Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A Sad Front Page

Would you die to write? Many journalists have, and one of our own in Southern Illinois was honored for doing so. Ryan M. Rendleman, a Batavia native and Southern Illinois University Carbondale student photo-journalist for The Daily Egyptian was killed April 29 on his way to photograph a child who had Tay-Sachs disease to be featured in a story about the disease.

Rendleman, 22, was the youngest journalist and the first college newspaper journalist to have his name placed on the crystal monument inside the Newseum of Washington, D.C.

A senior honor-student, Rendleman was killed when a tractor-trailer barreled into his car, where he was stopped at a construction zone in Washington County. He was among the 62 killed on assignment in 2008 and another 15 journalists honored from earlier years making 77 names added Monday. After each name was read, a single chime was sounded.

Thirteen journalists were killed in Iraq in 2008. Mexico, Pakistan, and the United
States each had five fatalities. Many of the foreign journalists were intentionally killed, but others like the five in the United States were accidentally killed on assignment. Ken Paulson, president of the Freedom Forum which operates the Newseum, told how he had often sent reporters on assignments that would put them in harm’s way while Paulson was editor of. top-selling USA Today.

Rendleman had worked on the university paper for several years and had served as copy editor, reporter, photo editor, and staff photographer. He was scheduled to work as a photographer as a summer intern for the Southern Illinoisan this summer. His membership in Vine Community Church was very important to him, and he was well liked and respected by his peers and professors. His family and friends established the Ryan Rendleman Photojournalism Scholarship in his memory, and the first recipient is to be announced soon.

The story in our area paper was written by William Recktenwald, senior lecturer and journalist-in-residence at SIUC and a retired reporter for the Chicago Tribune. Recktenwald explained, “The Newseum blends the history of news over the past five centuries with interactive exhibits and current technology.”

Chief executive officer of the Freedom Forum is Charles Overby, and he reported more than half a million people have visited the Newseum in its 11 months of operation. Recktenwald quoted Overby as saying, “While many will run from danger, journalists often run towards it.”

The Journalists Memorial soars two stories within the seven-story Newseum building near the Capitol on Pennsylvania Avenue. On the front of the building is the text of the First Amendment.

The first name on the memorial is that of Editor Elijah Lovejoy, who was killed here in Illinois at Alton by a mob opposing his abolitionist views in 1837. I was pleased that Rev. Daniel Butrick, one of the missionaries who with his beloved wife voluntarily traveled the Cherokee Trail of Tears on their terrible march in 1838, mentioned this in his journal. Lovejoy was on Butrick’s mind when he entered our state, and I wonder if Lovejoy’s martyrdom inspired the Butricks to make their sacrificial journey of conscience.

Directly beneath this sad story in our morning newspaper is the large headline and photo of a beautiful little girl named Abbie Adams, who died Saturday in a St. Louis hospital while waiting for a heart transplant. Abbie has united our entire area in prayers, concern, and now tears. The newspapers, churches, and her mother’s blog on the Internet have kept people informed of her progress as she was put on a pump device implanted to save her until a transplant heart could be received. When I went by Katherine’s in Marion yesterday, she was absorbed reading all the comments recorded—more than she had ever seen before on one blog.

Abbie was a charming healthy first grader who seemed to have flu that caused her parents to take her to the doctor. At Heartland Regional Medical Center the Drs. Al-Sharif worked together to recognize that her heart had become involved by the illness and Abbie was taken by air ambulance transport to St. Louis on March 3.

Abbie’s mother, the choir director at Carterville High School, has had the concern of her students. A special showing of the annual spring musical was performed Sunday and raised more than $6,000. Everyone has wanted to do what they could to comfort this family in their terrible loss.

Jamie Adams wrote, “We feel so blessed to have had this precious child for the past six years; she was such a beautiful, precious little girl. I feel so fortunate to have been her mother.”

Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. Thursday at Third Baptist Church in Marion.

Like many Southern Illinoisans, I read the morning paper with tears and sadness. Yet I was also inspired by the too brief lives of Ryan and Abbie.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Old Toys for a New Generation

After taking Geri Ann to high school Thursday morning, Gerald just kept driving towards Illinois and arrived at Woodsong with beautiful weather here that afternoon. Very soon he had photos of all the family in Georgia printed and spread out on the family room coffee table.

This morning shortly before 5 a.m. after driving all night and taking her Gma Shirley down the road to her home, Tara arrived at Woodsong from her parents home in
Georgia with our only great grandchildren, Aidan and Maddux. Today we had chilly rainy weather. Gerald had been up since before 4 and had called her to make sure she was awake. (Gerald assumes that responsibility when he worries about family on the highway) Gerald told her he’d have our car slot in the garage open for her, so she would have a dry place to bring the children into the house.

When I heard Maddux crying because he was hungry, I knew they had arrived and hopped out of bed. Tara fed three-month-old Maddux and the two of them disappeared in the bedroom so Tara could get some sleep before driving on to the Chicago area. Aidan, who’d slept coming up, was going strong, and we fed him breakfast and enjoyed having him as our special guest while his mother and brother slept.

Before daylight with bright lights flashing, Gerald had given him a tractor ride much to Aidan’s delight. The rain prevented also riding the lawn mower or the “mule,” which Aidan was also hoping for. However, he is an agreeable and reasonable child and took that disappointment in good grace.

