Saturday, December 29, 2007

Holiday Sports

Knowing our daughter and family were at the SIUC Arena last night, Gerald and I watched the game sporadically. I didn’t see Samuel nor parents in the crowd, but Vickie told us tonight that she saw Sam and David. Unfortunately I saw that last 3-point wonder shot by the wrong team that made us lose by two points. It was a thrilling shot--but not for us Salukis.

More thrilling that the game, however, was realizing Katherine was up to attending a game. She had her first Tysabri infusion on Thursday afternoon. When she left the hospital, she was amazed to realize she could see better. The muscles behind her eyes that cause her to need to refocus constantly to temper the nausea/vertigo were evidently already better. She has been limiting herself to looking straight ahead to compensate and lesson the problem. She said she feasted looking sideways on the highway as David drove home.

Tonight some of us gathered here at Woodsong with Erin and family and friends to watch the Alamo Bowl Game in San Antonio. Again we were disappointed to see “our” team--Texas A&M--lose by a touchdown, especially after being ahead during the first quarter.

There was lots of cheering throughout, and that increased when Erin’s special friend Matt Featherston played. Vickie brought pizzas, and I put out soup and goodies. Then Erin surprised us with her masterpiece she had baked--a cake shaped like a football with #46 written in the icing. It was good. The company was good. All that was bad was the score.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Christmas Is Here

Family arrived in the middle of the night last night, so I knew Christmas was here. Others arrived at Gerry and Vickie’s house in Johnston City, and we all got together tonight at The Mix in Carterville to hear a concert by Eiler Grey (our granddaughter Leslie Eiler) and her friend Caleb Francis, who came down from Charleston.

We will gather again tomorrow after church for lunch, and then by Monday morning part of the visitors will be going back up north and one will be leaving to join Texas A&M football team preparing to play in the Alamo Bowl. Others of our family are in Florida and elsewhere this year. So our group on Christmas Day to eat ham and Christmas dinner will be smaller than usual.

I am later than usual in writing on Woodsong Notes also because our family has been enmeshed in too many health issues to have much time for writing Christmas cards or anything else. Too many people in our family are seriously ill right now.

Our hearts and minds have gone through many flipflops this week as Gerald’s brother Ken continues to fight leukemia. I know our family is not alone. Many all over the world are fighting life-threatening illnesses and have no doubt had highs and lows this week just as Ken has. On Tuesday he was doing so well that a doctor said Ken might get to come home for this weekend. That afternoon he had a heart attack when some bleeding started, because his heart lacked sufficient blood to pump.

It made us feel even worse because it was preventable. The doctor had ordered a blood transfusion for him at 7 in the morning. The nurse still had not given it in the afternoon when the heart attack resulted because the heart did not have enough blood to pump. So he was back in ICU.

Yesterday after someone lost his blood sample between his room and the lab, a doctor did it over himself so Ken could have a needed test to find source of bleeding. The showed no serious cause. They were able to stop the bleeding. People were high.

Then he was put in with another patient and the patient’s attendant--and the other two talked all night with lights on. Opal could not stay in the room, so she was forced go to the lodge with their children. This morning after yesterday’s ordeal and no sleep last night, Ken was all washed out. But he is not washed up. He is still fighting, and so is his family.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Christmas is a Time for Sadness--and Expressing Love

Sunday we learned that our neighbor G. A. White had lost his long struggle with cancer. Wednesday night we stood in line three hours as the line swirled and turned in and out of the rooms of the funeral home. It seemed most of the community was there wanting to pay their respects to this man and his family that so many loved. As we waited, we visited with those in front and behind us as well as those in the crowded lines parallel to our line. Yesterday we watched as his funeral cort├Ęge passed our house as the long train of vehicles attending the hearse traveled with him to their farm where he was buried.

Yesterday morning’s Southern Illinoisan carried the story of the terrible airplane crash 30 years ago when the University of Evansville basketball team, coach, and others were killed. Most of us recall very clearly the horror of that news. Twenty-nine people died. Recently 29 seconds of silence was held in remembrance in the Duff-Kingston Gymnasium at Eldorado named after the two players from Eldorado: Mike Duff and Kevin Kingston. Greg Smith, a player from West Frankfort, was also killed in that crash. Thirty years has not stopped the grief.

At noon, I received a message from a high school friend Lois Ferrell Doctor in California that our mutual friend Lynn Dillow Borde has died December 7th. I had sent various cards, silly notes, etc. ever since I learned Lynn was diagnosed with pre-leukemia, and I faced the fact that she would not make the trip back here that she had planned for in retirement. In fact, I had mailed a note on Monday feeling regretful that I had been negligent in recent weeks. After reading Lois’ note with the news she’d just received from Lynn’s daughter, I walked upstairs to fix Gerald’s lunch, and Lynn’s son Lance phoned telling me again of our loss.

In Spring 2002, Gerald and I visited in California at Lois and Tom‘s house. They took us to attend the SIUC softball games to watch our granddaughter Tara. We also took Lynn to dinner and had a wonderful visit in her apartment. That was the first time the three of us girl friends had been together as a trio since we said goodbye to each other in the fall of 1951 when Lois left for California. But we kept in touch, and Lois and Lynn lived close enough for occasional visits.

Tonight Katherine forwarded the column by Jimmy Dean in the Marion Daily Republican telling of the struggle for life that Gunner, the 7-year-old son of the Marshall County High School high school coach Gus Gillespie is making at Vanderbilt Hospital in Nashville, TN. Jimmy Dean had been down to Murray to see his daughter Kara. He’d made the trip with friends including Rich Herrin. They’d stopped in the Draffenville, Kentucky, high school gym on the way down, and they’d met Gillespie as Ron Winemiller, a manager for Herrin’s at SIUC, was now assistant coach there.

Only later before they returned for the prestigious Hoopfest did they hear the bad news about Gillespie’s son. Jimmy Dean wrote how he learned 17 months ago how unimportant sports and everything else is when you are praying for a miracle for your child. Our region will always grieve for the terrible loss of Dean’s son.

Many people around the world are praying for miracles for their loved ones this Christmas season just as we are for Gerald’s brother Ken, who is in intensive care as he fights his battle for another remission of leukemia. He was better this morning, and we are hoping he is soon back in a regular room.

Jimmy Dean urges us to use this season to tell our children and loved ones how much they mean to us. A friend told me this morning about a young adult nephew who claims he doesn't believe in love--he meant any kind of love. To love and be loved are the greatest gifts we can have at Christmas or any other time. Let's not be stingy with these gifts.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Barb and Bob are ok, and so am I!

Yesterday while Pat Evans and I were enjoying our gab fest, I was so happy to get a phone call from my cousin Barbara Morgan. She was checking up on my cataract surgery yesterday morning, and I was pleased to tell her I was doing great. (Dr. Powers agreed with my assessment when Gerald took me today for my day-after check-up.)

Barb did not know that Gerald and I had been trying to phone her and Bob for two days after hearing the stories of flooding in Oregon. She explained that they did lose their electricity on Sunday night, but it came back on Tuesday. Then, however, their phone service was interupted. She could phone out, but our calls could not go through. I was glad to find out that our long periods of ringing her phone were not heard on her end since she could not answer if she had heard! With the loss of electricity/phone service, their computer went dead. But Barb was cheerful sounding, and she was worrying about me while I had been worrying about her.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

’Tis the Season for Gripes, Worries, and Concerns

I was very pleased with myself last night when I got the main floor Christmas tree up in the living room. And all the lights on. They cheered me as I started adding the ornaments, and I finished that job this afternoon. Then I plugged in the lights again. The highest string and the big star on top that was hooked to it would not work. I didn’t think that we had any strings that go out with just one bad bulb, so I guess the string has died. What to do now? GRRR. A half-lit tree looks kinda silly.

At least I had not yet put on the icicles--really beautiful long silver ones that bring back wonderful memories of shopping years ago in Nashville, TN, at a 90% after-Christmas sale with my two daughters living there. I still have excess little baskets around the house that we paid 10 cents for. Numerous craft/gift projects haven’t used them all. We laughed and laughed at ourselves that day and had so much fun. Life is much more difficult these days for the three of us, but I like remembering that good time.

I shopped today at the monthly Senior Citizen Day at Kroger’s, which is an enormous pain for everyone involved, but who can resist the discount? If the corporate managers would simply reduce prices without all the silly book work, letters, and the trouble of cards and coupons, I would shop there regularly instead of just on Senior Citizen Day, which is crowded and crazy. I feel sorry for the employees on this day, and I also feel sorry for us oldsters having to cram a month’s worth of grocery shopping into one day to get what I assume is a fair price for their merchandise. I am grateful that the rest of the month I can shop at a store that cares more about its customers’ needs.

However, when I was half way through unloading my cart, the sweetest young woman clerk finished the job for me apologizing that she hadn't been available when I lifted all the heavy boxes of cola off the bottom of the cart. And the young employee who took the cart to the car was equally kind. They both lightned my mood. Another good thing is that I have the Christmas ham bought and stored in the downstairs fridge, where Gerald carried the heavy thing for me. Not so pleasant is still having part of the non-perishables to put away tomorrow--another non favorite task.

I may not feel like it tomorrow since I have to be at Harrisburg Medical Center in the morning at 7:15 for cataract surgery. The eye doctor told me I might be sleepy, but I should be just fine by tomorrow afternoon to even go on a trip if I wanted. I don't want, but a friend is dropping in then, and I look forward to her visit.

We are concerned for our brother Ken, who is in a Saint Louis hospital fighting for another remission from leukemia. His chemo is over, and the next three to four weeks are supposed to be the difficult part.

We are also concerned about our cousins Barbara and Bob Morgan in Oregon. We worry that beautiful Mosby Creek may have overflowed. We haven’t been able to reach them on the phone.

Those are just part of our concerns. Some periods of life have more anxieties than others, and this is one of those periods for us. I think I sometimes like to gripe about minutiae, such as burned-out lights and irritating shopping trips to keep myself from thinking about the really serious concerns that I don’t even want to think about, let alone talk about. Ah well. I have lived long enough to know that troubles pass, and with God's help, humans get through them.

