Thursday, July 30, 2009

Van Buren, Missouri

An interesting Ozark village

I dawdled a little on my way home from Kansas, a few weeks ago. My ten-minute stop at a gas station along the highway turned into a two-hour visit to downtown Van Buren, Missouri.

Let me explain. I've been traveling through southern Missouri for 19 years now, on my way to and from family gatherings. Highway 60 was (and is) the most direct route from Cairo, Illinois, to Springfield, Missouri. When I started driving Highway 60, it had some very narrow, crooked passages through the ridges and valleys of the Ozarks.

Highway 60 to Van Buren

The very worst part of the road was the 25 miles just before Van Buren, Missouri, and the 25 miles just on the other side of Van Buren. Woe to the trucks that were forced to travel that twisting snake of a road. Woe to the cars that were trapped behind the trucks. Woe to the children trapped in the back seats -- especially those who suffered from car-sickness -- and woe to their parents.

Because I remember the old road vividly, I appreciate the new 4-lane road that leads into Van Buren from the east. The road through the most mountainous area west of Van Buren is now 3-lane, and it will soon be 4-lane, too. The taxpayers of Missouri (and I suppose, the entire nation, through Federal highway grants) should be proud of this highway. I'm sure it's been an engineering challenge to build it.

Until the roads were blacktopped and tourists began driving through the Ozarks, most people around Van Buren made a living, one way or another, from the Ozark hills and trees. Country folks grew and made most of what they needed. Van Buren's handful of stores supplied the rest of what people had to have. A trip to Poplar Bluff or Springfield would have been a rare adventure in a big city.

I saw, sensed, and imagined things like this, during my many trips on the treacherous old road to Van Buren. The big new road doesn't inspire nearly as many thoughts of this sort.

A river town

The Current River runs briskly along the west edge of Van Buren, and you can walk right up to the water on either shore. Small watercraft -- flatboats, canoes, and rafts --were once important modes of transportation through the area. The river crossing at Van Buren was valuable property during the Civil War. Several skirmishes occurred in this area between Union and Confederate/guerilla forces. Today, the river is popular again for rafting and canoeing.

Tree covered ridges dominate the skyline at Van Buren. If there are any grain elevators or smokestacks in the little town, I've never noticed them.

The Carter County courthouse, a WPA project and Missouri's only cobblestone courthouse, sits in the center of a well-shaded town square. It is the tallest building in downtown Van Buren and probably the entire town.

The historic marker on the courthouse lawn tells how Carter County's primeval forests were clear-cut around 1900, bringing two decades of boom to the area before the last trees were cut and the sawmills closed. I think that Van Buren is still struggling to overcome that setback. Tourism has helped.

The commercial buildings around the square are modest structures, and the houses along the highway are modest, too. It appears to me that Van Buren has never enjoyed much excess of wealth.

Visits to Van Buren

I've stopped in Van Buren many times and wandered around for a few minutes. My kids will read this and remember photographs of themselves in Van Buren. Sometimes we stopped and walked around the courthouse square, when we were traveling to or from Aunt Charlotte's house.

When I passed through Van Buren most recently, I stopped at the new station along the big new highway for gas and a brief stretch. I intended to get back in the driver's seat and hurry down the road, but nostalgia called me. I decided to drive down to the river and find an interesting rock to take home. It would only take a few minutes, I told myself.

Near the river, on the street that used to be the highway through town, I saw a little sign that said "Hidden Log House Museum". After I had found my rock at the riverside, I decided to see what the museum looked like from the outside. Then I got out of my car to take its picture, and while I was doing that, the lady who owns the museum came outside to talk to me.

I had to go inside. It would have been rude to drive away, and the admission was only $2. Besides, I was curious. It turned out that the little museum was well worth the visit. I've never been disappointed by a stop in Van Buren.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Kansas Wind Farm

Wind turbines by the dozen at the Flat Ridge Wind Farm

Earlier this month, I visited Dwight and Kathy (my brother and sister-in-law who live southwest of Wichita, Kansas). Dwight took me to see the Flat Ridge Wind Farm that is under construction south of Nashville and Zenda, Kansas. As it happens, Dwight and Kathy live on the east end of the project, and they will eventually have some wind turbines on their ranch, just south of Spivey, Kansas.

