Sunday, September 30, 2007


Saturday evening Noel and I headed west, out I-70 a ways, then north. We wound up at the Old Stone Church near St. Marys. This church was dedicated in 1882 as a mission of the Eliot Congregational Church in Newton, Massachusetts. It was used until 1905 when a new church was dedicated in town.

I walked up the hill through the cemetery and looking back across the valley I must say is one of the prettiest spots in Kansas. At least two trains passed and the sound reverberated against the hillside. On one set of graves, prickly pear cactus was in full, ripe fruit. I picked a couple but even the fruit has the little almost invisible stickers and I spent the rest of the evening trying to suck them out of my fingertips.

Homemade monuments strike a chord with me, and this one (left) was particularly poignant. The craftsman was obviously not experienced in making markers and didn't realize if he could read his template it would come out backwards on the stone. It's funny, and it's touching.

On the way back home, we meandered north again, and crossed the Kaw where I stopped in the middle of the bridge to snap the picture below. An advantage to living in Kansas--stopping on bridges to enjoy the view.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Mayberry Days

My sister called this morning. She was on her way to Diana's Restaurant in Bannertown. For those unfamiliar with North Carolina geography, Bannertown is a "suburb" of Mount Airy, hometown of Andy Griffith. Diana's was packed. Seems Mayberry Days is in full swing and the tourists are flocking to this burg in northwestern Carolina. Snapping pictures of Snappy Lunch and Floyd's Barber Shop. The welcome out-of-towners bring some much needed cash into the area. Mount Airy is the very western edge of the Piedmont, formerly the textile capital of the world. Since every thing has gone overseas, the factories sit empty, grass growing in the parking lots. I can remember when quitting time meant hundreds of people pouring forth like cattle. Many of the farmers in the area had wives that worked in the mills and they would take them back and forth--"Go-get-hers" the farmers were called.

Socks, sweaters, baby clothes--Mount Airy's mills made them all. Since NAFTA, they're almost all gone. In August, Gildan Manufacturing closed its two remaining sock plants and put 520 people out of work. It is the single largest manufacturing loss in 20 years.

This year alone, Mount Airy has now been hit with a total of five plant closings. An estimated 1,047 jobs will be gone by the fall at Gildan, Renfro, Cross Creek, and Spencer’s Infants and Children’s Wear. Most of those jobs will be moved overseas.

“The economy has changed,” said Donald Brookshire, the city manager of Mount Airy, adding, “From the perspective of textile manufacturing, it’s a matter of time before the last textile manufacturer is here.”

My sister is a bookkeeper, and the number of bankruptcies she's seen over the past couple of years have gone beyond skyrocketing. So dear readers, go to Mayberry and spend some money! You'll be supporting one of my cousins.

James-Younger Gang

My friend Terry Hobbs rode with me to St. Jo Mo on Thursday night to hear our bud Chuck Rabas (right) speak. It was a great talk on a sub-gang of outlaws that was called upon by Jesse from time to time. Lots of interesting folks, including relatives of the Jameses and the Youngers, and good research. Keep watching the blogs and we'll pass along some of the newly discovered facts. In case you can't quite make out Chuck's T-shirt, it has a photo of William Clarke Quantrill and says, "Go Missouri, Beat Kansas."

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

History Nuggets

My friend, Tom Perry, spent the day at Fort Leavenworth with me yesterday. Above, he is standing in front of the Syracuse Houses, built in 1855, and taking a photo of the Rookery, built in 1840. As one of our tour-goers said Sunday, "I had no idea Fort Leavenworth had so many historic homes!" We had breakfast at Tevis Restaurant (a Topeka landmark) here this morning and he headed to St. Louis. He did a fantastic job last night at the CWRT in Kansas City. The ultimate authority on Confederate General J. E. B. Stuart, Tom founded the Stuart Birthplace Trust back home in Ararat, Virginia. Tom never stops researching, and just when you think everything that could be known about Jeb is known, he uncovers another nugget. Like this one:

When Jeb was a cadet at West Point in 1853, he and another student had an altercation in the Mess Hall. They were taken before the commandant, Robert E. Lee. He asked each student what had happened and each in turn declined to comment. He gave them a slap on the wrist and dismissed them. Only a short year later, the other student, John Grattan, was dead and had single-handedly started the Plains Indian Wars that would last into the 1890s.

From the website, Wyoming Tales and Trails:

In 1851, the various Indians were summoned to Ft. Laramie where a treaty was entered into. In 1854, Chief Conquering Bear with Ogalala and Brule Sioux were gathered near Ft. Laramie to receive promised allotments of food from the government. The supplies were delayed in coming. At the same time the Hans Peter Olson Company of Mormons was passing through the area. A sickly, half-starved cow belonging to the Mormons wandered into the Indian camp. The Indians regarded the cow as abandoned and accordingly used it to provide sustenance. The Mormons complained to the military and demanded return of the cow.