Friday, November 30, 2007

A Den for Christmas--Maybe

We’ve been to two middle school girls basketball games this week. Tonight we hurried back to pick up a prescription waiting at the pharmacy at Kroger’s. We weren’t sure it would be open, but we got there a minute or two before nine and were happy to see lights through the drive-in window. Interestingly, the sign in the window showed new closing hour as 10 p.m. We needn’t have hurried.

While we were feeling so buoyed up by our success, Gerald thought we might as well run out to another store as he needed a piece to finish up a project he has been working on. Our luck ran out there, however, as the workers had just locked up. Had we known the pharmacy was open until 10, we could have gone there first.

When we moved into this house in six years ago, we had a passel of little grandkids. After Gerald put in an outside shop building at the last minute, the area in the walk-out downstairs with a garage door that was intended for a shop was not needed for that. I immediately designated it the “art room” and put in an unpainted wooden door held up by a couple of unused low end tables. Surrounding it with small plastic chairs, the kids had plenty of room to draw or paint or cut or whatever messy idea they chose. The concrete floor could not be hurt. An extra fridge and a popcorn table was there for sodas and snacks.

The kids loved going there for many made-up games and projects. Although there is a tiny TV left over from someone’s dorm room or something, I don’t think the kids ever turned it on. They had written and colored all over the unfinished door; and when they finally got too tall for it, I still had a 13-year-old disappointed when he discovered it gone.

We had given an old kitchen table to a daughter, who no longer needed it. While remodeling their house, someone had broken off a leg. We took it back thinking Gerald could repair it and we could donate it to the Household Give-Away that the Marion Ministerial Association runs. Stuff is stored for those who need it at Community of Christ Church.

However, when we realized the low door needed to be replaced with a taller table, that repaired kitchen table was the answer. Adult chairs were substituted for the little red plastic ones. (Aidan found them and enjoyed them at Thanksgiving.) The growing kids continued to congregate in their special place.

With various electronic games becoming important to them, more and more they were hooking onto the family room TV with cords and junk all over the floor to trip the unwary. Their desire to watch the Disney Channel (not available on the little TV in the art room) competed with the fathers’ desire to watch ballgames. We had a problem. The youngsters had outgrown the “art room” although they still claimed it and used it. I decided we needed a teenagers’ den in there.

On one wall of this room, there was a wire shelf left over from the garage. Clothes could be hung underneath. That had gradually filled up with hunting clothes and old coats and sweaters for the occasional time kids might unexpectedly need a warm garment when they ran outside. Then I moved a bunch of “junk clothes” out of another closet so the kids could have “costumes” for the skits they sometimes create. Before I had time to act on the den project, that overloaded shelf fell down depositing a wall full of garments all over the floor. I piled them on the table and the “art room” was out of commission.

Since obviously the first clothes rack had failed, Gerald and I began to shop for more substantial closet equipment to put on that wall . After his lugging heavy boxes of pressed wood closets to the truck and then into the house, he started to put them together during the World Series only to find the first box did not contain the correct amount of hardware.

All those heavy boxes had to be returned. Actually, they had to be returned twice. The first time Gerald had to bring them back home for two weeks because I had written a check instead of using a credit card. While we waited, he came up with the idea of using extra paneling left over from the house to build closets on that wall. In addition to all his regular duties, he has been working on building the closets. It looks great and oddly makes the room look larger even though this takes up an extra 32 inches with its depth. The doors still must be varnished.

In the middle of the two closets is a place for the heavy family room TV. It will be a job to move it, and we will have to have a new one for the sports viewing. Now Gerald has a wiring job to complete. If we can get the TV in the “den” hooked up for Disney Channel, the kids can watch or use their electronic games even while the men claim the family room. We hope to have this part of the project completed by the holidays. May not happen. We will see.

I have yet to think through the rest of what I am going to do to make this a teenager gathering spot--either move in an old couch from another room for TV watching or maybe buy a couch. I won’t have to do much to make the kids happy if they can have a place they can call their own with the TV that Gpa will be providing.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Grateful the Turkey is Ready for the Oven

My annual battle with the frozen Thanksgiving turkey is over. The giblets are in the pan ready for me to add water to make giblet gravy for Gerry. The turkey is in the little fridge in the garage until I place the pan in the oven in the morning as near to 5 a.m. as I can.

I have never cooked a fresh turkey. I considered it one year--but they were out there five or six days before Thanksgiving, and that struck me as a long time to keep a fresh bird. Maybe not. Obviously, I have no experience except with the frozen kind. That is very convenient to choose early and know it is awaiting your use.

The problem comes when you have to get the bird thawed. For a big turkey that our gang usually requires, I need three or four days in the fridge to thaw it. Still it usually has ice in the middle daring me to get that a sack of liver and gizzard out of the neck hole. The greatest challenge, however, is that ever-present clamp holding the legs together. GRRRR. How many women broke a fingernail on that onery piece of metal or plastic today? I thought I would never get out that neck frozen tightly in the stomach hole.

After wasting ten minutes or so pulling on the thing, I finally broke the rules and ran warm water in that hole to release the neck. I’d pay a couple dollars extra to have those giblets and neck in a separate sack OUTSIDE the turkey, but I don’t figure that I will ever be given that option. I did at last succeed and carried the awkwardly heavy fellow to the fridge ready for roasting.

Now if I can get to bed early, I should be able to turn on the oven even if I am half-awake, stagger with turkey to push into the bottom shelf, set the temp at 325, and if I am real lucky, I might sneak back to bed.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Blessings and Troubles Then and Now

Sadly Gerald lost another cousin--his second this year. So tonight we went to Anna for the visitation for his cousin Clarence Lee Glasco. We again saw many of his relatives, who had also been at the funeral for his cousin Charlene Givens. Cousin Wilma, who was so ill at her sister’s funeral, had recovered from her cancer surgery and looked great. She had been helping and sitting with Clarence during his illness, in fact.

A problematic fact of modern life is that we often only see relatives at funerals and weddings. Yet in the early part of the last century, people who lived as far away as Marion is from Anna would probably not have been able to make the trip to a cousin’s funeral visitation. Despite the high gas prices, most of today’s population can afford such trips now more than people could a century ago in Southern Illinois when travel was mostly by horse-drawn vehicles or trains. Trips to area towns often took the entire day if one did not go by train.

However, we should not forget that there remains too large a percentage of us who cannot travel freely today. Not just because of the price of gas, but because many cannot afford a car in the first place. When I worked with families in this area, one of the first problems I ran into was that single mothers usually did not have a car. Without a car, it often was impossible for them to find a job. Few jobs exist here within walking distance.

Often worse were the problems that owners of a car ran into when the car had problems. It seemed to me that an ancient-looking car with a tail light out invariably was stopped for a ticket. For a single mother on a tight budget, a ticket could spell total disaster for her family’s hope of getting out of crisis. I was never sure what could be done to lessen these problems, but certainly good public transportation, such as the trains that used to be available, would help.

When I drive through the cluster of houses that make up the village of New Dennison near our farm, I almost always think that here was once a railroad center. People caught rides from there to Marion and Carbondale. The late Marguerite Lashley, who had returned to live in her childhood home there, told me how her physician father would pick up the Presbyterian pastor who rode the train over from Carbondale to New Dennison. The doctor’s family in their horse and buggy would take the preacher on to Shed Church. Then the family would return for the Sunday dinner Marguerite‘s mother prepared, and the pastor would catch a train back to Carbondale.

Not only do we lack that convenient public transportation today, but we endure dangers these early citizens did not. On our way to Anna on Route 146, Gerald braked rapidly when a large buck started to cross in front of us. Fortunately, the buck turned. No one was behind us, and Gerald thought he could have missed him if he’d continued. We were glad we did have to find out. His cousin Barbara Houseman had just driven in from a meeting in Springfield and told me she left tire marks on Route 127 coming to the funeral home. Her deer was standing in the middle of the highway. Since November is the month that most highway deaths in Illinois are caused by the deer, two Glasco cousins were blessed with escapes tonight.

After the visitation, we went with Gerald’s brothers Keith and Garry and our sister-in-law Ginger along with nephew DuWayne and wife Vickie to the local restaurant we used to call Dino’s. There we all enjoyed supper together and had the opportunity to visit and still drive home for an early bedtime if I had chosen to go to bed instead of write this blog.

And though we were watching closely, we did not see a single deer coming back to the farm. I hope the hunters see them this weekend. Then their families will have venison for the winter stored in their freezers for hearty meals that few families could have enjoyed in 1907.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Chatting About Daily Chit Chat

Gerald and I took the pickup over to the body shop this afternoon. We were finally able to pick up our car today. The twice-replaced back right door looks great. I hope this door lasts longer than the first two.

I drove on to Carbondale as I had a Trail of Tears Association board meeting tonight, and I have been needing the car to claim my re-soled and repaired Birkenstocks from Shawnee Trails. They’ve been ready for a while, but I had no car to go get them. The management there is so accommodating. I apologized for being so long in picking them up, and the man was so nice that I was almost made to feel I’d done them a favor for being so poky! Once again for far less than half price, my returned Birks looked like a new pair. And choosing repair over brand new helps the environment as well.

While I was that close to 710 Book Store, I couldn’t resist the pleasure of going in to look at the books. I was delighted to find a copy of the late Normagene Warner’s Standing on Tiptoe, one of the most beautiful and honest accounts of losing a child that I’ve ever read. You can no longer order it from Amazon, so I was delighted to find a couple of copies there, and I bought one as I think I gave my last one away. Copies of the late Dr. Ben Fox’s two books were also there.

Earlier this week I finished Cinnamon the same day I started it. This account of the trekking the Appalachian Trail was fascinating and enlightening. I am also thoroughly enjoying Rowena McClinton’s translation of the diaries from the Moravian mission in pre-Trail of Tears Georgia. I won’t finish these two hefty volumes in a hurry though.

Diaries and journals are probably my favorite genre because they are composed of such simple day-to-day activities that end up making a life. Yet the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. One of my all-time favorites is The Diary of Helena Morley, which Elizabeth Bishop translated. It is the wonderful diary of a young girl in Brazil telling of the daily life in their village. I used to order it through inter-library loan, but with the Internet, I was able to buy my own second-hand copy.

In much the same way, I have always been attracted to the weekly journalists who write personal columns about the Smith family spending the day at grandma’s house and little Suzie Jones being sick with the flu. There was a time in my life that I read probably 25 or so of these community columns a week--about people I did not know from neighborhoods with names like Possum Hollow or Tool Shed Corner.