These photos were taken south of Nashville, Kansas. I believe there are about 40 wind turbines installed so far. This is Phase 1 of the Flat Ridge project. This part is jointly owned by BP Wind Energy, a subsidiary of BP, and Westar Energy, a Kansas electricity company with the motto, "Doing whatever it takes to keep the lights on."

The project so far is reported to have the capacity to produce 100 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 30,000 Kansas homes.

These photos don't adequately communicate the enormous size of these one-legged beasts. Dwight says that the concrete pads under them are surprisingly small, given the height of the turbines. In the contract with the landowners, it is specified that if a windmill is removed, the pad will be ground down to four feet below the soil line.

Dwight says that he and Kathy specified in their contract that the towers could not be located closer than 1/4 mile to their house. The turbines make a very loud hum when the wind is blowing the blades. I hope it doesn't affect the cattle in the pastures. I also hate to think of the birds these things kill.

I confess that I doubt if wind energy is a long-term solution to the energy problem in the United States. What I've read on PT's blog about his observations of wind turbines hasn't improved my opinion, either. I have decided reluctantly that nuclear power is our best option.

However, most who live around the Flat Ridge Wind Farm are happy about the economic boost that wind energy is promising their communities. Landowners receive a yearly fee as long as the wind turbines are located on their property. There are jobs in maintaining the wind farm, and many related services will employ people too. I hope all the promises hold true for the good folks of the Kansas prairie who live amongst the wind turbines.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Classic Ranch Scenery

Beautiful Kansas prairie

This photo has a big sky, prairie grass, a barbed wire fence, a corral, a windmill, and cattle on the hill. The only thing missing is a cowboy on a horse. I saw this scene along a gravel road west of Zenda, Kansas.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

College Bureaucracy

Plenty of room for improvement at Sparks Hall

Isaac is planning to attend Murray State University (MSU) this fall. He started the enrollment process a long time ago, but glitches have held up his progress. Now, his money is due in just two weeks, and he's still muddling through the bureaucratic maze.

One big problem is that documents we've provided did not make it to his files. Here's an example. I e-mailed the financial aid office a copy of Isaac's W-2 form on July 8. I received an e-mail back from them saying they would add it to his file.

Yesterday we drove over to Murray and went to Sparks Hall to find out why Isaac's enrollement status had not changed. They pulled his file and said his W-2 form was missing. I logged onto my e-mail from one of their computers and printed the W-2 for them. They put it in his file and said his status would be evaluated within 10 to 14 days. I said, "Can't someone evaluate it right now?!"

So the clerk led us to an office where a man looked at the file for a couple of minutes, typed a few numbers into the computer, and told us that the financial aid should be approved in two to three days. How difficult was that?

Here's another example of missing documents. We found out yesterday that Murray has not credited Isaac for his final semester at Hopkinsville Community College because they don't have his final transcript. However, when we called Hopkinsville Community College, they had proof that they sent the transcript in May. We had to hurry back to Hopkinsville and pay again to have another transcript faxed and mailed.

The unavailability of his adviser is another problem. She can't be reached by telephone, and she doesn't respond to voice mail or e-mail. Isaac is required to have a meeting with her before he can register. We're going to drive back over there tomorrow and go to her office. If he can't see her or make an appointment, we're going to ask for a different adviser.

When Isaac registers for classes and has his schedule, he can apply for academic leave from the grocery store where he works in Hopkinsville. We should also get some final figures on tuition and fees.

In a bizarre development today, I received an e-mail from the financial aid office. It was a reply to my e-mail of two weeks ago that contained the W-2 form. They had printed the W-2 and added it to Isaac's file, and they were writing to say that his status would be updated in 10 to 14 days. [Note to the financial aid office: Congratulations on your discovery of this e-mail. You couldn't find it at all, yesterday. Why didn't you just hit the "Print" button when you acknowledged the e-mail two weeks ago?]

