Friday, November 30, 2007

Christmas Trees For Sale--See Scarlet

Starting at the North Carolina/Virginia line, Highway 52 is lined with side-by-side produce markets where local apples, peaches, and cabbages are sold in season. The coming of Christmas means the fruit stands get shipments of nuts and candies, oranges and tangerines, trees and greenery. My sister-in-law, Scarlet, owns S. C. Produce in Hillsville, Virginia. It's on Hwy. 221, on the right if you're headed out of town, on the left if you're coming in. I wish I could be there to smell the aroma of pine and spruce. My gosh, you can hardly see the building for trees!

Come inside and take one of these fragrant beauties home with you. Tell Scarlet that Debbie sent you and that she says, "Hey!"


. . . . at the Kansas Museum today but Tom was abed with the flu or some derivative thereof. I went in his place for a while. Bill Kurtis and Michelle Martin were there with the new cookbook and had lots of folks in line to get it. Ran into bunches of folks--Tim Rues, Paul Bahnmaier, Ed Hoover, Howard Duncan, and Charlene Winter from the Lecompton Reenactors. Lecompton is in the running for one of the 8 Wonders of Kansas. Go to to cast your vote. Voting will be going on until December 31st, and Governor Sebelius will announce the winners on Kansas Day (January 29).
Lulu between the lemons and the carrots at Scarlet's Produce Market.

Thursday, November 29, 2007


I was preparing food all night. Yesterday morning, Cheryl, Carol Ann & I met for coffee and to divide duties. Tish called from West Virginia to tell me where to find the best bulk olives in Topeka.

Our friend, Kaye Arnold, passed away unexpectedly the Saturday before Thanksgiving. Her funeral is this afternoon and then a reception celebrating her life and love of art will be held at a gallery a block from our house. Kaye and I had been friends for a long time, shared many good times, but she was not someone I called every day like Carol Ann or Cheryl. She was not someone I updated by email on the triumphs and tragedies in our lives, though we cared and kept up with one another. But she was that kind of friend to Carol Ann and Cheryl, and I love them. I feel so much for Kaye's family and I think about my dear, dear friend Rhonda who died November 3 in Virginia. I could not be there, but I know others were there for her, just as I am here for Kaye, to perform these last deeds in her name to care for her family. Tish would do these things if she were here, but her home is elsewhere now. It falls to me to help my friends in their last, loving tasks for their dear friend. I make food to nourish the body, to comfort the soul.

I season this food with all that I have.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Decking in Topeka

Well, the halls are decked, the family room is decked, the dining room is decked, and still the decking continues. I'm still working on the outside and the Christmas tree in the dining room. Tom walked in the other night, looked around and commented, "You know, this is a season, not a sickness." My response, "Move, or I'll cover you with tinsel."

Tuesday night our good friend Fred Chiaventone addresses the Kansas City Civil War Roundtable. Fred is the author of two of my favorite books, A Road We Do Not Know and Moon of Bitter Cold. It will be a great evening. If you can't join us, visit Fred's website,, and by all means, put these books on your Christmas list.

Noel and I took Number One Daughter and grand-daughter to airport Saturday morning in our first snow of the season. Even though we only had about an inch, the roads were really hazardous. If we saw one accident, we saw a dozen. We traveled safely, they arrived in Charlotte safely, and we had a wonderful holiday together. Despite what Tom says, it is not all about food.

I called this blog "Mason-Dixon Wild West" because I wanted to emphasize the links between the South and the Wild West. No life exemplifies that link more plainly than that of Doc Holliday. Author Ben Traywick writes:

John Henry's mother was a Southern beauty, and his father was a druggist, planter and soldier. Henry Holliday volunteered to fight Indians in Georgia in 1838, Mexicans in 1846 and Yankees in 1861. He rose to the rank of major during the Civil War, but sickness caused him to resign his commission in 1862. Two years later he moved his family to Valdosta, Ga., near the Florida line, when he realized that his old home was in the path of Union General William Tecumseh Sherman's "March to the Sea." The senior Holliday quickly became one of Valdosta's leading citizens. In 1876, he was elected mayor.

For the rest of this fascinating story, click on

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Bloody Bill Anderson Strikes Again

I receive about 75 to 100 Google alerts daily on topics related to the Civil War, Indian Wars, Wild West, Deep South, and Home Improvement. What an invaluable service! Until a few days ago. . . .

