Monday, May 30, 2005

In Memory

On this Memorial Day, I remember those in my family who served in the military:

Veterans of the Revolutionary War
James B. Rylee
John Henry Lentz

Veteran of the War for Texas Independence
Jacob G. Lentz

Veteran of the Mexican War
Henry Clay Lentz

Veterans of the Civil War, Confederate
Joseph Sheppard Mobley
Hezekiah Madison Mobley
Stephen Mobley
Andrew Jackson Mobley
William Peter Mobley
James Monroe Morgan
Richard Morgan
George Washington Sewell
George Washington Huddleston
Thomas Young Huddleston
Joseph W. Huddleston
Gabriel Moore Lentz
Ashley Rozelle Lentz
Thomas Hansen Lentz
William W. Frankum
William T. Frankum
Samuel V. Frankum
Albert McAfee

Veterans of the Civil War, Union
Jacob McAfee
Charles E. McAfee
George Washington Huddleston

Veteran of the Indian Wars
Albert McAfee

Non-wartime Naval service, 1909
Elmo Elisha Hodge (enlisted as Frank Stanford)

Veteran of World War I
Jesse J. McAfee

Veterans of World War II
Charles Benner
Clarence Benner
Arvid Benner
Archie Benner
George Benner
Herbert Hodge Burch

Veterans of the Korean War
Donald Wilcoxen
Chester Dwight Lamb
Jesse S. Bell
Allen Earl McVay

I'm sure there are others whose service records I have not yet discovered. To those who gave their service to and especially to those who gave their lives for their country, thank you.


Wednesday, May 25, 2005

T-Minus 6 days

Every year I say this may be the last time I get through May with my sanity. And every year I plunge into the flood of work and paddle like crazy until May 31st. Thanks to certain statutory requirements, I end up doing as much work during the month of May as I do for any quarter of the rest of the year. I don't have a personal life during May, work many nights and weekends to keep up, and look like Phyllis Diller when it's all over. And this year is no different.

Yesterday was one of those days that make me want to pull every hair out of my head. I had a very difficult program to write and I had dedicated Tuesday to get it done. When I walked in the door, one of our biggest clients was on the phone with the bad news that quite a few accounts had been mishandled during their mailing. One of my team dropped by while the phone was still warm to let me know that two other clients were upset because of an entry mixup that had ended up with about 100 accounts for one client being entered into the data file of the other client. Another client discovered that some new taxes they had begun collecting had been left out of the letters that had already gone. And then the software developers for another large client wanted me to call and discuss in detail how I was processing their data. One of our attorneys then dropped by, wanting help in formatting a "genealogy" tree chart for a case he's working involving multiple heirs of a deceased property owner. I spent Tuesday writing several programs to fix all the problems and to isolate accounts that needed correction letters, and quickly entering the property heirs into my Family Treemaker program to generate a family tree to assist in tracking the inherited split of the property. When I left the office, I had not written one line in the program that I had designated for that day's project.

So I worked at home last night, spending 4 hours writing the neglected program, while Xana sat on the chair across from me issuing loud sighs on a regular basis to remind me that it was past her bedtime. There's no nagging like the nagging of a rat terrier who wants you to go to bed so she can.

I've still got three new programs to write for clients who have upgraded to new software, 4 files to finalize, and 3 more clients who have yet to get their data to me. It very much looks like I will be working right up to the bitter end on May 31st. Believe me, this month is tough on an old lady. The further we get into May, the grouchier I get and the more I look like I've been dragged to work behind a dump truck. The newer employees are skirting waaaay around me at this point. The older, wiser employees just wave from a distance and head the other direction when they see me coming.

Every May is difficult, but I think this year has been harder than usual since I still have a bruised heart from the loss of Bebop. I've begun looking around for rat terrier puppies and plan to get really serious about the hunt come June 1st. The house is just too quiet. We need some kids around to liven things up.

