Sunday, January 27, 2008


It is an intereresting group of folks. Some come in their Confederate uniforms, some in sports coats, some in the civilian garb of the 19th Century. All but a few, including my friends, Ken and Terry Hobbs, have Confederate ancestors--men who fought for the Southern Confederacy.

There is a kinship in the Sons of Confederate Veterans that is religious. Candles are lit as each person recites the company, regiment, and fate of the soldier from whom they are descended. It is a moving and startling ceremony when nearly every person in the darkness lights a candle and announces, "in memory of Private Henry Bowman, 50th Va. Inf., captured at Culp's Hill, imprisoned at Fort Delaware, imprisoned at Point Lookout. . . . in memory of Simon Bolivar Buckner, Lt. General, CSA. . . . in memory of Jefferson Davis, President, CSA."

Folks who know little of their ancestors are floored by people who can recite chapter and verse of their long dead relative's military service. In fact, when I am pressed to define what is unique about Southerners, I am inclined to suggest it is this: We know who we are--we know who our people are.

There are other folks who value their ancestors, but as a whole, Southerners just know. We stayed put for generations, we went to school with the children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren of our parents and grandparents, we pulled weeds from the tombstones of people we never met and yet we knew. We know where they were from, we know where they lie, we know who they loved, we know who they hated.

Our speaker last night was the most famous reenactor in the nation, Robert Lee Hodge. Rob, full beard and all, is passionate about battlefield preservation and shared that passion with this very enthusiastic crowd. He is pictured (above right) with Jim Speicher, Commander of the Key Camp in Kansas City. You'll also find Rob on the cover of America's Civil War with an article inside on his experience as the subject of the Pulitzer prize-winning, Confederates in the Attic.

Pictured top left is my boyfriend, 98-year-old Loren Lundy and me. Loren's antecedents are Virginians, maybe even my cousins, living near Galax. Loren and his lovely wife, Meta, and daughter, Sharon, are longtime friends and it was wonderful to see them.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Native Kansan

We were watching TV the other night and Tom had locked into Jim Thorpe-All American starring Burt Lancaster in the title role. It was near the end of the movie, and Thorpe and Pop Warner (Charles Bickford) were in the stadium waiting for the Los Angeles Olympics to begin. The crowd roared as the Vice President of the United States was introduced, none other than Charles Curtis, Kansas Native and Native American Kansan. In this piece of the film, newsreel footage was used so that it really is Curtis addressing the crowd (above). Curtis was descended from the Kaw and the Osage Tribes and to date is the only person of Indian heritage to serve in this high office. He was born this day in 1860, while Kansas was still a territory.
Night Ride

Stay tuned to WBRF Radio in Galax, Virginia. They have streaming audio so that every night you can listen to the Night Ride with Bruce Hodges. I think he's going to send out a song to my aunt tonight and we plan a long distance interview in the near future. All you folks who wonder if my accent is representative of folks back home can listen for yourselves. Hillbillies one and all! You'll love it! Not only Bruce's show, but every other hour is packed with great music and fun guests.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Possibility of Hell's Freezing

. . . good. When I got out at 6:30 this morning, the newscaster said it would be warming into the 20s today. . . and he was excited!!!

The DEEP FREEZE we call Kansas is wearing on us. The snow lingers, freezes, crunches--but never melts!!! Relief is in sight--the weekend promises highs in the 50s, but not before one last coating of ice on Friday. More and more we talk of wintering in the sweet, sunny, South.
Tragedy on Lowgap Mountain

I was on the phone with my Aunt Emma Lee in Ararat, Virginia, last night and her husband had just come in and said there was a bad wreck on Lowgap Mountain. She was listening to WBRF Radio, Galax, and when we got off the phone an hour later, the newsman said Hwy 89 had been shut down and traffic was rerouted on I-77.

Folks in metropolitan areas don't realize how news of wreck touches people back home. It is almost always someone you know. The route down Lowgap is narrow and very busy and we have so much family up and down that road every day.

