Sunday, October 31, 2010

Whatever Floats Your Boat--An Evening on the River

We had hoped to be in Georgia this weekend celebrating our son’s birthday on Friday and watching Geri Ann in the state high school softball tournament. It was not to be as Oconee lost the championship game in the previous tournament. I think Geri Ann may have taken it better than us adults did because she wrote on Facebook: “Focus on giants-you stumble. Focus on God- your giants tumble.” Nevertheless, we were doubly sad since we were disappointed for her in addition to our own disappointment.

Perhaps as an attempted antidote for our missed trip to Columbus, Gerald wanted to take a fall outing to the Garden of the Gods. This was definitely the right weather for it, and there was a break in the baseball series that Gerald watches hoping Texas will continue to make history. We hurried through tasks after lunch Friday to take off on the spur of the moment for the beautiful Shawnee National Forest. After a most pleasant drive through hills and vales and finally along a road parallel to tall cliffs seen behind the still leafed trees there, we arrived at one of our favorite parks. There were numerous cars, both instate and out-of-state, for others also wanted to view the fall leaves and enjoy the chill in the air.

We took a brief hike along one of the trails leading up to giant rocks, which we used to climb without thinking. It was always exhilarating to view the scenery from that high vantage point. Gerald is still steady on his feet, but I am much less balanced than I was the last time we visited the park even a year ago. I could hear the concern in his voice as he pointed out that one of the rock stairways going down (before it went up again) with neither rails or rocks on the side to balance with would be much harder coming back. I hated to quit, but I did not want to ruin our fun by creating a problem, so I turned back and sat down on the very comfortable bench that some kind employees had created for seeing that lovely vista without climbing the rocks to the very top. We met numerous other hikers on the path, and without exception, they all greeted us with great friendliness and camaraderie.

Our ultimate destination was the Ohio River, where we like to eat fish on a small floating restaurant there at Elizabethtown. We deliberately chose a road we were uncertain of to explore, and enjoyed the lovely drive and eventually did end up as desired at E-town. We had probably not been there for three years. We started once, but heavy rains made us abort that trip and eat elsewhere.

Before we went on down the hill to the floating fish eatery, I wanted to run into the gift shop at the Rose Hotel to see if Sandy Vineyard could use any more of my books. I had autographed some before I left home and was glad I had because she was out of those I left three years ago.

The Rose Hotel was built in 1812 and is now a beautiful bed and breakfast on the banks of the river. We spent our fiftieth wedding anniversary there in 2006. The rooms are lovely and the breakfast delicious in the dignified dining room. Sandy said the rooms were all taken that night, and she assured a tourist, who dropped in worrying whether the boat restaurant was open, that it served until 8 each evening.

I was grateful to know we could eat an unhurried dinner as we drove down to the boat’s parking lot and lingered a minute to enjoy the sunset dancing pastel colors on the river. We appreciated the new firmer wooden walkway out over the water leading to the boat where people were on the deck waiting for their turn at the crowded tables inside. Our wait was very short, and we enjoyed sharing a table with another couple and two bright youngsters. Their cuteness enlivened our meal. We were separated by a set of chairs, so we weren’t bothered by their conversations nor they by ours, but I did hear the young teen laughingly exclaim when we first sat down, “We went to a health fair today, and every booth gave us candy!” She was well aware of the irony of that, but evidently the adults who planned the health fair were not.

Although there were choices of farm-raised catfish and other entrees, we both wanted river catfish in that environment. The menu proclaimed they would serve all we could eat, and that was true. The original plates were generous and were all we could eat. We didn’t have to ask for the extra servings that they gladly brought to those who were still young enough to need more. I had a moment of panic in the middle of the meal when I frantically thought I might be getting sick—for a second I felt dizzy as though I were swaying although I had felt fine all day. Then I remembered that we were on a boat, and a barge had just gone by outside. Finally feeling pleasantly full and refreshed, we climbed the slight hill leading up to the parking lot for a night ride back to Woodsong and a good night’s sleep.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Fall Pleasures and Family Memories

Our little maple tree is completely covered with red leaves now. Few have fallen. The early bright red trees on the drive to town and last week at Goreville are half bare now.
However, the woods in the distance surrounding us, unlike other years, are mostly a growingly unpleasant green or brown. Wonder if the lack of rain is reducing color this year? There was one perfect brown oak leaf lying in our driveway when I walked down to mail Gerry’s birthday card. It had a long blow from the distant woods, but winds were high again today. As usual, brown corn husks from the fields beside our lane are landing in the yard.

After going to the mailbox, I had a little time to work on Martin Family history again downstairs. My cousin Dick, who wasn’t home when I visited Goreville last week, had returned my call yesterday and we had talked for over an hour—maybe two hours. So I was downstairs reviewing notes from that call and looking at other papers and notebooks I have laid out on a table in the kids’ den.

I had to quit to go pick up Sam from jazz band, and I rushed out the back door and stumbled into Gerald’s chair where he puts on his work shoes. The chair was scooted over so I could not miss it and there were papers in the chair about the family I had just been looking at downstairs. It took me a second to figure out that Dick had been there and left pages and pages of wonderful genealogical data from his computer program. There is no doorbell in our garage and I had left the door there open when I got back from the mailbox. So I had not heard Dick knocking. He and his sister have given me so much information.