June 1st. Ah, bliss. Back to genealogy, dollhouses, puppy belly rubbing. So nice to have something to look forward to when you're stuck in a black hole of work.


Thursday, May 19, 2005

Color Me Disgusted

New favorite bumper sticker, spotted this morning on 6th Street:

"Where are we going?
Why am I in this handbasket?"

Not bad. So glad there are creative people still out there. Now on to our scheduled rant.

I was raised in a Christian home. I consider myself a Christian. My fervent prayer is that my heaven is nowhere close to that heaven where the fanatical right-wing, so-called Christians are planning to spend their eternity. A more narrow-minded, bigoted, group I can't imagine. What happened to that ideology that we should love our fellow man, warts and all? I love the old Kris Kristofferson song "Jesus Was a Capricorn". Sums it up pretty well.

"Jesus was a Capricorn, he ate organic foods.
He believed in love and peace and never wore no shoes.
Long hair, beard and sandals and a funky bunch of friends.
Reckon they'd just nail him up if He come down again."

I get a strong feeling that Jesus wouldn't be too popular with the right-wing folks if he showed up today.

These fanatics can twist the scripture to mean anything they want you to believe, but I sometimes wonder how they reconcile their gay-bashing, liberal-hating, "my way or the highway" attitudes with some basic verses that I remember well from my church-going days:
Matthew 7:1 (KJV)
Judge not, that ye be not judged.
Matthew 22:39 (KJV)
And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
John 8:7 (KJV)
So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.
Romans 12:19 (KJV)
Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.

I mean, really, what do you think of first when you hear these idiots braying their opinions? Love of their neighbor? I think not. These loud-mouthed jerks, piously proclaiming their Christianity while every action speaks the opposite, do more to drive people away from the Church than bring them to it. I really don't think that when the Lord directed his followers to go out and be missionaries that he had in mind for them to sit on your chest and push their beliefs down your throat until you gagged.

You know, it strikes me how similar the fanatics of the right-wing Christian movement are to their fanatical counterparts in the Holy Land who are blowing each other up right and left. God forbid we should try to see the other person's point of view if it differs from ours. We're right, by God! So you're wrong!

Unfortunately many of these clowns are Baptists, as am I. There are days when I seriously consider hitching my religious wagon to the Quakers. There is something seriously wrong with a group that makes me feel, by association, that I have to hang my head in shame. That's one reason I no longer attend worship services.

I stopped going to church the day I found myself so incensed by an ill-educated substitute pastor, who felt the need to personally take on the subject of evolution vs. creationism, that I came very close to standing up before God and everybody and calling him a moron. I decided that if that was the type of feeling I got from attending worship services, I was in the wrong place. Now to feel God's presence, I go out in the woods and drink in the sounds, sights and smells of nature. One of the times I've felt closest to God was when I stood on the brink of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison in Colorado. Church isn't a building full of people, but the feeling you get in your heart when you stand in the presence of the wonders of nature.

People come to God in their own way and come to terms with God one on one. Some never find him and it's a true tragedy. Others never really know him because of the constant drone of the narrow-minded who drown out the inner voice that connects directly to God. I can only pray that they will someday stop listening to the pious hypocrites and start listening to God.


Tuesday, May 17, 2005

What's the Statute of Limitations on a Move?

Is it just me or does everybody go through 5+ years of wondering where things have gotten to following a move? Just today I was reminded of a tool I used frequently in a hobby that has been neglected in recent years and I realized that I have absolutely no idea where the thing is. I haven't seen it since THE MOVE.

I've spent a few spring weekends this year purging junk from the garage. There were many things that surfaced as I worked that had been in the category of "where the heck is that?" since THE MOVE. I swear, I even found a white plastic sack filled with what was essentially garbage that got moved across town rather than into the dumpster 5 years ago. But there are a lot of things that still elude me, probably packed away in a box in the back of the closet or, God forbid, resting in the storage unit a few streets over. (I'm seriously thinking of slinking off in the middle of the night and leaving that particular hellhole for someone else to clean up.)

