in the 1950s, much to the relief of Lionel Ziprin, who has been trying to get the recordings out in the world for some 50 years. The records were part of a set of 15 LPs that Ziprin's grandfather, Rabbi Nuftali Zvi Margolies Abulafia, recorded in a Lower East Side yeshiva over a period of two years with renowned ethnomusicologist Harry Smith.

I don't want to get too elated,' 81-year-old Ziprin said of his interest in the recordings. 'I'm too weak for that.'"

Quoted from "A Beatnik Finds Treasure In His Grandfather's Beats" by Jon Kalish, published in Forward Newspaper Online, January 27, 2006.
It is amazing how well sound can be preserved on records (much better than on tape!) Here is a somewhat related true story.

Bob Wills, the King of Western Swing, during the mid-1940's did a radio show for the Tiffany Music Company. Bob and his band recorded over 370 songs on a set of records. The plan was that radio stations would be provided with the discs and a script for each week. The station's disc jockey would follow the script, reading his part and playing certain songs.

Unfortunately, the Tiffany Music Company dissolved before the radio show really got going, and the partner who had the most money invested took the masters, transcriptions, documents, and everything else related to the Tiffany Music Company and kept them in his basement for 35 years. (He didn't throw them away -- he realized their historic significance.)

After the gentleman passed away, his heirs released the music and it is considered to be a remarkable archive of Bob Wills and The Texas Playboys at their best.

Flickr image by Lady DragonflyCC

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

How to Clean an Old Quilt

Washing vintage fabrics

I came across a good article about cleaning an old quilt. Sara Bogle, Fulton County (KY) Family and Consumer Sciences agent, advises that old quilts can be cleaned by vacuuming. Wrap the nozzle of the vaccuum in fiberglass window screen to prevent the quilt fabric being sucked into the nozzle.

Bogle says that wet cleaning can damage old fabrics, but if you decide to chance it, vacuum the quilt first on both sides. The next steps:

Place the quilt completely flat, using a fiberglass screen for support. Mix a detergent solution (not soap) of 1/2 ounce liquid detergent to each gallon of water. Distilled, filtered or deionized water at 70 degrees Fahrenheit is recommended, especially for the final rinse.

Submerge the quilt for no more than one hour. Use a sponge, moving it away from the center of the quilt to the outer edges. Rinse at least four times or until there is no remaining detergent. Litmus paper can be used to test the rinse water. A seven on the pH scale indicates all detergent is removed.

Stretch the quilt on a flat surface and shape it to the original size. Don’t ring [sic] out the water; press gently. Do not iron the quilt.

Quoted from: "Old Quilts Need Special Care", The Ledger Independent, Maysville, KY, by Debra B. Cotterill, Family and Consumer Sciences Agent for Mason County, Tuesday, January 24, 2006 8:58 PM EST

I appreciate good information like this from the Extension Service. This hand washing technique could be applied to any heirloom fabric.

Tian'anmen Square's old slabs up for sale

Historic souvenirs

By Xiao Chen (China Daily)
2006-01-25 05:58

SHANGHAI: At 1,999 yuan (US$247), they cost more than the average slab of paving.

And at just 12 centimetres long they are smaller than most too.

But what makes these slabs special is they come from the largest square in the world.

A Shanghai-based company is offering the well-crafted souvenirs made from pieces of Tian'anmen paving stones that were removed during its 1999 facelift when the People's Republic of China marked its 50th anniversary.

Read more about the Tian'anmen Square's slabs here.

Entrepreneurship is alive and well in China. These tiles are just little pieces of paving stone -- maybe just concrete. It reminds me of the pieces of the Berlin Wall that were sold during the early 1990's. Those high-priced chips of concrete could have come from anywhere, and many of them probably did.

 Tiananmen Square (Image from Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

89th Birthday of My Mother-in-law

Adapting to life changes

 Elizabeth, in about 1945 or 1946,
with Donna, Charles Jr., Bonnie, and Willadene.

Tomorrow, January 25, is my mother-in-law Elizabeth's 89th birthday. I hope she has a great day. I sent her a little package which should arrive by UPS tomorrow afternoon. I will call her, Isaac will call her, Dennis will call her, and I reminded Keely to call her. That's about all we can do from this distance.

This has been a hard year for Mama N. She broke her hip in August of 2004, and the recovery has been difficult and slow. It was complicated by some other ailments -- gall bladder problems, persistent infections, and more. It was necessary for her to move to an assisted living facility and sell her home because she could no longer live alone. She has been grieving the loss of her home of 60 years.

She has lived in or very near Independence, MO, since she was a child. She went to school there, married there, and moved to Allen Road where she lived for six decades, more or less. On Allen Road, she raised six children. Her husband Charles passed away over 20 years ago.

Until about 15 years ago, she was a member of the Reformed Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (RLDS, headquartered in Independence). Then that church began to change what it believes; now she attends a "Restoration Branch" which stands by traditional church doctrines.

Everyone talks about what a good cook Elizabeth was. Besides cooking for a big family for years, she was a volunteer cook for the RLDS Laurel Club for many years and the chairman of it for a while. (The Laurel Club runs the kitchen at the RLDS Auditorium and serves thousands of people every year.) Until just before her accident, she volunteered regularly in a soup kitchen that her current church runs. There isn't much about a kitchen and cooking for a crowd that Mama doesn't know.

Mama's always been a seamstress, and not having a machine anymore doesn't stop her. She spends a lot of her time quilting by hand, nowadays. She also is a "caller" on her church's prayer chain. Dennis's oldest sister, Willadene, takes Mama out for the day, on Wednesday or Thursday of most weeks. They go to Mama's doctor appointments and over to Willadene's house, where they have an ongoing project of sorting pictures. Donna, another of Dennis's sisters, takes her to church a couple of times a month. This is about as much going as Mama can withstand. She takes her walker with her when she goes out.

It is hard to believe that she is 89 years old. She was just a few years old than I am now when I first met her. Time goes too quickly.

