Friday, December 24, 2010

Quiet Christmas

Another year. Christmas Day tomorrow. Snow was predicted but I think it is only rain. Our lights flicker brightly nonetheless. The house is quiet. God bless us-- every one.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Keeping up with life. . . .and death!

Ever since I wrote Stories in Stone, it has been my dream to have a champagne party in Topeka Cemetery. Last week, Beth Cooper Meyer made that happen.

It was a lovely, barely fall evening as a curious and enthusiastic crowd gathered by the Hurley monument--a granite obelisk weighing over 20 tons. It towers above the mausoleums built into the hillside behind and the entire scene looks over the skyline of downtown Topeka. It is one of the prettiest views in our fair city. We drank a toast to the dearly departed who created that skyline, and Beth told some of the ghost stories from this historic site.

As the sun sank down, we had a small tour of some of the closest graves. It was, altogether, a wonderful evening!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

UGR Conference in Topeka

Yesterday Chris Meinhardt treated me to lunch (a sure way to get me involved in any project!) We discussed the National Underground Railroad Conference to be held in Topeka at the end of the month. Chris was interested in obtaining my superior skills as a hostess ala tour guide.

Combining history with travel with cool people: My favorite combination!!!

You, too, can be a part of this historic event. Go to to register and for details of the fantastic speakers and events scheduled.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Such a busy time of year for everyone. . . Still getting settled into the new house, unpacking notes and sorting research and books. . . . Dixie Lee had a great time with the Kansas Division Sons of Confederate Veterans on Saturday evening. Great buds!

In checking the calendar, I notice that yesterday was the birthday of Errol Flynn, born June 20, 1909. Where would Jeb Stuart and George Custer be without him? My friend, Louis Kraft, is working on a biography of Flynn and his frequent costar, Olivia de Havilland, and I can't wait to read it!

"Purtiest man I ever saw!"


June 20 is a red-letter day in my life, too, because it is the anniversary of the day Gary & I met. It didn't take long for us to realize God had sent us to one another. There have been so many experiences packed into this year, it's more like twenty, but it has all been good or worked for good. I am grateful. It's never too late for love.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Events Gone Wild

Remember the greeting card a few years ago that featured CSI Topeka? The cop looks at the body and declares, "Bored to death!"


We can't begin to squeeze in all the events--art, music, festivals, fairs--going on in and around Topeka. Two I'd like to highlight today: Wheatstock VI, June 12, and the Great Overland Station Gala, June 18.

Good friend, Doug Ruth, is the instigator behind Wheatstock. Doug is a treasure. He works long and hard to document and promote local music. His website,, is topnotch and is full of photos, bios, schedules and comments. This year, Wheatstock moves to Old Prairie Town at Ward Meade Park, thanks to another good friend, John Bell. John is the program director at this Topeka landmark and does such a great job keeping Old Prairie Town alive with quality events. For the details and lineup of Wheatstock, visit Wheatstock VI moves outdoors |

Among the entertainers is the High Falutin' String Band, pictured above, featuring Chris Frost, Tom O'Brien and Stuart Yoho. If you haven't heard them, you are in for a real good time! (Note the emcee for this auspicious occasion!)

The Great Overland Station is another jewel in Topeka's crown. Across the Kansas River from Old Prairie Town (no accident, these locations; that's a story for another day). I am so thankful that the stars aligned and that Beth Fager had a passion for restoring the Union Pacific depot before it was lost to time and the elements. Beth emailed yesterday to say that tickets will be available until Friday (June 12) for the June 18 event.

Honorary Chair, Governor Mark Parkinson, Commander of the Kansas National Guard, invites everyone who supports America's military to attend the "Red, White and Blue Gala: Celebrating Our Heroes." Beginning at 5:30, all proceeds will benefit the operations of the All Veterans Memorial and Great Overland Station.
Medal of Honor recipient Col. (ret.) Donald Ballard is the guest of honor and speaker. Roger Aeschliman (left, cjonline photo by Steve Fry) will present "General George Patton: Apology to the Troops", and the Laudate Ringers will perform "America the Beautiful" and "Stars and Stripes Forever". WIBW General Manager Jim Ogle will serve as Master of Ceremonies. The special exhibit "U.S. Armed Forces Around the World" will be open throughout the evening in the Fink Exhibit Gallery.

