Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The view over the fence

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


These Holstein heifers belong to our Mennonite neighbor who has a dairy. The heifer pasture is just over the fence from our lawn, so these girls are part of what we see when we look out our living room window. We really do live out in the sticks.

I don't believe this neighbor's cows have ever got out of their pasture and come into our yard. However, when our other Mennonite neighbor was operating a dairy, his cows did escape and come to visit one Sunday morning. We came home from church and found our neighbors in their Sunday best, chasing cows out of our yard.

We weren't particularly upset. Honestly, if we were going to go nuts about an occasional cow in our yard, we wouldn't have moved to the country. The Holstein heifers in the photo are kept in bounds by an electric fence, and they stay right where they belong, but we know that accidents sometimes happen and cows sometimes get out.

Long ago (mid-1970's), when I was living in the country and keeping books at a propane company in the Missouri Ozarks, I got really irritated with a neighbor's livestock. In that case, it was a pair of white geese that kept coming to my house, eating my flowers, and leaving green manure all over my sidewalk.

This will sound like something out of the movie "Deliverance." I drove down to the neighbor's place to politely ask that the geese be kept penned up. The dwelling was an 8x16 foot trailer house with a lean-to tacked onto one side of it. There were no screens in the windows, and some rags of curtains moved in and out with the wind. A barefoot, pregnant girl about 18 years old came out to talk to me. I stated the reason I had come, and she said, "I know, I know. I can't keep the darned chickens out of the house either."

After that visit, I knew that nothing about the geese would change. And as I expected, they continued to come back day after day to eat every tender green thing they could find.

One day I came home from work, and I was consumed with fury when I saw what the geese had done to my vegetable garden. I ran one of them down, caught it, and stuffed it in a burlap sack. Then I repeated the process, put them in the trunk of my car and took them to a friend's farmpond about 50 miles away. Adrenaline does wonders. My dog was quite amazed at me.

Guidelines for Shopping

Some Interesting News...

"Everyday Cheapskate" is a frugality column by Mary Hunt that is carried by our newspaper and I also receive it by e-mail. In today's edition, she writes about working all weekend to clear out a lot of unwanted and unused possessions from her house and garage.

I've renewed my determination to ask myself these questions before I bring anything of significance into this house:

Can I afford it?
Do I really need it?
Do I need it now?
Do I have something like it already?
Can I find a cheaper substitute?
Is this the best deal?

Then I'm going to go home and sleep on it for 24 hours.

The phrase she uses, "I've renewed my determination..." suggests how easy it is for even a preacher to fall into sin. smile

Mary Hunt's website, "Debt-Proof Living", has practical advice for living frugally, including 97 pages of helpful hints from readers. You can read her column online at

The topic of frugality reminds me of the Aymara lady who used to come to our house in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, to wash our clothes and sweep the floor. She saved every tiny scrap of cloth that I discarded while sewing. I don't know what she could possibly have sewed with those little snips of cloth, but probably she used them for some other purpose.

We are blessed with so much in the United States; we are rich beyond belief, and we don't even appreciate it. Can you imagine? We even print articles in the newspaper that urge us not to buy a lot of things we don't need.

Blog Readers and Photo Blogs

Blogs and Blogging...

Camera I enjoy visiting several photo blogs, and I would enjoy visiting many more if only photos loaded faster. Unfortunately, we have a dial-up internet connection.

Currently neither DSL nor cable is available to us since we live out in the sticks. Our best hope is Bell South. They have been running fiberoptic cables in some parts of the county (thus providing DSL access), so maybe they'll come out this way eventually.

I am thankful that we do have a good dial-up connection and can usually connect at 48K to 52K. I hear people complaining about connecting at 32K, 28K and even 14K. That really takes the joy out of web surfing.

If you read a bunch of blogs (and particularly if you have a slow internet connection), it is very helpful to set up a blog-reader that will let you know when the blogs on your list are updated. I use a blog-reader called Bloglines to keep track of the bloggers I enjoy. I have also tried the Google Reader but I like Bloglines better.

I started using Bloglines because I noticed on my visitor counter that Sarabeth was visiting here from her Bloglines account.

I encourage anyone who likes photos and/or art to visit the blogs I've included in my photoblog list in the sidebar. I've decided to give them their own blogroll. Of course there are thousands more photo and art blogs of merit, but these are the ones that I visit when they update.

Each one of the photo and art blogs on my little list is interesting to me for its own reasons, but I can't go into all that right now because I must attend to my real life!

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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Grandpa's Love

All In The Family... And What I Think About It...

Today after church, we stopped at Burger King for a quick sandwich before running some errands. With gasoline so expensive, I'm trying to limit my trips to town, especially now that Isaac's out of school for the summer.

As we were getting ready to leave, a man was standing at the end of the counter apparently waiting for someone. I noticed him because he looked a bit like a man from our church and for a moment, I thought I knew him. Other than that, there was nothing striking about him. He appeared to be in his sixties, and he had gray hair.

Then a little boy burst through the doorway, followed by his mother. "Grandpa!" he exclaimed, and ran toward the gentleman at the end of the counter. The man turned and his face lit up like sunshine. He held out his arms and the little boy ran into them and they shared a joyful hug. When we left, the grandpa was holding the little boy in his arms, and the little boy had his arms wrapped around his grandpa's neck.

The love between that grandfather and grandson touched my heart.

The incident reminded me of the photo below. It was taken in early 1989. Keely was three years old. She was trying on my wedding veil one day during a visit at Grandpa and Grandma's house. My dad was watching her and the look on his face is poignant to me. My dad really loved his grandkids.

Unfortunately, we always lived so far away that our visits to Grandpa and Grandma were semi-annual pilgrimages. My sister and brother lived nearby, and their kids enjoyed a wonderful relationship with their grandparents.

I hope that I have the opportunity to see my grandchildren often. (When I have grandchildren, that is, because it's not yet time for them.)

Grandpa Hill and Keely

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Saturday, May 27, 2006

Coffee is good for you!

Some Interesting News... And What I Think About It...

Coffee CupI realize that some people just don't care for the taste of coffee. I realize that others should not drink coffee because of their unique health problems. I also realize that some folks don't want to be dependent on caffeine or any other drug.

Amongst these folks, there's a handful of people who are quite smug about their coffee-free lives and often hint that coffee drinkers are a bit ... self-indulgent.

I know a few anti-coffee fanatics like this, so I'm amused that several recent studies have shown that drinking coffee has great health benefits. Here's a report that was in the news yesterday:
Agence France-Presse, by staff
Friday, May 26, 2006

OSLO (AFP) - Drinking coffee in moderation, up to five cups a day, can reduce the chances of contracting cardio-vascular diseases, Parkison's and Alzheimer's, a study by Norwegian researchers showed.

The researchers based their findings on data from 27,000 women in the United States. Those who drank between one and three cups of coffee daily reduced the risk of contracting cardio-vascular diseases and 'inflammatories' by between 20 to 25 per cent."

Read the rest of the article: Coffee is good for you: Norwegian study

Another interesting article about coffee in the news focused on the psychological effects of coffee drinking. It seems that after coffee, people are more likely to accept negotiation and compromise.