The photo below was taken about 10 years ago. We were visiting Grandma in Independence, and I made everyone stop playing and pose for me. You can see a bit of attitude on their faces. They're enduring it, but they wish I would hurry up.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Sunrise Surprise

An unexpected visitor

I looked out the kitchen window a few mornings ago and saw a lovely sunrise in progress, so I slipped on my housecoat and shoes, grabbed the camera, and went outside. I decided that Clarence's barns and silo would look good in silhouette, so I walked in that direction. As I came over the crest of the hill, whom should I see but Jimmie Skunk, scurrying to the brush pile. Both he and I were quite horrified at the sight of each other! I took my picture -- one shot -- and got out of there.

Jimmy Skunk opened his eyes very early one morning and peeped out of his snug little house on the hill. Big, round Mr. Sun, with a very red, smiling face, had just begun to climb up into the sky. Old Mother West Wind was just starting down to the Green Meadows with her big bag over her shoulder. In the bag Jimmy Skunk knew she carried all her children, the Merry Little Breezes, whom she was taking down to the Green Meadows to play and frolic all day.

"Good morning, Mother West Wind," said Jimmy Skunk politely. "Did you see any beetles as you came down the hill?"

Old Mother West Wind said no, she hadn’t seen any beetles as she came down the hill

"Thank you," said Jimmy Skunk politely. "I guess I’ll have to go look myself, for I’m very, very hungry."

So Jimmy Skunk brushed his handsome black and white coat, and washed his face and hands, and started out to try to find some beetles for his breakfast...

From Jimmy Skunk Looks for Beetles by Thornton W. Burgess.

Updates on Family News

Steroids, house construction, and car trouble...

-- Dennis's Neck Problems --

Dennis did feel better while taking the steroid, and he thought it helped somewhat but did not completely cure the problem. The doctor gave him another round of steroids, since the first round had done him some good. He is supposed to check back in with the doctor when he finishes this round. He has been talking to his Workman's Compensation rep and they are paying for this. (These problems are the result of him falling from a transport trailer when he was working in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.)

-- Charlotte and David's House --

I talked to my sister Charlotte over the weekend, and she is hoping their house will be finished enough to move into in 2 to 3 months. I don't know what the proper name is for the type of construction they are doing, but it is supposed to be an energy efficient and fire resistant modern design. The walls and part of the roof are poured concrete. I think the rest of the roof is conventional trusses. Charlotte said that all of the plumbing was laid in place before the floors were poured. I hope the remaining work will go even faster than she expects because I know they are very much looking forward to a place they can call their own again. (Their home burned to the ground on January 31, 2005.)

-- My Car --

My car had been doing a worrisome thing that was getting worse all the time. Oftentimes when I hit a little ka-ching in the road like a manhole cover, a pothole or road patch, railroad tracks, etc., my car would pop out of gear, usually into neutral but occasionally into second. (It is not a good thing to be thrown into second gear when driving at highway speeds.) After a few seconds, it would go back into the gear it had been in before the bump and everything would be fine until the next bump. This happened several times everytime I drove the car, and I assumed it was a transmission problem.

We took the car to Frank at Pro-Mech in Hopkinsville, and he hooked up his machine to the car's computer and discovered that the computer was restarting itself every time one of these episodes occurred. That led him to think there must be a loose electrical connection somewhere whose circuit was momentarily broken when the car hit a sharp bump.

Frank found a loose battery cable which he tightened up. (This made us feel silly!) He told me to drive it and see if that fixed it, but it continued to pop out of gear. I took it back and he found a wire under the dash that seemed to give when he pulled on it. He took the dash off and, sure enough, the connection was loose. So he fixed it and told me to drive the car and see if the problem was cured. I have been driving it for about two weeks now, and it hasn't popped out of gear once, so I am sure that he did find the problem.

I went by Pro-Mech today to settle up, and he only charged me $60. I had been braced for a transmission repair bill of hundreds of dollars when we took it in, so I am thankful that it didn't turn out that way. Pastor Redmann recommended Frank to me a while back when we needed some work done on the old Dodge pickup, and I'm sure glad we took his advice. It's a blessing to have a mechanic you don't feel is trying to rip you off.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Falling Snakes

Paralyzing worries

The Galveston County Daily News (Texas)
By Heber Taylor
Published January 22, 2006

I thought of Mr. Robert, the old East Texas cowman, the other day.

I heard that a snake had been spotted in the fork of a tree in my neighborhood.

It’s still a mystery — at least to me. I’m not sure if it’s a dead snake, placed there as a trophy by a cat or schoolboy. Maybe it’s a plastic snake, intended to scare away pests.

Read the rest of the story here.

This is a funny story. Take time to read it -- it will make you smile!

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Some Native Stone Buildings in Hopkinsville, KY

Built from local limestone

Along North Main Street in Hopkinsville, you can see some of our native stone used in houses. The house in the photo above was done with a grayish-white limestone, and several others along North Main were done with the same type of stone.

A stone quarry is nearby, and the stone for the house above may have been come from there. The Rogers Group has three quarries for white limestone in Hopkinsville that I know of; two are active, including the quarry on North Main, and another is inactive. An old quarry along the Pennyrile Parkway on the north side of Hopkinsville is owned by the Hopkinsville water department and is full of water.

The two homes in the photos above are faced with some of the darker stone that is found in this area. These colorations of stone are common in old chimneys, foundations, porch pillars, and walls left from pioneer days. I think the early builders may have cut it from rock outcroppings. The brown coloration may be from iron oxide impurities.

Here are the reasons why I think these darker colored stones are local variants of limestone:
1) I remember a factoid that I read somewhere -- 50% of all surface rock in Kentucky is limestone.
2) Limestone contains fossils, and I've seen fossils in local rocks that look like the stone on these houses.
3) I think I've seen some of the local sandstone, and it's not a very hard rock. I don't think they'd use sandstone if limestone was available.
4)The University of Kentucky says there are several types of limestone in Christian County.
5) I am just guessing!

I have always admired the house with the red pointy roof. (Scroll up to second photo.) In its chimney, the builders embedded a big brown stone shaped like the state of Kentucky and attached the word "Kentucky" to it.

Here is another example of the types of native stone found around Hopkinsville. This is on the side of an old block store downtown. Unfortunately the building has deteriorated to the point that it should be demolished.

