Sunday, November 01, 2009

Visiting Waggoner and Mascoutah

Several weeks back, I alerted our youngest daughter, Mary Ellen, and husband, Brian, that we might be up for the weekend since I was to speak at the Mascoutah Heritage Museum this afternoon, and Mascoutah would be on our way back home to Woodsong. As both our lives and theirs became busier, Mary Ellen and I were both assuring each other it was okay if we did not carry out those plans.

Nevertheless, we went to Waggoner this weekend, and I am glad we did. Waggoner is definitely my size town—200 to 250 or thereabouts population—surrounded by farm country. The only place to get a coke is at the machine at the tiny post office. There are several vacant buildings, a former school building with a terrific set of modern playground equipment (donated by a famous visitor several years ago—a story I need to find out more about), many well cared for homes, and a few of the other kind.

My daughter’s family has just moved there and live five miles out in the country, so I did not get to explore the town as much as I hope to in the future. I am sure you will be hearing more about Waggoner from me in the years to come.

We were able to meet some of the girls in the freshmen class of the area high school on Friday night. They gathered in the kitchen for pizza and then a trip to a “haunted funeral home” several towns away. I enjoyed all the giggling from afar as we ate our pizza in the living room, but I declined the invitation for the haunted site—especially after we heard there might be a four-hour wait line. Actually I think it was only two hours by that night, but I was glad to be comfy-cozy relaxing and watching a movie on TV at the Taylors.

On Saturday, we slept late, relaxed more, and went to lunch at a fabulous Chinese restaurant in a nearby town after we visited a rural tree nursery. (Brian always ends up with a great landscaped yard with neat trees wherever they move although right now he is planning a test plot in their huge back lot. Mary Ellen is regretting seeing the pretty green lawn plowed up for planting.) After lunch, we visited a couple stores and bought candy in case any goblins showed up at their rural home, and then we went home for more relaxing. We were so stuffed from the wonderful Chinese buffet that we could not believe it when Brian put a large-size pork loin on the rotisserie on the patio. Not surprisingly, we were hungry again after he brought it in smelling and looking delicious. Then we settled to watch the baseball game, and Trent entertained in his lancer costume including the wooden sword and authentic looking wooden shield he designed and he built with some help from his dad.

This season at the Taylors always includes a spooky visitor called “Dead Donna,” something or someone they bought a few years ago for a slumber party. She is a two-foot doll or manikin with death pallor, long dark stringy hair, horrible eyes, skinny feet with painted toenails coming out beneath her white gown, and over-size scary hands. She can light up and make some frightening noises if you turn her on. Mary Ellen had not been able to find her on the top shelf in the basement where she had been stored after their move, but someone found her and brought her to share the evening with us. Donna managed to move around the house to startle us, and I was disappointed when I did not happen to be in the room when Brian woke up from his nap with Dead Donna a few inches from his face.

With the change to standard time this morning, Gerald and I woke before the family. On my way through the kitchen to the downstairs bathroom, I noted the nice table laid out with dishes handy for the waiting cereal choices on the counter. I came out of the bathroom back into the kitchen and jumped when standing at the end of that table offering us a bowl of apples was none other than Donna. I laughed next, but I could not bring myself to eat one of her poison apples. When Trent walked through and opened a Reese’s cup for his breakfast before he went back to bed, I assured him that the orange treat surely had plenty of Vitamin C.

After more coffee and visiting, we worshipped with 50 or 60 others at Waggoner Christian Church in a charming white clapboard building. An enormous tree (sycamore?) was the only tree in the large church yard. Mary Ellen said they measured it recently and it was the fourth tallest of its kind in the state. I thrilled at its beauty and prayed the town does not have a derecho. We heard a wonderful sermon by Pastor Mary and deeply regretted that she is soon retiring. I would have liked my grandchildren, Trent and Brianna, to hear more than a few months of her wisdom and knowledge. The Taylors stayed for the pastor appreciation meal at 11, and we drove on down state
Route 4 first built in 1920 and later designated as U.S. Federal Aid Highway 66. Within a few years, Highway 66 was moved east, but much ado is made yet about the original Route 66, which we also traveled on last spring in Oklahoma when we missed a connection to the Interstate.

We got to Mascoutah in plenty of time to be set up before the 1 p.m. opening of the museum. The volunteer had told me she’d be there at 12:30 in case anyone wanted to come in early and tour the traveling Smithsonian exhibit “Journeys.” Their museum was one of six in the state chosen to display the well-done interactive kiosks. Their high ceilings and spacious rooms qualified them to have their second Smithsonian exhibit.

Our first visitors were two little cousins—one a fourth grader and one a fifth grader. The volunteer assured them they did not have to pay to see the exhibit—but they saw the money box, where people donate, and they hurried home to get coins so they could also be contributors to the museum. It was fun to show them around the large two-story building filled with local antiques and artifacts in addition to the Smithsonian exhibit on the first floor.

By the time our program was to start at 1:30, the second-floor auditorium was filled. (They have a fund underway to put in a passenger elevator since now the only one is a freight elevator.) I was able to tell about the forced journey the Cherokee had to make in 1838-39 leaving behind their fine warm cabins and the graves of their loved ones to walk a l,000 miles to a strange territory to start building anew. At the end of the hour, after questions and answers, people huddled over the exhibit tables of books and articles about the Trail through our state, where more died than in any other area of their horrific journey.

It had been a day without a hitch—almost—when the Taylors had returned home from the church potluck and saw my suitcase still sitting by the backdoor. If it had only clothes in it, I’d told Brian to bring it the next time he comes to the farm. Since it had my meds and the arm splint I have to sleep in right now, we had to accept their offer to bring it down. We intended to meet them part way, but they kept driving and were also able to see the “Journeys” exhibit. Brianna got some hours of driving practice to help her meet the Illinois quota she’ll have to have before she gets that coveted driver’s license.

So we got to hug and say goodbye again before we started down Route 64 and then Interstate 57 to arrive at Marion in time for supper at Taco Bell before coming back to Woodsong. Gerald watched the game tonight, and we had phone reports of Tara’s Southern Force softball tourney in Georgia, where Erin had also arrived for the weekend to help coach, and Geri Ann played. Then Erin went back to Texas while Tara and little Maddux went back to northern Illinois until next weekend at Chattanooga. Gerry and Vickie get to keep Aidan this week, so there will be a fun time in Watkinsville with Aidan to entertain them.

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