Tickets are $150 per person, $250 per couple, and $2,500 for a "Leadership Table". Persons interested in attending may visit the Great Overland Station at 701 North Kansas Avenue or call at 785-232-5533.

It is so important for us to support happenings like these, especially when they are located at such historic and beautiful sites. Supporting events at those sites keeps them viable and available for decades to come.

Black Jack Battlefield

Soooooo good to see old buds at Black Jack on Saturday! The Friends of the Battlefield worked so hard and did a tremendous job putting on a long and quality event. Kerry Altenbrend, above, portrayed John Brown for the reenactment of this 1856 confrontation that many historians (myself included) consider to be the first battle of the Civil War. Also in fine form, my friends Greg Higginbotham, below right, and Dan Hadley, left. (These boys are really outstanding in their fields, aren't they?)

Other friends who were there: Shane Seley, Denver Erickson, Dale Vaughn, Bob Szabo, Ed Hoover, George Bernheimer, JoAnn Barber, Ed Leydecker, etc, etc. Attendance was well over a thousand for the day's events.

Checking email and Facebook today:

From Freddy the Plumber back in Mayberry:

Did you know- Ken Curtis/Festus was lead singer for the Sons of the Pioneers???

Why, of course I did! Thanks for the link and the opportunity to share that tidbit with others who are less informed. I do happen to be one of the biggest fans of Ken Curtis (right) who died in 1991. In fact, when I had the opportunity to have dinner with Buck Taylor a couple of years ago (Newly from Gunsmoke), I told him, "You were cute but Ken Curtis was really handsome!" Buck generously agreed.

From Rick Herrera on the road in London:

A WWII battlefield untouched since 1942. An absolutely amazing story!

Keep the cards and letters coming, folks! Surely, my friends are the most interesting and creative people on this planet!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Black Jack Saturday--Battles and Buds!

Thank God we've gotten moved into our new home in time for the reenactment at Black Jack Battlefield. Coordinated by my good friend, Shane Seley, co-owner of Wideawake Films, this promises to be the best yet. I can hardly to wait to see so many old friends and introduce Gary to even more of my "hysterian" buds like Greg Higginbotham, with Shane above; now that's a pair to draw to! This photo was taken while they were working on the really excellent Wilson's Creek documentary.

By the way, Jan Biles did a great little feature on this event in the Topeka Capital Journal:

The Lecompoton Reenactors will add their historical and dramatic abilities to the event which will raise money for the preservation of the site. So many people have worked so hard and so long to keep this spot along the Santa Fe Trail viable and to educate the public about the first engagement of the Civil War. I know there's a lot going on, but take time if you can to visit.

The Cap-Journal does a great job of letting folks know about events in the area and just want to take a minute to thank Bill Blankenship, Steve Fry, Jan Biles and a host of others who work very hard to showcase local talent and effort. Which reminds me: Art Walk tonight. This is absolutely the best party in town and it's FREE!!! After the Art Walk, check out our local music scene. Visit for details.

Is this a great country or what?

Friday, May 28, 2010

What's in a name?

There are many colorful figures from America's Civil War -- personalities that only Freud could have invented. Many names are forever linked to that epic struggle--Lee, Jackson, Grant, Sherman. No name is so quickly identifiable with the South, however, as the dashing, debonair, distinguished, and devastatingly handsome Beauregard.

Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard was born this day in 1818 on a plantation about 20 miles from New Orleans. His Creole heritage gave him an olive complexion, dark eyes and short stature. (The movie, The Hunley, featured Donald Sutherland as Beuregard which is stretching the truth about 18 inches, but it's still a great movie. . . .) This is a name only Charles Dickens could have invented for it virtually drips of Southern-ness and courtly manners. Merely speak the word "Beauregard" and the scent of magnolias fills the air.

The colorful and charismatic "Little Napoleon" had a successful career as a businessman and public servant in his beloved Louisiana following the war. Romania and Egypt begged him to come command their armies, but he declined.

He is entombed in the mausoleum of the Army of Tennessee at Metairie Cemetery. I have paid homage at his grave.