Friday, January 20, 2006

The Peterbang Kids

Troublemakers in the family

Isaac and I were talking about the Peterbang Kids on the way home from town tonight. I don't know where my mother got their name. I don't know if it was a product of her imagination, or if it was something she remembered from her own childhood.

When I first learned about the Peterbang Kids, we lived south of Johnstown, Nebraska. We had a blowout that we used as a landfill (as folks did in those days), and Mama said that the Peterbang Kids lived there.

The Peterbang Kids matched us exactly. They even had our names (except that their last name was Peterbang), and they looked exactly like us. The one big difference was that they were ornery and naughty, whereas we were sweet and nice. The Peterbangs loved to sneak into our house and do forbidden things and let us suffer the consequences!

When I was six, we moved to a ranch in southern Rock County, Nebraska. The Peterbang Kids slipped onto the very last truckload of stuff that was being moved (according to Mama). And of course, they moved right into the junkpile in the blowout at the new place.

Even though I knew the Peterbangs were imaginary, it wasn't too hard to imagine them living there in the blowout. Many interesting things had been thrown into the junkpile over the years -- old cookstoves and broken chairs, rusted out pans and leaky chamber pots, bottles of all sorts, broken dishes, old magazines, snarls of wire, odd bits of machinery and every other thing you could imagine. There was plenty of everything that a Peterbang might need.

It was handy that they did make the move with us because when we did something naughty-but-not-too-serious, Mama might laugh and say that she guessed the Peterbangs had been in the house again.

The years went by and I became a teenager and then a grown-up and finally, I almost forgot the Peterbangs. But when I had children, one of the Peterbangs found me again. It was the Peterbang girl who is just like me. She was grown-up now, with a little girl and boy who looked exactly like my little girl and boy. Her children even had the very same names as my children (except that their last name was Peterbang, of course.)

A little girl and boy who looked exactly like my little girl and boy

The Peterbangs first found us in Berlin, and then they slipped onto the plane when we came to Kentucky. They settled in the gully in Clarence's pasture where people had thrown a lot of old junk over the years. And they have sure caused a lot of mischief around here. Just ask my kids!

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Catalpa Trees

Also known as Kutawa trees

This is one of the largest catalpa trees I've ever seen. It grows on the west lawn of St. John's United Methodist Church in Hopkinsville.

Quite a few catalpa trees grow in that part of town-- near the intersection of Virginia St. and Country Club Lane. Unfortunately some of them have been severely deformed by "topping". I've also noticed quite a few catalpas along Little River in Hopkinsville.

My brother and sister-in-law have catalpa trees in front of their house in southwest Kansas which is a testament to the catalpa's ability to endure drought and grasshoppers.

When Keely was doing a leaf collection in high school, we spent a September afternoon driving the backroads and gathering leaves. As it happened, we wandered into the little village of Allegre, and there in someone's lawn, we saw a tree whose leaf we didn't have yet.

The residents were sitting on their porch so we pulled over and asked permission to pluck a specimen. They were pleased and excited, and they offered us a leaf from every tree in their yard which we politely accepted. One of the trees, they told us, was a "kutawa" tree. I knew the tree as soon as I saw it -- it was clearly a catalpa tree, no way to mistake it.

After we left, I commented to Keely that "kutawa" must be a local corruption of the word "catalpa." But when we got home and she started looking up her leaves in the tree book, she read that "kutawba" is a common name for catalpa, and that's pretty close to "kutawa."

Catalpa was an Indian name for the tree. The botanists made it official: catalpa speciosa (the northern or "hardy catalpa") and catalpa bignonioides (the southern catalpa).

Catalpas are easy to recognize, summer or winter. They have white blossoms in early summer and large coarse heart-shaped leaves. In the fall, they produce a long thin bean (often over a foot in length) that hangs on through the winter. Their shape is interesting when their leaves have dropped. They have a rugged look about them that might make you think they'd be strong in a storm, but actually the branches are brittle and quite susceptible to wind and ice damage.

More about catalpas:
Crazy for Catalpas
Catalpa info at Arborday.org

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Accounts of a Bad Nebraska Blizzard

Snowstorm of December 2005

I received this account of the bad blizzard in northern Nebraska just after Thanksgiving from my friend Sammie who lives at Chambers, Nebraska. She wrote the following on Dec. 9, 2005:

We got a heavy rain that turned to snow the Sunday following Thanksgiving. There was a coat of ice on everything here in Holt County (and still is.) We got a blizzard with circulating winds, gusts up to 80 miles per hour. It snapped and twisted trees, big tree limbs, and lots and lots of electric poles. As an example, there were 17 poles broken in the mile and half between the little church down south of here and west over the hill to the highway. The wind blew the heavily iced lines straight out in places.

It was a mess and the weather was too nasty for a couple of days to do anything about it. We didn't have electric for four nights and five days. Fortunately we have a wood stove so had heat and something to cook on. I had saved lots of water when I saw it raining, and I always stock up on food in the winter. I was trained well about all that growing up "way out in the boonies." Some people west of Highway 11 had no electric for over a week.

We had [crews from] power plants from all over the state and a couple of neighboring states that helped. Thank God for all their help and the neighbors pulled together too. Ricky [Sammie's husband] used his big tractor to open paths through the huge hard drifts so they could get to the broken poles. Even out across pastures.

We all don't remember a three to four day blizzard with all the ice like that before. And hope to never seen one again. It was really hard on the cattle to go without food and especially water for so long. Several were lost through the storm...

My poor American elm has really suffered. It came in a covered wagon from Illinois in the 1880's with the White family.

And from my dad's Aunt Goldie Davis who lives in Ainsworth, Nebraska, who wrote on December 5, 2005:

Yes, we have been having real winter. The blizzard the last of November was a doozy, wind gusts to 70 miles per hour with the snow all piled into drifts 10 to 12 feet deep so everything was blocked for two days and some digging out being done yet. There was quite a loss of livestock. One granddaughter's lost 13 head. They drifted into a lake. We heard that some of the Hollenbecks down by Bassett lost over 100 head.

Little Girls of Long Ago

Cousins and friends

Today, I've been going through this year's Christmas cards, checking for new addresses. In doing so, I looked again at the card from my mother's cousin, Nellie Burk who lives in California, and smiled about what she wrote:

You know, the way I remember Doris goes way back to when we were little girls picking wild flowers on the Sees farm.

