Friday, April 28, 2006

Hatfields and McCoys

Today I arrived at work and knew something was up as soon as I started backing into a place in the garage. There were people scurrying up and down the stairwell carrying furniture and piles of it accumulating in the garage. I discovered the elevator wasn't working, so I headed back to the stairwell and nearly got trampled by more scurriers. "What the hell?", I said to myself. Just then, one of the folks stopped long enough to explain that the landlady had turned off the electrical supply to the elevator.

This was the latest salvo in a feud that has been going on for awhile between the folks in the next suite on our floor and the new owner of the building. I don't know the details and I don't want to know the details. I do know that the chief guy from the company next door has a history of being difficult, based on personal observation. Hearsay has it that the new landlady can also be obstreperous.

Whatever the history of the situation, today the tenants were to move out of the building. Landlady showed up in the parking lot to take photographs of the proceedings. What she thought they might run off with, I have no idea. The carpet? The wall panels? The toilets? Everything else in the place was the tenant's.

Fighting back in kind, one of the tenant's employees began videotaping the landlady as she snapped photos. Something else snapped and the landlady ended up inside with one of her assistants. The next thing you know, the elevator suddenly stopped working.

It was at this point that I arrived and had to swim upstream in the stairwell, fighting the downstream of furniture. Turns out there was a time limit to vacate the premises and with the elevator out of commission, the stairwells were the only recourse for the move.

It did not take long for the story to circulate that the elevators had been deliberately disabled. One of our chiefs waded into the frey and made it clear that it would be a good idea for the "repair" to happen quickly. When it got fixed, I don't know, but I was able to use the elevator on the way back from lunch. After I skirted around the pile of furniture that is still in the parking lot awaiting removal.

Lord. I thought I was stubborn to a fault. It was like watching two rams butting heads for the sake of butting heads, regardless of the cracked skulls that might result. Thankfully nobody got crushed in the stairwell from a falling file cabinet.

Rumor has it that we might be moving our offices in the not too distant future. If in fact we do, I plan to remove my personal items in a working elevator well before the last day.

Some people.


Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Now We Are One

Thursday Mojo will be 1 year old. Coco turned 1 year old on March 24th. No longer puppies. Well, not quite. Rat terriers are full of puppy bounce for at least 3 years. These two are certainly still full of bounce. They wear me out sometimes.

In honor of their birthdays, I went to WalMart today and invested in a set of Doggy Steps. I'm sure you've seen them on TV. An aid to help little and infirm dogs get to where they need to get. In our case, I thought it might be nice if I didn't have to lift them into bed a dozen times every evening before they finally crash for the night.

Silly me. I put the steps together and put them against the bed. And they are scared spitless of them. I patiently "walked" each of them up the steps a couple of times, thinking they just needed to get the idea. Mojo started skirting around me, cowering. Xana took off downstairs. Coco just looked at me like I'd lost my ever-loving mind. Apparently they consider that I've brought evil into the house and are now avoiding the end of the bed where the steps live. Oy.

The house is a lot different this April from the same time last year. Tomorrow also marks the first year of Bebop's passing. I still feel his presence from time to time and I really think he personally picked Mojo for his replacement. They are just too much alike. Coco is a little jewel, too. They were just what I needed to get over the pain of losing Bebop.

Come to think of it, Bebop would have refused to use the Doggy Steps, too. Not because he was afraid of them, but because he would have considered it beneath him. Why exert energy when you have a perfectly good slave to lift you whereever you wish?

Just who is training whom?


Rare Appearance

It's been dry in these parts for so long that I was somewhat taken aback to see rain lillies popping up all over the neighborhood. And not just the single one here and there, but clusters of them all over. And not the tiny ones I remember, but with flowers almost 3-4 times bigger than normal.

The lily family mystifies me. The lady who owned my previous home before me had planted the yard with bulbs of every kind of iris and lily you can imagine. I lived there 12 years and every spring brought surprises. Bulbs may sprout every spring like clockwork, and then suddenly lie dormant for years. Even in the last year I lived there I was seeing flowers that I had not seen before. You have to wonder what special circumstances combine to cause life to remain hidden for so long and then to suddenly spring forth with a renewed vigor.

I love living in quasi-country and having enough wild area around me to be able to appreciate these special messages from nature. One day you wake up to a beautiful flower that has sprung from a dry, dusty, rocky bed. There's hope for the day.


