Sunday, June 28, 2009

Weather Cooling and Excess Sharing

When the preschoolers said in Sunday School that we’d be having our annual dinner honoring fathers down at the picnic shelter rather than downstairs, I thought surely they were wrong. Surely we wouldn’t eat outside because surely it was too hot to eat there, but they were right and I was wrong on two counts. We did eat outside, and it was extremely pleasant.

I imagine our church hostess and husband, Shirley and Butch, checked it all out for us and made that great decision. Not only was there a wonderful breeze, but I had forgotten that the shelter is usually much cooler than the lawn surrounding it. (I’ve had to get a sweater more than once.) Butch reminded me that a barn’s open-ended outer hallway also always seemed cool. It has been many years since I’ve been in a barn’s hallway, but his comment brought back memories. Not only was it cool, but the aromas there were always marvelous—leather lines and bridles hanging on the wall, the warm pungent smell of the horses in their stalls, and redolent straw underfoot.

Our main dish for the fathers (and blessedly for everyone connected to a father as everyone is) was barbeque and Italian beef that Patrick had delivered to us The Old Home Place, his and Tina’s great down-home restaurant at Goreville. Then there were the great variety of salads, the multitude of vegetable choices, and a dessert table laden with everything from fruit to decadent choices. Because it was so quickly gone, I didn’t get a piece of Don Boyd’s coconut cream pie, but I heard it was good.

Yesterday morning I had quickly baked a cake from a mix to add to our luncheon sandwiches at our Clean Up Day at church. There were so many desserts there that most were left over, so I just left mine for today’s dessert contribution. Over 20 of us were there emptying long neglected storage rooms and pitching out papers and equipment no longer used or needed. We bought a lot of space that way! Tracy spent the morning just organizing and placing left-over art and educational supplies in a new cabinet for that purpose. (Over and over volunteer workers will buy supplies and leave the extras, but no one knows where they are when needed.) Tracy suggested our new slogan: Shop here first!

The men got the worst of that work because they were outside in the heat loading heavy items on trailers—a load for the dump but everything possible to be recycled, one load of no-longer needed but comfortable furniture to be shared at our homeless shelter which takes donations for when folks move out and need furnishings in their new place. A set of metal folding chairs went to the Ministerial Alliance’s household give-away. Kitchen chairs often go before the kitchen table does, so extra chairs are always welcome.

When I worked with families, I became aware not all families had enough chairs for family members at their table. I also saw young mothers use magazine pictures to decorate their living room when they lacked framed pictures. I was touched by their efforts and bragged on them for doing so. I always remember this and pass on any “pretties” or accessories I no longer use. One of our members, who is a teacher, knew children with head lice whose pillows had no pillow cases—let alone clean pillow cases. She was always collecting extra bed linens for such homes.

A great majority of Americans have much too much stuff (hence the storage building industry). Many people do no realize how bare and needy some homes are. A lawyer, who has generously volunteered down through the years at the household giveaway, which is housed in his church building, told me about a time when almost everything donated had been claimed after many winter fires. On that unusually scant day, only one old couch was there with one missing cushion. He told how thrilled the children were with the mother who claimed it because they were going to have a couch to sit on.

Most of us aren’t exposed to that kind of need. We sometimes forget that no one should burn or dump furniture or clothing that someone else needs. I have city friends who are able to simply put giveaways on the sidewalk and know someone will claim and use it. We can’t do this in the country, but with a little effort we can usually share our excess and spare our landfills.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Summer Starting with a Heat Wave

The heat is bad, but the mugginess is worse. On Facebook, young friends write about canning green beans, helping with baby calves, and working in hay fields, and I am glad I am retired. Gerald is quoting Geri Ann who emphasizes she does not mind playing in the heat because she does not want to get soft. As much as I admire this hard-working younger generation, I get re-tired just thinking about these young women with these activities—many of which, such as playing softball in this heat, I never had to endure.

What is especially bad is that there is still so much hard work facing people cleaning up after the derecho--seven weeks now after it hit. (Of course, uprooted trees in the woods and even on people’s lawns may still be there ten years from now.) I hear people quoting estimates of $3000 and more to remove a single big tree from their yard. How many can afford that unexpected expense?