We soon rounded up numerous toys bought for earlier grandkids or else left behind by them and a couple that I remember buying at a rummage sale when his mother was born. In the bathroom, which he handles like a pro, he would not allow me to put on the little seat, which makes the stool opening a more appropriate size for someone not yet three. He assured me he could manage and he did.

Then he decided he would like to take a bath. So I pulled out our net sack full of accumulated toys and sundry plastic junk that our grandchildren have played with in the tub down through the years. I figure they are learning science as they pour water from one cup to another, watch the water come out the holes of the metal drainer planted with the toys, and they soon notice that some things float and some do not. I checked to see if he could count the plastic baby ducks he had caged in a plastic container that had once held produce from the grocery store. He could.

Later I showed him photographs of his mother when she was a baby. I am not sure he knew his mother had once been a baby. That was hard for him to believe. I understood. I have the same problem—except for me it is difficult to believe she is an adult with two precious children.

It was hard to see them heading up to their home in northern Illinois, but we knew Tara was eager to get there before dark. And we knew her husband was even more eager to see her and than boys than we were reluctant to see them go. The family grapevine kept buzzing until we knew Tara and the babies were safely home. I hope she sleeps good tonight.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Spring Is Blossoming Out All Over

Last Friday night, the first day of Spring, Gerald and I experienced the awakening as we drove down to Union County amid the white blossoming pear trees, tulip trees already shedding their pink blossoms, yellow forsythia, and golden daffodils in yards and roadsides.

We went early to have time before we met his brothers and wives, so he could take me up to Hamburg Hill again in Shawnee National Forest. I had taken the wrong turn with Samuel the week before and missed it. I wondered if it were a good thing. When Gerald and I went up, I knew I had been fortunate to miss the right road. The road was rough and I think if I had gotten as far as Hamburg, I might have been foolish enough to try to drive to the top of Atwood Hill, where the fire tower was. Gerald started also but soon turned around in a road so narrow that I closed my eyes and clinched my fists—even though I knew with my mind that he would make the turn safely. Somehow my stomach did not know this.

Although the grass was greening, the forest itself was still stark trees with leafless limbs—still beautiful in their abundance up and down the steep hills, but not yet breathtaking as they will be when the leaves come back. We were looking for the cut in the forest where the old road used to go. We did find the cut and the pioneer cemetery. We then explored another narrow road through the forest to the top of the hill, where other explorers had left behind their beer cans and trash. There was plenty of turn around room here, and after walking around a bit, we headed on to Fox Hollow for fish with the brothers and sisters-in-law.

This is definitely the time for seeing the countryside. Each day is greener and different as new plants come from the ground. I was able to carry in sweet-smelling hyacinths for the women from church who gathered at our house on Monday evening. I only picked two for each table because it was Gerald’s bulb garden he planted last year, and I did not want to have it too barren when he returns from his birthday trip to Georgia.

I had forgotten he had planted one yellow and one white daffodil there, so I was richer in daffodils than I thought. Each plant had three blossoms, and I picked one yellow and one white to stick in a tall narrow vase. I resisted the urge to pick a fifth hyacinth to go with the two daffodils for a table in the living room.

I had put out the elaborately painted eggs that my friend Jane Perr made years ago. She had learned the craft from an elderly gentleman from the Russian Orthodox Church in Royalton. So I invited Jane down to our meeting, so she could see I was still enjoying her beautiful eggs. She surprised me by bringing me another beautiful egg in its own little holder and also a purple hyacinth that completed the daffodils just the way I wanted the vase to look.

Today after eight hours sleep, I came out of my bedroom at 10 a.m. with the idea I’d walk down the lane to the mail box to get the newspaper that Gerald always walks down for at 6 or 7 a.m. I was somewhat startled to see daughter Jeannie walking out of the other bedroom.

“When did you get here?” I queried. “I figured you’d be driving back today. How did you get in the house?”

Evidently shortly after I went to bed at 2 a.m., Jeannie and Cecelie had arrived from Nashville to our dark house. When we built this house, we gave each of our children a key, but no one seems to remember that they have one. We, of course, leave the door open for them when we know they are coming. Fortunately, one of Jeannie’s kids had found her key and wanted to know what to do with and she had told them to put it in the van. So they had let themselves in and we all slept peacefully, and I got a report on her visit with Leslie as we ate a bite of breakfast.

Much too soon, we had a late lunch and she and Cecelie were off to Freeport although they planned a drop-in visit with her sister Katherine in town before they got back on I-57 to head home.

Cecelie had enjoyed a piece of left-over angel food cake from our women’s meeting, and I put another in a plastic bag for her to take on her trip–along with the left-over chocolate eggs that I knew I should not eat.

As I followed them outside to wave reluctant goodbyes, our eyes focused on the ornamental tree in the driveway’s circle, which is just starting to bloom. Jeannie commented on how she enjoyed our spring down here and in Nashville knowing it will still be three or four weeks before the trees blossom up north. So she will do spring twice.

When Gerald phoned later, he told me that it was chilly in Georgia. Nevertheless, he and Vickie and her mother Shirley, Geri Ann, Tara, Aidan, and baby Maddux were all heading out to the softball stadium at the University of Georgia to support Gerry and the Dogs, now ranked 7th in the nation again. They were to play Mercer. I read tonight it had rained but didn’t rain the game out, which was good since we won.