If I could choose a moment of time to experience, I think it would be to have the gallant Beauregard bow and kiss my hand. Let's all toast with a hurricane.

Monday, May 17, 2010

New Discovery

. . . from Freddy the Plumber in Mayberry:

After having dug to a depth of 10 feet last year, New York archaeologists found traces of copper wire dating back 100 years and came to the conclusion that their ancestors already had a telephone network more than 100 years ago.

Not to be outdone by the New Yorkers, in the weeks that followed, a California archaeologist dug to a depth of 20 feet, and shortly after, a story in the LA Times read: "California archaeologists, finding traces of 200 year old copper wire, have concluded that their ancestors already had an advanced high-tech communications network a hundred years earlier than the New Yorkers."

One week later a local newspaper, The Mount Airy Times
, reported the following: "After digging as deep as 30 feet in his back yard, Bubba Simpson, a self-taught archaeologist, reported that he found absolutely nothing. Bubba has therefore concluded that 300 years ago, North Carolina had already gone wireless."

Just makes me proud to be from North Carolina.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Wedding of the Year!

It has been called. . . Here is my handsome groom...doesn't he look happy? Here I am, below. Don't I look happy? If you are so inclined, you may visit, scroll down to other, then click on Deb G. Gary and Deb's wedding is one of your choices. There is the video, in 3 parts. It was a beautiful service, conducted by our friend Sue Ann Seel with music by our friends, High Falutin' Stringband and Dave and Kim Houser. More pictures to come. These were taken by our dear friend, Doug Ruth, God Bless Him!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Wedding Bells

Today is our wedding day. We are surrounded by so much love and so much good will. My dear friends, Dan and Carol Ann Turner are hosting our reception. We have laughed, cried, bitched, moaned, laughed, cried and toasted life together. We could not love them nor appreciate them more.

Blessings to you all today.

Sunday, May 2, 2010


America--The Story of US is the most impressive documentary I've seen since Ken Burns Civil War. What an incredible achievement. Between packing and planning, I've caught much of it. Being a Virginian (have I mentioned that in previous posts???), I especially enjoyed the story of John Rolfe, told correctly. Also, the computer generations used in this film really work and further one's understanding. This is exactly what technology is supposed to do. Kudos!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Making History

There is no greater joy for an historian than finding a diary, heretofore unread, written by someone who lived through momentous events -- the battle at Gettysbury, the burning of Et-lanta, Stoneman's Raid. There is no greater woe than to reach those dates only to find the diary entries scant or missing entirely. Why? Because there was no time to write. So much was happening so quickly, there was no time to document it all. By the time the writer got back to keeping a journal, there was no point in recording what had happened days or weeks earlier.

That's where I find myself, Dear Reader. In preparing for the upcoming nuptials and remodeling a house, I haven't even had time to do my nails much less write about the momentous goings-on of present day or days gone by. I wanted to write about the passing of that great American Fess Parker, and I am not being facetious when I say that. Here was a man, idolized by millions of children, who recognized that and lived in such a way that he would not tarnish the names of Daniel Boone or Davy Crockett, the men he so wonderfully portrayed. I would so like to have known him. Tom Perry did a very nice tribute on his Free State of Patrick blog so check that out. I wanted to write about the discovery in Tombstone of the coroner's reports following the shootout at the OK Corral (These should be online shortly if not sooner). Alas, no time.

I so look forward to a home and an office where real work can be done. . . . Alas! Life gets in the way!

Top photo: My granddaughter, Lulu, who will be my maiden of honor at said nuptials. . . . Baby blue, white and silver will be our colors. . . . Cotton candy all around!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Frank James Gun

From the Southwest Times, Fort Smith, Arkansas:
Frank James’ Gun Presented To Museum

By Mary L. Crider

Times Record •

U.S. Marshals Service historian and Marshals Museum Board member David Turk presented the board with the planned museum’s first “draw piece” donation Tuesday — a .22-caliber gun that once belonged to Frank James, brother of Jesse James.

Turk said he wanted to do something meaningful for the national museum.

Museum Executive Director Jim Dunn said the gun would be a prize piece in the museum’s collections.

