Saturday, October 31, 2009

Early Life of Edgar Cayce

WKMS report about a local celebrity

Edgar Cayce is a celebrated native of Hopkinsville that I've studiously avoided writing about. I am not interested in studying his life because I don't trifle with the supernatural. However, if you are curious about him (or if you've never heard of him), this recent WKMS broadcast about Cayce's early life is informative.

In February, 2006, I wrote about Aunt Mary's Antiques -- a new business at the corner of 7th and Virginia Streets. This is the building mentioned in the WKMS broadcast as the site of Dr. Ketchum's office.

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

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Sod House at the 1901 Pan American Exposition

Sod houses, Nebraska cooking, and the indomitable Mrs. Bowser

In 1901, the Pan American Exhibition opened in Buffalo, New York. The fair was a huge and wonderful event celebrating the achievements and industries of America, the scientific frontiers of the new century, and the treasures of the world.

A sod house from Nebraska was among the hundreds of exhibits at the fair. It was located in the southeast quadrant of the fairgrounds, tucked between the Forestry building and the Indian stockade, (about halfway down the right side of this map.)

The Nebraska Sod House was a popular restaurant of the fair, and Mrs. L. Bowser, the restaurant's manager, was a former homesteader of the Newport, Nebraska, area. It was there that she lived in her first sod house. This bit of trivia is interesting to me because Newport is located in Rock County, Nebraska, where I grew up.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Dreaded Day Done

Another doctor appointment survived

One thing I'm really neurotic about is going to the doctor. I must have missed the lesson in kindergarten about "The doctor is your friend." I think of him as a stern examiner, not a helpful buddy.

When I need my prescriptions renewed, I wait until I have only a few pills left before I make an appointment to see the doctor. By prolonging the dread as much as possible, I achieve maximum levels of anxiety; I know this, and yet I do it.

Yesterday, with less than a week of meds left, I called the doctor's office and make an appointment. The receptionist said I should come in at 7:30 this morning for lab work and see the doctor at 2:30 this afternoon.

After I got the lab work done this morning, I came home and took a nap. I thought it might help my blood pressure. I'm good at having high blood pressure at the doctor's office. They call it "white coat syndrome." I've learned to bring a couple weeks of blood-pressure readings with me, so the doctor won't think my blood pressure meds have stopped working.

At 2:30, I was back in the doctor's office. I was surprised that the waiting room was not crowded with sick people, but the nurse said all the flu patients had been there this morning. She weighed me and took my temperature (normal), pulse (a little high), and blood pressure (only slightly elevated).

In a few minutes, the doctor came in. He caught a cold last weekend while camping with the Boy Scouts, and his voice was about two octaves deeper than usual. However, he was more jovial than he usually is. He complimented my cholesterol, triglyceride, and blood sugar levels and skipped his usual lecture about exercising faithfully. (Don't worry. My conscience has committed that lecture to memory.)

And then, I escaped! I exited so fast that I didn't realize the doctor had forgotten to print out my prescriptions. The pharmacist had to call the doctor's office for them. While he was waiting on the phone, he told me that his grandmother's name had been Genevieve, and it was a lovely, old-time name. She liked to bake, he said. He has fond memories of her homemade bread.

Later, I ran a few errands around town, and I noticed that the cloud of doom was no longer hovering over me. A glow of happy relief had taken its place.

Blurring of the Seasons

Each holiday in its own time

At one Hopkinsville store this week, autumn and Halloween stick figures were displayed side by side with Christmas decorations. The blurring of the seasons irritates me. Scarecrows, witches, Christmas trees, reindeer, and snowmen do not belong together.

And where's Thanksgiving? Doesn't it deserve its own yard art? I'm vaguely offended.

It's still October, and I am not done with the rituals of autumn. I don't want to jump into Christmas before the jack-o-lanterns have been carved or the pumpkin pies baked. The garden hose and the tomato cages still must be stored away. We need to check the antifreeze in our vehicles. We should stack some firewood on the porch, and the chimney has to be cleaned. I want to put on a sweatshirt and rake some leaves.

The trees are not confused. They are dressed in autumn's proper colors, and they're wearing them with dignity. They are not rushing into the next season before it's time.