One of my weird writing goals was to write such a column, and I did accomplish that for about nine months. It was some of the most difficult writing I ever did.

The Johnson County Genealogical and Historical Society is publishing a book of Harry Nave’s columns from some decades ago, and I am eager to read his book. I find it exciting that he wrote a book without knowing it--one weekly column at a time.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Fall Cookin’

Autumn brings new menus--no more BLT’s with tomatoes from the garden and no more veggies to pick for lunch.

I’ve bought several bags of local apples. The huge sweet potatoes at Small’s Grocery were so attractive that I couldn’t resist one that I baked in the microwave. Gerald and I ate on that one monster potato for two meals. I have made my first big pot of beef-vegetable soup for the season and the first apple cake I have made in over a decade. The cake is so good, but neither Gerald nor I are supposed to be eating such sweets. I used to make these all fall but doubled this recipe to fill up a large pan twice as big as the 13 by 9 inch I used on Wednesday. Of course, in those days I had a houseful of young adults to feed.

In addition to feeding the two of us, I have been reading and, of course, doing some writing. And have had a good many check-ups and doctor appointments to take up time the last couple of months. I delight in days when I do not have to go anywhere and can stay home to enjoy myself. Yesterday on what would have been my mother’s 105th birthday had she lived, Gerald took me to schedule cataract surgery on December 6th.

When we returned home, with dilated eyes and the flare-up of arthritis that is making it painful for me to walk, I had a good excuse to start reading the first of two huge volumes of translations of Anna Gambold’s diaries from Springplace mission to the Indians in Georgia. The books were ordered months ago, but were delayed so they arrived Tuesday from Amazon, where they were cheaper than at the University of Nebraska Press.

Originally written in a tiny hand script of an ancient variation of German, the diaries are now available to the world in English thanks to the painstaking and remarkable work of Dr. Rowena McClinton, who teaches at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

I have only read McClinton’s introduction so far and have been amazed and enlightened about the Moravian mission movement as it developed in Europe. Since I have had no world history since grade school, all of her explanations were new to me and I was fascinated with the breadth of her knowledge while wishing for more on my part. In fact, I think I will quit this blog and go read more!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Story Story from the Trail of Tears

Robin Roberts, photographer and horse woman, had discovered the Story Cemetery in the Shawnee National Forrest some years ago while attending the Nine Day Trail Ride. More recently, she found a new marker where before only the Civil War marker of Ephriam Story had been among the 50 or more graves there--almost all with just a sandstone marker as so many old graveyards have. The new marker was for Ephriam’s wife Caroline (Williford) Story and along with her dates was this: “TSI-TSA-LA-GI (I am Cherokee.)”

Robin began a search to solve the mystery of what descendant of Ephriam and Caroline had added the marker for Caroline. (We assumed it was placed by a descendant.)

Evelyn Hogg, the wife of Vernon Hogg, who is the great grandson of Ephriam and Caroline, was kind enough to write a letter and send a great deal of Trail of Tears information to Robin including the family story that Caroline and her younger sister Mary Williford had indeed been left behind on the Trail of Tears. (Mary's name was Benton when she married, and she died in a nursing home in Indiana.)

Vernon had put up signs pointing to the Story Cemetery around 1999, and at that time there was only Ephriam’s marker. Some three or four years ago they discovered the new marker. Like Robin, they were pleased by it, but had no idea who had put it up.

Among the information Mrs. Hogg sent was the indenture of Caroline and Mary Williford, who at ages 7 and 9 in 1846 were indentured to different families until they were 18. Mrs. Hogg had this indenture record thanks to the work of Ed Annable.

Robin had shared by email beautiful photographs that she had taken of the cemetery and tombstones, and I was fascinated by this story of two little girls left behind on the Trail of Tears. She has continued searching for more descendants and has been corresponding with them.

Just as we had conjectured, Robin was able to confirm today that the two sisters’ parents had died as a result of the Trail of Tears and that a family in Pope County had taken them in. Was this family named Williford? Or was that the original Cherokee family name? Why were the girls indentured in 1846? Did the family who had taken them in die?

As information was passed back and forth among a group of us, new information kept popping up that added new questions to the old ones. So I have deliberately only told you a bit of the story. I hope someday Robin can answer all the mysteries for us and that we will have a complete story of the Williford family members who dropped off the Trail of Tears in 1839.

Maybe by then the Illinois Chapter of the Trail of Tears Association will have a location for an accessible archive for the public. The TOTA is in the process of collecting the heartbreaking stories of broken families left behind in Southern Illinois as Cherokee were forced to relocate in Oklahoma.

If you have any information on the Story family or any other Cherokee left in our region because of the Trail of Tears, please contact anyone in the Illinois Chapter of TOTA, so we can add your information to the archives.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Life's Unexpected Turns

Knowing I would be disoriented after a trip, I was careful to plan what I would need to do after I returned before tonight’s scheduled Southern Illinois Writers Guild meeting.

Not only did I plan, but I carried out the plan. Emails were written, getting particular members together was planned, and phone calls were made. Because of my shame of running in just at closing time to get copies of agendas, etc., copied at the college’s Office of Student Affairs, I made a special trip to that office yesterday to avoid the last minute hassle. The personnel there are always extremely gracious to me when I come in hurriedly, but their kindness only increases my guilt for knowing I am being inconsiderate.

My brief case was packed for the meeting, and all the handouts copied yesterday were ready and waiting. I was excited about the program Deb Tucker had planned and was eager to see her again after her Washington, D.C., and Atlantic Ocean trip and her move to Mount Vernon. We had good publicity in local paper, and Deb had managed to get our SIWG newsletter to us despite her trip. As I talked on the phone today, I found others were also eagerly awaiting tonight’s program with Chris Beavers of Graf Ink Printing in Eldorado.

My first surprise came when Julie Durr, who was to give a report from the nominating committee tonight, phoned to say that her son had an email that John A. Logan College was closed for the day because of water problems. I double-checked the college website and tried phoning the college just to be certain that today’s closing included tonight. Although neither said anything about tonight, it was obvious if the college reopened tomorrow morning that tonight was OFF.

Before I sent an email to those people whose e-addresses I had, I decided I had better have a long-distance executive committee meeting for others’ input. First, I phoned our SIWG sponsor Harry Spiller. I figured he could give me the inside scoop. However, he was also surprised to hear about the closing; he was enroute to his son’s graduation from Navy boot camp at Great Lakes. I called Deb, so she could phone Chris Beavers, and I tried to phone Roger Poppen. (Those two were all that were left of our diminishing officers this year since adversities had forced two others to resign.)

After I had sent off emails to whomever I could, I received other emails about the closing, phoned some people who didn’t use emails, and received a phone call from someone apologizing that she could not come tonight. I also received a phone call from someone who was coming but didn’t know the college was closed. I am sure I will probably hear from someone who made the trip to John A. and found locked doors, and I feel terrible about that. Ah well.

It was an interesting day to say the least. Somewhere in here, I also managed to cancel my credit card that was not in my wallet when I started to use it yesterday afternoon. Last night I emptied the wallet and looked in every cranny of wallet, purse, and car. I searched for it again first thing this morning. I hadn’t needed it on vacation since Gerald and I were together when we bought things. I have no idea where or when it disappeared. I feel sure it was not stolen, for fortunately, no one else had used it since I last did on October 5. Yet I still knew it needed to be cancelled since I had looked every possible place. Of course, I believe I always put it back in my wallet. But it wasn’t there, so that proves I am incorrect in my belief. We use the card to get a discount on our gas, so I am going to lose out for a while until the new card arrives. GRRR.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

College Station, Texas

We’ve just returned from our Texas trip. We ate waffles in the shape of the state of Texas for breakfast at our motel, and we heard lots of football talk wherever we went. The weather was wonderful all week, and the many fluffy white clouds in the huge sky were magnificent.

We got off to a slow start from Illinois as someone ran into the back door of our car in the Kroger parking lot as Gerald was headed to the car wash after having the car serviced for the trip. The same replaced door that a pickup had jumped a curb and crushed while I was inside the mall last year was now banged up again!

Thus, we started a little later than planned and a little less calmly. Somewhere down in Arkansas, we got a warning light that a tire was low. A state policeman at the park where we’d stopped to check it recommended a place ahead. A couple of hours later we were back on the road with the tire aired up--but the tire people could not find a leak. Recently we had a tire that had to be replaced despite the fact that two local tire services could not find the tiny leak near the valve that our son-in-law finally located. So we left not feeling too comfortable about the tire. However, we were blessed with nary another trouble with that tire, so evidently the crash on the door had somehow caused that back tire to lose air.

We arrived at College Station the next day in plenty of time to find our motel and the stadium. We were there to see our granddaughter Erin catch that afternoon in two softball games against Navarro Community College. Wearing our hats to keep off the sun, we discovered a roofed stadium, which not only kept off the sun but protected us during the hard rain that fell before the game. Our worry that the games might be rained out was needless as all the brief rain did was cool the air and create a delightful temperature with a lovely breeze. Vickie and Geri Ann, Erin’s mother and sister, had also arrived; and after the games, all of us feasted at the deep-fried chicken dinner that Erin’s friend Matt had prepared for us at the house where Erin and two other softball players live with a fourth college student, whose parents had bought the house for her.

That night we fell instantly asleep and woke early enough the next morning for a leisurely breakfast and then a visit to the George Bush Memorial Library on the Texas A&M campus. Unfortunately, it was being renovated, but we saw the movie, some displays, and the miniature White House replica that has traveled throughout the country. Nearby was a small lake with many flowers and a rose garden, where the butterflies flitted everywhere. We kept walking back into the woods where George and Barbara Bush will someday be buried by their daughter Robin.

Meeting everyone for lunch, we ate Chinese and then had time to go back to the motel to rest up and prepare for the next two games against Blinn Community College, which had a very good team with four good pitchers and a coach with a fine reputation. Again we won both games and thoroughly enjoyed seeing Erin and teammates play and met a few more parents. After a late dinner with our party and sad farewell hugs, we fell into bed and another deep sleep in order to prepare for the next segment of our Texas adventure.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Rocks and Sticks

Our great grandson is visiting his grandparents. And we have been allowed to share him. Like all the children before (and I hope after) him, nothing competes in holding his long-term attention as much as rocks, sticks, and dirt--all picked up with stubby little fingers to play with, to throw, to sift, and to enjoy. I find great comfort in that.