A young West Point Graduate, Bvt. 2nd Lt. John L. Grattan, proceeded with a company to Chief Conquering Bear's camp and demanded that the Indian suspected of the taking of the cow be turned over to the military. Chief Conquering Bear refused to turn over the suspect but, instead, in compliance with treaty terms offered compensation in the form of a horse. The horse would, in fact, have been more valuable than the cow. Grattan refused the offer. The Chief started to walk away when one of Grattan's men shot the Chief. In the ensuing fire fight Grattan and all but one of his men were killed. The one had his tongue cut out and subsequently died in the Fort Laramie hospital. Among those present was a young Indian boy later to be known as Red Cloud (right; Grattan Massacre site, above right).

Of course, little more than a decade later, Jeb Stuart, too, would be dead, shot from his horse while commanding troops in defense of the Confederate Capital. Jeb rests in Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia. Grattan, though, lies in the National Cemetery at Fort Leavenworth. We visited his grave on our tour Sunday and I took Tom Perry yesterday. Tom snapped this photo of me at the monument to the impetuous young officer.

Monday, September 24, 2007


Michael Stubbs snapped this photo yesterday during our tour to Fort Leavenworth and environs. Paul Beck, Tom, Toni Beck, and Doug Wallace are gazing at the stones of two of Kansas most notorious murderers--Dick Hickock and Perry Smith, of In Cold Blood fame. They were executied April 14, 1965, and are buried in nearby Lansing.

I have mixed feelings about taking folks to this spot. When we were there on an earlier tour, the sextant joined us and commented that more people come to see these graves than all the others combined. It's ironic, isn't it? There is a major general and a flamboyant publisher resting in the same cemetery, and yet two low-life hoodlums get the most attention.

Yet, these are names everyone has heard. Not everyone knows Gen. James G. Blunt or D. R. Anthony, the brother of Susan B. and advocate for a freestate Kansas.

Toni commented that it doesn't seem right for these two men to be resting next to "decent" folks. Perhaps that is true.

I have been thinking a lot about right and wrong since my cousin was murdered. His family has been asked by the District Attorney if they want to pursue the death penalty. That is not an easy choice. A death penalty trial is an emotionally wrenching experience. The air in the courtroom is different when a life is at stake. Every word takes on added significance.

A boy I grew up with, a very close family friend, has been on death row for nearly 14 years. He committed two brutal murders. He probably deserves to die. Yet I know there is another side to him; I know he is someone who needed to get help for his issues a long time ago and no one understood that. I know he is not only a monster.

There is an Indian tribe, perhaps the Sioux, that believe the sacred stone from which pipes are made is striped with white and red representing the blood of the people--all the people--the victims and the victimizers, the innocent and the guilty.

I think I believe that, too.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Ode to the Pumpkin

No fruit or vegetable captures the imagination like the pumpkin. Cinderella used it as a coach; Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater kept his wife inside its shell; Charlie Brown fell asleep awaiting the arrival of the Great one. It scares us, it entertains us, it feeds us. My favorite scene from all the Harry Potter movies is Hagrid's pumpkin patch (above). Aren't those pumpkins wonderful? Don't they conjure images of coaches and dwelling places for little beings? There is a wonderful mystery to a pumpkin.

Food, Glorious Food

Tom is whining that with autumn comes autumn food--fattening and irresistible. I made pumpkin soup last Sunday for company, and we have been savoring the leftovers ever since. Now comes the season for pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, pumpkin ale, pumpkin truffle. . . oh my. Bryce Benedict grows hops and makes his own pumpkin ale which he generously shared a couple of years ago. It made the best cheddar ale soup I have ever tasted. The pumpkin flavor was just the extra touch to make it interesting.


According to Pumpkin Patches and More, the tradition of carving a jack-o-lantern from the pumpkin began in Scotland and Ireland. (well, of course!) Except, they used turnips, pumpkins being native to the New World. Can you imagine homes decked out in turnips, or being scared to your stocking feet by a candle inside a turnip? Check out for the rest of the story.

And now, dear readers, I'm off to the pumpkin patch.
Bald Eagle Rendezvous

. . . is this weekend in Lecompton, Kansas. Situated above the Kansas River, the setting for this event could not be more beautiful. Mountain men, Indians, traders and trappers gather just as they would have in the 19th century. Today through Sunday.
By the way, we're still raising money for the historical marker honoring Tom to be placed on the corner where he grew up. Let me know if you'd like to contribute. Tom really has his heart set on neon flashing lights that read, "Childhood Home of Tom Goodrich, Renowned Historian and Hunk."

