Saturday, August 27, 2011

Reliving Cobden's Glory Days

Our meals have been enlivened this week as Gerald excitedly tells me what he has read in The Amazing Appleknockers: Illinois Cinderella Basketball Team of 1964. Despite a very busy week getting a replacement for a broken draw bar, which he was still out in his shop adapting today, he was snatching moments to read the book, and I was getting his updates. He was eager to finish the book and find out all the details about the Appleknockers’ story, which he did yesterday afternoon, but he was still talking about it at lunch today.

For a school with 147 students to become one of the Elite Eight out of 735 high schools in the state was pretty incredible. They traveled by train to the state tournament, and were pleasantly surprised to see people along the way holding up signs celebrating with them and cheering them to victory. They were rapidly the crowd’s favorite and the reporters’ dream team. The village of Cobden was almost deserted as residents traveled to support the team in Champaign at the University of Illinois.

Everyone up there was asking what an Appleknocker was. In our end of the state, we all knew where the term came from. If you grew up in Union County, your older brother or the neighbor boys probably picked peaches and apples in the fields around Cobden. The authors explained that by knocking apples off of over-loaded limbs, workers could bring about better quality apples. They repeated the story that the town mayor told to newspaper reporters that the school adopted the name in the 1940s after they made it to a sectional tournament even before they had a gymnasium. When Cobden won, one spectator supposedly said, “Whoever heard of a bunch of appleknockers winning such a thing?” That was the impetus for the school to officially and proudly adopt the Appleknockers as their mascot name.

Like most Illinoisans during March Madness 1964—especially those of us in the southern part of the state—we were sitting in front of the television watching the Appleknockers as they played in the state tournament. I don’t think we owned a television in 1964, so we probably came over to the hog farm to watch with Keith and Barbara in their living room. We watched with pride and held breath to see these kids from our end of the state keep winning. They advanced to the championship game but sadly were defeated 50-45 by the team from Pekin. For kids who thought they could win the whole thing, the deep disappointment made that second-place trophy totally unappreciated that final night. They listened to Coach Ruggles’ consolation talk and politely attended the party in their honor at their motel, but they had come to win, not be to be runners-up.

The train trip home was quiet and solemn as each player relived the loss and knew what should have happened differently. They had just lost the most important game of their lives. Coach Ruggles wanted to help them feel better but nothing he said or did changed the dark mood. As they approached Cobden, they saw cars outside the train windows and thought there must be a funeral in town. What they did not know was that cars from the region were backed up on Route 51 from the curve north towards Carbondale and down to Anna in the south. Some estimated four to five thousand had come to Cobden to celebrate their second-place win. American flags, a giant welcome home banner and bands from area high schools were playing. Cameras flashed as the boys stood amazed at seeing more people than they had ever seen in the village before.

Convertibles were waiting for them to crawl into for the parade. While spectators cheered, the parade with fire truck and crepe-paper decorated vehicles three times circled the loop—the two parallel main streets with railroad track between them that cause people to claim that Cobden has the widest main street in the world. They proceeded to the high school where people crammed the gym decorated with streamers and flowers, and there was a fifteen-foot cake made to look like a basketball court.

By the time the speeches, recognitions, and continuous ovations were almost over, the boys began to realize what they had done and were able to share the pride and joy being heaped on them. Finally, bushels of plastic apples were brought to the stage for the players to autograph and toss to the crowd who begged for them. Apples were flying everywhere, and I suspect most of those who caught them have them still someplace in their homes. People in our region have never forgotten this team and their amazing performance. Now thanks to the story in book form, those too young to been alive back then will have the opportunity to remember it also.

Co-authors Teri Campbell and Anne Ryman both grew up in Cobden hearing the wonderful stories about this Sweet Sixteen team when Sweet Sixteen meant something in this state. (Now teams are divided by size, so no team from a tiny school can ever again play the larger teams in a state tournament.) Teri spoke to Southern Illinois Writers Guild last Thursday. Someone asked Teri if writing about the games was difficult for her, but she explained that in her job at John A. Logan College, she had been writing up JALC’s sports stories for eleven years, so that was the easy part for her. Co-author Anne Ryman lives in Phoenix, Arizona, with her husband Scott Cancelosi and daughter Maria and works for the newspaper there. They started the book in 2003 and collaborated by phone and Internet. I grabbed one of the last of their books from the first printing and Teri autographed it for Gerald. More books are likely printed by now and available on Amazon, but I knew Gerald would not want to wait when I told him bits and pieces from Teri’s talk. The book was definitely one of my most successful gifts to my husband.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Good News! The Knee Bends!