Thursday, April 20, 2006

Southern Comfort

I've been listening today to Alan Jackson's newest album, a collection of old hymns with simple acoustic accompaniment. It's hard to beat those old, familiar songs. My fingers automatically began moving on invisible piano keys, making the motions they made hundreds of times during my years of playing piano or organ for congregational singing in Baptist churches of my youth.

One of the last times I played for a funeral was at my grandfather's funeral. I kept a folder of appropriate soft music for funerals, mostly the old familiar hymns, many of which are on Alan Jackson's album. I remember later that afternoon my uncle made the comment, "You sure do have that old Baptist roll in your playing". I was momentarily annoyed with the comment at the time, thinking it was a criticism. But on further thought, I decided it was just an observation, not a put down.

The thing is, I do. Many years of playing the same songs over and over creates a need to vary things a little to keep yourself from getting bored. You start breaking the chords up and playing them in a roll, rather than together. You shift a note to make a diminished 7th chord. You extend the chord to include the octave of the base note. There's a dozen or more different ways to vary the basic chord to keep things interesting.

There's comfort to be had in those old hymns, sung to a simple piano played with a little Baptist roll in the chording.

I have not been an active church goer for about twenty years now. I had definite reasons for departing from the church and some of them had to do with the shift away from the simple, pure music. Churches started eliminating the "stale" familiar songs and bringing in elaborate musical accompaniment. While I have nothing against orchestras, small or large, I very much dislike running into horns and drums in a church setting. I go to church to feel close to God and to enjoy the fellowship. I don't go to have my eardrums blasted with a trumpet in a place that doesn't have the acoustics to support it.

I recently had a conversation with a friend about the changes in Baptist churches over the past couple of decades. She stuck with it longer than I did and saw some of the radical shifts that were being made to pull in the younger generation. I suddenly realized that I had sensed where things were headed when I made the decision to go my separate way. Maybe the changes had to be made to keep the church alive. But I think something was lost along the way. Church became more of an entertainment business than a meditative, religious experience.

It's a shame that younger folks seldom get to hear those old hymns. To us older folks, they are familiar, soothing reminders of a simpler time.

I think I may just have to go tickle the ivories a little before I go on to bed.

Softly and tenderly, Jesus is calling.
Calling for you and for me.
See, on the portals He's waiting and watching,
Watching for you and for me.

Or, maybe,

Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms;
Leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms.


O Lord my God,
When I in awesome wonder,
Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made;
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.


Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Riddle Me This

Ok, all you kinfolk out there that lived in the country, I have a question.

This past weekend, as I was tooling around the yard on the riding mower, I cut down a huge patch of sweet clover, full of "pickles". I can remember looking for these "pickles" when I was a kid and chewing them for their burst of sour sweetness. It got me wondering about that other plant we used to chew on as we rambled around the fields.

So what was it? Sour Doc or Sour Dot? And what was it, really? I don't remember it clearly enough to know whether it's still around. And the internet is no help, since I'm sure it was a local term for a regional plant.

Wouldn't mind finding a stalk and reliving those memories.


Thursday, April 13, 2006


The trip ended officially at 1:36 this afternoon when we landed in Austin. The first sight as we hit the runway was a field of bluebonnets. Nice to be back home!

Aside from a 20 minute period where I could not find my car in the garage to save my life, we could not have asked for a smoother vacation. We had a lot of fun, found a lot of good stuff at the library in Fort Wayne, saw a lot of beautiful country, took a lot of photos that no one is going to be interested in but us and the folks at FindAGrave, and ate a lot of good food. What else can you ask for from a week's vacation in America's heartland?

Well, there were no puppy or grandkid kisses for 7 days and we were in serious withdrawal by the time we got home. I can't speak for Lana, but I was thoroughly kissed by three deliriously happy puppies when I got in. I'm assuming she was similarly greeted by grandkids and dogs. I think we will sleep a lot better tonight.

The last story to tell involves the airport at Austin. As we deplaned, a young woman and a little girl were waiting at the gate, holding a big sign with the words "Welcome Home, Daddy!" We knew immediately who they were waiting for, as we had watched the soldier board just ahead of us in Dallas. We decided to wait and witness the reunion, and so did just about everyone else who had made the trip with us.

The soldier was one of the last passengers to exit the plane, and the little girl ran down the ramp to meet him. The three of them were hugging and kissing, while his fellow passengers burst into a spontaneous round of applause.

America, the beautiful.


Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Drawing to a Close

Well, we are back safe and sound in Indianapolis. We will be flying out early in the morning. We spent the day driving slowly north on country roads. Our intentions had been to visit some of the local craft stores advertising Amish wares. We did visit one, the Black Buggy Restaurant and store. It sold Amish made elixirs and spice compounds, as well as luscious looking pies and breads. We picked up a few postcards and a couple of books and figured we would wait and see what else was available.

Turns out that we are slightly ahead of the tourist season and there just wasn't much to see. We did stop at Knepp's Restaurant, which served a buffet of food that was fantastic. It was like Thanksgiving at Grandma's House. Perfectly fried chicken, homemade bread, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, sweet corn, corn souffle, salads, soups and a slice of pie. Yummy.

On the way through the country, we passed three different buggies of Amish folk and we saw lots of immaculate farms. That was our Amish experience in Indiana.

Only one picture today. Yours truly, in front of the Black Buggy Cafe, resting on the bench posted for "Democrats Only". After a week in these parts, I am wondering if anyone else has ever sat here.


Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Four Seats, No Waiting

Today was so full of different layers that tonight's blog requires chapters.

Chapter 1, Four Seats No Waiting
We had one last cemetery to visit this morning before we left Moultrie County, so we headed to the small town of Gays, which by the way was named by taking the first letters of the names of four leading citizens. Gays has an unusual tourist attraction and there are signs on the highway to grab your attention and pull you downtown for a visit. Gays has a two-story outhouse.

This structure naturally generates several questions as you walk around it. Most of them are answered on the nearby display board. First of all, it truly is a two story outhouse, with two holes on each level, one for the ladies and one for the gentlemen (different shaped holes to accommodate the different physical attributes). It was originally attached to a two story building that housed a store on the first level and apartments on the second. The building was torn down, but the outhouse was saved and it now sits in the middle of a small municipal park.

According to the articles displayed, the functionality of the facilities is accomplished by a false wall in the lower level and an offset of the seats above from those below. According to one lady who was interviewed you could indeed serve four, if for some reason you wanted to do so.

Chapter 2, As Far as the Eye Can See

Once we finished our cemetery business in Gays, we turned south and made a run for the town of Vincennes, Indiana. Vincennes sits right on the border between Indiana and Illinois and the Wabash River marks the state line. To get there, we drove through miles and miles of flat prairie land. When the map shows the next town to be 6 miles away, you can look straight down the road and see its water tower and rooftops clearly the entire way. Nothing breaks up the landscape except for the barns and silos that sit beside every house you pass. I'm not one who normally uses cruise control, but it has been a necessity on this trip. The speed limit is 55 mph and my foot wants to push the speed up to 70 on those long straightaways.

Chapter 3, You Can't Get There From Here

When we finally got to Vicennes, we ended up taking a tour of the city. Which was not our intention, but the State Highway Department doesn't seem to feel the need to let anyone know where State Highway 61 is hiding. Unfortunately, that is the road you need to take to get to Petersburg, so we finally gave up looking for it on our own and stopped at the Visitors' Center to ask for help. Turns out you can't get there from Vincennes.

Just kidding. Sort of. It is not an easy task to get to Petersburg, county seat of Pike County where my Mason family lived for many generations. We managed to find a hotel that sits just off Highway 61 and then started off for the nether regends of Indiana. Petersburg, our first stop in Pike County, was about a 30 minute drive through beautiful rolling hills. Spring had not quite arrived in northern Indiana, but in this part the trees are in full bloom, the leaves are bright green, the grass is lush, each farm has a beautiful emerald green pond, and huge tractors are beginning to inch down the narrow roads, slowing traffic for miles. Every so often, you pass a field that is purple with the blooms of what we assume is clover. This has been some of the prettiest country we've seen on this trip.

We spent about 45 minutes at the Petersburg Public Library, primarily to get some better directions to the two cemeteries I wanted to visit. When they ran us off in order to close for the day, we decided that we would make an effort to finish up our cemetery work before going back to Vincennes for the night. Coe, the little community where we were headed, was another 10 miles or so south. We drove through even more verdant farmland, the road curving back and forth and up and down, before arriving at Blackfoot Cemetery.

I have Mason kinfolk buried all over Pike County, but Blackfoot Cemetery was my primary reason for coming to this area. My gg-grandfather John Mason is buried here, along with 3 of his children who died in infancy. My ggg-grandparents William and Huldah Mason are buried here, with several of their sons and a small army of their grandchildren. In all, I believe I counted about 90 graves containing the remains of people who share my DNA. It took us a little over an hour to get all the photos and I had to return several times to John's grave to etch the details forever in my mind.