Like many American children, he has some fantastic toys. They sing, they talk, they flash. Some toys are adorably cute, some beautiful, some softly cuddly, and some educationally inspired. He likes them and uses them and remembers them. I am sure he has learned a great deal from these presents from loved ones.

I admit to being delighted when his eye instantly caught sight of the little tractor on the bottom shelf of the coffee table in the family room. I had forgotten it was there. A long time ago, that tractor was one of two I bought for new grandsons over 14 years ago. However, after he rolled it around for a minute or two, he was ready for other excitement.

Yet playing with the little rocks and the dry dusty dirt at the softball field yesterday, he lingered much longer with nature’s toys. Hand and eye coordination were enhanced by this play just as millions of other youngsters have grown through this play. Vocabulary was increased as we talked about rocks, sticks, pick up, throw down, and dirty hands. He experienced the hardness of the rocks and the comparative softness of the dirt as he dug it out of the ground to play with.

It is fun to watch a 16-month-old explore the world and learn its secrets. All the delights that the earth offers from deer in his grandparents’ woods to ducks and geese on our lake to Chloe the dog are fascinating to him. When Chloe came up to him to be petted, those of us sitting a short distance a way saw his brain turn over. He realized that she was just the right size for him to straddle and ride. As he was contemplating this and making move to do so, fortunately he refrained and gave Chloe a loving hug instead.

Long ago when his mother was born, Katherine wrote on a family bulletin board at our house at that time: A new baby is God’s decision that the world should go on. When we took this one by to see his Great Aunt Katherine today, she was just as pleased with God’s decision as she had been about his mother.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Going to the Mail Box....

Going to the mail box has always been a big deal for a farm family. I remember the joy of walking to the Goreville mailbox as a child when we spent summers at Mount Airy Farm. Dust would splash up from the road on my bare feet and as high as my knees as I walked the long lane to await our mail carrier D.P. Jones. It was fun to plop and see how high I could make the dust rise.

If he had not already deposited the mail and gone on, there would be a friendly word or two from Mr. Jones. It was a very good break in the day. In addition to the newspaper, sometimes there were letters from my mother’s sisters or from my girl friend Bobbie Jo. Occasionally there were books that Daddy ordered from the state library system for us to read.

Later as a farm wife, I enjoyed getting long letters from former classmates or friends from other places we'd lived. When our kids went off to college and careers, I would look forward to their letters and photos of their new experiences. Now, however, they write us emails. That is good. But it diminishes the importance of the mailbox. With people writing fewer and fewer personal letters these days, it is nice to have a reason to check the mail for something other than bills and junk mail.

One of the good things about being a writer is that you have a reason to look forward to receiving mail. If you have sent out a manuscript, there is always the possibility that the post person will bring you an acceptance. Of course, too often what is brought is one more rejection letter. But the heart always hopes for good news. And the excitement of that daily drama of what the mail will bring is definitely a pleasant plus in the isolated life of writer.

Because Gerald has been serving as treasurer for our college-era Baptist Student Union group, we have been getting lots of letters back saying that people are coming or can’t come to our annual reunion that Helen Gallaway plans for us. That too has been a reason to check the mail box.

Tomorrow evening we will all gather for soup at Herrin First Baptist Church and reminisce and laugh at our college memories as well as laugh at Helen’s rapid repartee. Friends will be coming home with us to spend the night, and we’ll catch up on what is happening in their lives. Then we will go back to Herrin on Friday for more fun and fellowship, beautiful music, worship, and finally after a noon banquet, the sad farewells.

Fortunately, Christmas is coming, and our mailbox will soon be filled once again with greetings from those same old-time friends and many others. And who knows, there might even be a $20 check for a manuscript someday!

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Last Day of Summer and the Beans Are in the Bin

Soybean dust hung over the empty fields like misty fog this evening in cooling air. Barren fields stretching into the horizon are a welcome sight to a farm family.

As Gerald and I drove by Wayside Farm on the way home from Geri Ann’s ball game, we had to appreciate the joy of having a crop safely gathered this early on the last day of summer. (I guess this was the last day of summer--one source said tomorrow is.)

Combines, tractors, trucks, augers, and wagons surrounded the one grain bin that Brian has there. Even the machinery looked pleasantly tired and relaxed to have the job completed as though they were circling round to celebrate a victory.

Gerald was delighted with Phil Anderson’s huge combine with its 30-foot head that contained not an auger but a conveyer belt instead. Beans will be less damaged. He could not resist an invitation for a short ride on the huge beast when Phil moved it out of the way of an incoming smaller combine.

I waited in the car and thought of past harvests that often ended on Thanksgiving Day or beyond. We have known harvests in fields so muddy the combines had to have tracks to keep from sinking. Gerald has harvested in corn fields flattened by icy weather. Brian and Mary Ellen said at the first of this season that they knew this might be the bad year for them--all farmers have them eventually. They were trying to be prepared.

They still know that eventually they will experience that bad weather. Many did this year. Brian had his crops out early, and the right weather breaks came. Today we saw the end of the harvest of the best crops ever grown on our farm. Brian’s hard work and good management paid off again. When that bad year comes and it will, he will be that much more ready for it.

We were already in a celebratory mood after seeing Johnston City Middle School win its regional tourney and earn the right to advance to the downstate “state” tourney at Pinckneyville a week from tomorrow. The skill with which these girls play is so exciting to watch. Almost unbelievable at times. Gerald's brother Ken was seeing Geri Ann pitch for the first time this season. He was amazed and compared her to someone he knew at an Air Force base over 50 years ago--not someone he expected to see at a grade school game.

Each game demonstrates an increase in individual player’s talent as well as an increase in team work. The girls’ hard work and good management of their lives paid off again. If and when a bad time comes, they will be confident in the knowledge that they have worked hard, excelled, and deserve to respect themselves no matter what happens next.

Having Ken with us was a special reason for joy and celebration. His color and energy have returned, and his head that was balded by the chemo now displays generous wavy hair.

Next day: I was wrong that the crops were completely harvested. Mary Ellen showed up down at Woodsong to borrow a tool for Brian this morning. While I did my hair and make-up for an appointment, we had a hurried visit in my bedroom, and I found out that there were still 20 acres of beans to harvest in a back field. That was accomplished early in the day, and the good dry weather let Gerald continue working on his ditch cleaning project.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Cooler Weather

T’was loverly to wake up to cool weather this morning. Our lake was clouded with the steam rising from the water. Autumn is on its way.

By the time we got to the Benton softball field at 4:30, however, it was plenty hot with the sun coming straight into our eyes as the visiting fans faced west. It was hot Tuesday at Carterville also--the sun really baked the back of our lawn chairs that day as we faced east. And yesterday at Johnston City was not much better facing north. We hope the conference tourney up at Sesser this weekend will be cooler no matter what direction we face.

I won’t get to go to the tourney on Saturday, for I will be at the Writers Guild table at the Women’s Health Conference with Sharon Robinson, Pat Evans, and others as we sell our Guild’s anthologies and as authors sell their books. As so often happens, I would like to be two or three people. I would love to be able to attend the wonderful sessions at the conference as well as also be at Sesser at the tourney watching Geri Ann pitch.

Today’s game was a bummer. For some reason, the Benton coaches decided to not use their best pitcher. Or at least that is what we were told by our lawn chair neighbors when we arrived a little late. They also told us our other pitcher had been hit and had a bump the size of a softball on her forehead! (We were late because Gerald had been helping his brother figure his corn yields that Garry started harvesting in the Mississippi bottoms today.) Even with Johnston City putting in plenty of substitutes, the score was 20 to 0 in three innings.

I realize that often a fan does not understand why decisions are made as they are. But it was disappointing to drive all the way to Benton and expect to have a team play their best and instead to be embarrassed by such a lopsided score even if it was in our favor. Ah well.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Friends Make the World Go Around

Ever since Gerald and I spent part of our 50th wedding anniversary celebration at the Rose Hotel in Elizabethtown and learned about the Shawnee Queen River Boat Taxi, which operates on the Ohio River, we have wanted to ride it. We’d taken our friends Bill and Mickey Tweedy down to the floating river restaurant months ago, but the taxi shuts down in November and wasn’t available. So we talked about going on a ride this summer.

With this summer rapidly drawing to a close, we were afraid to postpone that desired trip much longer. Bill and Mickey could go today and so could we; we made reservations. When we woke up at Woodsong with rain, we called and asked if the taxi would operate. They assured us that only lightning or dangerous winds would shut them down for weather reasons. The Tweedys were not getting rain in Cobden, so we decided they’d come on as planned and we would re-evaluate after they got to Woodsong. We decided a little rain would not hurt us--the taxi has a roof--and the rain was very sporadic.

After enjoying a beautiful drive through the hills, we walked through sprinkles and ate a fish sandwich at the river restaurant right beside one of the docks that the taxi comes to as it makes its scheduled stops at the various Ohio River towns.

As we excitedly boarded the nearly full boat being cautious about the slick floor, a woman asked if she did not know me. We had a quick conversation before I had to sit down when the boat began traveling. We determined that we both occasionally attended the Union County Writers Group in Anna.

Next I looked up and saw a high school classmate of Gerald’s. Mickey saw a friend from Union County also. We settled in for our ride to enjoy the lovely misty atmosphere of the river on a rainy day.

Later we were to learn that all these Union County folks were with a group from Anna Heights Baptist Church. When their tour was completed and they began moving off at Rosiclare (I think it was), yet another woman said she thought she knew me. I did not recognize her and there was no time for guessing games. Tell me who you are, I said.

To my amazement, the woman was Phyllis Farris Boshera, whom I probably had not seen for 50 to 60 years. We had gone to grade school together for eight years, and we’d gone to each other’s houses after school to play.

Every time I used cross the former bridge that went over the railroad track as you left Jonesboro, I would think of Phyllis with some envy and awe. That bridge had a sidewalk beside the highway, and a concrete railing with probably 10 or 12 inches flat top. Brave little Phyllis would walk on top of that concrete railing. (She said today how good it was her parents never found that out!) I was too much of a scaredy-cat for such heroics, but I was impressed with her courage.