Turk said he bought the gun at an auction in 2005, before he knew about Fort Smith. It was part of a collection of artifacts discovered in an old wooden trunk in a barn in Scott County, Ky., on land that belonged to James’ ancestors for centuries.

The gun grip is marked with an “F” for Frank James and is notched, Turk pointed out. It is intact although not functioning. Turk said he thinks the gun is one of many James used in his criminal career.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Welcome to Google

So, Topeka has changed its name to Google.

Mayor Bill Bunten has made international news by declaring that the place that used to be a great place to grow potatoes (in a very loose translation of the Kanza language) to the hub of the internet universe. Life has changed drastically for those of who are Googlians.

The sun has begun to rise earlier and shine longer. The wind is coming from the south instead of the north. The snow and ice have turned to gentle rain. People are nicer to one another, more patient, more kind. IQ scores are going up at all our schools. Musicians are in tune and playing with more passion. Artists are using brighter colors (Even Barbara Waterman Peters has painted a yellow crow. Oh, no, just kidding!) The garbage men are whistling. Somehow, the traffic lights change in unison. The geese are returning to the ponds at 6th and Gage. Gray, brown, black clothes in the stores have been replaced by pinks, blues, oranges. Snow shovels have been pushed aside in the hardware stores to make way for marigold and lettuce seeds. Googlians have shed their heavy coats and are breathing more deeply, walking more, drinking less.

We should have changed our name to Google in January.

*Image of Google sign, CNN

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Me and Mary Jane

I had the great pleasure of addressing the volunteers of Old Prairie Town at Ward Meade Park a few days ago. Such a wonderful, richly historic and beautiful home, garden, buildings. The best time to enjoy this scenic spot is coming up soon -- literally. The warmer temperatures and spring rains remind us that Tulip Time is upon us. Mary Jane Ward (in the portrait above) would approve of all these folks visiting her home and the care and attention given to the gardens that surround it.

My topic was one near and dear to my heart, Topeka Cemetery. I still have a few copies of Stories in Stone, the book I did several years ago about that historic spot. Drop me an email if you want one. They're only $10 and feature some awesome photography by local builder, Brad Davenport.

Actually, I strayed a bit in my presentation and got on the history soap box. . . . They were a generous and forgiving crowd. . . . Their fearless leaders, Sara Leeth and John Bell are just the best!

Trading Spaces

Since my house fire in January, Gary & I have been looking for a place to live. We've made an offer on a house, so keep your fingers crossed for us! In the meantime, the townhouse he's been in for 9 years is available and it's a great deal! Tell your friends and email me if you're interested in more details.

Smoky Hill Trail Association

I just got a call from Mike Baughn, past president of the above, who informed me that the 2010 trail conference is set for October 15-17 in Limon, Colorado, and the association website is up and running. Kudos, guys! Hope to see you there.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Kansas Rocks KTWU

I was just visiting with my friend Lee Wright, patriarch of a talented family and chief fundraiser for our local public TV station, KTWU. Many good things can be said of Washburn, but KTWU is truly a jewel in its crown.

KTWU's big fund-raising push is coming up this weekend and a highlight will be our very own Kansas performing with Washburn's symphony. This is a recording of a live performance at White Concert Hall earlier in the year. The event quickly sold out so if you are among the thousands who missed it, this is your change to correct that omission. It airs from 8 to 9:30 pm Saturday night (Chanel 11 in most areas, though KTWU covers a third of Kansas and a little bit of Nebraska and Missouri, so check local listings if you're in doubt.)

Growing up in the Blue Ridge Mountains, my only connection to the band Kansas was that of faithful fan--like millions around the world. My betrothed, however, is a little closer. Back in 1969, he was playing keyboards with a band called "Rain." Other members were Jeff Glicksman (who went on to be producer for the band Kansas), Dave Hope, Richard Williams and Jim Craig. Gary recalls that now-famous guitar rif that opens "Dust in the Wind." It was Richard's "finger exercise" to warm up for a show. Later, Kerry Livgren would find just the right words to catapult that tune to the top of the charts. During February's concert, Kerry performed with his former bandmates, a highlight that thrilled old fans. The current line-up of Kansas is: singer/keyboardist Steve Walsh, guitarist Rich Williams, violinist David Ragsdale, bassist Billy Greer and drummer Phil Ehart. The 50-piece Washburn Symphony Orchestra accompanied the band, conducted by Larry Baird. Guitarist Steve Morse was featured as well.