Finishing up at Blackfoot, we drove some back roads to the Davis Cemetery in order to get photos of the family graves of Nancy Mason Davis, my ggg-grandaunt. This cemetery sits up on top of a hill. It's quite a climb up there, but what a view from the top. This picture doesn't do it justice at all. Believe me, it's gorgeous country.

Chapter 4, Last But Not Least

Our genealogy work is done for this trip. With one day left on our schedule, we are planning to get up in the morning and head toward the Amish communities in Daviess County, just up the road a little ways, and do some shopping on the way back to Indianapolis. It's been a long week, but each day has been packed with the sights, sounds and smells of the country where our ancestors lived. We have a little better feeling for what they left to migrate to Texas.

As I promised last night, I close with a picture of a barn that is just a field or two over from Niccum Cemetery. I am assuming that the barn has been sitting there for long enough to have been a sight taken for granted by my ancestors. Perhaps it even belonged to my ancestors. It is defying the march of time and continues to stand, even though it is a skeleton of its former self.


Monday, April 10, 2006

On the Road Again

Another long, satisfying day. We started off by returning to Niccum Cemetery and completing our photo history of the burials there. I was glad to finish the camera work, but rather sad to leave. I felt a real connection with the pretty little cemetery.

Just before we left Danville, we took a swing by the Illiana Genealogical Historical Society so I could pick up a couple of CDs of marriage and burial records and whatever else caught my attention. This was our first experience this trip with the snooty, holier than thou keeper of the records you want and I have and just see if you can figure out a way to get me to let you see them type. My word, some folks are just so impressed with the power they hold over the poor family historians.

The gentlemen who was helping me could not have been nicer and he bent over backward to help. But the LADY IN CHARGE OF THE COPIER, which heaven forbid the common folk should attempt to use, was certainly not going to let these folks from GAWD ALMIGHTY TEXAS get her to bend her rules one iota. Lana and I are really good at playing aw-shucks humble with these types and we managed to get everything we were after anyway. I had the last word; when my total for the books and cds and copies hit about $85 worth, I plunked a portrait of Benjamin Franklin down on the counter and told them to keep the change. I somehow got the impression that most folks don't walk in with cash, let alone leave without the change they are due. So take that, Miss Snoot.

We headed on down to Moultrie County and arrived about lunchtime, and decided to indulge in a Cracker Barrel experience. Which was a good thing, since we worked ourselves down the rest of the afternoon. Despite our experiences of earlier in the day, we decided to head first for the genealogical society, since we had no firm directions for the half dozen cemeteries we wanted to visit. (We actually managed to find the first one on the way, with our usual bumbling luck.) We arrived, to be greeted by a formidable white-haired lady with a 'tude, and braced ourselves for the worst.

But to our surprised pleasure, Miss 'Tudy turned out to be a gal with a dry wit and a heart of gold. She pulled folder after folder from their vertical files, each filled with pictures and obituaries and family data for Lana's Waggoner folks. We kept the two ladies there busy with the copier for the better part of an hour. We had quite a pile of paper. And we hit another one of our lucky strikes. A gentlemen who was a frequent visitor to the facilities, but who had not been there for quite some time, arrived shortly after we did. I was busy trying to locate cemetery directions while Lana sorted through Waggoner folders, and I wasn't having much luck. He fussed around with the records and pulled out a book with just the map I had been looking for. If he hadn't known to look for that book, I'm not sure what we would have done, because Miss 'Tudy didn't seem to know much about the cemeteries. We left, after showering our ladies with thanks and a contribution for their renovation project, and started the next cemetery assault.

Finding your way among the farm roads of Indiana and Illinois is not the same as finding your way around rural Texas. Everything up here is based on the township system and all the roads are numbered sequentially from some point, with the same numbers counting N, S, E, & W from that point. So you will see 1000N, 1000E, 1000S, and 1000W and they will NOT be the opposite ends of each other. If we had not had the luck to find that detailed map, we would never have found the cemeteries we were seeking, let alone find our way out of rural Illinois and back to Mattoon and our beds for the night. With Lana acting as navigator, we somehow managed to get oriented and hit four cemeteries in quick succession before calling it a day and even though one was on a road posted with a "No Trespassing" sign (see previous post on how much we pay attention to warnings when we've come 900 miles to see something).

We have two more cemeteries to visit in the morning and then we head back to Indiana, a shift forward in time, and tackle the Mason family in Pike County as our last project for this trip.