I also admired her baseball expertise. I was terrible and no one wanted me on their recess team. They solved the problem by letting Phyllis take my third strike each time I batted. (I never got on before that third strike.) She was well trained in baseball by older brothers. Humiliated that I could not bat for myself, I would run as fast as my short legs would carry me, which was not very fast, and was usually put out before reaching first base despite Phyllis’ hit. The fact that I never resented her taking my third strike despite my embarrassment spoke well of her kindness and generosity as well as her batting ability.

How wonderful to see a friend from so long ago. And how wonderful to spend the day chumming with Bill and Mickey. The icing on the cake was seeing Kathy Phelps’ gift shop-garden sign at her Pankeyville home, and my traveling companions being willing to stop and let me visit her amazing gardens to see the fairy lands, plants, butterflies, fossils, rocks, and multiple wonders for children to come and enjoy. I left with three of Kathy's hand-bound beautiful children’s nature books, an activity packet Kathy gave me, seeds for a plant to attract hummingbirds, and a piece of lovely blue florspar for Mickey.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Pampering, Shopping, and a Cooling Rain

Sounds of thunder came inside the mall, and I hurried to end my shopping. Welcome rain greeted me as I scurried from Dillard's with my arms full of on-sale purchases and ran out to where I had parked the car under a shade tree--with all the windows rolled down to prevent a heat build-up.

I had planned to shop until time for Geri Ann’s softball game in Johnston City. Instead, I rolled up the windows and drove happily home through the rain. (Only later did I learn it did not rain up at J.C.)

My shopping trip today was something I needed to do, and I am not often much of a shopper. However, I had done so little lately that I looked forward to it-- mostly it was to “reward” to myself for enduring the dreaded mammogram this morning. My other “reward” for this important but unpleasant duty was to resolve that today I would not hurry all day long.

I would take my time, leave the house with chores undone and give myself driving time to be there without worrying about being late. (I have a tendency to act as though I have a magic carpet that will take me from Woodsong to town and then across town in far less time than it takes to do either. Consequently, I not only arrive late, but I must drive tense scolding myself for not starting earlier. Today I was going to turn over a new leaf.

I almost achieved that goal although my desire to recycle the bag full of aluminum cans and drop off the accumulated box of newspapers in the garage almost messed me up. When I saw another car ahead of me, I debated postponing dropping them off before the appointment. But that would require extra back driving, and I wanted those two big containers out of the car. I took the chance and arrived exactly on time. So then, I got to wait awhile, but I relaxed and enjoyed the wait knowing that I would not enjoy the appointment. I left feeling very righteous that I had accomplished that task for another year.

After shopping at Stella’s and the Dollar Store, it was lunchtime, so I went to my favorite (and cheapest for me) place in town--Honeybakers. There in a pleasant atmosphere, I relaxed again with a cup of soup, a wonderful roll with sweetened butter, and tinkling ice water served in a real glass just the right size--neither too small nor awkwardly large to handle. The well-trained service was lovely and rapid. I read a little local paper, consumed my delicious soup, and was on my way in little over a half hour. (We have had such ridiculously slow service lately in some restaurants that the speed with which my food came was greatly appreciated.) The only thing that could have made it better was to have had a daughter or friend with me, but life and today’s schedule did not allow that.

Next, it was on to the mall for the shopping trip aborted by thunder. However, the rain and the cooler temperature it brought was more welcome than more shopping. After carrying in my purchases to the guest bedroom where tomorrow I will have to finish putting them away, I was able to look at the mail, read a bit, check emails, and be available to go get Gerald up at Wayside Farm when he phoned for a ride home. He had taken the tractor up there to finish mowing CRP ground before he moves on to Gerry’s place tomorrow.

After that, I got us a quick but substantial supper since Gerald had to fix his own lunch. (Not setting his place, etc. was one of the neglected activities to get me to my appointment in an unhurried fashion.) By the time I cleaned up after our meal, set the breakfast table, and fixed the morning coffee pot, it was quite late, but I read a bit more, read my California cousin’s email forwards, and wrote a long and important email for a club.

I am on my way to bed now, and it has been a pleasant day. There are umpteen things I could yet attend to, but on the day a woman gets a mammogram, she has a right to treat herself well.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Hot! Hot! Hot!

For 23 days our temperature in Southern Illinois has been above 90, and it looks like the hot weather will continue. Gerald and I watched a softball game in the heat this afternoon, and despite a sometime breeze and a huge hat, I was often uncomfortable. I was dry, dry, dry by game’s end.

I cannot understand how the young girls playing these games can take the heat, but they do. Geri Ann told me after the game that she has three tests tomorrow. She has been in school over a week now. She played a tourney last Saturday, another game on Monday, and will play in another tourney at the Johnston City field this Saturday. Today’s kids may not walk five miles to school like our ancestors did, but they are plenty tough. Much tougher than I ever was at their age.

Watching all the flooding on TV, grieving the Utah miners and the seismic conditions causing their deaths, and knowing how hot it is in Iraq, where insurgents have made sure electricity still is not constant, I know that I should not gripe about our heat wave.

Some kind of weather condition must have affected the air waves above our house tonight. We tried to watch the third of the TV series on God‘s Warriors on CNN. Suddenly the screen would go blank. Gerald learned that he could switch channels and eventually find one working (not easy), and then he could switch back to CNN and we would see more of their program. Sometimes this effort had to be repeated two or three times. Then for 10 or 15 minutes, we could watch without interruption before the screen blanked on us again. Odd--like so much of the workings of the electronic marvels in our modern life that our general science classes in the 1940s did not teach us about.

After the disrupted show and a bit of Channel 3 news, I came into my computer to erase off my two websites the announced program of the Writers Guild for September since there had been a cancellation. I succeeded easily with the first website. When I tried to do the identical thing on the second website, the edit button would bring up a blank screen.

Since I could not edit the item desired, I even pushed “delete” at the bottom of the blank screen, but when I returned to the website, nothing had changed. Everything including the announcement I wanted to delete was still there with its misinformation. I suppose whatever caused the TV problem was also causing the problem with editing my website.

Again I really should not gripe. With all the world’s problems, mine are minor in comparison. I’ll probably try one more time, and then go to bed with or without success. Ah well.

P.S. I wrote this post on Thursday night, and everything seemed to go well. It was said that the above post was published. However, when I looked at the website, this new post was not there. A half hour later it still was not there. This morning I came down to see if the entry had been posted overnight. It still was not posted. So I am starting over--just copying it and calling it a new post. HMMM.

I was mildly amused and mildly upset to see that the Southern Illinoisan's lead head line this morning was Hot! Hot! Hot! One reason I wanted to see if my blog had posted was to see if Woodsong Notes beat them to the headline. Since something failed to work right and I am just now getting this published on Friday morning (I hope), they got to use the headline first. I guess it must be true that great minds run in the same channels. Actually, the heat is so oppressive that most of the population is saying, "Hot! Hot! Hot!" So there is no great mind at work here or with the SI headline writer.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Elijah is Here--Not There!!

Elijah came down to Woodsong with the Eiler Grey groupies, and he has stayed on for his week with grandparents/cousins in Southern Illinois. Samuel came out to Woodsong from town to join him and the rest of the gang staying here. One night when Geri Ann and friend Allison came from The Mix with us, there were 12 sleeping here, and quite frankly I am not sure who slept where--but I know the living room floor was occupied.

The next day the rest of the cousins (Trent and Brianna) showed up briefly here and for an Eiler Grey concert. When Eiler Grey (the stage name that our granddaughter Leslie has chosen) and her gang left on Monday, Elijah and Sam were the only grandchildren here until they went to Sam’s house while Gerald and I went up to Sesser to Geri Ann’s first softball game for Johnston City Middle School. After the game, we picked Sam and Lige up for the night at the farm before our planned trip the next day.

We slept late on Tuesday except Gerald, of course, who was out in the garden early on gathering produce to take along and share. After cereal, we loaded the car and headed to Saint Louis and on west to Lake Saint Louis.

We forgot to take pillows to travel, but that didn’t stop the boys from sleeping--because they had stayed up visiting the night before naturally. After sleeping, watching scenery, watching videos, making phone calls, etc. Elijah and Samuel grew bored and reached the “Are we there yet?“ stage. At that point, they kept us entertained as they played with words to discover that no one can ever be “there.” You can be almost there, but you can’t be “there,” because you are always “here.” So when we finally got to Brian and Mary Ellen’s house we weren’t “there,” but we were “here.”

The boys were invited up to visit with their cousins Trent and Brianna and to help break in the newly installed swimming pool just outside the Taylors‘ back door. That activity happily occupied us for the rest of the day with breaks for lunch and supper. Lauren joined us in the evening to spend the night with Brianna. Since we had big plans for Wednesday, I was impressed when the kids all headed to their downstairs bedrooms at a decent hour. I figured they were worn out from all that swimming and ready for sleep.

Little did I know until we were almost home yesterday how late some of these jay-whos stayed up. But we will not go into that. Mary Ellen had gone down to settle them, but I think she went to sleep before they did.

Our Wednesday adventure was to explore the St. Louis City Museum that Mary Ellen’s family had discovered on a school field trip. Gerald kindly took up to a lovely seafood restaurant at Union Station before we hit the museum. After we said goodbye to the gold fish there, we hurried on because Mary Ellen assured us there was much to do at this unique museum. It was indeed an amazing experience.

Artists/craftsmen have recycled Saint Louis history in this downtown eleven-story building with a school bus sitting on top of it as though about to drive off the roof. There is an airplane up there too on the outside. And all kinds of slides, climbing chambers of spiraled wire taking you up to these weird masses of junk. This is just on the outside. Actually just a small part of the outside stuff.

Inside, we were immediately awed by the beautiful mosaic tile floor of bits and pieces making fishes and sea creatures swimming under our feet. Great columns were at the entrance made of small brown gears placed together--often with a recycled marble in the middle of the gear. They were beautiful. Other tall columns were made lovely with recycled bits of glass. Huge sea monsters, serpents, whales, and dinosaur-like creatures abounded throughout.