It's been five years since my mother and I combined households. I have multiple sets of dishes, 4-5 sets of flatware, bowls out the wazoo, complete sets of pans that are tucked back in the far recesses of the cabinets, and God knows what else. Some of it I'm hoping to get cleared away in the next year. What I can't sell on EBAY, I'll donate to Goodwill, and what Goodwill doesn't want, I'll drop surreptitiously on the porches of neighbors and relatives who make the mistake of leaving town for a weekend.

But a lot of this stuff is good junk. Or things that I have a sentimental attachment to at the moment. I'm a sucker for bargains and will buy something on sale that I can forsee a future need for. I have several hobbies, some active and some on hiatus, that I have amassed materials for "one day when I have some time to do what I want". I have become something of a family archivist, storing various relics that belonged to previous generations. Someday someone else will be designated custodian, but for now I have no intention of letting these pieces of history slip away.

Anyway, I still go on regular forays into the storage shed, the storage unit and the corners of the garage, looking for that elusive "I know I had it before THE MOVE" item. But, as bad as it is, it could be worse. Have you ever watched Clean Sweep on TLC? The people at the center of this show are pitiful. I may have trouble navigating the garage, but my house doesn't look all that bad. These people can't even find their bed to sleep in, the rooms are so stacked and piled. I find it hard to understand how anyone can abide the kind of clutter that these folks have been living with before the saviors from Clean Sweep come and show them the error of their ways. But I'm really appalled at how easily they give up their personal history because the CS people say they have to. I've seen folks put their mother's paintings in the garage sale. I'll bet they wouldn't understand why I keep a pile of old Bibles (without any family history in them) tucked into a dresser drawer. Because my grandmother gave them to me, that's why. Maybe there's no good practical reason to hang on to them, but I'll do it for as long as I feel like doing it.

I'm hoping that someday I can say I've finished unpacking. I have not the faintest idea how people manage to find anything at all when they move every 3-5 years. Or maybe that's the way to keep the stuff from accumulating. Five years may not be that bad, considering we had lived in our houses a respective 12 and 28 years when we initiated THE MOVE.

On other topics, life is hectic these days. April showers may bring May flowers, but I never have the time to stop and smell anything in May. May brings statutory tax notices and a work load that just won't quit. I have a tale to tell of dollhouses and a tale to tell of family reunions, but they will have to wait for awhile. Provided I survive another May.


Friday, May 06, 2005

Keeping Austin Weird

One of the things I love about Austin is that it is one place where you can march to the beat of your own drummer and nobody thinks twice about it. You get used to seeing the out of ordinary. But this week I did a doubletake when I saw something too weird for even Austin.

I was on my way to work, crusing down Highway 71, when a Ford F150 pickup passed me. The tailgate was down, which caught my attention. In the back of the truck was a long white box that ran the entire length of the truck bed and onto the tailgate. Roughly 6 feet by 3 feet, looking much like an ordinary packing box, except that across the end of the box were stamped the words "Human Remains". My reaction was an immediate "gross!".

Okay, you have to wonder here. Who drives around town with a pickup load of human remains? Was the hearse in the shop? And would it have been asking too much to cover the box with a tarp? I'm a fairly level-headed person and it bugged me. Sure hope no fragile little old lady was behind him when he pulled up to a stoplight.

Granted it's spring time in Texas, but we're already having days that are topping 80 degrees. Is it a good idea to be transporting cargo like that under a hot Texas sun? And where the heck was he headed anyway?

He took the left fork in the road and I took the right, so I didn't have long to observe anyone else's reaction. But I found myself wondering...if a cop pulls up behind something like that, what does he do? Accept that there's a good reason for someone to be hauling down the highway with a box stamped "Human Remains" and go on by? Stop him and ask to see his manifest? What if he was some psycho murderer that was headed to the dump and had the gall to slap a semi-official looking label on his victim? Eeewww.

