Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Lazy Post

I have been busy all day with housekeeping details--they never end--and working on an article that was first started in 2007. It needs cutting, adding to, endnotes reworked, etc. For the most part, this is boring work. (Although sometimes I run into something new while checking out sources and then I get excited.)

Tonight I went to First Place at Center, and afterwards some of us filled our last week of Angel Bags that Charlene and Gerald Morris have been kind enough to deliver to the school for us each Friday. I haven't heard what community church will be doing the bags during March.

Before I left, I fixed Gerald a supper plate for the microwave. When I returned, I did the same for myself. I watched a mite of TV while I ate. Then I needed to check emails, which led me to some post by grandkids on Facebook. Who could resist pictures of our great grandsons posted by Tara?

I am either tired or lazy. So I am going to cheat and post something about my writing that was written for another purpose. But maybe it will tell you a little more about my writing.


Writing has been a part of Sue Glasco's life since her freshman year at Anna-Jonesboro High School in Union County, Illinois. Much of her writing has been in letters, journals, and publicity releases for organizations she was helping to promote. In addition to her pro bono writing, she also seriously tried to write as a part-time freelancer from 1966-71. Despite the two-cents a word that she usually received, she was always pleased that she had an avocation that provided the family with a little extra income rather than a hobby that cost the family money.

During her children's busy growing-up years and her parents' growing feeble years, she put aside freelancing and concentrated on family.

Then she continued her career as an educator. Writing was mostly limited to writing syllabi and work materials. (She calls her career as an educator haphazard since she has subbed in preschool through high school classrooms, taught in secondary and college classrooms, and finally worked six-and-a-half years in family literacy for Rend Lake College.)

Since retirement in July 1998, she spent one year slowing down and catching up with friends and family. Then she began to write to share family memories for future generations. That got interrupted for one year as she and her husband built a house and moved to a new home after 36 years at Pondside Farm.

After settling into their retirement home, she began writing again. In 2005, she has published Down on the Farm: One American Family's Dream, a compilation of columns she originaly wrote from 1962-1966 telling the story of the family achieving their dream to become farmers in Southern Illinois.

Since then, she has continued publishing occasional short articles, and her twice-a-week blogs are published on Woodsong Notes, Amazon Connect, and Red Room.

Sue says that for her to write is as necessary as breathing, and she has always drawn comfort from Madeleine L'Engle's assurance that it was all right to be a minor writer. In fact, Sue believes everyone's story has value. She has always urged students and friends to put their stories and thoughts into writing. Two-hundred years from now, descendants will cherish an ancestor's writing more than any best seller!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Watching Softball at Woodsong

A weekend highlight happened Friday afternoon when our granddaughter Leslie dropped by Woodsong. She was on her way up from Belmont in Nashville, Tennessee, to see two girl friends at the University of Illinois.

The next day the three were heading over to Belleville to meet up with the Freeport High School speech team at the state tournament. Today Leslie made the long drive back to Belmont after going to church with a friend in Effingham. Her Aunt Mary and cousin Brianna were able to come across the river and have lunch with her at Belleville.

Otherwise our weekend was taken up with following Texas A&M softball team playing in the Marriott Houston Invitational tourney and the University of Georgia softball team hosting the 6th annual Georgia Softball Classic at Athens.

When Leslie arrived, we were able to report Texas A&M’s first victory where they beat Northern Illinois 14-2. Her cousin Erin’s exciting 5 for 6 hitting success with seven RBIs, which included a three-run homer, kept the phone lines buzzing between Woodsong and Tara up at Aurora and Vickie down in Georgia. Her heavy hit over the score board excited the game-tracker announcers—but not as much as Erin’s family fans. Oh, yes, she also put out the two Northern runners who were silly enough to try to steal. Later that night, A&M defeated Prairie View 11-1. More phone calls followed.

Ranked 16th in the nation now, Georgia also won both their Friday games, winning against Ball State 15-3 in five innings and Tennessee State 8-0 in five. We went to bed happy for Erin and happy for our son Gerry at Georgia, where he is assistant coach.