Four or five stories of the building were gutted and then filled with unbelievable beauty and intrigue--storefronts of historic buildings, hiding places, climbing places, catacombs, dungeons, staircases of recycled materials, slides, lovely statues, ugly gargoyles, advertisements and a rescued Big Boy, collections of marbles, rocks, pottery--often just the tops, past cigarette packages, pin ball machines, and on and on. There was a battered grand piano with the top missing--but it was in tune and the children were encouraged to play it. Sometimes visiting pianists come to present concerts on it.

Although there were young brave slender parents there with little kids, we felt our 10 to 14-year- olds were the perfect age for this museum because no way could we have possibly gone through all the narrow holes and scary climbing places they went.

After we tired out wandering and seeing the never-ending sights, we were able to sit and people watch while our kids had adventures climbing things we really would have not wanted to watch. Where we were sitting, we saw children go into a hole in the floor beside us. We felt as if we saw them go into a rabbit hole and disappear forever because we never were able to figure out where they came out.

There was a circus on one floor that our kids attended, and a couple of them came out with drawings they said an elderly man had made of them. We saw the area for the much younger kids and a lady doing crafts with a table of them and other nooks with adorable old-fashioned child furniture for them to sit on. There was a little train for the youngest children to ride also.

We stayed almost to the 5 p.m. closing time, and then we had to say good-bye to Mary Ellen and the Taylor kids as they headed west and we headed east across the mighty Mississippi into Illinois and home. Since we were already part of the way home, the trip passed quickly. We stopped in Johnston City, found out the middle-school had won their softball game, and took Gerry and Vickie and Geri Ann out to supper with us before we dropped Samuel off at his house, and brought Elijah back to Woodsong. We were here--not there--in time for an early-to-bed night’s sleep.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Eiler Grey and Troops

The family room is awash with electrical cords, guitars, and teenagers. I ought to have written on here on schedule Wednesday night--because I have had to wait my turn to use my computer today. (A computer is a necessity for today’s kids.) I accidently found myself on MySpace before I got on here.

Freeport High School’s yearbook, which just came out yesterday, is on the dining room table, and we‘ve been enjoying it. Suitcases and clothes are strewn in bedrooms. The piano is no longer longing for a pianist. Videos are being shot as speech kids do their thing. In other words, Woodsong is one cool place this hot summer weekend.

Jeannie, Leslie, Elijah and buddies Rachel, Chad, and Sam all arrived at 1:30 this morning. They had broken up their long trip down from Freeport by stopping at Charleston’s coffee house, so Leslie could sing at the open mic there.

At the moment, we all have on our black Eiler Grey T-shirts that Rachel designed for Leslie, who sings under the stage name Eiler Grey. Pretty soon we are heading to The Mix in Carterville, where Eiler Grey will be in concert tonight. (Tomorrow night will be at Common Grounds in Carbondale.) Jeannie is picking up Samuel. Aunt Vickie is dropping off Geri Ann and Allison as they travel back from Carbondale. I told Geri Ann if they want to spend night, we still have some couches and the floor available.

Teenagers are invigorating to me--their humor and energy are exciting and pleasing. I have always thought that if the energy in a high school hallway between classes could be bottled up, we could send half the population to the moon AND solve the world’s problems.

Gerald is engrossed keeping up with Gerry and the Southern Force’s 18-and-under girls softball team in Oklahoma City. Despite falling into the losers’ bracket fairly early on, Southern Force just keeps winning. (In a double elimination tourney, one more loss and we are out.) That will be the first thing I want to know when we get home from The Mix: did we win tonight?

Saturday, August 04, 2007

We Got a Rain!

The heat has been terrible, and we really have needed a rain. Gerald hauled 8 loads of water in a 200-gallon tank yesterday morning to water his garden and trees. Although he is still coughing terribly with his summer cold, he was up before five, going after the paper; and as soon as he ate breakfast, he was out gardening and gathering produce.

Because I caught his summer cold and am feeling even worse in the morning than I always do, I slept as near to 8 a.m. as I could. I excuse my late sleeping because I work late. (I call readingt/writing my work.) I keep trying to change my schedule to match Gerald’s a little more closely--but nature created me to wake up feeling terrible and to really get a second wind after supper when the house quiets, the phone stops ringing, meals are over for the day, etc.

Because of his cold and not feeling well, Gerald wanted to run to Cape Girardeau and do some errands. He wanted me to go along to search for the Big Barn area on the Mississippi River levee area. I had other plans for things I needed to do, but because I felt so bad from the summer cold, I figured that might be a profitable way to spend the day. If not profitable, at least enjoyable to chum with Gerald. We crawled into the pick-up and were off by mid-morning headed to the Mississippi Bottoms.

After we had visited with his brother Garry and nephew Kerry up by Running Lake on the Rendleman farm that Kerry leases, we went back to Route 3 and turned west at Ware towards the farm we leased so many years ago. Before we got there, however, we turned south at the old Roy Brimm place, where I used to pick up the daughter for our G.A. organization at Ware Church. The Brimm house is gone as are so many houses we used to know. I do not know who lives there now in the new house.

Gerald was of the opinion that what he thought was the Howard Davie dairy operation (a large long building still standing there from those old days) was the vicinity where the Big Barn School used to be. But he really was not sure. We realized we needed to find some older people to ask questions about where the school had been. (As we understand it, Big Barn was near Willard’s Landing.) Was there a big big barn there before the Big Barn School was built? The levee has changed the terrain from earlier eras. You certainly could not see the river from there. Too many trees and too many miles yet to the river.

We drove on south on the 1946 (or was it 1948) levee that Gerald remembered being built and making more water holes on the river side as dirt was scooped out to create the large levee replacing earlier inadequate ones. In the sloughs, I once had a glimpse of at least l0 lovely white cranes having a party at one water area.

Eventually we came to a multitude of tractors and equipment making hay from the sides of the levee. Some place in here further west on the river bank had once been the Hamburg Landing. In fact, in the 1960s, Gerald had hauled grain and sold to a local group who put corn on barges there before the group went bankrupt. With the heavy leaves on the trees, we never once saw the Mississippi River. Back on Route 146, we took the Old Cape Road toward the beutiful Cape bridge. That was a new itinerary for me and one Gerald had not driven for a long time.

We went on to Cape and Jackson. For lunch Gerald took us to a barbecue place a friend had recently introduced him to. We did our errands, filled the truck with cheaper Missouri gas, and were back on Route 146 in the Ware bottoms when we saw sprinkles of rain on the windshield. Unfortunately the sprinkles did not last long. Gerald laughed that probably not many people could brag about driving through rain.

Imagine our amazement when we got to our home territory and found it raining so hard, cars were pulling off. We had to go see the crops up at Wayside Farm, of course, and water was filling the ditches and even running over the highway a bit at one point. Probably three or four inches of rain had fallen in a very short time, and a couple of inches here at Woodsong.. The thick bright green corn and soybeans were reaching skyward as happy as we were at this blessing of water fot them to greedily drink from the earth. Coughing as he went up the stairs, Gerald went to bed early and slept well. A few hours later, I followed when I finished the novel I was reading.

Friday, July 27, 2007

River to River with Marilyn Schild

A welcome phone call invited me to go with Marilyn Schild on Route 146 to retrace the Cherokee Trail of Tears from the Ohio to the Mississippi. For years, I have wanted to do this, so I was delighted. I would not even have to drive! Gerald was interested in our proposed adventure, and that made me feel important and invigorated to have such an exciting day planned for yesterday.

We met up at the Kroger parking lot promptly at nine and were off down Route 57 to Route 24 to Vienna and were on the Trail of Tears at Route 146. At Golconda, we drove by the painted mural and then up on the levee enjoying our view of the Ohio but imagining hordes of Cherokee leaving behind the sadness of Hopkinsville. There flags at graves of their revered leaders White Path and Fly Smith told them of one more loss that this forced march had cost them.

We drove up to Buell House and the Davidson cabin and looked into windows before climbing back in Marilyn’s vehicle to leave Golconda behind. We passed two different bridges over swampy creek areas with cypress growing and wondered which or if both were ones requiring corduroy roads to be built for the 1838 caravans to continue. We passed through Vienna and West Vienna and remembered some of the stories associated there. Next we saw the fragile barn on the north side of Route 146, which contains the log structure of the Bridges Tavern, recently put on the list of endangered sites by the Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois. Pleasant Grove Church was a couple miles up the road--also on the north.

Going on to Union County, we soon saw Mt. Pleasant Road, and Marilyn headed up it. I had a briefcase along full of saved articles, documents, maps, and books--and I usually found information after we had already passed the site. However, Jon Musgrave’s photo of the house at Mt. Pleasant that had been a wayside store was in my hands. There was no doubt when we came to the columned brick home. Resisting any desire to disturb the residents, Marilyn headed up the tree-covered lane behind that probably still looked much like it did in 1838 although by the time the December detachments passed through, the road was probably a molasses of mud and the trees would have been leafless. We were grateful for her SUV that allowed us to go to the lane’s dead end and envious of the folks camping there.

Back to Route 146, we hurried to eat at the Potato Barn only to find the parking lot crammed with the luncheon crowd. Not wanting too much of a delay, we decided to eat on our way back from the end of the Trail. On around the square in Jonesboro, I imagined that the bank was still Winstead Davie’s store. On down Willard’s Ferry Landing Road, I nodded down Cook Street, where I lived as a child and where some detachments went up and over Pansy Hill and some were turned away.

We kept going to the Dutch Creek, Sand Dug Hill, Clear Creek area where thousands had been penned up unable to get across the Mississippi River. Without proper clothes, moccasins, nor blankets, here the detachments of native preachers Rev. Stephen Foreman and Rev. Jesse Bushyhead and the white assistant conductor Rev. Evan Jones met up. I tried to hear the many prayers and songs praising God that were sent Heavenward here as the Christians held their Sunday services in freezing weather and suffered illness and death.

Going onto Ware, we went on as far as the levee (again an area where I once lived). We knew Willard’s Landing used to be over there somewhere on the riverside. When we lived in the Mississippi bottoms a half century ago, people used to refer to Big Barn as though, of course, anyone knew where Big Barn used to be. Yet no one ever showed me exactly where it was or how to get there, so I was unable to show Marilyn further.