Don't guess I'll ever know. Probably never see anything like it again. Quite frankly, I would much rather see Leslie in his thong and bikini top standing on 6th and Congress instead.

Yep, Austin's weird. No doubt about it.


Sunday, May 01, 2005

Collecting History

Back in High School, I was not much interested in history. My required history courses in College did nothing to change that fact. In both cases, I blame uninspired teachers who were either not that interested in history themselves (football coaches who had to teach something in addition to the time spent out on the playing field) or so focused on a particular period or aspect of history that they couldn't be bothered to teach anything else. Case in point is a professor I was told about that taught the U.S. history course just fine up to the point of the Civil War and then never made it to Reconstruction and beyond.

I almost understand that last one, since I get bogged down in the period of 1861-1865 myself sometimes as I go about collecting dead relatives. So far I have four direct ancestors who fought for the South and two who fought for the yankees.

The more information I dig up in my genealogical research, the more I find myself fascinated with studying the times when these ancestors lived. Finding an ancestor who died in 1918 led me to study the flu outbreak that took so many lives that year. Learning that my ggg-grandparents lived in Texas in the direct path taken by Santa Anna when chasing the Texians toward the Texas coast, after the massacre at the Alamo, led me to research the period known as the Runaway Scrape. There's nothing like knowing that your ancestor was in a particular place during an important historical event to suddenly make history come alive for you.

This historical interest has a bleed-over effect. I've begun to look closely at those bins of unclaimed photos in antique stores. I'm surprised how often the folks in the pictures are identified on the back. I've begun to buy some of these and post them on my website, in hopes that some family historian out there will find them and claim them as long-lost family members.

Another side-effect to my research has been to inspire me to collect early memorabilia of my college alma mater. Mary Hardin-Baylor started out as Baylor Female College and Academy and it is surprising how many pieces of Baylor College history turn up for sale on EBAY. For about a year or so I've been buying yearbooks from the 1920s, postcards, and miscellaneous programs and other ephemera from the early, pre "Mary-Hardin" years. You might think that my interest was formed strictly from the fact that I am an alumnus of that institution. Actually, it came about from, you guessed it, genealogical research. My initial purchases of 1920 material was spurred from an attempt to locate my great-aunt in a yearbook. I never found her, but I found myself fascinated at the fashions and the snapshots of flappers in locations I knew well from personal experience.

Yesterday I received my most recent EBAY find and it is a real treasure. Someone decided to sell a scrapbook kept by a 1920s student. I figured it would be a few pages of photos and maybe a few programs. What I received was a crumbling leatherette album of about 100 pages, each page filled with not only photos and the odd program, but numerous newspaper clippings about events at the College and letters from the girl's family. On the one hand, I'm tickled to get so much historical data, but on the other hand I grieve that this woman either had no family to pass it to or no one in her family cared to take custody of this wonderful album of memories. I fully intend to use much of this material in a historical website for the College and share with others this window into the past.

It makes you stop and wonder what will happen to your own collections. I have 17 notebooks of family history on my bookshelves, one whole shelf of Baylor-College history, numerous rare county histories and assorted ephemera that speaks to me for one reason or another. And here I sit with no descendants to inherit this material. In my case, I intend for the bulk of this collection to go to a historical society or library. I don't want my precious history collection to end up on EBAY when I'm gone. There may not be someone like me out there at the right time to volunteer to take custody of my artifacts.

Not sure what my point is here. I guess I want to encourage others to catalog family treasures and put them into the hands of a caring custodian. The gentleman who sold this album to me was a friend of the lady who created it in her youth. He could have decided it was junk and pitched it in the dumpster. After all, most of the photos are unidentified and if you are not connected to Baylor College in some way, what use is it? But something led him to put it up for sale and I happened to find it. I will treasure it for as long as it's in my possession. I hope that Alvan Carpenter knows that her memories have found a friendly caretaker.

Preserve history. Someday, maybe several generations away, your history will be someone's treasure to find.