Saturday morning the grey rainy day suddenly turned to a snowy day. Since Gerald needed a tool at Sears, he volunteered to take me to my hair appointment in his pickup. I hadn’t thought about it being slick, but evidently it was because we passed a car on Route 13 that had flown across the medium and across our west-bound lane and into the ditch. We got home in time for me to fix lunch and for us to have it eaten before the afternoon games began.

After A&M shut out McNeese State 3-0, and Erin batted .500, we were pumped to listen that evening to the game against home-team Houston Cougars, who were ranked 18 while A&M had slipped to 19th because of recent away-game losses. After battling the wind in a come-from-behind game, A&M forced the game into an eighth inning. The game-breaker rule placed Erin on second base in this inning. She made third thanks to Alex Reynolds’ sacrifice, and then onto home, thanks to Kelsey Spittler’s game-winning single. We went to bed happy after that 4-3 victory. Georgia had won over Marshall 9-1 in six innings and over Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis 15-3 in five innings.

Today started with a very early phone call from Gerry to his dad, and I am sure they talked softball. We thought we would see both of “our” teams won their respective tournaments with five wins apiece. But that wasn’t to be. Georgia did win their tourney by defeating the University of North Carolina Greensboro 12-2 in five innings—their ninth straight victory with the mercy rule. They had hit 10 home runs in this tourney, and their tournament batting average was .425. Next weekend they travel to the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Leadoff Classic in Columbus, Georgia.

Texas A&M was to play University of Illinois for the championship at Houston, and the game was in the fourth inning when we got home from church. Soon Gerald had the game going, and I brought down chili for our lunch, which is what we also ate last night while we watched their game.

When Kelsey Spittler made a big hit in the bottom of the seventh to tie up the game, I thought for sure we’d repeat last night’s victory. But Illinois scored a run, and then despite our game-breaker runner making it to third, we couldn’t get the hits to bring her home. We lost 5-4 and are going to bed sad tonight, but I am sure we aren’t as sad as those kids on the bus heading back to College Station, However, they will be playing on their home field for awhile now, and I predict more sweet dreams next weekend.

Friday, February 20, 2009

An Evening with Catherine Field

“We are here because we must write,” she said early in her talk—meaning all of us in that room at John A.Logan College.

Oh, yes, I thought. I must. I cannot imagine life without attempting to put life into words. I do not know why the breeze on my skin, the peach on my tongue, or the laughter in my ear is not sufficient without words. But for me the words after are the essence of the experience. Even if I only say the words to myself.

Catherine Field, poet, teacher, sociologist, mother, and one of the first class of MFA graduates from Southern Illinois University Carbondale, was our guest speaker tonight at Southern Illinois Writers Guild.

With the democratization of education, the ability, paper, time, and technology for writing is now available for most people. More than any time in the past. Writing is no longer reserved for the elite. Yes, during my lifetime, the laborious use of a typewriter and a bottle of white-out has been replaced with the speed of the computer. Even more amazing is now that writing can be sent all over the world with a flick of a finger.

And why do people read? She postulated because we are lonely. No matter how large a following a writer has, it is the individual reader who creates the sociological dyad. The writer shares, and the reader says me too. I have felt that. I am not alone. Oh, yes, I thought. I starve to read the words of other humans, and when my mind is entwined in book or blog, I am not alone.

She described the difficulty we all have in making our writing pay. Competition is stiff. Markets change. Society changes. The new reality of online publishing is causing major shifts in the way things are done, and how can you make online writing pay? More changes are in the offing.

If you choose to make a living by teaching writing, as Field has, you are likely to find yourself patching together a full-time job by teaching part-time in two or three institutions at once. Teaching well at one college is hard. Traveling throughout the area to two or three extension centers for different colleges is really a challenge. Ah, yes, I remember those days. Happily, Field is now at SIUC all the time teaching sociology and exploring social movements.

An anecdote she shared illustrates well the state of flux we are in. Their department has once again been asked to drastically cut their journal orders. How will they cope knowing their students need those journals in the library? Field said they would have to bring their personal journals to their department to share with students. The kids can go to the library for coffee now; but as the cuts take effect, they will have to come to the department to read the literature in their field. (I had to wonder if this will cause more journals to go online, as we voted to do with our SIWG newsletter tonight in our business meeting.)