ZeeNews.Com by staff
Sydney, May 27:

The next time you want someone to agree with your views, just put forth your ideas before him/her, over a cup of coffee, as a new research has revealed that caffeine works best to get messages through in the morning.

Researchers have discovered that a morning dose of caffeine can work wonders to drive home a persuasive message.

Read the rest of the article: Coffee has the power of pursuasion

Coffee potI started drinking coffee when I was in high school. I usually drink 2 to 4 mugs of coffee a day. I differentiate between coffee mugs and cups because I think most mugs hold at least 10 ounces if filled to the brim, whereas a true cup is just 8 ounces.

I used to have a coffee percolator that looked much like the image at right. I still have a couple of stove-top percolators. I keep them for no-electricity emergencies, such as when an ice storm knocks out the power or we're going camping. But most of the time, I use my Mr. Coffee. It has a "Brew later" function so I can make the coffee the night before, set the timer, and get up the next morning to hot coffee.

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Friday, May 26, 2006

King Tut reigns in new exhibit at the Field Museum

Some Interesting News... Life in Germany...

An intriguing exhibit, 'Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs,' is arriving at the Field Museum in Chicago, and the Chicago Sun-Times has six interesting articles about King Tut on their website today. There's also a King Tut quiz to test your knowledge of the boy-king.

The following is quoted from an article titled "King Tut reigns in new exhibit at the Field Museum" by Misha Davenport

The new exhibit is not a remount of the previous show (only a dozen or so artifacts return for this engagement) but rather a prequel. And this time, the king doesn't arrive alone. In fact, he's bringing a few members of his royal family.

'We present 130 objects, and many of the items are from a century before Tutankhamun was born,' says David Silverman, who curated the original Tutankhamun exhibit and is also curating the new show. 'You meet his family, including his probable father, [and learn about] what kind of lives they led and a little bit about their religion.'

Read the rest of the story: King Tut reigns in new exhibit at the Field Museum

King TutI would like to see the exhibit, but not badly enough to make the trip to Chicago. If you are planning to attend, be forewarned that the exhibit does not include the famous mummy mask (left). However it does include other interesting articles, such as the crown that was on the mummy's head and the little box that contained one of Tut's organs (the bodily sort, not the musical sort.)

When we lived in Berlin, we visited their Egyptian Museum. Its showpiece is the bust of Queen Nefertiti. It was interesting to see it as a 3-dimensional object rather than as a 2-dimensional photograph.

The bust was in a case with lights focused on it in a darkened room. Probably that setting is designed both to focus all attention on the bust and to strictly control the light that the bust is exposed to. The bust is still in its original condition and its colors are unrestored.

The photo of the Nefertiti bust at right appears to have been taken through the glass case. It appears slightly blurred and the seam of the glass is visible.

Now the Egyptian Museum has moved from the Charlottenburg location that we visited to the Museum Island in Berlin-Mitte.

We also saw a couple of mummies there. The Queen and the mummies are the only things that Keely (4 years old at the time) remembers from the museum, and they are my most vivid memories also. One mummy had been opened a little or was broken a little and a bit of the body was visible.

I don't think that bodies should be displayed as artifacts, even if they are ancient Egyptians with whom the whole world is fascinated. I noticed that no mummies were included in the little slide show on the Egyptian Museum's website (click above the queen's head.) The articles didn't mention that any mummies were included in the King Tut exhibit either.

Photos of King Tut and Queen Nefertiti courtesy of Wikipedia.

Related Links:
Queen Nefertiti of Egypt
At the Tomb of Tutankhamen (1923 National Geographic article and photos)

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ABC News: Dracula's Castle Returned to Van Hapsburg

Some Interesting News

BUCHAREST, Romania May 26, 2006 (AP)

More than 60 years after it was seized by communists, the Romanian government is to hand back one of the country's most popular tourist sites, the fabled Dracula Castle, to its former owner, the culture minister said Tuesday.

The castle, worth an estimated $25 million, was owned by the late Queen Marie and bequeathed to her daughter Princess Ileana in 1938. It was confiscated by communists in 1948 and fell into disrepair. It will be transferred on Friday to Dominic van Hapsburg, a New York architect who inherited the castle from Princess Ileana decades after the communists seized it, minister Adrian Iorgulescu told a news conference.

Read the full article here: ABC News: Dracula's Castle Returned to Van Hapsburg

I'm very impressed that the Romanians are handing back properties like this to their rightful owners. They are determined to renounce Communism.

King Michael, mentioned in the article, was born in 1921. His father was Prince Carol. If you look at the link in this paragraph, it's helpful to remember that Carol was a man (not a woman as we modern Americans commonly would think of that name.)

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Large houses in West Berlin

Another Trip Down Memory Lane... Life In Germany...

Homes in West Berlin

I have always thought that this is an interesting photo. I came across it while searching for the photo of the old cottonwoods for my story about walking home from school.

When we lived in our second home in Berlin, I frequently walked through the neighborhoods around Heinersdorfer Strasse with my two little children. Keely had a tricycle with a long handle on it so she could pedal but I could restrain her when necessary, and I packed Isaac in a baby carrier on my chest. This photo was taken on one of our walks.

This photo captures the angular block-like appearance of many of the big stucco homes that were built after World War II. The sun is shining through a carport.

Most of these large homes had a family or two on each floor. Sometimes they were family homes with grandparents, parents, and children on different floors, and sometimes they were apartment houses with renters.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Walking home from school

Growing up in the Nebraska Sandhills

Back in the 1950's and 1960's, I attended a one-room country school like many ranch kids of Nebraska did (and still do!) The little stucco schoolhouse (Duff Valley District 4) was about two miles from our home.

My parents drove us to school in the morning, but in the afternoon we often walked home. The first mile was a county road. It was shaded by tall cottonwood trees until the bridge over Bloody Creek. After that, the road was unshaded and very sandy until we reached our mailbox.

The ranch road
The ranch road, as seen a few years
ago from the corner where our mailbox
stood. In my childhood, this grove of
tall cottonwoods was in its prime.

The county road turned north at our mailbox, but we turned south onto our ranch road. After the first gate, we cut across the meadow and through the milkcow pasture. This route involved crossing two barbed wire fences, but it was worth it because of the distance it cut off.

We dawdled along the way when the weather was nice. I had trees that I liked to visit. One was a squat, prickly, cedar tree that grew along the roadside. I admired its silver berries and tasted the aromatic sap that oozed from its trunk. I was also fond of a big cottonwood that had fallen over in a storm but was still living. It was interesting to climb onto its trunk and walk through its branches.

If the bookmobile had visited our school recently, I clutched my lunchbox with one hand, held my book with the other and plodded along, lost in a story. Cars rarely came down the road, so I didn't worry about traffic.

Sometimes there were Brahma bulls in the Hollenbeck pasture. If so, my brother had to stay with me until we had passed them. He didn't like my dawdling, so he got a little switch and walked behind me to hurry me along. I don't remember him hitting me, but he did "encourage" me.

I regret to say that I may have used the same technique sometimes to hurry my little sister down the road a few years later. Sorry, Charlotte. (I have to confess this, or she will think I have painted an incomplete picture of our walking-home experiences.)

