Sunday, December 13, 2009


Dixie has had some new experiences this weekend. The first was when Mom lit a log in the fireplace yesterday. I had been concerned that she would burn a paw investigating, but she seemed to know better. She sat entranced, watching the flame, and then realized that it was giving off warmth. She curled up on the hearth and took a long nap for as long as the fire held out.

Sunday morning brought another new entertainment. Mom had purchased some yarn last weekend and needed to wind it into balls. Out came a weird contraption, the umbrella swift, that holds a skein of yarn so that it is possible to wind a ball without too many snarls along the way. She watched in fascination while 4 skeins were hung and 4 balls were wound.

She could not understand why Mom wouldn't let her have one of the balls of yarn to play with. So what if it was pricey baby alpaca? It would have been so much fun to unravel throughout the house. Isn't kitty entertainment of paramount importance in the scheme of things?

It was with some disgust that she watched the 4 balls of yarn disappear into Mom's knitting bag. I may have to lock the knitting bag in a closet when I go out for groceries in a little while.


Saturday, December 05, 2009

An Afternoon of R and R

Today was a day to play. I've not felt much like playing lately. I've been tired, suffering from allergies and a bit on edge. I have not been inclined to go into Austin or San Marcos for Christmas shopping, primarily because I don't feel up to dealing with crowds and traffic. I was beginning to get a little stir crazy.

I had initially intended to go to a book signing in downtown Bastrop on Wednesday night, but the wet, cold weather had persuaded me to keep inside that night and instead attend the second book signing to be held in McDade this afternoon.

I figured as long as I was headed to McDade, I would start off in Elgin. The Elgin Antique Mall always has a month long sale between Thanksgiving and Christmas that I make a point to attend every year. I timed my arrival in Elgin for lunch time and ate a great plate of enchilades verdes at La Morelia, which is handily next door to the Antique Mall. Pleasantly full, I then spent the next 90 minutes leisurely prowling through one of my favorite places. I managed to talk myself out of the piece of furniture I had spotted a couple of weeks ago, but picked up a rare book of Mary Hardin-Baylor related material for a ridiculously low price and a vintage children's book of dog stories.

Speaking of dogs, as I entered the Antique Mall, a lady seated at the front of the store was holding a precious 7 week old rat terrier puppy. I don't think there is anything in the world that is cuter than a rat terrier puppy. It took all the control I had not to grab her and run.

I headed out for McDade, hoping to get an early spot in line for the book signing, and I drove up at exactly 3PM, when the event was to start. The book is a new history of the volatile history of McDade called Silent Night, Deadly Night and deals primarily with the infamous Christmas hangings of 1883. I have communicated with the author via email for a couple of years now (we Bastrop historians have a way of finding each other) and had met her when she gave a presentation to the Bastrop County Historical Society a couple of months ago. We had a brief opportunity to visit before she got involved with the steady stream of locals who were arriving to purchase the book. It was a nice crowd that assembled and I actually knew a few of the attendees, including a distant Mobley cousin who always greets me with a big hug when we run into each other.

I took the opportunity to take a few pictures as I left, including the water tower that is a fixture in an old photo of my Mobley great-great grandparents circa 1910.

Joseph & Mary Caroline Mobley
with the McDade water tower in the background

I had succeeded in getting in and out of the book signing quickly, so I decided I would follow up on a bit of information I had picked up last weekend at the Harvest Art fest. In conversation with one of the vendors, I had learned there was a new yarn shop in Paige and I was aching to check it out. So there being no time like the present, I headed on toward Paige.

I was astounded to discover that Yarnorama is no ordinary yarn shop but rather one of the special ones. I entered the store to find a half-dozen women busy with spinning wheels and in animated conversation. Just past them was a fabulous array of yarn, books, tools and knitted shawls, scarves and sweaters. The money I saved at the Antique Mall got spent in a hurry. I was invited to join their regular spinning sessions and as soon as I get my spinning wheel back in working order, I may just take them up on the invitation. This is the kind of yarn shop I always wanted to have myself. I even got to pet the angora rabbit that was supervising the place.

I really enjoyed my afternoon of wandering around Bastrop County. I got to eat my favorite food, spend time prowling an antique store, visit with some old friends and some new friends, take some pictures, explore a new yarn store with a great atmosphere, pet a puppy nose and scratch some rabbit ears and all on a beautiful, crisp Texas day.

Who needs Christmas shopping at a mall?


Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Boo Goes For a Ride

For the length of the time that Boo and Scout have lived with me, there has been a cat condo/tower in the corner of the living room, reaching up to within a foot or two of the ceiling. When they were kittens, they would zoom up to the top and down to the floor in a blur of motion but now that they are grown it generally serves one purpose. I keep their dry food in one of the cubicles that is high enough to be out of reach of dog moochers.

The bottom of the tower had gotten into an unsightly mess, partly from food jibbles and partly due to a certain little boy dog I could mention who passes by every so often and expresses his opinion of cats against one of the legs. I decided a few weeks ago that I would dismantle the thing and figure out some other place to put their feeding station.

When I gave it a good look this past weekend, I came to the conclusion that there was still some life in it, but I wanted it in a less conspicuous place. So I cleaned it up with the vacuum cleaner and some carpet shampoo and decided to move it into a corner in the bedroom.

Scout and Dixie were a little disturbed at the whole process and went to the far reaches of the house until it was over, but not Boo. While I worked on the thing, he sat in the uppermost tray studying me. When it came time to move it, I suggested he get down. He blinked at me and continued to sit.

Ok, buster, I said, suit yourself. The thing is a clumsy assortment of poles and platforms and the only way I could move it was to grab a couple of corners and begin to awkwardly bounce it along the floor. I figured Boo would bolt, but I was wrong.

As I proceeded to bounce the thing across the living room floor and then down the hall, he continued to sit in the top tray, grinning like the Cheshire Cat. The little squirt was enjoying the ride and it had the added excitement of putting him close to light fixtures and pictures on the wall that he normally couldn't examine.

Down the hall we went and then we came to the door into the bedroom. The top tray had about 2 inches of clearance and the assorted platforms had to be moved one at a time, first this way and then that way, as I proceeded to wiggle the whole thing into the bedroom. There was no room for a 12-pound cat at the top, but he refused to move. He just flattened himself into the tray and hung on. I swear I heard some cat giggling as I struggled to get all the odd angles through that door.

We finally made it and he was still in the top tray and observing with interest the approaching ceiling fan. He toyed briefly with the idea of jumping up on top of the blades, but fortunately decided against it. We bounced on into the new location.

