Friday, August 31, 2007

Tales of the Family Archivist

The folks who manufacture archival supplies know they have you. We've all heard the horrors of using the wrong materials to store your family papers. We've all seen what happens when photos are placed in non-acid free albums. So the responsible family archivist diligently goes somewhere to purchase archival storage boxes.

That's where I headed this morning. To purchase a stack of archival quality storage boxes. The little ones (book sized) were priced at $14.99 each. I needed a dozen or so. I said "phooey" and wandered over to the aisle where they carry materials to house collections of sports cards and other sports collectibles. There I bought two packages of 25 archival envelopes in the 8x10-inch size, one package of 25 in the 5x7-inch size and one package of 25 in the 4x6-inch size. All for about the price of one of the boxes. It's not the best choice, but it will have to do. There's a limit to the financial sacrifices I will make in the name of family history. (Sure there is. I would hate to think what the total amount I've spent in the name of genealogy has grown to. But $14.99 for a 11 x 9 inch box is too much for even me to swallow.)

Being thrifty in this manner allowed me the flexibility to justify purchasing a large art portfolio with acid free sleeves that will allow me to store all of the portrait sized photos I inherited in last week's raid at my cousin's house. I had no idea how I was going to preserve them and I think this will be just the thing. My dilemma regarding the box of jumbled family photos was solved with the purchase of two acid free photo albums that will let me keep them grouped together as I got them, plus make them viewable by family members in some kind of coherent order and have them stay that way.

I've learned a few things over the years. If I had known then what I know now, I would never have disassembled my mother's photo albums, removing the photos to put with my family notebooks. True, the albums were falling apart, but I've learned it's more important to keep things in their original home to maintain the true historical record. So the three photo albums I just acquired will remain intact and scans will go into my notebooks rather than original photos.

I'm still discovering what wealth I've acquired. My grandmother gave me the funeral registers for both her mother and my grandfather. I now have the funeral register for my grandfather's mother. These are invaluable. In studying names of those who attended the funerals, I've uncovered many a married name for girl cousins.

You know, I always wanted to be a librarian. An archivist would have been a wonderful alternate career. Even though I may have missed my professional calling, I'm getting a second chance with the opportunity to maintain the family history.


Thursday, August 30, 2007

Mojo the Brave

Poor little Mojo. He may be hopping around crossing his legs before long from the inability to get outside and do his bidness.

The frog is terrorizing him. Just as he leaped off the little step this morning, the frog moved under him and Mojo about turned inside out.

Then, he went far down the sidewalk to get to a place of safety and encountered a huge centipede of some variety.

Mommy had to carry him back into the house, he was so paralyzed.

This followed yesterday's unfortunate incident with the grass burr that has made him wary of getting out in the grass.

My brave watch dog.


Wednesday, August 29, 2007


More photographic treasures that have surfaced.

Little boy sleeping is, I believe, my uncle H.G. Jr., aka Son, aka Grady, aka Unkie. Poor man has been labeled Unkie all his life thanks to the firstborn niece (me) who could not say the word "uncle" properly. I'm really sorry about that. I think I was the one who also coined PawPaw and MawMaw to address my grandparents. I was bad news when it came to creating nicknames. The grandkids who came along years and years later probably never knew where those names came from.

A row of cousins, about 1942 or so. The boy at far left is probably Bobby Kunkel. Proceeding up the line is Jo Branton, and Hodge kids Nettie, the aforementioned Unkie, and Bettye Kathryn. This photo was taken on the "Brundige place" outside Elgin.

I will have to do a comparison one day soon to show how much alike all we Hodge girls are. I looked just like my mother at the same age and she looked like her mother. Again, who needs DNA studies? We couldn't deny our relationship if our lives depended upon it.


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Today's Genealogy Gem

Once upon a time, probably early 1907, a young couple and their infant daughter sat for a family photo. They look like any normal young family, but by late 1908 it was all over.

The ordeal the young woman experienced to give birth to the daughter was one she did not want to repeat. The story goes that she declared there would be no more children. Mother Nature had other ideas and in the spring of 1908 she became pregnant with their son. The young wife was not happy and before the year was out the husband had departed. He joined the Navy and died less than 6 months afterward from a bowel obstruction.

