Monday, February 27, 2006

Kids and Kittens

Life in the Nebraska Sandhills... The Rural Life... Another Trip Down Memory Lane...

Several years ago, I found the above photo in the US Department of Agriculture photo archives. It's a very poignant image, I think. The tarpaper on the building speaks of poverty, but this little barefoot boy was fortunate in one respect -- he had a kitty to love.

I remember many happy hours spent with kittens when I was a little girl. We had a large barn that had a dozen horse stalls in the south part of it. The mama cats always had their kittens in the hay mangers at the ends of the horse stalls. The mangers were big enough that a little girl, (or even two little girls) could climb in and help a mama cat take care of her babies. No little kitten ever crawled about blindly, searching for milk and crying, if we were there to assist.

A mama cat broke the rules one spring and had her kittens beneath the underslung, a big trailer that was used for hauling haystacks to feed the cattle. The underslung was parked for the summer and there happened to be a little clump of hay under it. There the mama had made her nest. To visit, we had to scoot on our stomachs under the bed and framework of the trailer. When the nest was finally reached, we had to remain lying down, either on our backs or stomachs. It was a difficult situation, but we made occasional visits.

I crawled under there one day and I guess I forgot what a tight space I was in. I raised up too far, too fast, and struck my head sharply against a metal beam. It nearly knocked me out, and I lay there for a while moaning, with strange colors dancing in front of my eyes, until I could gather my wits and pull myself out of there. That was the last time I visited those kittens.

One time my sister and I were exploring a blowout where trash had been dumped. (This was in the Nebraska Sandhills, and people used blowouts as landfills back in those days.) There happened to be an old wood cookstove thrown into this blowout, and we were investigating it. Much to our surprise, there were a half-dozen little wild kittens living in and about it. They were terribly emaciated. We went back to the house and rounded up some food for them, and when we took it to them, they were so starved that they climbed our pants legs to get to it. Apparently their mother had abandoned them, or perhaps a coyote had got her. Anyway, we caught them all and took them home with us.

My mother had a sweet story about a kitten experience when she was young. She dressed a cooperative cat in a doll dress and installed her nicely in a doll bed she had created. Then Mama was called to eat lunch. When she came back, she found that the cat (still dressed) had given birth to a kitten in her doll bed -- just one tiny brand-new kitten. What an exciting surprise that must have been!

My kids could tell their own stories about spending time with kittens. One thing that just doesn't change much is the special bond kids can make with kittens. The kitten in these photos is one we raised on a bottle. His name is Happy, and we still have him. He's a spoiled old rascal. He learned at an early age that he could get almost anything he wanted if he insisted.

Eagle Scout Ceremony

Life in Christian County, Kentucky...

Yesterday, we went to the Eagle Scout ceremony of John H., Seth B. and Tom B. Unfortunately, I didn't get a photo of the three boys, because I was very busy serving punch at the reception after the ceremony. These photos were taken before the ceremony began.

The dining room decorated in Scout colors for the reception

The sanctuary of First Christian Church as people gathered. Natural light from the high windows helps to create a pleasant atmosphere in this worship place.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Gaskell's Compendium of Forms

History and Old Stuff...

I have a neat old book that I bought at an estate tag sale. Both of its covers are completely detached but all of the pages are still bound together, except three pages from the front. I don't think any pages are missing. To store it on the bookshelf, I stack the parts of the book in their correct order, tie them with ribbon like a package, and place the whole thing in a soft cloth envelope I made for it.

The book's poor condition makes it almost worthless, but I enjoy owning it. It is a 1903 edition of Gaskell's Compendium of Forms. On the frontispiece (above, click to enlarge), the book's contents are summarized, and on another page, the following dedication appears.

--- To ---
The Young Men And Young Women
Of The
United States
Who Wish To Master At Their Own Homes
The Most Necessary Forms and Laws
of Business and Society,
This Book Is Affectionately Inscribed By

The Author.

The book's pages are embellished with many finely decorated drop caps (big fancy capital letters) at the beginnings of the various sections, as well as many other pen-and-ink illustrations and designs. Mr. Gaskell was a famous calligrapher who had already published a best-selling book about the art, so I assume he was the primary artist of the book. I don't know that for sure, but no other artist is given credit on the title page at the front of the book.

One section is dedicated to the subject of handwriting. He talks about the importance of sitting properly, using the right muscles, mastering various sorts of curves and slanted lines, and correctly spacing letters and words. The types of practice he suggests in his "Twelve Lessons In Penmanship" were still in use when I was introduced to the Palmer Method of cursive writing in the late 1950's.

Another section of the book is devoted to letter writing. Mr. Gaskell gives examples of suitable letters for nearly every occasion. For example, here is a suggested text "From a Gentleman to a Lady, Making a Declaration."

My Dear Miss Hunter:- You cannot but have been aware for some time past that my feelings toward you have been stronger than those of mere friendship. Our long acquaintance has given me ample opportunity to learn the excellences of your character, and to prize them at their full value. It has also afforded you a like opportunity to judge whether I possess those characteristics which you would desire in a husband. Am I presumptious in hoping that you will consent to become my wife? Until I receive your answer I shall remain,
Your anxious but no less ardent admirer, Charles Carter

Notice that the gentleman does not actually ask the lady to be his wife. He asks if he may presume to hope that she will consent.

I can't begin to list everything of interest in Gaskell's Compendium of Forms, but you can browse through an online version of the book. It is not a complete replica, but it contains many interesting excerpts of the book's sections, as well as some of the illustrations. Or you can buy your own copy at AbeBooks.

A Bit About Windmills

Life in the Nebraska Sandhills... History and Old Stuff... Another Trip Down Memory Lane...

A windmill on the Old Butler Road, near Hwy. 68

Here's something that's fairly uncommon in Kentucky -- a windmill. And this one is a real American classic -- an Aermotor. The Hoovers, a father-and-sons Mennonite farm along Highway 68 east of Hopkinsville, own this windmill and several others. I enjoy seeing them.