When I wrote him and thanked him tonight for his gift, I shared the few memories I have of my Grandma Sidney after she moved to Broadway Street in Goreville. I had just turned seven in November when she died on January 1, 1941. I will share with you too:

My only memories of Broadway house and Gma Sidney:

1. Being disappointed once when I thought she had baked a yellow cake and it turned out to be cornbread. Somehow I remember her small red kitchen cabinet--not a wall cabinet. And a sorghum pitcher, which I have now.

2. Uncle Home and Aunt Vivian visiting with another couple, whose names I usually remember but can't right now. I think they may have been returning from Mexico. (Were the names Eddie and Olga?)

3. I remember playing with the box of broken jewelry that Gma kept for grandkids. How I loved that.

4, I remember a beautiful pillow made with satin and velvets. I inherited it at her death, and I still have it and love it.

5. I remember the beautiful chandelier Uncle Homer put in her front living room. And I remember her trinket case, which Jim helped Gerald rescue from the falling-in tenant house at Mt. Joy Farm. It is one of my pride and joys.

5. I remember the kids next door across the street on same side as Gma and playing in their barn loft once.

6. I remember Gertie Dennison laughing down the street on her porch in her corner house and the laughter always carrying up to Gma's house on the night air.

7. I remember loving to sleep in her folding bed with a feather bed mattress. I felt secure knowing if it rained, my head was under the high top part of the folding bed. I wonder if I slept there more than once.

8. I think there is some kind of a memory about mulberries, but I don't know what that is about.

9. I remember wanting to be flower girl at her funeral in old Baptist Church and getting to do so. I think we marched up to the choir loft when we carried in flowers or perhaps flowers were there and we carried them out. Mother had just started making me rag curls for Sunday School, and I think she made me curls for the funeral. I am not sure Gma had ever seen my curls.

10. I remember sitting on the front porch with cousin Jack and eating our buggers. I first thought this may have been at the time of her death, but since it was January, we would not have been on the porch at that time of year, so it must have been earlier.

Long after that, I can remember crying and missing her at Mount Airy Farm when I looked at her yellow and red rose bushes--almost forming a hedge out by the well. Many years ago I went to Mt. Airy Farm to see if I could get a start of the yellow rose bush, altho I am not good with plants. The lady there said they had been frozen out a year or two before, so I was too late.

Fall is a good time to reminisce, and I am enjoying thinking about the only grandparent I ever was able to meet.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Ferne Clyffe Dedication Plaque to Emma Rebman in 1974

I am continuing to go through papers and think upon Martin family history. I could barely read this 1974 manuscript, so decided to retype it. Ferne Clyffe was aways very important to our family not only because my parents and two siblings lived there one summer but also because it lay beside land my parents owned.In fact, Mom and Dad sold the enormous rock called "Boat Rock" to Miss Rebman. During the 1920s, Miss Rebman operated the park for the public for a small admittance fee. She later moved to Vienna, and I met her once when I went there with Mother. I have one fading memory of her room where we visited--crowded with papers. I loved it then, and claim it is her influence that makes me so addicted to papers today. I remember after she left the park that it became grown over and almost deserted during my childhood except for the one-room house where Alf Girtman lived. Miss Rebman insisted on allowing him to continue living there after the state bought the park. Once when Daddy was plowing on his nearby ground and I was hanging out with him that day, Daddy took me over there for a wonderful drink at one of the springs built into the rock cliff. Those springs are not available for families to fill their Thermoses with today. Our family was very happy when it became a state park in around 1950. The car anecdote below was often told by my mother, and she gave a detailed description to Fran Grabow when she drove our gang down there in 1951. Fran knew to put the car into low gear and go slow--and she said she was grateful for Mother's warning.

Here is what I just finished typing:

Copy of talk made by R.C. Martin at the dedication of a plaque to Miss Emma Rebman at Ferne Clyffe Park on Sept. 14, 1974.

Mr. President, Members of the Historical Society and Friends.

I appreciate this lovely tribute to Miss Rebman, I am sorry she does not know that it has been done. Maybe she does know. I want to thank President Bradley, Mr. Ralph Zech, the Historical Society, and Don Cole, Division of State Parks of Illinois for making this possible.

Miss Rebman had many outstanding traits of Character. I’ll just discuss two of them.

Many years ago we had the good fortune to share the old Club House which was then Miss Rebman’s home with her. It was a pleasant and happy experience.

The Club House had a high porch on the east side, many feet off the ground. The house was divided by a corridor running east and west. We lived in rooms north of this corridor.

One of the traits of character Miss Rebman displayed was courage. She demonstrated this quality many times. My wife had only recently learned to drive. She said anybody could teach a woman to drive better than her husband, I had forgotten to tell her how to drive down steep inclines. The old entrance was still a dirt road, She, with Miss Rebman at her side, started down the hill. She not only put on the brakes but threw the car into neutral. Of course the brakes didn’t hold, and the car raced down-grade. They managed to make the first turn, and away they rushed until the grade started up and slowed the car. Miss Rebman sat quietly and never spoke until the ordeal was over. She was completely cool and collected and continued to ride the remainder of the way in the car.

