Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Busy, Busy

I had two school buses full of 7th Graders from Shawnee Heights at the Topeka Cemetery yesterday (and tours today at 10 and 2). Then, Noel and I built our own cemetery on the lawn and placed headless ghouls on the porch. I haven't had the time to download the photos from our trip, which I'm anxious to share with you, or to write about some of the interesting discoveries. Later today, I promise.

In the meantime, check out the Life of Tug link at right. It's a great blog, and Byron does several others which are worth looking at. Just below that link, you'll find the link to Old West/New West Ezine. Michelle Martin is working on a new website that looks great and is in the middle of promoting The Natural Prairie Table Cookbook that she co-wrote with her boss, Bill Kurtis. Look it up on Amazon. Tom Perry has a new book with Arcadia that is available so visit the Free State of Patrick link for details. That will keep you busy til I get back. . . .

(Top photo: fog from Lovers Leap Mountain, Patrick County, Virginia, The Enterprise)

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Fast Time

I jumped up and started setting the clocks back this morning until Noel informed me that Daylight Savings Time doesn't end until next week. I grabbed my calendar and said, "See, right here, 'Daylight Savings Time Ends.'" What I failed to see was the fine print underneath that reads, Old. If you turn the calendar to November 4 it says, "Daylight Savings Time Ends New. Who reads the fine print? You see, time was when DST ended the last weekend of October. Now, it has been extended into November. I am so angry I could just spit nails.

I hate the Federal Government more every day. If there is nothing else in your life experience to convince you that conspiracy theories are real, let the time change be a lesson. Eventually, America, if we don't wake up, they will take that hour away and they will not give it back in the fall!

Folks used to refer to Daylight Savings Time as fast time, and Standard Time as slow time. Granny would sit on the porch in the evening, waiting for it to get dark enough to go to bed, and say, "I hate this fast time!"

So do I. And I cannot wait for it to end! I may just leave the clocks an hour behind. I'm never on time anyway.

The Lincoln Presidential Museum and Library

. . . is phenomenal. As Noel and I walked through this week, I kept asking myself what would I have done differently, and I just can't think of anything. As you step through the stages of the Lincolns' lives, you come to understand how ordinary the family was and what an extraordinary place in history they now occupy. One of my favorite exhibits was "The Permissive Parent" (left). At the far left, stretched out on the sofa, his nose in the paper, is Lincoln the Lawyer. Meanwhile, Tad and Willie busy themselves destroying the office--splattering ink, scattering papers. William Herndon, Lincoln's law partner, was known to drink and who could blame him? He describes Lincoln as oblivious to the boys' behavior.

Topeka Cemetery Tour

. . . today at 2 p.m., and Halloween Day at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Meet at the cemetery office (pictured right during an earlier tour) at 10th and California. Cost is $10 per person.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Future Farmers

Do these gals look like Future Farmers to you? My how the world has changed. It is also small.
Tonight, Noel and I headed over to Joe's Crab Shack at Post Road and I-70 here in Indianapolis, to meet my niece Ashley who lives back in Patrick County, Virginia. Ashley is an offier in the Future Farmers of America. (All the FFA officers in the hometown chapter are girls.)

Her adviser is Mr. Terry, Wendell Terry. Wendell graduated a little ahead of me and married my PE teacher, Cindy. (She lovingly referred to me and Rhonda Haden Rakes as Motor Mouth One and Motor Mouth Two.) So we sat in Indianaopolis over clam chowder and caught up on the gossip in Stuart, Ararat, Woolwine, Meadows of Dan, and Patrick Springs. As we were leaving, a busload of kids came in. I saw a handful of KU and K-State sweatshirts among them and walked up to their adviser. Where are you from?

She smiled sweetly and replied, "We're from Kansas," as if to say, "We're from Timbuktoo. I'm sure you've heard of it, but you've certainly never been there."

Where in Kansas? I pressed.

"Well," she hesitated, "Wamego, Onaga, Frankfurt. . . ."