Most folks in rural Kentucky pulled their water out of a well or a stream with a bucket until electricity was brought into the countryside by TVA in the 1950's. Water wasn't really a problem for the settlers of Kentucky. Numerous small and large streams flow across the surface of the land, springs were common, and shallow wells could be dug to access underground rivulets of water.

As settlement progressed into the American West, water was not as readily available as it had been in the East. The reinvention of windmills as water pumpers in the mid-1800's helped to make the settlement of the dry Great Plains possible. Like the traditional Dutch windmills, the first American windmills were wooden. The Aermotor, brought to market in the late 1880's, was one of the first all-steel windmills. With a revolutionary set of gears and a carefully engineered ability to respond to a slight breath of air, the Aermotor was a reliable, thus popular, machine and it is still manufactured today.

I've collected several hundred or more internet images of old photos and postcards of Nebraska that date back to the late 1800's. It is interesting to see how many windmills were in people's backyards, right in town, even into the 1930's and 1940's. The image at right is a windmill in the background of a 1913 postcard of the Congregational Church in Plainview, Nebraska.

Every ranch child of the Nebraska Sandhills has a windmill's song embedded in his memory. It's a repetitive melody with a tempo set by the wind, a creak and a groan as the mill turns and the sucker rod moves, and an alternating gush and trickle as the water pours out. Usually the water is pumped into a tank which overflows into a windmill pond. The tank and pond support a wetlands flora and fauna greatly different from the surrounding landscape. Waterbirds chirp around the edges of the pond; frogs abound. A child can spend an entertaining afternoon making an aquarium in a quart jar with snails and moss from the windmill tank or catching pollywogs in the windmill pond.

As electric pumps took the place of windmills in the farmlands of Iowa and Illinois, windmills fell into disuse. My father had a small business in rebuilt windmill motors from Iowa when I was a kid. He became acquainted with a retired plumber from central Iowa. This fellow drove about the Iowa farmlands, purchasing windmills to restore. He prefered Aermotors, but also occasionally bought Dempsters. When he had 10 or 15 of them rebuilt, my dad would take the pickup and trailer to Iowa and get them. I think Daddy advertised them in the local paper at times, but mostly, the neighbors all knew that if they had windmill trouble, Charlie Hill probably had a good rebuilt motor on hand that he would sell them at a reasonable price.

The windmill in the photo is owned by a Mennonite family, and I think they use it to pump water in the summer for their fields of vegetables. This family grows a lot of garden crops for a produce stand and for a local produce auction. It's too bad they don't have a tank, because I know their kids would enjoy it!

Saturday, February 25, 2006

A Few Christian County Road Names

A road by any other name would still lead to the same place.

"Froghop Road" (in northern Christian County) is one of my favorite local road names. "Monkey Norman Road" is another unusual name in our part of the county. It was named for a man whose nickname was "Monkey" because he loved to clown around.

The narrow rocky road that leads through the trees, over the ridge, and down into the valley south of Honey Grove, has a misnomer. When the county map makers came around, they named it "Jeff Adams Road" instead of "Ep Adams Road" as it had always been called. Apparently, they didn't listen carefully when they asked the road's name.

Hayes Road, which leads north out of Honey Grove, is named for Mr. Hayes who gave enough land that the wagon trail could be widened to a gravel road where two vehicles can safely meet. Before it was widened, it was as narrow as the Jeff Adams Road. Hayes Road follows a little creek through the "Honey Grove Holler" and many of the old-timers still call it the "Holler Road" which was its name before it was renamed "Hayes Road" by county bureaucrats.

Almost any names are more colorful than those recently given to rural roads in some Nebraska and Kansas counties. Ridiculous addresses for like "North 150th Boulevard" replaced the old names. This compulsary revamping of the rural address system was supposed to improve emergency response times for 911 calls, and I surely hope it did.

A deer in the distance. Jeff Adams Road, Fall of 2005

Friday, February 24, 2006

An attractive door

History and Old Stuff...

On Main Street in Hopkinsville

I can't imagine this door being painted in any other colors. It's perfect.

Aunt Mary's Antiques

New use for historic building in Hopkinsville, KY

Aunt Mary's Antiques at the corner of 7th and Virginia

This century-old building in downtown Hopkinsville was purchased by James and Mary Pennington a few years ago. They moved their antique business here from the north edge of Hopkinsville. They wanted a more prominent location; their previous store had been a bit hard to find.

It's an interesting store to visit. Besides the main floor, there are several rooms upstairs and a basement with more rooms. Mr. Pennington has retired from commercial carpentry and during his spare time at the store he makes furniture which is also offered for sale. I sometimes see him working in an area of the basement that has a door that opens to the sidewalk.

Mr. Pennington has done work on the inside and outside on the building, and it's looking good. I am sure that getting all those rooms repaired, painted, filled and arranged was a tremendous job.

When we first moved here in the early 1990's, we hired Mr. Pennington to build our well house, and a good little well house it has been.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Kentucky countryside

Life in Christian County, Kentucky... The Rural Life...

Just across the creek from David J.'s house

This is a typical view of the countryside in northern Christian County, Kentucky -- open fields, high ridges in the background, lots of trees, always a tobacco barn within view. This photo was taken on the Laytonville Road. A little creek runs through the valley, hidden from view by the trees at right.

In Kentucky's English, the word "field" means any open area of ground. To me, an area that is plowed would be a "field", but a flat expanse of grass would be a "meadow". (If it were hilly, it would probably be a "pasture".) During the process of cutting and baling the grass, the meadow would become a "hayfield", but when the harvest of the grass was finished, it would revert to being a "meadow". I would call the grassland in the photo a "meadow" except that I've gotten used to saying "field."

I once said something to a neighbor about his meadow, and he gave me a puzzled look and said, "Where are you from?"

Foggy morning

More About Trees and Plants... And What I Think About It...

I drove through dense fog to take Isaac to school this morning. One thing I enjoy about fog is that each feature of the landscape is seen in isolation. The fog blocks out all the usual background details that clutter one's vision. On the other hand, I hate getting on the roads in a thick fog because people drive too fast, and some don't even turn on their car lights!

