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.

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