It is amazing how relaxing it is to roam around the back roads looking for family. At the end of the day we are bone tired, but by morning we are ready to tackle it again. I have really enjoyed walking the cemeteries, listening to the robins singing in the trees nearby, and looking over rolling fields that are waiting for the plow and a new season of growth. I would really love to see these places when the corn is growing high and the trees are green. It is a beautiful country we are travelling through.

No picture tonight, because my connection is acting flaky and refusing to cooperate. I'll try again tomorrow. I have a great picture of an old barn.


Sunday, April 09, 2006


By the way, have you idea of what potash is? Just down the road from our hotel is the Danville Potash Terminal. It's a big hunking thing that looks like a sideways silo. Had to educate ourselves. You can too, by clicking here.

Just for the record, Danville has not much to recommend it. Aside from potash and the inimitible Dick Van Dyke, I'm at a loss as to its contributions to society.


Luck or Spirit Intervention?

We are continually amazed at how we are able to find our way to heretofore unvisited country cemeteries. It happened to us in Arkansas two years ago and it is happening in Indiana and Illinois on this trip. We begin to get the feeling that we have spirit guides at work, leading us where we need to go.

We started off bright and early this morning, another chilly morning. We had initially planned to survey the Niccum Cemetery first, but we decided to reverse the order of our day and hit the smaller cemeteries first, leaving Niccum to last.

We headed out in search of the Hughes Cemetery, with a very short, no frills description of its location. We were just about to reach our next turn when a lovely cemetery suddenly appeared on our left. We couldn't read the sign, but on impulse I decided to drive through it and see if anything looked familiar. The impulse paid off, because it turned out to be the McKendree cemetery, the 3rd cemetery on our list of places to go today. We spent an hour or so there, snapping photos and listening to the birds twittering in the bushes and trees. From the top of the hill, I took this photo.

Leaving McKendree, we again tried to interpret the directions to Hughes. They involved instructions to turn on roads that were no longer going by the names given but instead wore signs of unhelpful numbers. Instead of stopping and asking for help, we just kept moseying along in the general direction, looking for a "brick house on top of a hill". We thought we had it one time, only to realize that the next instruction "take the lane turning to the left after the house" didn't fit. Jokingly, I said "Frances, we need a nudge!", speaking to my ggg-grandmother whose grave is in Hughes Cemetery. Just afterwards, we spotted another brick house on the top of a hill and a lane just past it to the left. There was no sign of a cemetery, and a series of gates stretched ahead of us. We pondered the repercussions of being caught trespassing and decided to follow our instincts and go on through. We approached the second gate and as Lana prepared to get out to open it, we glanced to the left and there was the cemetery, tucked away in a pasture. I truly don't know how we happened to drive right to it with the directions we had been given. Unless we had some friendly nudges from another dimension.

I had about 50 pictures to take at Hughes, including the graves of two sets of ggg-grandparents, John and Frances Dunavan and David and Dorothy Beauchamp. It was peaceful and quiet in that secluded setting and we only jumped once, when a rabbit took off suddenly as we approaced a grave at the edge of the cemetery. The only other visitors there were a robin couple, who flitted around and kept an eye on us as we worked.

I had another errand before we left the area, which was to see the town where my grandfather was born. According to the history books I have been looking at recently, Perrysville was once a booming little burg that was giving Chicago some competition. There is nothing left at Perrysville but some abandoned buildings and a small cluster of homes. Oddly, I felt right at home, so I guess some genetic memory was seeping in from my great-grandparents Tilman and Matilda Wilcoxen, who moved from Perrysville to Glen Flora, Texas, when my grandfather was a child.

Just before we reached the Perrysville sign, we saw the gate to another cemetery. The gate was on the main road, but the cemetery sat well off the road on the top of a hill. We took a few minutes to drive slowly through, looking for any familiar family names. We commented on what a beautiful view there was from the top of the hill and came to the realization that the beautiful cemetery probably was placed there because it was land that was unsuitable for farming. Level fields spread out in every direction at the base of the hill. The undesirable land has become the most beautiful spot around. If you look carefully at the photo, you can probably see the graves on the distant hill.

We finally got to Niccum, after taking a small tour of Gessie, another apot in the road where my ggg-grandparents Wilcoxen lived and are buried in unmarked graves on the land that was their farm. Niccum Cemetery sits in the middle of a vast cornfield. For some reason, it has been pretty much ignored by the local historians. Either they are buying into the haunted reputation or consider it too remote to bother with. After some disccusion, we decided that we would recitfy that sad state of affairs and take a picture of every headstone.