Thursday, September 20, 2007

From the Soap Box

In Arizona in the late 1800's, infamous outlaw Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) and his vicious gang of thieves and murderers have plagued the Southern Railroad. When Wade is captured, Civil War veteran Dan Evans (Christian Bale), struggling to survive on his drought-plagued ranch, volunteers to deliver him alive to the 3:10 to Yuma, a train that will take the killer to trial. On the trail, Evans and Wade, each from very different worlds, begin to earn each other's respect. But with Wade's outfit on their trail – and dangers at every turn – the mission soon becomes a violent, impossible journey toward each man's destiny. . . . from the studio.

If you plan to see 3:10 to Yuma and want to be surprised, stop reading here. Everyone I know, however, was lined up opening night so I don't think many evenings will be spoiled.

I've never been so angry at Russell Crowe.

Hardcore Western movie fans have been salivating over the opening of 3:10 to Yuma. (We were salivating over Jesse James, too, but our mouths have gone dry from waiting.) The 1957 version starring Van Heflin and Glenn Ford was excellent--well-done, suspenseful, and ultimately, optimistic. There are few rules in writing or movie making, in making art. But there is one, and it is unbreakable: when you give an object life, you have to step back and let it live. You step out of the way and let it twist and turn according to its will, not yours. Real art lives as do your children, independently. Shaped by you, perhaps, but ultimately independent.

So what happened at the end of the newest offering from Tinseltown? Elmore Leonard, who wrote the short story upon which the movies are based, attended the screening and commented, "Did you understand the ending? Because I sure didn't."

In fact, Leonard is quoted on his website as saying, "I didn’t understand why [Russell Crowe] shot his own men. Because he was all for them before. Why [did] he have the change of heart? I don’t think Bale was effective in what he was doing. You could feel sorry for him but why? Because every time Bale said “well I have this problem/I have that problem,” [Crowe] never sympathized with him ever….and then he shoots his own guys."

I'll tell you why he shot his own men. Because that's the mindset of Hollywood. It's all about body counts, and if you don't have any real ideas, just blow people away.

Who are these people we have given our culture over to? They don't think we can pay attention unless there is some sick, twisted, plot turn. They don't think we'll be satisfied to let characters do what they do. Even if we wanted Russell Crowe's character to shoot his own men, it doesn't follow with the rest of his actions, the foundation has not been laid. When he killed his own gang member earlier in the film, it was in context. It was cold-blooded, but it was in context. What happens at the end is the result of a writer that isn't confident in his own work and uses a body count to make up for it.

And why I am angry at Russell Crowe? He's the one person here with the artistic sensibility and clout to tell people that it doesn't work. And he just had a good time and let it go. In fact, I read an interview during which Crowe defends the ending and how appropriate it is. Russell, if you believe that drivel, you are not the man nor the actor I believed you were.

The movie works on so many levels, and that's what is so irritating. Christian Bale (right) was so good that I can't get his face out of my mind. "I've asked God to give me something but God ain't listening," to quote Bale's character. He encounters this outlaw who is everything that he isn't: brave, charismatic, and to some extent, even successful. But Bale's rancher has something that Crowe's outlaw doesn't have: someone to go home to, something to fight for. Each of them understands this and the relationship works.

What doesn't work is the ridiculous ending. I'll still invite Russell Crowe over for dinner next week, but I'm not getting out the good china.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

All Over the Map

Yesterday, I thought about writing on the Battle of Antietam, or Sharpsburg, depending on your point of view. But I knew Sam Wheeler would do it, and do it well, so I didn't bother. Click on his link to the right. It's a worthy remembrance, especially in light of all the 9-11 coverage on television. Also, if you visit the, you'll find a very interesting article of an 1864 plot to attack New York City (above). There is nothing new under the sun, dear reader.

Our buddy Herschel Stroud is headed East--Nashville, I believe, then Staunton, Virginia, then Philadelphia. He told me so Sunday morning. Said he was headed to StaUnton, pronouncing the au as any educated person would. Only problem is, Virginians say Stanton, as if the u doesn't exist. As a result, I was always misspelling the name of Edwin Stanton (left). I had the tendency to throw in a u, even though it wasn't pronounced that way, much to the chagrin of our editors. Then again, look at this poor man. Have you ever seen a more miserable human? He needs an extra u. . . .

Anyhow, Herschel is on the Organ Committee for St. David's Lutheran Church. Since Herschel is an MD and a dentist, and portrays a Civil War surgeon, my first thought was livers and kidneys, but no, we're talking pipe organs. Whew! Thank goodness!