Seeing people on their roofs is a common sight, and lots of us still have tarps or pieces of plastic protecting us. When Scott Miller came last Saturday morning to repair our roof, he found the shingles were so hot that they were sticking together in such a way that he decided he’d have another man come look at it. I notice some people are replacing damaged roofs with metal roofs. They will be ready for the next derecho, but the newspapers tell us that may not be again in our lifetime. I hope the prognosticators are correct.

This heat is especially difficult for people with multiple sclerosis or other conditions that make them heat sensitive. I guess Katherine had a difficult time day before yesterday.
However, with skylights covered to keep out sun and multiple fans moving cooled air, her home was wonderfully cool yesterday when I stopped by for a visit. Scooter was content to take a nap in his kennel when Katherine did as it was much too hot for him to want to leave the air conditioning and go outside.

Her evening aide dropped by unexpectedly with her two adorable little girls dressed in sweet new swim suits, and the two-year-old told us, “I went wimming.” They cooled us off and cheered us up just to look at them with their beautiful curls and deep brown eyes, and I was especially entranced when Kiki decided to call me grandma after we explained that I was Sam’s grandma. Mar-Mar, age four, was the perfect responsible big sister helping and correcting (bossing) the little one. I was there when friends dropped Sam off from band camp at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, and I wondered if it were cool in the buildings there where they worked hard all day rehearsing for tonight’s end-of-camp concert. It was cool enough then that he took Scooter outside as I went on to get a few groceries while I was in town.

Enjoying the roadsides as I drove home, I noticed that the brown-eyed Susans and the orange tiger lilies have joined the Queen Anne’s lace and replaced the multitude of daisies in fields and ditches. (I know the golden flowers are correctly called black-eyed Susans. But when I was a child and we went to the farm each summer, I remember the annual greeting by the bright yellow flowers as we went down the steep hill with a rough rock-bed road that led to Mount Airy Farm. Since my own eyes are brown, I renamed the blossoms in order to claim them for my special flower.) The summer beauty at least gives us a reward for enduring the muggy heat.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Hurricanes, The Mad Gasser, and the Kokomo Hum

For the second Thursday evening in a row, I saw writer friends. On the second Thursday of the month, Southern Illinois Writers Guild sponsors an open mike at Latta Java in Marion. When I can, I like to go to hear others read. I might not have made it this month since Jeannie and Cecelie were visiting, but I had a phone call that morning from Lois Barrett that she was in town from Texas and she planned to be there. I told her to be sure and bring copies of her newest book—her fourth novel.

Despite a crazy afternoon where a hair appointment was cancelled because the shop kept losing their electricity off and on all day, Jeannie was encouraging. We managed to get back to the farm, feed everyone, and be at Latta Java at 7. We heard some wonderful readings including the first chapter of Gulf Coast Love Affair: 19th Century Hurricanes, which is based on Lois’ research about local hurricanes. I haven’t had time to read it yet, but as sit lies on the table, I am enjoying the cover by her grandson Matt Fowler of Harrisburg. When Lois still lived here, I used to engage in email conversations with Matt, who did Lois’s website for her while Matt was still in high school.

Then this Thursday my friend Jari Jackson and I scurried over John A. Logan College for our regular SIWG monthly meeting to hear Jason Brown. After teaching at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, where he studied in the Creative Writing Department, and teaching at JALC, he became a part of the faculty at Eastern Illinois University up at Charleston. But we are fortunate that he is still living at Murphysboro this summer and could visit SIWG. A poet and short story writer, Jason had been much praised by our president Jim Lambert ever since Jason and he met last summer when both had won scholarships to Ropewalk Writer’s Conference in New Harmony, Indiana.