I think Boo has decided this is where the cat tower should have been all along. He had virtually ignored it for months, except at meal times. Now I keep looking over in the corner of the bedroom and find him back up in that topmost tray, blinking at me across the room and looking like he thinks he is the potentate surveying his kingdom.

I'm so glad to have a purpose in life. If nothing else, I entertain cats.


Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Secret Life of a Little Dog

Until the last week or so, I thought that Coco spent most of her free time napping or monitoring the folks who take their walks past the house. I never dreamed she was surfing the Internet.

It turns out that Miss Coco has joined Facebook and is making friends right and left. She is playing Farm Town, Farmville, Country Life, Cafe World and Yoville. She is uploading photos. My little girl has become computer proficient.

Well, the truth of the matter is that I was having trouble acquiring enough neighbors to level up in those Facebook games. I knew it was no good asking little brother to establish a presence in the games (the boy just doesn't have that gamer's gene), so I set out to wheedle and cajole Miss Coco into signing up for Facebook. I promised her she would not have to spend any more time online than it would take to accept me as a neighbor here and there. Once a day she could sign in, send me the gifts I wanted, and sign out. Nothing to it.

I should have known better. I knew Facebook was addictive. She started slowly, dabbling with the games after she would send me the daily free gift. It only took a couple of days before I began to catch her sneaking off to the bedroom to use my laptop. The email address I had set up for her began receiving friend requests. She began to pad her profile to make herself sound more interesting to potential friends.

I think I may have created a monster. She's beginning to growl about our bandwidth. She cuts our walks short with the terse comment, "I have to get back and harvest my crops." I snuck a look at her News Feed and found that she is getting posts from Pit Bull rescue groups and offers for coupons to dog spas.

And worst of all? I think her friends list is going to get bigger than mine.


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Home Visit

The wayfaring Wilcoxen kids touched base with home this past weekend. As preacher kids, we bounced around quite a bit as children, but we landed in Smiley in 1964 and stayed for 9 years, the longest stretch our father spent as a pastor in any one place. It was a marvelous little place to grow up in--everybody knew everybody else and watched out for each other. I remember the summers best. Long stretches of lazy days to read, go over to the church to practice the piano, walk down to the small public library that had the best collection of Nancy Drew books I ever ran across, or stop in at the little drug store for a large limeade on a hot afternoon. It was small town living at its best and I will be forever grateful it was my fortune to live there as I plodded my way from 4th grade to High School graduation.

David with Coco, Cindy with Mojo on the steps of the First Baptist Church

As I was working at home one day this week, I listened for a few minutes to "The View" as Whoopi Goldberg ruminated post-birthday on what it was like to grow up in the 1960s. (I normally do not watch/listen to "The View". One of these days I swear I'm going to throw something heavy at Elizabeth Hasselbeck. A more perfectly annoying woman I have never known.) Whoopi is only a year younger than me and as I listened to her describe the days of her childhood, I immediately pictured my own in Smiley.

I can't remember a lot of what she said, but there was a part in there about how a kid could disappear at 9am, reappear at supper time, and nobody knew where you were for the entire day and there was no way to get hold of you until you showed up and it was perfectly ok. Back then you were free to explore and go find kids to play with and the main thing was to stay out of your mother's hair. You knew what you were allowed to do, you knew what you were not supposed to do, you knew if you strayed off the allowed path you were going to get punished (and every eye in the community was on you so there was no avoiding the day of judgment - your parents were going to know exactly when and where you fell from grace before you even made it home), you learned to make friends without benefit of social networking groups (what on earth was life like without the Internet?), and you were vibrant with health because you were outside in the fresh air playing instead of inside slumped in a chair staring at electronic displays.

That was growing up in Smiley. I never ever walked anywhere without at least two people stopping to offer a ride to wherever it was I was headed. I never feared walking home from school even in the dark; every house along the way was a place of refuge if needed. So long as I told my mother where I was headed and when I expected to be back and was careful to extract permission if it was going to be necessary to cross "The Highway" that ran through town, I was free to wander the town on foot or bicycle or sometimes roller skates.

I spent many hours sitting in a swing in the front yard, watching the traffic go by the house, waving at most of the cars because I knew just about everyone who drove by. While I sat there, I would sing to myself or read the latest books obtained from the library, and the days were lazy and peaceful. I wish I could grab just a few minutes of that carefree feeling now.

The occasional visit to Smiley reminds me of those great summers growing up. The tree where I spent time sitting in the perfect seat formed by its branches, hidden from view, is gone now. But the long sidewalks around the church, where I biked and roller skated are still there. The drug store closed long ago, but the little grocery just down the street is still there. The library moved from main street to a little house across from the parsonage. I would have been in hog heaven if that had happened while we still lived there. Mrs. Culpepper's house down on the corner is still standing, but the big old dilapidated house that sat kitty-cornered to it across "The Highway" was finally razed and replaced by a bank some years ago. Things change in the little town, but underneath it's still home.

We were in Smiley last Sunday to check on Daddy's grave. We planted some ground cover and some irises and hopefully when we check on it next spring, they will have flourished. It made sense to us to bury him in Smiley. Smiley is home. We will keep coming back and in my mind's eye it will be a lazy, peaceful summer again.

David, Karen & supervisor Mojo work on weeding and planting


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Recovery Ward

Just a brief pause in normal proceedings to catch up on the sick ward. While I was in Houston, Mojo and Coco had dental procedures and Dixie had her spaying and declawing done. All are home and well at this point, but it has not been all roses.

It took a good 48 hours to get the effects of the anesthesia out of Coco's system. She slept for the better part of the first day home, getting up to eat and to make quick trips outside, and then returning to her base camp on the chaise to sleep some more. In addition to her dental, she had a little growth removed from her ear and for the moment Mommy is forbidden to mess with her ear. I have to check its progress from a distance. (If you have ever had an acne cyst removed, it was somewhat akin to that - just a little pocket that collected goo.) Her teeth are beautiful, although she lost two molars that had come loose, and her ear is beginning to settle down now.

Mojo had a dental as well. I always worry about him when I leave him somewhere because he suffers from the odd epileptic seizure when he is under stress. He made it through his boarding, his dental and recovery just fine, with extra caution having been taken with his anesthesia to reduce the possibility of triggering a seizure. Once he was home, however, he was anxious and would not let me out of his sight. He seemed to be doing okay until I was getting ready to go to work on a morning last week when it was raining (both he and Coco are terrified of thunder), and the extra stress produced the seizure I had been half-expecting all along. Now he has settled down somewhat, but is still a bit nervous, especially about going outside and getting too far from the house and safety.