Just thinking about Crawford, Nebraska, and looked up the weather forecast. A little cooler than ours:

Crawford: Partly cloudy. Scattered thunderstorms in the morning - then isolated thunderstorms in the afternoon. Cooler. Highs around 70. Northeast winds 10 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 50 percent.

Topeka: Breezy. Partly sunny with a 50 percent chance of thunderstorms. Highs around 86. South winds 15 to 25 mph.

So has anyone ever figured out the difference between partly sunny and partly cloudy? Is it like the glass that's half full or half empty and depends upon the optimism of the forecaster? Above, one of the adobe officers' quarters at Fort Robinson, just outside Crawford. Perhaps this is the one in which we stayed with our friends the Waskies in May. Let's just be optimistic and say that it is.

Monday, September 17, 2007


Just noticed that the glass I'm drinking from has a crack in it.

How appropriate!

Too sick to even describe over the weekend. Result: Tom and Noel went to the Washburn football game without me. Froze their butts off! Not only did they not take a blanket, Tom wore shorts! Noel said she almost froze to death looking at him. This is why wives and mothers can rarely take to sick bed. Everything goes to hell.

Got some nice notes, however:

Hi Deb,

Sorry to read you've been sick. Hope you're feeling better!


Mike Harris

DG-It's nice to know people are thinking of you. Click on the link at the right to check out Mike's excellent ezine, Old West, New West. There is a great story about the Civil War fight over America's southwest.


First, I am sad to hear about your family's loss. I am sorry to hear he went in such a bad way. When one of our family candles goes out, it is a little darker in the room. As I told Jay Jackson, when both his sons were overseas and fighting for their country, don't watch, follow or find every news story on the war. Let it come to you through the family. It is a lot easier that way and it will not make you one of the crazy southern relatives that we love but have to hid upstairs in her room. God bless him.

Yesterday I just picked up the F-Troop series at Wally World. It was just like being a kid again. I laughed over and over. Wrangler Jane was hotter than a cat on a tin roof! She stirred up some old feeling that I was just curious about at 11 years of age. If Levi jeans had her today as a model, they would not have gone out of business in the states!

Your article "Smells of Autumn" did make me homesick. This year's ice storm not only kept us out of power for 12 1/2 days but it killed all our apple, peach, and pear tree blossoms. Oh, sure we can buy them in the store for "Yankee prices" but it ain't the same as the ones outside the door. We only got blackberries and persimmons this year. Teresa fought off the chiggers and our freezer has enough berries for cobblers during most of the winter. Her persimmon bread is the best thing since "sliced bread with churned butter." I'll bring some to you my next ride up north or when I ride with a torch to Lawrence.

My grandfather was a smoker and he did not die until his was 93 years of age. He told me that the only reason to die was because all his friends had passed on. He never thought he was sick because of smoking but he also never went to the doctor until he was dying. That is the way mountain folk from Canton, NC, were. I also loved the smell of golden leaf. Smoked or dry- hanged--it was the smell of fall. Teresa raised the leaf and hated the work inside the barn. Hanging the leafs up high was always her job because she was lighter than most and could run the rafters like a baby opossum. She will tell you that the smell would overcome you to the point you had to come out. I guess the people who worked the leaf have a different perspective than most. When I was stationed at FT Campbell, KY, I remember going out to the smoking barns in the fall and just standing by one and taking in the smells. The only reason I never became a full time smoker or chewer was my grandfather give me slice off some burley twist when I was young pup. I chewed it up and spit on the trees in the yard like the old men. (I still remember Clint Eastwood spitting on that dog's head in the movie.) As you guess, I was sicker that three-legged dog who had just eaten shell fish! I told Mom it was the flu, I don't think she bit on that one. Like the time I went down the well on the rope and told her I dropped a dollar bill in the hole!

Love your blog. You and Tom keep up the flag.

Dave Chuber

DG--What a sweet, sweet letter! Thank you. I'm so glad you got out of that well okay! I was never a smoker because I was not coordinated enough to inhale. My grandparents all dipped snuff with a blackgum "toothbrush" so I dipped sugar. Dave Chuber is not really my brother, but we're so much alike, people just assume we're related! One of these days we'll find the horse thief in the family tree that we're both descended from!
Got Art?