I'm not sure I would do it again. And it fact, we aren't quite done. I ran the batteries down in my camera, plus filling up a 1GB memory card, and then proceeded to run the batteries down in Lana's camera. We still have about 2 1/2 rows of stones to photograph in the morning before we leave town. But in a few weeks's time, I hope to have a documentation of Niccum Cemetery online at FindaGrave. I feel like it's my duty, in a way. After all, my ggg-grandparents Anderson and Elizabeth Dunavan donated that land for the use of a cemetery.

In addition to Anderson and Elizabeth, my gg-grandparents Parker and Lucy Wilcoxen are also buried at Niccum. And numerous cousins. My poor knees will probably not be on speaking terms with me tomorrow. I abused them royally today, bending, stretching, kneeling and rising in an effort to get good angles for all the stones.

We are now resting after a big meal at Big Boy's. I've heard of Big Boy's, but until now have not had the pleasure of eating there. We plan to partake of the hot tub later on in an effort to cajole our knees and backs into cooperating with us tomorrow as we head to Moultrie and Shelby counties to work on Lana's family for a change.

And I'll bet we drive right up to the cemetery, regardless of how bad the directions are.


Saturday, April 08, 2006

Touring America's Heartland

This was a long day, spent travelling across Indiana from Fort Wayne to Danville. We left behind this view from our hotel window (I counted 5 church steeples within sight of our room), charged out in the frosty 30 degree weather, and made like tourists for awhile.

We first stopped as planned to see Johnny Appleseed's grave. We parked in the Coliseum parking lot and climbed a small knoll to the gravesite, walking between apple trees about to burst into bloom. We were doing just fine until a brisk wind blew over the hill and sent us burrowing into our jackets and scurrying down the hill. Spring has not quite reached this neck of the woods.

In fact, it had not occurred to me that we would see the countryside with the trees still naked and bare. I find myself curious about what kind of trees we are seeing. Their bark is similar to birch or maybe sycamores, but they are very tall. Occasionally you see a stand of pine trees and sometimes you see what I guess are Douglas firs, looking like overgrown Christmas trees. We drove through farm land and saw a lot of 3-story barns, many looking like the barest puff of wind would make them topple over. Others, like the following, would bring a smile as we passed by. We saw a couple of barns with decorated roofs, and one house with an elaborate pattern to its shingles.

As we drove along, Lana would look up the towns in a couple of tour guides we have along with us. We missed seeing the collection of outhouses that are one of the claims to fame for Huntington, Indiana. The road we were on bypassed the town before we knew it. When we read about the antique carousel that still operates in Logansport, we decided we would make an extra effort to see that particular attraction. Who doesn't love a carousel? The guidebook said it was open on Saturday afternoons, so we timed our visit to arrive at opening time.

When we got there, however, it was shut up tight and the sign said "closed for the season". We looked longingly through the windows and then turned to go. Just as we got back to our car, a couple of gentlemen drove up and approached us. It turns out that they are volunteers who help out at the carousel and they were about to set up for a birthday party. They cheerfully allowed us to go inside and take a closer look at the carousel animals. We didn't get to ride, but they ran the carousel for a few minutes and even turned on the music briefly, so we could get a better idea of its operation. It has been lovingly restored and the community joined in support of building a new building for it while the animals were in the process of being refinished. We got the grand tour from the men, who told us all about the restoration process, the fund raising efforts of the town, the various donations of time and materials by the citizens to get the project completed, how the carousel was dismantled and remantled in its new home, and how the mechanisms work. It was a fascinating 3/4 of a hour and we would have stayed if they had not had a job to do. They were most gracious and we had a fabulous time oohing and ahing.

From Logansport, we moved on toward Danville, arriving about 4PM. Only it was 3PM. The time zones change right at the Indiana and Illinois border. We had been hoping to get to the public library in time to copy a rare booklet on my Dunavan family that can only be found at the Danville Public Library. We had figured we would have to really hustle at the copy machine to get the 80 pages coped before they closed. It was nice to suddenly realize that we weren't too late after all. We got that job done and decided to make our first cemetery visit.

We had gotten some dire warnings from the librarian about the state of Niccum Cemetery, so we were a little worried that we might run into trouble tomorrow. It is still wet and muddy from all the rain of last week and she had us worried that we might have to hike in or rent a canoe to get there. (No way am I travelling 900 miles to see a cemetery and then leave without seeing that cemetery.) So, armed with our crude directions and a map, we decided to go see how bad it was going to be.