As County Superintendent she visited some 50 or 60 schools annually. The mode of travel then was by horse and buggy. One of these schools buildings was off the public road some distance. The teacher or one of the larger boys usually met and guided her to the school.

Another one of her traits of character was her love of nature. She loved the small animals in the park, grass, flowers, ferns and trees. In the hunting season she was always disturbed when she heard guns firing. She would often go out on the porch and call out, “Quit killing my squirrels.” She was partially repaid by an increase in their number. They were frequently seen near the house, and walks everywhere were made pleasant by their presence.

She wanted very much for the state to make Ferne Clyffe a state park. She worked long and patiently to this end. It was not just to help her sell the park.

I personally know she was offered the same price by individuals as she was offered by the State. However, she turned down this offer down because she wanted it to become a state park.

[This talk was on a typewritten sheet in R. Clyde Martin’s papers, which my mother saved. I suspect there was at least a closing paragraph on a second sheet, but only this much was saved.]

Friday, October 22, 2010

Down Martin Cave Lane

In the brief times I have to write, I am working on a couple of pieces of family history for the Johnson County families book expected to come out in 2012. I failed to write anything for their last book and have so regretted it. I definitely want the Goreville Martin family included in this one.

That means the couch in my office is covered with notebooks, and so are other surfaces. Photographs not looked at for years have seen the light of day. I have been reading old family letters and longing to see some of these family members again—and wishing I could meet those ancestors I never knew. Oh, the questions I’d love to ask them. Who is this photograph of a beautiful young woman? Is it my great grandmother Louisa Jane Craig Martin? I think so, but I don’t suppose I will ever know for positive. Some of Louisa’s descendants look like that photo. I urge everyone to ask the questions you want to ask now before it is too late. Of course we did not locate the mysterious photo (and many other photos) until after the deaths of anyone who might know the answers.

Since Gerald was having lunch with friends, I took off Wednesday to drive down to Goreville, the home of my branch of Martins and reminisce. I drove by the first house I remember my widowed Grandmother Sidney living in—a little green house in those days with a much talked-about rock and flower garden she had created and that I barely remember. Perhaps I don’t really remember at all and only think that I do from the talk and the very fuzzy home movie Uncle Homer took of it.

I am sure, however, that I personally remember the house on the corner of that street. I cannot pass it without feeling a warm comforting emotion. What I remember is sitting on that front porch—I think on the step—while Grandma and perhaps my mother were also sitting there on swing and chair visiting with the woman who lived there. I was only four or five because later Grandma moved to a house still standing on South Broadway, and she died when I had just turned seven. The memory of that front porch on the corner of South Fly is just a memory of emotion and a dim mental snapshot, but I dread the day when that house is torn down.

I drove on down South Fly past the new United Methodist Church building that replaced the old one, and the attractive brick Pentecostal Church, whose congregation now has a larger new facility on the north side of town that I saw for the first time as I drove down Route 37. Finally I was passing the little house Mother and Dad had bought for Grandma after World War I when prices were high—and which challenged their limited income when the Depression reduced its value and payments stayed high. If I was alive at all, I was too young to remember that house. Somewhere I heard or read that Grandma divided it up so she could rent out one side. Many people are doing that with their homes today. I didn’t turn there to go to Uncle Autie and Aunt Grace’s house now occupied by someone we sent photos to when she wished to see how it used to be.

It was lunch time, so I went in to The Old Home Place, owned by a special young couple we love from our community. I knew they would not be there, but I was hoping to see someone familiar from Goreville area, which I sometimes do although there are fewer and fewer faces I recognize in Goreville. The only person I saw that I knew was someone from Gerald’s rural neighborhood and he introduced me to his sister and nephews.

Re-enforced with their great barbecue basket, I went on down Route 37 to Busby Cemetery and wandered there as I did as a child when Daddy took us there on the third Sunday in May for Decoration Day. I was grateful no one was there. I copied some dates from tombstones, lovingly remembered my grandmother, my parents, aunts and uncles and cousins, and paid quiet respect to those who gave me life although they died long before I was born. I paused at the grave of a young woman who was killed in a car accident coming to take a final exam in a speech class I was teaching. I wondered what happened to her young son.

Family graveyards do not create the same sadly mellow but yet satisfying emotions that I experiencel when I drive familiar roads and see remaining landmarks from my youth. I don’t feel as close to my parents in the cemetery as I do when I visit former home places. I drove back and this time did turn onto Ferne Clyffe Road to go past Uncle Autie and Aunt Grace’s home which looks nothing like it did when I attended family reunions in that yard. At smaller gatherings, cousin Dick and I would leave the grown-ups and go down that road where then there was an enormous flat boulder beside the road and it became our headquarters as we enjoyed ripened blackberries in the fencerow there.