In the fall, we shuffled through dry brown leaves that had fallen from the cottonwood trees. In the ditches, cattails and milkweed pods invited us to pick them. Sandburs gathered in our shoelaces and the seeds of the dry prairie grasses stuck in our socks when we cut across the meadow and pasture.

On winter days, we walked fast. We were glad to turn south onto the ranch road and have the wind at our backs instead of across our faces. Our hands ached with cold before we got home, despite our mittens. Once I made the mistake of running warm water over my frozen hands to warm them. Don't try that-- it hurts!

If a winter storm was blowing in, someone always came to pick us up from school. Our teachers wouldn't have let us walk home in dangerous weather, anyway. Every native Nebraskan has heard the fearful story of the Schoolchildren's Blizzard and respects its lessons.

In the spring, the cottonwoods bloomed and made their little strings of cotton balls. One afternoon, my sister and I picked cottonwood blossoms and filled Laura Zlomke's mailbox with them. We thought it would be a nice surprise for her. (Laura was a widow lady who lived with her bachelor brother about 1/2 mile west of the school.)

When the frost went out and the last snowbanks melted, Bloody Creek ran full. A dirty white foam formed on the water's surface and collected in the weeds. It was obvious to me that the waters of Bloody Creek were at high tide. That's why the water was foamy, like the Tide suds in my mother's washing machine. (It made sense at the time.)

We threw leaves, shreds of bark, and little sticks into the water and watched them float under the bridge, out the other side, and away through the "tides" of Bloody Creek. We knew a little poem about boats that my mother liked to recite. She had learned it when she was a child. " ... Boats of mine a-boating— / When will all come home?"

Spring rains filled the ditches and flooded the meadows. When I waded too deep, the water pushed the tops of my overshoes against my shins just before it flowed inside them. If I carefully retreated when I felt my overshoe tops go wavy, my feet might stay dry. When the water spilled in, the rest of my walk home was squishy and squeaky.

When we finally arrived home, we sometimes found that Mama had left each of us a list of chores to do. She often went with my dad to help him do various things on the ranch, and the lists were intended to keep us out of trouble if we got home before she did. Those lists were what I really intended to write about when I started this, but I've dawdled along the road so much that I think that essay will wait for another day.

Sleep More Important Than Diet For Weight Control

Some Interesting News...

Medical News Today, by Christian Nordqvist
24 May 2006 - 9:00am (PDT)

If you manage to get a good night's sleep on a regular basis your chances of staying slim or becoming slimmer are significantly higher, say researchers from Care Western University, Ohio, USA, after monitoring nearly 70,000 women for over a decade and-a-half. This is the largest study ever to examine the effects of sleep on weight over the long-term.

What constitutes a good night's sleep? For this study, the researchers observed the effect sleeping five or fewer hours regularly has on a woman's weight over the medium and long term. They compared them to women who managed to regularly get 7 hours' sleep each night.

First blood pressure and now weight control. Looks like it would probably do me good to go to bed earlier (or sleep later.)

Playful Moments

All In The Family...

We've been having trouble with the pump on our well and we've had running water for only brief intervals since Sunday morning. These problems finally came to an end this afternoon with the installation of a new pump. We didn't have to pay for the pump because it was still under warranty, but we did have to pay the pump repairman an exorbitant sum for the day he spent tinkering with our electricity and water.

While the pump guy was installing the new pump this afternoon, our old tomcat jumped into the box that it had come in. Happy is elderly and arthritic, but inside the box, he had a flashback to his frisky kitten days. First he pounced with loud thumps on imaginary prey in every corner. Then he snaked out his paw between the top flaps of the box to see what he might snag. I broke off a long grass stem and tickled his paw. Oh, how wild he was as he tried to catch it. It was funny to see our sedate old cat act so silly.

A new box has several good uses. Later, Happy climbed into it, curled up and slept for several hours. I guess he was tired from all that wild play. I could have thrown the box away this evening after he finally woke up, but I left it there for him to enjoy again tomorrow.

Happy's antics and the long hot shower I had this evening were definitely the bright spots of this day.

Happy in the boxUpdate: The next morning. Happy is still enjoying his box.

Happy earlier this springHappy refused to smile for this portrait.
(Taken earlier this spring.)

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Download a Camera

Lighthouse in a Tree is offering a PDF camera. The pages of the PDF file (when printed and cut) can be used to assemble a pinhole camera that works with 35 mm film. This strikes me as a great project for a teacher to give to gifted students who would profit from the enrichment and enjoy the challenge.

Lighthouse in a Tree also provides a link to several "Worldwide Pinhole Day" exhibits, containing hundreds of pinhole photographs from around the world.

Monday, May 22, 2006

A lift for faces -- and moods?

Some Interesting News..."

The LA Times, by Susan Brink
May 22, 2006

Inspired by age-old literary wisdom, countless song lyrics and the 1872 musings of Charles Darwin, a very 2006 theory to treat depression has emerged. Why not turn that frown upside down — with a shot of Botox? By preventing the physical act of frowning, the muscle-paralyzing toxin just might ease depression.

A small-scale pilot trial, published in the May 15 journal Dermatologic Surgery, found that Botox injected into frown lines around the mouth or in forehead furrows of 10 women eliminated depression symptoms in nine of them and reduced symptoms in the 10th.

Source: A lift for faces -- and moods?

I wonder if a facelift has the same effect. I suppose not because it doesn't leave you incapable of frowning.

I wonder how long the therapeutic psychological benefits of Botox would have to be proven before insurance companies would pay for regular treatments.

Neither Botox nor plastic surgery is in the budget, so I will use my wrinkle cream and try to think positively. :D

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Country Store at Honey Grove, Kentucky

The Rural Life... Life in Christian County Kentucky... And What I Think About It...

Honey Grove KY
The little country store at Honey Grove, Kentucky, was still open when we moved to Christian County, but it has been closed for about five years now and the building stands empty.

As I drive the roads of the county, I see many old buildings that used to be stores. Within five miles of our home, I know four old store buildings and another newer one. Their histories are probably much like the history of the store at Honey Grove: business dwindled to the point where the store could no longer operate.

The little store at Honey Grove was once a thriving grocery. It served a farm community that was separated from town by a dozen miles of dirt road and several streams.

The building itself is about a hundred years old. It was built by its first storekeeper, a Mr. Harned. It originally stood on the opposite side of the road, and its front door was once its backdoor. It has one large room below and an attic above.

The store had a long church pew and rocking chairs both inside and outside, so folks could rest and visit while enjoying a cold drink and a sandwich or snack. A long counter ran halfway down one side of the room. The cash register, two glass-topped showcases, and the meat cutter were lined up on the counter top.

A small kitchen sink at the back of the store provided a place for the storekeeper to wash utensils and for farmers to wash the soil from their hands. Customers were welcome to use the outhouse behind the store.

Miss Eva Shanklin, a widow lady, was the storekeeper for over 50 years, and under her ownership, the store reached its zenith after World War II and then went into a long slow decline. She stocked all the staples of kitchen and home and many things for the farm -- flour, sugar, laundry bluing, washboards, hairpins, quilting thread, motor oil, school tablets, nails, and much more. The grocery truck made a big delivery every week, and she sent to Hopkinsville for the things it didn't bring.

