Wednesday, April 30, 2008

I Can See Clearly Now

A few weeks back I had a television kick the bucket and splurged on a new flat-panel, high-definition, 42-inch model. At the same time I replaced the smaller television in my bedroom with another, smaller, high-definition model. The improvement in the picture was nice, but I wasn't getting the full benefit of the high-definition since I was still using my original cable box. I just didn't have time to run over to Time-Warner and swap boxes, what with getting ready for vacation. And I kept putting it off.

Over the past weekend we had a nasty thunderstorm approaching and, not wanting to take the chance on losing brand new television sets, I unplugged them and the cable boxes before I went to bed. The next morning, one of the cable boxes had expired. The chore of driving down to the main office and standing in line could no longer be postponed. So, as of Monday night, I crossed into the valley of high-definition viewing.

I have to say, it does make a big difference. Today was the first time I actually sat down to watch something filmed in HD, a nature program on the Discovery Channel called Sunrise Earth. Wowie. The picture was beautifully clear, with crisp, bright colors. One doesn't miss what one has not had, but I now know what I've been missing.

One of the segments involved hot-air balloons floating over a lake and the resultant reflections made me ache to be there. I had just about given up my idea of someday riding in a hot-air balloon in the Rocky Mountains. I think that just may have to go back on my list of things to do before I get too old.

High-definition TV. Next best thing to being there.


Sunday, April 27, 2008

Sleepy Birthday Boy

Little boy turned 3 years old today. Happy Birthday, Mojo!

With the inclement weather outside and Mommy inside frantically putting together a newsletter for next weekend's reunion, they decided that napping in the big chair across from her desk was the order of the day.

We did get in a long walk after the storms cleared.

Mommy finished her newsletter. (At least it is in final draft stage.)

All's right with the world.


Personal Best

I do not as a rule make a point of using coupons. I regularly pick up HEB coupons as I shop and they happen to be there handy, but so far as carrying along a fat wallet of coupons, I'm too lazy. It takes energy to keep them sorted where you can find what you need and to keep up with the expiration dates.

But I do leaf through the Sunday ads and keep an eye out for hefty coupons (over 50 cents) on items I plan to buy anyway before there's a chance the coupon will expire. Those I tuck in the pocket of my purse and use before the clutter begins to irritate.

So yesterday I had a nice little accumulated wad of coupons in my purse pocket as I headed to the grocery store for the first time in 3 weeks. I picked up HEB coupons as I shopped. When I got to the checkout, I knocked $16.71 off my bill. And I didn't buy anything that I would not have bought anyway.

That's almost enough to convince me I should be more conscientious about using coupons. Almost. I'm still awfully lazy.

But, once in awhile, it's worth the effort. That's like a whole 1/3 tank of gasoline for free.


Friday, April 25, 2008


To begin with, I said something to myself yesterday that I never dreamed I would. "If the next gas station has gas for $3.45 or less, I'll stop." I can't help but think back to the year I learned to drive. In 1972 my chariot was an 8-cylinder, police engine, Ford Galaxy. Gas was 33 cents a gallon and you could fill that monster up for $10. Oh for a time travel machine. I wouldn't mind driving that car again, either. It would reach 100 mph and feel like you were coasting along at 30 mph. We had no business with that much car, but it sure was fun to drive.

This morning I took the little boy to the doctor to get some input on his seizures. After blood work and a thorough check up, he has been declared in good health. Which means that he probably has epilepsy, which isn't all that unusual with little dogs. We are going to keep an eye on him for awhile, try to keep his stress level low, and see what happens before making any decisions on medication.

In better news, our doggie diet plan has been working and both Mojo and Coco have dropped weight. Coco is down a whopping pound and a half, which makes a noticeable difference when your total weight is 10 pounds. The doctor bragged on both of them and then did a little bragging on me, too. I told her we were all in this together and it was working.

Speaking of which, I was a little apprehensive when I got back and stepped on the scales for the first time. Before the trip I had been treated to several birthday lunches and forced to eat cake and peach cobbler. During the trip I indulged in a couple of sandwiches, a yeast roll here and there, and pancakes one morning. To my surprise, I was exactly what has become my new usual weight. Nice to be able to slide a little off the wagon now and then and not suffer for it too much.

Work was pleasantly low-key this first week back. It's the calm before the storm, because the dreadful workload that is May is looming just a few days down the road. But for now, we are enjoying the rare opportunity to breathe.