The artwork illustrating the blog today was done by our friend, Sharon Reeber. Her dye-on-silk pieces are stunning. You just have to see them to believe them. Sharon has a show through October 30 at The Central Exchange in Kansas City. She also has classes in her Weston, Missouri, studio. No, we can't expect to produce the same quality work as Sharon but she assures me that even I can create something beautiful with her guidance. Her next workshop is October 13. Visit her website for more information on purchasing her incredible work, attending a show, or taking a class:

Friday, September 14, 2007

Macon Musings

If you read my September 2 blog, you know that I had a cousin brutally murdered in Macon, Georgia. He was at home when an acquaintance came armed with a knife and stabbed him to death, slitting his throat.

Since then, I've been following the news in Macon. An arrest was made in my cousin's death within a day or so and I have tried to keep up with the proceedings. But it's hard. Macon seemingly has a new crime every day and my cousin's murder, less than two weeks ago, is a footnote as some new heinous act takes its place. From the last day or so:

Macon police are investigating an armed robbery at DL's Bar-B-Q Hut, at 936 Hillcrest Ave., at 6:15 p.m. Wednesday.
Two men entered the business, one of them displaying a sawed-off shotgun and the two left with an undisclosed amount of money. . . .

Macon police are investigating a Wednesday home invasion in which four victims were tied up with power cords, phone lines and belts and covered with a bed mattress.
A Coral Way resident reported three large men knocked on his door just before midnight. After opening the door, the resident said the men entered by knocking him down and three more men kicked in the back door, according to a Macon police report.
The armed men tied up the resident, a woman and two children before taking more than $8,000 in cash and breaking the victims' cell phones in half, according to the report. . . .

An arrest warrant has been issued for a 47-year-old Macon man suspected of beating and stabbing a woman in a wooded area near the intersection of Fifth Street and Edgewood Avenue on Wednesday afternoon, according to Macon police. . . .

I hate to pick on any place, especially in the South, but Macon doesn't even have 100,000 people and the violent crime is appalling. As I looked at statistics for the area, I saw that 33 percent of the population is also living below the poverty level.

My cousin died at a time when he was trying to find his way in the world. A Macon church that he had helped build paid for his cremation and related expenses. His numerous friends have been supportive and loving. But the pall of poverty and crime casts a shadow over this Southern town and its good people that sickens me. For God's sake, Georgia! Can't something be done?
Happy Birthday, F-Troop!

On this day in 1965, F-Troop debuted on television. Before we became the Politically Correct Nation, we could make fun of ourselves and everyone else. Recall Ken Berry as the incompetent commander of Fort Courage? Veteran Western actor Forrest Tucker as the enterprising Sergeant O'Rourke who had a great business sideline trading with the local Indians, and Larry Storch as the clueless corporal? Wrangler Jane who was constantly throwing herself at the captain and we were left to wonder why. Yes, it was silly, but it was fun.

On Sunday evenings, we would head home from church, stop at the Bannertown Superette and get a gallon of milk and a pint of oysters and enjoy oyster stew and F-Troop. A few choice quotes:

Wild Eagle: Captain marry Silver Dove or we have big fight!
O'Rourke: Fight, ha, you? The tribe that invented the peace pipe?
Wild Eagle: We fight! Even if we have to hire Apache to do it!

Assistant: Of course, sir, if these bulletproof vests don't work, we may lose some of the men of F Troop.
Secretary of War: That is precisely why I selected them.

O'Rourke: We won't have any customers for a while.
Pete: Hekawis on the warpath?
O'Rourke: Are you kidding? Wild Eagle has to send out a draft call to get enough braves for a rabbit hunt.

Capt. Parmenter: Charlie's the town drunk. We got him from Dodge City.
Lucy Landfield: You had to go out and get a town drunk?
Capt. Parmenter: Yeah. We were lucky, too. Dodge City had two, so they sold us Charlie.

Agarn: Come to think of it, how did the Hekawis get their name?
Wild Eagle: Glad you asked. Many moons ago, tribe leave Massachusetts because Pilgrims ruin neighborhood. Tribe travel west, over stream, over river, over mountain, over mountain, over river, over stream. Then come big day. Tribe fall over cliff. That when Hekawi get name. Medicine man say to my ancestor, "I think we lost. Where the heck-are-we?"

Capt. Parmenter: My wise, old grandmother once said to me that early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.
Wrangler Jane: Well, my wise, old grandmother told me if you go to bed with the setting sun, you're sure to miss a lot of fun. And she ought to know, 'cause she was the highest paid dance hall girl in Dodge City.

Topeka Cemetery Tour

Another great tour this morning at Topeka Cemetery this morning. It was a beautiful, breezy, cool, fall morning. One lady brought her four-year-old grandson who was pretty good, especially considering he didn't have to sit still. But about 3/4 of the way through, he clung to his grandmother and moaned, "I can't take it any more!" The next tour will be September 28, 9 a.m. On September 22 and September 23, we head back to Fort Leavenworth. Email me if you'd like to join us. At right, the back cover of my book Stories in Stone. The book is $10. The photo was taken of the first motorized funeral procession in town.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Smells of Autumn

This is the time of year I get particularly homesick. The memories are strong, and pungent.