In the morning fog, even this little pin oak in the WalMart parking lot had its center stage moment. It's kind of like the 15 minutes of fame that each of us is supposedly entitled to.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

A Block of East 16th Street

Life in Christian County, Kentucky... History and Old Stuff...

Looking west on 16th Street

These big two-story houses on 16th Street, just east of First Baptist Church in Hopkinsville, have seen better days. When they were built, they were just as fine as their well preserved sisters on Main Street a block away, but lately they haven't received the care they need. It seems likely that they have been downgraded from owners' residences to rental houses. Still, it looks like someone is getting ready to work on one of them -- that's good!

Lone Oak, built in 1834-35 by Judge Joseph B. Crockett

Lone Oak, built in the 1830s for Judge Joseph B. Crockett, is usually considered Hopkinsville's oldest house. I have read speculation on a local internet forum that Hopkinsville might have old cabins enclosed within old houses that predate Lone Oak, at least in the cabin part. However, no specific examples were given to support the theory.

Lone Oak stands on the SW corner of East 16th and Clay. used to have a restaurant in it, but it is currently standing empty. As with many old houses, some people enjoy saying that it is haunted. Ivy has overgrown a tree on the front lawn.

At the NW corner of 16th and Clay

Across the street from Lone Oak, this yellow house faces south. It has received some upkeep in recent years and it's the best preserved house on the block. It was offered for sale by the owner several years ago, and some interesting details about the house were cited in newspaper advertisements. I remember that it has a pantry and built-in curio cabinets and bookcases. Different variations of the ad appeared over several months, and I was intrigued enough that I finally drove down East 16th Street just to see which house it was.

I took these photos this morning on my walk, and as you can see, the skies are gray today.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Old family photo

All In The Family...

L to R: Donna, Willadene, Elizabeth with Dennis in her lap,
Steve standing in front, Bonnie, and Charles Jr.
Click the photo to see a larger image.

Here is an old photo from my husband's family, taken in the spring or summer of 1950. This was in my father-in-law's wallet and it's badly worn, but it's a nice picture of Elizabeth and all six children. (Family, you can save the image by right clicking on it. See this blog entry also.)

Grocery Store Music

Another Trip Down Memory Lane...

One time when I was a teenager, Mama and I were going through the aisles of the grocery store, and I made a derogatory remark about "grocery store music". A big band song was playing, and I'm sure it was the sort of thing she had listened to as a young person. (Mama graduated high school in 1940.) She looked at me and laughed and said, "Oh, is that what it is?!"

Now that I'm in my mid-50's, I notice that many of the stores are playing my music. I hear the Beatles all the time, the Beach Boys too, and many others. The other day when I was in the fabric store, Bob Dylan was on the muzak. (He never could carry a tune, bless his heart.) "That's Bob Dylan,"I said to the lady who was cutting my fabric. "Huh? Oh, really?" she said. I think she probably grew up before the Bob Dylan era. She looked like she was of early Elvis Presley vintage.

The Peddler's Mall flea market in Hopkinsville always plays music of the 1950's, mostly rock-and-roll. I find it very cheerful. Those toetapping rhythms put me in the right mood for looking at all that old junk in there. I'm sure that's what the mall owners have in mind.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Grandma's Basement Apartment

1950s decor remembered

My dad's parents (Grandma Nora and Gramp Hill, as we called them) were divorced as far back as I can remember. During my childhood, Grandma lived mostly in Ainsworth, Nebraska, but Gramp Hill lived in Missouri and then in Kansas.

Grandma had some rental houses, and one of them had a basement apartment where she lived for a while. It was interesting, even exciting, to visit there because we didn't have a basement and besides, it was Grandma's house!

Looking back, I realize that the decor was very 1950's. Grandma had a dining table and chairs, a china cabinet, and a little writing desk that were all made of blonde maple. I have been trying to remember what her living room sofa and chairs were like.

Grandma's lamp shades had a bright blue sky,
red cattle, and brown horses! This lamp was
 photographed in San Antonio by Michael Coté.
I do remember the cowboy lamps in Grandma's living room. The lampshades had photographs of western scenes on them, and the fabric of the shade was laced to the wire rims, top and bottom, all the way around. When the lamps were turned off, the shades looked dark and blotchy. But when the bulb was lit inside the shade, the pictures were pretty, with cowboys on horses tending herds of cattle under a bright blue sky.

Grandma had a matched set of smaller lamps, as I recall, and a matching larger lamp with a two tiered shade. All three of them had the western lampshades I've described. I've been looking on the internet for a similar lamp, just to enjoy seeing it. So far, I've had no luck finding one with colored photographs!

Another intriguing bit of decoration that Grandma had was a little gumdrop tree made of clear plastic. It had a gumdrop on the tip of every branch and extra gumdrops in the tray under the tree -- when we arrived!

Grandma's renters had some things in the storeroom in the basement, including a stack of MAD magazines. She said it would be all right if I looked at them carefully, so I read them every time we visited, taking great pains not to bend the pages. That was my introduction to Alfred E. Neuman.

One time, my little sister Charlotte and I spent the night at Grandma's basement apartment. Grandma tucked us into the twin beds in her guest bedroom -- one little girl in each bed. During the night, Charlotte woke up and became frightened. She cried, " I want my daddy, I want my daddy!" and Grandma had to take her to bed with her.

In later years, Grandma liked to tell that story. It pleased her that Charlotte had wanted her daddy -- he was Grandma's son, of course.

Watching for spring

Winter in the flowerbed

These little cherubs are waiting patiently for warmer weather and the return of the flowers. They don't know that it has snowed.

This is the Day We Wash the Clothes

View across the field

Our Mennonite neighbor lady has her wash hanging out on the line because it is Monday morning. Rain might stop her, but a little snow on the ground won't.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Tobacco barn

Dark barn with door props

This is a "dark barn", with the doors propped shut in the classic Kentucky way. I am not entirely sure why they do that, but I have a theory which I will advance shortly.