I laughed and told her I was from Topeka. Her students' eyes got big as saucers!
About 50,000 students and teachers are gathered here for the FFA's national convention. Years ago, Kansas City hosted this event but the FFA outgrew the accommodations. It's a shame we couldn't keep them there. What a great bunch of teenagers!

Top Photo: Courtesy of Indy Star, FFA members at the convention dance to music at the Tractor Supply Co. exhibit booth at the Indiana Convention Center.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Voices From the Past

Mark your calendars, Hoosiers! Tuesday night I'll be speaking to the civil war roundtable at Depauw University (right) in Greencastle. Tom and I spoke there together a few years ago, and it was a wonderful group. This time, Tom has to stay home and work and I get to travel.

We have spent many good times in Indiana--a beautiful state that doesn't get a lot of press. My cousin, Beth, lives in Noblesville, which is smack dab in the middle of a trip back home to Virginia. (I try to settle friends and relatives conveniently across America.)

Our bud, Tom Perry, wrote an article about Tom and me for The Surry (NC) Messenger back home in Mount Airy. First person to get in touch was Gray Shelton, now retired from the Mount Airy Police Department. A couple of years ago when I was home for Christmas, I stopped in to visit Gray (below), who was some bigwig, and Ronald Hill, who had somehow managed to become police chief. (Ronald and I went to church together growing up and I knew how really rotten he was! Of course, the flip side is that he also knows how baaad I am!) I think Gray was a lieutenant when I covered court and police for the Mount Airy News years and years ago. It was good to hear from him and to know that his family is well. Gray was an exemplary cop--in his abilities and demeanor. Mount Airy was lucky to have him.

Another voice from the past was on our answering machine: "This is Debbie Coalson's history teacher. I saw the article in the paper and couldn't believe she's writing history! She never came to class!" Bless Bill Hanner's heart! My extracurricular activities, especially the high school newspaper, were always getting in the way of going to class. He indulged me shamelessly. I was "plum spoilt!"

Open Windows

We slept with the windows open. The high had reached the 80s, but the wind was ferocious all day; last night, it clattered the shutters as winter pushed the warm air across our faces to the east. Today the high is right now, about 70 at 10:00 a.m. It drops until tomorrow night when our low will be in the 30s. Western Kansas, which bears the brunt of climatological change, has a chance of snow this evening. Yesterday, their temperatures were around 90.

Unlike spring, which brings thunderstorms and tornadoes, the energy of the autumn equinox is more introverted, driving folks to hearth and home, causing them to reach for sweaters and blankets. There is something primal in this experience as we are driven toward the fire, to contemplate, to commune while the winds howl, railing against the windows.

Now is the time of life and death decisions: which plants will be brought in, which will be left to the ravages of cold and ice. The tropical hibiscus with new buds have bright, green, trailing sweet potato vine climbing from the pots and I can't bear to think of their dying; the asparagus fern and the Great Wandering Jew are so full and glorious now that to see them turn brown and wither is too painful to contemplate. I suppose one or more bedrooms may become nurseries this season.

I must close the windows; a cold rain is beginning to fall.

The illustration above is Old Man Winter / Spring Chick by Scott Bakal. From the artist:
I am currently working on a series of personal art that relate to the four seasons, which will be published into a book in late 2006 and exhibited throughout 2006-2007. I wanted to link up the Robert’s Snow snowflake conceptually to the series because the subject matter is so similar. The concept of this snowflake is when there is an ending; there is always a new beginning. In ‘Old Man Winter’, you see the time is just before 12 signifying age and the end of a long cold season or deeper, a pressing issue. On the backside, ‘Spring Chick’, you see the clock just after 12 meaning life and rebirth or the solving of a pressing issue.)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Rising, Rising

Etta Lundy died. She was 95 -- soft, southern, fluffed, and feisty.