So, all is relatively well. Now if I can just put together a family newsletter this weekend that is due for distribution next weekend, I'll be in good shape.

I think I'm in trouble.

I think I'll be putting in some long days this weekend.


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

In Honor of Earth Day

Calhoun County, Alabama
(land once owned by Lana's ancestor)

Giant magnolia at Ivy Green, Tuscumbia, Alabama
(birthplace of Helen Keller

Pittsburg Landing in Tennessee
(where Grant's troops arrived for the Battle of Shiloh)

Crittenden/Livingston County, Kentucky
(land of the Hodge ancestors)

Flowers in the atrium of Opryland Hotel


Monday, April 21, 2008

Thoughts On a Mint Julep

Lana and I had decided from the outset of the trip that we should experience a mint julep before it was over. I had kidded cousin Marty that I wanted a picture of me sitting on a thoroughbred horse in a field of bluegrass and sipping a mint julep. I think it's probably a good thing he didn't arrange that, because I would probably have broken my neck getting off the horse after drinking a julep.

On our last night, in the Jack Daniel's Saloon at the Opryland Hotel, we finally got our chance to experience an authentic mint julep. Understand that neither of us had the faintest idea what goes into a mint julep except mint and whiskey. I think I expected something on the order of a whiskey sour or a frothy drink with an umbrella in it. Nosirree.

A mint julep starts with a bit of sugar or a sugar syrup poured over mint leaves in the bottom of a glass (preferrably a metal glass, but ours wasn't). Then you cram as much crushed ice into the glass as you can. What room is left is filled with straight bourbon. We both took the first sip of our drink and felt our heads jerk back. It was strong. We stirred the drinks to hopefully move the sugar around and tried again. Another whiplash. We decided the appropriate technique was to take small sips very gently.

The funniest thing happened on the way to the bottom of the glass. The more we drank, the sweeter it got. By the last couple of sips, it was downright larrupin'. I would not have minded having another one at that stage. I would have had to crawl back to the room, however, so we decided that one was enough.

We found ourselves thinking how nice it would be to sit on a wide veranda in the summer heat, looking out over the Kentucky hills and sipping a julep. Two thumbs up!


Sunday, April 20, 2008

Hodge Country

I came away from Marion, Kentucky, with the feeling that I'm related to just about everybody there. The Hodge family was one of the first to settle in Crittenden County and the Hodge descendants in the area are numerous. As I mentioned before, brothers Robert and William (my gggg-grandfather) owned considerable land along Claylick Creek. That land is unbelievably gorgeous with rolling hills that are lush and green after all the recent rains. Claylick Creek itself is crystal clear. I almost found out the temperature when my foot slipped and I came very near taking a dip in the family holy water.

I got to visit quite a few of the landmarks that have figured so prominently in my Hodge notebooks all these years. (I did not realize that I would come across a Hodge road sign.) The picture below is of the Emmaus Church, where ggg-grandfather John A. Hodge, a Baptist minister, conducted services once upon a time. I'm sorry to have to admit that this Baptist preacher's kid had totally forgotten where the name Emmaus came from until Lana reminded me that Jesus appeared to two disciples on the road to Emmaus. We found out that Kentuckians have their own way of pronouncing things and that the local pronunciation is not "e-may-us", but rather "em-us".

I made a point to get a photo of the "Road to Emmaus".

Alongside a road in Crittenden County (or maybe we were in Livingston County; the Hodge family lived where Livingston, Crittenden, Caldwell and Lyon counties come together) we visited the Hodge Cave where William's brother Robert stored vegetables in the cool dark recesses.

It's always a funny feeling for me when I visit the graves of my direct ancestors in other states. Several years ago I had the privilege of visiting the grave of gggg-grandfather Felix Huddleston in Arkansas. Two years ago in Illinois and Indiana I stood at the graves of gg-grandparents Parker and Lucy Wilcoxen, gg-grandparents Anderson and Elizabeth Dunavan, ggg-grandparents John and Frances Dunavan and ggg-grandparents David and Dorothy Beauchamp. This year in Alabama I visited ggg-grandparents Samuel and Barbara Lentz and gggg-grandparents Henry and Sevilla Lentz while in Lentzville. And in Kentucky, I visited Union Church Cemetery, where ggg-grandfather, Rev. John A. Hodge, and gggg-grandparents Elisha and Frances Reese are buried. When I visit the graves of my direct ancestors, I always have the feeling that they are standing there with me and are pleased that I made the journey to pay my respects.