Gerald and I woke with one thing on our minds. We must drive to Carterville area to the surgery center where Erin was facing no one knew what. Erin’s boyfriend Rick had picked her up and taken her there shortly before we arrived, and he was asleep in the waiting room since he had gotten off work at 2 a.m. and had not had a full night’s sleep. Gma Shirley also arrived, and we all tried to distract ourselves from worrying about what was happening to our Erin, who was to be anesthetized in order to have her stiff knee bent.

A nurse appeared at the door ever so briefly and reported that the manipulation procedure was starting. After four recent surgeries for the ACL, none of us could bear to think about a fifth surgery today but we knew it was a possibility if too much scar tissue prevented the knee from being bent. (I don’t know enough about the knee or surgery to know why the two earlier times first at the surgical center and then the hospital were called two surgeries each time and not one, but I assumed it was because they made two incisions.)

Within a half hour, we were all invited into the conference room where the surgeon told us Erin was in recovery and everything had gone as well as he could have hoped for. No incision and further surgery had to be done. He had heard some scar tissue popping, but evidently it broke up without need for further scraping or whatever we were fearful he might have to do. He illustrated with his own leg movement how good Erin’s was now. She must go home with anti-pain meds, continue the antibiotics, and move, move, move the knee and then start more physical therapy in the morning. Gerald phoned Vickie and Gerry knowing they were as focused on what was happening here as we were.

Soon we were all invited into the recovery room to sit around her bedside where she was drinking a coke and smiling and very happy that she could bend her knee again. When it was time to go, her crutches were brought out and she declined a wheelchair. Rick would be taking her through a drive-in for breakfast. We all hugged goodbye with great relief and gratefulness.

Saturday, August 20, 2011


When Gerald talked to Gerry this morning, Gerry and Aidan were on the way to the first of Geri Ann’s three tournament softball games. Gerald asked Gerry what he was doing, and Gerry replied, “I’m explaining the difference between an hour and a second to Aidan.” I am sure Gerry is re-learning how five-year-olds think now that Tara and the three little boys are in Georgia while Bryan is still in Aurora preparing their house for sale and completing the seven exams he has to pass to be a licensed architect in Illinois. Tara is already at work as the new assistant softball coach at the University of Georgia, and Gma Vickie is swamped, I am sure, with the move to a house large enough for two families, which will facilitate her helping with child care.

Gerald misses these three little boys so much himself that he is very sympathetic to Bryan temporarily stuck up north, so he phoned him to commiserate and check to see if there is any chance of catching a ride down for one of Geri Ann’s senior softball games at Oconee High. We have to follow their team by phone calls or by checking newspaper accounts on the Internet.

Maybe all our transitions will be over soon, and family members will settle into their new fall roles and residences. I am unsettled just from watching and vicariously experiencing what everyone is going through with new rental houses, new schools, new jobs, and on and on. I don’t even know the addresses for half of my kids and grandkids right now! (I never like change and rarely like anything new, so no wonder I am unnerved.)

Trent starts college with a calculus class on Monday night and is in the new house in Chatham. Brianna has already begun her junior year in high school there. Elijah is settled into his dorm room at Illinois State University and has his first classes on Monday also. Leslie and fiancĂ© Michael are in Freeport visiting her folks and attending a friend’s wedding and will start their senior year at Belmont next week. I am wondering if they will get to stop at Woodsong on their way back to Nashville.

Probably the most unnerving event will take place on Monday when Erin has to go back to the surgeon and surgery center for a knee-bending procedure. I was pleased to unexpectedly see her other grandmother, Gma Shirley, last night at a women’s social gathering at our village church. We are both waiting to find out what time Erin has to be there for this procedure—and we are praying there is no scar tissue found inside that knee. Meanwhile, today Erin is meeting with the new SIUC softball team and is excited about her upcoming second year as assistant coach there.

Her good friend Toni Whitfield. a grad student, has already moved for this school year into the little house Erin rented last year. That’s appropriate since Toni’s folks were the ones who furnished much of the house last fall with their extra furniture and they serve as Erin’s substitute parents in this area. Toni is one of those multi-talented people— athletic, artistic, and academically gifted. She can sew and do things practical as well; and on top of all that, she is quite beautiful. I hope we again get to see her occasionally now that she and Erin are housemates.