We traveled on down 146 to Reynoldsville to take the Old Cape Road home. I wanted Marilyn to see Mission Valley Church and Fair City and Ronald and Deborah Charles’ Trail of Tears dude ranch. Enjoying the same beautiful hills Gerald and I had traveled less than two weeks before and going past Lyerla Lake and the hunting lodge there that Marilyn and her late husband had traveled to on their motorcycles when her son hunted there, we journeyed on to Route 127 and back up to the Jonesboro Square.

A co-worker of Marilyn had praised a Mexican restaurant there, and we were hungry and decided to try it. The eatery we found open turned out to be a Columbian restaurant, not Mexican, and located in the dry goods side of the old Clingingsmith Store where my parents bought me school shoes as a child. In pleasant surroundings, we enjoyed a delicious meal and a gregarious host who had traveled all over the world before leaving New York City’s Fifth Avenue to move to Jonesboro.

Enjoying a day on the Trail of Tears is always shadowed by a sense of shame at man’s inhumanity to man and the strong wish that the Cherokee could have experienced it differently.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Searching for Trails

When Gerald went to Cape Girardeau for a tractor part on Monday morning, I tagged along.

We had often traversed Route 146 from Jonesboro to Ware when we lived in the Mississippi bottoms. A few summers ago, we had driven slowly, stopped often, and searched ditches diligently for the Trail of Tears marker we both remembered. A photograph of the marker by the late Geneva Wiggs had been on the 2000 summer issue of Saga of Southern Illinois. Carole Watkins, who had grown up in that area, was emailing me directions from California assuring me the marker was there. She had just seen it that summer. Finally, she sent me her photographs to prove it. But the marker was gone. No one seems to know what happened to it.

The identical marker (both put up by the state in 1935) had long before disappeared from the more eastern area on Route 146. When Interstate 57 went in, King Neptune’s grave was moved to the Trail of Tears rest stop on the northbound traffic side; evidently the Trail of Tears marker near it had already been stolen. Sadly (and almost inconceivably), the Trail of Tears rest stops carry no information about the Trail of Tears.

But on Monday, Gerald and I were looking for the Trail of Tear routes that went south of Route 146. Recently we had been studying Marie Exter’s 1994 maps that she had shared with Geneva Wiggs, who had shared copies with me. Learning from Robin Roberts about the Lakota Sundance held in the open area south of the water plant, we wanted to see the trails that evidently led to Hamburg Landing three-and-a-half miles south of Willard’s Landing on the Mississippi River.

The detachments going to Willard’s Landing had used the route we call Route 146 and were stranded in the area of Dutch Creek, Sand Dug Hill (not dug yet), and Clear Creek before the sloughs stopped them from going on over to the Mississippi River where ice floes made getting across the river impossible for three or more weeks.

Darrell Dexter in his Saga article felt the various detachments used all the ferries on the river at that time--the two Willard brother ferries (sometimes called by their predecessor’s name of Green’s Ferry, the ferry at Hamburg Landing with Bainbridge Ferry coming over from the Missouri side to the sandbar there, and finally Smith’s Ferry leading to Cape Girardeau. It would take two or three days to ferry a detachment of l000 people across the Big River.

For Gerald this travel on Berryville Road past Lockard Chapel Church was a trip back to his boyhood. Almost every farmhouse we saw, he could remember visiting there or knowing the people back then. We had actually traveled these same roads with our friends Tom and Lois (Ferrell) Doctor a few years back--but then we were looking for traces of Lois’s ancestors--not traces of the Cherokee.

We could not resist going up to where Atwood Tower used to be. Gerald remembered the days he spent in the tower with his uncle Francis Wenger. They’d leave Uncle Francis’ car or truck at the home of Louie Kelley’s sister and walk the rest of the way when the road was not passable. Gerald said a day spent in the tower watching for smoke could become a very boring day. I bet he or his brothers livened it up for Uncle Francis, who had some sort of instrument that he could use to pinpoint the location of a fire and send word to the firefighters. Fortunately, we did not meet any other vehicles since the gravel road was not built for two cars to pass.

Although we found no traces we could recognize, we were impressed with the breath-taking steepness and beauty of the tree-covered hillsides. It was a stunning wilderness and a beautiful drive with slim but tall leafy trees reaching up trying to find sunlight. Yet I thought how difficult it must have been for the hungry Cherokee to look for game in those steep hillsides.

We went to the dead end of another road searching for a possible passage to Route 146 going south from Ware, but the road turned into a path Gerald’s pickup could not take. We had to go back and across Dutch Creek to Route 146 going south, where we crossed Dutch Creek again. Dutch Creek runs north and under the bridge on 146; and finally up above the old Morgan School area, it runs into Clear Creek, which runs south. (I hope I got that right--Gerald kept trying to explain it to me.)

We came home using the Old Cape Road with a brief side trip through Mission Valley country. From the road signs there, I guess that little village, which is known for producing both brains and musicians, may be called Fair City. I would love to attend the church there some Sunday.

But when we were growing up, we had heard that area referred to as either Ubydam Hollow or Ibedam Hollow. Like most people, I was never sure which dam hollow people were talking about, and I am not sure I had ever visited those hollows before. It was peaceful and lovely.

We continued on by Lyerla Lake and somehow onto Airport Road (which I understand is where Tickie Norris and a friend would light their plane in the old days) and finally came back out by Lockard Chapel and back to Route 146.

A brief visit with Geneva Wiggs’ daughter Billie Kaye to return some photographs made the day complete.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Summer Good-byes

Summer Good-byes

For breakfast, I met my friend Deb Tucker at the new KB Barbecue (which us old timers will probably still be calling Pulleys for the next ten years). Deb and husband are leaving by train to go the beautiful scenic route from Chicago to the state of Washington to visit his mother. Deb and I needed to have a final visit since it will be a few weeks before our schedules allow another get together.

Tonight Gerald and I took granddaughter Erin out to supper before she leaves in the morning for the 766-mile trip to Texas A & M at College Station. Since it was her farewell meal, we let her choose the restaurant, and she chose Benny‘s. It seems only yesterday we were there welcoming her home from college. It has been so nice having her around this summer. We are going to miss her.

She was on her way to another friend’s house after our supper to say goodbye and celebrate the friend’s birthday a day early. We went on to to Katherine and Dave’s house as Gerald had made copies of a photograph of all ten cousins taken up at Jeannie’s house last November. Tara had given us the photo in a special frame for Christmas, and Erin requested a copy, so Gerald made Katherine one too.

Summer brings opportunities for visits with friends and loved ones, but they must end with goodbyes. I have always realized that one reason I write is in rebellion against the transiency of life. I want to capture and hold the moments and make them permanent--without goodbyes. Gerald’s photographs do the same for us. We can hold the precious moments in our hands and see it all again.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Bun, Charlene, Collin

Instead of writing here on Wedesday night, I keep getting later and later in the week. When Audrey Biby phoned Saturday afternoon with the sad news of her father's death--just after he had fixed Audrey and Alan hamburgers for lunch and they had had a good time together--I thought I would write after his Tuesday funeral about the good life of William Martin "Bun" Handkins.

How Gerald has enjoyed visiting with Bun and hearing about his work in the coal mines as a very young man--being in charge of the mules down there. Of course, he stayed in the mines through all the later technology. Gerald never came home from Bun's house without having his spirits lifted. Bun would insist on feeding Gerald cashews or something and getting him a drink of ice water. Gerald would try to tell him to let him do it, but Bun wanted to serve him that water--even though the walk to the kitchen sometimes made him shaky.

The last time I visited with him, he was admitting that maybe he needed to accept Audrey and Alan's repeated invitation to come live with them. "If you can't keep care of things, maybe you better move on," he explained. But by the time Gerald visited him next, Bun thought surely he could stay one more winter in his own home that he loved so well.

He would have been 94 at the end of this month, and he still was going up and down the stairs to the basement, riding his tractor, driving his pickup to town, and relishing life. His niece down the road checked on him every afternoon and fed him many home-cooked meals. Gerald will miss hearing Bun brag on brother Kenny's expertise on the dozer and on our son-in-law's crops and straight rows. Not long ago, Bun had made a special stop by McDonald's just to check up on Kenny. We will miss his dropping by the farm. A good life well lived continues to be a joy.

On Sunday afternoon, we got a call about the death of Gerald's first cousin Charlene Givens. She was 79 and had been quite ill for a long time. She was always a favorite. We were saddened all over again. However, like Bun, Charlene had lived a very useful and full life and had loved many people and made many of us happy with her enthusiasm and concern. I will never forget her smile nor her laugh.

Then, however, we learned of the death of a young man in a truck accident on Sunday morning. He left behind a wife and baby girl. Although we had never met Collin Petty, we knew his parents and sister. When our granddaughter rented his grandmother's former home, Collin had been kind to her. We had prayed for Collin's daddy when he was so ill.

Many years ago, we had grieved the tragic accident of his aunt's young husband Joey Rumfelt down in the Ware community in the Mississippi bottoms. Joey was Ken and Opal's nephew and the cousin of our children's cousin, and he too left behind a young wife and baby. Ware Baptist Church was so crowded with mourners that I remember thinking what if the floor caved in.

Now this family had to go through all this again. Our hearts ache for them. The death of those of us who are at the end times of our lives is both appropriate and expected, and we often consider it a good thing even as we grieve. (When my adored father died, I really was not even able to allow myself to fully grieve for a couple of years because when I would start to grieve, I would feel selfish for wanting him to stay on earth.)

But it is much more difficult to process the unexpected death of a young parent and a beloved son who we feel has so much to live for. We have had too many of these difficult accidents in our area as well as the loss of our young service people in Korea, Viet Nam, and now Iraq. When I work on family history, I do not feel sad about the deaths that I record of older people. Oddly, I don't think we ever quite get over the sadness of those who die young.

We find ourselves still grieving for Charlene's mother who died of a stroke at age 26 when Charlene was only four. I still grieve for my mother's mother who died when my mother was six. No, that is not exactly correct. I grieve that my mother and siblings had to grow up without their mother. It meant so much to Mother when she visited Uncle Henry in the Mt. Vernon hospital and went in to help a patient in the next room who was calling for a nurse who did not come--and Mother found out that elderly person had known her mother! Such a small tie--but it meant a great deal to one deprived of a mother.