Driving on past the former entrance road to the Ferne Clyffe Park, which many of us thought the state illegally closed many many years ago, I experienced again the resentment that they did not maintain the original road into the park when they created the new one out by Busby Cemetery on Route 37. If people are ever trapped by fire inside this hollow surrounded by bluffs, a second way out could by invaluable. All of Goreville’s protests were ignored, and I did not like it then nor now.

More new homes stifled my memories as I drove onto Sullivan Road and then turned onto Happy Hollow Road towards Mount Airy Farm. The excellent road there mocked my memory of Daddy going around contacting neighbors to pitch in with money and labor to keep that road passable. (That was one of the earliest events where I enjoyed seeing my father take on community leadership.)

I probably shouldn’t have, but when I got to the mailbox at Mount Airy Farm, I drove up the little lane that I walked barefoot so many times in the summer to get the mail that D. P. “Darling” Jones delivered.I no longer knew who lived there at Mount Airy Farm, and I am sure they don’t even know the name of their farm that Aunt Myrtle named in the early 1900s. I think I was hoping someone would come out and ask what I was doing there and offer for me to get out and look around.

The house burned long ago while a second cousin’s family was living there. The old barn that housed Winnie, Tony, Ginger, and the mules and where I helped haul hay was gone. The “new” chicken house Mom and Dad were so proud of and that they moved over from Sunny Brook Farm near Ferne Clyffe no longer exists. But the trees that Cousins Eugene and Kenny and my brother Jim and I and our dog Lucky slept under are still there in the front yard of the newer home. Grandma Sidney’s special rock that I sat on is not there either. It is now on my patio, but I don’t think it has the mysterious hold on my grandchildren that it does even yet for me.

Since only several big barking dogs greeted me, I turned around and went back down the lane and continued on Happy Hollow Road until it divides when it comes to the rock-bottomed creek where my second cousins--Shirley, Bobby, and Gloria Jean--from the other side of the creek used to meet me to play and wade in the cool water. We had hollering signals worked out from our house on the hill to theirs, and we called back and forth to meet at the creek.

There I drove to the right onto Martin Cave Road knowing that my great grandparents and my grandparents had often traveled that road on horseback or in their wagons and buggies. Further on the Newton house where the second cousins lived was long gone, and so was the older Jones house where my Aunt Myrtle’s friend grew up. Each girl had named their family home, and that is why we called the farm where I spent summers Mount Airy Farm. This friend later became a syndicated columnist, and I romanticized about her although I never met her. I was no longer sure where either house used to be.

The further I drove, the narrower the road became. Huge ancient trees lined both sides of the road along the banks six to seven feet high. I knew those lovely trees now showing their fall colors were also seen by my ancestors. There were a few house places, and I thought surely anyone choosing to live that far in the country must be a kindred spirit to me. Then I saw a trespassing sign in one lane and realized they might not like me as much as I liked them. Yet in my heart, I had to feel these present-day newcomers with their no-trespassing signs were the interlopers. This was MY place.

I kept going although I had no idea what I would do if I met someone else on the road only wide enough for one car. The only place I could have turned around was in one of those few house entrances. I did not want to quit before I came to the end where I knew a gate would end the road, for Martin Cave Road no longer goes on down to Sleepy Hollow where my great grandfather William Felix Grundy Martin built three-room house after the Civil War. I was last there when Gerald and I rode horses there during our engagement. When Aunt Meda died in 1950, I guess my great Uncle Sam lived there for while but then in his grief moved up to Mount Airy Farm. Sam left her clothes in the closet and the tools in the cave near the house, and gradually nature had its way. Gene Ward Walker bought the acreage, I believe, and later it was sold to the state. When my cousin Doug brought his son David after his high school graduation in California, they hiked down through the thick woods and heavy brambles to the remains of the old homestead and came back covered with ticks. I know of others besides myself who would love to go again, but it really is not a feat many could do.

Realizing that the edge of one part of that narrow road was washed out, I found myself saying a prayer that there would be a place to turn around at the end of the road. I was sure I could not easily drive that entire distance in reverse. No sooner had I shot up the prayer than I decided it was a lot to ask that suddenly a turn-around place be miraculously provided for me if one did not already exist. So I asked that I be able to turn around if there was such a spot at the end of the road. There was and I did, but I am convinced without the prayer I might not have succeeded because it was tight and rocky quarters at road’s end. Louisa’s narrow buggy could have made it easier than I did, but I think she was among that great host of witnesses cheering me on.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Annual Fish Fry

Once a year, a group of dedicated volunteers gather early in our church yard at the pavilion and start the fire and breakfast together. They fellowship and laugh as they fry fish, potatoes, and hush puppies for all the rest of us and whatever friends and family we can gather in after worship service in our village church. Yesterday’s weather could not have been more perfect for such a fall celebration. If the large crowd and the abundance of side dishes and desserts were any indication, the affair was a great success.