Dixie came home with post-anesthetic inebriation that was almost comical. She fell over and ran into walls and gazed at you with dilated eyes. She was definitely on some medicated trip, but she did not seem to be suffering any pain and she came home with two more days of pain meds that kept her sleeping. However, over the weekend she developed a worrisome cough. I ended up taking her back to the vet on Monday morning where they came to the conclusion that she had developed a throat infection from the intubation during surgery. More antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs were administered and now she is back to her old self. Scout is running for her life and Boo is regularly boxing Dixie's ears. It is one of those cases where you are glad to see your rotten little kid getting back to normal. A sick Dixie is a sad sight.

There are times when I am thankful I do not have to put my 5 kids through college or buy them the latest fashion fad or worry about them driving or doing drugs. However, I'm here to tell you that having 3 sets of medical procedures performed in one week, plus a revisit for the cough, plus the boarding fees gets expensive.

Shoot, my nerves got so bad during this recovery period that I even ran out of amaretto and had to go get another bottle. It's a good thing we were staying with a cousin while in Houston and didn't have plane fares and hotel rooms to pay for. My travel budget for the year has gone flat, thanks to the travel expenses of the dogs and cat.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Week on the Road, Part Last

As a final note for part 4 of the vacation travelogue, here is a hint of a miniatures scene to come:

As you can tell, there was no way I could leave this little display cabinet behind. It wants to be an Egyptian vignette.

Our last day of vacation dawned with beautiful weather. We ended our visit with Maxine with a leisurely breakfast at IHOP and a careful job of packing the car for the return trip. It was quickly apparent that we would need to stop off at home for an unloading before we went on to bail Mojo, Coco and Dixie out of the hospital. We decided to drive up through the countryside and hit I-10 well out of Houston.

Right. We were talking 90 to nothing on the way out of Friendswood and about twenty minutes later realized we had forgotten about the need to turn right and head toward Alvin. We realized that when we saw the sign welcoming us to League City, which is in the exact opposite direction of the way we had intended to travel. There was no choice but to hop on I-45 to take us to the Sam Houston Tollway and then to I-10 in downtown Houston. How better to end a vacation in Houston but to drive on all the feared freeways?

Fortunately the good weather and our having waited until after the main rush hour to depart led to an uneventual trip through the freeway puzzle and we were topping the hill outside of Smithville shortly after noon. As we neared Smithville, I remembered a store there that I thought Lana would enjoy, so we veered off to downtown and we spent a nice hour browsing Feather Your Nest. Of course, we added to our pile of goodies in the back seat.

By this time we were hungry and tired of travel, so we made a brief stop at home to drop off luggage and our pile of purchases and then headed to Elgin to rescue the animals. We ate some good Mexican food at La Morelia and then had a joyous reunion with the wee ones, all of whom were still just a bit drunk from their procedures the day before.

When we got home, everyone was just a little bit miffed with Mommy so they clustered around Lana and gave me baleful looks. Dixie was still somewhat sedated with pain meds and was literally bumping into walls. Coco and Mojo spent most of the remainder of the day catching up on their sleep. Boo and Scout had been exceptionally good during their stay at home alone (only one roll of toilet tissue was shredded).

We had one final vacation event that night. In our tour of Bastrop on Monday, we had been invited to come to a performance of the play that was currently playing at the Opera House. We decided that we needed to experience the ambience of the theater before committing to it as the location for the UDC's January event, so we joined a moderately sized, enthusiastic audience for that evening's performance of "Murder by Poe".

We thoroughly enjoyed the experience. The mystery stories of Edgar Allen Poe served as the backdrop to the play, which each story being re-enacted for the audience within the framework of an over-arcing storyline involving a mysterious woman in white who was seeking refuge in a sinister house in the woods. The performance was by turns comic and tragic and each tale brought surprises springing from closets and balconies and even one from below the stage. I won't say more except to recommend that you see the play if you have the opportunity. The ending was another surprising twist that brought all of the elements together in a conclusion that I did not see coming. I will be looking forward with anticipation of future productions.

Thus ended our fall 2009 vacation. We found that we could see just as much, eat just as well, buy just as much, and have just as many unexpected detours along the way as when we fly half-way across the country. Can't wait for the next excursion in spring 2010.

For now, it's back to work!


Monday, October 26, 2009

A Week on the Road, Part Four

Overnight a weather system came on shore from the Gulf and brought with it rain and wind and a tornado watch. We cancelled our planned breakfast out in favor of staying inside until the weather had settled down. We were to meet Lana's sister for lunch in Alvin and we were relieved when the rain and wind died down mid-morning in plenty of time for us to make our appointment.

It is hard for the casual visitor to know when Friendswood stops and Alvin starts. It was only a 15 minute drive to our meeting spot and did not involve a freeway, which was a relief considering the weather. It was cool and misty, but eventually the rain tapered off and we had a pleasant day of sight-seeing in Alvin.

What you may ask is there to see in Alvin? Well, lots as it turns out. After meeting up with Janie at Buddy's Old Time Services, a car repair shop she owns with her husband, we set out to locate a couple of parcels of property that my ancestor Dr. Henry Hodge had owned around the turn of the century. (We have to have a requisite amount of genealogy per day on our trips.) I had determined the addresses of the two tracts, so we set out to find them. It turned out that both were on the main street that runs through Alvin.

It is too bad that my Hodge ancestors did not hang onto some of the property they acquired. Dr. Henry owned acreage in Lee County, town lots in Lockhart, acreage in Brazoria County, and town lots in Roby. In Alvin, he owned both sides of an alley that currently runs alongside a bank:

and two lots where there is presently a Mexican Restaurant:

In wondering what might have resided at these locations when Dr. Henry owned the property, Janie took us to the museum where we were able to look at an old plat of the town and confirm that we had located the correct lots, but there were no old photos available of the properties in question. Later in the day we met a gentleman at City Hall who did not have photos either, but he was able to tell us a little about what was going on in the town at that point in history. I don't think it had quite sunk in for me until we talked to him that Alvin would have suffered damages from the great 1900 hurricane that devastated nearby Galveston. Only 17 structures remained standing in the town after the storm, so whatever had sat on the property when Dr. Henry bought it, it was most probably not in existence at the time the family sold it after his death in 1904.

That concluded our genealogical portion of the day. The rest of the day was just fun. The three of us girls went to the Alvin Antique Center and Marketplace. We started our visit with lunch in the Milk Pail, a wonderful little tea room at the rear of the store. The food was delicious and the atmosphere was wonderful if you love antiques, fine china and tea party elegance. After filling up on their tasty chicken salad, tomato basil soup and bread pudding with rum sauce (I had lemon zest cake instead of bread pudding because I can never resist a lemon cake), we spent the next few hours browsing the large antique mall.