However, the inclement weather at Waco did cause a postponement of the A&M game with Baylor until April 29. I had to laugh when Erin blogged about the tailgate party last Saturday night for the team, friends, family, staff, and Sugar Daddies. The Broussard family had generously supplied an abundant supply of crawfish. Erin had to fess up, that as an out-of-state girl without crawfish in her menu background, she was grateful for the table laden with desserts.

Since Gerald took the car on his trip, I drove the pickup over to a small-group meeting at our village church. I stopped at the end of the lane and finally picked up this morning’s newspaper.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Praying for Traveling Mercies

Our oldest grandchild, Tara, and her two little boys Aidan (almost 3) and Maddux (3 months) are on the road coming down from Chicago and will be here before I finish this, I hope.

Daughter Jeannie Eiler and her Cecelie (who was 10 on Thursday) arrived last night about 10, and were up at 6 this morning. After a quick breakfast, they left the house by 7 in hopes of arriving at Belmont to go to worship service with Leslie this morning—if they did not get lost in Nashville. (What I remember about Nashville from our daughters’ lives there is that it is one of those cities where a street can suddenly change its name.) I suspect Cecelie is already known there since Leslie had a goodly number of her buddies plus the college choir send her birthday greetings Thursday. (You can see it on Facebook.)

In the morning, again after a quick breakfast, Tara and boys and her other grandmother are starting to Georgia to see Tara’s parents. Tara’s husband is taking some kind of architect exam this week, and the mother of the baby she baby-sits for is on vacation, so it was the perfect time for Tara to go. And her Grandma Shirley has just trained someone to help her brothers take care of their mother and handicapped sister. So Shirley was free to accompany Tara down.

Gerald, though still somewhat red and blotchy faced, is much better and braved his first public appearance at an annual farm management meeting Thursday night. Since then we have been celebrating his birthday, which was today. Because he had been telling me he wanted to go to Georgia to watch softball for his birthday, I did not plan any celebration up here. Actually I could have since he is not going to Georgia until tomorrow when he follows Tara, Shirley, and the boys down. He and Aidan have great plans for play.

However, we met his two brothers and wives at the Friday night fish place called Fox Hollow near the Mississippi River in Union County. Then today, he and his brothers had their usual brother’s birthday breakfast meeting that they always make sure to have when one of them has a birthday. (They do get together for breakfast often in addition to the birthday times, but those are special to them. Various wives, nieces, and/or nephews sometimes join them as schedules permit. Nephew Tim did today. I was home eating breakfast with Jeannie and Cecelie, so I did not plan to go.) They had a big debate whether to go to Cracker Barrel, where they’ve usually gone in the past, but they settled on the Old Home place in Goreville.

Gerald had helped our neighbor with a break-down of some kind yesterday morning and then needed to run to Wal-Mart, so I asked him to just eat lunch in town because I would be off the farm.

I was busy yesterday with the usual Saturday activities plus running over to Murphysboro to the General John A. Logan Museum, where the traveling exhibit on “Mapping the Trail of Tears through Southern Illinois” is currently displayed. Vickie Devenport of SIUC television had arranged a program with the Illinois Chapter of the Trail of Tears Association to promote the upcoming We Shall Remain programs on PBS. We got to see a 20-minute preview yesterday. I finally got to see that museum that I have read so much about. Mike Jones and the others have done a tremendous work there, and now is a perfect time to go see the TOT exhibit and all the beautifully presented memorabilia of John A. Logan if you haven’t been before. Or for that matter, even if you have been before. .

Well, it is 11 and Tara and the boys are here. I am going upstairs to greet them.

Now I am back. Aidan went right to bed, and as soon as Maddux is fed, so will he.

Once again, I thank God for traveling mercies.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Running Late

When life is too abundant, sometimes I don’t have time to write. Sometimes I simply forget. And that happened again this week. So I am running late with this blog.

Monday I told the story of Priscilla the Hollyhock Girl from the Trail of Tears to a large group at the Centralia Historical Museum. As always, there were those who had ancestors who dropped off the Trail of Tears. In fact, that night I had a former English teacher tell me that she would have one or two students a semester who would tell her about their Cherokee heritage. We are trying to collect those stories on video tape to create an archive of the families with a Cherokee member who enriched our area when they dropped off the TOT for some reason. (For example, sometimes a mother gave away her baby—to keep the baby from freezing or starving.)

The Centralia museum is quite impressive in a huge cavernous building, the historic former Kohl & Meyer wholesale grocery warehouse. The museum collections fill two floors. You would not believe the still-working old-fashioned warehouse elevator, which I saw some people taking. (I took the stairs. Ha.) The building is near the Central Illinois railroad tracks that did so much for this small city.

There are thousands of items in the museum, even a full-size caboose. The railroads, coal mines, the oil boom, and agriculture are all represented.. There was a exhibit on our newest senator--Roland Burris, a native of Centralia, who had previously served in our state government.

Director Margaret Loomis was a gracious hostess and obviously had done a great job publicizing the event since almost all of the 125 seats she had set up were taken. I am sure credit also goes to Judith Joy from the Sentinel, who was there to do a follow-up story.

These community museums and historical projects require many hours of hard work by dedicated volunteers, and I am always impressed and encouraged that so many people give willingly of their time and energy for the public good as opposed to trying to create more wealth for themselves. In retirement, many volunteers work as many hours as they might have at a salaried job—and put up with many troubles they could avoid by just playing golf or bingo. I am glad they choose to volunteer.