John's grave is the white stone in the foreground. The two darker stones in the background that are on either side of the tip of his stone are those belonging to Elisha and Frances Reese.

Here I am at John's grave.

And here I stand between Elisha (on my right) and Frances (on my left).

Also buried at Union Church Cemetery are two daughters of gg-grandfather Henry Hodge and his first wife Ailcey Bell. The stone for Laura, who died at the age of 16, is still present, but the stone for Emma, who died at age 2 has disappeared, possibly due to vandals and possibly due just to the passage of time. I feel a certain responsibility to Laura, Emma and to their half-sister Molly, buried in Texas, to keep their memories alive. These three little girls may just be names and dates in cemetery registries to some, but they are my great-grandaunts and should not be forgotten. Only two of Henry's five children achieved adulthood and only one of them lived beyond their twenties.

I have seen and stood at these graves and felt the acceptance of my ancestors. I am a Hodge.


Saturday, April 19, 2008

A Literary Endorsement

I just finished the 5th book in a series written by Jacqueline Winspear. I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a mystery or period pieces. It is set in the post WWI - pre WWII era and concerns a young woman who served in the first World War as a nurse. She is a bit clairvoyant, an ability inherited from a gypsy grandmother, and a lot empathic and opens her own private investigation business in London, using her intelligence and her knowledge of human behavior to solve her cases.

My first exposure to the Maisie Dobbs series was purely by accident. I happened across a discounted audio version of the 3rd novel Pardonable Lies and it did not take me long to decide I needed to find the other volumes in the series.

It's hard to say just what it is I love about these novels. The character of Maisie Dobbs, a young woman who lost her true love to the war and who still suffers from what today we would call post-traumatic stress disorder, is hard not to like. She has broken through the class barriers, rising from lowly housemaid to an independent businesswoman. Her assistant is a young man she nursed on a battlefield in France. Her former employers are her benefactors.

I guess the main attraction is how the author weaves a mood. You lose yourself in 1930s London and can feel the sorrow of the people who have lost their brothers, husbands and sons in the war and how that continues to affect their lives. And you are aware that the next war is looming just over the horizon. Jacqueline Winspear is not just an author, she paints very realistic scenery that stays with you for a little while after you read the last page.

Just a short deviation from our standard programming.


Friday, April 18, 2008

Night Terrors

One thing did not go well on the vacation trip. I had hoped to catch up on weeks of missed sleep, but it was not to be. I slept fitfully, just like I do at home. Sometimes I think I've forgotten how to sleep. But then, a lot of friends my age seem to have the same problem so perhaps it's just one of those things you have to live through until it's over.

Last night the dogs and I got off to bed early and we were actually doing quite well in the sleeping department. The first indication I had that anything was wrong was when Mojo woke me up crawling up on top of my head in a panic. Once I got fully awake, I realized what was wrong. The first night home the blasted smoke detector battery had failed and the warning CHIRP, CHIRP, CHIRP was sending the dogs into a blind panic.

So, at 1:00 a.m. in the morning, I was out in the garage getting a stepladder in order to disable the thing. I had both dogs and both cats skulking around like the end of the world was nigh. I pulled the smoke detector out of its electric hookup and thought that was it, but the darned thing just kept on its chirping. So I hauled it out to the garage and shut the door on it.

About the time we got back to bed the rain started. All four animals piled into bed with me and Mojo would not be persuaded that anyplace but draped around my head on my pillow was safe. So we spent the rest of the night that way. A cat on each leg, Coco on my left side anxiously watching the window, and Mojo perched on the top of my head. We finally got to sleep and spent the rest of the night in relative peace.

Mojo has been very nervous since I got in last night. Poor little boy had a couple of seizures while I was gone and has clung tightly to me since I walked in. I slipped off today long enough to get an oil change and buy some batteries for the smoke detectors. As soon as I got back to the house, he attached himself to me again. He was not at all happy when I started messing around with the smoke detectors and was really upset when they chirped again to signal they were back on duty.

I sincerely hope that tonight goes a little better.

The last night of the vacation at Opryland Hotel, Lana and I indulged in the little boat ride that tours the entire complex on a "river" consisting of blended waters from hundreds of waterways in the United States. It was great fun, even if we didn't get to see the the 85-lb. catfish that lives there. Seems he has gotten too fat to come out in the main channel and spends his time in the deeper waters of the boathouse.