I'm going to follow their example and wait for nature to change the season. When the last leaves have fallen, and the days are cold and short, I'll be ready for the glitter and lights of Christmas. And that will happen soon enough.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Autumn Arrives

Virginia Street, Hopkinsville, KY

I've been waiting for them, and they've finally arrived -- the golden days of autumn.  We had two cold nights with a few spots of light frost a few days ago. Suddenly, all the trees are showing their autumn colors.

I love this time of the year. I hope we have an extended season of clear, cool, calm days, so the leaves can drop from the trees, one by one.

I stopped along Virginia Street in Hopkinsville (KY) to take this photo. The Gunn House appears in the background at left -- an 1890s structure with fancy, jigsawed trim and a small tower.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

When Fat Was Healthy

How ideas about being fat have changed

"Get fat; get nice and plump... ," an advertisement from an old newspaper urges. Cod liver oil was just the product to help put on some fat for winter in 1900. A good layer of fat would help one ward off sickness and make it through to spring.

When we read old advertisements like this, we should remember that a century ago, people didn't have many effective drugs to fight off sickness. A bad cold could kill, if pneumonia developed. There were no antibiotics or sulfur drugs. Even aspirin had not yet been invented. To recover from an illness, a person needed all the strength he could muster -- and some cod liver oil and a bit of extra fat on his bones might help.

My goodness, how our ideas and living conditions have changed! Today, most of us don't need any help getting fat. On the contrary, we struggle to avoid gaining weight. In the mass media of our day, we see dozens of advertisements for weight-loss products.

I'm reminded of a fellow whom I once heard talking on the radio. Mr. Jones (or whatever his name was) told how he took a job in a small Japanese town after World War II and stayed there for many years.

At first, he was astonished when the natives complimented him frequently on his more-than-ample girth. "Oh, Mr. Jones, you are so fat."  They admired his pudgy physique because it was a symbol of wealth. Poor people were always thin.

Mr. Jones said that he was never quite comfortable with their admiration of his obesity. As he ate the local cuisine over the years, he gradually lost a lot of weight. His admirers were a little disappointed in him, but he was happy when his size was not so showy as it had once been.

I am fortunate to have plenty to eat, and I don't need any cod liver oil to help me put on extra fat for the winter. To be honest, this topic is making me feel a little guilty about the abundance I enjoy while some in this world are hungry. I looked up Feed the Children and made a donation. Maybe you can afford a few dollars for them too.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Encampment at Fort Massac, Illinois (2009)

Historic reenactment at Metropolis, Illinois

Saturday, Dennis and I traveled back in time a couple of centuries. We went with the kids to The Encampment, a historic reenactment at Fort Massac State Park, along the Ohio River in southern Illinois. This annual event draws thousands of people to enjoy costumes, music, demonstrations,  merchandise, and food from the period of 1757-1815.

The weather was blustery. Sometimes, rainclouds covered the sky. Occasionally, the clouds parted and bright rays of sunshine broke through. A cold, damp wind blew all day. Over lighter layers, I wore a long cloak that I made several years ago for medieval reenactments. It has a warm "wooly" lining and a hood, so I was comfortable and only a century or two out of style.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

"Quilt Barn" in Christian County, KY

Quilts and fabric in Kentucky Mennonite country.

This barn stands along Highway 68/80, east of Hopkinsville, KY. The "quilt block" on its front has been there for several years. It was painted, I believe, by a local economic development agency that had a "quilt barns" grant from the Kentucky Arts Council. The quilt barns are supposed to look folksy, promote tourism, and encourage a better appreciation of our quilting heritage and history.

I could be wrong about how this quilt square came to be. It appeared during the quilt barn explosion. Quilt blocks were painted on a few dozen highly-visible barns in several counties, and then lots of barns suddenly had quilt squares painted on them. Property owners liked the look so much that they started quilt-blocking their barns, at their own expense. The quilt barn idea "went viral", as they say on the internet.

I'm don't know who owns this barn, but I do know who owns the sign on its side wall. Mrs. Amman Snyder, a Mennonite lady, had her "Quilts" sign on the barn even before the quilt block was painted on it. She has a quilt shop at her home, about a mile down Highway 1027. When I worked in classified ads at our local newspaper, I helped her with her occasional quilt sale advertisements.

