Wednesday, January 30, 2008

From the Back Porch

The City of Bastrop, in their infinite wisdom, has cleared the path for a new shopping center on the east side of town. All the way from Bastrop to Round Rock every day I see land being cleared and buildings under construction. How many ugly houses, homogenized stores and lofts do we need?

When I can't stand it any more, I walk out on the back deck and breath the deeply scented pines that make up my back yard.


Sunday, January 27, 2008

Cindy's Most Excellent Adventure

After several weeks of cold weather and relative inactivity, I was getting a little stir crazy. So when little brother arrived today to mother sit and the weather was a pleasant 70 degrees, I decided I would have an adventure.

Awhile back I was thwarted in an attempt to obtain a grave photo for a distant Hodge relative. The little cemetery in summer was shoulder high with weeds and I had no desire to die by rattlesnake bite, so I had made a note in the back of my mind that I should check back after we had some freezes and the weeds would be dead. Today I headed back for the little cemetery, not far from Elgin. Since I figured I might not be able to revisit it again any time soon, I planned on taking photos of every stone I could. It had not seemed like there were many.

I was bemused to discover that, while the weeds were indeed dead, they had not crumpled. Instead, there were stalks of what appeared to be dead ragweed and tall grass that was still thick enough to keep me from moving easily from grave to grave. The historic cemetery sits behind a more current and fenced cemetery, so I wound my way around the chain-link fence and proceeded to the first clump of tombstones I could see.

Most of the stones were very old and in very bad condition. The cemetery has been long neglected. Three or four wrought-iron fenced plots were about 10-20 yards behind the newer cemetery and I figured that was the main part of the cemetery, so I fought my way through the grass, the dead stalks and very healthy briar vines that threatened to trip me if I wasn't paying attention. Between the newer cemetery and the wrought-iron fences, I snapped about a dozen photos of random tombstones. Many stones were toppled over, lying flat on the ground and covered with leaves and dead vegetation. I cleared the ones I stumbled over and took their picture and figured that for every stone I found, there were probably a dozen more hidden from view.

When I had finished photographing all the graves inside the wrought-iron enclosures, I pondered where my missing relatives' graves might be. All around was more waist high grass, but I thought I spotted some irises a little farther out and I knew that had to mean graves. I wrestled my way through the briars and discovered that yes, there were more graves, and from where I now stood I could see more and more clumps of irises in the distance. I kept pushing on, stumbling over a grave here and a grave there and still there were more clumps of irises in the distance. I was getting further and further away from the car, but I could still see it and I could also see at this point that another road bordered the outer edge of the property. I thought that if I got too deep in the vegetation, I could walk back to the car by way of the road.

I finally reached a fence and realized that I had found the back edge of the old cemetery. I glanced around and spotted five or six very large monuments about 20 yards away and was headed that way, thinking about the possibility of coming back and obtaining some of the iris bulbs at a later time. Just as I was about half-way to the cluster of monuments, I glanced back at the car and realized I was no longer alone.

I pause here to let you know that I was not alone to begin with. I had the company of two dogs on a neighboring property who had been running the fence and barking at me off and on since I had arrived. They had finally given up and had not said a word about the arrival of another car. Since I was in a fairly remote area, I stopped to ponder whether I should stay where I was or move toward the dirt road, which was closer than my car. Then I got another look at the new arrival and realized that the police had arrived and were checking out my vehicle.

I was surrounded by briars, but I decided I had better get back to my car before somebody decided it needed to be towed. I moved as fast as I could and just about the time the policeman had reached my car, I was close enough to wave and get his attention. He waved back and waited patiently until I stumbled out of the weeds, breathless with the exertion. I'm not sure what he was expecting, but it wasn't a middle-aged woman waving a camera and panting like a racehorse. But it was obvious I wasn't a dangerous criminal on the lam and he was curious to know what I was up to.

So I explained about the old cemetery and that I was a historian trying to photo document the stones still standing. He obviously did not know there was a cemetery back there. We passed a few minutes in conversation while he explained he was just making sure that my vehicle had not been stolen and dumped. I thanked him for that, explained again what I had been doing (I don't think he believed his ears the first time) and he was on his way.