Thursday, April 17, 2008


We are back at home, safe and sound. This was a relatively trouble-free vacation, if you don't count the one spell of bad weather and the fact that I missed our exit to the airport this morning and we ended up taking the scenic route through Nashville's warehouse district.

I will have lots more pictures to share in the next few days, but I wanted to stop and reflect on a few things while I still remember them.

Courtesy is not dead. It is alive and well in the South. We met a lot of very nice people who opened your door for you, insisted on helping you with your bags, greeted you with cheer in the morning, gave us "you're very welcome" in response to our thank yous, and never seemed to get out of patience with the foreigners in their midst. For instance, we are so accustomed to driving 70 miles per hour in Texas that we almost suffered whiplash from the maximum 50-60 mph rates in rural Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky. There was no way I was going to risk getting a speeding ticket, so we kept to the posted speed limits. We were the only ones who were doing so, however, but the locals never pressured us to move faster or honked their horns or made obscene gestures like you would have gotten in Texas. A time or two I did some really creative driving when we realized we were in the wrong lane and about to miss our turn, yet nobody shook their fist at us as they passed.

We are so used to the crowds and the fast pace of Central Texas that it seemed very odd how much slower things moved the last week. People were relaxed, not frazzled. People seemed to really like each other, not just tolerate each other. People asked questions and were interested in the answers. People still go to church to worship and not because it is good networking for your business interests.

There is a lot to be said for the quality of life that we observed in rural America. If you find yourself worried about what the world is coming to, you should take a driving tour through the South. It will restore your faith in your fellow American. Yes, there are rotten eggs all over and I'm sure you can find plenty of them in the areas we visited. But there are a lot of good people out there and you don't have to look hard to find them.

I'm proud to say there is Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky blood flowing in my veins.


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Almost Over

The last day of vacation is always tough. You try to cram as much as possible in before it's all over. Today we slept in, ate a late breakfast at the hotel, and then went in search of the Miniature Cottage, a dollhouse and miniatures store. We got there with no difficulty, but we had a very hard time getting away. From the display in the front yard of the shop--

to the numerous dollhouses and room boxes on display, it was at least a half hour before we even got around to shopping. Then it was about 2 hours before we finally called it quits and paid our way out. We both have a tiny bundle of new items for our miniatures addiction that we will carefully carry through the airport tomorrow and hope they arrive at home undamaged.

We went back to the hotel and spent the afternoon in the atrium, photographing the beautiful flowers and foliage, having a mint julep at the Jack Daniel's Saloon, riding the little Delta Riverboat around the complex and shopping for a few last souvenirs. We have to be up bright and early tomorrow morning to catch an early flight, so it's off to bed pretty soon now.

The Opryland Hotel is something special. There's so much to see and do, but the best thing is the wonderful gardens in the atrium. If the cost of living weren't so high here, it would be a really nice place to park for awhile.


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Crashing and Modifying the Plan

There comes a point in every one of our genealogy road trips where we suddenly crash. We are tired of driving, tired of living out of a suitcase and just plain tired. We start looking for something that will boost our enthusiasm for the last days on the road. At the end of our Arkansas trip, we ended up in Hot Springs at one of the spa hotels and indulged ourselves with massages and hot springs baths. At the end of our cruise, we spent the last night in a Hyatt Regency in super lush surroundings.

So this morning we got up, looked at each other and knew it was time to deviate from our plans and do something off the cuff. But first, a little catching up. Last night I was too exhausted to file a report.

Yesterday we got the A+ Crittenden County tour from Cousin Marty Hodge. Bless his heart, he put up with us for most of the day, taking us to cemeteries, Hodge landmarks and to all the little cities that figure so prominently in my Hodge genealogy files. He never once complained. Marty is the one Hodge cousin whose research I trust as much as I trust mine. We hooked up years ago via the Internet and he went to bat for me against Hodge historian Barbara Knox who had misinterpreted some records and mangled my John Hodge line in print. I had been aggravated about it for some time, but wasn't in a position to argue with her. Marty took up the cause and got the record set straight. I owe him for that.

One of the major landmarks for us Hodge historians is Claylick Creek. Brothers Robert and William Hodge owned considerable land on both sides of the creek. We stopped for pictures and decided it was the perfect place for us to be photographed together, seeing as how Claylick Creek and being a Hodge goes hand-in-hand.