I think she means that they were at the Harry Sees farm, which was Mama's home, of course. Mama's Grandmother Emma Eaton was a Hart before she was married and Nellie was related to Mama through the Harts, though I'm not exactly sure of the details

. Mama and Nellie were good friends when they were little girls, but life separated them. Nellie's family moved to California during the Depression, and after Mama's mother, Violet Eaton Sees, died, I don't think Mama had as much contact with the extended Hart family as before.

About 1990, Mama found Nellie's address on one of the Hart family newsletters that Bob Buchan of Rushville, NE, published, and for the last years of Mama's life, these two cousins wrote many, many letters to each other.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Morningside Neighborhood in Hopkinsville, KY

A village within the city

First Christian Church

Many German villages, towns, and even city neighborhoods are centered around an imposing church that occupies a big chunk of real estate. Note: We lived in the Aschaffenburg area along the Main River in West Germany for three years, and then in West Berlin for two years, so when I say Germany, I'm really talking about the two parts of Germany that I experienced most: Bavaria and Berlin.

Green space behind Morningside School.
Also, German towns nearly always have nice parks, playgrounds, and green spaces. I particularly remember a large plot of grass, a block wide and three blocks long in Berlin. It had a small playground on one end, and the rest of it was just open green space. It was within walking distance of our apartment, and I went there fairly often with Keely who was about 3 years old at the time. It was very peaceful there.

The Morningside area of Hopkinsville has always felt like a German village to me, because of the symbols of community at its center. At Morningside's main intersection, First Christian Church occupies a full block, and with its tall steeple and massive pillars, it dominates the scene. Morningside Elementary School sits across the street from the church's main entrance.

A large tree-lined lawn stretches around the west and south sides of First Christian Church. The west lawn has a well-shaded miniature outdoor theater and the south lawn is big enough for ball games. The broad grassy space continues on the south side of Morningside Elementary's playground. The big trees and the expanse of green makes the area feel like a park.

I am sorry that Morningside Elementary School is being closed. The school board has voted to merge it with Highland Elementary School and is building a huge new building on the bypass east of Hopkinsville to house the new school. I think they are planning to sell the Morningside buildings. I understand that the roof is in poor repair.

First Christian Church has an attractive exterior, a sanctuary filled with light, a wonderful pipe organ and a large cafeteria and kitchen area. More than that, First Christian Church has a heart for the local children. Besides letting the Little Leaguers practice soccer on their lawn, they have sponsored Boy Scout Troop 13 for around half a century now. This is the troop that Isaac belongs to.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Night Owl Tendencies

A family characteristic?

I like to stay up late. I get a lot of things done this time of night. I have to force myself to go to bed or I'll be up until 2 a.m.

I have speculated that this might be an inherited trait, from my mother's maternal line. Her Aunt Letha (Eaton) Blair was a professional night owl. For many years, she was the night operator at the telephone office in Bassett.

I remember that my mom used to call Aunt Letha at night and chat with her if she wasn't busy. After Letha retired from the telephone company, she found a job being the night desk clerk at the Range Hotel and worked there several years.

I learned recently that my nephew Ben likes staying up late also, and I consider this a new bit of evidence to support my theory that there's a bit of the night owl in the family line. I think Keely has the trait, too. I am not sure about Isaac. Lately, he's been going to bed early and sleeping late on weekends.

A Dog Man Gets a Cat

A mouser of merit

I never liked cats much. Then Mother moved into my barn.
By Jon Katz, Slate columnist
Posted Monday, Jan. 16, 2006, at 10:16 AM ET

Before Mother, I was never much drawn to cats. They seemed slithery and remote. I have a farm, and cats didn't appear to be useful.

I am partial to working dogs—especially border collies and Labradors—that can herd sheep, fetch sticks, hike with me, cuddle on the sofa, and swim in nearby streams. I didn't really get having an animal you couldn't herd sheep or take a walk with.

Then the rats came...

Read the rest of this story here.

Mother, the barncat, reminds me of our cat Skittles, who is quite a hunter. One morning, I came home from taking Isaac to school and found a long pink tail lying on the front step and a rat head not far away. The body was missing, and I guess she ate it, because the next day, she hacked out a giant hairball. Judging from the size of the tail and head, the rat wasn't much smaller than her. We think she caught it in or around Clarence's barns.

One day, I was moving stuff around in my little garden shed when a mouse ran out of somewhere and startled me horribly. Isaac got Skittles, and we put her in the shed. She had the mouse within a moment, and to this day, she remembers that she caught a mouse there. Whenever the door is open, she goes in and checks to see if she can find another.

Our old tom, Happy, is worthless as far as being a mouser. Well, actually, he's worthless in most respects, but we like him anyhow.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Lutheran Hymns

Great Christian classics

Salvator Mundi
by Andrea Previtali (1480-1528)
Today in church we sang a hymn I like a lot -- "Jesus, Priceless Treasure."  The melody was written by Johann Sebastian Bach. A lot of Lutherans complain about the old hymns that we sing, but I like most of them, particularly those with  minor melodies.

When I was a teenager, I discovered that I could play on the piano many familiar songs that we sang in church. This worked out well for our little country church as they often needed somebody to play the piano. We sang many hymns written by Fannie Crosby and her contemporaries in the era roughly from the Civil War to World War I while the great revivals were sweeping the nation. Many of those hymn melodies are written in flats, and I became quite comfortable with that set of chords.

A couple decades later in Germany, I started attending Lutheran services and here in Kentucky, joined the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod. Only occasionally did I hear a hymn in Lutheran services that was familiar to me. I noticed that most of the LCMS hymns had been written several centuries ago or even earlier.

After a time as the Lutheran hymns became more familiar to me, I started to play through the Lutheran Hymnal on the piano, and because many Lutheran hymns are written in minor keys and/or sharps, I eventually learned -- am still learning -- a whole new set of chords. I am not a master by any means, but I'm a lot more fluent in Lutheran music now than when I started.