Needless to say, we added more to our back seat. Lana made a great find of a half-dozen vintage hats, some vintage doilies and a greyhound figurine. I found more books.

Not long ago I ran across a complete set of the Golden Books Children's Encycopedia, a set I had owned as a child and could remember reading to tatters. I had purchased that set and given it a place of honor in my living room. I had not known until now that there was a companion 6 volume set of atlases. I found the complete set of atlases in Alvin and now they have been added to my collection.

I also found a display cabinet for a future miniature scene and it was this small cabinet that was the real problem to tote home. It was a 2-foot high glass pyramid with one interior shelf that I intend to use for an Egyptian scene. Of course they did not have a box that would fit it, so it was wrapped carefully in tissue and I held it in my lap all the way back to my car, where we carefully packed it with blankets in the back passenger floor space.

Lana's hats were individually wrapped in white plastic bags and we carefully placed those in a single layer in the luggage compartment. (When we packed to come home, they were carefully positioned across the top of our luggage to prevent their being crushed.)

Despite the temptation, I did not purchase the oak side chair that I thought was such a good buy. It wasn't because I have will power but because I could not figure out how it would fit in the car to come home. be continued one more time...


Sunday, October 25, 2009

A Week on the Road, Part Three

We arrived in Friendswood safely, with only a moderate case of jangled nerves. The freeways in Houston aren't really any worse than those of Austin or Dallas, but the drivers are considerably more aggressive. They whip in and out of lanes at maximum speed with inches of clearance and they are not at all hesitant to let you know when you have committed the unforgiveable sin of being a courteous, careful driver. God forbid you leave a safe distance between you and the car in front of you. That is an invitation to have someone attempt crossing 4 lanes at one swoop.

Looking at the map, we had estimated it would take a half hour to make our journey and were a little disbelieving when the dollhouse store proprietor had told us it would take more like an hour and a half. Always listen to the locals, because that was exactly how long it took us to negotiate I-45 a distance of twenty miles.

We arrived at Cousin Maxine's and were welcomed literally with open arms. Cousin Maxine and I are 4th cousins in a shared Mobley line (Reason Mobley is great-great-great-grandfather to us both). She is a genealogist par excellance and retired about ten years ago from the top post of Houston's Clayton Library, a major genealogical research center in the United States (probably 3rd behind Salt Lake City's Family History Library and Fort Wayne's Allen County Library). She knows every nook and cranny and resource they have to offer and had volunteered to be our personal guide for a day at her library.

Cousin Maxine's house is also a fairly impressive research center. One bedroom of her house is lined with bookshelves that hold her collection of reference books. Another bedroom holds her computer and is also lined with bookshelves that hold the notebooks containing her years and years of family research. There are multiple file cabinets and I did not even look inside the closets. Bottom line, if you are researching Mobleys and Lewises, she's your go-to gal. Someday I hope to have a home research library just like hers. It's a great way to spend your retirement years. Just walk down the hall in the morning and you are in business.

Thankfully Maxine knew a way to get to the library that did not involve I-45, so we arrived about five minutes after they opened and with unjangled nerves. We were delighted to discover that they were in the midst of their annual book sale. Books that had been donated that duplicated books they already had were being offered for sale at ridiculously low prices. I bought 10 or 12 books - mostly thick books that take up a lot of room. Lana bought another half-dozen. The back seat was beginning to fill up.

We had the forethought to bring along a picnic lunch to eat in their snack room, so we never had to move from our sunny (mostly, but in late afternoon rain clouds moved in) table next to the Georgia bookshelves. I spent some time exploring their microfilm collection and was able to eliminate yet two other Texas counties where my missing marriage record might be lurking. We happily worked until 4:30, when we pooped out and headed for home. We ate supper on the way, so by the time we arrived home we were resuscitated enough to head to the back bedrooms and continue our research in Maxine's library.

It was very gratifying at the end of our research day when Maxine pronounced that we were very able researchers. She has worked with the best and we felt that was high praise indeed. We spent some time each evening of our visit batting around ideas for breaking through our brick walls and getting her objective opinion on some questionable records we had found. We thoroughly enjoyed our day in the company of such a knowledgeable researcher.

The next day took us in a different direction, to be covered in the next post.

In a slight detour from topic, it has been interesting today to observe Miss Dixie's recovery from surgery. She has not seemed to feel bad, but she wants to be close to Mommy and she doesn't want to share Mommy with the other kids. She hovers nearby when I am on the computer, keeping an eye on me.

Both Boo and Scout have been spending time in my lap today, happy to have life back to normal. I was amused at one point when Dixie stood it as long as she could from her vantage point on the desk, reached over and bit Scout's back hard to get her to leave. The next interloper was Mojo, who Dixie didn't dare bite. She took a different approach, reaching out to touch him with her paw until he got irritated enough to move down to the dog bed under the desk. At that point, Dixie decided she might ought to claim Mommy's lap for herself and she oozed down into position, where she took a nice long nap.

"I've been sick." installment, locating Dr. Henry's property in Alvin.


A Week on the Road, Part Two

Day two found us up early. Big Red was packed to the rafters with everything but the kitchen sink. Leaving on a trip requires preparations similar to those required for a military invasion. On this occasion I decided to risk leaving Boo and Scout at home, but Dixie, Mojo and Coco were spending the week with the vet. Dixie was scheduled for her spaying and the two dogs were having dentals while I was off gallivanting in the wilds of Houston.

So the back seat was full of pet carriers that were full of dogs and cat, their bags of food, their toys and leashes, our cooler of drinks and bag of snacks, camera bags, etc., while the rear compartment was full of suitcases, briefcases, totes full of family notebooks, makeup bags, a sleeping bag and pillow (I was to be sleeping on a cushy couch). We were full to capacity, a fact that would become problematic at a later point in my story. A mere 17 miles later and we checked the dogs and cat into their rooms at the vet and our vacation was officially begun.

For the first stop at a point of interest, I introduced Lana to an important site of Texas Baptist history. My alma mater Mary Hardin-Baylor College and that other Baptist college in Waco had their beginnings in 1845 in Independence, Texas. (Independence also claims the distinction of "Birthplace of Texas".) The girls' college sat on one hill and the boys' college sat across the valley on another hill. Baylor Female College eventually moved to Belton and became Mary Hardin-Baylor while the boys' college moved to Waco and became Baylor University. All that remains of the original buildings is a set of columns that belonged to the girls dormitory. We alumni of Mary Hardin-Baylor feel the need to return to this touchstone from time to time.