Much published as a poet, Matt talked some about his aggressive submission of his poetry and encouraged us to do the same. He gave us copies and read us some of his poetry in his fine reading voice. (He thinks we enjoy most when we can both see and hear poetry at the same time. I agree.) But he spent most of his time talking about the novel he has been working on nightly to the exclusion of most of his other writing. One of his handouts was copies of articles in the Mattoon Daily Journal-Gazette, a town near EIU where Jason and his wife will be living when fall classes begin. That handout instantly piqued my interest since down through the years since they have lived in Mattoon, my sister-in-law has frequently sent me clippings from that newspaper telling of activities and successes of their family.
However, I had never heard them mention the “Anesthetic Prowler.” Jason is basing his novel on a happening in Mattoon in the fall of 1944 (long before my brother’s family moved there) when several families reported being attacked in their homes by the sickening sweet fumes coming in from an outside window. They suffered nausea, slight paralysis of their legs, burning eyes and mouth, and other unpleasant symptoms. Footprints outside windows and even a cloth permeated with the mystery gas left on a front porch escalated the excitement. National newspapers picked up the story and there was widespread terror in the town. No one was arrested, the incidents stopped, and it is still debated today if this really happened as reported or if mass hysteria played a part. Oddly when I just checked Wikipedia, I found that l0 years earlier a similar situation occurred in a Virginia community.

I couldn’t wait to call my brother the next day and ask him about this story. “Oh, you mean the Mad Gasser?” he asked. No one had talked to him about the historic event, but sometime in the past decade the newspaper had run a feature about the Mad Gasser and he had read about it.

That brought to mind that shortly after our youngest daughter Mary Ellen and husband Brian left Kokomo, Indiana, and moved to the Saint Louis area, we heard about the Kokomo Hum. They had not heard it while living there, but evidently many people did and reported headaches and health problems because of it. That story too was picked up the national newspapers, which is how I learned about it. Come to find out, there was also a Taos Hum and numerous other Hums in cities around the globe, and certain people were affected negatively by these reported mysterious low-frequency sounds.

Brian has been down to Woodsong for the weekend hauling off soybeans and checking his crops. He will be doing the same tomorrow. After a job assignment change, their family just settled in this week in their new home in rural Wagoner, Illinois. Their five acres is somewhere up by Springfield, Litchfield, Raymond—all towns I’ve heard them mention during their house hunt in that area. I wonder what new legends and stories will come from that area, where Lincoln used to walk. Brian had me laughing at the extreme burglar alarm system in their house including a search light on their roof. They haven’t turned it on. If the Mad Gasser shows up, they will be all fixed to scare him away.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Fifty-three Years and Counting

After learning at church on Sunday that the women’s class meeting was to be at Charlene Morris’s the next night, I knew I had a conflict. My job as song leader meant I was supposed to show up with the bag of song books from the choir room and have songs selected to sing. I have been known to forget the song books or the selection and even on occasion the entire meeting. Yet I knew I would not forget the next night because that was June 15, our wedding anniversary.

Not being reared on a farm but only summering there, I was accused early in our marriage of thinking of the farm as a vacation resort—which is was for my birth family. Do not misunderstand. My teacher parents worked hard the four months each year we moved to the family farm while schools and salaries were shut down. Nevertheless, moving to the farm for us children was definitely a wonderful vacation.

So it is not surprising that I did not realize that the month of June was already an over-busy time for farm families. Even if I had known, I’d probably still have planned a June wedding. That was the time the school year ended and we were able to have our wedding after my year of teaching in a Chicago suburb.

However, as we began our farming career, I quickly learned that a dinner date to celebrate in June was often impractical. I loved the busyness and excitement of June in those days. Our main goal was to be sure that we had a crop in and thriving for that year’s survival. Consequently, we were quite flexible about when we celebrated. I can remember one year that we finally had that time in November! Therefore, it was not difficult for me when Gerald suggested we go out to dinner on Monday night to explain about the class meeting and ask if we could wait until Tuesday night. And we did. It was fun to relax and focus on each other rather than having others at the table as we usually do when we eat out.

Since our restaurant was near the mall and we saw the department store I’d been wanting to visit right there in front of us as we left the restaurant, I asked if we had time to let me run in. (I had on the light weight summer jacket that I was wanting a new blouse for. The blouse I had on was not as perfect as I had hoped when I bought it.)