We had a great time and even regrouped later on, adding his wife Nancy to the party, and went out for some good food and fellowship. I think we all slept well last night, having completely exhausted ourselves.

After such a good day, it surprised us a little that we woke up feeling the need to make agenda changes. We headed to downtown Marion, toured the well-run Historical Museum, then hit the visitor center where the lady in charge recommended we run out in the country to see an Amish quilt shop. We did and thoroughly enjoyed our chat with the woman and both of us left with a wall hanging. I think that's the point we realized we were ready to shop. We had planned to visit a couple of stores in Nashville at the end of our trip and we decided that the sooner we got there, the sooner we could go broke, so we packed our bags and hit the road.

At the last minute, I suggested that we go to Nashville by way of Hopkinsville, Kentucky, and get a photo of the mental hospital where ggg-grandmother Mary Hodge spent her later years. Along the way, I spotted a sign that reminded me of childhood vacation trips and I include this photo for brother David.

I knew before we got there that the folks at Western State Hospital will not release any information about patients, present or past. I stopped across the street from the Hospital and got a picture of the sign, then we decided that nothing ventured, nothing gained, so we drove up to the guard house and asked if we could drive in a little ways to get a photo of the building.

It was almost funny to see the contortions that passed across that poor guard's face. He hated so much to have to tell us we could not take pictures and could not drive up to the building. We tortured him for a few minutes, but finally agreed to leave. But there is more than one way to skin a cat, so we drove up the road a bit and then turned around and slowly inched our way back and Lana shot some photos out the window as we cruised by. So there.

We were about to make a U-turn and head back out, when I got one of my sudden impulses (I told you I would have one on this trip) and drove on into downtown Hopkinsville. We drove right up to the Christian County Historical Society and we decided to go in and ask them about the situation at the hospital.

We met one of the nicest men you could ever hope to run into on a genealogical quest. He had a definitive list of all the inmates who had been buried at Western State Hospital and he was able to confirm that Mary was not buried there. He promised to check a few additional long-shot sources and let me know if anything else turns up. As we were walking out, he asked us if we had been to Fairview to see Jefferson Davis' birthplace. We had not known we were anywhere close to it, so we altered our plans again and drove out to see the monument, which is quite impressive. It looks somewhat like the Washington Monument.

During the season, you can ride an elevator to the top, but unfortunately the season doesn't start until May, so I didn't get to give Lana a hard time about her aversion to heights.

About 40 miles later, we had a sudden inspiration and decided to indulge ourselves and spend a night at the Opryland Hotel. We got in for one night and are hoping for a cancellation that will allow us to stay here until it's time to head for the airport. We've eaten ourselves miserable, walked all over the three sections of the huge hotel and are recharging our cameras tonight so we can get pictures of all the beautiful plants that fill the atrium.

We have had another great day. Sometimes you just have to wing it and go where the wind blows.


Sunday, April 13, 2008

Long Day on the Road

My Internet connection is a little weird tonight, so pictures will have to wait awhile. I think I'm piggy backing on some neighbor's wireless network and it is definitely funky.

Anyway, we are alive and well in Marion, Kentucky, tonight. This is a little town that you have to intend to go to, because I don't think there is any way in the world you would happen to be passing through on the way somewhere else. We arrived at dusk, so it's hard to say what it looks like at this point, but I got the impression of rolling green pastures. We will be meeting cousin Marty Hodge in the morning after breakfast for a personally conducted tour of Hodge historical sites.

Our morning began with a tour of the Shiloh National Military Park near Savannah, Tennessee. Shiloh is another place that you don't just happen to pass through. You have to intend to be there. A Ranger that we spoke to said he enjoyed his work there for exactly that reason. People don't come to the park as mere tourists. They have a personal reason to want to be there and are respectful and interested in what the park has to offer. He was able to tell me where a Lentz cousin was buried in the National Cemetery that is just across the parking lot from the Visitor Center and we made it a point to get a photo of his grave. We also spent a good bit of time in the bookstore and our suitcases are a lot heavier tonight as a result.

We purchased a CD with a narrative tour of the park and drove from spot to spot, stopping for photos and the occasional stroll down a path. It was bitterly cold and we only had light jackets, but we were determined to pay our respects to the fallen soldiers. In all, we spent about 2-1/2 hours on the driving tour and while we were satisfied that we had seen the high spots, we decided you really need to stay a couple of days and hike out to some of the more remote spots. And preferrably in warmer weather.