Sam has started high school and is already busy with all that entails. His mother says there has already been plenty of homework. (I though maybe all the summer academic work he was assigned would make this semester easier. I guess it does not work that way.) But I think Sam likes the challenge. I feel a little awed when I pass his old grade school and the junior high and realize that he has already moved on to bigger things and I don’t need to read the announcements on the schools’ public bulletin boards. He is contemplating that driver’s license that will eliminate the need for me is his life, and that is as it should be. But my contemplation of where has time gone is also understandable and as it should be.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Visiting Summer Visitors

Gerald’s cousin’s daughter Lynn and husband Brent Carter are visiting her dad, Bill
Tweedy, this week at his Cobden area farm. Lynn and Brent’s daughter Tiffany and two little girls--Aubrey, 4, and Kylie, 2—are there meeting up from the far sides of America. We wanted to see them before everyone returns to their side—the Carters to North Carolina and Tiffany to Oregon. Gerald suggested an outing, but their schedule didn’t allow it, so they invited us down last evening.

We left a little early since Gerald had planned to go to a Carbondale office supply store on his way home from physical therapy yesterday morning, but since this would be on our way to Bill’s house, he postponed that shopping stop until our evening trip. After obtaining the sale items we both found, we were back in the car heading south towards New Route 51.

Soon we came to the bright yellow water tower at Makanda, the sweet memorial to our late Senator Paul Simon, who lived in that village and always wore a bow tie. The smiley face on the water tower wears his signature tie, and we remember the impact for good that he accomplished for our region and our nation.

There we headed down Old 51, which always bring memories since it was the only way from our hometowns to Carbondale for so many years. We passed Dead Man’s Curve and the second sharp curve soon after and knew gratefulness for New 51. Going past Flamm’s Orchard, we remembered the peach cobbler being served on the picnic tables there. Turning at Limestone Baptist Church, we headed down the more narrow but lovely tree-lined Union Springs Road.

All through our journey, I was enjoying and so grateful for all the attractive and well cared for homes of just ordinary people who live on these rural lands. I had just finished re-reading Cora Alyce Seaman’s book that gave such an accurate account of Depression- era farm homes and lifestyles, and these homes re-enforced my acknowledgement of how fortunate Americans are today. Our wealth and comfort compared to then are so great. The next two generations younger than us with their phones, computers, and other luxuries, which they rightfully consider necessities in today’s world, have no idea what hard times really are. I am so glad.

Finally we came to the Tweedys’ beautiful home with its lovely vista. Brent and Bill and little Kylie were outside working on new back seats for Bill’s Gator that obviously pleases his great granddaughters as much as Gerald’s does our great grandsons.

Inside I was happy to see Lynn again and to meet Tiffany, whom I surely saw during her childhood but not often, and to make an acquaintance with blond Kylie and sandy-haired Aubrey, who were such pretty little pixies sharing their delightful charm and energy as they bounced around in our midst. (We missed Mickey, who was in Omaha with her daughters, but Bill assured us that her evening’s phone call had included an inquiry about Katherine, whom she faithfully prays for.)

Bill was scheduled for supper and a youth group he works with at his church, so he had to excuse himself before we sat down to Lynn’s delicious supper she had prepared for us. The two little girls were seated at the counter near us with their glasses of milk and plates of food, and I noticed they seemed to enjoy supper to replace all the energy they had expended. Brent and Lynn said they would soon be in bed and quickly asleep after their hard day’s play and activities.

We talked long at the table even after the yummy fresh Flamm peaches were served with hot-from-the-oven homemade cookies. We were still talking when Bill came in from his youth meeting explaining he was later than he intended because of a health crisis in one youth’s life that everyone was dealing with. Soon he was on the phone in the other room continuing for a long time to deal with the situation.

I knew so much gratitude for people like Bill who are ready to share their time and talents immersing themselves with the lives of other people’s kids Never mind, that he might excuse himself claiming he had done his part many years before with his three daughters and friends. Or he could claim fatigue that was certainly present from his recent participation in an agriculture conference in Hawaii. Or he could easily sound quite reasonable if he chose to skip youth work because of all the trouble his back is causing him recently—probably requiring more surgery very soon. But he is ignoring all his own pain and the reasons he might not be able to serve and is gladly investing in these kids’ lives.

Finally still talking around the table, Gerald and I were yawning and knew it was past our bedtime and probably our hosts’ and we started into the country darkness to head home. We were richer with the biggest cantaloupe I think I’ve seen from Bill’s garden and with some of the peaches he wanted to share from Flamm’s. We were also richer from an evening with loved ones from both coasts of our nation who are filling their lives with service to others as they also care for their children and grandchildren and participate in America’s 21st Century with all its benefits and challenges.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Pleasant Weather Returns

Cooler weather has been most welcome although we would also welcome another summer rain. Crops still look good everywhere in our neighborhood though. The moon is almost full again, and seeing it shine down on the lake is one of my favorite sights.