On the way we stopped at Atherton Cemetery and got some pictures of a few of my Wilcoxen kinfolk's graves. We wanted one cemetery under our belt before we met disappointment. With some trepidation, we turned down the narrow lane that leads you to Niccum Cemetery. It turns out that we can drive all the way there and as long as we are careful not to fall down and break something tomorrow, we should have no problems. I am looking forward to seeing the graves of my great-great grandparents Wilcoxen and my great-great-great grandparents Dunavan. We are hopeful we may even see a ghost, since Niccum Cemetery is reported to be haunted.

We will be up and at our project first thing tomorrow morning. We have three cemeteries to visit and we will tour the little towns where my grandfather Wilcoxen was born and where his grandparents lived.

Our ideas of fun may be a trifle offbeat, but we are having a blast. This was a good day.


Friday, April 07, 2006

It's Temporary

We finally asked today where everybody is hiding. Turns out that this is Spring Break week in Fort Wayne. Our waitress told us that things will be back to normal after that. We really were beginning to wonder how the hotel stayed in business.

We will be hitting the road in the morning, headed to Danville. Before we leave town, though, we plan to drive to the north part of town and pay our respects at Johnny Appleseed's grave. We had no idea that he was buried in Fort Wayne. We stopped in at the Visitors' center across the street from the hotel and got directions. I think she was glad to see somebody come in.


Thursday, April 06, 2006

It's Too Quiet

We are spending some time pondering just what people do up here. The streets are way too quiet. We've had 3 meals in the hotel restaurant and only breakfast could be said to have had a crowd. We don't see anyone in the hotel lobby. We don't see anyone in the garage. We don't see anyone walking down the street. Apparently everybody up here goes straight to work and straight home.

We did see quite a few people at the library. It's a really nice library, with the entire third floor devoted to us genealogy freaks. We saw the usual mixture of middle-aged researchers, with the odd young couple and trailing kids coming in to spend an hour poking around with the idea of finding ancestors.

I sat beside a lady who seemed to be trying to impress either herself or those around her of just how much research she was doing. There's one in every crowd. She had amassed a mountain of books for Rowan County, North Carolina, at her workspace and they sat there all day without her cracking them. If anyone else needed to research in Rowan County, they were out of luck because I don't think she left anything on the shelf and she never returned one to the reshelving table. When she was actually sitting down and not carrying books back and forth, she kept up a continual muttering under her breath. Just the kind of oddball that gives genealogists a bad name.

For the most part, everyone we have met has been very pleasant and friendly. We did get a double take from the waitress this morning when we requested grits. We had to quickly acknowledge that we were joking. Yankees.

Tomorrow we will take another stab at the library before hitting the road on Saturday to experience the countryside. I'm looking forward to seeing where my grandfather was born. Yes, I confess. I'm half Yankee.


Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Day 1 in Hoosier Land

It's been a long day. Up at 5:15 to finalize packing and ready the house for brother David to step in. Then to the airport to catch the 11:15 flight to Indianapolis, a two part trip with a 45 minute layover in Dallas.

When we checked in at the American Airlines counter, we were offered an upgrade to first class for a few dollars more. It being my birthday, we took them up on it. Just let me say that it definitely makes a difference to fly first class. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Free wine, excellent lunch of smoked chicken, field greens salad, pasta salad, applesauce cookies, cheese and crackers. Real cloth napkins and glass tumblers. Service with a smile and a half. We did our best to act like celebrities and not be too obviously rubes from the sticks.

When we picked up our rental car, we were offered another upgrade to an SUV, for a few dollars more. (I sense they were seeing us coming.) And we started to Fort Wayne. Which we sort of expected to look like a big sized town on the interstate. The next thing we knew, we overshot Fort Wayne and were seeing signs that said Michigan ahead. And no where to turn around. We finally made an illegal crossover and made our way back.

And finally we are ensconced in our hotel room and getting woozy. (It has nothing to do with the free wine or the whiskey sour I had with dinner.) Tomorrow we make our first foray to the famous Allen County Public Library to see what they have to offer.

It's funny, but for the first time I enjoyed my plane rides. No nervous knots in my stomach. Aside from a brief moment of disquiet on all takeoffs, I really had a good time watching the clouds roll by.