He never saw his son. My grandfather was born in February 1909 in McDade, Texas. His father died a month later in California.

Until this past Saturday I had only one photo for Elmo Elisha Hodge. I never knew there was a photo in existence of him with his wife and daughter.

Faded memories.


Monday, August 27, 2007

The Weird Side of Genealogy

Okay, I'm not going to try to explain these two pictures. Apparently the clan was having more fun than a barrel of monkeys that day.

The first photo is my grandfather Hodge in the barrel. I can't tell if his mother is preparing to go fishing or threatening him with some implement of corporeal punishment. The second is of his sister, my Aunt Fay of the previous post, inside the barrel and holding an unknown child on the lip of it. All I can say is they had weird ideas of photo composition.

Speaking of weird - I have added 3 more extremely weird heirlooms to my stash. Promise you won't think I'm as weird for latching onto them as my Aunt Fay was for having them in her cedar chest in the first place. But first, let me describe some of the other weird items in my possession.

The least weird of the bunch would be a locket that contains a lock of my great-grandmother Frankum's hair. Having the lock of hair doesn't sound so odd until I tell you that I paid in excess of $125 for the privilege of owning it. There was some heavy bidding opposition at the annual family reunion auction and I was prepared to go even higher.

Tucked away is a glass bottle containing toothbrushes that were used by my great-grandfather Hodge. Also in my possession is the glass bottle he would have used for his tooth powder.

My great-great-grandmother Mobley was hard of hearing in her old age. I know that because I have the old lady's ear trumpet. Another artifact that belonged to her is a big, slightly bent spoon that she used as a backscratcher.

And now, the drumroll please. I now am the owner of the weirdest of the weird family heirlooms.

1) My great-grandmother Hodge's gallstones, and
2) My great-aunt Fay's kidney stone, and
3) My great uncle Tryon's collection of pepper seeds.

I don't know why they kept them. But they are all mine now. Hodge cousins, eat your hearts out.


Sunday, August 26, 2007

Bits and Pieces of the Past

I've come into possession of a boxful of papers and photos that belonged to my late Aunt Fay. She was my grandfather's only sibling and the older of the two. Her mother was the caregiver for their grandmother. As a result, an impressive amount of photos for both my Hodge and Mobley lines ended up in her possession. When Aunt Fay died, her daughter took possession. Yesterday I was granted custody and today I have been taking inventory.

Only another genealogist can understand just what it means to suddenly have photos to go with the names in your charts. One new photo can give me a glow that lasts a couple of days. The small mountain of photos I have acquired has me in almost a state of shock. It will take weeks for me to get these all sorted out and scanned, let alone shared with my fellow researchers.

Along with the photos came an assortment of papers and objects that belonged to Aunt Fay and her husband. I opened one box and found a collection of newspaper clippings. Not just the odd obituary that I would quickly snatch and put into the to be scanned pile, but articles and poems that meant enough to my Aunt Fay to clip and save. As I sifted through these little bits of paper, I began to feel like I was invading her privacy. They were only poems and devotional pieces and little how-tos out of Ann Landers or the local question and answer column. But, taken as a whole, they were giving me a clear picture of what kinds of things my Aunt Fay had been interested in in her later years. Articles on aging were plentiful. How to deal with disease was one topic and I wondered if she clipped that after visiting my grandfather, who was battling emphysema.

It got me to thinking. I, too, clip out bits and pieces that mean something to me and most of them are tucked into a blank journal that sits on my bookshelf. The tone of those clippings changes over the years. Obituaries for people with whom I worked once upon a time. Poems. Quotations. The odd photograph. One day, hopefully a long time away, someone will come along after me and pick up that journal and discover the collection of random bits of my past.

Maybe they won't realize that I'm in that little book and will carelessly toss it into the trash. And maybe it will be some genealogist who will respect what that odd assortment really means. Maybe they will sort out the obituaries and photographs like I have done and then wonder what to do with the remainder. Maybe they will appoint themselves the custodian of my past like I have done for my Aunt Fay. Her random bits have found a home with me for now.

Tonight she seems a little closer to me.