Old Baylor ruins at Independence, Texas

The last time I had my picture taken in the archway of the columns was in the early 1980s. To those of us steeped in the traditions of Mary Hardin-Baylor, to stand in the archway is to feel like you have come home.

Just down the road is Washington-on-the-Brazos, where the Texas Declaration of Independence from Mexico was signed in 1836. There is a very nice Visitors Center there and we stopped for a brief visit.

The next item on our agenda was to stop at the Grimes County courthouse to check their indexes for possible records of my peripatetic ancestor, Dr. Henry Hodge. The Grimes county seat is in Anderson, a tiny little town that grabbed that distinction before neighboring Navasota overtook it in growth. We were surprised at the lovely courthouse that sits on an island in the center of a traffic crossroads.

Grimes County Courthouse in Anderson, Texas

My hopes to find a missing marriage record here were dashed, but even proving theories wrong is time well spent in the pursuit of ancestors. We quickly checked their deed records as well. This is apparently one of the rare places that ole Hank lived where he did not buy and sell any property.

So we were soon on our way again, this time to visit Dollhouses Unlimited in Spring. Oddly enough, Lana and I are not only fellow genealogists, we are also fellow miniaturists and we try to visit any dollhouse store that is in close proximity while on our research trips. We spent a little over an hour prowling through a store that was new to us. We naturally each acquired a pile of little things for our miniature projects.

So far, so good. We had only added a few small bags to the car, which thanks to our having dropped the pet carriers and pet food off earlier, fit easily into the back seat. It was time to head to the home of Cousin Maxine in Friendswood, where we would be staying for three nights.

Friendswood is directly south of Spring, with Houston lying between the two. There was no way to get there without entering the bowl of freeway spaghetti, so we took a deep breath and dived in. We were about 20 miles from Friendswood as the crow flies. About 90 minutes away as the Houstonian drives. And it was rush hour. be continued


Saturday, October 24, 2009

A Week on the Road, Part One

The semi-annual traveling road show that is Cindy's and Lana's continuing excellent adventure series took place this past week. We decided to do our traveling within the State of Texas this year and on this trip we headed off to the Houston area.

I don't look forward to driving in Houston, but the fact is that one of the nation's best genealogical research libraries is located there and we periodically venture into the rat's nest of freeways in order to partake of the wonderful resources to be found there. More on that later.

Before we left Bastrop, we spent a day scouting for a location that the United Daughters of the Confederacy could use for their January celebration of Confederate Heroes Day. We started with the museum maintained by the Bastrop County Historical Society, thinking that might be the solution. We had a nice visit with the curator and in the course of the conversation, I asked her about a photo I had heard was to be found there of Matthew Dunkin, an ancestor on the Mobley side of the family. She was at a loss until she thought of a book in their collection and when she brought it out for us to examine, I was surprised to see that it was a relatively new book on the history of McDade that I had missed getting a copy of when it came out last summer. Again, more on that later.

We were concerned that the museum might not be large enough to handle the gathering in January, so we proceded up the street to check out the meeting room at the old First National Bank building. We enjoyed a nice conversation with the volunteer who was staffing the Visitors Center that day and with a lady who heads the Main Street project. The interior of the Visitiors Center houses the original bank counters, brass teller's cages and vaults of the old bank, as well as photos of historic Bastrop along the walls. It was rather like briefly stepping back into the 1880s and I could picture my ancestors stopping in to withdraw money from their accounts.

During our visit, we got a nice lead on a possible meeting place and our next stop was the historic Bastrop Opera House. We met the gentleman who manages the operations there and got a personal tour of the facilities. The Opera House is a lovely old building that dates back to the 1890s and live theater productions are staged there on a regular basis. During the course of our conversation, we were invited to come back on Friday night to see their latest production, "Murder by Poe". As you may be expecting at this point, more on that later. The Opera House turned out to be an ideal location for the January event.

Happy that we had hit on a solution for the UDC's needs, we spent some time touring Bastrop and I began to try and make contact with the local author of the McDade book, hoping to be able to obtain a copy to add to my local history collection. Late in the afternoon, I reached her and made arrangements to drive out that evening to her home in McDade to pick up the book.

I'm always surprised to find out how many people in the area know me or know of me through my website. Audrey knew immediately who I was and of my family's connection to the history of McDade pottery. At one point she casually mentioned that my great-grandmother Hodge's house is still standing. That was news to me, since Mother had been under the impression that it had long since been torn down. She was born in that house and we had tried some years before to locate it, and failing to do so had come to the conclusion that it no longer existed. Audrey gave me directions and I was able to go by and get photos before dark.

The house that once belonged to Cora Mobley Hodge.

A photo taken probably in the 1920s on the porch of that house.
(Second from left is Cora Hodge, seated is Mary Caroline Mobley.) be continued


Saturday, October 17, 2009

Being a Social Butterfly

The welcome relief of some cooler temperatures has brought with it the desire to get out and do things again after a summer of hiding inside to avoid heatstroke. This week has been rich with opportunities to socialize.

On Thursday night I attended the quarterly meeting of the Bastrop County Historical Society. This time we met in the older portion of the county courthouse, in the second floor courtroom, for a presentation on the outlaw activity in and around McDade during the mid to late 1800s. I had not been to one of their meetings in quite some time and it was nice to be back. The speaker was someone with whom I had been exchanging emails for several months and had not yet met. Lisa is a native and current resident of Ontario, Canada, but has adopted McDade as a second home. A dozen years ago she read a book about the infamous 1883 Christmas murders which inspired a passion to research that era in McDade's history. She has spent an enormous amount of time digging in the archives at the courthouse, unraveling the facts of who was involved and what really happened.

The program was well attended and it became quickly evident that a lot of us local historians have personal reasons to be interested in this particular subject. (My Mobley line has a connection to a man who was murdered by the McDade vigilantes.) It was a very enjoyable evening and it was nice to finally meet my email pen-pal.

This morning, I headed to the Oak Hill Cemetery in the Camp Swift area of McDade for the dedication of a memorial marker honoring the Confederate service of great-great-granduncle Hezekiah Madison Mobley. A chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans group out of Kerrville was involved in the dedication and brought a half-dozen or so of their members in full Confederate dress, along with their guns and cannons.

These cannons and guns were fired at various intervals during the ceremonies and never failed to make me jump.

Just before the ceremonies began, we had an unexpected additional entertainment. The National Guard was apparently running some maneuvers over at Camp Swift. Large troop helicopters would fly over and then drop out a group of para-jumpers. About three large clusters of parachutes floated through the sky just before we started. It was an impressive display.

