Monday, December 24, 2012

Wishing You a Happy Christmas!

And best wishes for 2013

Dear friends,

It's Christmas Eve. I have a day of work at the store ahead of me -- the last day of Christmas shopping. Then the days of Christmas clearance begin. I am looking forward to a few vacation days in early January! I expect to return to more regular blog-writing as my work schedule slows down again.

This evening I hope to go to a Christmas Eve church service with my family. When I get home, I want to do a few things in the kitchen before I go to bed. A few short hours later, it will be Christmas day. We will open gifts with the children and enjoy the day together.

Many dark, sad and worrying events are in the news, and many of us cope with our own sorrows, worries, and stresses at the holidays. December is never an easy month of the year, and especially not this year. As Christmas Day approaches, I see the world's need (and my own need!) for the Savior more clearly than I ever have. He is the source of peace, hope, love, and joy.

I wish you a Happy Christmas. May God bless you and your family throughout the New Year.


Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Stars and Stripes Forever

A big flag in Hopkinsville, Kentucky

The largest American flag in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, is on display 24 hours a day at the Sisk car dealership. I compliment them for having a tall flagpole that is in proper proportion to the flag, and for never flying a tattered flag. This photograph was taken from the Lowes parking lot against the last glow of sunset. I wish I could make the photo larger, but it's a bit too fuzzy and grainy.

Archaeological Finds in Christian County, Kentucky

Where are these specimens, relics and treasures today?

Text not available
Catalogue of Prehistoric Works East of the Rocky Mountains By Cyrus Thomas

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The American Antiquarian and Oriental Journal By Stephen Denison Peet, also documented at the New York Times (PDF document)

Text not available

The History of Kentucky: Exhibiting an Account of the Modern Discovery ... By Humphrey Marshall

Text not available
Annual Report By Smithsonian Institution

Flint mines south of Hopkinsville

In 1903, an archaeology dig in central Christian County revealed a prehistoric burying ground of a race of "giants." The skeletal remains of 150 bodies well over six feet tall were found among ancient pieces of pottery and flint weapons. The largest skeleton was measured at six feet eight inches tall. A few miles from the burying ground, a flint quarry was discovered near Bennetsville. Authorities determined that the skeletons were those of a race of mound builders, who lived in the Ohio and Mississippi Valleys c.100 B.C.–A.D. 400.
Sources: Kentucky Explorer, March 1998; Kentucky Files: Counties, Christian

Book by Moorehead, The American Indian in the United States, Period 1850-1914

Warren King Moorehead

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

The Night Will Soon Be Ending

Story behind an Advent hymn

Early winter sunset
Early winter sunset in Christian County, KY

When we lived in Germany, I experienced the shortest winter days and longest winter nights I've ever seen! In Berlin, the sun set before 4:00 p.m. in December and January and didn't rise until 8:00 a.m. Winter was a very dark time there. (Berlin lies about 7° farther north than Montreal, Canada, believe it or not.)

"The Night Will Soon be Ending,"  a German Advent hymn, was penned in 1938 by novelist and poet Jochen Klepper (1903-1942). Klepper's knowledge of long winter nights and his personal experience with the Nazi regime were surely on his mind as he wrote this poem about darkness, light, hope, and promise.  Here is the first verse (as translated by Herman G. Stuempfle, Jr.)

The night will soon be ending; the dawn cannot be far.
Let songs of praise ascending now greet the morning Star!
All you whom darkness frightens with guilt or grief or pain
God's radiant Star now brightens and bids you sing again.

In the new LCMS hymnal, "The Night Will Soon Be Ending" is set to the Welsh tune "Llangloffan." But in Germany, the hymn has been sung since 1939 to a melody composed for it by Johannes Petzold.

The story of  Klepper's life is tragic. Jochen Klepper was married to a Jewish lady named Hannah ("Hanni".) Hanni had two daughters, Brigitte and Reni, by a previous marriage. The Kleppers sent the older daughter Brigitte to England in 1938, the same year that Klepper wrote "The Night Will Soon Be Ending." They could not bear to send little Reni too, so she stayed with them in Germany. Later, they tried to get an exit visa for Reni, but they were denied repeatedly. They also faced a mandatory divorce because it was illegal for a Jew to be married to a German.

German postage stamp
German stamp honoring Jochen Klepper
In December 1942, Adolph Eichmann, the Nazi official in charge of Jewish deportation, personally rejected their request to leave Germany. Certain that death awaited them in concentration camps  Klepper, Hani, and Reni committed suicide. Klepper wrote a final entry in his diary minutes before they died: "Tonight we die together. Over us stands in the last moments the image of the blessed Christ who surrounds us. With this view we end our lives.”

Klepper's diary was used as evidence in the trial of Adolph Eichmann.* A collection of excerpts from the Klepper diary, In the Shadow of His Wings, was published in 1956. I could not find a copy at any of my usual internet booksellers.

Several short histories of Klepper's life are available online. One article explores the role of German Mennonites in World War II as related to some events in Jochen Klepper's life. Another article on a Lutheran website discusses Klepper's theology and spiritual life in addition to the story of his life.
_ _ _ _ _
*I clearly remember news reports and adult talk about the Eichmann trial during my childhood, though I did not grasp the full significance of it at the time.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Idlewild, Historic Home Near Trenton, KY

The Colonel E. G. Sebree house

"Do you know anything about that big old house along Highway 41, east of Trenton?" a blog reader asked one day. I had to say "No," because honestly, I couldn't think what house she was talking about. Then one day, as I passed the home in the photo below, I realized that of course she was talking about this big old house.