It almost gives me a headache to write about all this, and Isaac says he's been having nightmares regularly.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Chapel Hill Church in Christian County, KY

Carneal's Chapel, near Barker's Mill, in the West Fork Community

Chapel Hill Church in April, 2009

Tonight, I'm revisiting the Barker's Mill and West Fork area of southeastern Christian County, Kentucky. I want to share some of the photos I took at Chapel Hill Church when I was there several times last spring.

The Chapel Hill Church was originally called Carneal's Chapel for Josiah Carneal who donated land and helped to build it.  Regular worship services are no longer held there, but it was a Methodist church.

The church and cemetery sit inside the bend of a quiet rural road, encircled by farmland. The grounds are shaded by tall oak trees that count their age by the centuries they've seen. Birds sing in the treetops.

The cemetery is nicely maintained. The headstones are a mixture of old and new. I counted about 45 different surnames, but I am sure I missed some of them. A complete listing of the gravestone inscriptions is posted on one of the internet genealogy sites.

In the churchyard, swings and benches invite visitors to relax. There are things to study, too -- a geological survey marker and a metal historical marker (side 1 | side 2) that summarizes the history of the West Fork Community.

There's also a small mystery -- what are the rocks with holes in their centers, piled against a tree trunk in the churchyard? I picked up a similar but smaller rock in the cemetery, that still had its core. Keely thinks they look like pieces of ancient bone, and she may be right. Maybe ancient inhabitants of the area killed and dressed some animals here. I'm curious, but I'll probably never know for sure.

I'm disappointed that I missed a Hymn Sing that was held at Chapel Hill Church on May 30, 2009. I think I would have enjoyed it immensely. It's significant that a columnist from the Clarksville Leaf Chronicle wrote about the event. It demonstrates the community's ties with Clarksville, Tennessee, rather than Hopkinsville, Kentucky (the seat of Christian County).

The Chapel Hill Church is just a very intriguing place. If you're  interested in more of the West Fork area's history, please read the other posts that are labeled  "Barker's Mill".

Thursday, July 16, 2009

To Kansas and Back

Family gathering

Highway 54, Kansas Flint Hills

I've had a busy week of travel. I left on Sunday morning and drove to Independence, Kansas, where I rendezvoused with my sister Charlotte and her son Grant. On Monday morning, my brother Dwight and his son Michael arrived, and we all attended my Aunt Cleona Allen's funeral. Aunt Cleona was my father's sister.

Monday night and Tuesday, I visited at Dwight and Kathy's home near Spivey, Kansas. Wednesday, I drove to Charlotte's house near Wheatland, Missouri, and today I drove home.

Even though the circumstances weren't happy, it was good to see my cousins and of course, my brother and sister and their families, too.

I enjoyed the drive through the Kansas prairies and the Missouri Ozarks. Since I was by myself, I had lots of time to think. I listened to what I liked on the radio, and no one complained when I pulled over to take pictures or stretch my legs.

I'm glad to be home tonight. I'm really tired, so I'm headed for a good long snooze in my own bed.

Current River at Van Buren, Missouri

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Old Homes Around Barker's Mill

West Fork  area of Christian County, KY

(For background, please read the posts that are labeled "Barkers Mill.")

Glenburnie, the home of Chiles T. Barker, prominent landowner in the West Fork area during the 19th century, and his wife, Mary Louise Hutchinson Barker, is still standing.

Glenburnie is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. According to Hopkinsville & Christian County Historic Sites by Kenneth Turney Gibbs and Carolyn Torma, it was constructed in about 1820 (when Chiles was about 4 years old). The name of the builder and original owner is not given.

Glenburnie is a brick house. Gibbs and Torma say it is one of the best example of Federal style architecture in Christian county. They also report that the woodwork in the house is exceptionally fine and very well preserved.