We left the park and drove to a cafe recommended by the hotel manager of the night before and he really gave us a good lead. We stuffed ourselves on fried catfish, hushpuppies, cole slaw and lemon pie. We felt no guilt at all.

After that, we made a beeline for Marion. It took us about 4-1/2 hours to cut through Tennessee and half-way across Kentucky. By chance, our journey took us through the little town of Linden, Tennessee, where my great-great-grandfather Jeff Frankum was born, so I was able to stop and get a photo of the city limits sign. It was beautiful in that little town. Several times on this trip we have stopped and asked ourselves why our ancestors moved away.

We are not doing much library research on this year's trip, but we are getting a feeling for where our ancestors lived and enjoying the scenery. But I really wouldn't mind if this cold weather would move along.


Saturday, April 12, 2008

Of Flowers, Lentzes and an Amazing Woman

We left Gadsden today and headed for a little area of northern Alabama where my Lentz ancestors lived and died. Along the way we enjoyed more of the beautiful dogwood, both white and pink.

We arrived in Lentzville around 1PM, and it wasn't easy finding our way to the family cemetery. Lentzville used to be a real town, with a post office and church and now there's not much but the cemetery and a road sign. The roads twist and turn along a lake or river and by the time we found the cemetery, we weren't sure we could find our way back out.

The cemetery was probably on land once owned by my great-great-great grandfather Samuel Lentz. He owned quite a bit of land here. His sons also owned a good bit of the surrounding area. I figured this lush pasture adjoining the cemetery was probably his once upon a time.

Samuel's parents, Henry and Sevilla Lentz, came to Limestone County, Alabama, from Rowan County, North Carolina in the early 1800s. Henry was a Revolutionary War veteran and one of the earliest settlers to arrive in Limestone County. In this picture I am standing between the graves of my great-great-great-great-grandparents. Henry is on my right and Sevilla is on my left. There is still a great debate raging among their descendants regarding Sevilla's nativity. Some claim she was a Cherokee Indian, while others believe her to be of German descent.

And here I am at Samuel's grave.

Samuel and Barbara Lentz had 15 children. Three of their sons migrated to Texas, including my ancestor Gabriel Moore Lentz. As I walked through the little cemetery, I found many of Gabe's brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews.

Today I retraced the steps of my own grandmother and her sisters. I have photos of them standing at the very spots I was standing today, taken probably 30-35 years ago. My grandmother was quite proud of her Lentz ancestry and so am I.

After we completed our visit to Lentzville, we took a tourist trek to see the birthplace of Helen Keller. I became fascinated with the story of Helen Keller when I was a young girl and I could not pass up the chance to visit this landmark to pay homage to a great lady. We toured the house and saw the dining room where one of the anchor scenes of "The Miracle Worker" occurred - the battle between Helen and her teacher over Helen's lack of table manners. We saw the cottage where Teacher retreated with her student during their initial weeks together. We saw the pump where Helen first made the connection between the letters Teacher was spelling into her hand and the water that was flowing from the pump.

It is a simple place, but the extraordinary thing that happened here makes it a very special place and we were glad we decided to stop in Tuscumbia and visit.

Afterwards, we drove on to Pickwick Landing, just a few miles away from the Shiloh National Military Park where we intend to spend tomorrow morning. We found a hopping little eating place just down the road from the hotel and had fun listening to the folks around us teasing each other as only long time friends can do. The food was good, too.


Friday, April 11, 2008

Dodging Weather Threats

I've been a little concerned about what the weather might hold for us on our trip. Some of the areas we are headed to have been receiving massive loads of rain and have been flooding. I was encouraged by an Internet forecast that said one band of showers was going to pass through and then we could anticipate relatively good weather for the rest of the trip. Well, the band of showers passed through late this afternoon and it was a little bit scary.

Up until about 4PM, we had a very successful day. We spent the morning in the Anniston Public Library, looking up those dead ancestors. We then embarked on a quest to locate the approximate homestead site of Lana's ancestor for a round of picture taking. That accomplished, we headed to Ohatchee where our friends were involved in setting up for a Civil War re-enactment to take place this weekend.

We are definitely in Dixie Land.

The re-enactment is taking place at Janney's Furnace, where the Union army blew the top out of a furnace, disabling the manufacture of Confederate ammunition. It's a great, great big fireplace.

So big you can stand up in it.