Senior citizens around here remember when Shanklin Grocery had a jukebox and young people met at Honey Grove on Saturday nights to visit and dance. Some walked for miles to get there because they didn't have a car or a bicycle, or even a horse or a mule.

For decades, travelers and locals alike stopped at Honey Grove for an ice-cold drink and a good balogna sandwich. Honey Grove was well known to have the coldest soda chest on this side of the county.

Even in its last few years, the grocery did a considerable business in lunch meat sold by the pound and and in lunch meat sandwiches made to order and eaten within the store.

In the late 1990's, it became impossible to find the traditional 4-square crackers for the balogna sandwiches, and the old chest cooler suddenly quit working one day and had to be hauled out of the building. Looking back, those little tragedies seem to be omens of impending demise.

Times have changed in ways that make it very difficult for country stores nowadays. Good blacktop roads crisscross the county, and many country women go to town daily because they have jobs there. After work, it's easier for them to shop in town than to go to an expensive little country store that may not even have what they want.

Through the years, the grocery at Honey Grove became a convenience store, and finally went out of business entirely. Perhaps beer and lottery tickets could have saved it, but Miss Eva would never have considered it and after Miss Eva's retirement, her daughter would not have allowed it in the the building. It's probably just as well. Honey Grove is an isolated settlement on a little-traveled road and a little store with beer and lottery-tickets would have been a sitting duck for robbers.

I know quite a bit about the store at Honey Grove because I worked there for several years before it closed. I lettered the "Fresh Produce" sign that is hanging above the bench in the photo above.

Over the counters of Shanklin Grocery, I became much better acquainted with the neighbors who stopped in to drink a soda, eat a sandwich, or buy a pack of smokes. I spent a lot of time sitting with the regulars and listening to them talk. That was part of the job, and I learned a lot of local history doing it.

At the time I worked there, Miss Eva had retired, and the store was operated by Mr. B.B. Bradley, an old gentleman who lived in Honey Grove. He ran the store for about six years because he could not bear to see its doors closed. After B.B. passed away, the store closed within six months.

I look back at my three years of working in Shanklin Grocery as a time of bonding with the community, and I'm thankful I had that opportunity. I'm thankful too that I had the opportunity to be one of the last storekeepers at Honey Grove (though a minor one.) It makes me feel that I am a little part of the history there.

Tennessee Renaissance Festival 2006

Life in The Upper South...

Note: Most of the links below lead to photos.

Yesterday, I went with Keely and her boyfriend, Taurus (T.J.), to the Tennessee Renaissance Festival (commonly known as "Tenn-Ren".)


We arrived at the festival at about 11:00 a.m. Several hundred carloads of people arrived before us, so we parked about 1/8 mile from the front entrance. A large crowd of people was waiting in front of the admission booth, and it took about 20 minutes to move along in line, pay, and finally enter the festival.

While we were waiting, it was interesting to observe what others were wearing for the day. This little girl was a cutie.

The shade of the faire grounds was a pleasant relief after standing in the sun to buy our tickets. (I am giving "faire" the spelling used by the Tenn-Ren website.)

Crowds waiting

We spent at least three hours just browsing through the market. Around 60 shops (tents and carts) were open for business and hundreds of faire-goers were milling about. Merchants and artisans were busily hawking their wares to anyone interested. These young folks put on a nearly non-stop stick-juggling show to entice people to buy their Crystal Stix.

Some of the goods for sale were particularly related to the Renaissance, such as gowns, cloaks, vests, coats, and pants for the period. Goods of interest to faire-goers from the medieval era included drinking horns and leather armor. Other arts and crafts for sale included ceramics, hats, small musical instruments, walking sticks, art prints, handmade boots and moccasins, nice wooden boxes, and even psychic readings.

Various costumes

Some of the faire-goers were dressed in authentic Renaissance garb. Others were wearing historic garb from other periods of time (like Keely's friend, Camille who is wearing an medieval-style apron dress that I sewed a couple of years ago). Keely, Taurus, and I wore medieval garb too. Some people wore their fantasy costumes (such as this lovely faun) and some were dressed in the theme of the day (pirates.)

Many other people were dressed in their everyday casuals. A close look at those in street clothes revealed that some with mundane clothing were sporting pointed elf ears, small faun horns, and other myth-y bits. I suspect that many of the horns came from this vendor (who was also selling tails from a nearby rack.)


Keely (who loves to wear her garb) noted that the folks in garb and costume and the folks in street clothes often observe each other with equal curiosity about why they dress the way they do.

Queen of the Faire

The Queen made regular rounds of the Faire grounds with her company and graciously posed for dozens of photos. (The Queen with her lady-in-waiting.)

Rag Lady

The Rag Lady also circulated through the crowds, posing for photos and engaging and charming those around her. (The Rag Lady with curious onlookers.)

We also watched parts of several shows that were in progress, including the bellydancing, and even one complete show from start to end. Keely and Taurus went to see the birds (a golden eagle and others) that a falconer was exhibiting. (I needed to eat something so I could take a pill so I missed seeing the birds, to my regret.)

As we sat on a wonderfully cool rock wall in the main hall, a knight in chain mail was posing for pictures with some children. A little girl was convulsed with delighted horror at the thought of her brother getting conked in the head with the knight's battle hammer.

We could have seen glass blowing, jousting, various shows, and much more. The schedule included several events every half-hour. We also could have taken a bus to visit a nearby castle, but the lines were long so we didn't try. The tour would have been free with our admission to the faire, but there comes a time when enough is enough.

It was a fun excursion. The faire still runs through Memorial Day weekend, so if you live in the area, you might consider a visit.

A few of the many, many interesting sights of the day:

A performer with a great talent for getting the audience to participate in his songs and humorous nonsense. I don't know what group he was with.

Maze for the kids

The Giant Stryker where men can prove their brawn. (Or women can prove their brawn too,if they want.)

Lady Genevieve in medieval garb

Feather adornments for sale

Renaissance merchant humor

Keely and Taurus visiting the flower vendor

Staffs and walking sticks for sale

Merchant's sign with neat cut-outs

Incontrovertible evidence that "We were There"-- fantasy flowers, sun medallion, snood for the hair, feather, Tenn-Ren program, and market basket.

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Friday, May 19, 2006

Kentucky Sunrise

Life in Christian County, Kentucky...

Kentucky sunrise

I came across this photo while I was looking for photos of Sammie and me, so I scanned it for the blog.

I took this at sunrise one July morning several years ago for the landscape category of the "Day in the Life of Christian County" contest. It did not win, but I still like the photo. I used a zoom lens to look from the roadside across the hills and valleys. This area is about five miles north of our home.

Happy birthday, Sammie!

All In The Family... Life in The Nebraska Sandhills...

About 1973Me on left, Sammie on right.
About 1973 (I think.)

My dear friend Sammie had her birthday on Wednesday, May 17. Please note that I did not call her my old friend, even though I've known her for over 40 years. I would never refer to her as old because she's approximately the same age as me.

I tried to post these photos on Wednesday but I couldn't scan them. I had to find the CD and reinstall my printer/scanner because for some reason, it thought it no longer had a scanner.