I believe Glenburnie is the house that is barely visible at the end of the road in the photo below. Carneal Lane turns into a private lane at the point where I stopped and snapped the picture. I didn't go any farther down the road because I respect private property. However, I would have loved to see Glenburnie a bit closer. [Update: I later learned that this is NOT Glenburnie via an email from a grandson of Glenburnie's owner.]

The large old home in the photo below is also in the area of Barker's Mill. I don't recognize this house in Hopkinsville & Christian County Historic Sites, but it still has its history -- a history that I am curious about.


The photo above was taken in April, so there are fewer leaves on the trees. This home is near the Chapel Hill Church. I believe it is the Massie House, which is pictured in Hopkinsville & Christian County Historic Sites. The Massie House was built in 1878 and is said to be "a typical Greek Revival I-house of the mid-nineteenth century."


The Chapel Hill Church and Cemetery are just to the right of this photo. The large trees are on the edge of the church grounds. This is a remote-controlled gate with a TV camera. Down the road at left is a log house, and beyond that, a large home. I don't know if it is one of the historic homes listed in Hopkinsville & Christian County Historic Sites.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Melon Months of Summer

One good reason for hot weather

I don't like hot summer weather, but melons do, and I like melons. In fact, melons are one of the few things about hot weather that I anticipate happily.

When I had a bigger garden, I grew melons myself. I had my best success with cantaloupe, mainly because it's easy to tell when cantaloupe are ripe. Several years, I grew more cantaloupe than we could eat and Dennis took gave them away at work. This made him quite popular through the melon months of summer.

My favorite cantaloupes to grow from seed were Burpee Hybrids. They are just too delicious for words.

I didn't have enough luck with watermelons to decide that I liked to grow any particular variety. My biggest problem was knowing when to pick them. If I didn't pick them too green, I waited until they were too ripe.  After a few years, I decided I had better luck picking a ripe watermelon at the produce stand.

One summer after I gave up growing watermelons, a watermelon seed sprouted in my compost pile. The vine meandered out into the garden, and I decided not to pull it up. It grew one big, delicious melon before frost. It was one of the best watermelons I've ever tasted.  It must have been the compost. Somehow, I managed to pick it at the perfect peak of ripeness.

In one of my first gardens, I grew some honeydew melons that were particularly green and sweet. I picked the first one and we really enjoyed it .

When I went to the garden to pick the next ripe one, it had a hole chewed in the side of it. I was disgusted, but I cut off the damaged side of the melon, and we ate some of the undamaged side.

My garden intruder liked his taste of honeydew, and decided to have some more. He wasn't a bit careful about just eating the ripe ones, either. After he damaged a dozen or more, I finally caught him in the act. It was a turtle. I took him up the road a mile, and we had no more holes in the honeydews after that.

Nowadays, we buy melons at the grocery store in early summer. Then, about the first of July, our Mennonite neighbor starts selling homegrown cantaloupe at his produce stand.  I bought a couple of cantaloupe there last week, and I'm going to stop by tomorrow on my way home from work and get a couple more. The watermelon will be ready soon, he says. I'm glad to hear it.

Our neighbor's produce stand: Homegrown cantaloupe and 
flower baskets outside. And inside, tomatoes, cabbage,
squash, zucchini, and bunches of big green onions

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Old Barn

One of many old barns in Christian County, KY

The shape of the doors in this old barn is a little unusual. I don't know if the farmer had a practical reason for arching the doorways, or if he just liked the way they looked.

One of the doors has a broken hinge now. I don't understand why the owners of some of these old barns let their doors stand open. It seems to me that leaving the doors open year-round would accelerate the deterioration of the doors and the whole barn. Even the door with the broken hinge could be propped shut.

I can't be too critical, though. I was noticing the other day that my little garden shed really needs a coat of paint. Maintenance does take time and effort.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Highway Wildflowers

Daisies and lace

Along Highway 68/80 as it approaches Hopkinsville from the east, the ditches are full of white wildflowers. I don't think they were planted by the State Highway Department. I believe the long, cool, damp spring this year made it easy for wildflower seeds to sprout and get established.