Yesterday I again told the story of Priscilla to an lifelong learning class sponsored by John A. Logan College and taught by Marilyn Schild. Afterward there was time to go for coffee and try to catch up with each other’s lives. The berry sugarless pie at the Country Cupboard was delicious, Marilyn and I both agreed.

I went back to the college for our Southern Illinois Writers Guild meeting in order to hear Jon Musgrave. As always, he gave a informative and stimulating presentation. We liked hearing how he did his various books, and it was exciting to hear about his newest project—a screen play he is writing with a fellow Southern Illinoisan now living in St. Louis.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Spring Breaks and the Western Part of the Trail of Tears through Southern Illinois

Spring breaks have started for our grandchildren. Samuel like all the kids here in Williamson County has been off school this week. And so has Geri Ann down in Georgia, which allowed her to go with her mother to see Erin play softball in Boca Raton. Her sister Tara, husband Bryan, and the two little boys also took a vacation there. Leslie was in Puerto Rico with her church group since Belmont was having spring break.

The Eilers up at Freeport will be off next week, so Jeannie is bringing Cecelie thorough here on their way to visit Les at Belmont while Elijah goes to Mount Rushmore and that region with his high school choir performing most of Showtime at various venues. They’ll be well rehearsed when they get back to perform at Freeport. Trent and Brianna will be off that week also and are going to Florida to see their Grandma Dot.

I wanted to grab some time with Samuel while he was on vacation, so we planned a day trip down to Union County to see the western part of the Trail of Tears through Southern Illinois. We first stopped at the Trail of Tears rest stop on Interstate 57. Oddly, that rest stop has pictures of Cairo but no mention of the Trail of Tears. Our Illinois Chapter of the Trail of Tears Association finally got permission to place brochures there—something Sandy Boaz, Illinois TOTA president, had tried to do for years but wasn’t allowed. But the brochures were all taken the day Sam and I stopped by. We obtained an Illinois road map there, and Sam was able to follow our journey to the west where we were to cross the Mississippi River.

The Trail of Tears rest stop is actually on top of the trail. When I-57 was built, that spot on the highway goes over a short tunnel on the road beneath it, where the Cherokee actually walked. To see that, Sam and I exited I-57 less than a mile down the highway and were on State Route 146, Illinois Designated TOT highway and also the National Park Service’s TOT auto route.

Next we took the first country road to the right and were driving through beautiful rural land, which has been built up with many fine homes in recent years. Soon we were down below I-57 and drove through the tunnel and down the actual Trail. It was chilly enough that we weren’t tempted to get out and hike, and we turned around and went back to the cemetery where Southern Illinois University Carbondale geologist Harvey Henson and his students have located at least 19 graves in the area that oral tradition had always indicated the Cherokee had buried their dead during the bitter cold of December 1838 and January 1839.

Since there had been perhaps as many as 3,000 camping there at one time and more before and after those weeks, it is a sign of land owner George Hileman’s kindness that there were so few deaths. He allowed them to cut down the woods to obtain firewood for warmth, and he sold them corn meal from his grist meal for sustenance to go with the wild game they foraged. He approved their graves in his pasture where he and his wife had buried two small children a few years earlier. Later he was to donate land for the church established there, and he donated more land for the cemetery.

Sandy Boaz, a descendant of Hileman, has been searching for what roads went from Camp Ground over to Jonesboro in the first half of the 19th Century. As a favor, she recently was helping someone with their genealogy questions, and serendipitously found some good hints about the road, which she intends to investigate. She has often talked about Dog Walk Road, and since Sam and I were not on schedule, we decided not to return to Route 146 but to leave on the Camp Ground Road going west until we came to Dog Walk, which we took over to the Lick Creek Road and finally back to Route 146. It took a little longer than it should have since I have no sense of direction, and I turned in the wrong direction on the familiar Lick Creek Road. I turned around when I noticed on the dash we were headed east. On 146 in Anna, we soon were passing the Trail of Tears Junction, the elaborate gas and more station owned by Ron and Deb Charles, who both descended from Cherokee families around Elco.

We were hungry by then, and we stopped at the Country Cupboard, more often called The Potato Barn, created in the old Goddard Feed Store, where county farmers always headed to buy garden seed, tools, and bib overalls as well as feed. As always, the food there was absolutely delicious. I had a bowl of creamy potato soup and a Reuben while Sam had a shrimp basket. I should have ordered either soup or a sandwich since both turned out to be over-sized. I had fun explaining to Sam the complicated family connections to the Bridgeman daughters who own the restaurant now. His great Grandma Ada’s Aunt Ollie Bridgeman is seen holding Sam’s mother in the first baby photo we have of Katherine. Part of the pleasure of going to the Potato Barn is wandering around looking at the antiques and artifacts, so we took time for that before we got back on the Trail.

We left Anna by Heacock Street and down Boettner Hill, and I was able to tell Sam how folks used to block off traffic on a few nights when the snow made that hill a perfect place for sledding. I took him out to the Old Fair Grounds, where Lincoln and Douglas gave one of their 1858 debates while running for the Senate. Sam enjoyed the new statues there of the two famous debaters.