Earlier Gerald and I were working with the preschoolers during the worship service, and we had six small children in our care plus Tyler, a third grade helper who comes in once a month. Our hands were full with Drew, a two-year-old present for the first time, and Caleb, a three-year-old who knew about the play ground where all the cooking was going on and wanted to be there immediately without waiting. Our helper Tyler is both challenged and also challenging, and I was so pleased that he showed special effective concern to the new child, who responded well to him. Drew also adored Gerald and would sit happily on his lap, while my efforts to comfort when he first realized his father had gone from the room did not help a bit. With Tyler and Gerald’s attention, he was soon playing and participating happily again.

To some of the other kids, I was explaining--not particularly successfully-- that the Bible says to be kind to the stranger within our gates and so we needed to be particularly kind and sharing with Drew, who was just getting acquainted with us. (This was in response to someone not wanting to share a toy with him. Grabbing it out of his hand, in fact.) As you watch the children squabble over toys or the limited space beneath the blackboard tripod where you wished they had not crawled, you sometimes think the worst of human nature shows up early in little ones. They can be snippy, snobby, and selfish with each other. Yet these same children can be sweet, sharing, and concerned for another child just a few minutes later. We try to re-enforce those qualities that bring about peace and happiness. Children seem to have a built-in sense of justice that is easily brought to the surface most times. Of course, if they are cranky and tired as every child is sometimes, then they may not be rational nor capable of understanding fairness. Or if they understand it, they may not want to be fair anyhow.

It is exciting to see small children learn to play beside each other and eventually with each other as they age. It is so rewarding to see them learn to enjoy routines and order. When play chaos is suddenly replaced with coming together at the snack table for water and graham crackers and then complete silence happens spontaneously as a brief thank you prayer is said, all a teacher’s efforts are worth it. (Forgotten is the work required to take turns washing our hands and then more struggle lining up at the hall water fountain—a great joy to children who like to fill their own cups—and then getting everyone back in the room at the table after their fascination with baby Boone in the room by the water fountain—an attraction that caused considerable straying.)

After the snack and more play, we gathered a second time at the table. When the red leaves collected from our little maple tree were showered down on the table, the oldest child knew what season it was and soon little hands made them fall again, They liked gluing them on a piece of paper to take home.

Later as we ate fish and the children swarmed the play ground equipment, Gerald and I were grateful parents and grandparents were once more in control of their children’s happiness and safety. Yet I could not help feeling satisfaction that little Drew was climbing and playing as if he had known everyone forever.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Autumnal Celebration and Sadness

After a thirsty late summer, our rose bushes are blooming their hearts out despite the fact that we still need more rain here at Woodsong. The single bud I placed on the kitchen table to welcome Phyllis and Patty is now over five inches across and still looking pretty. Through email, we have heard that not only did they make it back safely to Florida very early Wednesday morning, but Patty had taken Phyllis for health check ups and she weathered the trip very well. One cute after effect of their visit was having Gerald call me Sue Alice, my childhood name that he heard while they were here.

This week as I drive to town, the bright red or light orange trees are much more common although the majority of the trees are still mottled green with only touches of color. When the garage door is left open, a few brown leaves are blowing in there as well as showing up on porches. While Gerald had the car out to drive to Jackson and Cape over in Missouri today, I swept them up, but others will soon replace them.

We are sad tonight for Garry and Ginger, Gerald’s brother and wife. Continuous seizures last week not only sent Ginger to the Cape hospital, but resulted in a dislocated shoulder that required surgery. All this is especially problematic because Ginger lost her short term memory from a stroke back in December 2001. We have been awed by the way that Garry has taken care of her and kept their life as normal as possible. But the after-care from this surgery is not something he can do alone. She had to leave the hospital for nursing home care, and he knows that all his repeated explanations to her are not remembered. For years now, he has taken her out for breakfast because that was the one meal he could count on her to consume. He will be eating alone in the morning.

Meanwhile, we are happy tonight for my sister Rosemary and husband Phil. Friday nights are family nights at the Parks’ house where everyone who is not tied up elsewhere comes to eat Mom and Pop’s cooking. Tonight is very special because both Cyndi and Gloria have already commemorated and expressed gratitude on Facebook that 50 years ago today, Rose and Phil drove from Amarillo to Galveston to adopt two pretty little blonds, aged l0 and 11. As their cousin Mary Ellen said, God knew that they belonged in our family. (It was later that they adopted Candy and Trudi. We lost Trudi on January 1, 2002 to cancer.)

Sadness and joy are so often mixed and jumbled together. Garry was so grateful last week that Ginger had not suffered another stroke and that she lived through those days in intensive care. Yet tonight he is grieving, and we are grieving with him and Vicki and Kerry. The Parks have always celebrated adoption day, and Gloria and Cyndi’s families are rejoicing over 50 years in their special family. Yet as Gloria said, they are all especially missing Trudi today. So do we.

The horrors that the Chili miners experienced during 17 days of knowing that no one knew they were alive and then all the difficult days following brought about the most intense joy imaginable for them and their families when they all came up safely. Yet we know they will have more difficulties as they readjust. A young mother we care about in the Washington, D.C. area totaled her van a couple of days ago, but that problem has been pushed aside in importance with the joyous news that her son will be coming safely home (again) from Iraq. Our daughter’s loss of a special loving caregiver brought us great distress, and the caregiver sobbed at leaving her. But now we are getting acquainted with an extraordinary highly trained and talented woman who has replaced her. The care giver who left had to move far away to take care of a very ill father. We pray that somehow someway this sad move turns into a positive event that will result in great joy.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

All 33!!!