Six beautiful gray doves were outside on our patio as I started up the stairs to fix lunch the other day. Unfortunately, my movement inside scared them away and they have not been back as far as I know. Our ducks are down to one pair and seem to stay on the other end of the lake right now, and geese have all disappeared too, so we are especially grateful for an increase in the quail in the fields around the house.

Gerald is continuing physical therapy for his injured rotator cuff, and he is not certain the therapy is working. So there may be another step coming. Erin has been back at work for a couple of weeks, but she is still on crutches. She and her cousin Drew (and later her Uncle Louie and Aunt Chris) were here fishing at the lake on Saturday. She had forgotten her crutches, which is permissible for short periods, but her knee is still stiff and unbending, so we are praying that her therapy will kick in soon, so she won’t have to be anesthetized for yet another procedure.

Our oldest grandson Aidan started kindergarten down in Georgia last Tuesday, and he was so excited that the next two days he woke up at 3 a.m. to go to school. On Friday, however, he told his grandmother that he believed he’d take that day off. Oh dear!

Sam has finished marching band camp and starts high school tomorrow. Last night Gerald and I went to his family’s evening worship service and heard Sam and his youth group share their summer experiences at church camp and then at their mission trip to Joplin, MO. It was inspiring to hear how the people of Joplin have reacted to the tornado damage, and it was inspiring to hear these young teens tell about learning to roof and to use hammers. It was good that their work in moving school furniture will help the kids at Joplin begin school on time. Knowing the kids did all this in temperatures over an l00 degrees was especially impressive. We were grateful for the parent volunteers who helped keep the kids hydrated.

This past week has been unusually busy with extra activities going on at Katherine’s house, so I did not get around to blogging. I really have done very little of anything although I have been involved with helping pass on an entire wardrobe for a family member who has lost weight. Our family are great passers-on. What no one we know can use will end up at Salvation Army.

Also I have helped share Gerald’s abundant tomato crop with Katherine’s helpers. This year’s tomatoes are especially tasty and uniformly large and luscious. There is now another bucket full in the kitchen that Gerald picked today, so I may need to freeze some juice or find some more recipients.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Summer Ends Before Labor Day Now-a-days

Tall walls of corn line many country roads, deer feast in soybeans up to their necks, tomatoes are finally ripening, and the heat tells us it is definitely summer. Yet dental and eye appointments fill parents’ calendars, newspapers ads feature school supplies, kids sweat through marching band and football practices, and schools are about to start. Some even tomorrow! I feel sorry for children going back to school in the middle of August, but as hot as it is, maybe enough schools are air conditioned these days that it will be okay.

Jeannie and her younger daughter Cecelie came through last Monday and spent the night and visited with us here the next morning on their way to Nashville, TN, to see the older daughter, Leslie, and admire her new engagement ring.
This afternoon they came back by briefly but couldn’t spend the night. They had to hurry home because they’d stayed a bit longer than they hoped in an effort to find the perfect dentist for a tooth problem that Leslie won’t have time to take care of back in her home town when she goes briefly for a friend’s wedding. The mission for the right dentist was accomplished with a first appointment tomorrow. Many good comments online gave Jeannie confidence.

Of course, they talked wedding plans while there and visited bridal shops and even thrift shops. (The current reception dreams call for lots of glass and vintage lace and unmatched plates and glasses. These early ideas may change by June, but Leslie and Jeannie are both original, and I am sure whatever transpires will be fun and a work of art.) So while Cecelie took the Gator for a spin, we drank a coke together at the kitchen table and heard Jeannie’s report of their visit. Her daddy listened on with typical wry male comments (just put a ladder up to the window and save time and energy) and I openly relished hearing the report on all their girl talk. He did too, but he knew he was supposed to make those kinds of remarks or we’d been disappointed.

After that brief break, we were off to Katherine’s and, of course, she wanted to hear a repeat of the Leslie news. She loves to hear Nashville activities and music scene talk since that was her life once upon a time. Just last week she received a childhood Winnie the Pooh book left behind with other things in a friend’s Nashville attic when she moved back to Illinois.

Very soon Jeannie and Cecelie had to be on the road again for the long many-hour drive to northern Illinois. Jeannie has already been working in her art room and will throw herself into school prep in the morning.

After Jeannie and Cecelie left, I was helping Katherine with paper work for Sam’s high school registration in the morning when she realized she had never made the call to the new dentist to schedule her and Sam’s needed appointments. (When you can’t use your hands, a phone call is often a challenge and sometimes impossible. The usual phone problems are exacerbated by a beautiful new phone David chose for her because it was supposed to be more handicap convenient—but for some odd reason, something is not working right and it keeps losing its power.)