When I started practicing the Lutheran hymns, I got a bit obsessed with them and I mostly abandoned some of my old favorite hymnbooks for a long time. A couple of years later, I began playing through one of those neglected volumes, page by page whether or not I recognized the hymn. To my surprise, many of the hymns that I thought I didn't know turned out to be:
  1. Hymns I have learned as a Lutheran, or
  2. Unfamiliar words with melodies I have learned as a Lutheran.

About a year ago, I read a rave review that a music professor had written about the new Baptist Hymnal. I ordered the hymnal online, and I agree that is a great hymnal. It has a broad selection of Christian music from various genres, it's easy on the eyes, it contains good indexes and helpful information like, "This melody in a lower key on page --".

I was interested to find many hymns from my Lutheran experience in the Baptist hymnal. In fact, I find that I know nearly all the songs in my Baptist Hymnal -- some from my years in church music before I became a Lutheran, others and from my years in Lutheran music.

Jesus, priceless Treasure,
Source of purest pleasure,
Truest Friend to me.
Ah, how long in anguish
Shall my spirit languish,
Thirsting after Thee?
Thou art mine, O Lamb divine!
I will suffer naught to hide Thee,
Naught I ask beside Thee.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Cathouse for the Wild Tomcat

A Good Night To Sleep Inside

Tonight's rising moon was remarkably big, bright, and orange. The sky is very clear and the air is still and cold. It's going to get chilly overnight. The half-wild tomcat who lives on the porch will spend the night in his cathouse if he has any sense.

I built his nice little cathouse. It has a small round door and he can go in and lie down on his blanket on the first floor if he wants. Or, once inside, he can go through another opening to the second floor of his house. All of his house is insulated, but if he goes to the second floor, he will be extra warm because I tacked down a foil emergency blanket covered with a scrap of carpet on the floor and then gave him an old sweatshirt to sleep on. His body heat will be conserved from all directions and he won't feel much cold air from the door.

I do see him lying on his first floor blanket frequently, but I've never had reason to suspect that he has been to the second floor. Maybe it's so well enclosed that it feels like a trap to him.

A Light Snow

Slightly white landscape

We had a light snow overnight and it will probably disappear this afternoon. The wind is blowing briskly and it feels cold, but the temperatures are rising and are supposed to peak out at 40°.

The bird feeders are covered with snow, so Dennis threw out some sunflower seed on the ground, and the little birds are swarming it.

At our bird feeders, we commonly see goldfinches, house finches, chickadees, sparrows, juncos, cardinals, downy and/or hairy woodpeckers (I can't tell them apart), and an occasional red bellied woodpecker. It's very rare to see a red-headed woodpecker here. Several years back, one came to the feeder for a few weeks.

Friday, January 13, 2006

More About Riverside Cemetery

Memorial to Unknown Confederate Soldiers at Riverside Cemetery in Hopkinsville

Monument to Unknown Confederate Solidiers of Camp Alcorn, Hopkinsville, KYI did walk again in Riverside Cemetery this week, and I did find the Confederate memorial that I missed on my first walk there.

The inscription on one side of the monument says that it was erected by a fellow soldier who survived and apparently prospered after the War. This fellow soldier was John Latham, a native son of Hopkinsville who became a wealthy Wall Street banker, but never forgot his hometown.

On the other sides, it is stated that these unknown Confederate soldiers died at Camp Alcorn. There are some nice words commending their courage and lamenting their tragic deaths. 101 men are laid to rest there.

On the east side (seen in the photo) the inscription says, "Around this column is buried all of heroism that could die," and below that, "Confederate Dead."

The Unknown Confederate Soldiers monument is tall, but another obelisk nearby is as tall as the roof of a two-story house.

The ground cover that is creeping over the steps grows throughout the old parts of the cemetery. It has a fuzzy heart-shaped leaf and a slightly purple tint to its green color. I have seen it before, but I don't know what it is. It's not an herb, or at least, its leaves don't have any particular fragrance when crushed. Apparently it's evergreen, at least in mild winters like the current one. This plant is the prevailing ground cover, other than grass.

I walked by the chapel and looked at it from the outside. Of course, it's locked, and there's not even a window to peer through. It was built around 1900 and then restored in the 1960 's. (It's probably about due for another restoration.) It is dedicated to the memory of about 40 Revolutionary War veterans who are buried in Riverside Cemetery.

Old tree at Riverview Cemetery, Hopkinsville, KYI am not good at identifying trees in winter when they have no leaves, but I think this particularly gnarly trunk may be a maple. I've noticed that the bark on old maple trees is often shaggy.

I did make a positive identification of a ginko tree -- the ground under it is littered with its squishy little fruits. I'm surprised that animals haven't cleaned them up yet. Around here, the country folk speak of persimmons as "possum trees," but apparently ginkos don't fall into that category.

Related posts:
A Walk In Riverside Cemetery
Camp Alcorn at Hopkinsville, KY
Civil War Graves at Riverside Cemetery in Hopkinsville, KY

Poison Ivy

"Leaves of three, let it be."

"Leaves of three, let it be."

I have a small patch of itchy welts between two fingers of my left hand. It looks and feels a lot like poison ivy, so I washed it with Isaac's special poison ivy soap and put some calomine lotion on it. If it is poison ivy, I probably had second-hand contact through the cats or possibly the firewood.

My mom was very sensitive to poison ivy. My sister Charlotte breaks out terribly from it, and Isaac is very allergic to it also. So is Dennis. Keely has had it several times, but I don't think she is as sensitive as Isaac.

I wasn't allergic to poison ivy at all during my younger days but I exposed myself to it too many times, and now the allergy has developed. I remember wading knee-deep in poison ivy to go fishing and not even breaking out. I wouldn't dream of doing that now!

Poison ivy should be one of Kentucky's state symbols. It's everywhere, in both plant and vine forms. One way it spreads is that birds eat poison ivy berries and deposit the seeds everywhere. It's a very beneficial plant for wildlife, including small to large mammals as well as birds. It's odd that it's so poisonous to humans.

I read once that birds will plant a friendly habitat for themselves in your yard, if you will let them. The article said to identify the area and stop mowing it. Then, put up some wires in the area for birds to perch on. In a few years, many seeds in the bird droppings will sprout and grow, and the birds will soon have all their favorite foods growing right in your yard. The article mentioned that poison ivy would probably be one of the plants that springs up.