Wasn 't that something??? Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Praise Him all creatures here below. Praise Him above ye heavenly host. Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Busy Saturday and Lazy Sunday

Early this morning our dining room table was covered with a beautiful red and white Austrian flag—with autographs of Austrian Sharx softball players. This was created especially for Gerald and, of course, he loved it. Erin presented us with souvenirs from her summer abroad before leaving to pick up her Gma Shirley for the trip back to her parents’ home in Georgia. Gma Shirley’s surprise visit with Vickie and Gerry and Geri Ann was so much fun to anticipate.

We had Phyllis and Patti McKenzie, a hometown friend of mine and her daughter, arrive from Florida Friday night for Phyllis to attend her 60th high school reunion of the Anna-Jonesboro High School Class of 1950. (She was valedictorian of that class by the way.) I had hoped they’d arrive before I had to leave at 6 to attend a women’s gathering that I thought it important for me to attend. I had told the younger woman picking me up that if they came at the exact moment we were leaving that I’d need five minutes or so to welcome them. (They’d told me on the phone the day before that they would be too tired from travel to attend with me.) In case they came after we left, I had Gerald and Erin prepped to welcome them and had notes affixed on both doors telling them to go in and make themselves at home. Sandwich fixings and angel food cake were waiting.

Returning in the dark from the meeting at Tally Taylor’s home in Pittsburg at nine, Tracy and I came over the hill by our neighbor’s house, and there was a car slowed there seemingly looking for names on the mailbox. When Tracy asked if that could be my friends, I said surely not since they were due much earlier. But after passing them, we realized the license was from Missouri, which is what at rental car from the Saint Louis airport would have. We watched in our back window, but they stayed put as if wondering what to do. Tracy pulled into our lane and I got out in the middle of the country road and started wildly beckoning them to come on down the road and over the next hill to our lane. When they started driving towards us, I certainly hoped it was my friends.

It was. They’d arrived at the airport on time, but Phyllis’ very necessary walker had not. Although the airport wanted to deliver it the next day to our house, they knew that was not an option. So they made some necessary stops including one at Whole Foods to pick up special diet items that Phyllis is restricted to right now because of health issues. (We too enjoyed a delicious non-dairy dessert called Decadent last night and pumpkin pie for dessert for dinner today thanks to that stop.) Anyhow with all the delay, they had arrived after dark when strange rural roads are much harder to navigate and my directions they’d printed out were inconveniently in their back seat. So we arrived at just the opportune moment to welcome them to Woodsong.

We had a good visiting session both that night and the next morning before they left for Anna with time for visiting before the afternoon dinner catered at the new City Hall. They had already returned when I came home after running some Saturday errands and then having an afternoon visit with Katherine. Gerald had visited with us in the morning and then worked at the other farm cleaning up ditches there.

Phyllis was tired but pronounced her class reunion as “outstanding.” We had a bit of supper and were still at the table when Erin joined us after her visit with friends home from Nashville and Birmingham. They had attended the Southern Illinois University Carbondale Homecoming football game in our new stadium, and SIUC won in an overtime. By now we also knew that Georgia had won their football game and that Geri Ann’s Oconee High School had won the girls Region softball tourney. Erin was sad about Texas A&M losing, but otherwise it was a good day. Everyone was pretty wiped out, but we still visited some more.

While we attended church this morning, we left Phyllis and Patti to catch up on their rest. Patti had known her mother might want to visit her childhood farm home as we did ten years ago at her 50th class reunion, but tiredness prevailed. Instead we spent a lazy afternoon napping and talking and sometimes watching television with the sound off. We ate those delayed sandwich fixings for supper. We’ve heard through Facebook that Erin and Gma Shirley made it safely to Georgia, and that the family there were as happy at Shirley’s surprise visit as we knew they would be. We are going to bed feeling happy ourselves and ready for a new week.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

TheCrops Are In!

Gerald says empty brown fields after harvest are the prettiest fields a farmer can see. Our son-in-law Brian finished his harvest yesterday. He completed his first crop on the new field he had bought from a neighbor on Saturday. We’ve enjoyed watching the thick soybean plants there growing taller all summer as we drove past them on the way to town. And we’ve made many side trips up to see his corn and bean crops on our other farm. On a recent trip upstate, I didn’t see any plants as pretty as Brian’s beans or corn.

But as Gerald says, the brown stubbled fields stretching as far as the eye can see until stopped by the next tree line is cause for appreciation and rejoicing. Not fire nor hail nor wind nor deep mud caused by heavy rains can now destroy all the work and expense put into the crops. The fields are resting ready for winter’s snow and promising another planting in the spring.