Among the tips she gave us for our writing was to throw out the first part of our story or novel. It is important that you write that first part, she explained, to get that information firmly fixed in your mind, but don’t bore the reader with it. Start the story or novel where the action is happening.

She encouraged us to take use our writing community for feedback to help us with our writing. Keep your vanity out of it and listen to one another, she urged. But she also wanted us to realize that when we are back home alone with our manuscript, we have the ultimate responsibility. She could not resist telling how she gathered the courage to send off a poem her graduate student friends had not found effective in their workshop. Thus, she had the poem published in Poetry. “So there,” she smiled as she acted out smugness.

“A poem is not about something. It must be something,” she declared. It must be a delight to be enjoyed viscerally, she told us as she rubbed her stomach for emphasis as to where and how we need to touch our readers. Theater is an important part of Field’s life, and that was obvious when she constantly used her hands and swayed her body to illustrate how essential rhythm is to our writing.

She also warned us that we have to be willing to let our writing go. We cannot always control what happens to it once we have created it. She quoted her mentor Rodney Jones, poet and professor, that poetry has to be “an event of language.”

She quoted Robert Frost’s words that poetry needs to begin in delight and end in a surprise. “When you go into your poem, you should not know how it will end, “ she advised. Surprise yourself and the reader will be surprised. The writer needs to provide an emotional pay off at the end.

Ah, yes, I thought. But that is easier said than done. When I left home, Gerald teasingly said how glad he was not to have to go out in that bitter cold tonight. I thought longingly about the comforts of staying home. But I am glad I didn’t stay. Catherine Field provided me with an emotional pay off that made the evening worthwhile.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Mid-Winter Mish Mash

One day the weather is Southern Illinois allows us to go coatless; and the next day when we try it, the wind makes us sorry. Today was pretty again although a jacket was in order.

Son-in-law Bryan and Brianna were down from Lake Saint Louis yesterday. Somehow Brianna and Sam ended up at the Illinois Centre Mall, where I spent the day with Southern Illinois Writers Guild members at our fourth annual Winter Book Fair. The mall sets up tables for us in the center section by the fountains, and we sell and sign books and SIWG anthologies while talking to mall strollers. It is always fun to table hop and visit with the other writers as well as talk with past and potential customers. With the economy like it is, no one expects to sell many books.

Brianna had been to the nearby movie theater with the older sister of Sam’s friend Josh. Not only do cousins from afar keep in touch by texting, but they meet and become friends with each other’s friends. Thus, Brianna came from Missouri and ended up at the movies in Illinois with Josh’s sister. Then Sam, who had been under the weather earlier in the day, was feeling better, so son-in-law David brought him out to meet Brianna to explore the mall until we wrapped up the Book Fair at 4 and they could ride out to Woodsong with me.

I needed to buy bananas to give us potassium, and we were out of grapes and getting low on oranges, so we ran by Kroger’s as I had planned and bought sandwiches from the deli there and gas for my near-empty car with our 15 cent discount on the Kroger credit card. Then Brianna, Sam, and I headed out to Woodsong, where Gerald and Brian were finishing up their afternoon projects.

We soon were eating the sandwiches and chips with ice cream and the cookies the kids chose for dessert. (I meant to send the rest of the chocolate milk and those cookies home with one grandchild or the other, so Gerald and I would not be tempted. However, in the concentration to get to Sunday School this morning, I forgot the cookies and milk, so maybe I can take them into Sam’s tomorrow or the next day.)

After helping teach our preschoolers during Sunday School, I stayed on for the extended session during worship. One of our high schoolers came in to help me. It pleases me when teens like Cody come in, because I can remember well many years ago when our son Gerry and his friend Tom were among the boys who helped with the babies and toddlers and preschoolers. Always under the direction of an adult, of course. What real training those sessions were for parenthood.

Worship must have been through hymns today and a little shorter than usual as our interim pastor became ill and had to go home before the service started. Cody said maybe it was a good thing he was not in the choir that long as he was tired. He had not slept well last night, so he got up and texted his friend over in Britain, where the sun was shining. Nevertheless, tired or not, he interacted with the children who keep us hopping.