This spring, I'm going to try to kill some of the vines that have sprung up around the trunks of our trees. I'm going to sever the vines from their roots and then paint Roundup on the stumps with a paint brush. I will leave the vines on the trees so I don't have to handle the evil weed anymore than necessary. I hope they will die after they are separated from their roots.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

The Glo Bar

Long-time saloon in Hopkinsville, KY

This is the infamous Glo Bar on Virginia Street in the old downtown area of Hopkinsville. When we moved here about 15 years ago, the Glo Bar was still open and so was its comrade just down the street, the Cinderella Bar. Trouble sought out these two watering holes, it seemed. Many police reports in the newspaper mentioned one or both of them.

We laughed about their names and said that when you started to Glo you felt like Cinderella.

One old timer from Hopkinsville remembers that the Glo Bar had a sign on the door that said something like "So easy to enter but so hard to leave."

The hell that was raised in joints like this was the reason that the entire city of Hopkinsville was put off limits to Fort Campbell at least once. I think that was during the 1960's.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Fit to be Dyed

Cloth for cloaks

Today I bought two 4'x15' canvas dropcloths, and I'm in the process of dying them royal blue in my washing machine. I have a large capacity machine, and it does handle 10 yards of 48" fabric. I've put in five packets of Rit Dye (dissolved in hot water), a whole container of salt and a couple tablespoons of laundry detergent. This is a modification of the recipe given inside the box -- I hope it turns out all right.

The cloth has to stay in the dye bath for 30 minutes. Then after the final rinse, it must be washed again with laundry detergent. Then, I have to run the machine through a complete wash and rinse with laundry detergent and chlorine bleach. And even after all that, I think I'll make sure the next wash load is dark colored clothing.

I bought these dropcloths to sew into medieval cloaks. Keely's SCA group is hosting an event ("Shadow of the Wolf") in April, and I'm hoping to make a modest debut as a merchant there. I've been collecting things at the thrift shops that I hope look medieval enough that people will buy them -- brass candlesticks, metal plates, woven market baskets, non-plastic costume jewelry and so on. I also have some wool and linen fabric (important fabrics of the Middle Ages) that I've picked up here and there. Some of it is reclaimed wool that I got by ripping apart large, pleated wool skirts. Pleated skirts can contain an amazing amount of fabric.

A French cloak from about 1580-1600, Wikipedia image.
I hope also to sew a few garments so I can try to sell them. I want to make a few simple generic men's shirts (tunics), a couple of underdresses (chemises), and a couple of cloaks. The cloaks will be made from the canvas that I'm dying. Cotton canvas is not really medieval, but it is a stout natural fabric, and it can be waterproofed.If the clothes don't sell, I'll keep them for the family garb collection. I really should have started this sewing a long time ago, but I've been busy doing lots of other stuff!

I think the SCA and their historic reenactments are something Dennis might get interested in after he retires. After all, it involves a couple of things he enjoys -- history and camping. When you go to these SCA events, you dress in your garb, do, watch or study medieval things, eat medieval food and camp in your tent. If I could make a small amount of money being a merchant, it might be fun to start going to some of the SCA events in this part of the country.

Looking West

Near neighbors

This photo looks west from our yard. Just looking at this view, you'd think we lived in the middle of nowhere without another house in sight.

But actually, we have neighbors near at hand. Willis and Kathryn, their eight children, and Willis's unmarried sister live just to the right of this photo, about 1/4 mile from us, and Clarence and Elsie live nearer than that to the southeast. Within a mile as the crow flies, there are ten families or more and even the very small village of Honey Grove.

This country seems thickly populated to me, compared to the ranch country of Nebraska where I grew up. But Willis says that compared to Pennsylvania where he used to live, Kentucky seems like the wide open spaces.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Mastoiditis in the 1930s

My mother's ear problems as a child

Until Dennis got mastoiditis, I'd never heard of anyone having it except my mom. She had mastoiditis when she was about 8 or 10 years old. Obviously her ear or ears were badly infected because she had surgery on her mastoid bone. I think she had some hearing loss from it.

In the1930's, money was tight. I think that Mama got pretty sick before she finally saw a doctor. Her mom had passed away, and I am not sure whether her dad had remarried yet or not.

The doctor drove Mama from Gordon, Nebraska, to the Mary Lanning Hospital in Hastings, Nebraska, for the surgery. It was a long trip -- probably over 200 miles -- and it must have been an exhausting and scary experience for a sick little girl. I am not sure how long she had to stay at the hospital, but surely they kept her for a day or two.

Mama said that they stopped on the way home and had ice cream. I'm glad she had at least that one little happy memory of the whole ordeal.

Infection-fighting antibiotics did not yet exist in the 1930s.

Dennis's Ear Problems

Persistent swollen gland in the neck

Dennis has been having trouble with his neck and ear, and it's been dragging on and on. To quickly summarize part of the story, he's had a bad ear infection and I theorize that he got it in Kuwait.

The doctor has been a little slow figuring out exactly what's going on. Early in the fall just after the first Katrina relief trip, Dennis went to him, complaining that his ear hurt and had pressure in it, he had headaches that seemed to come up from the back of his head, and he had a little lump in his neck. Also, he told the doctor that he had been wearing earplugs to sleep at night and that he had seen blood on the earplugs one morning. The doctor looked at his ears, saw nothing wrong, and told him to stop using the earplugs. (Good advice, but there was much more wrong than that.)

Then Dennis went to New Orleans on Katrina relief, and while he was there, he had a bad fall off the back of the semi-trailer they were using for storage. (You grab the rope and step off the trailer, and the rope pulls the door down as you ride to the ground. Well, Dennis missed the rope.) He landed on his neck and shoulder and gave them a good jamming. The doctor -- a sports medicine specialist, as it happened-- who treated Dennis said that the lump in his neck seemed to be a pulled muscle which might explain the headaches, and that the anti-inflammatories and muscle relaxers might help it. (This diagnosis was probably not right.)