Mrs. Snyder has recently added fabric to her shop. She is responding to published reports that WalMart will soon be eliminating its fabric departments. The Mennonite ladies of Christian County have been regular fabric customers in Hopkinsville's Walmart. They'll need another fabric source if they can't buy it at WalMart any more.

Last year, my Mennonite neighbor Elsie told me that I should open a little neighborhood fabric store. She thought I could put it in the upstairs room of our shed. I entertained the idea for about 10 seconds, and during that short time, I had vivid imaginations of owning dozens of bolts of cloth that no one wanted to buy.

Mrs. Snyder will be a much better cloth merchant than I would be. She knows from personal experience what sorts of fabric and sewing notions the Mennonite ladies want and need. She's open for business to the "English" as well -- her signs on the highway proclaim it.

Let's Cook

1950s 4H recipe book for beginning cooks

In 1959, I joined the Rose Scouts 4-H Club and signed up for my first 4-H project: Let's Cook. To complete the project, I had to prepare each of the following, two times:

Cocoa and Cinnamon Toast
Fruit Desserts (Ambrosia or Apple Crisp)
Raw Vegetable Plate and Sandwiches
Cookies and Lemonade

As you can see, the cover art on the Let's Cook booklet  is slightly misleading. None of the recipes in the booklet required the use of a rolling pin.

The girl looks cheerful, though. She's dressed for the job. and she knows what she's doing with the various utensils on her work surface. Utensils were very important in Let's Cook. They were listed in every recipe right beside the ingredients.

I was 8 years old, the summer that I completed the Let's Cook project. My mother was in the hayfield most of every day, mowing. Grandma Nora was staying with us to help with the cooking and housework and to watch my sister and me.

In the afternoons after the dishes were done, Grandma Nora and I had some fun and excitement with the Let's Cook booklet. I had fun, and Grandma tried to keep me from getting too excited.

Grandma had her own ideas about some of the techniques in the book. She wasn't too adventurous. She didn't approve of sifting flour, cocoa, and such onto a square of waxed paper; she insisted on sifting it into a bowl. She didn't see any need to squish a stick of butter into a measuring cup, when she already knew it was half a cup.

The booklet had a short list of procedures for washing dishes. It didn't seem very important to me, but Grandma thought dish-washing was part of every recipe. "Cleaning up the mess is half of it!" she told me, again and again. Grandma's been gone since 1980, but when I'm working in my kitchen, I still hear her saying those words.

The oatmeal cookie recipe in Let's Cook became my favorite recipe to bake for a year or two. Then I discovered that I could make the cookie recipes in my mother's cookbooks, and I forgot about the simple little recipe in my 4-H booklet. Mama was more adventurous about letting me experiment in the kitchen than Grandma was, even though she wanted me to clean up my messes, too.

In the next ten years, I completed six more food preparation and preservation courses in 4-H. I still have their booklets, too. but Let's Cook is the one that I remember with affection.

"Cooking is an adventure. It's fun to put together shortening and sugar and flour and turn out yummy cookies. It's exciting to see how meat and vegetables and salad become supper on the table... "

(Opening sentences of Let's Cook, an undated, unattributed publication of the University of Nebraska Extension Service, circa 1959.)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Scenic Kansas Highway 160

What I saw between Independence and Winfield

Here are a few photos I took last summer in Kansas. I attended my aunt's funeral in Independence, Kansas, in the morning and then drove to my brother's place north of Harper, Kansas, that afternoon.

I took Highway 160 from Independence to Harper. Kansas Highway 160 is a two-lane, east/west, "principal highway" that stretches across the entire state of Kansas. The section I traveled runs about 20-30 miles north of the Kansas/Oklahoma state line.

This valley just west of Independence, KS,
has a unique topography.

I wondered if this old building had once
been a boarding house or hotel, or perhaps
the town home of a wealthy cattle baron. I
can't remember which little town this was in,
so I must drive Highway 160 again and find out!

Despite scorching temperatures, the grass was green and
lush in the Elk River valley. Rain had been ample thus far.