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Hay Fever and High Cotton

Is it just me or is the sight of a field full of freshly baled hay rather artistic? There's a spot in the road where I come around the corner and there's nothing but round hay bales to be seen. I love it. Later on down the way there's a place where they are making square bales and they are just as pretty to the eye. Something about the blue sky above, the green mown hay and the dusty brown of the bales. Right purty.

In between the fields of hay are the fields of rapidly maturing cotton. In the past I've never been up close and personal with cotton and usually haven't even noticed it until the defoliant has been applied and there is nothing but sticks and white clumps to be seen just before they harvest. But this year I've watched the cotton plants grow and there is real beauty there. I'm sure to someone who ever had to pick cotton by hand, like my parents and grandparents, that beauty is not what they see but rather the hours of toil ahead. But the lush green, sprinkled with the clumps of white is a lovely sight. Especially since I know that these days the work is done by machine.

This morning finds us wondering just where Charlotte has gone. She has not been at her post for a couple of days and I fear that some predator has cut her days short. Or maybe she got tired of me bending down to check on her and moved along.

And Mojo discovered this morning that a frog is living in the Asiatic Jasmine. He's been jumpy ever since, listening hard for the sounds of movement in the vines. He's not real sure that thing belongs there and he comes to me for assurance that it isn't a dog-getter.

Meanwhile, I have succumbed to the addiction that is Diner Dash. It's been a long time since I've become ensnared by a computer game and this one has reeled me in. I played the freebies online until I had mastered the limited versions and yesterday went and bought the real thing. I've been happily dishing up the grub in all my free moments. I've got many levels yet to conquer, but I'm already thinking about putting Diner Dash 2 and Diner Dash 3 on my Christmas wish list.



Monday, August 20, 2007

Church Camp

I was listening to a CD of gospel music by the Forester Sisters this morning on the way to work and suddenly flashed back many summers ago to the several years when we would spend a week at the Highland Lakes Baptist Encampment. Two of those occasions stand out in my mind and one made me laugh while I drove along, so I decided to drag you along down memory lane once again.

The first year we went to church camp there were only 7 of us in our group. Daddy and one of the teenaged boys and 5 of us girls. For some peculiar reason our little group of girls was not combined into a dormitory with other church groups (I think we were late comers and there was no room at the inn, so to speak). Instead, we lucked into having our own dormitory for the week. Five of us in a room that was meant to house 30-40. We had a blast and sometimes I wonder that we survived without injury.

Off to camp

For instance, a couple of the girls hit upon the idea of running around the room jumping from top bunk to top bunk. How they managed to get through this exercise without one of them bashing their brains out on the concrete floor, I'll never know. This was my first experience with living with older girls and it was an education. From observing someone shaving their legs with an electric razor, something I had never seen happen before, to observing their casual nakedness in the shower room when I was a painfully shy 12- or 13-year old to listening to their frank talk about boys - well, it was eye-opening. The five of us became a strange kind of family that week and I will always remember those girls fondly. Marsha, Penny, Kathy, Linda and me.

Our little bunch with the camp missionary

We had a lot of fun together that summer and while we attended several more times, we never quite had the same feelings for the place that we did that first year.

There was, however, one year that stands out. I believe it was Penny's sister Susan who figures prominently in the story.

At the evening services there would be some kind of entertainment and one night was to be skit or talent night. The group of us that year wanted very much to take part, but none of us had an idea one what we could do. That year one of my father's preacher buddies was in attendance and he came up with a little skit for us. The details are very dim in my memory, but in essence it was a mother who was introducing to the preacher (my dad) her herd of children, each of whom had a name that ended in "fly". I'm assuming there was housefly, dragonfly, horsefly, butterfly, etc. (Maybe Linda will remember more of this and can refresh my memory.) Anyway, the youngest was to pronounce her name "letterfly" and throw a glass of water in my father's face.

We rehearsed and had our parts down pat. I was one of the middle children and I believe Linda was playing the mother. Susan was anticipating her moment and I'm sure a little unsure about splashing Daddy with the water. When her time came, she proclaimed her name as "LET HIM HAVE IT" and doused him. Of course the point of the whole thing was completely lost to the audience, except for the preacher buddy who nearly split a gut laughing.