Soon after that Dennis got home and went back to our doctor to have his neck and shoulder checked due to the accident and also pointed out to him that he still had this lump in his neck and a lot of discomfort. This time the doctor said the lump was a swollen lymph gland and it wasn't going to get well until Dennis quit feeling it all the time. (Once again, good advice, but the serious underlying problem remained undiagnosed.)

Finally a couple of weeks ago, Dennis went back and said, "Look, there's something wrong with my neck and head and ears and you have to figure out what it is." So that day, the doctor ordered a CT scan, and lo and behold, at last they discovered that Dennis had an ear infection that had developed into mastoiditis. The doctor prescribed a round of antibiotics and then a round of anti-inflamatory meds. Now the lymph gland is a little less swollen and the pain in Dennis's neck is better -- but still not gone. (Finally, a diagnosis and some semi-effective treatment.)

Today he went back to the doctor again, and now the doctor thinks that he may have some lingering nerve damage from his fall. He pressed on a nerve ending in his neck and Dennis said it about sent him through the ceiling. So now Dennis is taking a round of steroids to treat that. The first day he takes 6 pills, the second day 5, the third day 4, and so on. I guess the theory is to hit it with a bang and then taper off.

Dennis asked the doctor if there were any side effects to taking this drug, and the doctor said he could expect to be quite irritable. "Don't fire anybody," the doctor said. So I told Dennis that if he gets any customer complaints at work, he'd better let his boss handle them. Dennis on steroids -- oh, brother!

The doctor has been documenting the Workmen's Comp aspects of this so Dennis can get any benefits he might be entitled to, but I really hope that he's going to get over all this and feels OK again one of these days.

Donating the Decorations

The annual ornament purge

The season of Christmas decor is ending. I've taken down the big Christmas tree and stowed it and all its accessories in the shed. The little fiber optic tree in the kitchen is still twinkling valiantly, but I'm going to take it down this week. I'll probably leave the Christmas village on the mantle until the end of the month.

I sorted out a few holiday decorations that I don't want anymore-- a purple candle I've stored for too many years, some white silk poinsettias. They are sitting by the door in a WalMart sack, ready to go to church where they will wait in a storage room for the spring garage sale.

This morning I visited a couple of my favorite thrift shops, and I saw on their shelves an unusually large number of slightly worn, lightly battered Christmas decorations. The annual purging of the ornaments has taken place in Christian County. We hate to throw out things that somebody else might get some good out of, so we've donated our culls.

I've sorted out my Christmas theme clothing, and it's stacked in the bedroom waiting to be bagged and stowed until next Christmas. I didn't even wear some of them this year, so maybe I need to do some culling there too.

If only I could donate the five pounds I gained during November and December to somebody who needs them!

Monday, January 09, 2006

Letter from Aunt Cleona

Childhood memories shared by my aunt

I had a nice letter from Aunt Cleona Allen (my dad's sister.) I decided to share some parts of it here because some of you know her.

Aunt Cleona had mentioned a coconut peanut brittle in her Christmas card, and I asked her to send me the recipe for it. When she sent it, she included several other favorite holiday recipes and a long letter too. Here is part of what she wrote. The comments in brackets were added by me.

One thing I remember your Dad talking about is how Freddie Wales came one time and how he [your Dad] liked his [Freddie's] cowboy boots. He asked Mom and Dad for a pair, but guess they didn't approve. Anyway, he said he saved up his money and got him a pair as soon as he could. Never wore anything else after that. Also remember your dad having a pair of black leather chaps.

One time I remember I guess he went to get on his horse or off. Anyway somehow he got his foot caught in the stirrup and the horse was dragging him and someone managed to grab the reins as the horse went to go out the gate or your Dad probably would have been drug to death.

Then he asked me one time when he was here if I remembered Mom frying our pet rabbit for supper and none of us kids would eat any of it. I can't stand rabbit to this day. [This was during the Depression. Cleona continues with a memory of another unhappy childhood event.]

I remember one other time I had an accordian type valentine and I'd got it from my teacher. I'd left it in the window standing up. I came home from school and asked Mom where it was and she'd burnt it.

All them good old days riding horseback to school facing that old northwest wind and so cold you could hear the screech of horsehooves on the snow. Them are some of my memories. Don't regret any, just the way it was.

We were fortunate to have the artesian wells and a tank with a house over it to keep our cream and milk, etc., cold. It would make your arm ache to reach down in that water. It was that cold. We could put a gallon syrup pail of milk in there when we first started to milk and it would be cold by the time supper was ready. Them syrup pails also was our dinner buckets when we went to school.

I remember Dad putting a fence on top of a fence because snow drifted clear over the fence and sheep were walking out of the pen on the drifts. Then it was my job to stay on a horse all day in summer time herding them sheep. One evening I was bringing them in and a coyote came out of the swamp and grabbed a lamb. I got it run off but that lamb always had a big knot on his neck but it lived.

It was also Charlie's [my dad's] job when I was little to keep me in the yard. Of course I'd find a hole and crawl out.

One time I remember all three of us getting spanked. Guess we'd had some spring rain and we all played in the water.

Also remember Charlie getting on his ice skates when the lake [Moon Lake, south of Johnstown, Nebraska] was frozen in the wintertime. We'd probably be going to Grandpa Clark's and Dad would drive on around the end of the fence out onto the lake. I was always afraid the ice would break through. You'd hear it crack. Then we'd pick up Charlie down on the other end of the lake. He'd skate that far.

In summertime, turtles would come out and lay their eggs in the sand along the lake. Then when they hatched, they'd go back to the water.

There was springs in that swamp. We used to fill our water jugs when we were going to the hayfield. In the wintertime, the spring water going out into the lake, when it was so cold, there would be like a fog above the water.

There was flowers that looked like your tiger lilies. In the spring of the year, the carp would come up the creek and you could catch them with your hands. Lots of times we'd see an old mother duck with her little ones swimming in all that water.

I really appreciate Aunt Cleona taking the time to write down those things and send them to me.

I had to smile when Cleona wrote elsewhere in her letter that her son Lonnie's favorite pie is coconut. Coconut pie was one of my dad's favorites, also. And on a bread recipe that she wrote out for me, she made a note at the end that this was a good dough to fry and powder up with sugar. My mom used to fry  bread dough sometimes, as a hurry-up way to have fresh hot bread for dinner when it wasn't really done rising yet. We all loved it.