The dedication ceremonies included participation by great, great-great, and great-great-great grandchildren of Hezekiah and Sarah (Jones) Mobley. One of his great-great grandsons, Scott Dunbar, a member of the SCV group in attendance, gave a detailed biography of Hezekiah and an overview of the battles he would have experienced. Of the five sons of Reason and Lucretia Mobley, Hezekiah and his brother Joseph (my great-great grandfather) survived the war. Their three brothers perished in battle.

At the close of his talk, two great-grandchildren unveiled the new monument that has been added to Hezekiah's gravesite.

The ceremonies ended with the tolling of a bell and the playing of "Taps". In addition to the participation of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, two ladies from the Order of the Confederate Rose placed roses on the graves of both Hezekiah and Sarah. Hearing Hezekiah's story and experiencing these tributes to his military service was most moving and it was a privilege to be present and a part of the occasion.

This event brought another opportunity to meet some fellow researchers I had known only via connections on the Internet. I enjoyed a brief conversation with two Dunkin researchers and we patted each other on the back for our respective genealogical websites. (Hezekiah's mother was Lucretia Dunkin, sister of Matthew Dunkin who began the McDade pottery.) I also had the pleasure of visiting again with two Mobley cousins who have helped me in the cause of my research in that line.

The morning alone would have made for a great day, but I wasn't done just yet. From there I went on to the annual Cattlemen for Cancer Research fundraiser in Hills Prairie where I got to visit with kinfolks on the Hodge side of the family (the Pattons and the Pekars) and eat some barbecue. Finally, about 3 o'clock, I ran out of steam and headed home.

Nothing suits me better than a chance to pursue my interest in history and a chance to mingle with family. This has definitely been a good week and next week I'm scheduled to visit another cousin who is as big or bigger a genealogy nut than I am.

It's nice to get back into action.


Sunday, October 04, 2009

Twelve Years Ago

I was working on the horrible closet cleaning project again last weekend and uncovered a box that I had almost forgotten was in there. I had sealed that box back in 1997 and it has sat in the dim corner of the storage closet ever since. It was pushed to the back of my memory, but as soon as I saw it, I knew immediately what it contained.

Twelve years ago today I attended a concert at the Performing Arts Center in Austin with a good friend of mine. It was the second time we had gone together to see this particular performer and we had debated whether we would go. He was no longer wildly popular as he had been in his prime, back in the '70s. The first time he had come to Austin he had sold out the Erwin Center. I didn't get to attend that concert. It was several years later that she and Mother and I had gone to see him at the Erwin Center and at that point the concert was staged using only half of the massive arena.

I thoroughly enjoyed that first opportunity to hear him in person, but the night was not an unqualified success. He had been a little irritable that night. The performance was great, but there were some disgruntled remarks made (justly so) about the state of Austin's downtown district and he seemed a little put out that we weren't familiar with and readily singing along with the songs from his latest album. I enjoyed the experience, but it had left a tiny bit of sour taste in my mouth and I thought carefully whether I really wanted to go see him again when the opportunity arose in 1997.

We conferred and decided that this might be the last time he came to Austin and we still loved his music and that yes, we would go. We took some ribbing from our friends when we bought the tickets, because it was no longer in vogue to be his fan. We headed to the concert that night, and discovered there were a lot of us loyal fans left in the area.

He was in a fantastic mood that night at the PAC. The acoustics of that auditorium are fantastic and his voice was probably better than it had ever been, strong and pure and never faltering on the high notes. He joked, he told stories, he sang every familiar favorite and a few new songs that we had not yet heard. He played the heck out of his guitar. We left on a musical high. We were so happy that we had attended that concert and had the opportunity to hear him in such a wonderful performance.

It was exactly one week later that we heard the tragic news of his death. The appearance in Austin had been the next to last concert of his life. He had been in California, piloting a new plane he had just acquired. Something went wrong and John Denver died when the plane crashed.

It is always something of a shock to hear of the sudden death of a celebrity, but it is even more of a shock when you just saw that person in vibrant health. I was devastated, but also thankful that I had had the opportunity to see him again and to hear him again. I was grateful that the concert had been such a positive experience, with John singing better than ever.

A funny thing happened at this point. Naturally his music got a lot of airplay for a week or so following his death, but I couldn't bear to listen to it. It was a very long time before I could bring myself to listen to the John Denver albums I owned. I took advantage of the opportunity to buy the CDs that were quickly reissued after his death, but they sat in the cabinet unheard. I had not yet worn the T-shirt I had bought at his concert and I never did wear it. I gathered the T-shirt, the ticket stub, the news articles and the People magazine tribute, placed them in a plastic bag and packed them away.

A few months earlier had seen the sudden death of another celebrity. Princess Diana had been tragically killed at the end of August. I had accumulated a number of magazine tributes, the special CD issued by Elton John and the newspaper announcing her death. These, too, I had placed in a large plastic bag.

I stopped by The Container Store one day and bought a pristine white box. Into that I had put all the Princess Diana material and all the John Denver material, sealed the box and placed it in the back of the closet. There it sat until I ran across it this week.

After twelve years, I can listen to his music again. I can even sing along now without getting choked up. But there are songs that he sang that night that I still can't listen to without feeling a twinge of pain. We had such a great sense of happiness and such a wonderful sense of comaraderie that night when he performed Dreamland Express, he singing the verses and the audience singing the chorus. Whenever I think of that concert, I think of that song. I discovered this past week that someone who attended that night has posted audio clips from the concert on YouTube. The quality is lousy, but as soon as I clicked on the link to hear Dreamland Express, I was transported there. A brief moment in time with a group of people who were in full enjoyment of an artist's work.

It was a privilege to be there and I will be forever thankful that I made the decision to go. I will always picture John Denver the way he was that night - relaxed, happy, and giving a flawless performance for his fans.


Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Day in the Life of a Mean Widdle Kid

I know there are some of you out there who remember Red Skelton's Mean Widdle Kid. "If I dood it, I get in trouble....I dood it!"

This has become Dixie's philosophy of life.

Dixie's day begins at 5am - if she has been sequestered in the bathroom for fighting with Scout at midnight, she begins meowing to remind Mom that she was unjustly accused and incarcerated. If she has spent the night freely roaming the house, she pounces on Mom's nose to let her know that the alarm will be going off in a few minutes.

5:15 am, 5:30 am, 5:45 am and 6:00 am - she picks herself up from where Mom has flung her off the bed and marches out of the room in a huff, muttering under her breath.

6:05 am - she walks Mom to the pantry to show her where the cat food is kept. This is not just a walk, but her opportunity to help Mom wake up by creating an obstacle course, weaving into and out of Mom's path as as the aged parent blearily stumbles to the kitchen.