We had good times at that camp. Despite the numerous classes and morning and evening revival style services. We also had swimming, boating, handsome life guards, and Kickapoo Joy Juice at the concession stand. And we had the experience of living with sisters for a week. It made all the hard benches, scorpions and heat minor annoyances for the privilege of fellowship.


Friday, August 17, 2007

Way Cool Day

Sometimes I hit things just right. Today was one of those days. Earlier this week we caught up at work, which is a rare occurrence. I decided I would treat myself to a day off and then came the quandary of how I would spend that day. I am definitely not in shopping mode, so that was out. No way was I going to spend the day researching, since I'm still fighting battle fatigue on the genealogy front. I wanted a change of scenery, so staying at home and doing anything was out.

So I decided it was time to go see a movie. Sit in the dark and lose myself for two hours. Great idea, I thought, but just what would I see? The new Harry Potter movie, I decided. And that is when I became brilliant. I would go to the Bob Bullock IMAX theater and see it in 3D. I've never had the chance to see a 3D movie before and this was the perfect opportunity. Also, the IMAX theater at the Bob Bullock Museum is clean, well managed and there isn't a bad seat in the house.

As it turns out, only the last 1/3 of the movie is in 3D, but that is the part of the movie with the most action. Before the movie began, they ran a short clip to let us get used to our 3D glasses and that clip was better than the 3D portion of the movie when you get right down to it. We were in water with fish swimming all around us and a big ole alligator swam right up to you and opened its mouth. Cool effect. You really had the feeling that the fish were swimming right into you. The movie had some cool effects, too, with shattering glass and falling shelves and dueling wands. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing.

I had about 90 minutes to wander around the museum before the movie started, so I decided to explore the 3rd floor. On my last visit there I had only managed to really explore the first two floors and had had to trot through the third at the end of the day. I also finally got to see the film shown inside the reproduction of the Alamo that had been too crowded to get into on my previous visit. I have to say that the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum is a treasure in our own backyard. No matter what exhibit I choose to study, I find things that tie into my family research. I'm a proud 5th generation native born Texan and the whole history of Texas is in my blood. At the end of the feature in the Alamo, I wanted to stand up and give a rebel yell.

After the IMAX experience, I ate a very adequate lunch in their cafe and then spent time browsing the gift shop. If you want a Texas souvenir, this is the place to go. Music, books, t-shirts, Christmas ornaments, toys, and at the moment Harry Potter merchandise can all be had there. I managed to hold myself to one t-shirt and 4 Texas State Capitol ornaments (I'm trying to build a complete set).

When it came time to go, I decided to take a small detour to 6th Street and see if I could find something for supper at Whole Foods. Their location on 6th and Lamar is not your normal Whole Foods. I had a good time wandering around and so did a bunch of other folks. I like Whole Foods, but it does get crowded. One of the things I regret about the office moving to Round Rock is the inability to make a dash to Whole Foods or Central Market or a dozen other unique Austin spots during my lunch hour.

One of the things I don't miss is the eternal road construction on 6th Street, but my day had gone too well for that to really bother me. I got home, got thoroughly puppy kissed, changed into my jammies, and am content after a good day abroad and the knowledge that I have only to throw some things into the oven for a quick warm up for supper.



Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Don't Mess With My Stuff

I saw something this past weekend in the grocery store that triggered a faint, distant memory of a time when revenge was exacted without my even trying.

They have reissued a product that consists of "flavored" straws. The straws have a flavor core of chocolate or strawberry or banana and the idea is to use them with a glass of milk and have the milk flavored as it flows upward through the straw. The same product existed way back in time, like the early sixties. I can remember that I was fond of the chocolate straws.

There was a day when I had a box of chocolate straws and for some reason I acquired a handful of colorful plastic toothpicks that I thought were kind of neat. Needing a place to carry the toothpicks (I don't think we were at home at the time), I put them inside the box of straws.

My youngest uncle decided later that day to purloin one of my chocolate straws without, I might add, seeking my permission to do so. As chance would have it, he picked a straw that had caught one of the toothpicks inside it. As he slurped his first swig of milk, he ended up with a toothpick in his mouth.