Just up from the furnace is a memorial wall with the names of all the men who served the Confederacy from Calhoun County, Alabama. The folks around here still honor their Confederate ancestors.

Some of the early arrivals had already set up camp.

And they brought the big guns.

We took a picturesque back road into the registration area for the participants.

Alabama is a lot prettier than I remembered from childhood. I have to say, however, that we never really gave it a chance. Our one trip through on a vacation long, long ago was a mad dash from New Orleans to Atlanta. All I remembered about Alabama was the Interstate and a lot of green. I was surprised to find that the northern part of Alabama is mountainous and we drove down to Gadsden on winding roads lined with pines, spruce trees and showy white and pink dogwood blossoms peeking out everywhere. The dogwood is unbelievably gorgeous.

We were headed back to our hotel and supper with our friend when the weather suddenly became threatening. We were startled when a high-pitched whine suddenly erupted around us and we both thought we had suffered a flat tire. We pulled over in a panic and then realized a lot of other people were pulling over, too. It turns out that this area has an active civil defense system and it was the sirens issuing a weather warning. After the sirens blast you into a state of panic, a voice comes echoing out from somewhere (our friend has lived here 2 years and doesn't know where the speakers are), warning everyone to seek cover. For a minute it was almost like having the voice of God delivering a message.

We had been heading for her house to see her newly remodeled kitchen and to let her dog out for a run, so we just settled in there and waited out the storm. Her dog turned out to be a Jack Russell Terrier, which is like a rat terrier only 3 times the size. Mosby is normally worried by storms, but he seemed to sense that I was more agitated than he was and he entertained me by sitting close, rolling over so I could scratch his belly, snuffling all over my purse checking out the Mojo and Coco scent and just generally being adorable. He even let me have a nose bump. He was quite the little welcome distraction.

After about an hour, the weather began to clear. There were reports of funnel clouds and baseball-sized hail and uprooted trees, but we saw only rain. And a very cute dog.

Tomorrow we head for Lentzville. I'll be interested to see if Grandma makes the trip with us. I'm betting I get one of my odd hunches sometime tomorrow.


Wednesday, April 09, 2008

False Start

Well, I was almost on the road again this morning. I was scheduled to leave the house at 5:45 a.m. to catch an early flight to Nashville. But American Airlines canceled hundreds of flights today for maintenance issues, so here I sit. The vacation has been delayed 24 hours; tomorrow, American Airlines willing, we will be off and running.

This may work out for the best. I was exhausted from getting ready to depart and now I can nap this afternoon and be a little more ready for the adventure. This year we are exploring the Deep South. From Nashville we will travel to Alabama, with banjoes on our knees, and I will have the opportunity to visit the grave of my ggg-grandfather Henry Lentz, a veteran of the Revolutionary War. I will get to see the land in Lauderdale County where my gggg-grandfather Joseph Huddleston lived before moving his family to Arkansas. We will move on to Tennessee and visit the haunted battlefield of Shiloh, where gg-granduncle Charles McAfee, a Union soldier, was captured in battle. We will drive through the little town of Linden, Tennessee, where gg-grandfather Jeff Frankum was born. We will journey on to Marion, Kentucky, and visit the graves of ggg-grandfather John Hodge and gggg-grandparents Elisha and Frances Reese. We will be communing with the spirits of the ancestors, which is what we enjoy most about these ancestral tours.

For once, I won't be subject to teasing about my thick southern accent. I plan to eat grits at breakfast, drink me some Kentucky bourbon, and say "y'all" a lot. By the time I get home, I may be drenched in magnolia scented perfume.

I'm ready to hit the road. The spirits are calling me back to Dixie.


Sunday, April 06, 2008

Willie's the Man

A couple of years back I wrote about my experience attending the first official Willie Nelson 4th of July Picnic. This morning there is a long article about the history of the Picnic in the Austin American-Statesman. They included a picture of the advertising poster for that first picnic.

I had totally forgotten that Tom T. Hall was there that day. I remember the rest of them, plus Billy Joe Shaver and Charlie Rich. Today's recap article captured the essence of that day: "The first picnic, in Dripping Springs in 1973, is remembered fondly by Willie, but was a financial bust and an endurance struggle for fans". Can't vouch for Willie, but the endurance struggle is accurate. Again, I wouldn't trade that experience, but once was enough for this gal.

Hard to believe that was 35 years ago.