Gerald was quite agreeable, and he cooperated beautifully when I found a sale rack and ended up buying not just the different blouse but six other garments. The bundled garments packed tightly into the plastic covering was heavy enough that I was grateful when he showed up from the men’s department at the perfect time to carry them to the car. Not wanting to give Gerald too much time for boredom, I had chosen them quickly and took them home to try on the next morning. (I was able to keep all but one, which I returned yesterday.)

I had not bought clothes in quite awhile. I don’t usually like to shop, and I was overdue. I think the new garments I wore this spring may have been purchased in the fall of 2007. Now I have wardrobe additions in the closet ready for next fall as well as the new blouse for the summer jacket.

We were out of bananas, which we keep for potassium purposes to go with one medicine. So next we went to the local warehouse store to get bananas and to also renew our membership there and get rid of that dunning letter I had laying in the front seat of the car as a reminder. I don’t remember that store ever not having bananas before, but there were no bananas Tuesday night. After I stocked up on the large jars of pickles we purchase at the warehouse store, we added another store to our agenda in order to obtain the bananas. While Gerald gassed the car there, I purchased bananas, grapes, oranges, and strawberries and we were able to return to the farm with our fresh supply of fruit.

That was not a particularly romantic evening although Gerald had suggested we might want to go to a nearby town to a favorite lodge we went to when we were dating. However, we were both tired and a nice local restaurant sounded more appealing than a long drive. And while we were in town, it seemed convenient to accomplish the other tasks.

When you live in the country, you learn to combine errands in town to save gas. That also was one of the first lessons that I learned as a new bride living in a rural four-room “doll house” that we were able to rent for $10 a month. (The landlord decided to knock off $5 rent since Gerald was a student at the time.) We were sitting outside on the little concrete front porch one hot summer night and I suggested we drive into town for an ice cream cone. Cones were five cents in those days. Gerald educated me on how much per mile that it would cost to drive us into town. I quickly decided I did not want a five-cent cone that much. (In all the years that boy friends, including Gerald, had driven me places, I had never once caught on that it cost money for them to run a car. Now that many young women own their own cars these days, they probably cannot imagine my ignorance. I was a little appalled at that ignorance even back then.)

We have been a little more romantic in our anniversary celebrations in some past years; and we may expend a little more planning in some future years. Yet the older we get, the more we simplify. I wouldn’t want to say our marriage is as comfortable as an old shoe because that is definitely a less than romantic description. Let’s just say that we know each other pretty well now and it does not take a great deal of extra effort to please each other.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Jeannie's Back Home!

Jeannie’s back home, and we miss her and Cecelie already. Although they told us good-bye last night, I was sure I would be awakened when Jeannie and Cecelie departed this morning. I had been briefly awake when Gerald was getting ready to leave Woodsong to go on an Angel Flight with his friend Herman. When I awoke again, I thought I better be quiet so as to not wake Jeannie and Cecelie. Then I looked at the clock and saw 8:45 and knew they were likely gone—and they were. They were eager to get home to Freeport and see Elijah who returned from Kentucky yesterday. And, of course, they were missing Rick too. From the frequency of his phone calls yesterday, they had decided he was lonesome for them.

But I have a small sweet wild flower bouquet in a little bottle on my desk. A daisy, some clover—red and white—and a small Queen Anne’s lace blossom and a couple of other miscellaneous stems. Cecelie brought it in yesterday and presented it during an afternoon she spent (as she had the day before) appearing in various ensembles from the “costume closet” of old clothes from long ago. The previous day was spent with her cousin Samuel. That evening after starting to look for fireflies, they had filled the downstairs den with quite a collection of frogs, which they kindly released at the end of their frog hunt.

Since next-door Katie did not seem to be home, for the next two days, Cecelie entertained herself (and consequently also entertained us) dressing up. Using various hats and shoes chosen for her outfits, she looked beautiful in every one of them.

The tattered pink formal was once bought by my sister Rosemary, I believe, for college banquets. Since she and Phil have been married 60 years, that gives you an idea of how old that dress is. Topped with the pink picture hat I wrote about in a 1960s column, the entire attire was ancient but lovely on this l0-year-old granddaughter. Other clothes had been worn by her mother and aunts. One bright skirt had been a long skirt my mother had when long dresses were the fashion, and she wore it to a Christmas party.