Preschoolers crave watchful attention, and we give it. One-year-old Caleb delights himself when with intense concentration he learns to manipulate various toys or blocks. Then my heart melts when he looks up to make sure I am watching to admire his achievement. To know my watching means that much to him is as great a reward as our mutual handclapping when he gets the blocks stacked right or places the coin in the slot on the little toy farm barn that he gravitates to every Sunday.

After church, we headed down to the Old Home Place at Goreville to introduce the Taylors and Sam to Patrick and Tina’s new restaurant. Our meal was delicious but plentiful, so three take-home boxes were asked for. Sam left with Brian and Brianna for them to drop him off in Marion on their way back to Missouri.

Gerald wanted to check out an uncommon way back to the farm, so we wandered through country roads like Webb Town road, where we passed the Glen Webb Family Farm established in 1856, and on to roads with names like Wagon Creek Road and Creal Springs Road and finally back to Route 166 where we would turn off onto New Dennison Road and be home to check the softball scores.

The Georgia Dogs had had another good weekend with four shut-out victories in the Black and Red Showcase there at Athens. However, after winning a 14-inning game Wednesday at Huntsville, Texas, against Sam Houston and winning against them again on Friday in the opener at the Easton Tiger Classic at Baton Rouge, Texas A&M had a bad hair day yesterday losing to Ohio State and LSU. Then in bracket play today, they were ahead of LSU until the bottom of the sixth, when LSU rallied with three runs. A&M lost 3 to 4, so I know Vickie and Geri Ann left Louisiana with heavy hearts just as Erin did traveling back to College Station. But Coach Jo Evans was upbeat about all the things the girls did right.

With no church services tonight to allow our pastor to recuperate, we watched some TV, and I am reflecting early on the past week to write this blog. There was the trip up to Rend Lake College to the little restored school house on campus, where Lori Ragsdale had a reception to announce all the life-long learning opportunities coming up. I gave my pitch for our tour through Southern Illinois to revisit the Trail Where the Cherokee Cried. Since it was Lincoln’s birthday, Lori had arranged for Abe and Mary Lincoln performers to give a brief program too. Of course, I was also thinking about granddaughter Geri Ann's 15th birthday.

As always when I am passing by and have time, I pulled off at the Sesser exit at Whittington and visited the Southern Illinois Arts and Artisans Center. It truly is a visual buffet, and although I can’t afford the expensive art objects there, I like looking. I was able to pick up some books and items from the bargain table.

I stayed in Marion to attend Sam’s winter band concert, and before I headed home, I stopped off at Latta Java and was able to hear the last couple SIWG readers there.

Gerald had gone on an Angel Flight with his friend Herman Hood to Arkansas to pick up a patient in route to hospital treatments. I wasn’t sure if he would be at home when I returned or not. He had been playing with going down to Louisville, KY, to the annual farm show after the Angel Flight, but he was back at home asleep in his armchair watching television (ha) when I returned to Woodsong.

The next morning at 3:30 I woke up to see a wide-awake husband with his cap already on and a dance in his step as he scooped his change from the dresser and anticipated his adventure heading to Louisville. I wasn’t surprised, because I knew he really wanted to see all the new stuff that would be on display down there in the acres and acres under roof. I was surprised when he called before 6 that night and instead of staying all night in Louisville as he and his brothers’ custom was for years, he was already back in Illinois and heading home wanting to know if he should pick up supper in Harrisburg or would I like to celebrate with a Valentine’s dinner in Marion. I figured he must be tired, so I let him choose and soon we were eating a lovely dinner at my favorite restaurant in town.

It has been a good week with one afternoon spent studying Gary Hacker’s new book on the Trail of Tears through Johnson County and now several new books from Southern Illinois writers waiting for me to find time to read or at least skim through them. While I sat at the mall yesterday, I was able to read Joanne Blakely’s just published beautiful poetry chapbook. I certainly recommend it and Gary’s book.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Angel Bags

Teachers in our community noticed last year that some children were coming back to school hungry from the weekend. Someone from Angelville Church learned about it. That church started sending home Angel Bags with those children that the teachers were concerned about.