6:30 am - she launches her first attack of the morning on Boo or Scout, whichever one happens to be visiting the litter box. Nothing like freaking out a housemate by springing on them while their attention is otherwise occupied. She has assisted in greatly improving Boo's standing broad jump since she arrived.

6:35 am - she uses the litter box herself and complains about the way that Boo or Scout flung litter all over the room when they departed in haste.

7:00 am - she helps Mom with the ironing of the day's outfit by grabbing the iron cord and biting Mom's toes.

7:01 am - she nimbly dodges Mom's swat at her little hiney.

7:05 am thru approximately 10:30 am - she hounds Scout, chasing and biting and running upstairs and downstairs

10:30 am - nap time, which may last 5 minutes or may last 5 hours. Naps are interspersed with trips to the litter box and assaults on Boo and Scout. Unless Mom is working at home, in which case, she repeatedly lands on the desk and is repeatedly ejected, lands on the work table and watches tv for awhile, and then starts again with landing on the desk and flying through the air away from the desk - until

approx 5:00 pm - Mom gets home from work and it's time to see how many times she can get the poor woman to say "Stop it!" before

7:00 pm - supper time, when it is time to remind Mom repeatedly that it is supper time in a loud and strident voice until Mom gives up and opens a new package of expensive cat food, after being shown again where we keep it, with the weaving in and out of her path, and then sniffing the food and declaring that she's not hungry just yet and will eat later.

8:00 pm until about 10:00 pm - nap time until Mom begins to shut down the house and prepare for bed and trying to time it just right so that at

10:30 pm - when Mom finally gets into bed and settles down with her crossword for the evening, Dixie begins to prowl around the room, getting into the trash, chewing on important papers, jumping up on the bed so that Mojo will chase her off, and finally settling down like she intends to sleep for awhile.

11:00 pm - when Mom turns off the light, gets up and picks a fight with Scout, the object being to see how long it will take Mom to give up and get out of bed and catch one of them.

11:15 pm - settles down in the bathroom to sleep.

It's not easy being a Mean Widdle Kid.


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Pluses and Minuses

To anyone who has wondered at my absence, I'm okay. Mostly.

I'm enjoying the shift in temperature from HOT OVEN to WARMING OVEN, and the accompanying rain we've recently received. That's on the plus side of the slate. With the slight cooling effect, I've begun sleeping again. That's really a major mark on the plus side.

Still on the plus side, a couple of weeks ago I located the antique oak bedstead that I've searched for over the last year or so. I was on one of my noon-time rambles through the Antique Mall in Round Rock and there it sat, giving me a come-hither look and then when I got close to it seducing me with its beveled panels and curved oak side rails. Little brother was on vacation in the hinterlands of Big Bend at the time, so I cajoled a willing co-worker into transporting the bedstead to my office to await such time as little brother and his pickup would be available to haul it home for me.

It is still sitting in my office at work, thanks to the spotty rains that are continuing. I'm not complaining. If that's what it takes to get some rain in the area, I can live with a piece of antique furniture propped against the wall in my office for awhile. I get looks from the folks that pass by wondering why I have a bed in my office, but I live to confuse others and that makes it another mark on the plus side. (However, I am hoping for a break in the clouds at some point. I would really like to see this little beauty take its place with my other oak antique bedroom pieces.)

Another positive is the latest audiobook I've been listening to for several days now. In a weak moment, I purchased some classics to listen to "some day" and I decided it was time to get my money's worth from at least one of them. So I started La Morte d'Arthur and, while entertaining, decided it just took too much attention that I didn't have at the moment, so I shifted to Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. I really did not have great expectations that I would enjoy the book; I expected dry, stilted prose and a boring story. I surprisingly was caught up in Pip's story from the first and have just begun the 11th out of 14 discs and thoroughly enjoying the experience. I may just have to try Oliver Twist and David Copperfield.

Not everything has been hunky dory, however. First there are the terrible cat wars that are in full swing at home. Dixie, Boo and Scout have come to an understanding amongst themselves and I believe it is to drive Mom completely insane. Midnight is the witching hour and my little witch's familiars can convince you the house is coming down around your ears as they chase each other upstairs and downstairs, literally bouncing off walls and spitting and hissing in a most unpleasant manner until Mom gets up and snags Dixie and pitches her into the bathroom to spend the remainder of the night. The cats and dogs are learning a lot of new words as Mom does some pretty eloquent hissing of her own when she dives for a cat and falls over the bench at the end of the bed.

Then there is the return of the dreaded eye issue. I suffer from the recurring malady of chalazions and they are back. Simply put, the condition is the same as styes, but internal rather than external. It leads to puffy lumps in the eyelids that hurt, put pressure on your eyes that messes with your vision, and generally refuse to go away peacefully. Over the course of the last week, they have developed in both eyes and my mood has soured in direct proportion to their progress. I am dealing with antibiotics, eyedrops that apparently contain unicorn tears they are so expensive, and will see the eye surgeon later in the week to evalute the necessity of her intervention. Big black marks on the negative side, but then again it could be so much worse that I'm trying to be stoic.

So that's the report from the home front. I have hopes that the more pleasant weather will lead to more frequent bouts of writing. I have hopes that a trip to the vet for a certain little cat will sweeten her disposition (only 4 weeks to go). I have hopes that the rain will break long enough to get the bed out of my office and home where it belongs. I have hopes that Pip's story will have a happy ending, but I'm bracing myself on that one. I have hopes that the antibiotics are zipping through my bloodstream and battling the chalazion intruders. I have hope. And lots of amaretto, if that fails.


Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Conspiracy Theory

I'm beginning to think the cats are out to gaslight me. Scout and Dixie spend a lot of time battling throughout the house - Dixie chasing Scout and Scout hissing and yowling loud enough to wake the dead. On the occasions when they don't respond to my own yowling of "Stop that, I've had enough of that, quit it, NOW!" Dixie ends up shut in the utility room or bathroom for awhile to give Scout a chance to locate a good hiding place.

But then a few days ago I noticed that there were times when they would sit quietly in the same proximity. I even caught them lying placidly next to the water station, nose to nose, in some kind of silent communication. As soon as they saw me watching, they began slapping and hissing.

Scout & Dixie discussing how to drive Mom crazy


So I am trying to be sneaky, too, and spy on my little heathen cats to see if they are really getting along and just acting up when I'm around. I suspect they are bored and have started a game to see just how fast they can get me out of my chair and chasing after them.

I wasn't born yesterday. I've been playing cat games for 50 plus years. They've only been at it for 4 years (Boo and Scout) and 4 months (Dixie). We'll just see who wins.