From the clothes and stories told, Cecelie (our youngest granddaughter) found out who Gma Katherine was--my mother whom Cecelie’s Aunt Katherine was named after. Summer is the time for families to be connected again and the proper time to share family information with the young generations. Only the oldest two granddaughters ever met my mother, but my mother was aware before her death that Jeannie and Rick were expecting Leslie—their first child. I have always been happy that Mother knew that exciting news.

Leslie and her friend Mike had driven up from Belmont University at Nashville on Saturday while I was working on the Trail of Tears bus tour. Mike placated Cecelie, who really does not like to share her big sister, by watching a movie just with her. Leslie and Mike had to leave Sunday afternoon in time for her to get back to her dorm, where she has a summer job welcoming teens who come in for Centrifuge and other conference guests at Belmont. But we enjoyed their jam session Saturday night while Les and Mike, both guitarists, practiced some of the original songs their band is working on right now. I’d gotten up much too early to get to Golconda that morning, so I fell asleep mid-concert. Nevaertheless, I did enjoy hearing their lovely chords and sounds as I drifted off. I have slept late two days in a row now, so maybe I am caught up on my rest.

Oh, by-the-way, we found out Saturday who owned the strange dog who had been here for over a week. A far-neighbor came to collect his dog Roxie after seeing our sign on the mailbox. Unfortunately, Roxie left Woodsong the day we posted the sign and we have not seen her since. But we have heard from other far-neighbors here in our countryside that she has become known as the “traveling dog” since she goes from neighbor to neighbor to visit.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Jeannie's Here!

Jeannie’s Here!

After finishing end-of-school tasks, middle daughter Jeannie and her daughter Cecelie just arrived from the long drive down from Freeport. We have had our late but brief mother-daughter catch-up chat, and they have gone to bed. I hadn’t turned off the computer yet, so decided I should come down here and blog on schedule.

Elijah could not come because he is in Kentucky with his youth group. Every year the youth go down and conduct a Vacation Bible School there, and they grow very close to the kids in that community. This is Elijah’s second year. Leslie did this for four years, I think. She will be arriving this weekend from her summer job at Belmont to visit her mother and sister here.

Gerald said Mary Ellen phoned and she and Brianna were spending the night in a motel since their Lake Saint Louis home is no longer their own. However, on Facebook, she said the moving van would not be arriving at their new home in rural Waggoner until Monday. After they close on the house on Friday, she and Brian will be doing some painting and lawn landscaping this weekend getting ready for the furniture’s arrival.

There is so much transition in our family right now that my head is spinning trying to keep up with everyone. Geri Ann will be playing softball this weekend in the Lake Saint Louis area, I think, but Mary Ellen and Bri will have gone to the Springfield area by then. No, maybe it is Geri Ann’s older sister Tara who will have a team playing in that area this weekend. (In the past when teams played at those area parks, everyone got to hang out at the Taylors, so we are going to miss that Lake Saint Louis connection!) But I do think I will finally get to see the new Abraham Lincoln Memorial in Springfield now.

Granddaughter Erin has moved to Kississmee, Florida, for the summer to play professional softball with the United States Specialty Softball Association (USSSA) Pride which partners with the National Pro Fastpitch League. I was so excited to learn that Kristin Schnake, just graduated from University of Georgia, has also signed to play with them this summer. Erin and Kristin’s enthusiastic personalities remind me of each other, so those two will have fun playing on the same team this summer. (Actually both Erin and Kristin will have fun wherever they are.)

USSSA Pride flew to Chicago yesterday and opened their season tonight against the Chicago Bandits. So far I have not managed to find out from Twitter if they won. Earlier results were not posted, and now it is storming outside—yes again—so I can’t get on.

Pride has a five-night run with the Bandits, and then a week from tonight, they play at Rockford (near Jeannie in Freeport) for five nights.

My sister and husband, Rosemary and Phil, were married 60 years yesterday. They do not want big parties in their honor, so their children surprised them with a family party on Memorial Day. They loved that. Family is what they are all about. I got to hear about it while we were in Amarillo.