On Saturday on our way to Anna, I saw only one lovely tree with orange leaves. This morning one short sassafras beside the road had bright red leaves. So far most trees are only browning here in Southern Illinois. Many green leaves are darkening though a few are turning lightly red. Yet we know the colors will soon be deep and beautiful in a couple more weeks, and we anticipate autumn’s visual pleasure in advance as we relish the cool morning and evening air. We’ve had our first frost. And foggy mist rises from our lake each morning.

As I picked the few remaining pods of okra from in the garden, I enjoyed the loud music of crows cawing. Looking towards the sound, I saw large numbers of the birds beyond Scott’s trees where Brian had finished harvest. More crows were flying over my head to join the early birds already having breakfast on beans left behind in the stubble. They were glad the crops were harvested too.

Our tomatoes have been small all summer, and only a handfull remain for picking every other day. Our granddaughter Erin is with us this week, and she is trying to enjoy vegetables more, so I was picking these with her in mind. However, she and her Aunt Chris picked up her other grandmother at 4:30 this morning to take her to Mount. Vernon for cataract surgery. Very typically that grandmother already had Italian beef going in the crockpot. So Erin and all the Johnson family are gathering there for dinner tonight. There are still enough tomatoes for tomorrow though, but they are scruntly.

Tis the winding down season with stubbled fields and scruntly tomatoes. Should those words be added to the dictionary?

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Elizabeth (Martin) Martin

Dear Blog Friends--I just shared this by email with a genalogical enthusiast whom I met recently. Since I did not have anything in mind to blog about tonight, I decided to share the following, which I emailed to the genealogy friend.

Let me share a poem with you that I wrote after a genealogical breakthrough in 2003 from a woman in Kansas. Thought you might enjoy the true story of William Felix Grundy Martin's early life. Interestingly, WFGM had a younger brother also named Felix, according to an old paper a 1960s researcher saw. We do not know when the younger brother Felix died or why he also was named Felix when his older brother already had that name. Odd. Evidently, WGFM and three brothers were all the children of Valentine and Hannah to live to adulthood.

Even odder to me, we found out at the time these Kansas records appeared that WFGM was called Felix by relatives in Jefferson and Clinton Counties. (We had noted that in one 1960s interview but thought that person had made an error. ) All military records and other sources we knew about called him William F. Martin, but his children knew his full name was WFGM. As a preacher, he was called "Uncle Billy" an old man told me once. WFGM died in 1901.

We have no idea why WFGM was named after the Senator Felix Grundy, but for some reason Felix Grundy was an important name to Valentine and Hannah. William was the name of Valentine's father, grandfather, and great grandfather.

Here's the poem and the story behind the poem which I wrote in a thank you note for the two women who had walked and recorded the graves at Pleasant Grove Cemetery near Mt. Vernon, IL.:

Over two decades ago I had gone looking for the gravesite of Elizabeth Martin in Perry County, where a great uncle thought it might be. Unable to find it, I had decided that she was probably buried on a farm someplace in an unmarked grave. I did not know her maiden name, and I only knew that she was buried with one or two children, all of whom the great uncle thought had died in a typhoid epidemic.

In May 2003, I unexpectedly connected by Internet with an unknown distant distant cousin-in-law, who had just received some family records from her husband's people. From those ancient records passed down in Kansas, I learned that Elizabeth's maiden name was also Martin, and that she and her baby and her mother were all in Pleasant Grove Cemetery "near Mt. Vernon." I hurried to the Jefferson County web site, and there were their names and information matching what I had just received from Kansas.

Elizabeth (Martin) Martin

Wife of William Felix Grundy Martin

5-1-1827 to 10-6-1857

Elizabeth came from Tennessee

To marry her cousin

In Illinois country.

An only daughter

With six brothers,

Her sister Margaret had died at three.

She helped out at home down there,

Content with others’ lives.

Then Felix’s dreams became her own

Which they must realize.

Though sad to leave her parents,

William Felix was a prize.

A preacher like her daddy,

Felix filled her heart with love.

Baby Margaret came along,

A second blessing from above.

Glorious sunshiny summer

Must end as all things do.

A horse threw off its rider

And troubles began to brew.

Her uncle, Felix’s father,

Was killed by that hard fall.

She comforted her young husband

Who cried but still stood tall.

Her death not three weeks later

Brought him to the ground.

For such excess bereavement

No comfort could be found.

Baby Margaret without her mother

Could not survive here long.

A third time family gathered

And sang a sadder song.

Beloved bride. Beloved babe.

He must ride to Tennessee

To tell her parents what they’d lost

Here in Illinois country.

Time passed and much to his surprise

William Felix loved once more

And the sun began to rise.

The Civil War called him from home,

And all three brothers too.

For it seemed right that men must fight

When things were all askew.

Elizabeth had three brothers

Who’d moved up from Tennessee

And like the other cousins, they marched

Back home with Lincoln’s grand army.

Nine Martin cousins

Volunteered to join the fray.

Five came back and three died young

Their hair to never gray.

The war was finally over.

William returned to Louisa Jane.

He smiled to see son Will so big

And horse and farm again.

A three-room house they built with pride

Joys and sorrows came their way.

But he had learned when Elizabeth died,

That neither come to stay.