I still grieve the death of Gerald's uncle Oard Glasco, who was murdered before any of us were even born. A bunch of rowdies crashed a teenage party. (And I sometimes grieve for those rowdies, who were never convicted but had to live with this knowledge all their lives.)

Our children always grieved the death of Gerald's baby brother Clay, who died before Gerald or his siblings were born. Elijah Clay Eiler carries his name. I comfort myself that those who die young do not usually have to experience the grief of death of their loved ones--nor any other of life's hardships or illnesses they might have had to experience if their adulthood continued. It is important to realize we better express love and appreciation while we can. Those are the memories we cherish.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Catching Up

The rains continue, and I am using the rainy days to catch up on bill paying and correspondence. And laundry. I still have all the guest bedroom linens to go. And I finished All the Pretty Horses.

I’d cleaned the magazine racks and carried the magazines to the car trunk intending to take them to the Veterans Hospital as I do every so often. Just as I was ready to leave the house this afternoon, the sunny weather turned to a deluge--our previous rains had been gentle. I figured I would have to postpone getting the magazines out of the trunk--but late in the afternoon, the rain had completely stopped and I completed that recycling task.

When Erin dropped in for lunch yesterday, I’d already planned to use all the left-over veggies in the fridge, so I did not change the menu--just added a few more of the frozen strips of chicken breasts to be braised in olive oil. I still had a few leftover cookies from Don and Ernestine’s visit to feed her. This afternoon I went grocery shopping to replenish our empty fridge and pantry.

Gerald is still trying to figure out what some grandkid did to his TV controller. It keeps being locked on “record” and the Disney Channel, and then he can’t get to channel he needs. He had graciously turned his big-screen TV in the family room over to the children full time while they were here, but the after effects are a bit much since he would really like to watch his news shows and softball games. Ha.

His garden looks great after the rains. Actually, it looked good before. For both our sakes, I am glad it is smaller this year. We had our first zucchini while Don and Ernestine were here and I made a vegetable casserole. Since then, I’ve added a whole one to our evening soup. Yet already I have two more than we can eat on the kitchen counter. Guess I will have to think about making zucchini bread for the freezer.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Wyoming Visitors

Because of brother Ken's diagnosis of leukemia, the only sister of the four Glasco brothers came for two weeks back in February to visit with all of us, but most especially to visit Kenny. She promised him she'd be back to breakfast with him. And she and Don are here now to fulfill that promise.

After a trip through New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma, the Gambles arrived at brother Garry and Ginger's house in the Mississippi bottoms Wednesday afternoon. This is the home farm where Ernestine grew up. After failing to make telephone contact with Gerald and Ken, the two brothers from Union County took the Gambles to Ullin for supper at the barbecue place they are fond of. However, the next morning, thirteen of us gathered at the Marion Cracker Barrell. The four brothers, who look so much alike, are well known by waitresses there, who seem to enjoy bringing them extra biscuits and gravy.

Jeannie and two daughters delayed their parting for Freeport in order to see her Aunt Ernestine and Uncle Don. And she got to see her local cousins Tim and Kerry to boot.

After returning to Union County and visiting more with Garry and Ginger and then on to Keith and Barbara's farm for a visit, the Gambles arrived at Woodsong last night. I had already had to leave for Writers Guild, so I did not get to visit with them again until after the meeting, but that gave Gerald time for a good visit. If they had gotten here earlier, I would have tried to get them to go with me to hear romance writer Bobbi Smith since both Don and Ernestine are excellent writers.

I came home happily babbling about Bobbi Smith's great talk, Don shared anecdotes about his creative writing students at Rock Springs, and Ernestine told funny library stories. They both read little Cecelie's first grade manuscript from last year about the death of her neighbor, who had favored her with friendship and tea parties. We all looked at the great pictures Don had already printed out at Garry's house of the five Glasco siblings at breakfast and an adorable picture of Cecelie that Ernestine had taken. There's an extra to send to Jeannie.

Today Don and Ernestine have gone in to spend the day in Marion with Ken and Opal--the real reason for their visit right now. Happily, after three chemo treatments and 75 days in the hospital this spring, Ken has gotten great reports with white blood cells and platelets high. We are rejoicing.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Hot dogs! Hot dogs! Hot dogs!

When the grandkids come to Woodsong, it is difficult to know what their newest tastes in food have become. Sometimes something they liked the year before no longer entices them. Nevertheless, I know they usually like kid menus better than the menus I serve when their parents are here.

Even desserts and snacks are sometimes difficult to figure out. I had baked a few cookies (from a prepared dough) before they came, and I don't think they touched a one. Gerald and I probably ate those few cookies as we did the banana pudding. I had meant to have the kids make some more cookies from the simple-to-bake cookie dough, but then decided that might not be a good activity for them if they didn't like the cookies. The angel food cakes went over great and so did the vanilla pudding. And the moose tracks ice cream!

Although they did not seem to enjoy the hamburgers, the hot dogs were well received. Thus, early in the week, we had hot dogs for lunch two different days. Not that Gerald and I should be eating hot dogs, but I didn't get alternate menus prepared for us. We also had bacon twice for the supper menu since I can count on Trent and Samuel being very happy if I fry bacon. (I don't fix bacon for Gerald and me often either.)

Well, Friday came and the end of Vacation Bible School activities. As has not infrequently happened down through the years, the VBS picnic fell on our wedding anniversary. Gerald made a point to come to the church pavilion to eat picnic with the grandkids to celebrate our 51 years together. Of coure, Jo Barger had lots more goodies to go with the hot dogs and it was a delicious meal.

The kids were invited to the Cullys to swim that afternoon and had worked up an appetite--so I reheated macroni and cheese from an earlier meal and set out a bowl of peaches to feed them a substantial snack. I knew they might be too hungry if they had to wait for supper at the tailgate party that Samuel's church was having in town for the close of their VBS.

Although Samuel came out to play every afternoon--thanks to Vera Pulley who brought him out, he went to VBS at his own church. We enjoyed the program Sam and his VBS friends gave for the parents and grandparents and then went out to the church parking lot for a supper of grilled HOT DOGS. And our kids happily ate their share. I was still satisfied from the mac/cheese snack and skipped the hot dogs. But Gerald and I felt we had celebrated our 51st wedding anniversary in style. We can have steak anytime, but celebrating with grandchildren at their activities can't be beaten.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Trail of Tears from River to River at the GSSI Spring Conference

Genealogists of Southern Illinois spent a beautiful spring day June 9th remembering some of the horrors of a brutal cold winter in this area over 166 years ago. At that time, approximately 11,000 Cherokee trekked from the Ohio River to the Mississippi River on their way to Indian Territory.

The Board of the Illinois Chapter of the Trail of Tears presented a morning-long symposium at the Spring Conference of the Genealogical Society of Southern Illinois at John A. Logan College in Carterville. Conference Chair Mike Brush indicated that the large crowd in attendance was evidence of the interest that has developed in the area for information on the Trail of Tears.

Despite the absence of two panelists due to illness, not a minute was wasted to convey as much information as possible about the tragic story of the forced removal of the Five Civilized Tribes from their homeland. The audience was encouraged to join the Trail of Tears Association and help the Illinois Chapter to discover the exact route of the Trail, collect the stories of the Cherokee who were left behind in this state, and memorialize both the ones who died and the ones who endured the cruel march.

As moderator. after introducing the TOTA Board, I gave a brief background of the attitudes and events leading up to the Indian Removal Act in 1830 and the United States Senate’s ratifying by one vote in 1836 the fraudulent Treaty of New Echota.

Illinois chapter president Sandy Boaz, a charter member of both the national TOTA in 1993 and the Illinois Chapter in 2003, explained the role of the TOTA in helping the National Park Service in the creation, development, and interpretation of the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail established by Congress in 1987.

After a brief break for the audience, Harvey Henson of the Southern Illinois University at Carbondale geology department, gave a power point presentation telling about the ongoing remote sensing project at Camp Ground Cumberland Presbyterian Church Cemetery in Union County. Oral tradition has passed down that a large area of the cemetery was where Mr. George Hileman allowed the Cherokees camping there to bury their dead that dreadful winter. The SIUC work is confirming the exact location of those graves.

Next Joe Crabb told of the Cherokees coming across the Ohio River from Kentucky into Golconda and had the crowd laughing at the evaluation of the Golconda residents found in Rev. Daniel S. Butrick’s journal. Joe gave his educated guess as to where the Trail went through Pope County explaining that he was convinced that some used the roadway through his farm.

Gary Hacker took over to share what is known about the location of the Trail through Johnson County. He talked about sites known as Gillespie, McCorkle Creek, Vienna, Dutchman Creek, West Vienna, Hezekiah West, Cypress, Ferne Clyffe, and Cache Bottoms, He explained how the Illinois Chapter had secured legislation in November to make Route 146 a designated historic trail for the state and his efforts now to obtain appropriate signage. With help from Juanita Whiteside, the Illinois Chapter has succeeded in getting Bridges Tavern (still existing inside a barn on north side of 146) put on the Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois’ current list of endangered sites.

Sandy Boaz discussed the Trail beginning at the Union County line. Her ancestor George Hileman had allowed the Indians to camp on his farm and chop the woods there for their firewood. He had previously buried two of his small children in the field where they were camping, and they were allowed to bury their dead there too. In was in the 1850s that Mr. Hileman donated land for the church and its cemetery. She talked about the Cherokee going through Jonesboro and onto Dutch Creek where the floes preventing crossing on the Mississippi River caused groups to stop. There were probably 8000 backed up for over a month between the two rivers.

While eating their box lunches, many chose to listen to Marion Mitchell’s power point presentation on the Indians in Illinois during the time when the British encouraged them to make war on pioneer settlers.

The afternoon ended with the powerful historically accurate dramatic portrayal by Tony Girard enacting the service of a common soldier during Cherokee round-up in Georgia. After the fictional soldier’s enlistment was up, he then signed on as a teamster with a contractor traveling with the Cherokee. By the time he reached the Mississippi River, he could take no more of the death and disease he had to observe.

Several audience members stayed on to meet with former GSSI president Phillip Stucker, who was visiting from Texas. He gave another power point rendition of the Trail of Tears Association and answered genealogical questions in the room where there was a display of notebooks and materials on the Trail.