I met Sammie in the first few days of my freshman year in high school (fall of 1965). We were both funny little country girls, straight off the ranch. We had both attended one-room country schools, and we were both a little overwhelmed by high school. We became close friends and made lots of crazy, silly teenaged memories together that I won't even attempt to summarize here!

Many of the high school memories include that wild child Ricky who became Sammie's husband 33(?) years ago. Sammie and I stood up with each other in our weddings, and through the years, have kept in touch. She is better at writing letters than I am, and I am thankful that she forgives me when I don't communicate.

When I go to Nebraska and visit Sammie and Rick, it's like going home. In many ways, Sammie has been a second sister to me. We still have lots of fun and silliness when we get together.

Sammie is a strong Sandhills lady who drives huge tractors in the field, raises a big garden, and loves her flowers and Nebraska history. Until recently, she had her own herd of sheep. This spring she had no ewes to help through lambing, for the first time in at least 20 years. She and Ricky have two sons, and now two grandchildren.

Happy birthday (a little late), my dear friend, and I hope you enjoy the "then and now" photos.

(Sammie has a terrible dial-up internet connection out there in the Nebraska Sandhills. I am sure this page loads slowly for her, but I'm glad she visits here, anyhow.)

About 2003The girls, still giggling
Taken in Sammie's flower garden in 2004 (I think)

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Thursday, May 18, 2006

Old Photo at the Library

Life in Christian County, Kentucky...

Kentucky Girls
"Kentucky Girls" circa 1889
Top to bottom:
Ella Laub
Willie Bell Harrison
Gusta Harrison
Jennie Ballard
Lizzie Overshiner
Mary Griffith (right)
Davie Hooser (left)
Mattie Overshiner

Some kind person has donated or loaned this old photo to the Hopkinsville-Christian County Public Library where it is an interesting and appropriate addition to the geneaology research area. A plaque below the framed photo lists the names of the girls. It seems likely that they were once residents of Hopkinsville, but I am only guessing about that. The ladder in the photo is an interesting prop that adds structure.

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"Incentivize" and Family Vacations

And What I Think About It... A Small Detour from The Cheerful Ramble, but We'll Soon Be Back On Track...

As I drove Isaac to school this morning, the guys on the "Daybreak USA" show were interviewing a doctor. She has written a book about engaging children in family outings by taking away their electronic toys.

The doctor discussed how to plan a family trip around full days of activity and how to psych up the kids for gadget-free family fun. One of the guys suggested that the parents look for ways to "incentivize" the kids, and she agreed that was definitely the thing to do.

The interview irritated me. Well, maybe I was already cranky because I hadn't had enough coffee. Anyway, I had to change the station because they were giving me a pain.

Road tripProbably the doctor doesn't load her children in the car and drive for 500 miles (and more) in a day as we have done many times when traveling to Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska to visit family and friends on our vacations.

In my real-life experience, Game-Boys, CD players, books on tape, and the like can be a real help on the road. Family time in a car for hours on end with no means of escape gets a little tiring, even for parents. A few amusements for the kids can make the difference between a long miserable ride and a long bearable ride.

I don't think the low-class road-trips we've taken are the kind of family vacation the doctor has in mind, but I don't regret a single one of them. In fact as I look back, I remember those long drives as happy family times even though we had the back seat loaded with every possible toy (electronic and otherwise).

WalkmanEven the kids remember fondly those marathon drives to visit Grandpa and Grandma Hill, and Sammie and Rick, and Grandma Netz, despite the long hours in the car. It seems that, even though we brought the evil electronics with us, we somehow created some shared memories of family fun.

(Application of the doctor's book to my life analyzed and dismissed. Now, on to the radio announcer's word: "incentivize.")

I felt an instant distaste for the word "incentivize" and to the suggestion that "incentivizing" can be done to people. I thought the announcer might have invented the word this morning, but that's not the case. "Incentivize" is in online dictionaries and apparently has been in use for several decades in the business world.

I'm pleased that The American Heritage Dictionary's usage panel doesn't like the word. And I think that Paul Brians of the Department of English at Washington State University sums it up very well:

Business folks sometimes use “incent” to mean “create an incentive,” but it’s not standard English. “Incentivize” is even more widely used, but strikes many people as an ugly substitute for “encourage.” (Source)

Now that I have aired my ire, I'm not incentivized to write more on this topic. (What an ugly, ugly, awkward word.)

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Raleigh Emry's Bunkhouse

Life in The Nebraska Sandhills...

If you have connections to Ainsworth, Nebraska, or wish you did, or if you are interested in family history, this site may interest you. Although I live near Austin, Texas, my roots are in north-central Nebraska, a place the natives fondly call the Middle of Nowhere. I keep in touch with the people of similar roots by means of a free e-mail newsletter that I publish 3 days a week. If you would like to join our 'neighborhood', click here to e-mail me: .

With these words, Raleigh Emry's Bunkhouse introduces itself. I have signed up for the newsletter since I definitely have an interest in north-central Nebraska. I was born in the Ainsworth hospital, have relatives buried in Ainsworth cemeteries, and still have many cousins living in the Ainsworth area.

The Story Writing 101 section of Mr. Emry's site contains archives of anecdotes that his newsletter subscribers have contributed. The list of topics includes: "The Watermelon Chronicles," "Horse Feathers!", "Bicycle Debacles", "Car-nage!", "Barnyard Games" and more.

Mr. Emry has recently written a book titled Good Times in The Badlands, which relates his experiences as an assistant to paleontologist (and Ainsworth native) Morris Skinner, of the American Museum of Natural History.

My hat is off to Mr. Emry for his creative, productive use of the internet.

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Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Dividing Iris

More About Trees and Plants...

My iris here in Kentucky have nearly finished blooming. We are a couple of growing zones warmer and earlier than northern Nebraska where I remember iris blooming for Memorial Day.

I want to dig up and divide two big beds of iris this year. I need to thin them out. Each plant will probably yield several starts, and I'm not going to replant them all. I'll be giving them away to someone who doesn't even know yet about their good luck. Ha! I don't know yet who this person will be, but I will find her (or him.)

Iris can make a person very generous because they quickly crowd a bed. Many of my iris are descended from a bed I helped an elderly lady dig up and divide about ten years ago. She was so anxious to get rid of them that she had put an ad in the paper saying, "Free iris. You dig." Since then, I've divided them several times and given away many dozens of starts.

On a somewhat related topic...

I was thinking today about a beautiful place I once visited. I think of this place quite often and wish I could see it again -- a high valley in the Wyoming mountains in early June. The snow had melted, and the ground was covered with an inch or more of water. Blue flags, a wild American iris, were blooming as far as the eye could see.

I was 19 years old then and I had gone with my boyfriend and his dad to one of the high summer pastures that they leased from the government. The only thing that I remember well about that day is the blue flags.

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My daughter

All In The Family...

Here is my daughter Keely, on Mother's Day along with her big bouquet of iris. She's a senior at Murray State University with a major in Biology and a double minor in Math and Chemistry. She will be 21 in August. (Can it be true?!)