While it was recharging, even though it was long after 5 p.m., I grabbed my cell phone and dialed the 800 number for the new dental place in Marion that at least has longer appointment-making hours. Suddenly Katherine was trapped in a time-consuming Q&A for new patients by a very kindly speaking young man in who-knows-what city. In the middle of that, David walked in with their very special friend from Israel. We thought the 800 phone call would never end, but with all that time invested, it had to be completed. Finally she was able to join the two men in the living room.

I don’t think Katherine has ever met his wife, but she has talked to her on the phone and keeps a Hebrew dictionary handy since neither woman speaks the others’ language. Somehow they communicate. David opened the present she sent Katherine, and I left the three of them happily visiting.

I’d taken Katherine sweet corn from her Uncle Garry that he passed out at his brother Keith’s birthday breakfast at Jonesboro this morning. Gerald attended on his way to Cape to get our car serviced. I also took her tomatoes from Gerald’s garden, and Jeannie had some of each put into her northern-bound car too. Finally, as I left town tonight, I delivered the bucket full Garry had sent to our sister-in-law Opal. I did not take her tomatoes since she always has them in her own garden along with the beautiful masses of flowers and plants lining her sidewalks that make a visit to her home so pleasing.

Although it was much too late by now to stay and visit, I had the special treat of seeing her three-year-old great granddaughter Josie, whom Opal was watching while Josie’s mother gave dance classes. I hadn’t seen her since she was a baby. I enjoy Josie’s photos posted by Jinna, her mother, on Facebook, but she was much more grown up than the photos revealed. I was delightfully surprised when she followed Opal’s example and suddenly she snuggled close and gave me an unasked for hug. I left with a smile on my face.

Back at the farm, Gerald had long before fixed his own supper. I hurriedly fixed myself a bite including one of Garry’s ears of sweet corn. Garry and Ginger live on the home place where Gerald grew up, and Garry is walking in their late father’s footsteps growing extra food and freely passing it around to more people than you can imagine. Dad Glasco would be proud his tradition continues.

Today was not only Keith’s birthday, but our niece Vicki, Garry and Ginger’s daughter, reminded us that 28 years ago her baby son David Brandon was born. We lost him at Christmas time that same year, and our family shed some more tears for him today even as I also shed tears for the babies dying tonight because of the famine in Somalia.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Putting Small Summer Miseries in Perspective

Is there any greater minor misery than a cold in the summer time? Since I am in the throes of one, I naturally do not think so. I keep losing the tissue box, and I definitely do not feel like looking for it—but I have no choice. I kept hoping this was allergies, but realized yesterday morning at a very sad funeral that allergies and tears were not the only thing making my nose run. (A 35-year-old man that so many people loved left behind a young widow and two sons. That is true misery, and a cold is inconsequential.)

Gerald and a nephew have gone to Chattanooga to cheer on the two Southern Force softball teams at the ASA national tourney. Theoretically I wish I were there, but with this cold, I am very grateful that I am not.

Fortunately I had already cancelled out on meeting Jeannie and Leslie in Paducah today. I am driving Gerald’s pickup while he is away, and I knew I had no business going on strange streets looking for a bridal shop I had never been to. I wanted to go since Paducah was where Jeannie and I went to choose her wedding dress so many years ago. I wanted in reminince and enjoy dinner at Olive Garden, where I think Jeannie and I ate when we down for her fittings. I cannot remember the name of that long ago bridal store or how we got there, but oddly I remember the woman clerk telling us about their recent family tragedy where a neice and brother-in-law took refuge beneath a tree during a summer outing—and were both killed by lightning hitting the tree. (That is consequential misery.) I also remember that the AC in our car was out when we made those trips, and I was upset about it. Jeannie would ride her bike to the farm from Carbondale and we would go to Paducah from there, and I felt she should have AC at least on the trip to Paducah. Again when I look back, I know that was inconsequential although it tore me up at the time.

True tragedies put life’s minor flaws and inconveniences in perspective. A young friend I sat by yesterday at the funeral wrote on Facebook last night that her son had hit a deer and then a car hit his car. But everyone was fine except the deer. She was so grateful and rejoicing—even though an older teen son had an accident a few months ago.—and I know from personal experience how difficult it is to keep teens in safe cars. Yet she was able to bounce back and come out knowing that an accident that left her son unhurt was not a serious problem. She urged us realize how quickly life can change and she paraphrased Francis of Assissi urging us to show love at all times and if needed use words. Such good advice when small summer problems seem larger than they are when we are hot and tired and praying for rain and wiping sweat off our brow. (Or in my case, wiping my nose.)

Monday, August 01, 2011

The link to Leslie and Mike's love story...

Here 'tis: