Tuesday, December 30, 2008


Tuesday turned out to be a great day for rambling around. I wasn't so sure when it started, but I needed to get out of the house for the day, so I made a plan to keep me busy and occupied. I had some loose genealogical ends to tie up and I decided that would be the goal. Monday's jaunt to San Marcos was part of the plan and today I decided I would target LaGrange and Giddings.

The non-genealogist might not understand, but I like county clerk offices in small town courthouses. The atmosphere is quite different from the atmosphere in the law office where I work. There are generally 3-6 women clustered in a bull-pen, chatting back and forth about anything and everything, including husbands, shopping, the latest town scandal, doctor visits, recipes, and on and on. They are so used to the background of folks drifting in and out checking records that they tend to forget they are being overheard. It can get quite entertaining, especially if you are the only one in the records vault and they've forgotten you are back there.

But I digress. I started out in LaGrange to check on deed transactions that might be on file for the rascally Dr. Henry Hodge. Sure enough, I dug out a few and learned something along the way. I knew the Hodge family lived briefly in Cistern but what I did not know was that Cistern was originally called Milton. The family was briefly in possession of a good-sized chunk of Cistern, not that that's saying much if you've ever visited Cistern. However, I wouldn't mind owning some property in that area. It's very pretty down there.

As I left, I decided to inquire whether they had possession of the Physician's Register for Fayette County. Around the turn of the century the State of Texas required all medical doctors to register with the County Clerk if practicing in the county. The clerk was sure there wasn't such a thing, but decided to check their list of records and, guess what, the dumb visitor knew what she was talking about. The register was shown residing in the store room.

They had already figured out I was a genealogist (who else spends 2 hours happily digging around in the early deed books?) and knew that once the existence of the record was established, I wasn't going to leave without seeing it. She headed for the store room.

To make a long story short, the book wasn't there and they finally puzzled out that it would have been moved to the District Clerk's possession and I headed across the street with 20 minutes to go before they closed for lunch. The clerk there was equally overjoyed to have a stubborn genealogist arrive at her desk. She wasn't about to tackle the issue before lunch, but took my name and phone number and promised to check and call me. I figured that would be the last I would hear of that.

A brief little sojourn at a Hallmark shop in LaGrange, a visit to the LaGrange Public Library and a stop at Weikel's Bakery to pick up kolaches for Mother and I was ready to head for Giddings.

It was much quieter at the clerk's office in Giddings. The two clerks and I were the only ones there for the first half hour. One of the clerks was in earnest pursuit, by phone, of a particular cosmetic. I decided to tackle the Physician's Register first thing this time. There was a brief consultation between phone calls and they declared there was no such record. I decided it was not worth arguing about and concentrated on chasing deed records.

I learn something every time I dig in court records. One thing I've learned over and over, seeing the real thing is much better than scanning the microfilms of the records in Salt Lake. I had found a deed reference on microfilm years ago that I had accepted as belonging to Dr. Hodge, but when I re-read the deed in person something didn't ring true. I could find where he acquired the property, but there was no record of when he sold it. I could not find a transfer out anywhere.

Sometimes you get really lucky. Lee County has computerized their indexes and I was able to do some creative searching and finally found the missing transaction. It turned out that the Henry Hodge who bought the property was not my Henry Hodge. The transfer dates conflicted with other records that placed my Henry elsewhere at the time, plus the wife's name was on the transfer out and did not match, plus all the signatures were made "by his/her mark" and my Hodge folks always signed their names. Just goes to show that you should never be satisfied with half the picture when the whole picture may be a lot different than you expected.

It's been awhile since I've spent the day rambling the countryside between stops for research. The high gas prices had put a stop to that months ago. How nice it was to fill up for under $1.40 a gallon in my 46 mpg hybrid and hit the road for a day of following my muse. Reminds me of what I used to do for fun. I may just have to spend New Year's Day making a cemetery run.

Oh, yes, the clerk in LaGrange called me after all to report she had checked the register and Dr. Hodge was not listed. I've only found him on one register, in Leon County. I'm still wondering if he just didn't bother to register or he wasn't a practicing physician in Caldwell, Bastrop, Fayette or Lee counties when he was in residence. Curiouser and curiouser.


Monday, December 29, 2008


Ok, if I start smelling coffee on the deck, I'm moving.

funny pictures of cats with captions
more animals


This is Getting Old

I seem to be on some mission to disable my right hand. We won't even count the cat bite from 5 years ago that left my right index finger in a permanent come-hither crook. This round started at Thanksgiving when I sliced my thumb to ribbons on the food processor blade. That finally healed after a long period of tenderness whenever I touched something. Then last night I ran across an old photo of my grandparents when I was cleaning out a drawer in my dresser.

When I acquired the photo, it was in a putrid frame, so I had intended to take it out and put it in my family notebooks. Alas, age and East Texas humidity had glued it permanently to the glass. I discarded the tacky frame and had stuck the remainder in my dresser drawer, intending to ponder how I was going to remove the photo from the glass without damaging it.

I realized last night when I found it that my solution would have to be to try and scan the photo through the glass. So I headed downstairs to see how well that would work. On the way, I shifted the thing in my hand and caught my right middle finger on the edge of the glass and sliced the tip end. Again I had the bleeding and the bandaging, though not nearly as severe as the thumb had been. It's sore and I'm stuck with wearing a band-aid for a few days, but it could be worse. (The picture, by the way, scanned very well.)

This morning I was headed out to pay the property taxes and then make a jaunt down to San Marcos to do a little courthouse work. As I was getting in the car, I decided I needed to go back in the house and double check the day of an appointment I had made for this week. Getting out of the car to go back in the house, I caught my right little finger on the car door frame and jammed it but good.

It took several hours to be sure, but it now appears that I've done no lasting damage to my pinky. It hurt like fury for about 30 minutes, but it's all better now.

The day was a mixed success, but on the whole went well. I got back to the house early enough to take the dogs on a jaunt in the woods down their favorite walk along a forgotten (except for the ATVers) backwoods dirt road. They can run off leash back there and pretend they are coyotes out on the hunt. Coco and I, being fastidious ladies, avoided all the reddish mud, but Mojo. being a healthy American boy, happily splashed through the puddles and acquired four red feet that will have to be scrubbed before bedtime. The funniest of his escapades was backing up to a clump of grass and standing on tippy-toes to make a deposit in the very top of it. He's my boy.

I think I will use my hurt finger as an excuse to avoid cooking tonight. There's a silver lining in every cloud.


Sunday, December 28, 2008


For anyone who caught the previous post early on, I really do know how to spell shepherd. I fell victim to the habit of typing "Shepard" so much in my family history endeavors, as it is the middle name of my great-great grandfather.

In my early years as a legal secretary for a law firm that dealt exclusively with matters pertaining to property, I typed the following phrase a few thousand times: "being that property more particularly described as". As a result, I can almost never correctly type the word "proper" the first time. It always ends up "property" and I have to go back and delete the "ty". Same with "particular". I always end up having to delete the "ly". Likewise, any word that begins with "wil" ends up being typed as my last name on the first pass.

I have a friend who cannot carry on a conversation without ending every other sentence with "and stuff". Drives me crazy and I want to reach out and pinch her when I hear it emerging from her lips. Amazing that you fail to hear in your own speech things that drive you crazy in others'.

I have had some success with breaking verbal patterns, but it is always a very difficult process and requires a lot of concentration. Usually I concentrate so hard in replacing the old verbal pattern with a new verbal pattern that I ultimately realize I've created a new bad habit and have to repeat the process to wipe out the new verbal pattern.

I have another acquaintance who has some kind of nasal problem and habitually makes a raucous sound in an effort to clear her head. Think Felix Unger and you will know what I mean. She's not even aware she's doing it but everyone around her has developed a nervous twitch in response.

Old habits. Annoying things and extremely hard to correct.

Shepherd. Shepherd. Shepherd.
Proper. Proper. Proper.
Particular. Particular. Particular.

And stuff.



Saturday, December 27, 2008

An Indulgence for Free

Yesterday little brother, sis-in-law and I went downtown for a very nice meal at Baxter's and then strolled up and down the Main Street shopping district. I discovered that several new gift stores have opened up since I used to prowl downtown. One is particularly nice and carries some really swank items. Their small upstairs room was devoted to Christmas and I fell in love with an unusual Nativity set.

I have a collection of Nativity sets that did not get brought out of storage this year, since I declared a general moratorium on Christmas decorating this go round. I just didn't have the energy to cope with both the set up and the putting away. However, in years to come, I plan to install a Christmas tree and a Nativity set in every room of the house. I probably have enough Nativity sets that I could put two in every room.

With that in mind, I took a look at the price tag, talked myself out of it, and left empty-handed. Well, not quite. I bought two Christmas ornaments, since they were buy one and get one free, and a salt and pepper shaker set.

Overnight I had the conviction that I should have snatched it up. I got on the Internet and did some searches and found it at a much higher price and discovered that the set had been discontinued. I called this morning and they still had it, so I had them place it on hold and hustled down to take possession.

About the same time, I realized that I had an unused $100 gift card sitting in my purse and I figured that would cover the base set, I would only be out the price of the accessory sets, and that would make the whole expense a little easier to swallow.

Imagine my surprise. Instead of selling the Nativity in 3 groupings, like I had found on the Internet, this store was selling the entire set for the Internet price of the base set. Plus, their buy one get one free applied to anything Christmas related in the store, so I chose a little decorative Christmas tree that had a nice stuffed bear climbing it as my freebie. Very appropriate for those of us who live in Bastrop and support the Bastrop Bears.

So instead of the good deal I was expecting to get via my forgotten gift card, I got a fantastic deal and spent not a dollar of my own money and still have a small balance on the gift card. That's what I call good shopping.

Now some folks might think this little Nativity is sacrilegious, but given my love for animals, it's right down my alley.

Joseph is a donkey (or maybe a mule). Mary is a horse. The baby in the manger is a yellow cat. The three wise men are a cow with a full can of milk, a goose with a basket of eggs, and a rooster with a supply of corn. The shepherd is a sheep, the camel is a hump-backed pig, and the drummer boy is another cow. The two angels are dogs and the backdrop is a stack of hay bales.

I love it.


Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas 2008

We were styling this Christmas, don't you think?
This was probably San Gabriel around 1958.
Dig the big-screen TV.

Can we say "deer in the headlights" look?
This was about 1964 or so in Smiley.
I think David looks remarkably like the first Ken doll.

About 1965, in Elgin.
Lucy, Horace and Nettie in the background
David, Mike and Janis in deep concentration
& with expert help from Lucky

Wherever you are this year, I hope you enjoy some
wonderful memories of Christmas Past
and capture some memories of Christmas Present
for your own children to enjoy in Christmas Yet to Come.

Merry Christmas to all!


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Last Minute Shopping

A lot of people did their last minute Christmas shopping at the mall. I have managed to avoid the mall entirely this year. My last minute shopping involved two stops, the first being here.

It was a very cold, drizzly morning and the visitor's parking garage is a good block and a half hike. It was necessary to use extra care climbing the slick granite steps. But it was worth the chill and the drizzle. I love walking up to the front door and then stepping inside and seeing again the grandeur that is the Texas Capitol.

The last time I was at the Capitol, the crowds were thick. This morning it was quiet. I decided the time to visit the Capitol would be the week of Christmas. Today I was focused on my mission to get the latest in the series of Capitol Christmas ornaments. I spent a good half hour poking around the Capitol Gift Shop and managed to talk myself out of a lot of things I didn't need. While I was there, a steady stream of folks came in for the ornament. They are popular.

I believe this is number 13 in the series and I have all but the first two. If anybody out there has the first two and doesn't want them, I would love to make a deal for them. When they hit EBAY, the bidding is fierce and I don't have much hope of ever coming out the winner.

I had intended to go from there across the plaza to the archives and do some quick genealogy lookups, but discovered the building was closed this week in their ongoing renovation activities. So I could have poked around the Capitol after all, but no way was I going to back track in the cold and rain.

I finished my second shopping errand, had lunch with little brother and visited with his cat Frida, then headed to the biggest Half Price Books that I seldom get to visit any more since the office moved. Surprise, surprise, the crowds were as thick there as they would have been at the mall. I didn't stay long. Crowds are not my thing this year.

There's a different feel in the air this year. Maybe it's the economy. Maybe it's me and everybody else is in their usual Christmas frenzy. I just know that I don't want to shop. I've enjoyed poking around in the little towns. I really enjoyed poking around in the Capitol gift shop.
If if were up to me, all the big box stores would be out of business. They've got nothing I want.


Monday, December 22, 2008

Countdown Two Days

Hello, Rudolph? I've fallen and I can't get up!

I knew I should have left Mrs. Claus' egg nog alone.

Forty-eight hours before I have to fly. Man, what a headache!


Sunday, December 21, 2008

Embarrassing Photos

I was watching Blue Collar Comedy last night on the Comedy Channel and laughing myself silly. If you need a good laugh to pick your chin up off the floor, you could do worse than to listen to two hours worth of Foxworthy, Engvall, White and Cable Guy.

Anyway, at the end of the second hour, they were showing embarrassing photos of themselves that their producers and wives had unearthed. They were all a hoot, but if you are the same age as these guys, and I'm close, you realize that they were just looking like everybody did at the time.

I was reminded of my own bizarre outfit once upon a time.

Ok, in my defense, I did not wear it out in public. This was strictly loungewear.

Well, I might have gone out and gotten the paper. Could explain why the neighbors always dashed back inside and watched me through the blinds when they saw me emerge from the house.


Saturday, December 20, 2008

Adding More to My Plate

I'm sure you will be thrilled to know I've added yet another blog. I was doing a lot of sorting and filing today and ran across a stack of essays written by my mother back in her prime. It reminded me that I have a collection of literary magazines from her days at Mary Hardin-Baylor College that carried short stories she wrote. I decided I would transcribe some of these pieces.

So, I invite you to visit Mother's Words. I'll try to post at least one new piece a week for as long as I have source material.


I Think I'm Out of Control

Genealogy is my primary distraction of choice when I need to relax. Until recently, I had a hodge podge of black notebooks that held my family records. I decided a couple of months ago that I needed to invest in a collection of identical notebooks that would all stand the same height, be the same width, and have the same labels. So I set out to revamp the family archives. Below you will see the result.

The notebooks with the brown spines are my maternal lines. Those with the blue spines are my paternal lines. And, the tally? Drum roll, please....

Almon - 1
Dancy - 1
Dunavan - 1
Dunkin - 1
Baker - 1
Beauchamp - 1
Frankum - 3
Harnesburger - 1
Harris - 1
Hodge - 6 (soon to be 7)
Huddleston - 3
Hughes - 1
Lentz - 3
Mason - 3
McAfee - 4
Mobley - 3
Morgan - 1
Niccum - 1
Reese - 1
Rice - 1
Smith - 1
Swearingen - 1
Wilcoxen - 3

A grand total of 43 notebooks and at least a half-dozen of those are straining at the seams. Just plain scary.

Do you know who your ancestors are? I do!


Thursday, December 18, 2008

I Don't Want to Talk About It

Just found the pajama top, exactly where it should have been and where I've looked for it at least 3 times.

I'm blaming a poltergeist. I AM NOT SENILE!


Me, I Want a Hula Hoop

I may have blogged about this before, so if it sounds familiar, sorry. I'm getting up in years and can't remember what I had for breakfast yesterday, let alone what I was thinking this time last year or the year before.

I have a fat collection of Christmas music on CDs, thanks in part to my being saddled some years ago with keeping seasonal music on the office intercom. The intercom at that particular time in the firm's history was a piece of work. If you didn't have music playing, the folks on hold could talk to each other while they waited. That wasn't a particularly good thing, since about half the folks that call are not happy campers due to having received a notice of delinquency from us. For most of the year, we kept your basic blah, elevator music going. But at Christmas, we all wanted to hear some mood music and you could press a button on your phone and get the intercom music at your desk, so I kept it loaded up with Christmas CDs and would swap it out every couple of days when the current crop was beginning to get old.

I have never claimed to have good taste. Sometimes my taste is pretty darned tacky. So, I admit here that I actually like The Chipmunk Song. I had a Christmas collection that included that song and my boss happened to call in and be put on hold while it was playing. He nearly had a stroke, because he absolutely despises the song. I considered torturing him with keeping it on there permanently, but I relented and that CD only gets played in my personal CD player a couple of times during December. I listened to it on the way to work this morning and decided part of its charm must be that The Chipmunks sound exactly like rat terriers would if they could sing. Including the owner hollering "ALVIN!", except in my case it would be "COCO!" since she's the one that would be wandering off, distracted by something at the window or tracking a bug across the room.

My all time favorite song is Greensleeves, which I know I've mentioned several times, and I get to listen to it a lot this time of year, since the tune was used for What Child is This?. I was poking through my Christmas CDs this morning for a new batch for the road and re-discovered an album of Christmas music on banjo that I had forgotten about. I told you, I have no taste, but it's really not that bad if you like banjo music and I do. Their version of Greensleeves was bouncy and I still absolutely loved it.

I must have 20-30 different versions of Greensleeves at this point, most of them instrumentals only, and have seriously considered ripping a CD of nothing but that piece, over and over, in every arrangement and genre. A couple of years back, somebody actually released a CD of nothing but different versions of Pachebel's Canon, another song I like very much but have no desire to listen to repetitively for an hour or more. Greensleeves, on the other hand, I don't think I would tire of.

In a total departure from the topic, have I mentioned how much I despise Christmas shopping? I once was an avid mall-rat, delighted to sniff out good deals and stay on my feet from dawn to dusk. Now I get hostile in direct proportion to the amount of crowd around me. I've been doing the scant Christmas shopping I felt I had to do this year in the small open-air malls of the little towns that circle Austin and refusing to go into Austin at all. Even the small towns are full of irritable folks who look daggers at you if you happen to be ahead of them when the good parking space opens up and you, rightfully so, take advantage of it. Nobody is going to yield right of way to anybody else. I thought I was going to witness a rumble the other day when a girl was standing in the middle of a prime parking space, holding it for somebody that was two rows over and refusing to move for the guy who had also seen the spot and had no one to hop out and go stand and hold it for him.

This is just the parking lots. The stores themselves should have bright yellow caution tape draped around them.

Remember when Christmas was something to look forward to? The only thing I'm looking forward to this year is the two weeks of vacation that happen to coincide with this madness. Me and the two Chipmunks that live with me plan to be as inert as possible. Let everybody else make themselves crazy. I have two bottles of amaretto, a good supply of Sprite to mix with it, a stack of unwatched DVDs and a knitting project, not to mention a GREAT big pile of new genealogy finds to sort and file, and a new dollhouse to piddle with.

But no hula hoop. Wonder if I could still keep one going?


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

For the Cat Lovers

Little brother brought the LOL cats to my attention awhile back. These are photos, mostly of cats, with clever captions. I'm not sure why, but misspelling is a pre-requisite for these things. I am beginning to make it a daily stop for a good laugh.

If you haven't had your daily LOL cats you need to click here.



Ok, I ask you, how does one manage to lose a pajama top? I'm at a loss. I wore a pair of pajamas sometime last week. I did the wash over the weekend and the top is gone. Poof! Nowhere to be seen. I've checked the hamper, behind the washer, in the other drawers, behind the drawer it should be in, the closet (on the odd chance I hung it up). Gone. A sock missing I can understand, but a whole pajama top? It's a puzzle.

Today coming home, I hit another puzzle. I drive the road between here and the office so much that I put my brain in neutral when I head out in either direction and suddenly find myself at the other end with very little memory of what passed in between. I was running a little late leaving the office today and had considered making a stop in Elgin, but decided I had better get on my way. Mother is okay being left for 10-20 minutes on her own, but more than that is risky. So I breezed on through Elgin and headed down Highway 95.

Suddenly the traffic came to a dead halt and I realized the road ahead was full of cops, ambulances and people milling around after a car accident. It was only a minute or two when all the traffic in my lane began to make U-turns and head back the other way. I hesitated when I saw a young man approach the car ahead of me and talk for awhile and then head my way.

He said they were turning all the traffic around and had the road ahead completely closed down and did I know another way to get to Bastrop because the lady ahead of me was not from the area and neither was he. I pondered and told him, yes, but it would require going back to Elgin. At that moment I realized I had no idea where exactly I was. Had I passed Sayers Road? Yes, I knew I had done that but how far back? Had I passed the road that connects to Lake Bastrop Acres? I didn't think I had. I just wasn't sure how long it would take to get back to Elgin.

About that time a cop was striding angrily toward us, gesturing to turn around, turn around, turn around, while the lady was trying to get him to come talk to her and tell her how to detour. I decided no matter where I was, I had to go back, so back I went. And discovered I had been about 6 miles out of Elgin, and while the Sayers cut-off came up in about 5 minutes I knew the road was too rough to make good time, so I opted to keep going all the way back to Highway 290.

From there I sped toward McDade and the little farm-to-market road that I knew would bring me back to Highway 95 below the wreck. I was really running late at this point, but there wasn't much I could do about it. I finally got home, about 35 minutes later than usual, to find everything and everybody was just fine.

It didn't occur to me until later that I could have turned on the navigation system and figured out exactly where I was. And maybe a shorter detour. But, then again, probably not. I just would have had a better idea of how late I would be.

I do wonder if that poor lady ahead of me made it to Bastrop ok.


Monday, December 15, 2008

Caught Without My Camera

I made a quick stop on the way to work today to take a look at a dog up for adoption at the Bastrop County Animal Shelter. He looked very much like a rat terrier in the photo that ran in Saturday's paper and I've been thinking it's about time to go back to three dogs. I'm just not being adequately supervised these days.

It's a funny thing. With all the special dogs I've had in my life, they have always come straight to me and crawled in my lap and given me a look like "what took you so long to get here?". It was that way with Bebop, with Xana, with Mojo and with Coco. I just knew that little Tiger would leap into my arms and that would be that. I took along the pet carrier and planned to drop him off with my vet in Elgin to get a thorough check up before he came home.

It was not to be. Tiger wanted nothing to do with me. He circled around the room, dodging out of the way every time I tried to pet him. When I finally got close enough to touch him, when he cornered himself behind the garbage can, I offered my fingers for him to smell and he snapped at me and barked. I spent about 20 minutes talking my no-fail puppy chatter and he just stood beyond arm's length and barked.

I almost never fail to make friends with dogs and cats within 5 minutes. There was obviously something about me he just didn't like. So I regretfully said goodbye, petted the other two dogs that were running around and left without him. There's a little dog out there somewhere waiting for me. Tiger is waiting for somebody else.

The animal shelter is out in Lake Bastrop acres, an area that was once part of Camp Swift. It's mostly country roads and I wound my way slowly back to the highway. Just before I got back to Highway 95, I rounded a corner and saw a big clump of something black in the culvert.

It turned out to be the biggest convention of buzzards I have ever seen. I could not see the object of their concentration for all the shiny black backs that were turned to me. They sat in a big round circle, all facing inward, and totally unconcerned about the traffic passing behind them. There must have been at least two dozen of them. It was an awesome sight.

And my camera was sitting on my desk back at home.

Two lost opportunities in one morning.


Sunday, December 14, 2008

Taking the Tour, Part 3

The two other houses I toured yesterday included this Bed & Breakfast that has recently undergone a change of management. The three suites upstairs are beautifully appointed. If anyone needs a place to stay in Bastrop, this looks like a good choice.

This second of the two was just across the street from the restored Victorian shown in the previous post. I kept wondering why I did not remember this house and grabbed an opportunity to quiz one of the docents. He explained that it had been moved to that lot from a lot that was now the parking area for the public library and that the second story was a new addition to the original building.

That's when it hit me that this lovely house started life as the old falling-down house that sat behind the Episcopal Church and was owned by a hippie couple back in the days I had known it. Before its current incarnation, the dog trot was still open to the back yard and I had sat on that wide porch and interviewed the owner for a college project in about 1975. He was a character who had a substantial income from inheritance, but you would never have known it by looking at him. My purpose in interviewing him was in connection with a research project for my marketing class. He owned an antique store downtown and my project involved determining the climate for a new antiques business in a small, historic town like Bastrop.

The house sat boarded up for a long time after the couple moved away and the property was eventually tapped for the library's parking lot. I had presumed the house had been razed. As it turns out, a local couple who has made a hobby of buying old tumble-down houses, moving them to new locations and restoring them worked their magic again. This one they chose for their own residence and still live there.

You would never guess this was the same house. Some people have vision and can create works of art from someone else's discards.


Taking the Tour, Part 2

I'm still fascinated with the beauty of the house I visited yesterday. My mind remembers so vividly its decrepit state thirty years ago. The front of the house was all you could see from the street and I never knew how much more of the house there was unseen. One wall of the house displays five or six photos of the "before" version and the contrast of then and now is amazing.

The rear extension was a shambles, according to those photos. Big holes gaped along its length.

The addition at the end is new and holds the master suite. The house has a basement that has been converted into a game room and den and includes a working vintage jukebox and a glass panel that once lived in the old Miley pharmacy. The Miley family was one of the early owners of the house. The walls of the basement are the stone foundation and the floor was originally dirt, but was converted to concrete during the renovation.

The back yard contained a type of swing I've always admired in old movies. I have no idea what to call this style, but it always reminds me of southern gardens where ladies in big hats and flowing gowns could sit and enjoy the sultry outdoors while sipping freshly made lemonade.

This is a gorgeous property. I overheard a couple of visitors yesterday talking and one remarked that she would love to acquire an old house. The other was shocked and couldn't believe she would want to take on such a project.

Sure, it would be a lot of work. But if you could afford to do it, the results could be wonderful. One just needs to win the lottery. Or marry rich.


Saturday, December 13, 2008

Taking the Tour

Every second Saturday of December, the Bastrop Historical Society organizes a Historic Homes Tour. I've been going for many years now, because I can't resist the opportunity to see inside some of the grand old ladies that grace old town Bastrop. This year they included the old Christian Church, which was the building that our church congregation was using when we first moved to Bastrop in the early 1970s. The building was our Sunday home for 3 or 4 years until the young congregation became financially able to build their own. Today it is once again being used by the Christian Church and has been lovingly restored and expanded.

When I was deciding which of the houses I would tour today, I realized I had no pictures of the interior of the church, so I stopped by there first.

The interior is lovely, full of Victorian woodwork and stained glass windows. Back when we worshipped there, there was no air conditioning and the windows could be opened on a hinge that tilted them outward. The baptistry is hidden beneath the floor of the podium, with large doors that could be lifted up for access. I've never been in another church with these unique features.

The belfry is accessible up a steep and narrow stairway. The little room at the top of the stairs is only about 5 feet square and we were so short of education space back in those days that my Sunday School class met up there for awhile (until we moved across the street to the waiting room of a small pharmacy, which was about half again as large). While we were there, the house next door was purchased to add educational space and the present church has expanded that property into a larger facility and the grounds between the two buildings have been turned into a lovely garden area.

The docent who was manning the front of the church was very interested in my recollections and insisted on taking my picture seated at the piano, a place where I spent a lot of time once upon a time.

I had a really good time re-exploring this old building and then I walked about 5 blocks to visit another old Victorian building that has long intrigued me. When we moved to Bastrop, this house was a tumble down wreck and no one could figure out what was holding it together. It was occupied at the time by a little old lady without the means to repair it. During the real estate boom a few years later, someone bought the property and began the arduous task of bringing it back to life. It is hard to believe this is the same house.

It is now owned by a politician and the interior is crammed full of antiques and items of Texas historical interest. My fingers were itching as I walked through, but the best thing in the whole house was the library upstairs - 3 sides of the room were large windows and every square space of wall had custom cabinetry to hold a huge collection of books. The view was fabulous. I would cheerfully kill for a room like that.

I visited three more houses of the seven on the tour (I skipped one that has been on the tour several times, the old bank building and the museum since I had been there recently), then snaked my way out of downtown. Today was not only the homes tour but the monthly arts fair and the Christmas parade and just about every street downtown was blocked off. I don't know how the visitors figured out how to get around. We locals took off down alleys and side streets to make our escape from the Christmas crowds.

It's funny to talk to the docents at these old buildings. You realize very quickly that most of them are recent imports to Bastrop. They start to tell you about the house you are in and you are tempted to take over and tell them a few things. I guess I've reached the point where I have to admit that I'm a Bastrop old-timer. Hard to believe that I've now lived here more than 60% of my life.

I was already feeling old today. Now I feel as ancient as these old buildings.


Friday, December 12, 2008

Little Boy Blue

Mr. Mojo has not had a good week and this morning was the straw that broke his little rat terrier's back. After several months had passed with no seizure, this morning he was barely awake before one hit him hard. Mom sat and held him until it had passed, while big sis Coco hovered close by, worrying. He stuck close by me while I dressed for work, giving me the super guilts for daring to leave him when he had been through such a trauma. So we got Goldie to sit down and let him cuddle with her while I slipped out of the house.

A couple of days ago it was pretty darned cold when we were headed out for our daily walk and I decided to put sweaters on them. We've tried putting t-shirts on them from time to time and Coco doesn't really mind it, but Mojo thinks wearing clothes stinks. Still, it was really cold and since Mom was cold, the babies needed to wear sweaters.

We lasted about half a block before I gave up and stripped them down to their birthday suits right there in public. I would tug on the leash and they would walk a few steps, stiff-legged and reproachful. Coco was willing to try it a bit longer, but Mojo said nuthin' doin', get this #*@& thing off me! If they get pneumonia, it's not my fault.

Earlier this week my laptop bit the dust, so I've not had the option to work upstairs at night. This has not set well with Mojo, because he likes to go to bed about 8:30. I've learned I can sometimes go ahead and put him to bed and, if I turn on the television set, he seems to think that Mom will be coming to bed soon and he is content to snuggle into the covers and crash. Last night I wanted to work on the computer, so I put him to bed and all went well for about an hour until he woke up and realized Mom had never come to bed. He set up a howl and a half, which sets Coco off in sympathy howls. One of these days the police are going to land on my porch when the neighbors report me for dog abuse. You would think I was skinning them alive when they start the howling fits.

It's just not easy being a little dog with a tyrant's heart. We are hoping things go better for the little guy next week.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Matthew Would Be Shocked

Since I have a small collection of McDade pottery of my own and about a year ago learned that at least two of the pieces are actually desirable to collectors, I've been paying attention to the items that pass through EBAY. I actually bought one of my nicer jugs through EBAY a couple of years back. Mostly I see the 2-gallon crocks come up for bid, but occasionally you see something a little different.

This past week a piece of the later pottery, circa 1940s-1950s, came on the EBAY market. It was a small planter in the shape of a swan, glazed in yellow. This period of McDade pottery reminds me a little of McCoy pottery and was not something I had heretofore considered to be valuable. I considered placing a bid, but it rapidly passed my budget in just a couple of bids and so I contented myself with watching the bidding war.

Matthew Dunkin, the founder of the original McDade pottery business, was the brother of my great-great-great grandmother, something I've mentioned here before. The early pottery was functional and generally of earth-tones. The second generation pottery was quite often glazed in a hideous brown. By the time this little swan was produced, the business had drifted into a combination of the functional items like crocks and the commercial type items like ashtrays, banks and planters. Many of these decorative items were embossed with the names of local businesses and given away as business promotions.

Over the course of a week, I began to blink when I checked on the progress of the auction. When it hit $300, I was amused. When it hit $600, I was shocked. The little piece finally sold for a whopping $811. I'm betting it originally sold for less than a $1.

Matthew may still be spinning in his grave. And I'm pushing my pieces into more protected spots.


Monday, December 08, 2008

Break for a Bit of a Game

Long, difficult weekend that I don't care to remember, so in lieu of a recap let's head for a mini diversion. Again, this probably belongs in the genealogy blog, but I make the rules and I can break them.

I'm listening to another Mitford book this week and was reminded of an old game. Who would you invite to a dinner party if you could have anyone living or dead attend? A lot of people pick outstanding folks of historic importance, such as Shakespeare, Lincoln, Churchill, etc. Some go for celebrities, like Marilyn Monroe, Robert Redford or, heaven help us, Paris Hilton.

I immediately thought of all the questions I could get answered if I could spend a couple of hours with some of my ancestors:

Albert McAfee, who could tell me some of the adventures he had in the Indian Wars in frontier Kansas, tell me some stories about his first wife who died so young, and maybe who his grandparents were.

Heck, why not let him bring his first wife Johney Elizabeth Underwood, so I could get her story straight from her own lips, starting with whether she was born an Underwood or acquired that name from a first husband.

Burl Mason, who could answer the mystery surrounding his death by hanging. Suicide or murder?

Elmo Hodge, who could tell me about his peripatetic parents and also something about why he chose to enlist in the Navy under an assumed name and what all he did during the period between his separation from Cora and his untimely death at age 24.

Frances Hughes Dunavan, who could enlighten me about her people who were weavers in Ireland.

Mary Harworth Mason Cox Massey Smith, and heaven only knows who else she might have married, could tell me what spaceship she dropped from and perhaps a few details about each of her many husbands.

David Asbury Beauchamp, who could relate tales of his life as a traveling ciruit Methodist Episcopal clergyman in Ohio and Indiana.

Hezekiah and Joseph Mobley, the only brothers of their family to survive the Civil War. I would love to hear about their adventures during and after the war. Hezekiah could tell me about being at Appomattox with General Lee.

Finally, to round out the number to an even 10, I would include William W. Frankum, who could help me bridge that gap to the previous generation and explain how it came to be that he and one son fought for the Confederacy and another son fought for the Union.

What a dinner party that would be.


Thursday, December 04, 2008

About 30 Years Later

So, in my ongoing quest to drive my kinfolks crazy, let's take another look at my Ging cousins from last weekend. Now let's jump in the time machine and travel back a few decades. Once upon a time, they and their mother were spending a few days with our grandmother during the summer. They all, along with my mother and brother, spent a day together and toured the countyside where my grandmother had grown up. One of their stops was the Upper Cedar Creek Cemetery where my grandmother Lucy's father and grandfather are buried. (I was working, so did not get to join in the fun. Wish I had been there.)

Mother came back with a camera full of photos and two of the gems that day were my little boy cousins, resting as the grownups poked around the cemetery. Mother said their mother had tried to run them off their resting places, but was stopped by my grandmother who said to leave them alone. She was certain that their ancestors would not mind them perching on their headstones.

Grandmother Lucy with Glenn

Jeff and Robert

They were cute little toots back then. Hard to believe they've turned into the fine looking men they are. Now they have their own cute little kids running around.

God, I feel old.


Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Post Thanksgiving

Alas, all good things must come to an end. It was back to the grind Monday morning. I spent the last two days of vacation visiting family at the annual get-together at my uncle's house in the country (Saturday) and being as lazy as possible (Sunday).

Last year the Thanksgiving family reunion had to be cancelled due to illness in the family. This year almost everybody showed up to catch up on two-years' worth of family gossip. The weather was crisp and cool and the Ging grandkids had a great time creating piles of leaves and then jumping into them.

My uncle's house has a terrific screened porch/breezeway where the cousins gathered to visit before lunch was served.

We are due a cold day in July, it would seem, since I was able to snag a photo of my aunt with all three of her boys, an almost impossible feat.

We started a new tradition this year and rather than have all the cooks exhausted by lunch time, we dug into a huge pile of barbecue. Nobody missed the turkey and dressing.

Every time we have these gatherings, I can't help but recall when they were held at my grandmother's house. All of the women would be in the kitchen cooking and talking at the same time and all of them kept up with all of the conversations. Sometimes it would seem like there was a huge clatter in my ears where all the conversations collided and I would have to periodically leave the room to let my head clear. As I grew up, I too acquired the ability to monitor a half-dozen coversations and take part in all of them at the same time.

When my grandmother died, my uncle took over the hosting of the annual event and once a year we all head back to touch base with our roots. We catch up on new grandkids, new significant others and new jobs and tell old stories and share old memories. We may only see each other once a year, but we are family and when we come together we pick up where we left off.

My mother's health will no longer permit her to take part, but the other siblings were all there this year.

Something tells me Horace and Lucy were in attendance as well. They always loved it when the kids and grandkids were home. Time together with family is quality time.


Monday, December 01, 2008

Ahead of the Game

So this morning I read an article that says the hot color for this season is RED.

I could have told them that 6 months ago.

Someone should follow me around and write these things down.

Oh, wait. Maybe they are.


Friday, November 28, 2008

Black Friday Project

I do not poke my nose out of the house on the Friday after Thanksgiving. I am not suicidal and see no reason to try to negotiate any kind of retail establishment during the madness that is Black Friday.

So, today I tackled the dollhouse.



I played with some furniture placement to get some ideas on how I want to decorate and to help show off the lithographs. All in all, the assembly was fairly painless. The roof pieces gave me some grief, but I've definitely tackled worse. If somebody needed a dollhouse for a granddaughter by Christmas, this would be a good choice.

Now I can begin piddling with bed dressings and curtains and accessories and figuring out just what direction to take. In other words, the fun stuff.

And, of course, deciding on a name. Inn the Pink? The Pink Camellia?


Thursday, November 27, 2008

Born to be Wild

Happy Thanksgiving to all! We had a quiet one at this end. Little brother came down for the day, so it was just the 7 of us - Mom, Gran, Uncle David, Boo, Scout, Coco and Mojo.

The wee ones love it when Uncle David comes down and they get the chance for a real walk in the woods. And yes, to answer that age-old question, Mojos do poop in the woods.

We luuvvv Uncle David

The boys lead the way. We girls stop and investigate interesting smells.

Mojo doesn't like it when Mom falls behind. "You coming?"

Back at the ranch, we decided to try out Uncle David's motorcycle.

Yep, born to be wild. That's us to a "T".


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Dog Days

The wee ones love it when Mom is on vacation, even if she leaves them behind while she runs around. They know there is the possibility she will be coming in earlier than usual and she's generally up for a little extra romping in the side yard.

Today's plan was minimal - get a massage first thing this morning. It's been a long time since I was on a regular massage schedule and I figured I was long overdue. Plus, my back has been killing me and I know the therapist I currently see is very good at getting the tension worked out of it.

By 10:30 this morning I was a puddle of warm satisfaction. I was so woozy afterwards that I could barely drive home. The girl is good at what she does. I dropped in at the house just long enough to log into the office network and do a little spot of work that couldn't wait until next week, then decided to get the few errands done that were on my list and get back home for a nap.

A little after noon, the dogs and I climbed back into bed, pulled the covers over our heads and slept a solid 90 minutes. I hardly ever take a nap, so this was a happy surprise for the wee ones.

When we woke up, I offered to take them for their afternoon walk a little early and they were delighted. As we were climbing the hill on the dirt road to our south, I caught a glimpse of something running in the neighbor's back yard. Fearful that there was a dog running loose, I scooped mine up as a precaution. We walked a few more steps and a large deer bounded out of the neighbor's yard, glanced our way, and dashed off into the woods across the road. This was about as close as the dogs had ever been to a deer and they were paralyzed with delight. Nothing would do but that we trail after him a ways into the wood in hopes they would see him again. But he was long gone.

An early supper and back to bed. It's been a good day to be a dog.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Happy Piddler

Here's to a schedule of piddling. First day of vacation was spent at the outlet mall in San Marcos, with stops at Hobby Lobby and Half-Price Books along the way. I was able to replace the pair of pants that had somehow gotten tangled in the hinge of the bathroom hamper (I still have no idea how that happened, because it was virtually impossible to get them free from the wretched thing without using scissors), add a few new items to my wardrobe, buy office Christmas gifts and enjoy a beautiful day driving through rural Texas.

Second day of vacation was given over to prowling the area antique stores. My excuse was the need to buy a friend's Christmas gift, but I don't really need an excuse to go antiquing. I started in Elgin, where I found some cool Texas history books to add to my personal reference library.

Today I was inspired to paw through stacks of vintage sheet music, where I found some nice golden oldies.

The last piece I must admit was purchased because of the name of the composer. This is a familiar hymn, found in every Baptist hymnal under a slightly different name, but I thought it might be nice to frame this for display. I don't yet know that my McAfee line connects with his, but I've always considered Cleland an adopted member of the family.

After a couple of hours in Elgin, I drove leisurely toward Smithville by way of McDade and Paige and cut through the countryside on FM 2104 which takes you close to Grassyville, where my McAfee great-great grandfather once lived. When I got to Smithville, I indulged in the Chile Rellano plate at La Cabana (um, um good) and then headed downtown to explore their antique shops, because I still had not found the gift I was seeking.

I found lost ancestors to rescue. (By the way, someone finally claimed one of my Rescued Ancestors. A great-grandson surfaced to take possession of a lovely wedding photo.)

And I found more great vintage music. I now have Just Because, You Are My Sunshine, Mom and Dad's Waltz, a couple of Jimmie Rodgers pieces and a special piece written to celebrate 150 years of Austin music. Cool stuff.

I finally found the gift of pottery I was hunting and found two pieces of the same pottery to add to my own collection. I definitely did not need additional pottery coming on board, but I liked them. No apologies.

I even took a swing out to the big cemetery in Smithville on a Find a Grave mission. I really didn't think I would be lucky enough to find the grave that someone had requested be photographed, but my usual luck in this pursuit held and I drove right to it.

Speaking of luck, things are popping in the genealogy category these days. I hired a professional researcher in Kentucky to do some checking for me on my Hodge line and she's found some goodies already. We are filing requests with the Kentucky archives to get copies of several lawsuit case files involving my great-great and great-great-great grandfathers. The first two requests in have netted us responses from the archives requesting additional copy funds because the files are so big. I'm salivating.

Finally, the dollhouse arrived yesterday. Lots of pieces, but looks like a cinch to assemble when I have a stretch of a few hours to devote to it.

Vacation is fun.


Monday, November 24, 2008

Small Town News

I am reading/listening my way through a series of books by Jan Karon, set in the fictional small town of Mitford, I think in North Carolina. The center of the books is Father Tim Cavanaugh, an Episcopal priest, who deals with the day to day life in a small town of characters. The stories are gentle and sweet. There are religious overtones, but not the heavy-handed kind that get old after a few chapters. The books are uplifting and as you begin to know the characters, you begin seeing in them people you grew up with yourself in your own small town.

In other words, they remind me very much of growing up in Smiley, particularly since my point of view was from within a little church.

One of the characters is the local newspaper editor and from time to time one of the characters will read an article of local interest, complete with comments on the mispellings. Deja vu.

We lived 9 years in Smiley. At the time we were there, the local newspaper was The Smiley Tabloid. I think it died shortly after we left the area, or maybe it merged into The Nixon News, which is itself defunct now. Daddy, being the Baptist minister and a Scoutmaster and for a time a City Councilman, got his name in the paper frequently. I, too, appeared sporadically in its pages by virtue of piano recitals and as valedictorian of my class.

What is noteworthy here is that for 9 years I don't think they ever once spelled our names correctly. It got to be a joke in our family. If they managed to get the last name correct, which was seldom, then there would be a typo in the first name. If they managed to get Daddy's name completely correct, inevitably one of the other members of the family would be mentioned and they would mispell his or her name. They just could not get it right. (Today Smiley's local news is courtesy of The Cow Country Courier, to which little brother is subscribed. We made the local news column recently and they actually spelled every name correctly.)

There's nothing like small town life. For instance, Daddy getting elected Councilman. As it happened, the person running for the position either died or dropped out of the race. For a joke, Daddy wrote in his own name. No one else in the little town wrote in a name and he ended up electing himself and serving a term on the City Council. I learned something from that. Never, never write your name in as a joke unless you want to risk a possibly unwelcome surprise the next morning. Daddy was surprised, but I think he really enjoyed his tenure on the council.

There were so many characters in that town that someone should write a book. There was the old man who drove so atrociously that a prominent man in the community warned his wife that if she needed to stop in town and she saw Mr. Whatsit's car, keep on driving. One day she stopped at the grocery, even though Mr. Whatsit was parked on the other side of the street headed the other way. She thought she was safe. Mr. Whatsit got in his car, made a huge U-turn and slammed into her car on the opposite site of the street.

There was another old man who was driving home after dark one night and got stuck. Not in a ditch. Not in mud. He had driven up on a cow that had been hit and was lying dead in the road. He had not seen her and managed to get himself stranded up in the air, all four wheels off the ground.

I miss those days, when everybody knew everybody else and everybody watched out for everybody else. I could walk home from school and have at least a half-dozen offers for a ride home. If it happened to be after dark, I was perfectly safe if I chose to walk the entire way home. I might not know who lived in every house, but they for sure knew me and would have taken me in or come to my aid without a second thought. Smiley was more than a little town in those days - it was a family. We had our rotten folks, to be sure, but doesn't every family?

To experience life in a small town before cable tv or the internet was a privilege I'm glad I had the chance to enjoy. For awhile, at least ten books worth, I'm getting a reminder of what it was like.


Saturday, November 22, 2008

Is It Just Me?

Does this not indicate a total lack of respect for poor St. Francis?

Early in the morning I've been enjoying the overnight work of some kind of spider. Their ground webs sparkle in the morning dew.

Today starts a full week of vacation and hopefully some fun stuff for a change.

Oh, yes. The thumb is still sore, but improving. I may be able to tackle assembly of that dollhouse after all.