Now, you might think at this point I would have given up and gone home myself. I was panting pretty good and I had a lot of briars to plow through to get back to where I was. But then, if you thought I would give up, you don't know me very well.

So I began hacking and clawing my way back into the far reaches of the property where I had spotted the cluster of big tombstones. Along the way I stumbled over some more of the smaller, almost covered up stones. I finally reached my target and discovered another dozen or so well-marked graves, including that of my relatives. On the way back to the car the second time, I kept feeling hard stones under my feet where they had been buried by dirt and weeds. There was not much I could do about it, except wish that some group would take this little cemetery on for restoration. It's hard to believe that with so many historical groups and cemetery associations that are active in Bastrop County, this little remnant of the Hog Eye Baptist Church has been lost to time and will be lost to the elements before very many more years have passed.

On the way home, I impulsively decided to try a different road, which lead me past this Texas relic.

Nothing like an old bridge to make you want to stop and take a picture. However, at this point I wasn't feeling much like walking and I had to drive back and forth a couple of times before I could stop on the bridge alongside and get a few pictures without holding up the local traffic.

My little outing in the country at an end, I made a stop at the grocery store and then headed back to cabin fever central. But, to end the day, little brother and I took the dogs for a ramble in the back woods just down from the house and tonight the dogs are happy and zonked out and I'm feeling de-stressed but certain that tomorrow I will be sore from all the unusual activity.

Today was fun. And, before too much longer, I plan to get those iris bulbs.


Friday, January 25, 2008

Neither Rain Nor Sleet

The last three days have been bitterly cold and I just could not face the daily walk when I got in. The wee ones were beginning to get cabin fever. Today was still cold, but at least the rain had stopped, so I bundled up and forced myself to take them on their appointed rounds.

Three days. They had a lot of pee-mail to catch up with.


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Happily Digging in Dirt

Ok, you Hodge kinfolk out there, more good dirt has surfaced on the old black sheep ancestor, Dr. Henry. This guy was a stinker deluxe and I find it amusing that I have so much fun chasing him.

I am proud of my upright, honest, hard-working ancestor preachers, teachers and farmers. I'll sing their praises to anyone who will listen. But, ask me about old Henry and I can get downright verbose as I start rattling off the good dirt. I can't help it. It just seems like the black sheep of the family are the ones that are the most interesting.

Old Henry is probably fuming and fussing on the other side, aggravated that his great-great-great granddaughter is exposing his misdeeds to his other descendants. On the other hand, he seems a completely unrepentant old devil and may be puffing up with pride amongst the other sinners in hell. (I just don't see how he could have ended up anywhere else.)

Just in this week is a 60 page divorce file from the Kentucky archives, relating the final days of his first marriage. We already knew that ole Hank treated his second wife (our ancestress) like crap. Turns out he did the same thing to his first wife that he left back in Tennessee. Accusations of adultery and desertion ended with Ailcey getting her divorce and complete custody of their 8-year-old daughter. Depositions of neighbors and family indicate that Henry was a man of "roaming disposition" who definitely had a mean streak.

All indications are that Henry's father was a good man - a Baptist preacher, well liked and with compassion enough to give some property to his first daughter-in-law in order that she would have some income after his son lit a shuck for parts unknown. Henry's mother, on the other hand, may have been mentally unstable or, at the very least, mean. Henry seems to have taken after his mother.

The Hodge files are growing exponentially these days. My two notebooks for the Hodge line suddenly exploded into five notebooks, with more records arriving daily. Fun, fun, fun.


Monday, January 21, 2008

Nostalgic Envy

Our grandparents grew their own food, made their own clothes, did not pay cable tv fees or cell phone fees or water bills involving new sewer hookups. They were, in many ways, completely self-sufficient.

Yes, they had to work mighty hard. But, then on the other hand, they had no need to ever run to Wal-Mart for anything.

Lucky folks.


Sunday, January 20, 2008

Degrees of Separation

In preparation for the spring genealogy field trip, I have been busily updating my family database with new information received from a cousin in Kentucky. He is busily documenting all the brothers and sisters of my great-great-great-great grandfather William Hodge and I've been so busy that I have fallen way behind in getting my own files updated.

I have put a lot of new folks into my database this past week. I just checked the status of my file and found that I now have a total of 11,208 relatives in my database. Many of those folks I am related to multiple times, thanks to intermarriages in many of the lines. Cousins marrying cousins in the Lentz, Hodge and Wilcoxen lines. A half-brother marrying a step-daughter in the Mason and McAfee lines. Sometimes it gets really difficult to make all the right connections in my Family TreeMaker program to get the relationships to line up correctly.

The longer I do this, the smaller the world seems and the less isolated I feel.

In other news, Mr. Mojo is back to normal, but still a little uneasy about what happened. He's sticking close to his Mommy. I think he's going to be fine by morning.


Pride Followed By Panic

This afternoon I had a rare attack of energy and decided it was time for a thorough cleaning of the refrigerator and freezer. Things inside there had gotten to the frightening stage. I have been sliding by with the lick and a promise cleaning for too long and today I did it right. Every shelf came out for a good washing, the walls were scrubbed clean and everything out of date was tossed.

This kept me occupied for the better part of a couple of hours. In the background I had an old movie on that I had somehow never seen before. If you haven't caught A Face in the Crowd, starring Patricia Neal and a very young Andy Griffith, you should do so the next time you have a chance. But, I digress.

While I worked, the dogs and cats napped. Mojo was curled up on the chaise, sleeping peacefully.

I had just finished the cleaning job and was patting myself on the back when the dogs suddenly erupted in Mother's room. This is a normal occurrence when anything moves outside that window. A dog passing by, a squirrel, a leaf blowing in the wind. I was at a good stopping point, so I went to see what was going on and to check on Mother before taking the dogs for a walk. Mojo was hopping around, perfectly normal, and then the next instant was having some kind of spastic fit.

Mojo was terrified and his Mommy wasn't far behind. A fear that is always forefront in my mind is that Mother will drop one of her Parkinson's pills and that one of the animals will find it. I was frantically trying to decide what to do and at the same time holding a shaking, shivering, scared little dog and trying to calm him down.

I finally realized that the fit had come on too suddenly to have been something he ate. One moment fine, the next moment not. And they had been having jumping, barking fits at the window just before. I decided he probably had jumped wrong and pinched a nerve or thrown his neck out of place. I sat on the floor and held him and continued to try and calm him. It took about 5 minutes, but he gradually stopped shaking and started moving normally. His eyes never lost their awareness, another sign I took as favorable. But he was still scared to move, afraid it would come back.

So, we are sitting on the chaise, with Mojo cuddled up beside me in a blanket. A 30 minute nap ought to do wonders to cure what ails him. Coco has joined us, but is a little miffed that her promised walk didn't materialize.

I think Mommy will have a nice toddy after awhile and try to settle her own nerves.

Just took all the fun out of having a clean refrigerator.


Thursday, January 17, 2008


Ok, I'm a little old lady. Want proof?

First the background. When I find shoes I like, I am apt to buy them in several different colors. This is what I did a year or so ago when I not only found a good style of shoe at the Hush Puppies store, but they were running a fabulous sale at the time. I ended up with about 6 or 8 pair of dress shoes in various shades and various heel heights.

So a couple of days ago, I put on a pair of bone heels and decided that I would have to have a lower heel for the pants I was wearing that day. I reached into the closet and grabbed the same shoes, with lower heels, popped them on and off I went.

Fast forward to late in the day. When I was getting ready for bed, I picked up the shoes where I had kicked them off when I got home and discovered that I had worn two different shoes all day. Not only were they not the same color, they were different heel heights. They were both a shade of bone, but one was darker than the other. One had a 1-inch heel and one had a 1/2-inch heel. Not once all day had I realized that I was a half-inch shorter on one side.

I don't think anybody noticed my fashion faux pas, but I can tell you I had grave doubts about my mental capacity when I realized what I had done.

Just goes to show, you probably shouldn't buy your shoes in bulk.


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Holding My Breath

Well, the central heat is once again cranking out the hot air. I am cautiously optimistic, but it will take 48 hours or so of continuous heat to make a believer out of me.

And on the same day the Water Department folks showed up to fix the septic pump.

Then I got a call that the long awaited memory card for my new phone, that will allow me to use it as an MP3 player, has finally arrived and I can pick it up tomorrow.

Could this be a sign of the tide turning?


Sunday, January 13, 2008

Brrr, Grrr

Somebody up there must really have it in for me at the moment. Starting way back around the middle of December, we have been fighting central heat woes. The repairman has been out here multiple times to replace faulty pieces of equipment and every time we have heat for about 24 hours before it goes out again. Friday they replaced a really hunky piece at a hunky price and it worked fine until sometime in the middle of Saturday night and the damned thing went out again.

We went through this same issue about 2 years ago with the air conditioning side of the unit and now we have the heating side of the unit doing the same thing. It will turn out to be some itty bitty something that is causing the great big somethings to fail. By the time we finally hit the solution, I will have a new unit.

Not mentioning any names, but the next time I buy a new AC/heat unit, it will not have a name beginning with "L" and ending with "X". Piece of crap. Great big piece of crap.

You have no idea how much I do not want to have to call the repairman tomorrow morning and tell him we are still having problems. I think he's as sick of the thing as I am.

Oh, I haven't mentioned yet that the brand new sewer pump is also on the fritz. It works, but cuts on at the wrong time, which makes the alarm go off. It turned out that the latest bunch of pumps installed were faulty and they are in negotiations with the supplier to get a fix in. In the meantime, they have disconnected the beeper on the alarm and drive by periodically to make sure the light portion goes off when the pump catches up. At least this particular issue is now the problem of the water department and I don't have to do anything but sit back and watch.

Don't you just love the modern improvements we enjoy?


Saturday, January 12, 2008

Long Delayed Next Step

At long last we got a day of sunshine and pleasant temperature and a day at home. I decided this was the day to apply the exterior coat to the Mexican restaurant dollhouse in progress.

A couple of weeks ago, I decided that the plain wood stain I had intended for the woodwork (windows and door) would not do and purchased a turquoise paint for that purpose. (The vigas will not be turquoise.) This will be a colorful little building when I'm done.

Now, if the neighborhood dogs and kids will just stay away for a couple of hours while this dries in the side yard, we will be ready for the next step late this afternoon.

Speaking of neighborhood brats, Pogo spotted us out on our walk again this morning and was on us before I had time to get both my dogs scooped up out of reach. Mojo was safe, but Coco was desperately trying to get away from Pogo while I was desperately trying to get a good hold to pick her up. At some point Coco decided she had been hurt and was crying pitifully. I was not at all sure she wasn't injured until I had gotten her back to the house and took a careful look. Lucky for Pogo that she was just scared. Mommy's wrath would have ensued if her little girl had been bitten.

We've been avoiding that block, trying to forestall any more of these playful attacks. Sometimes your best efforts are to no avail and a wonderful walk turns into a moment of terror for the wee ones. But all is well and they are peacefully sleeping under the desk, safe and secure.


Friday, January 11, 2008

Hard to Explain

I have developed a real fondness for the writing of Alexander McCall Smith and I can't really explain why. He writes several series and so far I've enjoyed them all. But I can't really say what it is that I find appealing.

His No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series appeals to a lot of folks, because the new books in the series invariably hit the bestseller lists. I resisted sampling it for a long time because it just didn't sound all that interesting. A portly lady detective who lives in Africa? I know nothing about Africa to speak of, so how would I relate to her? I finally caved in when the first volume turned up on the Half-Price shelves in audio format. I've since listened or read the entire series and have thoroughly enjoyed them all.

His Sunday Philosophy Club series I decided I really did not care for at first. I started off by attempting to read the first book and lost interest before the story really took off. I finally got around to listening to one of the others in the series and decided I had been hasty. I've since read or listened to all of that series and been thoroughly entertained.

The Scotland Street series I am especially fond of. The first book was again an audio introduction, about an apartment building in Edinburgh, Scotland, and follows the lives of the inhabitants of the various apartments. This series is somewhat different in that it got its start as a serialized novel in The Scotsman, a newspaper published in Edinburgh. It has short chapters that always leave you hanging and looking forward to the next installment. What will happen to the art gallery owner, eternally misfit Matthew? What wrong man will his young assistant Pat fall for next? What ghastly new terror awaits young Bertie, whose mother Irene persists in raising under the enlightened teachings of Melanie Klein? Will anthropologist Domenica's sojourn among modern day pirates turn out well or badly for her? What adventure lies in store for Cyril, the dog with a gold tooth?

His fourth series I can't speak to as yet, primarily because I've decided the best introduction to his writing is to hear the first volume and I have not found it in audio form. I expect I will like it as well.

The bottom line is that he somehow catches little windows of normal life and normal human relationships. His books may have some drama and pathos, but you can look forward to a happy ending that leaves you wanting to know what happened next. You've known all these people somewhere in your life and know what probably will happen and hope that maybe they will surprise you. And sometimes they do.

It's hard to describe just how much fun these books are. No thrilling chases and life-threatening events here. No lusty romance. Just normal everyday life experienced by normal everyday people. Great fun.


Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Family Skeletons

{chortling and rubbing my hands in satisfaction}

Another fascinating family record came zinging out of the blue today via an email from Kentucky. If you've been following my family research endeavors for any length of time, you will probably recall the nasty divorce proceedings that I unearthed in the Bastrop County courthouse a few years back. Great-great grandparents Henry and Mary Hodge had a mud-slinging fest in open court that added gobs of interest to the old family tree, while completely destroying any pride I might have felt in having a doctor in my ancestry.

Further research over the years has uncovered Henry's first marriage, which also ended in divorce and I suspect if I ever find those records there will be some more mud to slog through.

I've been aware for some time that there was also some discord in the marriage of Henry's parents, John and Mary (Reese) Hodge of Crittenden County, Kentucky. In the deed records I found where John had deeded his real property to his infant son Henry in 1854. Accompanying that record was an "agreement" between John and Mary to live separately and apart and no longer as man and wife. Census records continued to record them in the same household, so I assumed that they found some way to co-exist peacefully. Deed records continued to make reference to Mary, wife of John.

I received an unexpected email this last weekend from a cousin in Kentucky who is working with a genealogist who specializes in western Kentucky. The genealogist made a casual reference to the divorce petition of John Hodge, a copy of which she had obtained years ago before the original court records were bundled up and shipped to the state archives. Cousin Marty coaxed a copy from her and the scans arrived today.

Without going into too much detail (that will wait for the next family newsletter), John accused Mary of threatening to kill him on multiple occasions and he asserted he had done nothing to warrant her hostility. (John was a well-respected Baptist minister and I expect he was telling the truth.) A couple of months later, the petition for divorce was dropped and they continued to be married. Not happily, I would assume.

This family was very dysfunctional, it would seem. Mary was 7 years older than John and had her first of four children in her late thirties. Her first child was apparently mentally challenged, as he is recorded as "idiot" in census and court records. Her next two sons died as infants. Finally she gave birth to my ancestor Henry when she was about 40. The petition for divorce was filed by John when Henry was about 5 years old. Mary was alive for at least 20 years after that (census records), though I've not found any evidence of her death.

Henry's life was full of tribulations and I now am faced with the possibility that his mental instability may have been a genetic predisposition inherited from his mother. I've spent a great deal of time researching the Hodge line and not as much on the Reese line. I think I should get busy and see what I can find out.

That's what I love about genealogy. Just as you think you have a handle on an ancestor, someone casually drops a record in your lap that points you in a new direction. God, I love it.


Sunday, January 06, 2008

Two Nervous Nellies

Our regular late afternoon walk today was a failure. We started off okay, but just as we rounded the corner, neighbor dog Pogo (a Jack Russell terrier) bounded up to us with the idea that she had discovered some new playmates. Initially we just did a lot of butt sniffing, but Coco was having none of it from the start. She was backing up and trying to pull out of her collar, so I scooped her up.

At that point Pogo decided she would have a good play/tussle with Mojo and before I knew it she was dashing around and inviting a good romp and Mojo was having a nervous breakdown. I was trying to hold onto Coco with one hand and my cell phone and keys with the other. As I tried to assure Mojo that all was well and she just wanted to be friends, along comes the elderly Boo Boo dog from the same household and Mojo decided he was a goner.

The little girl owner was ineffectually trying to call her two dogs off, but having no luck whatsoever. I finally desperately reeled Mojo in with the leash and scooped him up. We headed for home, but Pogo and Boo Boo weren't ready for the party to be over, so they started following us. We finally decided the only way to get them to leave us alone would be to escort them to their own home and deliver them into the hands of the adults. So we walked them and their little girl back to their house.

The father came and scooped Pogo up and the little girl got Boo Boo in hand and I was already half-way down the block, so I figured I would keep walking until I could safely drop my little ones back to the ground and continue our fractured walk.

While all this was going on, a big delivery van had crept down the street slowly, taking care to avoid the rambunctious dogs, and had stopped a few doors down to deliver a refrigerator. Mojo and Coco weren't too sure they even wanted to go near the van where two strange men were lurking, but I assured them they were safe. We were just beginning to settle down as we drew even with the van and then the delivery man hit the switch to lower the refrigerator to the ground.

Well. So much for Mom's assurances that she had things in control. Mojo nearly jumped out of his skin and Coco said "let's get out of here!". So we ran to the next corner and made the turn and ran the length of that block and finally settled back to a walk when we hit our own dirt road. At that point Coco was ready to go back to strolling and sniffing and taking her time. Mojo's ears were drooping, a sure sign of stress, and he was straining at his end of the leash in the direction of home. We made that last leg of the walk in record time and when we hit the corner of the yard, I let him off the leash and he was sitting on the doorstep before I had even straightened upright.

This followed a morning when I spent a couple of hours rearranging furniture again. I'm still looking for the proper arrangement for the family room in light of old furniture having departed and newer pieces having not yet found their final place. It doesn't bother the dogs too much, but the cats are unnerved when I move a magazine, much less shift everything into a new position. They are all exhausted tonight.

I, on the other hand, am much happier with my new antique television stand and the new location of the big red chair. I spent a very happy hour this afternoon piled in the big red chair, with a little black dog cuddled at my side and reading a new book that is showing great promise. My nerves are fine.


Tuesday, January 01, 2008


1) The cold snap brought the realization that my closet has become devoid of cold weather options. I had spent New Year's day making another purge of clothes that no longer fit and, in the process, had discovered a few pair of tights that I had forgotten I owned. I thought it was a lucky find to add some warmth for these cold days. Discovery #1 is that tights that are a couple of years old have a real tendency to loose their stretch. I had some very real concerns today that I would get up and my tights would pool around my ankles. I made it through the day, but the tights ended up in the trash basket as soon as I got home.

2) A couple of weeks ago I was in the grocery store and succumbed to the temptation to try a new product. I, who have never liked egg nog, sampled some Southern Comfort Vanilla Spice egg nog (non alcoholic) and loved it. I bought a quart, even though it didn't really fit into my diet plan. I kept feeling guilty about having any, and guilty that it would go bad sitting in the refrigerator. Discovery #2 is that if you use this egg nog as creamer in coffee, it is yummy good. And a little bit in coffee doesn't hurt the diet all that much. (If you aren't on a diet and you like egg nog, it is killer. It's also really good mixed with a bit of amaretto.)

3) Coco has a waist. Who knew? We are religiously taking our daily walk, even on these cold days when Mommy would rather curl up in her robe in front of the fireplace. These walks invariably begin with a sprint down to the corner, with Mommy jogging along while Coco and Mojo run full out. This regular exercise, along with adhering to their new diet, has seen them both slimming down a bit. I realized a few days ago that Coco is developing a nice little waistline, where she used to be straight from shoulder to hip. At the same time, she and I are getting much closer with all this Mommy and me time.

4) I've been too hot for years now, with menopausal hot flashes being the norm. Who knew I could still have cold chills? The central heat has been out since Christmas Day and my repairman just got back today from a holiday trip. He's ordered the necessary part, but for now we are still getting by with space heaters and the fireplace. I figured I would be fine, since I'm too hot all the time anyway. But my contrary hormones, as soon as they figured out that reliable heat was not available, decided to go into violent chill mode. I keep adding clothes, but just as I approach the right temperature, my hormones reverse and go back into overheat mode. I can't win.

5) Never leave heathen cats alone with unprotected rolls of toilet paper.