Saturday, April 05, 2008

Happy Birthday to Me

I decided it would be appropriate on my birthday to share with you an artistic rendering of me in my birthday suit.

I was 3 months old at the time. I believe the picture was taken in Aunt Fay's back yard apartment. The original is grainy, seeing as how it's more than 50 years old. Not happy with the scan, I decided to play with some of my photo editing software. I think it turned out pretty neat.

I'm betting the quilt was one made by my grandmother Lucy.


Thursday, April 03, 2008

One Redeeming Quality

The red-tipped photina bushes in the back yard may be a monster pain in my back, but the one in the front yard is putting on quite a show right now. It has been allowed to grow tall and bushy in order to hide an unsightly telephone pole. I keep the under branches trimmed, but otherwise it pretty much does what it wants.

The bushes in the back yard barely bloom at all. I assume that my vigorous trimming is the cause of that. The one in front, however, is bursting with clusters of tiny white blossoms. There isn't much scent, but there's a lot of pretty going on.

Up close and personal, the little flowers are stunning.

In other news, all the seeds I scattered in the flower beds last year, hoping to get some bluebonnets started, have resulted in one lone bluebonnet in the yard. So gratifying to see the results of one's labor. Hopefully the little guy will spawn a few offspring next year.

I do love spring.


Wednesday, April 02, 2008

My Dog Has ADD

It's not enough that I can't keep myself focused. Coco has all the symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder and it's driving me a little crazy.

She will ask to go out to do her business. We get out in the yard and she proceeds to meander around, looking down the street, investigating a pill bug, cocking her head to listen to a mockingbird, and basically forgetting what we came out there to do in the first place. And she really does have to go, but she forgets. I've learned that it will take her about 10 minutes or so to finally focus in and get down to business.

Our walks are an exercise for me, and I don't mean the walking. She is in constant motion forward - backward - side to side - following her muse to investigate whatever little thing has caught her attention. Yes, most of it is to investigate where other dogs have been, but a lot of it has to do with wanting to sniff a flower. Sometimes to taste a flower. Sometimes to push her nose against a tar wiggle in the pavement to see if it will move. Sometimes to look up and watch a bird fly. Sometimes to stand stockstill and listen to the conversation of a neighbor. Sometimes to trail after a butterfly hovering close to the ground. We pass a clump of bushes and she peers inside to see if there is anything there. (Once we passed a bush where a neighbor was crouched down behind it doing some yard work. When the neighbor moved, Coco looked at me like "I told you we should check the bushes".) Calling what we do "walking" is a bit of a stretch.

Mojo, on the other hand, is concentrating on getting his walk done and getting back to the safety of the house. The first half of the walk he and I are bouncing along behind Coco as she leads us all over the place. When she starts to run out of steam and he's made all the necessary stops to get his pertinent business accomplished, he begins straining at the leash in the direction of home. I quite often am caught between two ends of the leash - him pulling as hard as he can to get going and her wandering around behind me checking out the neighbors. I think my arms are a little longer now than they were this time last year.

A couple of times a day when I'm home we will go in the side yard and let them run and frolic for about 15-20 minutes while I watch out for people heading down the street with dogs. Coco turns stone cold deaf when we are in the yard. Her ADD will head her to the neighbor's house, to the yaupon bushes at the back of the yard (hoping to find a squirrel or bird to chase) and sometimes to lie down in the sun with her back to me (so she can really pretend not to know I'm calling her). I can walk right up to her, calling her name, and she will stare fixedly in the other direction until I loom up and she gives a classic doubletake with a "did you want me?" look on her face.

It's a hoot when I'm rested and aggravating when I'm tired. Mojo I can depend on to stick close by and come when called. Coco, on the other hand, is moving to her own drummer. Sort of like a 60's flower child. (Anybody remember Leigh French on the Smothers Brothers Show? That's my Coco - all love and sweet and floating in another dimension.)

I fear it may be contagious. Yesterday in the middle of the walk, Mojo suddenly flopped over on his back in a big clump of clover. I thought at first he had found something dead to roll in, but it turned out he just wanted to roll around in the sweet clover. I hope it was a fleeting impulse and not a sign of things to come.

I don't know what people without dogs do for entertainment.


Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Dodged That Bullet

Whew! I came so close. In case you can't read the 2 red signs on the truck, it says "WARNING DO NOT WALK ON TRAILER".

I must not be the only one who gets bored on long commutes and casts about idly for entertaining diversions.