Col. Sebree house near Trenton, KY
The Colonel E. G. Sebree house near Trenton, Kentucky

This large antebellum brick mansion is near the highway, but in the summer, it's almost completely hidden by foliage and deep shade. In the fall and winter, a passing motorist can catch a glimpse of it, facing southwest behind the trees. Last week, I paused on the highway to take these photos, with one eye on the camera viewfinder and the other eye on the rear-view mirror.

This house was built about 1830, and its official name is Idlewild. One of its owners was Colonel Elijah Garth Sebree,  a prominent landowner, tobacco and cotton trader, coal mine owner, and railroad builder. Col. Sebree purchased Idlewild in the 1840s, around the time of his marriage. He and his wife lived at Idlewild for the rest of their lives, and when they died,  their daughter Georgia Sebree Banks inherited the home. It remained with the Banks family until 1983, when it was purchased by Dr. Robert Haley of Nashville and his wife Joy, a Todd County native. I don't know who owns the home currently.

IdlewildIdlewild was nominated for the National Historic Register by Miss Dolly Banks in 1980. Some architectural features mentioned in the application can be seen in the photo at right -- Corinthian columns (added sometime around 1900), stone lintels above all openings in the house, stone sills at the windows, and flush chimneys at the ends of the house.

The original kitchen was a separate brick room connected to the house by a "dogtrot" (breezeway.) When the Haleys purchased the home, they enclosed a back porch and made it into a kitchen, installed some indoor bathrooms and modernized the electrical wiring.

Read more at these links:

Monday, November 05, 2012

Homemade "Gourmet" Pretzels

Double-dipped decadence!

I'm going to take these to a potluck tomorrow, and I hope they will be a success. Sometimes I have trouble with potlucks.

The white ones were dipped in melted peanut butter chips, then in white almond bark. Their toppings are walnut chips and mini-M&Ms.

The chocolate ones were dipped in melted Kraft caramels (what a mess--next time I'm using butterscotch chips, instead!), then dipped in chocolate almond bark, and then sprinkled with Heath brickle or crushed Chick-o-Stick.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Local Historian Needed

Maybe you can help?

A college professor from University of Texas has contacted me. He's planning a visit to Christian County to do some family research. He'd like to correspond with someone who's familiar with "the land and history of Vaughn's Grove, Fairview, KY, and the areas where our ancestors once lived."

He will start planning his visit when he retires at the end of this semester, and when he starts planning, he wants to send questions to someone who knows the area well.

It seems to me that he needs someone with a deeper knowledge of local history than me. I am not a native of this county. When I write about some bit of local history on the blog, it's because I've been curious and I've researched it. It's not because I know all about this area.

I wondered if one of the readers might be a long-time resident who has a broad knowledge of the history and people of the Fairview area. If you can help or suggest someone, please send contact information to me at

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Farewell to Golden October


And on to November. Here in Christian County, Kentucky, last night and the night before last, we had our first frost of the season.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Sandy Moon

A historic October moon

The nearly-full moon was shining like a headlight in the sky a couple of nights ago when I took this picture. It's completely full and even brighter tonight.

The full moon in October is the "Hunter's Moon", or the "Dying Grass Moon," or the "Travel Moon", according to the Old Farmer's Almanac. Those are good-enough names, but East Coast residents will remember it as the "Hurricane Sandy Moon."

Hurricane Sandy with its rain and wind and storm surge couldn't have happened at a worse phase of the moon. Because the moon is full, the high tide came in farther today than it will at any other time during the month. This combination of natural forces is filling the subways of New York City with water tonight and flooding Long Island, Staten Island, and Manhattan.

If you'd like to check on the hurricane in the New York City area without commentary from a news reporter, here are some webcam links that were posted by Natasha Lennard to a hurricane liveblog at

The webcams won't work if their electricity is off. When I tested these links, I got mixed results.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

October in Christian County, Kentucky

Fall pictures

Dramatic sky

I pulled off "The Boulevard" (Ft. Campbell Blvd. in Hopkinsville) to take this picture of the spectacular colors in the sky. Just a few moments later, the sun went behind a cloud, and the brilliance was gone.

Pair of pintos

I'm not sure whose horses these are, but I don't think a Mennonite owns them. They're too flashy in color, and besides, I don't think a Mennonite would turn his horses loose in the woods. They'd be too hard to catch if he needed to go somewhere.

Gold and blue landscape

I took this photo early in October. Since then, autumn colors have deepened, and many of the leaves have fallen. The maples in our yard have lost nearly all their leaves. The oaks tend to hold their leaves longer.

Autumn wildflowersRed berries

These fall wildflowers are growing along the "Town Fork" of Little River (as it was called in earlier times) in Hopkinsville. The lavender flowers are little wild asters. I saw the red berries along the banks of Little River, too. If you know what sort of berries they are, please tell me in the comments. I think there's honeysuckle in that tangled mass of vegetation -- it is so terribly invasive, once it gets started.

Bolts of cloth

Keely has been sewing Halloween costumes. I went with her to WalMart one afternoon to help pick out fabric. We didn't see anything there that suited her. A few days later, she came out here, and we looked through my stash and found some pieces she thought would work. I am pretty sure I'll never get all the fabric in my stash sewed, so I like to share it with Keely every now and then.

Taillights of a buggy

On the Sundays that I work, I often see buggies going through Hopkinsville at about the same time that I'm heading home myself.  Darkness arrives earlier now, so I wish the families in the buggies would head home a little earlier. I am careful when I see their four flashing taillights, but I fear that other drivers are not.