Keely is a busy person. Besides carrying a full scholastic load that always includes lab classes, she tutors 5 hours per week to fulfill the requirements of her scholarship and also works about 20 hours at a daycare center. I don't get to see as much of her as I would really like, but I am learning to let her go.

Keely is planning to go to medical school and she wants to be a pathologist. Her interest in this field was originally sparked by reading The Hot Zone. I am sure she will do fine in med-school. She has a good mind, an admirable amount of self-discipline and initiative, and a real interest.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Tenacious thistle

Life in Christian County, Kentucky... More About Trees and Plants...

SowthistleReally, the nerve of this thistle! It is growing in a tiny crack between a concrete wall and the asphalt of a parking lot. I have tentatively identified it as a sowthistle (sonchus oleraceus.) If I am incorrect, please let me know.

I estimate that this plant is about 4-1/2 feet in height -- close to the top of the normal height range of sowthistles. It is doing quite well despite the confines of its existence.

Sowthistles are members of the aster family. The flower of this plant does look like an aster bloom. The tenacious and prolific ways of the sowthistle have put it on the noxious weed list in 20 U.S. states and 5 Canadian provinces.

Sowthistle bloom

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Blogs now have a world of influence

Blogs and Blogging...

If you chose two words that people hear daily in May 2006 that they never heard five years ago, the words might be 'iPod' and 'blog.'

We all know about Apple's iPod. It has revolutionized the music business, becoming not just a way to listen to music, but also a fashion statement.

Then there's the humble blog (short hand for Web log). Blogs have been with us much longer than iPods, but have developed in the past few years into a cultural force. Like the iPod, having your own blog is also a status symbol."

Source: "Blogs now have a world of influence".

The gist of the article is that blogs are affecting what the world is talking about and what the media is reporting about. Even reporters and political thinkers are starting to read blogs to see what the buzz is. (I did not find this surprising.)

Interesting factoids in the article include these: "Thirty-seven percent of blogs are written in Japanese, 31 percent in English, and China is rapidly rising in third place with 15 percent."

District 44 at Johnstown, Nebraska

All In The Family... Another Trip Down Memory Lane... Life in The Nebraska Sandhills...

From the time Daddy and Mama were married through the end of my first grade year, they lived out in the Sandhills of Brown County, Nebraska, south of the small village of Johnstown.

In the 1950's, the countryside was much more populated than it is now, but even then, it was a remote area without many human inhabitants. The Great Depression and the Dust Bowl had thinned out the homesteaders considerably, and every period of economic stress for ranchers since then has reduced the population even more.

We lived within School District 44. I don't know how many sections of land were in the district, but it was large. In recognition of that fact, the little schoolhouse was built on skids (large wooden sled runners) so that it could be moved to a convenient location for the school children. When I went to school there (1956-57), my brother and I were the only children in the district, so the schoolhouse was right across the road from our house.

My brother was in 4th grade at the time I started kindergarten. For some of his first years of school, he had been taught by a lady named Miss Ingerson. I don't know if there were any other children in school then, or not.

By the time I came along, Miss Ingerson had quit and my mother was our teacher. Mama didn't like that situation because she was afraid we would grow up warped from a lack of social contact. However, no other teacher could be found who was willing to come out to the middle of nowhere to work for next to nothing. I believe Mama earned $40 per month for teaching us.

Mama had taught school for several years before she was married, and she was a certified teacher. She was serious about our proper education. School was held for the required 7-1/2 hours per day for 175 days. We had lessons, assignments, art projects, music class, and recess just like all school children do. At lunch time, we walked across the road and went home to eat.

I remember that the little schoolhouse had a row of windows along its south side. There were several student desks and a teacher desk. We had a variety of textbooks, mostly old, that were kept on a bookcase and a set of small brownish encyclopedias that actually belonged to Mama. There were a few toys and puzzles and some modeling clay.

In that little schoolhouse, my mother taught me to read, using "My Little Red Storybook" and its successors from the Ginn Basic Readers series. Tom and Betty, their little sister Susan, and their dog Flip had many adventures mostly told by pictures. The vocabulary was limited to phrases like "See Tom run," and "See Flip jump."

Two items in the schoolhouse became quite dear to me. One was a little abacus with ten rows of colored beads that slid on wires. The other was a little phonograph that looked much like small suitcase when the lid was closed. It had a wind-up handle on the side of it, and with some cranking, it stored enough energy to play a record.

We had a dozen or so red 78-rpm children's records that were only a little larger in diameter than today's CD's. Each side of the little records held one song. My favorite one had Burl Ives singing, "Little White Duck."

There's a little white duck, sitting in the water,
A little white duck, doing what he oughter.
He took a bite of the lilypad,
Flapped his wings and he said, "I'm glad
I'm a little white duck sitting in the water!
Quack! Quack! Quack!"

And the plot thickens from there...

I remember one day Mama let us go outside and watch an airplane that was flying low overhead. That was a very unusual thing to see.

Once a year, the County Superintendent of Schools came to visit. Her name was Esther Miller, and she had once been a schoolteacher herself. Once, she had me sit beside her and read to her. She was wearing a bracelet of polished colored stones which she showed me. My mother told me later that Mrs. Miller tried hard to help the teachers in the little rural schools. My mother had a lot of respect for her.

I cannot tell you how it grieved my heart when my parents moved from that ranch and we left the little schoolhouse and its record player and abacus behind. (Mama said we couldn't take them!) I don't believe the little building was ever used again as a school, and I don't know what ever became of its contents.

Part of the reason that my parents moved was that they wanted us to grow up around other kids, and in the Duff Valley in Rock County, 30 miles south of Bassett, we did indeed attend rural school and country church with several other families. Those children became almost like siblings to us.

Several years back, I wrote about my memories of District 44 south of Johnstown, Nebraska, (described above) and Duff Valley District 4, a one-room school west of Rose, Nebraska, which I attended from second grade through eighth grade. I submitted these writings to the Brown County and Rock County sites in the Nebraska section of Rootsweb and for at least five years, they were available there to anyone who was interested.

To my surprise, those articles seem to have been removed. The Rock County site seems to have eliminated all the narratives it once contained and now provides only high school records, with no mention at all of the rural schools. I can't even find a site for Brown County. I guess they are trying to concentrate more on things that will provide names and dates to people researching geneology, and less on the actual history of the areas.

So this article replicates some of the things I related in one of the articles that has vanished, and I will update it when I stumble across my original article in my files. I will also rewrite my article about Duff Valley District 4 -- but not today. :)

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Monday, May 15, 2006

Fairly healthy, all considered

All In The Family...

Today I went to the doctor. I don't like going to the doctor. In fact, I would never see the doctor when I am feeling well, except that he has the power of the pen. I take several prescription medicines, and he doesn't renew them without seeing me.

The good doctor was so pleased to see my blood pressure and cholesterol in healthy ranges today that he didn't chide me for weighing five pounds more than last time. (I am still going to carry on with my diet though.)

I asked him about the shoulder that has been giving me considerable discomfort for about six weeks now. He stretched my arm upward in a way that hurt terribly and then made me move my hand. This left me begging for mercy and seemed to assure him that it was a rotator cuff injury.