Lee Wright commented that Ehart will be in the studio live for the fund-raiser. (Ehart, Livgren and Hope attended Topeka West High School.) The DVDs and CDs from the concert will be premiums for pledge-makers this weekend.

Raising money is a tough proposition in this economy, and Lee recognizes that some people may not have the same resources they have had in the past. The public support of KTWU remains healthy, however, and a big reason is quality programming like Sunflower Journeys.

Tune in this weekend, and when you call in your pledge tell 'em Deb sent you!

Bearss for Battlefields

To call Ed Bearss a legend is understatement. To call him a national treasure is fact, not flattery. To call him old is well, accurate but misleading.

At well past 80, Ed is unstoppable. He has an appearance schedule that would stagger a man a third his age. If we could harness Ed's energy, our crisis would be solved.

So, it's no surprise to see that Ed has a new book except to ask, "When on earth does he have the time to write???"

Jerry Brent, Executive Director of the Central Virginia Battlefield Trust, along with the Blue & Gray Education Society are offering Ed's book as a way of supporting battlefield preservation. Receding Tide: Vicksburg & Gettysburg: The Campaigns that Changed the Civil War is available through this link.

While you're at it, Adam Goodheart had an excellent profile of Ed in Smithsonian Magazine in 2005 ( The photo above was taken from that article.)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Waskie Gone Wild

I am fortunate to know some people who are extremely passionate about history. Some are in treatment programs. Some lead inspiring lives. Case in point: Anthony Waskie.

My dear friend Andy founded and serves as the president of the General Meade Society of Philadelphia. This prestigious group meets regularly to pay homage to the "Victor of Gettysburg" or "The Man Who Saved the Union." They have trips, galas, historic talks, wreath-layings--all manner of events to remind us of contributions of those gone on before.

I love these people! Let's face it--you have to be a bubble off plumb to show up at a cemetery in freezing weather on New Year's Eve to drink champagne and toast a man who has been dead more than a century. Perhaps. If so, the mania is spreading because each year Andy leads a throng of hundreds on the pilgrimage to the General's grave in Laurel Hill Cemetery. I have been honored to speak to this group and to accompany them on many travels. They are a shining example of what passion and determination can accomplish.

The General would be proud!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Bill at the Moose

Just because I didn't have time to share it with you yesterday does not mean I didn't celebrate myself. Yesterday was the anniversary of the birth of the dashing William F. Cody. Be still my heart!

I am headed to the Moose Club to hear Borderline (featuring Gary on keyboards). Sometime during the evening, I will propose a toast to the man who probably chugged some whiskey in North Topeka on the very spot the Moose Club sets today.

To Bill!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Title Match: George Vs. Abe

That great and most famous Virginian, George Washington, was born on this day in 1732.

About a year ago, CSPAN released the results of its Historians Presidential Leadership Survey. I was dismayed that Washington beat out Abraham Lincoln for the number one spot, but at least Washington was up from a shocking number 3 in the 2000 survey. I would have expected as much from the public, but not from a body of learned historians. (I was among those historians, and I did not rank Lincoln at the top. I put Washington first. Just for the record.)

Washington tied with Lincoln on moral authority, which is understandable in the context of history. Where Washington fell woefully behind is commitment to equality for all. That is understandable in the context of history, but I'm not sure it is a fair comparison in the context of their times. Each man carried out his duties with vision and with an understanding of human nature that is rare.

I asked the esteemed historian Allen Guelzo, who also participated in the SPAN poll, how he felt about the Washington/Lincoln rivalry:

Deb: It all depends on who you ask, and when. In 1865, people imagined Lincoln and Washington as co-equals, the one the Father of the country, the other the Savior of the country. I don't mind seeing Washington and Lincoln jockeying for the top-spot today, so long as people remember that, coming after them, there's a long, long gap before we hit No. 3.

Ha! Well put, Allen. I would like to see our students learning more about each president and the context of the time in which he served so that the public can intelligently evaluate their service and intelligently select the next one. Ah....pipe dreams....