These are Queen Anne' lace, oxeye daisies, and another locally common wildflower that puts on clusters of tiny daisy-like flowers. I think they might be a type of fleabane (possibly Philadelphia fleabane), but I'm not sure. The USDA Plants database returns 244 results for "fleabane", and I'm too lazy tonight for earnest research.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Antiques in Cadiz, KY

Fun on the 4th

We had company over the 4th of July weekend -- Roger and Joy Hennen. We first met them in Berlin, Germany, about 20 years ago. They now live in Oklahoma, but they occasionally pass through Kentucky on their way home from visiting Roger's family in West Virginia.

On the 4th, we visited the antique shops on Main Street in Cadiz, KY. Roger was looking for old license plates, and he found quite a few that he liked.

Cadiz has at least five antique stores on Main Street and some of them have several floors. We breezed through them in less than three hours, but it wouldn't have been difficult to spend more time.

I saw a sign in one of the stores that said something like "If you want it, buy it! It may not be here tomorrow." Maybe I should have done that. I saw a copy of the Family History Book, Christian County, Kentucky, the second volume of the most recent Christian County history books.  It had a price tag of $60. I would like to have it but I was reluctant to pay that price. 

I did buy a couple of interesting old books and a sturdy ice cream scoop. Together, they added up to about $10. I've been surviving without the family histories book for quite a while, and I'll continue living without it, I guess.

Roger and Joy left early this morning, so the holiday is over and life is mostly back to normal. Back to work, tomorrow.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Quick and Easy Ice Cream Cake

Simple summer dessert

Guys, this recipe is for you, too. It came from my sister Charlotte, and she learned it from her sons, Clifford and Ben, when they had an apartment together. It takes maybe 10 minutes to put together.

2 boxes of 12 ice cream sandwiches (24 sandwiches total)
1 large tub of Cool Whip, thawed
Chocolate sprinkles

Unwrap the first box of ice cream sandwiches and cover the bottom of a 9x13" baking dish with them. Spread about half of the Cool Whip over them. Unwrap the second box of ice cream sandwiches and cover the layer of Cool Whip with them. Cover and place in freezer. When ready to serve, slice the "cake" and top each serving with Cool Whip and chocolate sprinkles.

I made this a few minutes ago and put it in the freezer. Our weekend company is arriving tomorrow evening, and I'll serve this for supper dessert. I have to work tomorrow, so I'm trying to keep everything as simple as I can.

And if this sounds like redneck cuisine -- well, you aren't too surprised, surely.

Happy 4th of July, everyone. Have a safe holiday!

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

No Man Is an Island

A blogging experience

I stopped at the Pennysaver Market in Fairview yesterday on my way home from the dentist. I had a yen for some of their hickory smoked cheddar cheese.

I was the only customer at the time. The proprietor, a Mennonite lady about my age, cut the cheese for me, and then waited at the cash register as I gathered a few more items from the bulk goods section -- a bag of milled flax seed, a bag of oatmeal, a little tub of cinnamon.

At the register as I prepared to write a check for my purchases, I discovered I had left my wallet in the car. "Do you know me?" I asked. "Should I go get my ID?"

"Let me see your check," she said. I showed it to her, and told her where I live and whom my nearest Mennonite neighbors are. "Oh, it's OK," she declared. "I remember who you are now."

As I picked up my bags and prepared to leave, she asked, "Have you written anything on the internet about us lately?"

I'm sure I looked very surprised. "Umm, no. No, I haven't" I answered, trying to remember exactly what I had written about the Pennysaver Market in the past.

She seemed amused at my bewilderment. "Oh, our family in Pennsylvania printed it out and brought it when they came to visit."

"And that picture you took of the horse and buggy outside? We knew whose horse and buggy that was, so when they were in the store, I showed them the picture. And when your neighbor Willis was in here, he told us all about you."

"Well, well," I said weakly. "No, I don't think I've written anything about the Pennysaver for quite a while."

The reach of the internet should never be underestimated.

Related posts:
Pennysaver Market at Fairview, Kentucky
Horse and Buggy Country
Jefferson Davis and the Mennonites
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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.