Turns out the story was a typical one back home-a tractor trailer going down the mountain lost its brakes and slammed into another vehicle. How many of these stories did I cover when I was a reporter? Fancy Gap Mountain was the worst, so dangerous that trucks were forbidden from the steep grade once the interstate was completed. That didn't stop trucks from trying it, though, mostly overweight vehicles avoiding the scales. Many of these trips ended in tragedy, with crushed vehicles, mangled bodies and loads of cargo strewn down the mountainside. A friend of mine recalled a load of produce that wrecked in Tate's Curve, leaving thousands of grapes atop the Tate family's house.

Laura Thompson, of the Mount Airy News, filed this report in the morning's paper:

LOWGAP - A Galax, Va., man was killed Wednesday afternoon and another man was hospitalized following a fiery three-vehicle wreck on N.C. 89 West just south of the Virginia state line. A tractor-trailer driven by Marvin Patton, 53, of Houston, Texas, was traveling south on N.C. 89 when its brakes failed and it crossed the center line at a sharp curve on the mountain road, said Trooper J.R. Vindich of the N.C. Highway Patrol. The incident occurred just before 4:30 p.m.

The tractor-trailer collided first with a Nissan pickup truck and then with a Chevrolet van before hitting the side of a mountain and catching fire. Vindich estimated the tractor-trailer was traveling at 65 mph on impact. The driver of the pickup truck, 68-year-old Glenn Roy Shumate of Galax, died instantly, Vindich said. The two occupants of the van were uninjured. Patton escaped from the cab of the truck before it ignited and was treated at Hugh Chatham Memorial Hospital in Elkin for minor injuries.
Members of the Skull Camp Volunteer Fire Department arrived within about five minutes of the accident to find the cab of the tractor-trailer fully involved in flames. Capt. Josh Moose said an explosion from one of the fuel tanks started a small woods fire on the side of the mountain. Vindich said Patton was hauling potatoes from Michigan to Charlotte and was instructed by his company to get off I-77 at the U.S. 58 exit in Virginia and take Highway 89 into North Carolina. He said Patton was told this was a faster route.

Marvin was released from the hospital around 10 p.m. Wednesday and charged with death by motor vehicle, exceeding a safe speed and driving left of center. He remained in the Surry County Jail Wednesday night.

Vindich praised the efforts of Skull Camp firefighters in extinguishing the flaming tractor-trailer as well as the Mount Airy Rescue Squad, who he said are “always A-plus on their game.”The Galax Fire Department also assisted at the scene.

I can't help but think of all the phone calls made last night, delivering tragic news. I can't believe a dispatcher in Texas told this truck driver it was closer to go down Hwy 89. Even if that were so, we have interstates for a reason, to keep that long distance traffic off local roads. These drivers who don't know the mountains, don't know where the curves are, and don't realize how quickly they can lose control--I could fill a fifty-five-gallon drum with such reports.
More Birthdays

Today is the birthday of one of the South's handsomest soldiers, Gen. John Pegram. Pegram was captured early in the war, released and jumped back into the fight. He is perhaps best known for his marriage to the prettiest girl in the South, Hetty Cary, on January 19, 1865. Just three weeks later the groom was back inside the same church in a coffin--his lovely widow kneeling by her fallen husband. His brother was killed shortly after. Hetty lived with her mother-in-law after Pegram's death. This touching letter of condolence was sent to Hetty:

I cannot find words to express my deep sympathy in your affliction, my sorrow at your loss. God alone can give you strength to bear the blow he has inflicted, and since it has been death by his hand I know it was sent in mercy. As dear as your husband was to you, as necessary apparently to his Country and as important to his friends, I feel assured it was best for him to go at the moment he did. His purity of character, his services to the Country and his devotion to his God, prepared him for the peace and rest he now enjoys. We are left to grieve at his departure, cherish his memory and prepare to follow. May God give us his Grace, that through the mediation of his blessed Son, we may be ready to obey his gracious Summons.
Truly and affectionately your friend
R E Lee
Petersburg 11 Feb '65

Hetty was a widow for 14 years, before marrying physiologist Henry Newell Martin, who worked at Johns Hopkins University. She died in Baltimore in 1892.