The Flint Hills are a tallgrass prairie. I always enjoy
driving through them. Trees are scarce, the sky
is immense, and the view seems endless.

Main gate of a Flint Hills ranch. No buildings
were in sight. It's impossible to guess how far
 from the highway the ranch headquarters are.

The Stockman's Cafe in Cambridge, Kansas. The
mural on the side of the building is called
"The Count." The cowboy is standing on the
hilltop, counting the cattle in the valley below.

After the small and empty cowtowns of the Flint Hills,
Winfield appeared both populous and prosperous.
Well-kept older homes and large trees line both sides
of Highway 160 as it enters the east side of town.

Related on the web:
Early Cambridge Kansas Pictures
Elk Falls - World's Largest Living Ghost Town
Old postcards of Longton, Kansas
Kansas - The Elk River Valley (Flickr)

Thursday, October 08, 2009

October Landscape

Barn, beanfield, big clouds

This barn used to be all black, but the farmer has painted it red and white now. I rather like its new colors. The yellow-orange field in the background is soybeans.

13 Questions and 13 Answers

For the 13 people who typed these questions into search engines and surfed to my blog

1. Are there chiggers in Kentucky?

Yes, Kentucky has chiggers. Lots and lots of them.

2. What is the significance of the painted pigs in Cadiz?

The painted pigs in Cadiz (KY) are mascots. They are an amusing and eye-catching curiosity on the sidewalks and lawns of Cadiz, and they are a year-round reminder of the Country Ham Festival -- which is coming up this weekend, by the way.

3. Could you survive without shampoo?

Yes, but I don't want to. I am not fond of the naturally oily look.

4. Why do Mennonites have steel wheels on tractors?

The Mennonites are concerned that their members might be tempted to use tractors as a motorized form of transportation.The steel wheels limit the tractors to farm use. The Mennonites strengthen ties with each other by avoiding the ownership of motorized transportation. They look to the local Mennonite community first for what they need. Then, if travel beyond the range of a bicycle or horse and buggy is necessary, they hire an automobile.

5. Can shingles cause numbness in the arms?

Yes, and the numbness can linger for a long time after the shingle outbreak disappears. I had a mild case of shingles about 15 months ago and the top of my hand is still a little numb!

6. Where is the flower on a dill plant?

If you're having trouble seeing your dill flowers, I don't think your dill plants have bloomed yet. The flowers are at the ends of the stems and branches, and there's no way that you would mistake them for leaves.

7. Why do tobacco barns smoke?

Tobacco barns smoke because they have a smoldering fire inside them. The smoke flavors and colors the tobacco leaves that are hanging inside the barn. This is the usual and most desirable reason that a barn is smoking. Every now and then a tobacco barn smokes because it has caught fire. This is an unusual and very undesirable reason for the barn to be smoking.

8. How do you make an orange julius?

Combine ice cubes, milk, sugar, vanilla, and OJ concentrate in a blender. Blend on high until slushy. Complete directions here: Homemade Orange Julius. They are delicious, but drink them slowly so you don't get a brain freeze.

9. In the 1920s, what were mules used for?

Mules did heavy work that we use tractors and other motorized machines for today, such as moving carloads of coal out of mines and pulling plows, freight wagons, and streetcars. People also rode mules. Of course, in the 1920s, all of this was changing because of gasoline engines.

10. Are windmills illegal in Kentucky?

No, and I can't imagine why you think they would be. Several of our "non-electric" Mennonite neighbors have windmills. The reason you don't see more windmills around here is that most farmers use electric pumps. Windmills require a much larger initial investment, and of course, if the wind doesn't blow, no water can be pumped.

11. Where can I see interesting old sod houses?

I recommend the "Prairie Settlement" exhibit at the Library of Congress. Try looking in the Subject Index for "sod house".

12. What birds eat pyracantha berries?

The only birds that have consumed our pyracantha berries with real gusto were the cedar waxwings who visited one winter. Usually, the berries stay on the bushes until they fall off. I would love to have the waxwings come for another visit. I really enjoyed watching them.