It was Elizabeth’s father’s turn to die,

Her mother Nancy was alone.

A younger son brought their mother up

To make an Illinois home.

Nancy saw the graves from long ago

Of the daughter still so dear

Of the babe she had yet to rock

And she shed another tear.

Nancy too returned to dust

A long way from Tennessee,

She was glad to join Elizabeth

Here in Illinois country.

I place blooms on these three graves

Where William Felix sobbed in grief,

Their early deaths gave me my life,

My great-grandmother was his second wife.

I'm Feeling Younger Than Dirt!

For a couple of years now, I have been trying to shrink obligations and outside responsibilities. Gradually I have stopped some. I’ve also expressed a desire to simply be a member of those organizations I belong to—trying to be a good follower of others who are leading rather than having leadership duties.

So when my friend Jari Jackson asked me to join the local Women’s Club after I had spoken there, I explained all this to her. However, I was impressed with this group. A large proportion (majority perhaps—not quite sure yet) of these women are much older than I am! And I admired the younger members of the club (many just a year or a few years younger than me) who want to keep meetings during the afternoon so these longtime members can continue to participate. However, with so many women employed these days, this makes it difficult to enlist younger members.

Since I am no longer employed outside the home and can usually take off whenever I want, that made me a potential member and amazingly one of the “young ones.” I liked the idea that suddenly I was young. I liked the women there, and I liked the programs and the causes supported. I noticed that many were absent without anyone seeming peeved.

So I told Jari that I’d join if I could just be a member and attend when I can, not feel guilty when I miss, and not have to serve on committees or get caught with the crunch of a responsibility that I accepted and then later worried if I would have the time to fulfill. I like the idea of knowing if I fail to make a group’s meeting, no one is hurt by my absence but me. I particularly liked the fact that this group does not meet in the summer and only once a month.

The new club year has started, and once again I am inspired by these long-time club members. Many have had careers in addition to being a homemaker. All are talented, skilled, abreast of what is going on in the world, well traveled, and friendly. Our year started with a luncheon meeting, and the program was a talk by Cindy Gunnin, the program chair and vice president of Southern Illinois Writers Guild. Cindy blames me for her being in that job (a very time consuming one), so I figured I better try to attend if I could.

My seat mate at the luncheon was one of our most delightful members—Ruth was 99 on her birthday last summer and celebrated it with her family at a Saint Louis Cardinals game. She is an accomplished pianist, and when she handed me the club book to read the Collect with the others, she said it from memory. She is also blind now. What an example she is for someone young like me!

This month my friend Loretta (a year younger than me) had the program showing us a slide show of her and Frank’s summer tour up the Blue Danube with her daughter and husband and the daughter’s mother-in-law. Loretta’s knowledge she had picked up during the tour was exciting, and a large book collection on display showed she had studied well before and after the tour. Since I have always wanted to travel overseas but have accepted the fact that I never will, I especially enjoyed this vicarious tour. I was surprised at the number who raised their hands when Loretta asked how many had been to Europe. Their comments and questions added to the program. This time my nearest seat companion was only 95. She went out of her way to take care of me and make sure I appreciated Ruth a few seats away.

Loretta used to live in our village and reared four fine children while succeeding at various business careers. When they had two children close together, she and Frank sat in adjoining rocking chairs getting their little ones to sleep. I was somewhat surprised once when told me that she always put her job ahead of her kids—I’d heard many a woman say the opposite, but never heard anyone say that. I was not sure I believed her since I think her kids were always well cared for, but I enjoyed hearing a woman not apologize for her career but feel as if it was important to her family’s well being. She and Frank were one of the most hospitable couples we knew, and they were always having others over for dinner.

In retirement, she and Frank were recruited by a local funeral home to serve as host and hostess to the families and visitors. One time when Loretta and I went out to lunch while she was between jobs, she had told me wonderful stories of the wakes in families’ homes down in Johnson County before there were funeral homes there. She told me how much she enjoyed these warm and caring rural neighborhood gatherings when she was a child. So when Gerald and I would be greeted by Frank and Loretta when we attended a visitation at the funeral home, I always remembered this and knew they were the perfect pair to be taking care of those in grief.

This afternoon we drove down to Anna in Union County to attend a surprise 80th birthday party for a classmate of Gerald. Ermadell was one of nine children. The three boys in the family have passed away, but her five sisters are still around to carry off this surprise party complete with photographs they had sneaked out of Ermadell’s home for a collage and also to decorate the tables along nuts and candies. All kinds of plotting had taken place including a previous birthday dinner at a local eatery with gifts and singing all designed to fool Ermadell. The sisters were smug that they succeeded. The youngest sister Peggy, who was a close friend of Gerald’s sister Ernestine, was called upon to tell Ermadell her recent dream during all this party scheming. Peggy said she had never written a poem in her life, but she did in her dream. She woke up laughing at the poem, which had the repetitive refrain: You are older than dirt! That had then become the line for one of the banners decorating the room.

I thought that was quite far fetched. With the ladies I have been hanging out with, I consider Ermadell nothing but a spring chicken.