"This Civil War chess set will provide hours of fun to your family. Recreate classic battles with hand-painted pieces that bare true-to-life resemblances to Presidents Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, Generals Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee!"

Available for $59.99 at

Monday, January 21, 2008

Birthday Greetings

Everyone knows this is the birthday of Lt. Gen. Thomas Jackson, CSA (1824), but he shares this day with two other prominent Civil War era personalities--U. S. Vice President John C. Breckinridge (1821) who became a major general in the Confederate Army, and John C. Fremont (1813), "The Pathfinder," first Republican candidate for president, governor of Arizona, U. S. Senator from California, and major general in the Union Army. What a day!

One of my history professors, Dr. Gunnar Alksnis, taught history through biography. His philosophy was that the best way to comprehend an era is to grasp the life of its leaders. I believe he was right. The life of Fremont (pictured in bronze in the Frontier Army Museum, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, above) is the very substance and form of America's expansion in the 19th century.

Robert Lee Hodge

Today is also the birthday of one Robert Lee Hodge of Confederates in the Attic Fame. Born on Stonewall's birthday, and named for Robert E. Lee, Rob is actually an Ohio boy with Southern antecedents. He is the featured speaker at the Lee-Jackson dinner at the Grinter Place in Kansas City, Kansas, this Saturday. We were discussing his upcoming appearance when someone who has never met Rob inquired, "You mean the guy on the cover of that book?"

I laughed. "He's not really that scary," I promised. Rob became famous for perfecting "the bloat," the appearance of a dead, decaying corpse on the battlefield. Now a partner in Wideawake Films in Kansas City, he devotes his time to the other side of the camera.

Col. Ed Kennedy

Speaking of our buds, Colonel Kennedy (left) was in town Saturday to speak to the local SCV Chapter. Ed's presentation on the battle and massacre at Centralia, Missouri, was excellent. He placed the atrocities committed by Confederate guerrilla Bill Anderson into the greater context of the war, with an escalation in war crimes committed by both sides. He discussed the meaning of "war crimes" and the Army's policies today and during the Civil War. This is an excellent presentation and so relavant to world affairs. Let me know if you have a group that would enjoy hearing this program and I'll get you in touch with the colonel.

Saturday, January 19, 2008


Cheryl and I braved the cold tonight (I think it bottomed out at minus 6) and headed west to the hamlet of Wamego, home of the Columbian Theater and Ramblers Steak House. At the latter we enjoyed the company of the townsfolk before heading over for the screening of "Bloody Dawn." There was a capacity crowd and great discussion. We enjoyed seeing Kelly Fein whose husband, Joel, was a producer of the film but died before it was completed. It is dedicated to his memory.

Cheryl snapped this photo of my selling books along with Amy Spurgeon and her lovely daughter.

A highlight of the evening was Missouri "Puke" Ed Hoover heckling Senator Jim Lane. Between heckles, Ed demonstrated his 1850s era printing press and the Sharps carbine that went along with operating a press. It was dangerous business to be an editor in those days. Above right, Ed defends his first amendment rights against a young man armed with a pepperbox pistol.

The next showing of "Bloody Dawn" will be in Lincoln, KS, during the annual Lincoln Days. Tom and I will be there along with the film's director, Ken Spurgeon, and historian Marla Matkin. Our friends and neighbors Herschel and Jacque Stroud will be there as Abe and Mary Lincoln. Herschel is not quite as tall as the 16th president, but makes up for it in personality! It should be a great weekend, February 15 - 16. See for more details.
From the Civil War Listserve
(hosted by Andy Waskie)

Honor, Flag and Family:
Civil War Major General Samuel W. Crawford, 1827-1892
By Richard Wagner