Read the results of CSPAN's poll for yourself and see if your opinions match those of the historians:

Boys Back When

I'll bet you good money that George and Abe tied Junebugs on strings as boys. This photo comes from my friend and fellow hillbilly, Byron Chesney. Growing up in the mountains of Tennessee, Byron was fortunate enough to participate in many timeless forms of entertainment. Click on the link to his blog, "The Life of Tug," on this very page. Tell him Deb sent you. You may also find the origins of that famous saying, "What does a redneck say right before he dies?" Answer: "Watch this!" There were many such episodes in Byron's life, but I have to admit, I think it's a guy thing no matter where they're from!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Mail call: Received instructions for judging History Day competition on February 27. We have a thank-you dinner the night before at Greg Fox's Row House Restaurant. Gary & I are treating our friends who worked tirelessly to help us move after our fire. I have to report bright and early to Washburn University that Saturday. . .hope I'm thinking clearly after Friday's festivities! Saturday night, Borderline plays the Moose Club. I love watching those people dance!!!! The members of the Moose are a generation of people that learned to REALLY dance.

Now, back to History Day. I have been a judge and a coach in the past. History Day produces some incredible results and Topeka kids always do well in the national competition. The theme this year is "Innovation in History: Impact and Change." I can't wait to see what the results of the students' creativity and research.

Cowboys and Indians

Picked up the latest copy of Cowboys and Indians which is absolutely the most beautiful publication on the stands. This is the "Photographing the West" issue and the images are riveting. Fred Chiaventone has an article on Ridgway Glover, an ill-fated photographer who died during Red Cloud's War. It's an incredible story.

Santa Fe Trail

Gary had never seen this movie so we corrected that a couple of nights ago. Bless his heart, he still hasn't seen it because I kept interrupting with either history lessons or commentary. I'll play it again one night and tape my mouth shut so he can actually enjoy it.

It was funny; when the movers/cleaning crew were packing up the house after the fire, they missed Santa Fe Trail. I found underneath the TV. It was a sign. This is the movie that changed my life, pathetic history that it is. It was strange that it was the DVD that slid out of strangers' hands and waited for me to pick it up and bring it home.

Yeah, I need new meds.

Photo of the Day

Okay, I don't care who you are. This is funny.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Fire and Rain

I try to edify, dear reader. I look for events or people that I feel will add value to your life someway. Sometimes, the blog becomes something of a journal of my own life, which is neither good nor bad as long as it is relevant. Today, it will be a cross between a sermon and a journal, and I hope you find comfort or edification or encouragement. Forgive me if it is too personal.

Those of you who are closest know that this has been a tumultuous year--or two or three or five, truth be told. Lots of changes: new relationships, new losses.

I awoke shortly before 2 a.m. Thursday morning to a smoke-filled bedroom. I woke Gary and from there time lost all meaning except that his mother's funeral was at 10:00 a.m. and he was supposed to play piano and be at the church by 8:30. I think it was around 5 when the firetrucks left and said the smoke was clear enough for us to go back inside. The power was shut off and there was a gaping hole in the bedroom. A pile of debris in the yard buried my brand new knee-high boots. The cats, though terrified, were safe and so were we. I don't know what woke me up but the wall was bubbling and buckling and in a few minutes the ceiling above our bed would have been in flames.

Before I met Gary, I said never. Never again will I be married and I certainly won't get involved with someone who has a parent living. I've been through living with my mother-in-law through Alzheimer's and have buried parents and in-laws. I was done.

But I met Gary, and God put something new in my heart. Not long after we met, he took me to Lexington Place to meet his mother. She welcomed me with open arms because she could see I love her baby boy. She was becoming forgetful--I'm not sure she ever remembered my name, but it didn't matter. She held my hand and told me stories of Gary's playing the piano when he was five years old.

The night she died, I was holding one hand and his sister was holding her other hand. The thought kept coming to me, "Precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of his saints." Mama had this carved on Granny and Grandpa's headstone. Gary's mother's death was precious and beautiful and humbling.