And then it was up to the Jonesboro Square, where the bank stands on the storehouse site of Winstead Davie. Behind the store was his and Anna (Willard) Davie’s home, where the Davies invited Rev. Jesse Bushyhead and his pregnant wife Eliza and another “chief” and his wife and baby to stay with them. The name for this second so-called chief has been confusing, but I am convinced this was native preacher Rev. Stephen Foreman and his wife Sarah and baby boy Jeremiah Evarts Foreman. Darrel Dexter tells us that Davie applied for a license to keep boarders the very day that little Jeremiah was born, and Davie family tradition tells of the Cherokee baby and parents who stayed with them.

On the west side of Davie’s store on the other side of the road from the Old Fair
Grounds was where Davie’s brother-in-law and competitor William Willard had his store. Sadly William never married but died of tuberculosis at age 31 in 1843. His two brothers, Elijah and Willis, ran the two ferries near Willard’s Landing on the Mississippi River. (Some folks still called the Landing by its earlier name—Green’s Landing.)

Sam and I drove down Cook Avenue past the school , and I showed Sam where I grew up. Then we drove as far as the road went to the top of Bauer’s Hill where some Cherokee crossed over and down to the other side to camp at the southern end of Dutch Creek. We came back and got back on Route 146, now also called Willard’s Ferry Road.

Because of the swamps in The Bottoms by the river, the Cherokee were backed up in the Dutch Creek-Clear Creek area. Perhaps as many as 5,000 or more were waiting for the ice floes to melt or float away. We turned at the Lockard Chapel sign onto Berryville Road and explored one of the many routes some of the 11,000 took. As usual I got lost and took a wrong turn before we reached Hamburg Hill and Atwood Tower, but eventually we were back on Route 146 and continued to the village of Ware.

Directly west of Ware was the road that took early travelers to Willard’s Landing, where there was a storehouse and some homes to greet the boats bringing merchandise from Pennsylvania for Davie and Willard’s Jonesboro stores. (The eastern boats came down the Ohio River to Cairo and then up the Mississippi.) Since the river has changed and been changed so radically by levies and flood control since 1838, we have never discovered any residue of Willard’s Landing.. Several Cherokee detachments crossed here including Jesse Bushyhead and his wife Eliza Wilkerson Bushyhead, who gave birth on January 3, 1839, to Eliza Missouri Bushyhead at what is now called Moccasins Springs. There Bushyhead’s sister Nancy Bushyhead Walker Hildebrand died and was buried.

We drove on south now on Route 146 past Ware Baptist Church, where Sam’s mother was enrolled in Sunday School as an infant, We continued on the TOT Auto Route past the fine goose-hunting and corn-growing farms there in The Bottoms. At Reynoldsville, we noted the road crossing called The Old Cape Road, but we kept on the new highway to the Flea Market, where the Route 146 turns back west to cross the bridge to Missouri. In Cape Girardeau, we enjoyed the beautiful murals on the river flood walls u before we turned to go back across the stunning Bill Emerson Bridge into Illinois.

We did take the Old Cape Road on our way back to Jonesboro because no doubt some of the Cherokee detachments went to the ferries at Hamburg Landing through there. Either there or further south, some Cherokee found themselves crossing on the Smith Ferry and going to Cape Girardeau. We got Sam back to his house, so he could get to bed early for the spring vacation trip his dad had planned for him on Friday to Saint Louis sites.

Yesterday I went to Sam’s last Upward basketball game and found out that son-in-law Brian and daughter Brianna had come down late the night before from Lake Saint Louis to their camper up at Wayside Farm. So in between watching softball games for Georgia and Texas A&M, Gerald and I had Samuel with his new puppy Scooter and Brianna .with Fifi to play here at the farm on Saturday afternoon.

That was a good diversion because Gerald is still at a painfully red and quite ugly stage of his skin peel treatment and has been reluctant to get off the farm much. He did take neighbor Scott to Carbondale to catch a train, but they went through the drive-in for breakfast rather than going inside. We hope by his birthday next Sunday, he will have skin as soft as a baby’s. Reckon?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Daffodils and Eating Humble Pie

Yesterday I was privileged to drive into town twice and observe the world turning beautiful. I always take the country road to town if I can, and so twice yesterday I passed by the special roadside filled with blooming daffodils in front of a woods. Every spring I enjoy them and love to wonder who the former resident was who planted them. I was sure long ago there was a house there and the farm wife planted a few of the bright yellow flowers to pleasure the end of winter.

Now they have spread to a wide area, and they spell spring to me. Since there was no house or living person anywhere near this spot on the road, I have felt free to park the car and pick a bouquet of the blossoms to place on the Easter dinner table or even one year to press and send one to a daughter living in far-off Tennessee who could not come home for Easter.

About a year ago, I began to notice a new road cutting through the woods behind the daffodils, and now there is a beautiful new house back there barely visible through the trees. I wonder if they bought this lot in the spring time because they too fell in love with the spread of the daffodils.

I may need to plant some bulbs of my own now. I have bought bulbs from school children before, but they were delivered late in the after-Thanksgiving rush and I never planted them. Gerald planted some here at Woodsong in a bed by the patio from an old house site far back on the farm, but they turned out to be double daffodils. He also planted some over on the island. From a distance, the yellow is pleasing, but I really like the traditional single daffodil for its grace.

The infundibuliform center surrounded by petals is so lovely to my eye. Why did I use the word “infundibuliform” instead of simply saying funnel-shaped? Well, I am just having fun and showing off. This is the 15th anniversary of Wordsmith.org, and this week they are sending us emails with words that have 15 letters. I did not even like this word and quickly deleted the email. But I just went into the delete file and rescued it.