Reviewed by Mike Burkhimer

There were only two Union soldiers who were present at both Fort Sumter and Appomattox Court House. They were Truman Seymour and Pennsylvania’s own Samuel W. Crawford. Both had long careers in the army and both were generals of some accomplishment. Both men are undeservedly obscure. Over a hundred years ago author Sydney George Fisher asked of Pennsylvania, “Was there ever a Commonwealth that produced so many eminent characters and was so indifferent to them?” Retired history teacher Richard Wagner attempts to remedy this with his For Honor, Flag, and Family: Civil War Major General Samuel W. Crawford, 1827-1892.
Wagner spent 12 years researching Crawford, and it shows. He has unearthed letters and diaries that have lain dormant for decades. The result is a biography that is a bit different from the usual ones of Civil War figures. It is unusually rich in personal details and background information. Wagner spends a good number of pages on Crawford’s early life and his relationship with his parents and siblings. Crawford had a close connection with his family. His younger brother Alex would even be his war-time aide. Crawford was born at the family home Allandale near Fayetteville in Franklin County to a father in the ministry. He never married and would return time and time again to his family home set in the beautiful mountains. The title of the book is very appropriate since Crawford’s family played such an active role in the choices he made throughout his life. Instead of following his father into the ministry, Samuel chose to help mankind by becoming a doctor. He studied at the University of Pennsylvania and was an excellent medical student. After graduation, the patriotic Crawford felt he should serve his country in the army and so became an army surgeon. He had a powerful intellect, but what some perceived as arrogance rubbed many the wrong way. This trait would unfortunately follow him into the army and cloud his reputation.After some years on the frontier he found himself assigned to be the post surgeon to about 80 men at Fort Moutltrie in Charleston harbor in 1860. He was present as an observer at the secession convention and watched hopelessly as hostile forces surrounded the fort. The commander Robert Anderson won his everlasting admiration when he showed the good judgment to withdraw to the more defensible Fort Sumter six days after secession. Crawford was there throughout the siege. When the Confederate forces finally bombarded the fort on April 12, 1861 Crawford did the very un-medical duty of commanding a cannon in one of the casemates firing back in the hopeless fight. Wagner covers this time in Crawford’s life very well, and one can almost feel the tension that Crawford must have felt waiting for the inevitable.Crawford transferred to the infantry after tasting combat when he returned to the North. He served briefly as an aide to General Rosecrans in the West Virginia campaign but was soon given command of a brigade. In his first action his brigade almost over-powered Stonewall Jackson’s whole force at Cedar Mountain. Eventually reinforcements drove him back, but he did well in his first combat command. At Antietam he suffered a controversial wound. He received a puncture wound from what probably was a shotgun blast in his thigh. Crawford left the field. Many criticized him for doing so because they thought the wound was too superficial. This was unfair because the wound would trouble him for the rest of his life.After spending some time recovering, Crawford was given command of the Pennsylvania Reserves Division. The division was itself recovering from heavy casualties during 1862 and was assigned to the quiet sector of Washington D.C. All of that changed with Lee’s invasion of Pennsylvania. Crawford and his reserves were sent to the Army of the Potomac. The high-point of his career came at Gettysburg. Near the close of the second day of the battle, Union forces were being pushed out of the Wheatfield towards Little Round Top. Crawford’s division appeared on the crest of that famous hill. Wagner writes, “Crawford showed his energy and zeal when he grabbed the Reserves’ flag and led the charge on horseback.” Charging into the “Valley of Death” the Reserves threw back the Confederates and saved the Union left.Continuing with the Army of the Potomac Crawford fought in the Overland campaign and was witness to the horrible battles of the Wilderness and Spotsylvania. The only real bright spot was when his division got behind Pickett’s force at Five Forks and captured many men. He fought throughout the final campaign and was present at Appomattox Courthouse.After the war, Crawford kept focusing on what he viewed as his two great accomplishments: Fort Sumter and Gettysburg. He kept reliving them. He even bought land in the “Valley of Death” to serve as a monument to himself and the Reserves (eventually this was given to the government). Some saw this as taking too much credit for what he did. This fit into the pattern of vanity he showed at times. It is understandable in some ways, but Crawford would not be memorialized the way other soldiers would be who had endeared themselves to the men as did Grant. He was too much an aristocrat for our democratic society. It was only 125 years after the battle that a monument to him was finally erected at “Crawford Avenue” at Gettysburg.Crawford died in 1892 and is buried in Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia (above, left). He made sure two things were placed on his grave, “Fort Sumter” and “Gettysburg.” Wagner’s excellent book does a lot to rescue Samuel Crawford from obscurity. One can read the book for the interesting story of Crawford’s life but also perhaps to honor one of our own: a true Pennsylvania Civil War hero.