The subject of my alert was Bloody Bill Anderson. I opened it to a video of a couple engaged in . . . . well, use your imagination. I closed and deleted it immediately, but not before my computer was infected with at least one virus. I have been struggling with spyware programs all week.

Even from the grave, Bill Anderson wreaks havoc.

Small World Syndrome

Frank Stallone (left) has hit the big time with his role in the new movie, Fred Claus. Don't know Frank Stallone? He happens to be Sly's brother, but our Western fans might recall him as Ed Bailey (below, with Kate and Doc), the first victim of Doc Holliday in the film Tombstone. A few months ago, our bud Andy Waskie escorted Philadelphians Sly and Frank through Laurel Hill Cemetery as they were scouting scenes for a new movie.

"You don't scare me, Holliday. Without them guns, you're ain't nothin' but a skinny lunger!"

Alas, with the sun coming up, after a night of poker, drinking and smoking, poor Ed's patience had run its course. Too bad he couldn't have chosen his words more carefully for they were to be his last. Ed Bailey-- his role was a brief one. But it was rich!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Scoundrels and Statesmen

Kansas Senator and General of Volunteers Jim Lane will confront his biographer tonight when the Civil War Roundtable convenes. Robert Collins has written the latest biography of the insane senator from Kansas, who could be called "Lincoln's Rasputin." Collins's title sums up the great man-- Jim Lane: Scoundrel, Statesman, Kansan. Bob presents his take on Lane and is joined by Tim Rues who portrays the firebrand. It should be a great evening. You're welcome to join us: 6:30 at the Kansas Museum of History, inside the Mission.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Welcome to Wally World

The Griswolds welcome you to Wally World!

I slipped back into our bedroom this morning, tiptoing as not to disturb my sleeping husband, and grabbed the jeans I had worn last night. After dropping Noel at school around 6:45 I headed to "Wally World" to exchange a dimmer for the bathroom light and some amber light bulbs that were broken in the package. I actually like Walmart early in the morning--when the shelves are neatly stocked and the aisles aren't jammed with consumer mad Americans after a "sack of stuff."
While browsing through the bulbs, I kept feeling something brush against my leg. Reaching down to pat my calf I found an odd bulge. (No jokes, people!) It was my footie, the sock I'd worn yesterday. Not nearly as mortified as I should have been, I ducked into the Christmas section, grabbed the dirty sock and stuffed it in my purse.

It put me in mind of Linda Easter, a lady from Cana, Virginia, I used to work with. She was a goofy woman and remarked one Monday morning that her sister had come by early Saturday and dragged her out of bed to go shopping at Rose's Department Store. Linda wearily awoke, pulled on her pants from the night before, and went shopping.

After an hour or so, she was sufficiently awake to notice folks pointing, or looking away, or giggling behind her back. She looked behind her and found a pair of pantyhose trailing from one leg of her jeans.
I see a corollary -- something about shopping in discount stores and getting up too early. Or maybe it's just goofy women.


I have been remiss over the past week. Suffice it to say, we can now park one car in our 2-car garage for the first time in a year. Thank God for garbage service.

Had dinner at O'Neill's Irish Pub in Overland Park with Arnold Schofield on Tuesday night. Retired from the National Park Service, Arnold is now the cheif domo at Mine Creek Battlefield, a state historic site.

One of Arnold's first assingments, though, was in my neck of the woods in Virginia. Turns out he ordered the building of the flatfootin' platform at Mabry Mill. I told him that somewhere, in all my stuff, there is a photo of my same self flatfootin' to beat the band on said plywood.

Arnold was also honored to be the guest of Uncle Tommy Jarrell, (left) the best old-time fiddler who ever lived. Uncle Tommy's little house in Toast was the place to be -- Mike Seeger, Alice Gerrard, Robert Sykes, Paul Brown, Andy Cahan, Terri McMurray, Brad Leftwich, Linda Higginobtham, Frank Bodie, Paul Sutphin -- the jam sessions went into the wee hours and how the floor kept from falling in is a bona fide miracle. Arnold and I had a grand time swapping stories of home.

I can still recall Uncle Tommy singing "Jack of Diamonds:" (Also called "Drunken Hiccups" or "Rye Whiskey.) I love this tune!!!