Jeannie came to Woodsong with plans to help us find the owner of the stray dog. It really is a puzzlement why a dog with a collar would suddenly show up and stay around here for two weeks. When we arrived back from vacation, she was limping. But Brian said the previous weekend when she first showed up, she was not. So we do not know what happened to her. Cecelie is eager to meet her, and of course wants us to keep her, but that is not an option, so it is a problematic puzzlement.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Coming and Going at Woodsong

Summer is almost here and school is out. People are taking advantage of places to go and people to see. Five adults and one teen sat in the Woodsong living room this evening and stared and rejoiced at one little baby boy named Maddux. Almost six months old, he kicked those precious chubby legs, sat himself up, rolled over, army crawled, and completely disassembled the little wooden train set on the bottom of the coffee table. Of course, his audience thought each move was magnificent, and he enjoyed our complete attention.

He had already been passed around with each of us taking our turn snuggling and hugging this little lover with turgid skin and the ability of fit against you so you feel you are wealthy beyond measure. He had cooed and talked and flirted and coughed. Once he starts coughing and sees it pleases you, he really carries on big. When he ducks his head to the side shyly, we all melt. And when he flashes that good natured smile that brings his dimples into sight, which is something he does often, we think he is the greatest baby we’ve had since the last one.

The visit was very short because he and his mother Tara had yet to drive up the state to Aurora for bedtime. As reluctant as we were to see them leave, we knew it was important for them to get on the road again. Fortunately, Maddux is a wonderful traveler usually sleeping in his car seat.

They had arrived late Friday night for Tara to pick up Southern Force softball uniforms in Johnston City for her 18-and-under summer traveling team. The next morning Gerald and they headed to Birmingham to make it for Geri Ann’s first game at l0. Geri Ann and parents were there as she was playing with both the 14-and-under and the 16-and-under Southern Force teams. This means she gets to be with her Illinois friends again. Brianna was there cheering her on and ready to come back to Woodsong with her Gpa Gerald and her cousin Tara.

Her dad Brian and brother Trent and Fifi had shown up at midnight Friday for Brian to work on the farm. They had spent the week in their camper near Springfield (Illinois) for Brian to start his new job assignment. Mary Ellen came down today from Lake Saint Louis (Missouri), and she and Brianna went back to a final week in their house there. The plan is to close on their new house on Friday. Everyone is eager for this transition to be over and for them to start their first experience in rural living as a family. (Of course, Brian and Mary Ellen grew up on farms, but it has been years since they have been able to live on one.) Their kids are in for a new lifestyle.

Once again the house is almost empty, but Jeannie and part of her family are coming down Tuesday or Wednesday. The only guest on the place now, however, is the sweet female dog that showed up last weekend while we were gone, Brian said. She has a collar on and she is very friendly. Surely someone is missing her, but inquiries have not yet discovered who.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Home Again

While a restful return to normalcy is welcome, the excitement and heightened emotions of the past week are still right under the surface.

We are coming down emotionally from seeing the University of Georgia Bulldogs softball team not only participate in the Women’s College World Series but coming close to making it to the finals. Following that tournament with a trip to Amarillo to visit my sister and her husband and families there gives me even more to think about and to try to absorb. Never mind that there is laundry to do, weeds to pull, and much catching up with our usual life at Woodsong to accomplish.

We arrived at Oklahoma City and settled in on Wednesday, the night before WCWS’s opening game. Our son Gerry and the Georgia team, where he is assistant coach, had arrived early in the week. Our daughter-in-law Vickie had been given permission by her doctor the day before to drive there with Geri Ann, and they were already there. We met up with our daughter Mary Ellen and our granddaughter Brianna at the park at noon on Thursday. From then on, Geri Ann and Brianna were inseparable, and we all enjoyed watching their teenage enthusiasm and antics.

Although University of Washington put us into the losers’ bracket that very first game, we were not discouraged. It takes two losses to be eliminated from this tourney. (Washington ended up winning the World Series the following Tuesday night against first-ranked University of Florida, and we were quite aware that losing that first game was no reason for shame. In fact, at that level, any loss is no cause for shame. Just being there to participate is an honor, but Georgia women were determined to make their first appearance at the WCWS count.)