In this part of Kentucky, two types of tobacco are grown -- burley and dark. To generalize, burley tobacco has a yellowish-green leaf that is used for cigarettes, and dark tobacco has a dark green leaf that is used for cigars, snuff, and pipe and chewing tobacco.

At harvest, the mature plants are cut, stuck on a stick, and hung in a barn to cure. Burley is air-cured so it can be hung in any barn that keeps out rain. Dark tobacco is fired (smoke-cured), so it must be hung in a barn that is relatively air-tight. Hardwood slabs (at right in the photo) and sawdust are set afire in the barn, and the air flow is restricted so that a great deal of smoke results. This flavors and colors the leaf.

Now about the barn doors being propped. It's terribly important that the smouldering fire in the barn does not get out of control. I think the farmers prop the doors shut with boards to lessen the chance of the barn door somehow coming open accidentally and letting in a lot of air.

Every year, some tobacco barns do burn, usually when there are high winds. About ten years ago, we were driving to town when we saw one going up in flames and we stopped at a house to tell them to call the fire department. It burned to the ground. Last fall, two barns burned to the ground within five miles of here and within the same week.

November and December bring the necessary damp cold days to bring the leaf "in order" and the tobacco is taken down, stripped from its stalks, and hand baled. In the old days, it was taken to market sometime after January 1 at one of Hopkinsville's tobacco auctions. Nowadays, most of the tobacco is sold directly to a tobacco company. I don't think any of the tobacco auctions in Hopkinsville operate anymore.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Snowman, 1994

A rare snowman-perfect snow

We don't get too many snows in Christian County, Kentucky, that are just right for building snowmen. Keely and Isaac built this handsome fellow in 1994. My goodness. Isaac was only three then, and Keely was seven! Keely tells me that the snowman's hat was the ice from the cats' water dish.

Cold, but not much snow

White landscape

At the edge of Clarence's pasture

We got about 3 inches of snow, by my estimation. I walked down the hill and got the mail so I could see if any snowdrifts had formed across the lane. The snow is powdery and the wind is stiff, but there are no drifts big enough to worry about. The crust of ice under the snow is treacherous where the snow is light and the ice is exposed.

I wouldn't feel badly if we stayed home from church this once because of bad roads, but tomorrow afternoon is John H.'s Eagle Scout ceremony. We would hate to miss it after all these years of John and Isaac being in Scouts together. Isaac has a part in the ceremony, and I am supposed to help serve cake and punch. So we will go to church in the morning, eat out, and go to the Eagle ceremony. Then we'll see if we can drive the car back up the icy hill to our house -- or not.

Looking down the hill (that's ice.)

Friday, February 17, 2006

Waiting for the snow to start

Snow and more snow

We are supposed to get up to three inches of snow overnight. In southern Kentucky, that's a significant snowfall! It's going to get pretty darned cold too -- down to 10 degrees (F.) tomorrow night. Then there's a possibility of more snow on Monday. It looks like the snow may start melting on Tuesday.

We have a three-day weekend because of Presidents Day on Monday. Isaac is hoping it might turn into a four-day weekend if the snow sticks. He'd love to see school cancelled on Tuesday, and that certainly could happen. When we get ice or snow on the roads, school is usually cancelled. Bad weather is so limited here that we don't have to keep the schools open and send out the buses during it. We can cancel school and wait a day or two for the roads to improve.

It took me a while to understand that attitude toward the weather. I was from the north, and I expected school to carry on unless the roads were blocked by deep snow.

Anyway, we're waiting for the snow to start and looking forward to it in a way. I brought in a huge pile of firewood this evening. I'll put out some food for the birds in the morning, and then I plan to sew for the rest of the day.


Happy and Skittles, our two housecats, have been distressed by the weather this morning. Happy has asked several times to go outside, but when the door is opened, he changes his mind. Skittles went outside for approximately 30 seconds before she wanted to come back inside.

At 10 am CST this morning...many communities in far southeast Missouri...far southern Illinois and much of western Kentucky are still receiving light to moderate snow. Several areas had snow measuring 3 inches deep...and a Heavy Snow Warning continues until noon. Another problem over the area is the unseasonably cold temperatures and windy conditions. Wind chills are between 5 and 10 below zero. There have been numerous reports of traffic accidents across the quad state roads are snow packed and well as visibilities dropping to a quarter mile in the heavier snows. Traveling is not recommended this morning...but if you must go out...use extreme caution and allow extra travel time. Please take along blankets...Snacks...bottled water and a snow shovel.

Source: Winter Weather Statement, Weather Underground's Hopkinsvile forecast for February 18, 2006.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Fannie Bronston Postell

Organizer of Attucks High School, Hopkinsville, Kentucky

February is Black History Month, and the public library has a small exhibit about Crispus Attucks High School, the segregated school that served the "colored" community in Hopkinsville for many years. I photographed a photograph of Fannie Bronston Postell, the organizer of Attucks High.

I can't find anything about Mrs. Postell on the internet, except that she was a graduate of Berea College in 1890. It seems likely that her parents were born into slavery. They must have been very proud of their daughter.

In 1890 when Fannie graduated from college, the Victorian era was drawing to a close. Labor unions were organizing and flexing their muscle. Idaho and Wyoming became the 43rd and 44th of the United States. The massacre of over two hundred Native Americans at Wounded Knee took place. The telephone and the light bulb had already been invented, and automobiles and motion pictures were just around the corner. My great grandparents Sees were recent immigrants to America. In Hopkinsville, they were building many of the big stores and houses that are now called the "historic district."

I know quite a bit about what was happening in America at that time, but it doesn't satisfy my curiosity about Fannie Postell. The notation on her photo says that she was the organizer and principal of Attucks High School and a teacher of languages. It seems to me that she could be an inspiring role model for any girl. I wish I could find out more about her.


Daffy Down Dilly

These pretty girls won't wait much longer.

Daffy Down Dilly
Has come up to town
In a yellow petticoat
And a green gown.