I am supposed to take Motrin for the next two weeks plus do an exercise. If that doesn't help, he will give me a shot of cortisone, and if that doesn't help, I have to go to physical therapy. Since I don't want a shot in my shoulder and I don't want physical therapy, I think I'll do the exercise faithfully.

I think I pulled my shoulder when mowing under a tree. I lifted a branch with one hand and drove under it while I was holding it up. I went a little faster than I had intended and my arm went over backwards a little farther than it should have. So take heed, y'all, and don't do that.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Howling coyotes

Howling Coyotes

Life in Christian County, Kentucky... More About Birds and Animals... The Rural Life

This evening, I did a nasty job that I've been putting off for a while. I emptied out some jars of applesauce that I canned several years ago but we never got around to eating.

I took the jars out to the porch and emptied them into a bucket and then took the bucket to the garden and emptied it onto my compost pile. Tomorrow morning, there will probably be a bunch of sick or drunk possums lying around the yard. (Just kidding.)

While I was doing all this, the coyotes started howling in the neighbor's field just over the road. It is eerie to hear coyotes at close range. When you hear them in the distance, you get the main melody of their howls, but you miss the subtle details. When they are just a couple hundred feet away, you hear every yip, chortle, warble and squeak.

Isaac came out and we listened for a few minutes. Then he went back in, and I went around the side of the house to use the hose. I nearly tripped over one of the cats in the dark, and I said something sharp to it as I stumbled. The coyotes instantly stopped howling. I guess they saw me, or they knew from listening that I had moved closer to them.

I didn't hear them howling in the field again, but about 15 minutes later, I heard coyotes howling in the distance north of us. It could have been the same pack -- or a different one. We seem to have lots of coyotes here.

When we first moved out here, I never heard coyotes, but in the last ten years it has become a frequent thing to hear them howling. They come so close some nights that we can hear them howling from inside the house. I always check to make sure the cats are inside when I hear the coyotes.

I have read that coyotes will kill foxes and drive them out of their range. It is true that I have not seen a fox around here for probably six or eight years now, but there are lots of coyotes.

Coyotes are omnivorous and they are scavengers, so there may be sick and drunk coyotes lying around the compost pile tomorrow morning along with the possums. (Just kidding.)


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Friday, May 12, 2006

Feed stores and egg cartons

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

When I was in grade school, I made a little money selling egg cartons. They were worth a penny apiece at the feed store in Bassett, Nebraska. Mama didn't keep chickens, so we bought eggs from the store, and a stack of egg cartons would slowly accumulate. When at last I had 25, I would take them to the creamery, which was located in a special room at the front of the feed store.

The creamery bought cream from people who had milkcows and sold it to a dairy products company. My mother sometimes sold cream there. The creamery also bought eggs. I am not sure where the eggs went after the creamery bought them, but they needed egg cartons and were always happy to buy them.

With 25 cents of egg carton money in my pocket, I could go to the dime store and buy a fat comic book. Or, I could buy a skinny comic book for a dime, a soda for a dime, and a candy bar for a nickel.

But even without the joy of money, the visit to the feed store would have been interesting. Mountains of bagged grains and animal feeds and stacks of salt blocks filled the long room. A fine dust from the grinding of grain danced in the light and lay over every surface. Even the cobwebs were powdered. A sweet fragrance of molasses filled the air.

And there were cats everywhere. It was an old building, and the cats helped with rodent control. They probably did their best work at night when the people went home and the mice came out. During the daytime, they napped on the piles of empty gunny sacks and lounged on the counter tops. Kittens played hide and seek around the stacks. They were hard to catch, but their mothers graciously allowed customers like me to pet them.

By the mid-1960's, the creamery had closed. I am not sure why. It might have been because of food safety regulations. Not too long after that, the little feed store closed too. I don't know why it closed. It might have been the loss of the creamery combined with stiff competition from Bassett's other feed store which was much larger and more modern. Or maybe the owners just wanted to retire.

Nowadays, I sometimes have a reason to go to Southern States, a farm store in Hopkinsville. I always enjoy walking into the feed and seed area by the back loading docks. They mix custom livestock feeds back there, so the cobwebs are a little dusty. Bags of corn, pet food, chicken mash and all kinds of livestock feed are stacked high. There aren't any cats, but there's a familiar smell of ground grain and sweet molasses. It makes me think of egg cartons.


Alabama feed store, 1936

Photo: An Alabama feed store, about 1936. Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA-OWI Collection, LC-USF342-T01-008089-A DLC.

The feed store in the photo reminds me of the one that I remember in Bassett , even though the photo was taken 15 years before my birth. I remember the feed store as a a long narrow frame building that faced north, around the corner from the Ford garage and near the alley.

On the general topic of creameries:

A sale by the Stock Auction Company in April 2006 at Wolbach, Nebraska, included "Old Cowboy Gear, Quality Hand & Leather Tools, Sewing Machines or Antiques" (many interesting photos on the page.) Among the items auctioned were these cream cans.

The Stearns History Museum of St. Cloud, Minnesota, has a wonderful online exhibit titled "Bringing Home The Cows." If you remember milkstools and cream separators, you will enjoy the Catalog of Artifacts.

I well remember what a pain it was to wash the many parts of the cream separator, particularly a stack of about 20 disks that was in it.

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Thursday, May 11, 2006

Stormy Weather

Life in Christian County, Kentucky...

The weather has been odd all day. A cold air mass has been moving in, and as the front advances, numerous squalls have swept through Christian County.

I drove through heavy rain when I took Isaac to school. Twenty minutes later, the sun was shining. I went in WalMart and bought some cat food, and when I came back out, it was raining again. And so it continued all day.

This afternoon about 6:00 p.m., some of the most threatening clouds of the day passed over with great blasts of rain and wind. Afterwards, the sun came out and shone brightly for a while. A hint of a rainbow appeared over Hopkinsville.

Storm in Hopkinsville
Just before the rain
Storm in Hopkinsville
After the squall

I started a little fire in the woodstove after we got home from Scouts this evening. It's supposed to drop down to 45° tonight. The weather report says that temperatures will be in the mid-40's for the next two nights as well.

Now I don't feel so bad about not having my garden all planted. It's still a bit chilly for peppers and tomatoes to really flourish anyway.

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Emigrants at Ellis Island

History and Old Stuff...

Emmigrant children, Ellis Island
Photo courtesy of the National Archives.
Emigrant children at Ellis Island, 1908.

I am fond of old books, and I bought another one at a tag sale last Saturday. It is Volume 5 of The New Student's Reference Work for Teachers Students and Families, and it was published by F.E. Compton and Company of Chicago in 1911. The set of books must have been an ancestor of today's Compton's Encyclopedia.

Much of the book is educational stories about various topics. I enjoyed the description of emigrants arriving at Ellis Island. This contemporary description is informative both in its factual content and in its inadvertent documentation of attitudes of the time. With the current furor over immigration to America, it is interesting to get a glimpse of immigration in a different time.

I believe that my great-grandparents Sees came from Germany through Ellis Island. I am not sure of the year, but I think it would have been between 1900 and 1910, about the time of the photo above and the description that appears below. (Aunt Becky or other family members, you can correct me if you read this.)

Here is an excerpt from the Ellis Island story. The punctuation and spelling are as they appear in the book. (Any obvious typos are mine.)