Getting off the school bus in September, with the smell of crayons in my clothes, I walked down the dirt road to Granny's house. Goldenrod towered over me, swaying as the bus pulled away. At the pear tree, honey bees and yellow jackets buzzed around the syrupy fruit rotting on the ground.

In the fields, men were priming tobacco; at the barn, the women tied up the "hands"of golden leaves, twining them to the sticks that hung in the barn. One barn was already curing, the sweet, dry heat drifting out the air holes into the afternoon sun. Staymen, winesap, Granny Smith, Red Delicious--apple trees dotted the farm, and the Red Delicious were so deeply red and delicious that you could have strained a cup of juice from one apple. It dripped down your hands and arms. At the house, Granny sliced apples, laying them on a screen that would be put in the tobacco barn to dry so that the flavor of tobacco was infused into the apples, making the best fried apple pies in October and November.

The tobacco would be dried and taken to auction in Mount Airy. In the eastern part of the county, I think the farmers took tobacco to Martinsville or even Danville. Up the mountain from us, the orchard men--the Harolds, the Hiatts, the MacMillians, the Bowmans, and over in Cana, the Ayers, the Leverings and the Leonards--were trucking apples up to Roanoke, many to White House Foods. White House made, and still does, vinegar, apple juice, and apple sauce. I thought all vinegar was the White House brand until I moved to Kansas. In fact, I was just on their website and their apple recipes just set my mouth to watering. Apples spice cake with cream cheese frosting . . . to die for!

I recall going across the mountain to Roaring River, North Carolina, for church. Audie Presnell was the preacher and also had a Christmas tree farm. His wife had the best applesauce stack cake I've ever tasted. I can still see it setting in her pantry, the steep hillside dotted with little spruce trees in the window behind it. Then there was homemade applebutter--cooked in a copper kettle, stirred and stirred and stirred. On hot biscuits, oh my!

Apples--the most versatile, healthy and tasty food! Tobacco--the plant that brought Europe to the new world! Let us have a cider and celebrate!

(For recipes, visit
What Tombstone Character Are You?

Yesterday I ran the link for the above named quiz which matches your personality against the characters from the movie Tombstone. I thought my answers were the wussiest possible but I still came up as Wyatt. So did our friend Kayla. Tom scored as Virgil, as did our bud Michelle. So far, no one has fessed up to Ike Clanton. Come on now. Surely someone out there identifies with Ike?

3:10 to Yuma

Another report on this fabled Western and still I have yet to see it. We'll see what the evening brings. From Brother Dave Chuber (pictured with his lovely wife Teresa). Dave is a big-wig historian at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri:

Hey, have you seen 3:10 to Yuma! It is a gun nut's dream!
It is John Wayne and Clint Eastwood all rolled together!

Well, I guess it can't get better than that!

From another Southerner who reminisces about the golden era of tobacco. I told him that my dad used to pastor a couple of churches in Maysville and Verona, North Carolina :


Well, they're both on Highway 17, and my wife and I have been through Verona and Maysville on trips over the years, although always on the way to somewhere else. Once we stopped at an antique shop near Verona, and I bought this unopened pack of WWII linen postcards from Camp Davis:

The area around Maysville is still pretty rural as I remember, although Jacksonville is growing quite a lot and might eventually take Verona with it.

They are growing more cotton and less tobacco around there these days, which is true for all of North Carolina. If you remember the old tobacco warehouses, these are almost all gone now. Farmers consign their tobacco directly with cigarette companies these days, I understand, and the tobacco auctions are a thing of the past. I don't smoke, but greatly miss the fragrance of fresh-cured tobacco in barns, warehouses, and wafting from farm trucks on the way to markets in August.


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Adventures of Belle and Butch

Authors write fiction because it is the only way to tell the truth. Therefore, I have changed the names in this story to protect the hopelessly inept.

My friend Belle got a phone call from her brother, Butch.

"Belle, I'm going to sell off some of my land," he said.

She quickly hopped in her car and rode out to the family farm that her brother had inherited from their father. He pointed out the area in question and asked what she thought. Knowing her brother to have limited business sense she pointed out that the land could be subdivided into plots and sold for 10 to 20 times what he stood to gain now.

"Oh, I don't care about the money anyhow," her brother commented. "I'm just going to give it to the 4-H club."

At this point, Belle convulsed and fell to the ground. Not really. But she wanted to.