All the churches in our rural community are very small. (I mean like under 50 in attendance.) And there are no wealthy folk in our community that I am aware of. Many people have are doing well to be able to feed their own families. Obviously, fixing Angel Bags every weekend was too much for one small congregation. Soon other churches volunteered to help out.

Someone must be organizing all this, but it has all been done quietly without fanfare. Our village church was told that February was our month this year. One couple volunteered to take the Angel Bags we prepare up to the school on Fridays, and someone there must distribute them to the children. There are 26 children who will receive the bags of individual sized food products that children can open or microwave for themselves.

Tonight after a small group meeting, I was able to help pack the donated items into double bagged plastic grocery sacks that we’ve been saving for this activity. Since the kids will be off an extra day this Monday for President’s Day, we needed to pack extra this week.

I am sure I can’t remember all the items that we stuffed into the bags. There were Vienna sausages, cups of main dishes for the microwave, mac and cheese, fruit cups, fruit drinks, applesauce cups, gelatin cups, pudding cups, oatmeal packets, popcorn packets, Rice Krispie bars, granola bars, a bright red fresh apple, and so on. A large square table was filled to capacity when we started this evening, but fixing for that extra day reduced the supply on hand. Before next Wednesday’s packing night, we will have to donate again.

It would be good if all parents were able to feed their own kids, but some aren’t able. Some won’t. Regardless, the children are just as hungry whatever the reason for the food shortage in their homes. Fresh cooked food would be more wholesome than these in the bags. Many families in our community hunt to put food on the table, and many garden and can. Some parents may lack these skills or the health to use these skills.

Let me describe our community, which is built around our public grade and high school in the village of Crab Orchard of maybe 300 people. A highway that did go through the village was improved and widened and now bypasses it. But there are plenty of entries into our village, and it is safer now without that traffic. . The school and the library are the heart of the community. There are perhaps half dozen small businesses left in the village. There is a Baptist and Methodist congregation that have been there for generations, and about a year ago a man who had been in Africa came back and decided we needed another church and started one in a house on the edge of the village towards Marion. I do not know anyone who goes there, but I do like the three very simple lighted crosses they put up near their driveway and the cross on the barn there.

The post office closed over a century ago. The blacksmith shop and pool hall that were there when we came in 1962 closed decades ago. So did the gas stations. The two competing groceries went down to one until the owner retired. That store was replaced with a new building next door that sold some few groceries, where we could get milk, bread, or lunch meat in an emergency. We could also stop at one of the tables to join friends for coffee, sandwiches, pizza, or home-made pie. But that helpful place closed a few months ago, and so far no one has bought the building and restarted the business. A former cosmetologist studied for her catering license and now sells plate lunches in her former shop. We are grateful.

As I said, the school and library are what ties together the community, which is made up of country roads and some clusters of houses in many small neighborhoods. In early days when people traveled with horse and buggy, a school and church were needed about every six or seven miles or so. By the time we moved to our farm, those small country schools had consolidated into one unit with three attendance centers offering grades 1 through 12. .

Next the children all came to Crab Orchard on buses. A new building was added on to the old one, and finally we had a kindergarten. The Parent Teacher Organization that existed then started a Reading Center in the left-behind grade school building and was affiliated with the Shawnee Library District. After ten years, our Reading Center became our public library thanks to the hard work of countless volunteers. When the school needed to tear down that old grade school building to build a truly beautiful addition and new gym, the library moved up the road and now has its own location. The school is still crowded, however, with too many kids in some classrooms.

Surrounding Crab Orchard are these many neighborhoods with only the small rural churches left to remind people of the way things were. There’s Pleasant Grove Church and cemetery up near the village of Paulton., which still has some of the mining company-built homes and which has a congregation within the village. Further east is Mt. Pleasant Church at Poor-Do, and Bethel Church is in that vicinity. Angelville is north and east of Crab too.