We were able to enjoy the Friday off that all teams had until that evening when the four winners from Thursday were to play. We met up with our niece Cyndi and her friend Gwen for lunch. It was fun for Geri Ann and Bri to get acquainted just a bit with their dad and mom’s cousin from far-off Hereford, Texas. Of course, we wished that Cyndi’s daughter Tori and husband Randy had been there, since we had not seen them since their wedding in that city five years ago. But if they had been, we would not have seen Cyndi, who was house sitting for them.

Saturday we were to play two losing teams from Friday night. With a second loss, any team would go home. We played our 11 a.m. game against Missouri, who had startled those watching their Super Regional with a mercy rule victory over UCLA. We eliminated Missouri from the World Series with a 5-2 win, and we did the same to Michigan that night with a 7-5 win.

That put us in the Final Four on Sunday. We would play unbeaten Washington, and Alabama would play unbeaten Florida. If Georgia or Alabama--both teams from the losers’ bracket--won their first game, they would have to play and win a second game to send either of these unbeaten teams home.

We were going into Sunday games with our senior pitcher Christie Hamilton worn out from the two games in high heat on Saturday. In an excruciatingly long game, we played Washington from 12 noon until 4:20 in nearly l00 degree weather. We used four different pitchers--including center fielder Taylor Schlopy after Sarah McCloud and a brief stint by Hamilton. Finally, freshman pitcher Erin Arevalo was put in with the score tied at 8-8. In the ninth inning, we loaded the bases and Brianna Hesson battled until a force walk brought fleet-footed Lasaira Daniels calmly to home plate to claim the 9-8 win and the opportunity to play the Huskies again that night after Alabama played Florida.

We wanted to see Alabama play Florida because we had gotten acquainted with Lauren Parker’s grandparents, relatives, and friends sitting in front of us. (Lauren’s life story of injuries and challenges was inspiring as most of these young women’s stories are.) But we had to get out of that heat and we scurried to a place to eat with air conditioning and a ESPN. We even were able to have Gerry with us briefly as he hurried to eat and return to the team.

We were disappointed Alabama lost to Florida, but proud that three teams that day were from the Southeastern Conference. We returned to the park for a 9:30 game and were disappointed again when we played Washington for the third time in this tournament and lost. Washington would win from Florida on Monday and Tuesday nights to become the 2009 champions.

The young Georgia team with only two seniors and no juniors knew it was an achievement to be the only team there that defeated Washington. In fact, the Bulldogs scored more runs against Danielle Lawrie than any other team this year.

My favorite Georgia player was senior Kristin Schnake, who graduated from Nashville, Illinois, high school. She led the team in accepting their defeat with celebration that they had come that far. No one plays harder than Schnake. No one encourages other players more than Schnake. No one has a better attitude than this hard working agriculture student and athlete. No one could have made us prouder than the way the team rejoiced even in defeat.

We would have loved to have stayed for the final two games, but instead we wanted to get on Route 40 to Amarillo. We arrived at Rosemary and Phil’s Monday afternoon and feasted with them and Shiloh at supper. Before our final good-bye visit on Wednesday morning, we had also seen Candy, Gloria and Herman, Jennifer and Trevor, Tosha and Jeremy, Desi, and Eric, and we were able to meet Allie Jean, the l0-month old princess of the Amarillo Parks family. We missed a few of the families including Philip Todd and Jenna and Philip Ray, who are now stationed in Hawaii, where Desi was headed the next morning to spend six weeks with her uncle’s family. But it was a satisfying visit, and we left in cool weather under the big Texas sky with the highway bordered with mesquite and golden fields of wheat ripe unto harvest.

On through the green tree-bordered highways of Oklahoma and Missouri, we enjoyed glorious weather and the cattle on a thousand hills that we passed by. Finally in the flat Missouri Delta, we saw fields of young cotton, rice, and some soybeans. After a bounteous late lunch at a Charleston roadside cafeteria, we were soon in Illinois; and, of course, we drove up to look at Brian’s corn and soybean crops before we returned to Woodsong.