Friday, April 27, 2007

The corn is planted.

On Monday Gerald did help Brian some by going to Cyprus to get some kind of harness for some kind of farm machine. That allowed Brian to continue non-stop planting. By Tuesday, Brian was done with his corn planting and heading back to work in Saint Louis. The new planter must have worked well for him to be through so quickly. Gerald also helped our neighbor Scott on Monday, and this coming Monday will help him plant corn over at Ridgeway.

We drove to the softball game at Johnston City yesterday in the rain, but everything was clear to play when we arrived at the ball field. About the fifth inning, it started raining some and like many others, I went to the car to get the umbrella. But it was not needed very long.

After the game, we went by our daughter Katherine’s house to eat a piece of her birthday cake and take a gift. Back home, I tried to get to bed early because I had planned to treat myself to a day with the Union County Writers Group who were having a critique session. I printed out a manuscript for that activity plus a couple of others to submit to publications and tried to get organized for the trip to my home county.

Today I enjoyed a great day at Anna on Friday at Joanne Blakely’s as she invited the group to her home for a day of sharing, critique, lunch, and getting our manuscripts ready for the new anthology deadline coming up. I enjoyed meeting her son Davoss and fellowshipping with the other writers around her table.

After a lovely day at Joanne’s with other writers, I stopped by the post office to mail a manuscript that needed weighing to make sure it was not over the one ounce limit. It was, so I am glad I was cautious. Then onto Country Cupboard to leave more of my books there, and finally out to visit my cousin Mickey, who was at her son and daughter-in-law’s country home.
They have moved into and remodeled one of the beautiful Victorian farmhouses east of Anna on Route 146. When I was a little girl going with Daddy to the farm at Goreville, I always wondered who lived there in those large houses with well-kept lawns and envied whoever it was. At last at age 73, I have finally been to visit in one of these homes. And even more important, I met Taj, Mickey’s new grandson born in October. Almost three now, older brother Camden has grown up considerably since the last time I visited him at his previous neighborhood.

The drive down and back to Union County was lovely, and the day had been a perfect day. Eager to get home, I cut through the country and decided to skip going to the grocery store to buy the items on the list I have carried for a week now. I can do that tomorrow.

Unfortunately, I have not come to the end of a perfect day. The first thing Gerald told me when I went out to his shop to visit a minute was that our great grandson, Aidan, in Aurora was very sick. Gma Vickie took off work early and hurried up there. We prayed for him at supper longer than usual, and he is in my prayers right now.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Good to Be Home!

No matter how much I like to travel nor how much fun we have had, I always feel glad to be home again. Gerald feels the same way.

After a supper yesterday with our granddaughter Erin, her parents, and Geri Ann in South Bend, Indiana, Gerald and I set out for home. Although we had the thought that we would stop and get a motel room if we got too sleepy, I was not surprised that Gerald just kept driving and we ended up at Woodsong shortly after midnight. I was worn out and had not driven a mile, but Gerald seemed to be going stronger each time we stopped for a rest stop.

On our trip up to Freeport to visit with our daughter Jeannie‘s family, Gerald's legs were growing cramped from driving. We impulsively pulled off Interstate 57 and stopped at Mattoon and ran by my brother’s Jim and wife Vivian’s house. I had thought we might stop on the way home, so I had grabbed a photograph for Jim off the dining room chair at Woodsong as we walked out. Gerald had made the photo of Jim’s Anna-Jonesboro Class of 1946 reunion from a clipping my friend Lois in California sent me from our hometown paper.

After a brief visit, we Jim and Vivian's house with me five books richer. Vivian, an avid reader, had a stack of books she had already read and was ready to give away. I also saw her latest quilt top--the 90th one she has made since retirement. I wonder how many books she has read in retirement. I talk about reading--but Vivian accomplishes it.

We checked into the motel near Jeannie’s home that allows us to have the grandkids come over and swim. Unexpectedly the motel was serving soup in their dining room that evening, which was the perfect supper for us since we had eaten a very late lunch at Urbana at the Red Lobster and were still full. We were invited for pizza at Jeannie’s but declined since the soup was so handy and we could use time to unpack and relax. Later Gerald took me over to the Eilers' house to go with them to the Thursday performance of Showtime--the musical extravaganza that Freeport High School puts on each spring. Gerald went back to the motel to rest. Showtime was spectacular and almost incredible to be produced by secondary students. After touring backstage, meeting the director, and congratulating Leslie and a few other cast members, the Eilers dropped me back at the motel for a night’s sleep.