White Mane Books, Shippensburg, 2005; 352 pp.$19.95

Friday, January 18, 2008

Hibernating in Topeka

Have been laid low by the flu. Except for one productive day at Fort Leavenworth, this week has been a total wipe out. I'm just like a hibernating bear--every time I wake up,I look outside at the snow-packed roads and decide to go back to sleep. The cold weather doesn't help. Our low tonight is supposed to be 1, maybe 4. It's ridiculous.

Tomorrow morning, our bud Ed Kennedy is speaking here in Topeka. Tomorrow evening, Cheryl and I head to Wamego for the screening of Bloody Dawn at the historic Columbian Theater. We're packing blankets and firewood, and perhaps some spirits should we be stranded on the roadside.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Cats and Cows

Curled up on Mona's sofa with a couple of cats. They're purring underneath the cover, just like me.

Spent the day at the Command and General Staff College and now I'm enjoying Mark and Mona's hospitality here in Leavenworth. Almost hit a cow in the road this morning on Highway 92 and 106th Street. It was still dark, and as I topped the knoll a black was strolling in the middle of my lane. (Deer leap; possums scoot; cows stroll.) Thankfully, there was no other traffic and I swerved into the other lane. I pulled over and surveyed the situation. The gate was open but it was real close to a home. I watched the cow walk through, back into the pasture, and then I turned around and headed on to my destination. I thought about stopping but thought it unsafe and went on. A short woman knocking on a strange door just past dawn--well, who knows what to expect? My cell phone had no signal, so I couldn't call the sheriff. I hope the cows stayed put until the farmer closed the gap.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Elvis and Me

Headed to Fort Leavenworth today; Tom has a video crew coming, I believe. Everyone is looking forward to this weekend's premier of Bloody Dawn. From Sunday's Topeka Capital Journal:

Film takes look at effect of Quantrill's raid
By Steve Fry
The Capital-Journal
Published Sunday, January 06, 2008

Civil War raider William Quantrill will ride into Lawrence again when "Bloody Dawn," a documentary about the burning of the anti-slavery bastion in 1863, is shown in a theater next weekend on the same street Quantrill and his guerrillas rode on.
Based on author Tom Goodrich's book of the same title, "Bloody Dawn," will be shown Saturday at Liberty Hall.

"By far, this was the singular event in Kansas history," Goodrich, a Lawrence native, said this past week. "Nothing like it came before and, fortunately, nothing like it came later.

"This was the invasion and destruction of the state's second-largest city," Goodrich said. At the time, Lawrence had a population of 3,000, and the largest city was Leavenworth with about 20,000 residents. "It took a century for Lawrence to fully recover."

Movie-makers last year interviewed the husband and wife team of historians Tom and Deb Goodrich on the patio of the couple's Collins Park home in central Topeka about the Lawrence raid.

In the raid on Aug. 21, 1863, 150 townsmen and Union soldiers were massacred and much of Lawrence was burned. One of Quantrill's roughly 450 raiders was dragged off his horse and killed.

The Lawrence raid was payback by Quantrill for the deaths of five women who were relatives of Confederate guerrillas, Tom Goodrich said. The women were killed when the rickety Kansas City, Mo., hotel they were imprisoned in collapsed, he said. Days after the prison collapse, Quantrill organized the raid on Lawrence.