13. What big cats are native to Kentucky?

Historically, the eastern cougar and the bobcat are natives of Kentucky. Stories of big cat sightings abound, but for reliable information, check the Eastern Cougar Foundations's website.

On the web:
Read more "Thursday Thirteens."

Monday, October 05, 2009

How My Garage Sale Went

Logistics, tips, techniques, thoughts, experience

I took some vacation days last week and had a yard sale on Saturday. Oh, my, it was a lot of work! It was worth it, but I'm glad the kids helped. I don't think I could have done it without the muscle they provided.

Pricing and packaging

I priced everything in dollars or in multiples of 25¢ to simplify the money and the math. As much as possible, I used self-adhesive stickers. On clothing, I stuck the stickers to the tags and then stapled them to make sure they would stay. When there was no good place to put a sticker, I used a homemade tie-on tag, made of duct-tape-backed paper.

I put the clothing I was selling on hangers, because I despise piles of clothing at garage sales. I also don't like piles of sheets and curtains, so I folded the curtains and put them in plastic bags with descriptive labels, and I rolled the sheets and secured them with rubber bands.

Location, location, location!

I packed all the priced items in boxes and hauled them to my daughter Keely's house. She lives on the corner of a busy intersection in town. I thought that would be a better yard sale location than our home in the country. As Keely noted, the directions, "Turn off the paved road and...",  discourage the timid.

Because I felt the location was so good, I decided not to run a newspaper ad. Instead, I invested about $15 in ready-made garage-sale signs. I could have made them by hand, but I decided to go with convenience, durability, and neatness.

What I've described so far took from Tuesday through Friday to accomplish. After I got home from hauling boxes to Keely's on Friday night, I loaded the saw horses, tables, etc. on the truck and threw an old bicycle on top for good measure. Thank goodness for bungee cords.

Yard sale day

On Saturday, I got up at 4:30 a.m. (Ugh! For me, that's the middle of the night!) After a shower and a cup of coffee, I carefully drove the loaded truck to town.

Taurus, bless his heart, unloaded the tables and helped get everything set up. I used tablecloths so the merchandise would look more like treasures and less like trash. I also tried to put nearly everything on an elevated surface to make it easier to see and shop.

The photo above was taken about 7:00 a.m., just after we put out the signs. We put several signs along the two street-sides of the yard, and at the corner, we put a big box with a yard sale sign on each side so anyone who stopped at the intersection could see it. A large rock inside the box kept it in place.

The first customers arrived just a few minutes after the photo. I was a little dismayed when several people breezed through the sale without buying anything. I know now that the earliest shoppers are likely to be bargain hunters. They are in a hurry because they are hitting as many sales as possible, trying to skim the cream from each.

I posted several signs that said, "Please make an offer if it's priced too high," but most of the customers didn't bother to dicker. They were decisive and fairly quick. They walked through, and if they liked something they bought it. I think that means that my prices were either fair or cheap. It really doesn't matter; the fact is that they gave me money and took away something that I didn't want or need anymore.

Final clearance

About 1:00 p.m., Keely and I made a half-price table with many of the remaining items. We made a big sign, "Everything on this table 1/2 price", and hung it so it could be seen from the street.

The two highest-priced items I sold were $17.50 and $15.00. Nearly everything else was 50¢ or $1.00. When we closed the sale at about 3:00 p.m., I had taken in a little over $140. I had some expenses -- yard sale signs, a sheet of plywood -- but I won't have to buy them again for the yard sale that Keely says we're having next spring.

Some items didn't sell, and I sorted them as we packed up. I donated some things to the rummage sale that our church will be having in November, I put 2 boxes of things for next spring's yard sale in the shed. A few things came back into our house -- half a dozen books and several pieces of clothing that I decided to keep.

Lessons learned for the next sale

One thing I hope I do differently next time is to start preparations earlier. It took longer than I expected to sort out and price what I wanted to sell. I hope after the next sale that I feel like the entire house has been cleansed, not just a few rooms.

Another thing I learned is to have more $5 bills on hand. Just one roll of quarters would have been enough. I had more $1 bills than I needed. However, I had to send Keely to get a couple of $20 bills broken, late in the sale, because I ran out of $5 bills.
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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.