A child on the top deck of a ship, is observing emigrants arriving in New York City...

...A great ocean steamer is five or six stories deep, you remember. You have lived in the top story, or first cabin. You have never seen the people below you. You can see them now, as they go ashore over the gang plank, if you stand by the deck rail and look down.

A crowd of the strangest looking people pour over the gang plank from the third deck, or steerage. They look like little bits of all the countries you have seen or read about. Few of the women wear hats. They have handkerchiefs or caps or shawls on their heads. They carry babies in their arms, on their hips or their backs. Little childrren cling to their short, wide skirts. The men and boys carry mountains of queer shaped bundles and boxes and bags on their heads and shoulders. They stand by these bundles on the dock, as if they feared to lose them. Men in uniform keep the crowds moving. They shout orders in a dozen languages. The people are weary from the long journey, but oh, so interested in everything, so eager and hopeful. They wait patiently with their babies and their bundles and do everything they are told to do.

They will not be allowed to leave this dock, as do the cabin passengers. Although they are on American soil, they have not been admittted to make their homes here yet. In the old days, every one could come in freely. They cannot do that now. We found that a great many very old people, and orphan children, and blind and crippled and feeble-minded people, came. They did not belong here, but we had to take care of them. Many bad men came, too. They had been in prison in their own land, and they gave us much trouble. So laws were passed to admit only those who were strong and well and good honest workers. Every one who comes must have some money to give him a start. Children and old people must have some one to care for them.

All these people must get on a barge, or open boat, and go back to the emigrant station on Ellis Island. Ellis Island is just inside the harbor. You can buy a ticket and go there to see these people examined and questioned by government officers. Your boat is fast so it passes the barge.

When you leave your boat, hurry across the open space to a big building like a railway station. Go up a side stairway to a gallery that runs around a big white-tiled room and look down. Up the wide central stairway come the people from the barge. There are thousands of them. See if there are any you know.

Oh, there are the Dutch children. They wear wooden shoes just as they did three hundred years ago. That is an Irish family. The children have merry eyes. That is a German family. The children are stout and fair and rosy, You wonder if "dear mother" has a Christmas tree in that beautiful linen chest she sits on. There are some English or Scotch people. The little girls are shy, the boys independent little fellows. And there are such a lot of people who never came to America at all, in the old days.

Those big black-bearded men in long overcoats, caps, and high boots are Russian farmers. They will go out to wide western plains to grow wheat. We need that kind of Americans. The smaller, long-bearded men who are near them, are Russian Jews. They have had trouble about their religion, and come to us for peace and safety. They will work in tailor shops in the big cities. Some will be peddlers. By and by they will have good shops of their own.

Those men in velveteen jackets with nickel buttons and bright red vests, are Hungarians in their Sunday clothes. Some are in sheepskin coats. Their women have short skirts, bare heads, and embroidered aprons. These people will work in mines and packing houses and steel foundries. There are no women with those red-capped Turks who have come to sell us Oriental rugs. Those handsome Greeks will be peddlers of fruit or of plaster casts of old Greek statues. The Italians with dark, rosy faces, have dozens of little ones with them. The men are small but they can do the hardest kind of labor on railroad beds and street sewers. The Norwegians are tall. In their old home they are sailors. They will not be afraid to do iron work on sky-scrapers and bridges. Those fair, very clean, young women are Swedes. With the German and Irish girls, they make the best housemaids in the world. There are very few people among these new-comers who cannot do some useful work.

Men in uniform are at every door and stair landing. They can speak many languages and they know what country every one comes from by his dress and face. They are kind to these strangers. Now, one says to a scared little Italian woman, in her own language:

"Signora (madam), come in out of the draft. The bambino (baby) will catch cold." She smiles happily to hear her own dear tongue in this strange America. So it goes, all along the line. Five thousand strangers are made to feel at home.

On one stair landing stands a government doctor in uniform. He looks closely at every man, woman and child. Now he pulls a man out of line and marks a cross on his sleeve with chalk. The doctor thinks this man has tuberculosis. That is a "catching" disease, and few people get well of it. He must go to a special room and be examined. Another doctor looks at people's eyes. Another looks at their faces to see if they are bright enough to earn a living. People who are a little sick from the journey are sent to a hospital right on the Island and made well. Children with measles or other "catching" disease that they can be cured of, are sent to city hospitals.

Inspectors look at the numbered tag pinned to each emigrant's coat and tell him which wire-screened room to go to. There he finds an officer who speaks his language. The officer has a long paper that tells all about him. It was filled out in the seaport town from which he sailed. Now he must answer all these questions again. What is his name, his age, his birthplace? What useful work can he do? How much money did he bring with him? Has he friends in America? Where does he want to go? Has he ever been in prison; or in an assylum; or dependent on charity? What is his health? If his answers are satisfactory and truthful he pays a fee of $4.00. This is to pay the expenses of the emigrant station.

Then, if he is going farther than New York, an officer goes with him to the ticket office. He buys his ticket and checks his baggage. He finds that, in America, people do not drag heavy bundles about with them, but have them carried safely in trains, for nothing. Then he is put onto a barge with other people going his way, and taken to his railway station. There, another agent puts him on the right train. He is not allowed to go wrong. No one can cheat him or get his money away from him. Many have to wait until friends claim them, or until the sick members of the family come from a hospital. Such people have a big, steam-heated room to sit in. They have good food at low cost. They have white iron and canvas beds to sleep in.

Everyone who is admitted to America leaves the emigrant station through a certain swing door. A smiling man in uniform stands there, looks at the admission ticket and points the way. On the door is a sign that reads:
"Push: to New York."
That is the front door to America.

Once the new-comer is through that door he can go anywhere he likes, in our broad land, to live and work. Some days five thousand emigrants go through that door, and every year a million or more. In a few years they learn to speak English and all other American ways. Their children go to our schools. They all change into Americans so quickly you think there must be some magic in the words on the front door:
"Push: to New York."

Excerpted from Volume 5 of The New Student's Reference Work for Teachers Students and Families, Chapter XIX, "The Front Door of America", pp. 2299-2302. The book was published by F.E. Compton and Company of Chicago and copyrighted in 1909 and 1911.

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Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Tornado damage to trees

Life in Christian County, Kentucky...

Many readers here know that an F-3 tornado hit the Hopkinsville, Kentucky area in early April. The twister (actually two twisters) left a path of damage 30 miles long. It passed through our part of the county about five miles north of us.

Today I saw a bit of the damage that was done to the trees along a road which runs through a remote rural area.

On the one hand, they're "just trees". On the other hand, many have suffered great damage. I know they don't have a brain and nerves to feel pain like animals and humans do, but somehow in their instincts of how to grow, they must sense that they've been hurt terribly.

Furthermore, they are (were) valuable property to the landowner who was probably planning to log them someday. Many are now virtually worthless, many will die from their wounds, and many more will never attain the size they might have.

These photos were taken on the Shiloh Church Road, just a mile or so north of Pilot Rock Road, in eastern Christian County, Kentucky. They don't really capture the scope of the damage at all. It is a sad thing to see so many broken, uprooted, and gravely leaning trees.

Tornado damage

Tornado damage

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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.