Talking of things I don’t like, I did not like what happened to the Georgia Dogs today when they played Florida. Florida like Washington, whom the Dogs beat on Sunday, is rated #1. (There are more polls than one, and I am not sure which are in which poll.) Georgia’s Sunday win moved Georgia to 7th place in one poll and 8th in another.

And then we played Florida at Gainesville today and they beat us by the mercy rule with a score I am not going to report. Oh me. Oh my. Talk about eating humble pie. I am trying to digest it, but it does not taste good. We lost again 4-0 in the second game. That was better. I did not think that was such a bad score to play with the best in the nation. We will see how quickly our girls can shake this off and go back to having the mercy rule end games with them in the winner’s bracket.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Weekend Isolation and Wanderings

Gerald has been in self-induced isolation this weekend, and I think he has enjoyed it. He also enjoyed getting out and digging a little in the dirt yesterday after the recent winds have dried up the ground sufficiently that he could do some tractor work. Why has he avoided other people—except on the phone where he has been quite active? (He’s also been having fun checking Facebook.) If you saw him, you would understand.

The dermatologist gave him “mean cream” to treat his sun-damaged ears from all the years he spent working in the sun. After that somewhat painful treatment was over, she suggested he use the cream on his face to treat it. Frankly, we had never noticed any damage there, but with her trained eye, she could see it. And once he started using the “mean cream,” it became more and more apparent that his skin had many places changed by the years in the sun despite the caps he always wore.

On Monday, when he went to the funeral of a friend of his youth, he definitely had some red spots on his face, but I truthfully assured him that I was not offended by them. I would not even think about them as I would look at him. No one would mind sitting by him, I said.

By this weekend, however, the cream is completing its job, and I think more of his face is bright red than not. Many spots and splotches of red and then great circles of red on both cheeks. He looks as if he has some terrible disease rather than remediation. I understood why he wanted to stay home and avoid answering everyone’s questions. Does it hurt? He has never complained, but when I asked him outright, he assured me that yes it is painful.

I let him fix himself a frozen entrĂ©e in the microwave yesterday when I went up to Mount Vernon to the Brehm Memorial Library, where the Jefferson County Genealogical Society was meeting. The meeting started at 1, but I had hoped to get there in time to lunch with some of the officers who’d invited me to meet them at the DQ. I ran late and did not know Mt. Vernon enough to find Main Street soon enough, so I ate a solitary quick lunch at Taco Belle.

On the way up, I ran by the Mulkeytown School Museum to pick up more brochures since I’d given out my last on Monday night. At the school, Jim Jones gave me a tour of all the wonderful work that is being done there since I last visited. They are going to be in great shape for the annual Memorial Day barbecue and observance on that Saturday and Sunday in May. The former gym is already completed, and it is absolutely beautiful and a long ramp to allow those in wheelchairs or with bad knees to avoid all stairs to enter there. A stage is almost done, and a local musician has already promised to give concerts there. The kitchen and dining room are near completion, and the volunteer crew was hard at work. The military room is close to being finished with a beautiful huge built-in glass fronted cabinet awaiting the collected treasures to be displayed.

I was glad I took the time to obtain more brochures because this will be a great Memorial Day venue to visit. That weekend someone will take you up to tour Silkwood Inn if you request it. On January 26, a vote was taken, and the Mulkeytown Area Historical Society (which rescued Silkwood Inn from destruction) and the West Franklin Historical District and Genealogical Society (which saved the Mulkeytown school building and created a wonderful collection of artifacts and historical information for genealogists) officially united. The school building is open every Saturday morning, so drop by. Call ahead and you can probably be given a tour of Silkwood Inn also.

It has been astounding that a community as small as the Mulkeytown area could do so much preservation of history with volunteers—many of whom worked in both organizations. So it is logical for the two organizations to unite. Now we need local history teachers to get their students interested and ready to take over the volunteer work in the decades ahead as the oldsters have to retire from all this active physical work.

It was pleasant to meet up with old friends and to meet new ones at the Jefferson County Genealogical Society where I was able to tell again the wonderful story of Priscilla, the slave girl who was freed from the Trail of Tears by Solomon Silkwood.

After I left that meeting, I drove a block off Broadway to slowly drive by St. Mary’s Church where my grandparents attended before that building was built. (If I remember correctly, my grandfather had made a pledge for this building and died before his pledge or the building was completed.) With many childhood visits there, I grew up thinking Mount Vernon was the home place of my mother’s Rockenmeyer-Franklin relatives. Only in recent years have I discovered that much earlier in the 19th century, Jefferson County was also the place where many of my father’s Martin-Garrett relatives had made their homes.

I stopped on the way home at Benton to get some gas and with the intention of visiting Candace Lahr at her book store on the square there. Imagine my shock to discover the store was gone. I walked on around to see if The Buzz was open. Actually its closing time on Saturday is 3 o’clock, but the door was open and I walked in to enjoy meeting Lee Madden, the new owner. After a lifetime in Saint Louis, Lee has come down and already was greeting other store owners by name as she insisted on walking with me back to my car to enjoy the lovely weather. And I left some of my books with her to sell at The Buzz with the other local books she handles. As we were talking, another would-be customer for Candace’s store drove up and was puzzled at the store’s disappearance. I said goodbye to Lee and she went to comfort the young woman desiring the book store. I think Lee’s love for people and books will serve her and her customers well. I know the patrons of The Buzz are grateful to see that gathering place staying open.