Remember that one? When the kids were little, I read nursery rhyme books just about every day. This rhyme has been deposited in my permanent memory banks!

I remember being in the little kitchen in one of our apartments in Germany. I was washing dishes and Keely wanted me to read to her. She sat down on the floor with her nursery rhyme books, and I just recited them to her from memory as she turned the pages.

The kids had quite a library of storybooks, but the nursery rhyme books were always some of my favorites.

Royal Doulton, a British china firm, made a collectible figurine called "Daffy Down Dilly". She has been discontinued -- her years were 1935 to 1970. In good condition, she is now worth several hundred dollars or more.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

A Twisted Hackberry

Hackberries in Hopkinsville (and beyond)

This big hackberry tree grows on the grounds of St. Peter & Paul Catholic Church in Hopkinsville. It is actually two hackberries that sprang up side by side and finally grew into each other. The trunk and branches of both parts of the merged tree are distorted from the struggle they have endured and the tree is scarred from severe pruning to eliminate conflicting branches. It's too bad that someone didn't intervene when the trees were young. It is a big tree that makes plenty of shade, but it is not the beautiful tree it could have been if one seedling had been eliminated.

One of the largest trees I have ever seen in Hopkinsville was a hackberry. It grew on the east side of town, about a block from Highway 68/80 in a low place. I guessed its age at 150-200 years or even more, based on its impressive height, breadth, and girth. I was horrified one day to see that it was being cut down. It lay on the ground for a year; then finally they burned it and built a duplex where it had been. I wish I had taken its picture while it was still a beautiful giant.

I saw a hackberry tree yesterday somewhere along south Main Street when I was taking my walk. You can also see a few big hackberry trees in the Jefferson Davis State Park at Fairview.

Hackberries are easy to identify even in winter because of the texture of their bark. It is nearly as smooth as a beech, except for its warts. Some hackberries have more warts than others. Here's a closer look at the bark (and also the leaves) of the hackberry at the Catholic church last July.

Hackberry trees have little purple-brown berries in the fall that are enjoyed greatly by birds, squirrels, and other small mammals. They are fast growing trees and they don't usually suffer much wind or ice damage, but they are susceptible to some insects and certain tree diseases and disorders.

In southern Kentucky, we're at the southern end of the hackberry's natural range. It is a native as far north as North Dakota and Maine in the U.S., though not to all localities between those two states. The hackberry's range extends into southern Canada as well.

I don't think we had any hackberry trees on the ranch in Nebraska where I grew up, but I have seen old photographs of "hackberry pockets" in the Sandhills (see 5 and 6 here.) Under the semi-arid conditions of the Sandhills, the hackberry appears to be a much smaller tree. We get three times more rain per year in Kentucky than northern Nebraska does. That has surely been a factor in the growth of the big hackberry trees that we see around Hopkinsville and Christian County.

Flea Market Tin Men

Stuff that makes you say "Hmmm"

I saw these little tinmen at the Peddler's Mall in Hopkinsville today. The price tag surprised me a little: $26.99. That should fully cover the expense of going to the grocery store and buying the various cans full of food. But I suppose the chain, the funnel, whatever connectors are inside, and the spray paint all add up to more than you might think, and then the person who made them wants a little for his time, so when everything is added, it ends up costing ... $26.99.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Founders Square

Mural in historic downtown Hopkinsville, KY

Founders Square mural in historic downtown Hopkinsville, KY

Hopkinsville has several murals on the sides of buildings, but this one is my favorite. It honors some of our local history. Each block represents a name that was well-known in its day.

Hotel Latham (at right in mural) was built around 1900 and burned to the ground in 1940. (At the Nostalgiaville site for Hopkinsville, you can see a photo of the historic marker that marks the site of the hotel.) The phrase, "Do or Die for Attucks High," refers to the fine basketball teams that came out of Attucks High School, attended by black kids during segregation. Edgar Cayce (just right of flag) was a famous psychic and healer who made "Quality Photographs" at his Hopkinsville studio. The tobacco plant in bloom at the upper center of the mural symbolizes the importance of tobacco farming in the county's economy.

This little area is called Founder's Square. It's located at the heart of old Hopkinsille -- the corner of Main Street and Highway 68/80. A decrepit old store building was torn down several years ago, exposing the wall where the mural is now. The city's Christmas tree is erected here and various public events are held in this area. I worked in a booth at last year's Little River Days right at this spot.

Another event held here that comes to mind was a remembrance on September 11, 2002. I attended that ceremony during my lunch hour because my daughter's school choir sang several songs. The parking lot was filled with folding chairs, and the fire department was there with their extension ladder truck. (I don't know the correct name for it.) They solemnly raised the American flag to the maximum height in honor of the firemen who died in New York City's Twin Towers. The VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) guys marched in formation. An old fellow who frequently came into the office where I worked was carrying the flag. I thought of him in a different way after that.

Update: Over the winter of 2006-2007, an open-air Farmers Market was constructed on the southwest corner of Founders Square. It opened for business in early summer, 2007.

Related post: Signs of Days Goneby

Photography and Topography

Honeysuckle and oaks

I am going to adopt a new photo format which should make the pages here load a little faster, and also should please anyone who wishes for a larger photo. Henceforth, the photos on this page will be a smaller thumbnail size, but if you click them, they will open a larger photo.

I had been posting small photos because I misunderstood how Blogger creates thumbnails -- but I won't go into all that.

This grove of mostly oak trees grows near the intersection of Vaughn's Grove-Little River Road and Highway 68, east of Hopkinsville, KY.

At the right side of the photo, you can see the crown of a tree at ground level. It is growing in a sinkhole. This part of Kentucky has karst topography. Locally, we have sinkholes where water has trickled through the crevices in the underlying rock for countless years and washed away so much limestone that the ground caves in. A hundred miles east of here, the same geological forces have created Mammoth Cave.

The vine on the fence (at right) is honeysuckle, an invasive species that quickly chokes out natives when there's competition. It is nearly evergreen here, and it has yellow and white blossoms in the spring and sporadically through the summer. The blossoms have a delicious fragrance, and children of all ages pick them to suck out a bit of sweet nectar -- hence the name, honeysuckle.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

A Fondness for Hats

Hats remembered

I like hats.