Next morning Gerald was up bright and early although he had not gone to bed until after I got home from the musical. He had already eaten breakfast and been on a morning walk outside by the time he was back in our room polishing his shoes, and I woke up with the bed shaking from his vigorous rubbing of the shoes.

At our request, Jeannie dropped off Cecelie, so we could take her to school, and we thoroughly enjoyed that. Gerald got a picture of our little sweet second grader and her backpack.

Next, we ran over to Carl Sandburg School to see Jeannie’s great (huge) art room. I loved it because it had a concrete floor and looked like a very practical place for kids to do art without fear of upsetting someone by dropping a bit of paint somewhere. (I am always amazed at how many people fail to realize that having a shiny new immaculate art room with pressure to keep it that way destroys children’s creativity.) Of course, Jeannie’s posters urging children to feel free to make mistakes and to experiment re-enforced the creative environment.

After more rest, lunch at a favorite restaurant, and a nap, we were ready for Cecelie and Elijah’s arrival to swim until Rick took us all out to dinner. All except Leslie, who had already gone on to prepare for Showtime, of course. That evening, we saw another wonderful show, and I could tell from his laughter that Gerald enjoyed it as much as I did the night before.

After a brief visit back stage with Leslie and then with the Eilers at their house after the show, we hurried to bed so we could be up and on the road to Notre Dame early the next morning. Having frozen last fall up there and heard then how cold last spring’s softball games were, we were well equipped with blankets, jackets, coats, gloves, etc. However, the sun was blazing hot for the Saturday afternoon‘s double header with the Louisville Cardinals, and we were sunburned quickly. The cold-weather preparation was never taken from the car.

On Sunday after worship at Granger Missionary Church over the border in Michigan, we hurried to the ball field for another double header--this time with the South Florida Bulls. The weather was wonderful with a great breeze along with the sunshine. By this time, I had finally acquired a new supply of sunscreen for this summer, so the Saturday sunburn did not worsen.

After another supper with Erin and family, we were ready to head back to Southern Illinois. One aspect of coming home that I do not like is the re-orientation, which includes skimming the newspapers and collected mail and deleting all the junk emails and quickly trying to digest the important ones. One sign of the times is that we rarely have large numbers of messages on the telephone answering machine while we are gone. With cell phones and emails, we use the house phone less and less.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Double Digit Birthday for Sam

A special double digit birthday for Samuel was celebrated today because he reached 10. It was fun at the small family party tonight to hear him tell about all the wondrous things they did this morning in the new kids’ science class he started at John A. Logan College.

I had trouble believing him when he told that they set their hands on fire! His unblemished hands seemed to deny that. But the teacher had them wash their hands in soapy water to which he had added something that got in the bubbles and flamed up and away when the hands were lit. I can’t remember what it was he added but the men all knew and understood. I wouldn’t want to promote this experiment anyway without that teacher there to supervise. And they cut up a cow’s eye. All kinds of such excitement! I liked hearing about it.

His cousin Trent spent the afternoon with him, and they are already anticipating the Star Wars kid party tomorrow afternoon since they are both Star War fans. Big brother Davie’s gift of a Star War chess set was a big hit tonight.

I’d spent the afternoon at Camp Ground Church listening to local people tell their family stories about family members who participated, observed, or dropped off the Trail of Tears through Southern Illinois. These stories also were wondrous but very sad. We cannot imagine the horrors that were forced upon the five civilized tribes--Seminoles, Creeks, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Cherokees--as treaties were broken with their nations, and whites took over their property and made them march west against their will to a land they feared--and that was already occupied by other tribes.

Trekking from the Ohio River to the Mississippi River, many of the Cherokee were trapped here because of ice floes on the Mississippi. These stranded groups experienced one of the most gruesome times on the Trail of Tears. Their babies sometimes froze in their arms, their bare feet left blood in the snow, and many who died here could not always be properly buried.

Before there was a Camp Ground Church, there was a wooded knoll at that hillside with five nearby springs. Both Native Americans and early pioneers choose to camp there as they traveled the Lusk Trail from east to west or the main trail south to Fort Massac.

George Hileman was an early farmer who acquired that knoll and surrounding farm land. In 1836 during an epidemic of some sort, he and his wife lost two children and buried them near their home.