I had been keeping in touch with Gerald about the Saturday softball games, so after stopping at Small’s, our favorite place for lunch meat, I headed home with sandwich fixings and went straight to Gerald’s office to join him watching Erin’s game on his computer.

We had a great softball weekend despite Texas A&M’s 8-4 loss to Stephen F. Austin’s Lady Jacks in the final game this afternoon. Vickie was there in the stands at College Station all weekend along with over 1200 other people, so at least she got to see Erin’s great catch against SFA, but they had gotten ahead 5-0 in the first inning, and we never caught up. This ended A&M’s five-game winning streak.

But on Friday night Georgia won against Baylor and A&M won against Utah. Yesterday, Georgia did lose to Washington, rated number one in the nation, but I felt that losing only 2-0 with that team and that pitcher was quite respectable. A&M beat Utah for a second time yesterday and also Kent State. At their first game this afternoon, A&M beat Louisiana Tech with the mercy rule.

The most fun for us, however, was watching on Game Tracker as Georgia played Washington again today. Thjs time, however, things were reversed from yesterday. Georgia got ahead 2-0 early on, and Washington could not catch up. Sophomore Sarah McCloud pitched a complete game shut-out and earned a place on the All Tournament Team along with senior Kristen Schnake, a graduate of Nashville, Illinois, High School. . Georgia’s offense gave Danielle Lawrie her first loss of the season (15-1). Gerald’s phone call with Gerry was useless because Gerry was too hoarse to talk after that exciting game. He had to text his dad instead.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Remembering Priscilla and Other Things

Whew! It has been a busy week until today. I had a volunteer board meeting Monday night in nearby Marion and a different board meeting last night way up at O’Fallon, and in between on Tuesday night I drove up to DuQuoin to speak on “Remembering Priscilla.” That meant researching, reviewing, gathering papers for each gathering, and leaving the farm in plenty of time to arrive safely and on time.

I got to the closest place, Marion, by the skin of my teeth on Monday night after finding all the parking places taken at our Williamson County Baptist Association board meeting. I didn’t want to park on the street as so many had to do, so I parked behind our pastor’s car and made certain I left before he and his wife did. That was good because it made me forsake socializing and got me home early, which I needed to do.

The meeting was interesting as several men were there in their yellow hats and vests and reported ever so briefly on helping elderly homeowners clear fallen trees after the recent storms in Metropolis and Kentucky. Their goal is not only to increase the numbers of those on “the chain gang,” but to obtain a trailer so their supplies can be kept on site as various crews come and go according to the free time they have to donate. We voted to adopt their goal.

Then Myron Taylor gave us handouts and explanation about the five-gallon bucket project that the men in our churches will be participating in soon. The idea is to fill the buckets with needed items so they can stay clean and untouched by ants or animals in the homes of AIDS in Africa. Just $100 can create a bucket that can make a tremendous difference in care on a continent where home care is more likely for terminal patients than hospital care.

As soon as I was back at the farm, I was doing a little more study and preparation for Tuesday night’s presentation. It has been quite awhile since I had spoken just focusing on Priscilla on the Trail of Tears, so I enjoyed digging into and updating her story with new information.
I went early enough to find the home where the DAR was meeting, and I was thrilled when I saw the beautiful old house beside an ancient brick-laid street. (The hostess told me the house was built in 1863, I think it was.) It was as simple to find as Mary Haines’ clear email had explained.

One member was a descendant of next door neighbors of the Brazilla and Mahala Silkwood family, and she brought seeds to share of Priscilla’s hollyhocks that had been passed down in her family and which now grow in her own garden. Another member Sharon Dollus was a descendant of Levi Silkwood, Brazilla’s older brother and she had been to Virginia and had information I lacked about Brazilla’s parents there. She has already emailed it to me!!

The group thoughtfully rearranged their business meeting after I had spoken and we had had refreshments. So again , I was on my way back to Marion early after the more than gracious hostess Doris Rottschalk had gone out and skillfully unparked my car between the one in front and one in back

(I realized later maybe I could have done this without her help, but Doris did it in a minute while I would have been getting in and out of the car being fearful I’d ruin the evening by bumping someone else’s car.) When you aren’t a good driver, and I am not, you have to be an overly cautious one. And I am. That explains my excellent driving record. It also explains why I often walk quite a ways to avoid parallel parking.

Our Illinois chapter board to the Trail of Tears Association has been meeting during these winter months up in the O’Fallon/Cahokia area to make up for our two board members up there having to drive down to Carbondale the rest of the year. Our president Sandy Boaz is a great driver, and we connect in Marion to ride up with her. After quick sandwiches at the local Subway, which has become “our” place, we then head to a meeting room at the O’Fallon library.

We heard reports and made plans. We saw Cheryl Jett’s publisher’s copy of her new book on the city of Alton, which will come out March 23, and we heard about Herman Peterson’s book contract soon to be signed. We congratulated Gary Hacker on his great book on the Trail of Tears through Johnson County that we’d read and studied since the last board meeting.