Her brother recently had come into some cash which he in turn gave to the church. Belle, being pretty much a heathen, like myself, was aghast. Not at her brother's generosity really but at his lack of forethought. Who knows what life holds in store? He is not a rich man and nursing homes can eat up every penny of the wealthiest among us. All these facts were lost on Butch and Belle returned home, mixed a vodka and grapefruit juice, and called me.

"We need to join the 4-H club as soon as possible," she explained between gulps. "I got a feeling all those farm kids are going to have shiny new John Deeres pretty soon."
Which Tombstone Character Are You?

Take this quiz to find out: I'll tell you tomorrow which one I was most like, and then you can decide for yourself if this is a real crock or not!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Pigs Flying By Our Window . . .

. . . and the other shoe falling all around us. Musings from the Goodrich Home, which should be under quarantine. Achy and stuffy once more. Good Grief! Is there no end to this malady? Tom should be put to sleep and out of his misery and I should have IV wine and a nice soft bed. . . .

Bizarre storm last week. Here in the middle of Topeka, we're pretty sheltered from the most awful winds, but just across the park, our neighbors Ed and Susie Marchant were visited by a whirlwind which smashed up their small, but tastefully appointed backyard. It also took the flying pig weather vane from their balcony, and the balcony railing. Someone is just not living right in that house! Likewise, our friends the Turners. Carol, who has been waiting for "the other shoe to drop," called to report that Payless Shoe Source had landed on their roof! (Figuratively speaking, I think. . . . Then again, this is Kansas--land of flying houses and flying monkeys!) Their home is tucked away above the Kaw River, in the bluffs where tornadoes rarely touch down. But this storm broke a glass table on the patio and generally wreaked havoc including ripping an outdoor clock from the wall and smashing it on the ground. Just a night or two before, a light fixture in Carol's breakfast nook had fallen and broken their glasstop table. That woman needs to be investing in Plexiglass!

Since she is kneedeep in glass replacement and grandchildren duty, I agreed to appear on her behalf at the meeting of Retired Teachers this afternoon. I was totally unprepared but did that stop me from talking? Never!

Too sick to see 3:10 to Yuma so far, but Michelle sends this encouraging report:

If there is one movie that you must see this fall it is 3:10 to Yuma. Now, I love the original. Glen Ford is outstanding. BUT...Russell Crowe is so witty, cold hearted, clever, intelligent and drop dead gorgeous as Ben Wade you will be cheering for the bad guys the whole way through the film. The acting is stellar, the costuming top notch, the music moody, ethereal and riveting, the visuals at time bleak yet intriguing....all in all...3:10 to Yuma is probably one of the best movies I have seen in the last 10 years. It keeps you interested from start to finish.

Speaking of finishes, if you have not seen the original or do not remember, it has a wild ending that you never suspect. I sat in my seat at the theatre while the credits rolled just wishing that I was taking it home on DVD right there so I could watch it over and over to study the nuances.

This film is dynamite! Let's all keep our fingers crossed that
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford lives up to the hype. I really hope that Brad Pitt is able to become Jesse James and not come off as Brad Pitt acting like Jesse James. If you are a fan of westerns or really handsome men looking their rugged best this is the fall for you! Ladies, even if you don't like westerns, try 3:10 to Yuma!!!!! I mean, come on, lots of ladies didn't like Gladiators but Crowe sure did lots for the gladiator uniform. He does not disappoint in the "eye candy" department in this one, makes me wanna be an outlaw's gal!!! Saddle up and head to the theatre, its high noon and men look dandy!

I can hardly wait to get to the theatre this week. I love to be the first one to see the latest, especially Westerns! Alas, Tom has the patience of Job and thus, if I want a date for the movie, I have to wait until he's ready. Right now, the rain is falling steadily outside my office window, my head is barely above the keyboard, and the radio reports that it is barely 60 degrees. Wasn't it just last week that it was a hundred? Dear readers, I am taking to my bed with a nice, chilled bottle of Nyquil.

Have a nice day.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Indians and Hillbillies

Noel and I went to the Powwow last night. It is a strange and beautiful event. The photo above is Noel with Tom, a Delaware who lives in Lawrence. I have to tell you, when he isn't smiling, he's pretty scary in this costume. He had a vendor's tent where he was selling real four-leaf clovers.

At another tent, I visited with Paul White Bear, a Cherokee who carves pipes in the tradition his grandfather taught him. Paul doesn't sound like an Indian (whatever we imagine that to be). He lived in upstate New York and has that accent. "I was a cop in New York," he said smiling, "NYPD. A helicopter pilot in Viet Nam. Yep, I've seen it all."