I remember a little hat I had when I was about 4 years old. It was round and flat, made of white straw, with a ring of white daisies around the crown and a bow with long ribbon tails that hung down the back. My Grandma Barb bought it for me when I was at Gordon (NE) to visit. I wore it on the train when I went home. Several children were traveling without adults, and the conductor assigned us to a set of facing seats. One of the little boys sat on my hat and squished it. He also sat on my marshmallow-top cookie and squished it!

In the days of my early childhood (the 1950's) all the ladies still wore hats to church. I especially remember the hats of Mrs. James Tapley, our pastor's wife, at the Church of the Nazarene in Ainsworth, Nebraska. She was young and pretty, and she had a hat for every outfit. One of her hats had a bumblebee hovering over a flower. I was enchanted with it.

Later, after hats were no longer de rigeur, my mother still kept several black hats which she wore to funerals.

I have a small collection of hats. I bought a couple of them at yard sales because they were pretty and they needed to be owned by someone who appreciated them. I wore one of them at Halloween last year and told people that it was my costume.

A Pileated Woodpecker

First sighting of this native bird!

(Photo: National Park Service)
Coming up the lane to our house this morning, Isaac and I saw a pileated woodpecker. He left a tree in the ditch, flew across the road in front of us, and landed on the side of a tree in Clarence's woods. He was quite large. In fact, when the woodpecker took to the air, Isaac said, "What is that? A duck?"

We had a fairly good look at him. I'm certain that he was a pileated woodpecker, not a red-bellied or red-headed woodpecker. I checked the range map, and we are within an area where it's very possible a pileated would be overwintering or even breeding.

It was a great thrill to see a pileated woodpecker. I've seen them in pictures, of course, but before today, never n real life!

Saturday, February 11, 2006

A Treeful of Birds

More About Birds and Animals... Life in Christian County, Kentucky... Life in the Upper South...

'Bird-fruit tree'.  Click for larger image.

This is what Keely's friend Taurus jokingly calls a "bird-fruit" tree -- a tree so full of birds that from a distance, the branches appear to be loaded with fruit.

The Upper South is an overwintering area for blackbirds, grackles, and starlings. They fly together in huge flocks. I enjoy seeing them in flight.

A couple of centuries ago, there were so many passenger pigeons in this area that a flock passing overhead would darken the sky. The black birds are much smaller than the passenger pigeons were, but when I see a big flock of blackbirds take wing, I imagine the awesome sight of thousands of passenger pigeons flying overhead.

The Littlest Snowman

The least of the group

I saw several snowmen today and they were all small because we just didn't get enough snow to make a big one. This little fellow was the smallest one of all. Someone had built him on the board between our neighbor's and our mailboxes.

Bill's House

An empty home

Some of the lifelong residents around here refer to this little house as "Bill's cabin." It wouldn't surprise me if it has a log room at the core of its structure.

The house is not in good shape, but until about a year ago, an eccentric, elderly man lived there. He had been there for many years, and indeed, he may have lived there for most of his life.

We moved here fifteen years ago. At that time, Bill and his mother were living in the little house together. After she passed away, Bill continued alone, with the assistance of his family and several neighbors.

About a year ago, Bill became so ill that he had to be taken to a home where he could receive the care he needed.

There is still a pile of coal in his front yard that he didn't get a chance to burn. I never drive by his house without thinking of him. I hope he's doing all right.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Living with a Well

Water problems--ugh.

The water for our house comes from an old hand-dug well. It's about 3 feet across and 30 or 35 feet deep, and it is lined with big limestone rocks.

When we first moved out here, the well was not well protected at all. It was a 30-foot hole in the ground with a a piece of roofing metal thrown over it. We were afraid the kids would fall in it! We put a fence around it immediately, and very shortly thereafter, built a little house over it, installed a strong metal grid across the mouth of the well, and moved the water pump from the house to the wellhouse.

Having our own well is an exercise in self-reliance. We don't have a monthly water bill and we don't depend on a public utility. If worse came to worst, we could drop a bucket into our well and get water. However, there are drawbacks
  • If the electricity goes out, we don't have water, so we keep some water stored for such emergencies. 
  • Silt seeps into the well when there's a lot of rain, so we have a water filter in the wellhouse that has to be maintained. 
  • We often buy our drinking water, but when we drink well water, we add 8 drops of chlorine per gallon. 
  • In dry weather, we have to be conservative with our water because it's possible to pump the well dry!

Today Dennis had trouble changing the water filter. As he tried to loosen and remove the old filter, a pipe joint suddenly popped a leak. That was the first problem. The second problem was when Dennis somehow cracked a section of PVC pipe while attempting to fix the leak. We called a plumber and paid him to come out and fix the whole shebang. The way things were going, it seemed the sensible thing to do.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Happenings in the night

Slick roads

The rain of yesterday afternoon changed to snow when night fell. The ground was still warm enough to melt most of the flakes as they fell, so the snow didn't accumulate much. Isaac was hoping that the roads would be icy or that we'd get enough snow for school to be cancelled. But school in Christian County was "in session and on time" this morning.

Pyracantha on the north side of the house
Dennis went to work in the wee hours of the morning. He called about 6:30 to say, "Careful!" He said that he came across a few slick spots while driving to Fort Campbell.

South of Pembroke, he met a man walking toward him on the highway. He thought that was odd, but he didn't stop because he was going in the opposite direction of the walker.

Down the road a little farther, he saw blipping lights that turned out to be a volunteer fireman's pickup truck, stopped along the road. The good fireman (God bless him and all his kind!) was checking a car that had gone in the ditch.

Dennis stopped and told the fireman that he had met a man walking and that the man did not appear to be hurt. The fireman got out his cell phone to call the highway patrol, and Dennis went on to work.

All of that happened in the middle of the night while most of us were asleep. I didn't even have a bad dream, but that guy who was walking down the road probably thought he was having a nightmare.

This morning, the sun was shining and the sky was blue. It stayed cold all day, and it's cold tonight. The snow that stuck last night is still here. Tomorrow afternoon we're supposed to get another wet snow. The ground is cold now, so the new snow probably won't melt. I hope it doesn't get icy because Keely is supposed to come home on Saturday.

The neighbor's new fence. You can see we didn't get much snow!

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Marcus and Emma Eaton, Homesteaders

Pioneers of Cherry County, Nebraska

I've been enjoying the's Forum and website recently. Today, I came across a nice tribute that "Soapweed", a forum member, wrote about his father, Bob Moreland. Moreland is a life-long resident of the Nebraska Sandhills and a veteran rancher.

Soapweed states in a brief family history that Great-grandfather Moreland came to the Sandhills in 1885. He walked from the end of the railroad at Valentine, Nebraska, to somewhere around Merriman, Nebraska, a distance of about 60 miles.

Marcus and Emma (Hart) Eaton
I was interested in this because my mother's grandparents, Marcus and Emma (Hart) Eaton, came to the Lavaca area of western Cherry County in the late 1880s or thereabouts. They probably got off the train at Valentine, too. I wonder if they walked to Lavaca, or if they made the trip in a stagecoach or wagon, or if they rode horses. By any method of travel, Lavaca, the site of their homestead, was about 75 miles of sandy trail from Valentine.

During their years at Lavaca, Marcus and Emma had a family of four daughters: Cora, Almira, Letha, and Violet. Violet was my maternal grandmother. As the girls grew up, Marcus and Emma wanted them to be able to attend high school, so they sold their homestead and moved to Gordon. There, the girls completed high school, and Marcus ran a livery stable.

I remember that when I was a little girl, my mother would point out a certain frame building in Gordon as her Grandpa Eaton's livery stable. The building had big doors -- beyond that, I don't remember much about it. When I was in Gordon with Keely and Isaac several years ago, I tried to relocate it, but I learned that it had been torn down. I think the fire department is built on the site.

One other thing of interest about my great-grandfather Marcus Eaton -- he remembered that as a little boy in Iowa, he played in the buffalo wallows on the prairie.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

An interesting place to lurk

Life in the Nebraska Sandhills... The Rural Life... Another Trip Down Memory Lane...'s Bull Session Forum

Here's an interesting glimpse of what it's like to be a rancher nowadays. I have some knowledge of ranching because I grew up on a Nebraska cattle ranch. My brother and sister-in-law still ranch in south-central Kansas. However, a lot of what I know about ranching is at least one generation old, maybe more than that. Things are changing all the time. Even on the remotest of ranches, technology advances.

Some things don't change much though! See this beautiful photo.

Seeing that mama cow and baby made me think of being a little girl, taking a ride through the pasture with my Daddy to check the cows and calves. He always referred to those trips through the pasture as "counting the dead ones", which was his way of saying that he was braced for the worst, while hoping for the best.

These photos
-- and these -- look like home to me. Black Angus cattle in the Sandhills. It makes me a little homesick.

Water problems in Kansas

Problems with the Ogallala Aquifer

ULYSSES - The prairie spreads for miles here in stubby, ashen-colored patches. Irrigation pivots spray out in circles, each minute sucking up hundreds of gallons of cold water from beneath the oil fields...

The vast underground pool that fills Ulysses' faucets, called the Ogallala Aquifer, is running low, forcing towns and farmers to spend beyond their means to tap alternative sources.

Quoted from: "As aquifer dries, 'water is like gold'" by Garance Burke. Associated Press, February 6, 2006.
Map of Kansas courtesy of Wikipedia. The blue county is Grant County
where Ulysses is the county seat.
The red county is Kingman
County, where my brother and sister-in-law live.

This article is based on Ulysses, Kansas, a few counties west of where my brother and sister-in-law live. I talked to Kathy a few days ago, and she said it was very dry there. They hadn't been threatened by prairie fires in their immediate area, but they had smelled the smoke from fires in Oklahoma.

For the past couple of decades, southwest Kansas has been going through a significant dry spell. The chronic lack of rain makes farmers depend on irrigation -- and irrigation is a big drain on the Ogallala Aquifer. "Massive irrigation in western Kansas is depleting the Ogallala Aquifer from 5 percent to 7 percent every 25 years, according to a new report by the Kansas Geological Survey," writes Scott Rothschild in an article in the February 7, 2006, Lawrence Journal-World.

These articles don't say much about big cities that depend upon the aquifer, but they should be required to practice strict water conservation right along with the farmers.

When I was a child in the Nebraska Sandhills, we learned in school that water was easily accessible in the Sandhills because we had the Ogallala Aquifer beneath us. Our teacher told us that the Sandhills were like a big sponge that held water. Even though the land might appear arid, even desert-like, we could be sure that water was just beneath the surface.

Willa Cather wrote that in the Sandhills, the coyotes knew how to dig down to water. We children could have gone outside and dug down to water ourselves. Artesian wells were common in low areas of the valley where I grew up.

We ranch kids saw everyday evidence of the abundance of water in the windmill-powered wells that supplied water to the cattle. Water was one thing we had plenty of in the Sandhills. Rain might or might not come, but there was always water, and usually plenty of wind to pump it.

I am remembering the days before center-pivot irrigation systems were invented -- the days before corn was planted on many pieces of marginally-farmable land.

The depletion of the Ogallala Aquifer will have a great impact on the farm and ranch folks of the Great Plains. I have great affection and respect for those who still make their living from the prairie land. I fear that desertification will drive more of them off the land, and that the land will continue to pass from the hands of individuals to the hands of corporations.

Two related thoughts occur to me.
  1. Is there really any hope of bio-fuels becoming an oil substitute if we're in danger of running out of water in America's bread-basket?
  2. Doesn't the prospect of running out of water make it extremely important to develop drought-tolerant crops? I think genetic modification may become a necessity, not a choice.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Vultures in Christian County, KY

True turkey-buzzard stories

When we first moved out here in the Kentucky countryside, the barns in the field east of us were standing empty. Vultures roosted on the roof ridges nearly every summer night. They flew in at sunset, and as darkness fell, they cooed to each other with their vulture voices.