Years ago, Daddy decided to go into the restaurant business. My sister Denise & I would operate said restaurant and we'd all get rich. We rented a space from Charlie Frye on Hwy. 89 near I-77, where the tourists from Ohio headed to Florida would pass by. Charlie Frye was a legendary curmudgeon with a couple of fingers missing. He'd always been good to Daddy though, and Daddy thought he would be able to get along with him. Since Daddy was also Charlie, the name of our restaurant was "Charlie's Country Kitchen." Etta and Rowena Goings fixed breakfast.

I can still remember her making biscuits, laughing the whole time, rolling and patting, adding a little sugar, instructing the biscuits to "rise real purty" as she placed them in the oven, wiping her dusty hands on her apron. Those were such sweet mornings with Etta and Rowena. I think they cooked together at the Boy Scout Camp at Raven Knob, too. Etta and Rowena were a pair--telling jokes and sashaying about. They were eternally exasperated with their husbands (a phenomenon I have come to understand.) Etta, propped on the work table, ranted, "That Gwyn Lundy! He's old enough to know better!" Rowena would then chime in, "Well, let me tell you what Clark Goings did. . . ." We would shake our heads in unison at what strange creatures men could be. The kitchen was warm with the smell of biscuits and bacon and the gossip and giggles of females. We worked hard and had such fun.

Of course, whatever trespasses Gwyn had committed, they were minor aggravations. Etta loved him dearly. I never heard Etta say anything bad about anyone, unless they were really sorry and deserving of such criticism.

After a while, it was plain that not even my Mama could get along with Charlie Frye. He made her so mad one day she thought of knocking him in the head with a shovel, then cried over the fact that she could even think such a wicked thought. We closed the restaurant and pursued other likewise ludicrous pursuits.

Since then, we would run into Etta, mostly at church, at the funeral home, once at the Round Peak Masonic Lodge Pancake Feed, and she would hug me and kiss me, her soft powdered cheeks brushing against mine, and she would squeeze my hands as she talked and tell me how she missed me and thought of me, of all of us.

Precious memories, how they linger!

Thelma Lou Update


Betty Lynn/Thelma Lou (right) lives in Mount Airy now, and has for the past 18 months or so. She is a very sweet and gracious lady, and is ready with a smile and a kind word to all.

Freddy Badgett

DG--Thanks, Freddy, for keeping me updated. You know, Betty Lynn was born out here in Kansas City, Missouri, just an hour east of us. It's a small, small world! Say Hey to Barbara.

A Krick in Kansas City

Bobby Krick (left) carries on the family name and legacy in his role as historian at the Richmond National Battlefield Park. He's coming to Kansas City to speak to our Civil War Roundtable, Tuesday, October 23. The public is always welcome though we hope you then join our ranks! This is a dinner meeting at Homestead Country Club and the cost is $20 per person. Email by Friday noon if you'd like to attend.

(I stole this photo from Hal Jespersen's travelogue-- is really interesting. Check it out! See all those folks straining to hear every word?)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Grave Matters

Friday night found us at the Union League in Philadelphia (above: Carol Waskie, Andy Waskie, me, and a distinguished gentleman I found in the bar). After drinks, we adjourned across the street to the Crystal Tea Room for the Gravediggers Ball to benefit Laurel Hill Cemetery. This is the third such event and it was a smashing success. Andy is on the board of directors and often gives tours of this historic burial ground, one of the few cemeteries to be named a national historic landmark. The Friends of Laurel Hill raises money for the continued restoration of the grounds and gatehouse. Visit their website: and be sure to check out the store where you can buy books, tee shirts, and postcards like this one that reads: Tombs are filled with subtle symbolism. This one, for instance, says "I Was Filthy, Stinkin' Rich."

Laurel Hill is the second garden cemetery in the country--Mount Auburn in Boston being the first. It is incredible and anyone visiting the City of Brotherly Love should take the time to stroll the picturesque hillside over the Schuykill River. General George Meade and thirty-nine other Civil War-era generals reside here, in addition to six Titanic passengers. One literally trips over the history.