Yes, in retrospect I'm glad he did not choke or swallow the thing. He was highly indignant that I had created such a dangerous situation. For my part I felt very little remorse. I knew the toothpicks were in there and they were my straws. He was the one in the wrong as far as my little 8- or 9-year-old self was concerned.

It's always been my belief that justice will prevail. Sometimes sooner and sometimes later. But you steal my stuff, you will pay in the end.


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Bluegrass Rant

After a week of listening my way through the latest Harry Potter book, partly because I wanted the opportunity to catch the details I missed on my marathon reading session and partly because I love the audio versions performed by Jim Dale, I needed a break and decided to spend a couple of days listening to music before I tackle the next audio book.

Bluegrass music always gives me a boost - it's just so happy and peppy for the most part that you find yourself tapping your foot and bouncing on your butt and exceeding the speed limit, even if you started out with your mood in the cellar. Anything by Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder is guaranteed to put you in danger of a speeding ticket and that's usually my first pick, but this morning I decided on an oldie but goodie - The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's original Will the Circle Be Unbroken.

Cue the mood swing. I love the songs and the music, but I have come to the conclusion that any piece of country or bluegrass music would be immeasurably improved with the decision to omit the harmonica. This album is full of wonderful performances by legendary musicians, but my enjoyment of those performances is usually tempered by my devout wish that the harmonica would SHUT UP.

I'll grant you that it is pretty remarkable that anybody can actually make a tune come out of one of the things, but then why would anybody bother to try in the first place? It's not pretty what comes out. It seldom adds one single, solitary improvement. The only place it seems to fit is in old prison movies.

I apologize to all the harmonica players of the world, but please, please throw the things in the nearest dust bin or indulge your whim to play them when by yourself in a sound-proofed room.

That's it. Off my soap box for now.


Saturday, August 11, 2007

Burn Out Recovery

Since the trip to Salt Lake City back in April, I have been suffering from a generalized burn out and a specific genealogy research burn out. The months leading up to the trip had been a mad whirlwind of updating my computer files and that added to the 4 days of intense library digging drove me to the point of exhaustion. When I got back to Texas, I consciously decided on a 2-month moratorium on research in an attempt to cure myself. It has extended into a 3-1/2 month period in which not much has taken place to build on my knowledge of family history. I've accumulated a pile of paper, both from the Salt Lake trip and from the contributions of Internet co-researchers, and while it is pleasing to have the new records available, it has added to my discomfort to know that I'm falling further and further behind.

So last weekend I started sorting the stack and filing the easier items to place in the correct notebooks and adding notes to my computer files. The stack did not decrease much, but there was a modicum of satisfaction in taking a few baby steps back into the genealogy arena. I'm being careful not to push myself too hard so I don't have a burnout relapse.

This week I also made contact with a new Internet cousin in the Mobley line who has reminded me that one needs to go back and recheck Internet sources that have not been visited in a long time. He was the one that found an obituary I have long been looking for in a place I've searched before but many years ago.

For many years we Mobley researchers have speculated where Lucretia Dunkin Mobley was buried and thanks to this obituary we finally have our answer. Great-great-great Grandfather Reason Mobley's obituary mentions that he is to be buried next to his first wife. His marker had already been located and documented, but Lucretia either never had a marker or it has been lost over time. It is satisfying to finally know that our speculations that she too was buried at Macedonia Baptist Cemetery were correct. I hope to be able to visit her gravesite on a planned trip for next spring to parts of the Deep South.

This fresh find has given me a booster shot of genealogy enthusiasm and I think I'm ready to get back into the saddle, so to speak. I have more ancestors to find!


Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Give Me a Dog's Life

I had an unexpected day working at home and it made the wee ones very happy to have Mom sitting at her desk where they could keep an eye on her. I swear they know my schedule better than I do and it gives them great joy to have a sudden extra Mom day. They napped hard most of the day, sprawled on the big red chair. During a rare break in their nap, I snapped a couple of pictures. Coco doesn't like having the camera pointed at her, which is a shame since she's so photogenic. (Doesn't this look like your typical Glamour Shots pose?)

Mojo, on the other hand, doesn't mind posing as long as Mom wants him to. (That's a chew toy beside him, in case you might think he has another injured leg.)