An amusing thing happened several years ago. We have a local landmark known as Pilot Rock. It's a big shaft of rock that juts up out of the hills and towers above everything else in the area. A lady about my age had grown up here and moved away. She came home to visit and decided to climb Pilot Rock, just for old times sake. When she came back down, she told everyone about the peaceful experience she had on top of the Rock. Oh! she said. It was so quiet up there. She just lay there on her back for a long time and watched the clouds floating by and the vultures circling in the sky. Her brother was horrified. Good grief, he said, you wouldn't catch him lying on the ground too long with vultures circling overhead!

Several years ago, the Kentucky New Era (our local newspaper) published a photographic essay about autumn at Pilot Rock. The photography girl had driven out and taken a few pictures of trees in their fall colors. In the text that described the pictures, she stated that there wasn't any life stirring except for a dozen big hawks circling the skies. Ha! Everyone out here laughed about that. We all knew she had seen vultures, not hawks. A couple of weeks later we laughed again when the newspaper published a letter that someone from another state had written. He stated that he was quite sure the photographer had seen vultures, not hawks.

Most or all of our vultures here in western Kentucky are Turkey Buzzards. They are beautiful in the sky.

Turkey vulture. (Image by Tim Sträter.)

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Boy Scout Heroes

Valuable skills learned in Scouting

One saved his father's life, and the other rescued a couple from drowning on his fourth day as a lifeguard. Both were recognized Friday night as heroes by the Boy Scouts.

Jacob Ballesteros, an 18-year-old from Pflugerville, and Josh Brown, an Austin 15-year-old, were among the nearly 100 Scouts and Scout leaders honored at a Capitol Area Council awards ceremony at Great Hills Baptist Church...

Quoted from "Teens save lives, receive honors" by Suzannah Gonzales. Published in The Austin American-Statesman (TX) on Saturday, February 04, 2006.

Well done, Jacob Ballesteros and Josh Brown! Even though I don't know these Scouts, I'm proud of them. When thrown into situations where lives were in danger, they knew what to do.

The Boy Scouts take a lot of ribbing about their motto, "Be Prepared," but the truth is that boys who have been through the Scouting program are better prepared than many of their peers to confront and overcome difficult circumstances.

Here is my favorite Boy Scout, my son Isaac, at his troop's Court of Honor in December. He's speaking to the group. (I didn't like all the backs of heads that were in the picture, so I edited everything out except Isaac.)

I admire Isaac's ability to pitch a tent fast, but that's only a small part of what he's learned in Scouts. He has earned merit badges (worn on his green sash) in everything from automotives to woodcarving, and just as importantly, he has had many opportunities to develop leadership skills.

We have a great Scoutmaster, a retired Special Forces Army officer, who has taught the boys all about wilderness survival and map and compass navigation. He has both exemplified and taught the Scout Law along the way. Dennis has been active in Boy Scouts with Isaac, and it has been a wholesome and meaningful activity for the two of them to share.

Friday, February 03, 2006

A Methodist Memory

Life in Christian County, Kentucky... Another Trip Down Memory Lane...

First Methodist Church, Hopkinsville, KY

We have lived here in Christian County for about 15 years, and in that time, I have been in the First Methodist Church only two times. I don't remember many details about the interior of the church, and that's too bad because I probably won't visit again for a while.

First Methodist frequently has a recital or luncheon that the public is invited to attend, and of course, they would welcome a visitor at a worship service. I could go but I don't, so I am without excuse but I remain mildly curious about the church's inner appearance.

A young man from our church belonged to the Boy Scout troop that First Methodist Church sponsors. We went to Greg's Eagle Scout ceremony, and that was my second visit to First Methodist Church. I think I remember dark wood pews in the sanctuary.

My first visit to the First Methodist Church was an odd experience. Not long after we moved here, I applied for a job as a teacher in the pre-school at First Methodist. They had been running an ad in the paper, and I sent a letter and got an interview.

The day came, and I dressed up and went to the interview. Two very proper ladies showed me around the pre-school and explained the program. During the tour, it became increasingly clear to me that I was probably not the person they were looking for. Then they announced that they were taking me to a luncheon that was currently underway, and we'd eat while they interviewed me.

So we sat at a little table with our plates of food, and I was very uncomfortable under their scrutiny, answering questions about my philosophy of education as it concerned pre-schoolers between bites. All the while I was becoming more and more sure that I did not really want the job anyhow.

Finally the meal and the questions were finished. We shook hands and I walked out the back door and across the parking lot. I felt weakened as if I had suffered a horrible ordeal. An involuntary shudder came across me and I groaned a great groan of mortification and anguish. At that moment, I heard a voice from behind me ask, "Are you all right?", and it was one of my interviewers who (unbeknownst to me) was walking behind me to her car. "Oh, yes," I chirped. "I'm just fine."

I don't know whom they hired to be their new pre-school teacher, but it was not the woman overheard making Chewbacca noises in the parking lot after her interview.

Wardrobe advice

Timeless clothing style

The little scrap of paper has been in my sewing files for years. I don't have the name of the publication or the author, but I think I clipped it in the late 1980's or early 1990's.

If, like most of us, you have limited clothing dollars and sewing time, consider investing both in more classic wardrobe pieces to fit your lifestyle. A simple black suit with a slim skirt, gray trousers, a neutral-colored blazer, black and white checked suit, white cotton shirt, white silky blouse and a simple black evening dress provide a workable foundation of timeless pieces.

I am a little dubious about the black and white checked suit, but I can see the logic of it. I think there should also be a pair of black slacks.

It would be very boring if every lady had the same "workable foundation of timeless pieces." The goal is admirable, but fortunately, there are many paths to achieving it.

Image: Women Grow Business bootcamp 2010 for #dcweek #wgbiz (cc) Shashi Bellamkonda
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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.