His pipes (right) were magnificent, and reasonably priced. He wants people to own them and use them. Prices began around $40 and went over a hundred depending on the elaborate carving. He is a member of the Bear Clan, so that animal is a favorite subject. Since retiring, Paul and his wife do the Powwow circuit. She enjoys the dancing; he keeps carving. Below, Paul with a pipe he had just finished. He doesn't sell online, but I have his address so email me if you're interested in contacting Paul to purchase a pipe.

The best part of the Powwow, actually, was the leaving, when we were walking to the car in the dark. The stars were clearly visible over Lake Shawnee and the beating of drums and and ancient chants of the Plains Tribes drifted through the trees. I wanted to lay down a blanket and sleep on the grass.


We grew up on top of a hill in the Blue Ridge Mountains. One night, the moon was bright, the clouds were twisting and changing, and I convinced my sister to drag a couple of army cots into the yard so we could enjoy the sight. I couldn't sleep. It was a sky we see now in movies like the Chronicles of Narnia or Harry Potter, a creation of special effects wizards; the moon was bright, so that nothing was black, just various hues of blue. The clouds were so unruly and changing that it was as if a herd of ghostly stallions were stomping and snorting in the heavens. We gave up after an hour or so and went back inside to get some sleep.


While trying to get up enough energy to go to the Powwow, I was flipping channels and came across the movie, Next of Kin. Starring Patrick Swayze and Helen Hunt, and Liam Neeson long before he was box office gold, not to mention Bill Paxton before Tombstone, this film pits the mob against hillbillies. And guess what? It comes to a draw. This is when I fell in love with Liam Neeson (far left, with Patrick Swayze). The Irishman made such a convincing boy from the hills (his name was Briar Gates; I think I have a cousin named Briar Gates). The scenes shot in the mountains are outstanding; the people are real. Liam Neeson is so genuine and powerful in this role. Michael J. Pollard is the clerk in the sleazy Chicago hotel. Everyone is believable. From surfing the web, I find the movie has a cult following of folks who feel exactly as I do.

Some of you may know that Liam is soon to be portraying President Lincoln and while researching the role he visited our friend, John Sellers, at the Library of congress. I was on the phone with John just minutes before the star arrived and asked John to tell Liam he has a fan with hillbilly roots. When John did so, Liam immediately lapsed into his hillbilly brogue and said he fell in love four times while filming in Kentucky. I only have one thing to say: If our cousins look this good, why wouldn't we date them?
Free State of Patrick Update

I spoke with the sheriff's department in Patrick County, Virginia, this morning and they still haven't caught the boa constrictor that is loose in Patrick Springs. (See Snake in the Grass, July 19 post.) Keep your little dog in the basket, Dorothy!

Sunday, September 2, 2007

The Carousel

It has been an emotional week; my daughter and grand-daughter were visiting from North Carolina and the house was taken over by an almost-four-year-old. I got them to the airport at 5 on Thursday evening only to find that their flight was delayed until 8 p.m. My daughter was sick and poor little Lulu was so eaten up with mosquito bites that we had to take her to the doctor for a prescription of Prednisone. It was good to see them, but they weren't feeling well most of the time. I think they were on the upswing when they left, though. Tom & I took Lulu to the park Thursday morning just as the weather cleared and the humidity left and it was a sublime time on the mini-train and the carousel--a day when all is right with the world.

My daughter is 30 today. While she was being born, the doctor and nurses were still talking about Elvis Presley who had died just days before.

Yesterday, my sister called to say my cousin, Phillip (right), who just turned 27 in May, was violently murdered in Macon, Georgia. He was stabbed in the head and face and his throat was cut. He was at home, the basement apartment of a house in a not-so-great part of town. With the internet, I could watch the news and view the scene. As he was dying, he stumbled out his door, and up to the front porch of the house, then fell in the bushes and died. His blood is smeared on the white porch posts.

Until now, Macon has been a place in history for me, the place where Jefferson and Varina Davis were taken after his capture, where they were hooted and jeered and packed off for God-knows-what fate. The image of the crowds gathering around them to catch a glimpse of the fallen leader is burned in my brain. Now there are the blood-stained images of Macon that are part of my history.

I have not seen him for a long time. His sister and I are still close, but Phillip, who was 8 or 9 when his Mom died, went to live with a brother, went into the Navy, went searching for a place he could belong and find some peace inside himself.
I hope his has it now.

Whatever illness my daughter had while she was here, I have caught. Coughing, fever, stuffiness, general malaise. It is a beautiful weekend, the Powwow is going on at Lake Shawnee, and I had hoped to visit with my friend, Mona.

We shall wait and see what the day brings.