I think this is a Mennonite buggy, as it has a triangular slow-moving-vehicle sign. The Amish don't like the triangular orange sign -- they recently agreed with the State of Kentucky that they will outline their buggies in silver reflective tape instead. I am not sure if the local Amish use battery-powered headlights or not.

UK-blue Christmas tree

And finally, just a reminder that the holiday season has already begun. I don't remember ever seeing a blue Christmas tree before, but I'm surprised I haven't. The citizens of Kentucky really support the UK teams.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Signs of a Hard Winter

Persimmon seeds, wooly worms, and such

One of my daughter's supervisors at work is a fruit and nut grower as well as a veterinarian. Keely tells me that he has been reading the persimmon seeds lately -- that is, cutting the seeds in half and looking at the shape of the divider between the two parts of the kernel. He says that this year, the persimmon seeds have knives in them. That means that this winter will be cold and icy, with cutting winds, according to Kentucky folklore.

If the persimmon seeds had forks inside them, that would foretell a mild winter, and if they had spoons, we should expect a lot of snow to shovel. (Or so it is said.)

Supposedly, nature gives various warnings of a bad winter. Have you noticed any of these lately?

  • Ant hills built extra high
  • Squirrels gathering nuts early
  • Squirrels burying their nuts extra deep
  • Squirrels building their nests low in the trees
  • Unusually bushy squirrel tails
  • The north side of a beaver dam more covered with sticks than the south side.
  • Hoot owls calling night after night
  • Wide black bands on the woolly worms
  • Solid black woolly worms
  • Cattle digging the ground and facing north day after day
  • Hickory nuts with heavy shells
  • Pine cones opening earlier than usual
  • Tough apple skins
  • Thick onion skins

I'm hoping for a somewhat harder winter than we had last year. I hope we get enough rain and snow to replenish the water table, and I hope we have at least one good cold snap to kill some of the insects and bacteria. I don't want any ice storms, though. I hope the knives in the persimmon seeds are right about the cold but wrong about the ice!

- - - - - - - - - -

If you liked this list, you might also enjoy Weather Lore: A Collection of Proverbs, Sayings, and Rules Concerning the Weather by Richard Inwards, a past president of the Royal Meteorological Society. published in London, 1898. It contains weather wisdoms from around the world, including the United States.  

Thirteen Amish Proverbs

Collected from my Amish cookbooks

I've bought several Amish cookbooks at local Mennonite stores over the years. All of these cookbooks are from the "Pennsylvania Dutch" country of Pennsylvania and Ohio. Like many church cookbooks, they include some pithy bits of advice for living, in addition to the recipes. Here's a "Thursday Thirteen" sample of some of the proverbs.
  1. There are just as good fish in the sea as ever were caught.
  2. A barking dog seldom bites.
  3. Bend the sapling before it's too late.
  4. A smooth tongue often hides sharp teeth.
  5. Easy got, soon spent.
  6. It's a poor hunter who does not always have one barrel loaded.
  7. Use it up, wear it out, make do, or do without.
  8. The laborer is worthy of his hire.
  9. If you swear while fishing, you won't catch anything.
  10. Girls with fat cheeks have hearts like flint.
  11. It is easier to fall than to get up.
  12. The old bull keeps on bellowing.
  13. When lost in the woods, look up a tree.
Numbers 8 through 13 must be classics. Each one of them appears in several of my cookbooks, with both the "Dutch" version and the English translation.

    You might enjoy some of the other Thursday Thirteens around the web today.

    WPA tourism poster. depicting an Amish family

    Saturday, September 29, 2012

    A Visit to Agenda, Kansas

    Ghost town? I don't think so.

    Main street and grain elevators, Agenda, Kansas

    Agenda, Kansas, is an important place name in my family tree. During the 1880s, my great-great-grandfathers, Ashbel Mapes and Almus Hill had neighboring farms just a few miles from this prairie village. Their children married, and to make a long story short, here I am today!

    I took these photos when we visited Agenda in July, 2012. The business district has only a couple of stores that are open. One of them is a little ice cream shop where you can get a cold soda and a plate lunch, as well as a scoop of ice cream. As I recall, it's in the building at right in the photo above.

    The photo below looks down Agenda's main street from one end. The building with the Pabst Blue Ribbon beer sign appears at left in the photo above and at left in the photo below.

    Agenda has a population of less than 100 people. Huge grain bins tower above everything else in town.  The streets are not paved, but there's a pretty good sidewalk along the front of the business district.

    Ice cream shop in Agenda, KansasPressed metal ceiling, Agenda, Kansas

    The ice cream shop is delightfully old-fashioned with a long wooden counter and a pressed metal ceiling. A friendly lady was tending the shop. After we ate our ice cream, she took us down to the small museum/library at the end of the street and let us inside. She also told us to be sure to walk outside through the back door of the ice cream shop.

    Monday, September 24, 2012

    Willoughby Cemetery: Homesteader's Rest

    An old settlers graveyard in Republic County, Kansas

    Willoughby Cemetery, near Agenda, Kansas

    One hot day last July, my brother, my sister, and I drove up to Republic County, Kansas, and found Willoughby Cemetery. It's named for W. H. Willoughby, the man who donated one corner of his homestead to be a community burying ground.

    W. H. Willoughby (my great-great-granduncle-by-marriage) was a preacher and one of the first settlers of Elk Creek Township in Republic County.  He homesteaded on Elk Creek in the late 1860s, along with a small group of brothers, cousins, and  "in-laws." This group of original settlers included  my great-great-grandfather Ashbel Mapes. Ashbel and W. H. Willoughby were brother-in-laws: Ashbel was a brother of  W. H.'s wife Rachel Mapes Willoughby.

    My gr-grandfather's Charles Leslie Hill's original gravestone.
    There's also a new stone for Charles and Lilly Hill  (at right.)
    My family has several graves in Willoughby Cemetery. Great-great-grandmother, Martha Vining Mapes (wife of Ashbel Mapes), is said to be there, but we didn't see her grave.  I don't know if it is unmarked, or marked with a uninscribed stone, or the words on her tombstone have weathered away. Or maybe her stone is hidden by a clump of bushes or flowers.

    Great-grandfather Charles Leslie Hill is buried there, beside his first wife, Lillie Mapes, who was a daughter of Ashbel and Martha Mapes. When Lillie died of "catarrhal fever" leaving three little children without a mother, Charles married her younger sister Lana Mapes, my great grandmother.

    My gr -gr -grandaunt, Rachel Ann Mapes,
    She was W. H. Willoughby's wife.

    Several other Mapes family members are buried in Willoughby Cemetery, including  Rachel Mapes Willoughby,  and several of Ashbel and Martha Vining Mapes's ten children: James Mapes, Nellie Mapes Boyer, Lillie Mapes Hill (as already mentioned), and probably Lucy Artimus Mapes Wharton (very likely, but not yet proven.)

    Also, little Clarence Hill, a great-uncle who died at the age of 3 years and a few days, is buried there. His grave is probably at the foot of his mother's Lillie Mapes Hill's grave, where a small, uninscribed stone stands.

     While we were there, I tried to photograph all of the gravestones in the cemetery that were legible or at least partly so. I planned to post them to Find-A-Grave when I got back home.

    When I began editing the photos and researching the names in Willoughby cemetery, I learned that a surprising number of people there were related to my relatives in one way or another.

    All of them, related or not, were from neighbor families and many were homesteaders. Some came to Kansas from New York, Ohio, Indiana, and other states, and others were immigrants from foreign countries.Their life stories were just as interesting as my own family's. (And I don't mean that they were all saints! One of them even served time for stealing chickens.)

    Intrigued by their histories, I decided that I would include at least a few sentences about the life of each person in Willoughby Cemetery in his or her Find A Grave memorial. Achieving that goal has been an interesting, engrossing project. I've found obituaries for many of them in the old Republic County newspapers. For others, I've constructed a short biography from census data and other sources.

    While searching the old newspapers for the names on the stones, I've found about twenty obituaries for people who were buried in Willoughby, but do not seem to have grave markers (or their grave markers are illegible.) So, I created Find-A-Grave memorials for them with their obituaries, so their stories can be retold and remembered, too.

    Willoughby Cemetery in Republic County
    near Agenda, Kansas
    I have done about 40 memorials so far, and I still have about 25 more photographs and a few more obituaries to work through. Some of the stones in the remaining photos are badly weathered, but maybe I can figure them out with the help of, Family Search, and the old Republic County newspapers.

    A shopkeeper in Agenda, a little village a few miles away, told us that W. H. Willoughby gave the cemetery land with one condition -- that no one would ever have to pay to be buried there. No burial plots in Willoughby Cemetery were ever to be sold. The community still honors that promise, she added.

    The first burial in Willoughby Cemetery (that I know of)
    was little Margaret Miller who died in 1871.

    These Willoughby children were a nephew and a niece of
    W.H. Willoughby, who founded Willoughby cemetery to
    serve the needs of the Elk Creek homesteader community.
    Rest in peace, little ones.

    Monday, September 17, 2012

    Ozark Ghost Town

    Somewhere between Mountain Grove and Lebanon

    Over the last twenty years, I've made around forty trips through the Ozarks of southern Missouri, either going to or coming home from my sister's house. She lives about fifty miles north of Springfield, Missouri, and I live in Kentucky.

    On my trip up there last summer, I took a route I'd never traveled before and probably won't travel again. I turned north on Highway 95 at Mountain Grove, Missouri, thinking I'd see Dove Mountain which is just east of 95, according to the road map. But the hills were so big that I couldn't see the mountain. Or maybe one of them was the mountain? I couldn't tell.

    Then I learned that a bridge was out on my planned route, so I took a long detour down some county blacktops. These roads followed every curve of the old wagon trails they were built upon, all the way to the top of every ridge and all the way to the bottom of every valley. Some of the scenery was beautiful, but I couldn't take pictures. If I had stopped in the road, someone might have come around a curve and hit me.

    This little Ozark ghost town dates back to a time before
    blacktop roads. Farm folks came here to buy things
    they couldn't make and to hear the news of the world.
    Everything changed after the Depression and WWII.
    At an intersection somewhere along the way, where the blacktop road made a right-angle turn, I saw this little ghost town and pulled over to get a photo.

    The main road that runs by this village was blacktopped sometime, but the street in front of these stores never saw that improvement. Maybe the brick building in the center was the last business to close.

    I didn't explore. I saw vehicles at a house (the metal roof at far left in the photo), and I didn't want anyone to think I was snooping around. I drove on through the hills and valleys, and finally I came to a somewhat wider and straighter state highway that led to Lebanon, and eventually, I arrived at my sister's house in Hickory County.

    The scenic route and the detour made my trip a little longer and slower, but I always enjoy backroads and the curiosities along them.

    Tuesday, September 04, 2012

    Better Bread = Less Divorce

    Dr. Harvey M. Wiley, food purity crusader

    Atlantic City, N.J., July 16, 1908
    Dr. Wiley of the Government's "Poison Squad," Talks of Foods.

    "Better bread making would lead to fewer divorces," said Dr. H. M. Wiley, of the government's "poison squad" in an address before the American Biscuit Makers association.

    "Good bread, in my opinion," he added, "would help solve the American evil of divorce. If the bakers make good bread and they educate the people to buy it, the great destroyer of domestic happiness, dyspesia, would be removed and we will hear no more of the divorce problem."

    Quoted from the Lewiston Evening Journal, Lewiston, Maine, July 16, 1908, page 1, column 3.

    Ah, dyspesia, the wrecker of marriages! Apparently, "dyspesia" is an old-time medical term that encompassed a list of indigestive symptoms: gas, bloating, belching, nausea, heartburn, etc. I agree with the doctor that it would be a very good thing indeed to eliminate those things from marriage.

    I'm smiling at the thought of Victorian spouses enduring each other's dyspesia, but I'm also remembering that food purity regulation was in its infancy in 1908. Contaminated, spoiled, and unsafe ingredients were a huge problem.

    Dr. Harvey Washington Wiley, (1844-1930) was the Dr. Wiley of the newspaper story I quoted above. He was the chief chemist of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) from 1882-1912. His research into food safety changed the lives of Americans then and still affects us today.

    Dr. Wiley in his laboratory at the USDA
    When asked by Congress to help determine the safety of food preservatives, Dr. Wiley developed a battery of tests to detect and measure the amount being used in foods. Then he organized "Poison Squads" of volunteers who ate a diet containing controlled amounts of the four food preservatives that Wiley considered most dangerous: borax, salicylic acid, formaldehyde, and copper sulfate. Careful records were kept of the amount of these preservatives the men consumed, the amount that was excreted, and the condition of their health.

    Because of the publicity generated by Dr. Wiley and the Poison Squads, the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 was passed by Congress and signed by President Theodore Roosevelt. Surprisingly, this act did not eliminate the food preservatives mentioned above.
     "While Wiley agreed that small amounts of preservatives were harmless and could slow food spoilage, he also argued that the accumulation of additives posed a public health threat, because it was not possible to control how much a person ate over time. He was ultimately unsuccessful in fighting food preservatives, but borax, salicylic acid, formaldehyde, and copper sulfate fell out of use." (Source: "Pioneering Consumer Advocate Gave Rise to FDA")

    After Dr. Wiley left the USDA in 1912, he accepted a position with Good Housekeeping magazine, where he founded the Good Housekeeping laboratories and the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval and continued his crusade for safer food.

    In honor of his many years of public service and his pioneering work in food safety, Dr. Wiley is buried at Arlington National Cemetery. 

    Monday, September 03, 2012

    Homemade Dinner Rolls Recipe

    With helpful hints for beginning bread bakers

    We had a potluck at work last week, and I made sandwich buns for it. They were nothing special, really -- just my usual sandwich buns -- but some of those people had never eaten homemade bread before. They were so impressed that it amused me. I guess that they previously thought that hot restaurant rolls were the ultimate in "home-baked" bread. (Although, speaking of restaurant bread, I must say that Panera Bread is good.)

    Several of the girls expressed doubt that they could ever bake anything that had yeast in it. A few of them said they'd tried baking bread before and it went badly. And a couple of the young girls asked for the recipe and said they'd like to try it.

    So tonight, I typed up my "Never Fail Dinner Rolls" recipe for my adventurous young colleagues to try, and I printed a few extra copies in case the previously-disappointed bread bakers want to try again. I'm actually going to offer them two different editions of the recipe -- the short version and a longer version that I wrote with extra instructions to help beginning bread bakers (below.)

    Tuesday, August 28, 2012

    A Hurricane Memory

    Medieval night with Hurricane Rita

    Tonight, the very muggy weather and the threat of Hurricane Isaac is giving me déjà vu. I've never experienced the full force of a hurricane firsthand. But I did have a surreal secondhand hurricane experience, one humid night in southern Tennessee that comes to mind tonight

    Keely was still in college in September 2005, and she was a member of  SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism), a medieval reenactment group. Her group was attending a reenactment near Columbia, Tennessee, so Isaac and I went along. We arrived late on Friday night in torrential rain, and decided to sleep in a motel instead of setting up our tent in the downpour.

    On Saturday, the sun was shining. We drove out to the site, found Keely's group, set up our tent, put on our medieval garb, and had a very hot, humid day of medieval entertainment and activity.  That night, we enjoyed a nice medieval meal with several courses. That ended the official activities, so Isaac and I wandered back to our tent and settled in for the night.

    Hurricane Rita, September, 2005
    It was still very humid as we lay down to sleep. There was a reason for all that humidity: Hurricane Rita was hitting the Gulf Coast that night. But steamy or not, the weather was friendly in our curious camp in the woods. At midnight, dozens of people in medieval clothing were still gathered around the embers of bonfires, talking and laughing and enjoying homemade wine and mead.

    I couldn't sleep, so I turned on my little radio and put on my headset. The emergency broadcast of a Mississippi radio station was coming in clearly, and I listened to it for the rest of the night. Tornadoes, high water, toppled trees, downed electric lines, impassable roads, emergency vehicles-- I participated in a long, dangerous night on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, as I tossed and turned and dozed in my tent. The hurricane in my ears that night was the closest thing to a real hurricane that I've ever experienced.

    At daylight, the radio waves became faint, and static overrode the voices.  I turned off my radio and got up from my air mattress, tired and sticky. The camp was quiet at last, except for the twitter of birds and a few loud snores.

    We packed our tent and headed back to Kentucky. Somewhere between Columbia and Nashville, we stopped at a Waffle House and had an exceptionally good breakfast. I mentioned that Waffle House breakfast to Isaac a few weeks ago and he remembers it, too.

    Oh yeah, definitely surreal.

    I do not mean to speak lightly of the dangerous, very real hurricane that people faced that night. As I remember the terrible storm I heard described on the radio, my thoughts and prayers are with everyone in the path of Hurricane Isaac. Please be careful.

    Hurricane Ike in Christian County, KY

    Sunday, August 12, 2012

    Hank and Jimmy

    My brother's cattle dogs

    Jimmy is a Border Collie. He's the younger of my brother's two cattle dogs. Both dogs are intensely attached to my brother, and they aren't friendly with strangers. They consider it their duty to protect their people --it's a characteristic of their breed.

    I really felt honored when Jimmie let me pet him on the last day of my recent visit to my brother's ranch in Kansas. Hank, the older dog, would not make friends with me. When I took the photo below, Hank knew I was looking at him with my camera, so he carefully ignored me.

    I think Hank is also a full-blooded Border Collie, but I could be wrong. A cow kicked Hank a few years ago and broke his leg. After several surgeries, his bad leg still bothers him. He can't run as fast or jump as well as he used to, but he still likes to help.

    Hank and Jimmy love to go for an adventure. Here they are in the back of the truck. When my brother goes to the pastures to check his cows, they ride in the back of the 4-wheeler.

    As soon as they enter the pasture, Jimmy jumps out and runs. Pretty soon, my brother asks Hank if he wants to run too, and he usually does. The dogs run in front of the 4-wheeler and smell all the important places along the trail. Many sites need pee from both dogs. They also check certain clumps of bushes for rabbits and deer every day. A good chase is remembered forever.

    One evening while I was there, we found the neighbor's bull in the pasture with my brother's cows. The dogs saw him immediately and knew that he did not belong there. Here's Jimmy, heading the bull down the road to another pasture.

    My brother commented that this bull seemed accustomed to being driven by dogs, because he didn't fight Jimmy much. Still, the bull didn't really want to leave the cows. My brother put the 4-wheeler between the bull and the dog a few times when the bull put down his head and charged at Jimmy. It made me nervous.

    Here we go over the hill and across the pasture with the bull. When we got to the corner of the pasture, one of my brother's bulls spotted the stray and headed toward us. The situation could have turned ugly, but my brother got the gate open while the dogs held the red bull, and we got the red bull through the gate and into the corral before the black bull arrived. They bellowed fiercely, but two fences were separating them.

    I admired and respected the nerve of the cattle dogs, and I said so to my brother. Oh, he said, things like that are what the dogs live for.

    A ride around the pasture fences revealed no broken wires, so the stray bull's method of entry into my brother's pasture remained a mystery. We had seen him on the road earlier in the day. My brother speculated that the bull might have walked across or jumped across the cattle guard. (Some cattle learn to do that.) Or someone might have put him in the pasture to get him off the road. The poorly-kept fences around the bull's home pasture are teaching him to be "breechy" --that is, good at (and fond of) going over, under, around, and through fences.

    Every pasture ride with the dogs ends with a race. My brother backs up to a little high spot so Hank can jump into the back of the 4-wheeler (he has the bad leg). Then Jimmie takes off like a greyhound, and my brother drives fast on the 4-wheeler behind him. Hank barks wildly with the excitement of chasing Jimmy, and Jimmy wins the race. Riding along is an exhilarating experience.

    My brother says his dogs listen to everything he says and are always thinking about what he means. They don't always understand, but they always want to understand. They have large vocabularies and excellent memories. They love him, and he loves them. They love my sister-in-law too, but my brother is their favorite and, in their eyes, the esteemed leader of their pack.

    I can't write about my brother's dogs without mentioning Sammi, his first cattle dog. She was a sweet, smart Australian Shepherd - Border Collie mix. She helped my brother train Hank, her successor. I showed my son this photo of Sammi's grave tonight, and I may have seen a tear in his eye. Sammi was dearly loved by my children, and she lives on forever in their memories of childhood visits to the ranch.

    Friday, August 10, 2012

    Sunday, August 05, 2012

    The Almus Hill / Almus Lentz Legend

    DNA answer to a family tree question.

    According to the story that was passed down in my family, our great-great grandfather Almus Lentz was born in Germany. By the time he was 8 or 9 years old, he was an orphan. He stowed away on a ship that was headed for America, but mid-voyage, shiphands discovered him and hauled him up to meet the captain. A kindly Irish couple named Hill took pity on the frightened lad and paid his passage. In America, the Hills took Almus into their home and continued to provide for him. They had no children of their own, so Almus was like a son to them, He even took their name, becoming Almus Hill and giving up his old name, Almus Lentz. This was how our family acquired the Hill name.

    As I researched Almus Hill/Lentz around the internet and corresponded with other descendants, I learned that there were other versions of this legend. In one branch of the family, it was told that Almus was an out-of-wedlock child born to a Lentz girl in Ohio. To hide this birth, the wealthy Lentz family gave the newborn baby Almus to their housemaid Mary Ann Hill. They told her to take the child and raise it as her own because they never wanted to see it again. Thus, little Almus should have been a Lentz, but he became a Hill.

    In another branch of the family, a similar story claimed that either the wealthy Mr. Lentz fathered a child (Almus) with a servant girl, or Almus was the son of an unmarried Lentz girl. Whatever the case, Almus lived in the Lentz home until he was 8 or 9 years old. One day, Mr. Lentz decided to free himself of this unwanted child. He gave Almus to John and Mary Ann Hill who worked for the Lentz family. The Hills were told to take the boy and leave and never to speak to anyone of this boy being a Lentz. So, Almus Lentz became Almus Hill. This version of the legend also included the adult Almus calling the Lentz family "filthy rich bastards" and saying that the Lentz family was from Austria.

    In each case, these stories, told by Almus Hill to his children, were faithfully passed down through several generations to the present day.

    Facts contradict the Hill/Lentz legend

    Family tree researchers have never found any evidence that the Lentz stories are true. All the evidence pointed to a much less dramatic birth and childhood for Almus Hill. His parents, John Hill (1821-1849) and Mary Ann Jones (1824-1844), were married on February 26, 1843, in Trumbull County, Ohio. Almus was born on December 23, 1843. His mother Mary Ann died on June 20, 1844, of unknown causes. She was buried in Mahoning County, Ohio.

    Soon after his wife's death, John Hill enlisted in the Army (4th Infantry, Company C) and was sent to Fort Scott, Kansas. When hostile relations with Mexico became war in 1846, John Hill's company was immediately sent to Mexico under the command of Zachary Taylor. In the Battle of Monterey in September, 1846, during the first day of heavy street fighting, John Hill was severely wounded. He was discharged from the Army on April 4, 1847, at Jefferson Barracks near St. Louis, and died on May 31, 1849. He was buried beside his wife Mary Ann in Mahoning County, Ohio.

    When his father died in 1849, six-year-old Almus Hill was an orphan. We don't know who took care of him after his mother died or while his father was in the Army. We do know that Almus was living in the home of Robert and Rachel Hill of Ashland County, Ohio, in 1850. Robert Hill was Almus's uncle -- probably a great uncle. He and Rachel had just one child, a daughter who was 11 years older than Almus.

    Almus grew up with Robert and Rachel in Ashland County, Ohio. He married an Ashland County girl, Lucinda Martin, and they had seven children who survived to adulthood. In the late 1870s, Almus inherited his mother Mary Ann Jones's share of Jones land in Mahoning County.

    All of the facts in the above four paragraphs are supported by historic records. I'll add one comment -- Almus's role in the Robert Hill household was probably very similar to being an only child.

    DNA solves the riddle

    How could the documented facts about Almus Hill be so different than the faithfully remembered, faithfully retold legends about him? This question bothered me. I eventually realized that only DNA testing would ever definitively settle the Hill-or-Lentz question.

    When I found a DNA study of 517 people named Hill, I wrote to the project administrator (a Mr. Hill, of course) with some questions. He suggested that a Hill male from my family contribute DNA for testing. Even if it did not match anyone at present, perhaps it would match someone in the future. Within the same DNA company, I also found a Lentz study.

    I thought about it for a few months, and finally I asked my brother to contribute a sample. He graciously agreed, and I submitted the order. The sample kit arrived quickly. My brother swabbed the inside of his cheek as directed, and returned the kit to the company. Within a month, we had the results-- 35 out of 37 markers matched with Mr. Hill of California. This close of a match is considered significant. Odds were good that we shared a common ancestor within 10 generations.

    I contacted the Mr. Hill of the matching DNA sample, and he confirmed that he is descended from William Hill, a younger brother of our John Hill. Our first common ancestor is Rogers Hill (1799-1883), the father of both John and William. Rogers is my great-great-great-great grandfather.

    We had no matches with any Lentz DNA samples. In fact, our Hill DNA is of a different haplogroup than any of the Lentz samples. (The haplogroups are the main branches on the family tree of mankind.) Beyond that, when I submitted my brother's DNA results to a much larger database of Y-test results that includes results from various other DNA companies, we still didn't match with any Lentz DNA.

    Will we ever know?

    The picture is still incomplete. Why did Almus Hill tell these stories to his children? Why did he choose the name Lentz for his stories? Did he hear stories of this sort from someone else, or did he invent them on his own? Was there perhaps an earlier Lentz/Hill ancestor whose story Almus appropriated? We may never solve these mysteries, but we can thank the DNA for proving two things beyond a doubt:

    • Almus Hill's father was a Hill.
    • Almus Hill's father was not a Lentz.
    - - - - - - - - - -
    This article was written by Genevieve L. Netz and originally published as a blog post at . Copyright 2012 Genevieve L. Netz. All rights reserved. Permission is granted for attaching this article to Hill family trees as long as this entire notice is included. Any other use requires written permission.

     Download a PDF of this article to include in your family tree files.

    Wednesday, August 01, 2012

    A Poor Corn Crop in Christian County

    Effects of the drought 

    A Christian County (KY) cornfield at Memorial Day
    The corn crop in Christian County, KY, looked promising at the end of May when I took this photo. Farmers had planted earlier than usual due to the mild winter, and many fields were already well beyond "knee-high." Newspaper reports predicted a record-breaking year in corn production in Kentucky.

    The price of corn has been kept high in recent years by the production of corn ethanol. Also, China and other densely populated countries buy corn to help feed the masses, thus driving up corn prices further.   Apparently excited by high corn prices. one of our neighbors harvested his wheat this spring before it looked ready and quickly planted corn in the stubble, (Then he accidentally burned the little corn plants with fertilizer -- which was probably both frustrating and embarrassing.)

    We had a dryer-than-usual winter and spring in 2012, but if we had received a few generous rains in June, we could still have had a good corn crop. Even our neighbor's fertilizer-burned corn was looking pretty good. But we had an exceptionally hot June (day after day of 100° or more) with just a few sprinkles of rain. By the beginning of July, when the corn in Christian County should have been growing big, full ears, many fields were already dying from the drought.

    USDA image for week of July 28, 2012
    Now Christian County is officially in Level 2 (severe) drought. Our neighbor, who planted corn in his wheat stubble last spring, went out to his field one day in July and chopped it for silage. He's facing a hay shortage for his livestock and he probably didn't have crop insurance. I've noticed several other cornfields that have been chopped or baled. Cattle feed of any sort will probably fetch a high price this fall and winter. The grass, like the corn, has had a very bad year.

    When we have a corn crop failure in Christian County, it takes millions of bushels of corn out of the market. We grew almost 11 million bushels of corn in 2011, but the crop this year will be much less than that. And the drought extends across most of the U.S. -- in fact, many areas are dryer than Christian County. The entire harvest of food in the United States this year is going to be a lot smaller.

    A very dry pasture in the Missouri Ozarks, July 2012
    I've read several articles about how the drought will affect grocery prices. There doesn't seem to be much agreement, so I'll stick with government figures. The USDA is projecting a 3 to 4% increase in most food prices (and something more than that in meat prices) as a direct effect of the drought this summer.

    Some agricultural experts are urging the U.S. to lower its requirements (quotas) for ethanol production so that more corn will be available for food worldwide. Russia is also experiencing a drought.

    The federal government is offering some emergency assistance to Kentucky farmers in drought stricken areas. Low interest emergency loans are available. Conservation Reserve Program lands may be used for hay or pasture with some restrictions and conditions. Crop insurance providers have been asked to voluntarily offer farmers an extra month before charging interest on the unpaid portion of crop insurance premiums.

    The Climate Prediction Center sees little rain in the near future for Kentucky. The drought is expected to continue through October.

    Tuesday, July 24, 2012

    Fires along the Niobrara River

    Fires in Brown and Keya Paha Counties in northern Nebraska

    North central Nebraska is fighting three big fires in Brown and Keya Paha counties, along or near the Niobrara River. As I understand it, all of these fires were started by lightning from thunderstorms. Vegetation  is very dry due to drought, and high winds have been spreading the fires. Today, the temperatures climbed as high as 108° in the area.

    The above map from the Nebraska Emergency Management Area shows the locations of the three fires. The largest of these, on the west, is the Fairfield Canyon Fire that has burned about 50,000 acres. The two smaller fires on the east are the Wentworth Fire and the Hall Fire. These fires are 50 to 60 miles north/northwest of where I grew up in northern Nebraska.

    The news section of the Radio KBRB website reports that various agencies and organizations are providing support and assistance. The Central Plains Chapter of the American Red Cross, the Southern Baptist Emergency Relief Team, the National Guard, the Rocky Mountain Incident Management team, the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency, firefighting crews from over 50 Nebraska and South Dakota communities, and other civic and religious organizations are all working in the area.  One of the roles of the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency is to coordinate these efforts to the best advantage.

    The National Guard has sent water tankers and also some helicopters that can carry big buckets of water. The helicopter crews can dump the water onto the fire, or they can lower the buckets to the ground where the water can be used by firefighters. These aerial photos from the Omaha World show how the helicopters lower the buckets into the river to fill them with water.

    I am not sure this link will work for everyone, but I am going to include it anyway. This is Lorie Olson's Facebook album of about 250 fire photos from the Fairfield Canyon fire. If you click on one of the little photos, it will enlarge, and then you can click on that photo to go to the next one.

    My heart is touched by the Facebook messages of my Nebraska friends who live in the area. They describe how they are playing a part in a huge community effort to fight these fires. They are baking cookies and cinnamon rolls, donating bottled water and ice, lending their cots and air mattresses, and working in emergency shelters and kitchens.

    This evening, I received an email from Carolyn Hall whose family owns the Hall Ranch where one of the fires is raging (the fire on the east edge of the map.). Here is her assessment of the situation: "They have backfired along the west, north and east sides of the canyon so if the wind stays in the south today it may burn itself out.  The big question is what happens tomorrow when the wind goes to the northwest??????? More troubling is the Wentworth fire which is out of the canyon and heading northeast.  That will really be a problem when the wind goes to the NW."

    These fires are devastating people's lives in so many ways. It's not just grass that's burning -- it's people's livelihoods and futures. Please pray for rain for northern Nebraska and all of the drought-parched Midwest -- rain without lightning.

    UPDATE: The fires were finally declared contained on July 28. Destroyed by fire: 75,000 acres, 14 homes, 42 other structures, hundreds of miles of fences, and an unestimated number of livestock and wildlife.

    Friday, July 13, 2012

    Rules for Good Speech

    Good verbal communication

    This list is from a 5th grade reader that was written about 70 years ago. It appears in a chapter about patriotism that urges the readers to express their patriotism with "good speech." These standards still apply to speaking today -- whether in conversation or more formally.

    1. I will have something interesting to say.

    2. I will stand correctly when I speak and sit correctly as I listen.

    3. I will look at and talk to my audience.

    4. I will speak in a friendly manner.

    5. I will speak loud enough to be easily heard.

    6. I will speak distinctly.

    7. I will try to pronounce all words correctly.

    8. I will use correct English.

    9. I will leave out unnecessary words.

    10. I will be a courteous listener.

    From The World Around Us, by Gerald Yoakam, M. Madilene Veverka, and Louise Abney, published by The State of Kansas, Topeka. Copyright 1941, Laidlaw Brothers. Page 194.

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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.