At least three times during the day we went out and romped in the side yard. Coco goes stone deaf when she doesn't want to hear what I'm saying and our latest conflict has to do with a certain dead frog. She found him under a tree a couple of days ago and rolled around on him until she was full of eau de composted froggie. I made it a point to remove the carcass with a shovel early the next morning, pitching it far into the briar patch behind the house. She was very put out with me when she discovered it missing and went around the yard with her nose up until she caught the scent. Ever since then I have been trying to keep her from burrowing into the briar patch to retrieve him.

This girl can hear me say the words "want a bite?" when I'm whispering in the kitchen and she's upstairs in the farthest corner of the house. But she can't hear me when I'm standing over her yelling at her to leave the dead frog alone.

I have no idea what the neighbors think. But I know I have a couple of happy dogs tonight.


Charlotte Update

Found out why Charlotte was so busy this morning. She was making the fancy white design in her web. She was at rest this afternoon, so I managed to get a clearer picture. Since my earlier post, I have discovered this is an argiope spider, also known as an orb weaver and also known as a writing spider due to the designs they make in their web as you can see in this photo.

The designs provide stability to the web and even though it reduces their "catch" percentage, it also reduces the tendency of birds to fly into the web.

Pretty, isn't she?


Charlotte at Work

As much antipathy as I have for most things crawly, I have never been afraid of spiders. I rather enjoy watching them. And even though their webs make my house look a little less than tidy, I don't have the heart to destroy what is essentially a work of art.

While I'm not scared of them, I do respect them. I have no idea what kind of spider has taken up residence in the front Asiatic Jasmine bed, so I'm keeping my distance just in case. She was a busy little thing this morning and it was hard to get a photo in focus. She's got quite a web built and she has her little sacs of future meals sprinkled about. I appreciate any being who works as hard as she does.

Ah, to have a job that gives such satisfaction. We should all be so lucky.


Thursday, August 02, 2007

Follow the Yellow Thread

Cousin Robert pointed out that I probably should not advertise my purty yellow cat, lest a cat burglar sneak in and spirit him off. Someone with yellow cat fever, like his mom maybe.

Weird how genetics work, isn't it? There's a strong pull toward yellow tomcats that pops up here and there in the Hodge line. My grandfather had it bad. At least one aunt and one uncle has it bad. My mother got hit with the fever and passed it along to both her kids. What is it about yellow tomcats?

Mother had a yellow cat when she was young, named Buff. She still remembers him as the greatest cat of her youth and would probably call it a draw between him and Zonker for the best cat of her life. Buff would meet her bus everyday at the end of the road and ride back to the house on her books. He was undeniably her cat.


We have had several yellow tomcats over the course of my life and Zonker holds the position of top cat for me so far. Boo may make it up to his equal if he hangs around long enough, but nobody could top Zonker for all around good cat karma.

That Zonker. He lived 18 years and he was one of the rare cats who loved everybody in the family equally. Even got along with all the dogs. He moved from bed to bed in a regular cycle, sleeping with each of us for several nights before moving on to the next, spreading his attention around so no one got their feelings hurt.

Zonker would wait in the front yard in the evenings until everyone made it in. David and I both would have late nights in those days and Zonker would wait patiently until whoever was still out made it back in and then go in with the latecomer for what was left of the night.


Zonker was named for the character in Doonesbury, but he made the name his own and I rarely remember that little bit of trivia. When he arrived, a gift from one of my mother's students, we thought for a day or two we had made a hideous mistake. He was a ball of yellow fluff with a big voice and he had spent some time surviving in the midst of horses. He was a bundle of nerves and told us of his fears and worries at the top of his lungs. But he settled down, recognized he had found his true home, and adopted all of us with all of his big heart. It was a mighty sad day for us when old age finally caught up with him.

The house would not feel right if there weren't a yellow tomcat in residence. When I heard Boo was available for adoption, I said yes without hesitation, even though I had sworn I was not taking in any more cats for awhile. You just don't say no to the chance to bring a yellow tomcat into your life.

I wonder how far back this proclivity for yellow tomcats goes? I'm betting the cat in this picture of my grandfather Hodge is a yellow tom.

Horace Hodge with unknown cat

What do you bet?

Who needs DNA to prove heritage? I have yellow cat fever. I'm definitely a Hodge.