My first impressions of Indiana are of farm after farm after farm. Lots of farms. Lots of barns of a different type of architecture than what we are used to in Texas. In addition to barns, every farm has a silo or two or three. Familiar, yet foreign. When we drove through downtown Fort Wayne, the houses are lined up side by side with about 3 feet between them. Row houses with stamp sized yards, like you would expect to see in the east. And the architecture is somewhat American Gothic. Again familiar, yet foreign.

I look forward to checking out a new library, but I really am most looking forward to driving around America's heartland and seeing the country of my ancestry. My Niccums, Hughes, Beauchamp, Dunavan and Wilcoxen lines have been in this part of the country since the early 1800s. If great-grandpa Wilcoxen had not had an itch to go to Texas, I might be living in this neck of the woods.

All in all, a very enjoyable birthday. Full steam ahead.


Saturday, April 01, 2006

Let the Party Begin

It's always been my philosophy that you should spread your birthday out a little. Why stop at one day? My birthday is next Wednesday, but as far as I'm concerned I start celebrating on the first of the month and continue until the 30th. I treat myself to at least one gift a week during April and for the last several years I've scheduled my spring vacation for the week of my birthday. This year I've managed to stretch the spring vacation to two full weeks away from the office.

So today was the first day of vacation. Isn't it amazing how much sweeter the air is when you know you don't have to go back to work for awhile? I'm usually running around like mad on the weekend, getting household chores done. Today, even though I did a lot of laundry, mopped some floors, trimmed some bushes and cooked two meals, I seemed to have an enormous amount of time at my disposal. It would have been a shame to miss the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful day, so I even sat on the deck for awhile and walked the dogs in the woods. And instead of being dragged out tired, I'm feeling rested. (How much longer until I can retire?)

In a few days I will be off on my annual genealogy research trip, while little brother comes down and minds Mother and the dogs. Not sure how Mojo is going to take the separation. The girls will adjust, but that little boy is sure attached to his mommy.

Tomorrow is scheduled for the packing and then Monday I'm planning some shopping and my first opportunity to buy myself a birthday present. Of course my big present is the trip, but who am I to deny myself a few extra little goodies?

Speaking of birthdays, Miss Coco turned one on March 24th and Mojo will be one on April 27th. This time last year was a dark period, with Bebop in the throes of his last illness. It was the first year in some time that I did not have my traditional lemon birthday poundcake. Bebop loved that cake as much as I do and I just didn't have the heart to make it. This year, when I get back, I plan to bake the traditional cake and celebrate all three birthdays, as well as eat a memorial slice for Bebop.

I don't know if everybody feels about their birth month the way I do, but for me April is the best month of the year. Let the festivities begin.

Back to the subject of cats I have known. I love the poem by T. S. Eliot on the Naming of Cats. If you're a cat lover and you don't know the poem, you need to make its acquaintance:

The Naming of Cats
The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter,
It isn't just one of your holiday games;
You may think at first I'm as mad as a hatter
When I tell you, a cat must have THREE DIFFERENT NAMES.
First of all, there's the name that the family use daily,
Such as Peter, Augustus, Alonzo or James,
Such as Victor or Jonathan, or George or Bill Bailey -
All of them sensible everyday names.
There are fancier names if you think they sound sweeter,
Some for the gentlemen, some for the dames:
Such as Plato, Admetus, Electra, Demeter -
But all of them sensible everyday names.
But I tell you, a cat needs a name that's particular,
A name that's peculiar, and more dignified,
Else how can he keep up his tail perpendicular,
Or spread out his whiskers, or cherish his pride?
Of names of this kind, I can give you a quorum,
Such as Munkustrap, Quaxo, or Coricopat,
Such as Bombalurina, or else Jellylorum -
Names that never belong to more than one cat.
But above and beyond there's still one name left over,
And that is the name that you never will guess;
The name that no human research can discover -
But THE CAT HIMSELF KNOWS, and will never confess.
When you notice a cat in profound meditation,
The reason, I tell you, is always the same:
His mind is engaged in a rapt contemplation
Of the thought, of the thought, of the thought of his name:
His ineffable effable
Deep and inscrutable singular

We've had some cats with very interesting names over the years. In addition to Tom Garner, Tinker and Zonker, we've shared our space with:
Miss Tabby Gray (also known as Thunderfoot for the noise she could make running through the house), Buttons (a circular white spot in the center of her belly), Missy Ling (an exotic Siamese), Pippin, Dolly (as in Parton; she had what appeared to be heavily made up eyes and an affinity for the company of men), Pawla, Sister, Magpie (also known as Maggie) and the current Tazmanian Devil. Great cats, every one of them.