Deb Goodrich said the killing of the victims in front of their families and the burning of the town was "devastating" to survivors.

On the morning after the raid, one woman was looking for her husband when she screamed after finding him in the ashes, Deb Goodrich said. She crouched and cradled his skull in her hands, she said.

"To lose a loved one in such an incredible act of violence would intensify memories" of the raid, Deb Goodrich said. For the rest of the survivors' lives, the smell of smoke and certain sounds "would bring back the horror of that day. Lawrence is like a microcosm of the Civil War."

The town of Brooklyn near Baldwin City was destroyed in the same raid and was never rebuilt, Tom Goodrich said.

Philosophically, Quantrill represented those people who didn't fit into the system and were striking back, Deb Goodrich said.

Beyond the Lawrence raid, Quantrill's legacy was the "rooting, tooting six-guns blazing" Wild West that followed the Civil War, Tom Goodrich said.

Among Quantrill's ranks were bank and train robbers Frank and Jesse James and the Younger brothers.

The Goodriches co-authored "The Day Dixie Died: Southern Occupation, 1865-1866."
Tom Goodrich also wrote "Scalp Dance," "Black Flag," "The Darkest Dawn," "War to the Knife" and, with Albert Castel, "Bloody Bill Anderson."

Deb Goodrich also wrote "Stories in Stone: a Sharing of the Lives of Some Who Rest in Topeka Cemetery."

• 7 p.m. Saturday
• At Liberty Hall, 644 Massachusetts, Lawrence
• Tickets are $8 each
• Produced by Lone Chimney Films

Other showing dates of "Bloody Dawn" are:
• 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Orpheum in Wichita.
• 7 p.m. Jan. 18 at the Brown Grand Theater in Concordia.
• 7 p.m. Jan. 19 at the Columbian Theater in Wamego.
• 10 a.m. Feb. 16 at the Finch Theater in Lincoln, Kan. That showing will be part of the annual Lincoln Reenactment Day in that community.
Steve Fry can be reached at (785) 295-1206 or steve.fry@cjonline com.
Happy Elvis's Birthday. . .

. . . we hope you celebrate appropriately, perhaps with a peanut butter and banana sandwich.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Let's hear it for Exploration

My friend Cheryl accompanied me to Fort Leavenworth yesterday. In fact, I dragged her kicking and screaming. Like many Kansans, she has never been to Fort Leavenworth and quite frankly, was just expecting a prison. (The U. S. Army Disciplinary Barracks is located here). She was floored by the beauty of the Post (especially the view of the Missouri River), the lovely historic buildings, the amount of housing (indicating lots of folks live there), and the size of the new Lewis and Clark Hall (home of the Command and General Staff College). She was also impressed with the brilliant people who work there (We visited D. K. Clark).

At the Frontier Army Museum, director Steve Allie (left, talking with Cheryl), who has been here since 1984, led us through the remodeled exhibit space. His enthusiasm for the museum and the collection is contagious. When asked what is so special about this museum, Steve doesn't hesitate to answer that its location is foremost.

"Here we are," said Steve, "on one of the oldest forts in the West, with the oldest residence in Kansas--just mention oldest anything in Kansas and we probably have it."

In the midst of historic Fort Leavenworth, founded in 1827 long before Kansas was even a territory much less a state, is the Frontier Army Museum with over 5,000 artifacts representing the presence of the United States Army in every aspect of frontier life--and much of it has little to do with making war.

The general public may not realize how much of the early Army's work in the West involved exploration and map-making, with Lewis and Clark being the most prominent examples. The exploits of others are covered here as well, men like John C. Fremont (right, in bronze), a soldier and explorer turned politician. The tools of the trade are here--the survey instruments used to map the West and even the transcontinental railroad.