On Friday night, we tripped the light fantastic for preservation's sake.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Insufferable Virginians

Douglas MacArthur was, at heart, a Virginian. It explains a lot. Only Texans have comparable egos.

Virginia is the center of America's creation myth--John Smith, Pocahontas, Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Lewis and Clark, Robert E. Lee. As a result, we rightfully grow up believing Virginia is the center of the universe. Since I lived near the North Carolina line, my world encompassed its history as well, leading a friend of mine from Topeka to remark with exasperation, "I guess you think God came from Virginia and Jesus came from North Carolina!"


Tom and I were privileged to be included in the Gen. George Meade Society's trip to Virginia last weekend. The last stop was the grave of Gen. Douglas MacArthur in Norfolk. The legendary soldier, though a military brat himself, considered Norfolk home because it was his mother's home, and after all, Macarthur was a Mama's Boy. She was determined that her son, who would be a great general one day, be born in her home state, but alas, fate determined otherwise. He was born in Arkansas.

Arkansas!!! I'm sure the poor woman never recovered from the blow.

(Thanks to Jim Dover for this photo of me at the sacred shrine of MacArthur!)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


We are in Philadelphia with our dear friends, Andy and Carol Waskie. Over the weekend, we joined the Meade Society on their retracing of the Peninsula campaign (I love it when Little Mac gets whipped!) On last Thursday, I joined the instructors from C-TAC at the Command and General Staff College for their staff ride retracing the Battle of the Blue and Westport. Have loads of pictures and anecdotes to share but it will have to wait until I can download some photographs and get some writing time. Right now, it's history, art and all the seafood we can cram in before we head back to Kansas.

Oh, and maybe we'll get some research done.

Life is good.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Pretty People

This is the best looking man I've seen in a long time. Too bad he's dead. (Ain't that always the case?)
William Alexander Stuart was the older brother of our hometown hero, Gen. J. E. B. Stuart. He moved to Saltville, Virginia, before the war and became rich from the saltworks and land investments. After the war, he took care Jeb's family and just about everyone else it seems.

I have always thought Jeb handsome. We had a photo of him hanging in our office and my friend, Karen, also a Patrick Countian but hailing from Woolwine rather than Ararat, thought the picture was John Travolta in some movie role. Yes! He was that impressive! But he pales in comparison to his older sibling.

When our friend and Jeb chronicler, Tom Perry, was here last week, this image was in the slide show he presented. He forwarded me a copy so I can drool in private.

Mayberry Days Update

Thelma Lou came to Mount Airy, North Carolina, last weekend to join in the town's celebration. In the AP photo at right, the 81-year-old Betty Lynn poses with the statue of Andy and Opie at the Surry Arts Council. There is a wonderful interview, discussing her feelings about the show and Mount Airy, at this link: ____________________________
Free State of Patrick

Tom Perry works very hard to share the history of our fair homeplace. Recently, he added a page on the soldiers from Patrick County killed in Viet Nam. One of those was my cousin, Roger Dale Bowman (left).

Roger Dale was only 21 years old when he was killed in August, 1968. I was 10. He was an only child and he and his parents lived with his widowed grandmother, Aunt Venie. I loved Aunt Venie. Granny and I would walk through the woods to her house and I would read the newspaper to her, or comb her hair which hung to the floor. When word came that Roger Dale had died, the relatives started pouring in--so many relatives. But Roger Dale was Aunt Venie's favorite grandchild. They adored one another. I believe it was a week or so from the time the family received the news til Roger Dale was buried.

The churchyard where Roger Dale, my grandparents, my mother, our great-grandparents, cousins, uncles--all rest together--was set aside by my great-grandmother. The first grave was her son, "a homesick soldier boy," who died on Christmas Day at Camp Lee, Virginia. On the day of Roger Dale's funeral, my brother and sister and I stood with Mama in the shade of a little pine tree as taps were played. My sister picked up the shells from the 21-gun salute. It was very hot.
Thank you, Tom, for keeping the memory of these men alive.