Some of the first of the eleven Cherokee detachments going through this region during the Forced Removal got across the Big River before the floes. However, perhaps as many as 8000 were stranded here for weeks. Cherokee were spread out from the Ohio River to Dutch Creek and Clear Creek west of Jonesboro, where the sloughs prevented their camping any closer to the Mississippi.

Many were camping at the Hileman farm--some estimate maybe 3000 were there. The freezing Indians cleared the wooded knoll for firewood for their camp fires. The Hilemans gave them permission to bury their dead in the field where their children were buried. In 1850, he gave land for the church when it was established and soon afterward land for the cemetery that exists around the church today. Mr. Hileman's great great great granddaughter, Sandy Boaz and her husband Dwight are members of the Camp Ground congregation. Sandy worked for 20 years accumulating the evidence and documentation that caused the National Park Service to make Camp Ground Church and Cemetery a certified Trail of Tears site. The hospitality shown by this congregation in this beautiful rural church building is always warm and genuine, which must please Mr. Hileman very much. (Yes, I deliberately used a present tense verb. I think he knows about the present congregation following his example.)

The stories told this afternoon made it clear that the suffering was intense and prolonged long after the Trail of Tears. Leaving their beautiful farms and snug cabins behind and starting over from scratch in Indian Territory, a part of which became the state of Oklahoma in 1906, caused continued economic harm that is still felt today. On the other hand, if hardship makes humans tough, the Cherokee who did not die on the Trail of Tears had proof forever after of how strong they were and how deserving they were of the pride they had in themselves.

Yet just as our service people never get over the war-time horrors they live through, James Mooney discovered when he interviewed the Cherokee many decades later that they too were haunted the rest of their lives by the terrible times in Southern Illinois in that dreadful winter of 1838

Friday, April 06, 2007

Good Friday Morning Musings

Perhaps the Lord knew we needed Easter Sunday to remind us that sometimes the darkest hours are followed by the happiest conclusions.

Spring is always a busy time making adjustments to warmer weather and more outdoor life. I’d just become used to realizing I needed short sleeves to be comfortable at ball games when this present cold snap hit. Now for this weekend at least, I must remember to take a jacket when I leave the farm. Because of all the busyness and some other writing I have been trying to accomplish, I am running late this week writing on Woodsong Notes.

While the Eilers were down last weekend, Elijah helped me place the three or four stuffed bunny rabbits that I use for Easter decorations. As I do every year, I have placed Jane Perr’s beautiful Ukrainian eggs around the shelf that lines the guest bathroom. Actually I had her create the eggs for our children--but I am hanging onto them until I die. Then they can inherit them. In the meantime, I get to enjoy them. Ha.

The ham is in the fridge waiting to be prepared for Sunday dinner. I used up the potatoes that started growing eyes underneath the kitchen sink, and I bought fresh potatoes to peel for the scalloped potatoes. I’ve got to start the layered gelatin salad today. I still need to check the freezer and decide what veggies I’ll serve with the ham and potatoes. I’m trying to get the house in decent shape for holiday guests.

Some years at our annual church egg hunt on Saturday, we’ve given each child a $1 gift certificate to a local eatery. One year we just gave them the dollar bill, so the parents wouldn’t have to take them anywhere, certificates wouldn’t get lost, and the child coould use the money for anything he or she wants instead of just food. We decided to do that again this year, but unlike the previous time, I could not find a bank with brand new fresh bills. I tried two, and I may try a third bank on Saturday morning. Otherwise the kids are stuck with “dirty” money. Ah well. They won’t care as much as I will.

Our daughter Katherine is to come home from Herrin Hospital’s rehab department today. We are grateful that the various therapies have her stronger again. Gerald’s brother Ken and his wife Opal came home Wednesday evening from John Cochran V.A. Hospital in Saint Louis. I think Ken was there 19 days.

After a week at home, Ken must take a third chemo treatment. But yesterday he was out and about drinking coffee with his buddies, looking and sounding great. Gerald has made him some enlarged photos of their father’s hunting hounds to cheer him up. Originally Ken wasn’t allowed flowers at the hospital. I don’t know if that restriction is in place now or not, but I think he’ll like the photos better. And I am sure Opal has plenty of beautiful flowers blooming in their yard to bring inside as she is an avid gardener.

Our daffodils and narcissus have finished blooming. Gerald transplanted them here and on the island from one of our fields where someone had planted them generations ago. The redbud at our house that was so lovely is completely green now. However, the azaleas by the front porch have started blooming, and I hope they will be opened fully by Sunday. Snow flurries outside our window today probably did not help them.