These little comments about baking made me wonder if Grandma Nora (mother of my dad, Uncle Harold, and Aunt Cleona) was a baker of coconut pies and a fryer of bread dough, too.

A Walk in Riverside Cemetery

History of Hopkinsville, Kentucky, seen in tombstones

I'm tired of walking my usual routes, so this morning I decided to walk in Riverside Cemetery. Riverside is, by my estimate, about 1/4 mile wide and perhaps a little longer. It's on Hopkinsville's Main Street, just north of the Little River. Its boundaries are formed by Main Street, Little River, the railroad tracks, and the road to the Hopkinsville water plant.

As a rule, I'm not depressed by cemeteries (at least not by old ones.) I enjoy the names and dates on the tombstones and I wonder what those people's lives were like. Riverside Cemetery dates back to pre-Civil-War days, so walking there is a stroll through local history.

I noticed an interesting thing. In the decades from 1870 to 1910, many of Hopkinsville's fine old homes and buildings of commerce were constructed, and during the same years, a number of markedly large and tall gravestones were installed in Riverside Cemetery. It's quite obvious in Hopkinsville, as in most Kentucky towns, that some families prospered during the Reconstruction -- enough to build big ornate buildings and to erect big monuments to their families in the graveyard.

I used to come to Riverside Cemetery once in a while during my lunch break to walk, but I was always on a tight schedule and I didn't want to perspire much, so my visits were brief. Maybe that's why I had never walked past the Camp Alcorn Confederate Cemetery in a section near the river.

I saw the rows of identical stones this morning from a distance , and I wondered at first if it was Hopkinsville's "potter's field" for the indigent. As I came nearer, I was surprised to see that the rows of identical stones bear the names, ranks, and companies of Confederate soldiers.

The Jefferson Davis Camp #1675, Sons of Confederate Veterans, provided the granite grave markers and a monument that tells a bit about the men. The soldiers were stationed at Camp Alcorn in Hopkinsville, and most of them died from measles, typhoid fever, pneumonia, and other diseases. Over 300 died during the winter of 1861-1862. The remains of a few were taken back to their homes, but over 290 were buried in Hopkinsville. Many of them were from Kentucky but others were from Mississippi, Texas, and probably elsewhere as well. (This paragraph updated 1-02-10.)

One gravestone has an inscription on both sides. The front of the stone identifies the grave of Private Washington Hall of Hills Company, Gregg's Regiment, 7th Texas. The back of the stone notes that Washington Hall was a "man of color." The following is in quotation marks as if it might have come from the hospital records or perhaps a letter -- "This old man was a faithful servant to his master and died much beloved to his company."

550 feet to the northwest, there is another monument to unknown Confederate soldiers.  Some remains were moved there in 1887. I did not see this monument, but  I read on a historic marker near the front entrance that over 100 unknown Confederate soldiers are buried in Riverside.

Edgar Cayce, the famous psychic healer, is buried somewhere in Riverside, but I didn't see his grave. Also, there's a Union general buried there. I didn't read all the historic markers at the entrance in detail because some of my rambling needed to be a walk-for-exercise instead of a leisurely stroll. If I walk there again this week, I'm sure I'll be making additions and corrections to this report.

Related articles:
More About Riverside Cemetery
Civil War Graves at Riverside Cemetery in Hopkinsville, KY
Camp Alcorn at Hopkinsville, KY

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Heated Brick Beds of Northern China

Sleeping cozy in a kang

HUACHUAN, China — Li Xiulan says that for all of her 73 winters in China's frigid northeast, her best weapon against the biting cold has been a pile of bricks.

Like millions of northern Chinese, Li wakes up every morning on a kang — a traditional brick sleeping platform heated from below by burning straw or coal during the long, dark winter months.

"Without the kang, winter would be unbearable," she said, bundled in layers of sweaters and warming her hands before the gentle heat of the kang in her grandchildren's bedroom.

Quoted from "Life centers around heated sleep platforms," by Joe McDonald, The Associated Press, Tucson, Arizona, published 01/08/2006.

The writer refers to the kang several times as a pile of bricks, but I have seen brick piles, and I believe a kang is quite a bit more sophisticated. It sounds to me like they've figured out a way to sleep on top of the stove.

Wikimedia image.. The lady of the house is accompanied by a maid.
The children are playing around the mother on the kang (heated bed),
The artist Gao Yinzhang lived 1835-1906 in Yang Liu Qing of Tian Jin (city).

This story about kangs brought to mind a reading book I had in my early years of grade school. In a story about a family in Holland, the illustrations showed their beds as sort of sleeping cabinets with doors, built into the wall. I was intrigued by the idea of such a bed and I thought it would be pleasantly cozy and private. But now, I have a mild feeling of claustrophobia when I think of sleeping in such a shoebox. I am sure the small enclosure retains body heat but I think I'd rather have a kang.

"Aren't these queer beds, Mrs. Fisher?" the parson's wife was saying, peering into the shelves against the side of the wall, boarded up, with doors swung open inviting inspection.
"The idea of sleeping in one of them!" exclaimed Mrs. Fisher, inspecting the interior with a sharp eye. "They're clean enough and as neat as a pink"--with a critical glance along the white lace spread and the immaculate pillow--"but to be shut up in a box like that. I should as soon go to bed in a bureau drawer."
"So should I," laughed the parson's wife; "and look at the artificial flowers hanging up over the head, and that picture pinned, above the foot. Well, well, well, and so that is a Dutch bed!"
"There are a good many kinds and sorts of Dutch beds, I suppose," observed Mrs. Fisher, turning away, "just as there are a good many American ones; but I hope there aren't many of this particular kind."
From The Five Little Peppers Abroad (chapter 14) by Margaret Sidney.
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CONTENTMENT: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry, live simply, expect little, give much, sing often, pray always, forget self, think of others and their feelings, fill your heart with love, scatter sunshine. These are the tried links in the golden chain of contentment.
(Author unknown)

IT IS STILL BEST to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasure; and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.
(Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957)

Thanks for reading.