After the fire, Gary wasn't up to playing for her funeral, but he had played for her when it counted--on Christmas Day when she was there to hear it. She had her children with her, and her sister-in-law, Hazel. Hazel is a gentle little woman, like a little bird. They were a comfort to one another. And she had beautiful music from this gifted man she had brought into the world. (Below, Gary took this on Christmas Day: his Mom, Lois Bisel; me; his aunt, Hazel Luthi)

Yesterday, I was going through kitchen cabinets, washing and packing up dishes. I kept crying. This fire brought back memories of fires.

Our first house burned when I was 9 years old. We had gone to church, gone to the zoo, gone to visit friends. When we got home, there was no home. But there were people we loved standing around this charred, gaping hole waiting for us. They never determined the cause of the fire but did figure out it had begun in the attic. Perhaps a mouse had chewed a wire.

Our second house burned when I was 17. We had gone to church on the coast, so we left around 5 a.m. By 10 a.m., the house was totally destroyed. This was arson. There was a "firebug" in our community and he must have watched us leave. I can still remember watching Mama walk around the house again and again to make sure nothing was left on.

My third fire occurred as an adult. Daddy and I had remodeled a trailer he had bought and put on one his farms. It was adorable and it had so many precious things--quilts Granny and I made, needlework Mama had done, a pencil drawing done by Willard Gayheart of Uncle Tommy Jarrell. Lightning struck while I was at work and my daughter Karen was with Mama and Daddy. Thank God we weren't there asleep because in only 10 minutes it was totally engulfed.

When I awoke last Thursday to a smoke-filled house, Gary ran outside to see flames coming through the exterior wall. He was the one who saw the rolling, red, orange, yellow, fire eating the house. He grabbed the fire extinguisher and got that stage of fire under control. I never saw the flames. I never saw any flames of any fire that touched my life. I do have the unforgettable memory of the smell of loss, of helplessness.

I look for meaning in events. I look over these scenes and cannot help but think of the children of Israel in the fiery furnace. The flames did not touch them. But did the smell linger with them to remind them where they had been?

I don't know why my life, and the lives of my family, have been punctuated by fire. We all have different lessons to learn, different gifts. I know that God has been present throughout my life, and in the times of His choosing, He has given me insight and hope. He has given me, at this point in my life when I thought "never, never" an affirmation, a "forever."


Wednesday, January 27, 2010


. . . sometimes gets in the way of blogging.

Pernell Roberts has died. WITHOUT A DOUBT, the handsomest of the Cartwright Clan, Pernell's Adam was my heartthrob each week as Bonanza blazed across the TV screen. And that voice! Rich as molasses and deep as Lake Tahoe. That voice came straight from the soil of Georgia and the good-looking actor was a singer as well. He was also an activist--an actor with a mind and a heart and a conscience.
While shopping at Walmart a couple of weeks ago (yes, Walmart, I hate to admit it, but Walmart), Noel and I began digging through the bin of $5 DVDs and lo and behold, there was Bonanza. This multi-DVD set included three episodes of Wagon Train. Is this a great country or what?

Upon putting this treasure into the DVD player, I found to my consternation that the original sound score is not part of this production. Some of my Hollywood buds are going to have to decipher for me exactly how someone has the ability to legally distribute a TV show without having the rights to music? Maybe Louis Kraft can weigh in on that one.

Pernell was the last of the Cartwrights to leave us. Pictured left with costar Dan Blocker, Pernell was somewhat critical of the TV show that made him famous and left to pursue avenues that provided greater range for his skills. He later starred in Trapper John, MD. He was a fine actor.

In honor of Pernell Roberts, several friends have already had "popcorn and classic TV night." I suggest you do the same. But maybe you should spring for the high-dollar version of Bonanza. Without the signature music, it's just not the same.

(Photos compliments of, a truly fantastic website for any of us Boomers who grew up with this show.)

Happy Birthday

. . . to Julia Dent Grant (January 26) a truly remarkable, decent, devoted woman. Not known for her beauty, Julia nonetheless possessed the qualities of a real lady. God knows, there's almost no comparison between her and Mary Lincoln whom she succeeded as first lady. Read Julia's memoirs. They are fascinating. Julia died in 1902 and her children lived well into the 20th century; a daughter-in-law lived until 1945. The past is not far behind us.