"I've played cards in England and I've gambled in Spain
I'm going back to Rhode Island gonna play my last game
Jack of Diamonds, Jack of Diamonds,
I know you from old
You have robbed my poor pockets of silver and gold

Well, if the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck
I'd dive to the bottom and drink myself up
But the ocean ain't whiskey and I ain't no duck
I'll play that Jack of Diamonds and I'll trust to my luck

I eat when I'm hungry and I drink when I'm dry
If I get feeling much higher I'm gonna sprout wings and fly
Jack of Diamonds, Jack of Diamonds,
I know you from old
You have robbed my poor pockets of silver and gold."

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Leslie's Philosophy

While browsing the internet I came across the website for a high school friend, Leslie Shelor. Leslie is a weaver and has a shop in Meadows of Dan, Virginia, at the top of Squirrel Spur. For the uninitiated, Squirrel Spur is about the crookedest mountain road I've ever been on. Once, we were on a school bus headed up the mountain to the Dan River Queen Riverboat and the bus had to stop while a dumptruck backed up to let us by. The scenery is spectacular. Anyhow, Leslie has her shop, The Greenberry House (above), where she sells original creations from the yarn she spins with the cooperation of her pet Angora rabbits. Leslie and I traded correspondence. As usual, all roads lead to Tom Perry:

Tom Perry's new book is out and it is terrific. I have copies here at the store and he's supposed to do a book signing here December 8. If he can sit still long enough!

So, dear readers, here is the golden opportunity to drive up Squirrel Spur, visit with Leslie and sample her wares, and get your autographed copy of Patrick County by Thomas David Perry. From Arcadia Publishing's website:

Book Description: Formed in 1790, Patrick County is named for the Commonwealth of Virginia’s first governor, Patrick Henry, who lived in neighboring Henry County. Located along the border of North Carolina where the Blue Ridge Mountains of the Appalachian Range cross the state line, the “Free State of Patrick” is half Piedmont and half mountain plateau. This dividing geographic feature is reflected in the mountain people of Scots-Irish and German descent along with English living below the mountain heights. This divergent population produced tobacco magnate R. J. Reynolds; Civil War general J. E. B. Stuart; Virginia governor Gerald Baliles; Virginia’s highest-elected female, former attorney general Mary Sue Terry; and World Series pitcher Brad Clontz.

Ain't we something!

Tom produces a monthly e-mail newsletter about regional history from his Web site, Here you can order this title or one of his many others if you're unable to make it up Squirrel Spur. The cover of this book features a vintage photo of Allen Culler, father of Benton Culler. Isn't it a smashing picture? Tom is in Philadelphia on a talking tour right now. The Civil War world is small and incestuous.
The Dark Side of Mayberry

For years, I covered court in Dobson, North Carolina, reporting for the Mount Airy News. (Dobson is the county seat of Surry County.) I still go online to read the paper, where my high school bud and former editor, Tom Joyce, still labors in the journalistic vineyard. I couldn't help but laugh at this story:

Brother charged in shooting

Published: Friday, November 2, 2007 11:27 PM CDT
Staff Report

A felony assault charge has been filed against a Mount Airy man who allegedly shot his brother in the back. Richard Lee Thomas, 48, of 628 E. Haymore St., is accused of assault with a deadly weapon, inflicting serious injury, in connection with the Wednesday afternoon incident. Thomas spent Wednesday night in the Surry County Jail before being released Thursday afternoon on a $25,000 secured bond.

Thomas allegedly shot his brother, William Burley Thomas, 46, of the same address, about 5:30 p.m. Wednesday after a heated argument at their home, according to the Mount Airy Police Department. At last report, the victim, who was wounded with a .22-caliber pistol, was in good condition at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem.

The brothers had been arguing and the situation escalated into violence, police said. At one point, William Thomas allegedly pulled out a gun and fired shots at Richard Thomas inside their house, said Lt. Detective Bill Bunker. That prompted the older brother to get a gun and shoot at his sibling, who was hit in the back. The pair has a long history of fighting between themselves, dating to the early 1980s, according to local authorities. Mostly, the altercations have been limited to fist fights, wrestling and hitting each other with brooms, they say, with Wednesday's shooting representing the first time that either of the two has been seriously hurt. In addition to residing in the same house with their mother, both brothers are employed by a local recapping business, according to police records.