The staff has been remodeling -- including trashing the fluorescent lighting and installing more exhibit-friendly bulbs. It has also taken artifacts from the walls and moved them out into the visitor space where they can be more easily seen, though still protected. Some projects are a little behind because Steve does so much of the work himself, welding, for example, and the weather has been too nasty to go outside. All the macro-artifacts, as Steve refers to them, are in place, and now they will begin bringing out the smaller items to round out the displays.
The variety of the displays surprised Cheryl. "I expected machine guns," she said sheepishly, "but the museum was rich with history. It was amazing."

It certainly is. For more information, visit Better yet, go in person.

Speaking of Exploration

On this day in 1779, Zebulon Montgomery Pike was born in Trenton, New Jersey. (Have you ever seen a more beautiful man? I swear my next book will be Historic Hunks.) Often over-shadowed by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, Pike led the expedition searching for the source of the Mississippi River and then another exploring the southern portion of the Louisiana Purchase. His journals from this trips are worth reading.

This bright and promising officer died during the War of 1812 at the age of 34. He led an assault on York, Canada, (now Toronto) and died with a captured British flag under his head for a pillow. Find more about this incredible American at The monument to Pike (below) stands in Republic County, Kansas, along his route of exploration.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Virginia Tech vs. KU

The Orange Bowl has not yet begun as I pen these lines. My friend Carol Ann called on her way to the stadium and yelled, "Root for KU!"

Well, I have some mixed feelings.

My daughter is a Jayhawk and here I am, smack dab in the middle of Jayhawk Country, but I grew up in Hokie Country and still have many friends from and at VPI. (My friend Carol's own son-in-law went to Virginia Tech!) Then there's Frank Beamer. . . .

Frank is a Fancy Gap, Virgnia, boy and I used to be the tourism person in Fancy Gap. I told the tourists where to go. I love Fancy Gap where U. S. 52 hits the top of the mountain, Interstate 77 starts to slide down the mountain, and the Blue Ridge Parkway crosses them both. Frank is also the great-grandson of Jack Allen, of Virginia's Allen Clan. If the Jayhawks knew how the Allens shot up the Carroll County Courthouse in 1912, they wouldn't dare go up against Frank Beamer!

I am forced to admit my first loyalties are with Virginia. . . so. . . Go Hokies! Just don't go too hard. . . .

(Above: Virginia Tech Coach Frank Beamer and University of Kansas Coach Mark Mangino. I just watched an interview with Mangino and I swear the first words out of his mouth. . . "You've got to look at the big picture!" Well, you do if Mangino's in it!)

2008--the Year of the Party

Here it is January 3 and already I'm behind in 2008, though I did manage to make more headway in cleaning my office and my affairs

At Mark and Mona's New Year's party, Lizette, who was born in Cuba, shared a Cuban New Year's custom. At midnight, we each ate 12 grapes, one for each of the preceding months-- a way of saying goodbye, a finalizing gesture. I like it. The act of eating the grape reminds you that these events are past, and often, that is a good thing. For us, 2007 was a very emotional year. We continue to be blessed, however, and even in losing a dear one, remember that we have been blessed by their presence.

2008 will be a celebratory year. February kicks off the year-long 200th birthday celebration of Abraham Lincoln, culminating in his actual 200th birthday on February 12, 2009. Jefferson Davis will turn 200 on June 3, 2008, and I will turn 50 on April 8, 2008. Our friend Teresa Chuber also hits the big 50 this year.

Overlooked in all the hullabaloo is Andrew Johnson, Lincoln's second vice president and the man who succeeded him. Born pathetically poor in Raleigh, North Carolina, Johnson turns 200 on December 29. His rise from humble beginnings to the White House makes Lincoln look like he was born with a silver spoon. Drunk at Lincoln's second inaugural, Johnson was persona non grata in Washington D. C. from early March until April when authorities awoke him to swear him in as president. The first chief executive to face impeachment hearings, he was in an impossible place at an incredible time in our history.

Happy Birthday to us all. Let the party begin!

(Images: top left, Confederate President Jefferson Davis and his vice president, Alexander Stephens. Stephens and Lincoln had served together in Congress; above, right: Abraham Lincoln and Hannibal Hamlin, his first vice president; right, President Andrew Johnson)