On east and south in the direction of the towns of Carrier Mills and Stonefort are Coal Bank Church and somewhere over in there is Indian Camp Church, surrounded with beautiful trees and a serene cemetery. Just a few miles south of Crab is Ferrell Church started in 1909 beside an old cemetery already there. When membership at Ferrell got down to three or four elderly folks, it had to close. But a new group started a congregation in the building there a couple years ago with the modern name Lively Stones or something like that. Between our road and the highway is a parallel road where a Presbyterian Church and cemetery known as Shed Church still exists. I like to go there sometimes and meditate.

Because of the mines, roads and cemeteries were sometimes moved. Not being a native, I found it difficult to navigate to weddings and funerals in these little churches on country roads.They mean a great deal to the nearby residents, and I always liked going to them. There are many other churches nearby in Creal Springs and New Dennison and Pittsburg, but I think the ones I mentioned are the only ones in our school district. (Although I may very well have left out one or more.)

We used to be a coal mining community, and we still have a few mines, but many people now have to work at other jobs. Working in the mines was dangerous and dirty, but benefits were good and these jobs were coveted before the mines started closing. Many families had to move out years ago when mines started closing

Over a year ago, the Maytag factory in nearby Herrin closed. Many of those employees got assistance to retrain at the community colleges, but that help has timed out. And the degree doesn’t help if there are no jobs available. The big warehouse facility that used to hire 600 people recently closed in Marion—our large town to the west.

People with jobs are doing well for the most part. Our people are thrifty, and the houses are neat and nice. I rarely see an old car on the roads, and I can’t remember seeing anyone stopped with a flat tire. Many families take it for granted that they own both a car and a pickup truck. Many refugees from the city or even nearby towns have moved in our area because the small school or the rural environment is attractive to them. . Some newcomers live in mobile homes on an acre or so of land, and some live in very fine homes in housing developments. Most don’t need Angel Bags, but I am glad people are generous enough to see that the kids who do can have them.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

"Ate Up With Softball"

A few years back, one of our son Gerry’s cousins pronounced him “ate up with softball.” No one argued. What with his own coaching and his three daughters playing on various teams, their family spent much time at the ballpark. Consequently, so did Gerald and I. And also his siblings and their families when time and location allowed them to attend and cheer the three daughters on.

Starting with watching Tara play summer ball at age 7 or 8, then Erin even earlier with a coed team, and finally Geri Ann on the diamond, we often filled our spring, summer, and fall calendars with dates of the various games since school teams were added when the girls reached the age for that.

Their mother Vickie, who had also played softball, coached some of the early teams, but then Geri Ann was born. Vickie became an expert at watching her older daughters and keeping Geri Ann happy at the same time. I remember Gerry saying once when Geri Ann was about two that she had already attended 2000 games or some other hyperbolic number.

By the time Geri Ann was ready to play, the local park teams started at an even earlier age. I know her buddy and teammate Allison was a tiny three-year-old when I first watched her play—so Geri Ann must have started playing at four. They didn’t keep score with these kids, but no one competing for a state championship could have been more determined and competitive than Allison. Home runs were frequent, and balls in the outfield required movement by committee. Daddies were ready to comfort any hurt or disappointed player—whether it was his child or someone else’s. We have photos of these kids playing, but I don’t need them because the mental “photographs” still exist, and they make me smile.

We have a large collection of lawn chairs from those days, and I still wear some clothes I rushed up to the dollar store to add to my original clothing at one spring all-day tourney at Johnston City. (The wind was much colder than I expected.) I have watched ball in winter coats and gloves with a blanket added and also watched with sweat blurring my eyesight. I have frozen on the aluminum bleachers and come home with a sun burn despite sunscreen.

One of the results of Gerry’s family moving from nearby Johnston City to Georgia, where Gerry is assistant softball coach to Lu Harris-Champer of the Georgia Bulldogs, is that our social life has diminished locally. Of course we had already gone to California, Georgia, Michigan, Alabama, Iowa, and other away places to watch the granddaughters as they progressed to college ball. And then after her college graduation, Tara began coaching, and we had to see her games when they were close enough and we had the time.

With Erin at Texas A&M last year, we couldn’t go to many of the games, but we discovered we could watch or more accurately listen to game tracker on the computer and sometimes even a video of the game. Thus, Gerald and I found ourselves in his office eating meals and cheering as we watched.