Herman reports that everything is go for our first 2009 general meeting of the Illinois Chapter of the Trail of Tears Association, which will be at the newly renovated Morris Library at Southern Illinois University. If the auditorium does not quite get finished by then, another room is already waiting for us. I am so eager to see the new facility. I wrote feature stories as a student journalist when the library was being built in 1954-55, and I am excited about the improvements bringing one of the nation’s great libraries up to date.

Despite the pauses for laughter that our TOTA board can’t seem to refrain from, we have to be efficient and leave before the library closes. Without making any coffee or restroom stops coming home, we were back in the Marion Kroger parking lot by 9:30.

That gave me opportunity to run in for Senior Citizen Day and shop for the items on my grocery list that I made in the morning. The frozen and fridge stuff was put away last night, and today I’ve been putting away the rest of the items. We’ve been eating soups and sandwiches quite a bit, so I actually made a nice dinner at noon today.

Oh, yes, the first thing I heard from Gerald when I woke up this morning was that Erin made a three-run homer last night when the Aggies beat Houston again—this time on Houston’s home field. Gerald completed our income taxes yesterday with Doug Hileman, and Doug and Beth are on their way to Baylor at Waco to see Luke’s baseball games there this weekend.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Way to Go Aggies!

Since University of Georgia softball team was rained out at its tourney at Columbus, they had to come home on Saturday without being able to play a game. Consequently, our weekend softball watching schedule was simplified. This afternoon Gerry said they had already gotten four inches of snow at Athens.

Geri Ann had to stay home for a basketball event, but Vickie was in the stands at College Station braving the winds and cheering Erin and the Aggies on. Vickie’s flight out of Houston was at 5 today, so she may be driving in slick conditions right now as she left her vehicle at the Atlanta airport. She is excellent driver, but we hope she will pull off and check into a motel if roads get too slick down there.

Texas A&M were not only hosting Monmouth on Friday and Saturday, they had three home games scheduled against University of Arizona, who was ranked tenth in the nation. As expected they won over Monmouth, but I don’t think too many predicted they could win two out of three games against Arizona. But they did.

After playing Monmouth Friday afternoon, the Aggies faced Arizona, It took us until the eighth inning, but we won 5-4 when Erin’s housemate and fellow senior Holly Ridley hit the winning homerun. So I am sure there was much celebrating in Aggie Land that evening. There was at Woodsong. We were suddenly very excited about the next game on Saturday against Arizona.

Gerald and I met up at the junior high gym in Marion to see Samuel play with his Upward basketball team on Saturday morning. It was fun to see how far these kids have come with their skills. Since Upward does not promote winning, score is not kept. This oldest group has only two teams this year, so they keep playing each other. Wanting to shake things up a bit, suddenly at half time, the coaches had some of the boys turn their jerseys inside out, and some of the guys on the black team were now members of the silver team. And vice versa. This was a first since the teams had played with the same players all year without such a switch-a-roo. The players did not seem a bit fazed having to remember who their new team mates were.

I learned the hard way four years ago that Upward basketball has six quarters. Sam kept trying to tell his grandmother this—but I assured him that there are only four quarters in a whole. Was I ever wrong! There are six “quarters” in Upward ball. This insures that every team member gets to play during the game. In fact, if you score too much, you may be taken out to give someone else the opportunity.

Since his friend Josh was staying with Sam this weekend while Josh’s parents went to Chicago with his sister and a pom pom group, David took the two boys to McDonald’s for lunch after the final three “quarters.” We went on to Fazoli’s for lunch, and then I ran by Katherine’s before the Monmouth game.

I also needed to go to the library, and I missed that game. But I carried down cups of soup for our supper and we settled together before the computer screen for the televised game against Arizona. I was pumped as we listened to Coach Jo Evans in the pre-game show saying how much it would mean if A&M beat Arizona twice this weekend. We rapidly got ahead only to have Arizona pull ahead as the game progressed. We lost that game 9-4, and we went to bed discouraged.

When we got back to the farm from church in the village this morning, I hurriedly fixed sloppy joes while Gerald got the game going. Arizona soon pulled out ahead, and it looked as if the game was theirs--until the 7th inning, that is. Then A&M loaded the bases, and Alex Reynolds hit a fly to center field and brought in three players to tie up the game. Arizona didn’t score in the 8th, and A&M loaded the bases again. Erin came up to bat. As much as she wanted that game-winning hit, she was patient, and the pitcher walked her. That brought A&M across the plate from third base, and the game was over 5-4. The 21st ranked Aggies won two out of three games with 10th ranked Arizona.

I can’t wait to see Holly Ridley’s blog tomorrow. She and Erin are taking turns writing the team blog each week. After last week’s good showing at the Houston tourney, Erin wrote on Monday: “Now that we have our confidence and swagger back, we are looking to come out on top this weekend.” Swagger some more, girls. You’ve earned it.

Gerald had to make some phone calls to discuss that game, and also he was busy checking the TV to see if Lucas Hileman, freshman at Baylor was getting to play today. Luke’s dad is our area representative for the University of Illinois Farm Management Association and so visits our farm regularly. Gerald followed Luke’s football and baseball career at my alma mater Anna-Jonesboro High School, and he is eager to see him play at Baylor. Gerald keeps noting that so far Luke is batting a 1000. (That may go down when he gets to play more.)

We had a regular meal at the kitchen table for supper as I'd thawed a steak, and we have talked to all of our adult children this weekend on the phone or in person, so we are feeling smug at Woodsong.