The elder Thomas faces a Dec. 14 appearance in Surry District Court.

I think they're my cousins. Check out the news yourself at


Just catching up on your blog (I've been away in smoky San Diego) and noticed your mention of Paul Tibbets. I live near the Wendover Airfield where Tibbets and his crew planned and trained for the atomic bomb drops. It's an amazing place. Most of the structures remain intact and largely untouched. There are buildings that still have shelves full of some kind of literature, wall hangings, and furniture original to the base- just sitting there just as the men left it when the base was abandoned. In some of the hangars and offices, it looks as if Col. Tibbets and his crew could come back, sit at their old table, grab their training materials, and resume their conversation where they left off in 1944. I was at the base recently and I snapped a whole bunch of pictures, which include much of the still-standing structures as well as the bomb pits. If you're interested, I'll upload them to a web album and send you the link.

Pretty. dang. interesting.
Clint Thomsen

DG--Clint, that is fascinating. Yes, please send the link and I'll share it.

Mrs. Virginia Senator

On this day in 1982, Elizabeth Taylor divorced John Warner (Her 7th divorce). Virginians loved having her as part of their history. A friend of mine, a dear and gracious lady, hosted the Warners at her Marion, Virginia, home and commented to me on how much she enjoyed Elizabeth's visit, and though Miz Taylor had been married these many times, at least the moviestar was not living in sin like so many of her contemporaries.

Leslie's Philosophy

Knowing Leslie, I was not surprised to read her blog and find this guiding principle there. Visit her site, At the Top of Squirrel Spur,, and enjoy the beautiful photographs there. In the meantime, reflect on this eloquent philosophy:

"To live content with small means; to seek elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion; to be worthy, not respectable, and wealthy, not rich; to study hard, think quietly, talk gently, act frankly; to listen to the stars and birds, to babes and sages, with open heart; to bear on cheerfully, do all bravely, awaiting occasions, worry never; in a word to, like the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious, grow up through the common."--William Henry Channing

Thursday, November 1, 2007


I brought the caladiums in. And the tropical hibiscus, and asparagus fern, and a pot with dahlias and a couple of plants I cannot name. I clipped the begonias and made an arrangement in a clear bowl where I hope they root. Likewise, the 20 or 30 feet of bright green trailing sweet potato vine has been cut back to about six and is now winding around the kitchen window. I could not bear to see them die. The rich, red caladiums I had planned to just store in the basement, but when I dug them up, I was seduced and repotted them instead. The caladium comes from the Amazon jungles originally, and that's what our house is beginning to resemble. Perhaps I can maintain the glorious foliage through the Kansas winter.

Nightmare Before Christmas

So many trick-or-treaters I thought I would be forced to give them home accessories like lamps or artificial flowers. As Noel and I ran into Dillon's Grocery Store for candy yesterday afternoon, employees were busily taking down the Halloween displays and replacing them with Christmas wreaths, ornaments, candles--you get the picture. Black, orange and purple displaced by red, green, gold and silver. It's an amazing thing to watch the transformation. Which reminds me, if you haven't seen Tim Burton's masterpiece, Nightmare Before Christmas is returning to theaters. I highly recommend it. (The nightmare in our front yard, left.)

Surveying Fort Scott

Michelle Martin took this photo at the recent living history event at Fort Scott NHS, Kansas. On the left we have Capt. Benjamin Moore and Surgeon Mott (far right) in 1843 surveying the land that will become Fort Scott. See more of these amazing photos at

Paul Tibbets Obit

Paul Tibbets, the pilot who dropped the first atomic bomb, has died. Born in 1915, Tibbets rose to the rank of Brigadier General in the Air Force. His role in the bombing of Japan was controversial, though he remained unapologetic, and according to news reports, he requested than no funeral be held and no marker placed at his grave. He did not want to give protesters a place to gather. An AOL story on his death prompted more than 4,000 comments today. At left, Tibbets speaking at the Harry Truman Library and Museum in Independence, Missouri.


The photo of the caladiums at the top of the page was taken by Coleen Perilloux Landry of Louisiana. See more of her work at:

Coleen said, "Photography helps one see what otherwise one would just take for granted. The PBase community is a wonderful group of people, very talented photographers, who enjoy sharing their knowledge, their time and their talents with others. Please comment and leave messages--it makes my day."

Kudos, Coleen. Beautiful work!