Well, the college softball season started this weekend, and we were at his computer watching again on Friday and Saturday. Texas A&M was hosting a tournament there, and Vickie was in the stands to cheer Erin. Gerry was at a tourney in Cathedral City, CA, with the University of Georgia team. (Geri Ann was in friends as she had a high school basketball game to play.) Gerry's games were not on game tracker that we could find at least. We had to keep up with his team by phone calls or emails from the Georgia website. Both of “our” teams won their two Friday games, and both split yesterday.

I was relieved they did not play today, so we did not have to rush home from church with Gerald getting the game going in his office downstairs while I hurriedly fixed us a bite to eat and carry down. We were having a Valentine potluck after worship at church today, and I am really glad we didn’t miss it.

Shirley Butler had outdone herself making the basement dining room absolutely gorgeous. She has great talent for decorating. (Her daughter’s wedding reception in our outdoor pavilion was the prettiest fairyland I even attended.) Adding to the fun was a beautiful birthday cake for our interim pastor’s wife, also named Shirley, who had driven out to join us. The cake featured bright red roses and a black piano in honor of this Shirley’s talent. (She plays at her church in town, but she frequently manages to come to our six o’clock evening service. When she and Kim Barger play together, I feel as if this must be what the music in Heaven will be like.)

Barbecue and Italian beef sandwiches from Patrick and Tina Barger’s new restaurant in Goreville was our featured main dish. The aroma was wonderful when we went down the stairway, and the sandwiches were as good as they smelled. As always there was a multitude of congregation-brought side dishes and desserts.

I had taken baked beans because at our last gathering our friend Eddy Wiley was there all the way from a not-so-close village hoping I’d brought the baked beans he liked as a teenager. And that I have taken especially for him many times since. I like to send the beans and left-over German chocolate cake home with him. But that day I had not fixed them.

Of course, today when I did fix them, Eddy wasn’t there. (No one had thought to send him word.) So I sent the remaining ones home with someone with kids since Gerald and I can’t eat them. Some of the left-over cake was used on the plates Shirley Butler was fixing for shut-ins, and I left the rest in the car, so we wouldn’t be tempted here at Woodsong. It will be delivered to Katherine’s family tomorrow. But we will be eating a barbecue sandwich tomorrow. Shirley was encouraging everyone to take sandwiches home. I couldn’t resist that. All the food sharing is part of the fun and fellowship in our village.

Also tomorrow we’ll have to get softball game times off the schedules and in our minds for next weekend. Some folks might say that Gerald and I too are “ate up with softball.”

Thursday, February 05, 2009

The Trail of Tears through Southern Illinois

I just returned to Woodsong after a pleasant trip up to O’Fallon Library for a Trail of Tears Association board meeting. Four of us rode up together, and the others met us there. We laughed a lot going up and coming back, and we laughed in the meeting. Since we had not had a meeting since November, I think we were just glad to see each other.

The work of securing signage along Route 146, an Illinois designated highway; on the actual Trail in Pope County, which Joe Crabb has been able to document; and in the two rest stops on Interstate 57 has been slow and frustrating for the board members doing that important work. So it is good that they were able to laugh tonight.

We hope before 2009 is over, the signs will be up and these board members will know their efforts have been worthwhile. Brochures about the Trail of Tears are now in the rest stops after years of having no information despite being named Trail of Tears rest stops. It emptied our small treasury to do this, but we thought it was worthwhile to the travelers through our area to realize the historical significance of these hallowed grounds.

Although Harvey Henson could not be with us tonight, we received his report of his work with Vickie Devenport, also of Southern Illinois University Carbondale, and Mike Jones at the John A. Logan Museum at Murphysboro. Harvey, Vickie, and Karen Frailey have all worked together to create a traveling map exhibit. It has already been used at St. Anne’s Church in Anna in October and in November at the SIUC Student Center. The exhibit will continue to travel to other regional museums and schools.

Especially exciting is a special afternoon program and reception on Saturday, March 21, to be held at The General John A. Logan Museum in Murphysboro, Illinois. The museum will host the next “Mapping the Trail of Tears through Southern Illinois” from March 6 –April 19. . TOTA Board members will discuss the exhibit and various ongoing research activities related to the Trail of Tears episode. John A Logan Museum director, Mike Jones, will present a brief account of local Jackson County and Native American history related to the Trail of Tears account. Also, a special preview of Trail of Tears episode through our area of the “We Shall Remain” PBS mini-series ( will be shown at the March 21st event.

Of course, we were very pleased with the great plans Dr. Herman Peterson has finalized at the newly remodeled SIUC Morris Library on Sunday, April 26. Herman and another librarian Melissa Hubbard from Special Collections will share information on the archived Trail of Tears documents. The “Mapping the Trail through Southern Illinois” exhibit will also be on display at this our first Illinois Chapter Trail of Tears Association meeting for 2009. Possible plans for the other two general meetings this year were also discussed.

Certainly the Trail of Tears Association, The National Park Service, and the upcoming PBS mini-series have been raising awareness of the importance the diaspora had in our national history. I know of three other programs in our area on the Trail of Tears in March in addition to the one at the Murphysboro Museum. (Because I am speaking at them.) And John A. Logan College’s Life Long Learning program is sponsoring a two-week class in March on the Trail taught by Marilyn Schild.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Thawing and Freezing

The ice here thawed enough I could drive to town yesterday morning for my weekly hair appointment. I ran by my daughter’s, but she was asleep and never knew I had visited. In the afternoon, Gerald and I went over to Southern Illinois University Carbondale to watch his friend Steve Soldner’s daughter Regan play basketball with Missouri State against the Salukis. Steve sells Peterbilts down in Texas, and Gerald always has to go by and see him when he visits friends in that area.

With five generations of our family affiliated with SIUC, I could not believe I was cheering for Missouri State, but I did. It was easy during the first half when SIUC was far ahead. As the Bears got within 10 points in the last quarter, I felt more of a traitor although I was very proud of Missouri State for coming on strong at last. After winning in Evansville, the weather had kept them stuck in this area and unable to return home between games as planned.

We were able to visit a bit with Regan’s grandparents from Farina and met her grandfather’s twin and his wife also. Steve couldn’t come up from Texas because they were planning a trip to California to see their senior son play there. They will have three more years to watch Regan’s games.

We ran by Katherine’s and had a nice visit after the basketball game. We missed picking up a prescription at the pharmacy by five minutes, and then ate a lovely dinner at Honeybaker’s because we were tired of my cooking. By the time we got back to our lane, it had frozen again. Fortunately Gerald had scraped enough in previous days that there were bare spots to give us traction as we glanced nervously at the lake.

This morning we drove the pickup to our village church, where George Barker had had about the same experience Gerald had here clearing roads. He could not scrape too deeply without tearing up the gravel beneath the ice, so nothing was completely bare, and then last night froze it again, but we greatly appreciated what he did for us. There was some slipping and sliding in the parking lot as we drove in, and we oldsters walked carefully. When we came out of services, it was thawing again with puddles of water mixed with the snow and ice.

In counties south of us and over in Kentucky and southeast Missouri, many people are still without electricity, and some of our church members have been impacted by those problems. Most of those schools are still closed tomorrow. (Our county’s kids are going back after their four-day break.) A friend in town has her Kentucky son and his three Labs at her house since he is without electricity. Fortunately she loves dogs. Motels are full with people wanting heat and hot showers.

With the bad roads and the Super Bowl on tonight, our pastor declared he was giving us a “double dose” sermon this morning so that we could all stay safely home tonight. He even used two different texts and carefully divided his sermon in two. Both sermons were excellent, and we left being glad we had been in the House of the Lord.

While the ice had thawed quite a bit this afternoon, Gerald did some more driveway scraping including working on a neighbor’s drive. Since I am not a sports fan, while he watched the Super Bowl, I enjoyed surfing and playing around with an article I sent out once in 2007. It is now tweaked to send out again. I joined Gerald to watch the final exciting moments of the game, and then I watched the PBS preview of We Shall Remain, a five-part documentary coming out in April on the American Indians trying to show a more complete history of our nation’s interaction with the primary residents of this continent.