Saturday, August 29, 2009


I live in a pine forest and I see from my own back deck the effects of the drought. Two of the pines on my second lot have died. One was ill and on its last legs for most of the summer, so it wasn't unexpected. The other is one of the older pines and has turned brown in the course of the last couple of weeks. I have many, many pines on my two lots, but it hurts to lose any of them.

Another of my pines died earlier this year and is beginning to fall over, fortunately away from the house, but it will be a mess to cut up and dispose of. I've also lost one of the nasty red-tipped photinas this summer. That doesn't disturb me, except for the unpleasant reality that once they die their trunk and roots turn into something akin to concrete and are the devil to get rid of.

There were two brief showers this week and have revived the weeds in the front yard enough that I will have to get myself out tomorrow afternoon and fire up the riding mower. I hope it starts. The yard has been completely barren of green for most of the summer and there has been no need to use the mower.

I hope more rain is on the way. My pines need it desperately.


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Dixie Explores

As I mentioned before, Dixie hasn't quite figured out the jumping up on things that don't give her a good claw hold to assist her way. She's beginning to get the idea, but she's not there yet. Today she managed to clamber up, in a roundabout way, to the top of the work table in my office. She was very taken with the view out the window, which at this particular point in time, included a flock of crows strolling about the front yard.

Then she discovered the little television that sits on that table. She sat, transfixed, for a long time, watching the images move. I gave her the usual Mother's warning about sitting too close and ruining your eyesight, but she told me to mind my own business.

She ran the gamut today, from exploring the new vista of the work table to being so obnoxious to Scout that she ended up in time-out twice. When the Dixie decides to be obnoxious, she doesn't mess around about it. She finally wore herself out and spent a good portion of the afternoon in a deep, restorative nap. After which, she started all over again.

I think I may be too old to be raising another baby.

UPDATE Thursday morning - Miss Dixie and Scout decided to have an all-out sumo-wrestling battle at midnight. Yesterday being the once monthly occasion when I get a massage and actually sleep well, their antics were not amusing. I tried hollering at them a couple of times, but ultimately had to get up and sequester Miss Dixie in the bathroom by herself all night. You would think the little scamp would get the message that rotten behavior equals isolation. I hope it eventually sinks in.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Don't Look a Gift Horse in the Mouth

I got this weird letter the other day from Dell Computers. They claimed to owe me $50 and if I did not fax back instructions for how I wanted to claim the money, it would be turned over to the State unclaimed funds. It has been a pretty good while since I've bought anything from Dell, so I couldn't imagine why they would owe me any money, but I'm no fool and I faxed them instructions to cut me a check, dudes.

There was precious little information to work with, but I finally figured out that the money was connected to the purchase of their MP3 player, the DJ Ditty, a couple of years ago. I had long since stopped using the thing and had almost forgotten I even owned one. It didn't cost all that much, so I still have no idea why I should be getting money back on it. But I'm willing to trust they know what they are talking about.

Today the check arrived and I'm going to hustle down to the bank and put it in my account tomorrow before they change their minds.

Now, what to do with my little windfall?


Friday, August 21, 2009

Temporary Peace on the Homefront

This morning's trip to the vet was an expensive one, but it had the unexpected benefit of creating an atmosphere of peace in the house for the day.

Mojo and Coco had their annual exams and two shots each. Both were pronounced in good health and had not gained too much weight, considering we've had to give up our daily walks until this heat wave breaks. They had to have blood drawn for the bi-annual heartworm test and then, the ultimate insult, got their toenails clipped.

Dixie was ooh-ed and aah-ed over and told repeatedly how beautiful she was. I had taken along her first picture to remind the doctor of how far she had come. The first time she had been there, she weighed in at 1-1/2 pounds. Two months later she weighs 4-1/2 pounds, a 300% increase. The doctor studied her much improved physique and guessed that she may have some Persian in her, based on her domed head and long hair. We agreed that she was not your ordinary stray kitten and that she has the potential to be a real beauty. She got her next round of shots, did her best to shred the chair in the exam room while the dogs got their exams, and then we were done.

The ride home was considerably quieter than the ride to Elgin had been. Both dogs had fretted themselves into exhaustion and even Dixie settled down. When we got home, all three of them crawled into corners and slept hard all afternoon. Dixie even slept through her normal supper time. Scout said it was the best afternoon she's had in two months.

I always cringe a little when I have to settle the bill for one of these group vet visits, but I considered today that I really do come out ahead. If I had 5 children, I would be buying new school clothes and supplies and paying for music lessons and wearing myself out going to soccer games. I don't have to worry about putting them through college or sitting up at night waiting for them to get in.

Yes, I think I've got the better deal.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Trials by Cat

For a tiny fluff ball, Miss Dixie has made a huge impact on our quiet household. And I don't mean just the yelling of "stop that" that has become my daily, almost hourly, anthem. She has more energy per square inch than a nuclear reactor. Last night, as I sat at my desk before the computer, she decided she wanted to be on my shoulder. She jumped, reaching for something solid to get her claws in for traction, and that something happened to be my back. I screeched and flung her off of me and then we had a loud conversation, after which she decided she might just spend the rest of the evening under the bed.

This morning she was attempting to be a sweeter cat, camouflaging herself as just another of the pillow cats.

I am not the only target of Dixie's mayhem. Poor Scout is continually hunting for a spot that will put her out of aggravation's way. Dixie hasn't quite figured out that she can jump up on things without there being something soft she can anchor her claws into, so Scout spends her day sitting on the tops of desks or dressers or other pieces of furniture above Dixie's present reach. (I haven't got the heart to tell Scout it's only a matter of time before Dixie figures out there are springs in her feet. I hate to see a grown cat cry.)

I was chagrined to discover that one of Scout's places of safety is endangering some of my miniatures displays. I glanced over at the piano the other night and there was a cat where there shouldn't be a cat. She was curled up fast asleep on a gardening vignette. I've since made a stab at convincing her that it is not a good napping place, but so far she isn't paying the slightest bit of attention.

All I can hope is that she gives up this location before Dixie figures out she's there. I have this horrible premonition that I will be awakened by a horrific crash in the middle of the night and all my hard work will be scattered about the floor and the piano will acquire even more scars. (You may recall that the Taz cat bounced a lamp off the piano, gouging a dozen or so divots in the walnut finish.)

We have an appointment with the vet on Friday morning for a follow up exam for Dixie. I am anticipating that the doctor will be impressed with how much she has bounced back from the scraggly little waif I brought in two months ago. I, on the other hand, may be advised to get a long rest in the country.

I realized this morning that Boo and Scout went through this stage and I lived through it. However, they had each other to beat up on and that spared the rest of us a lot of scars and blood-letting. They've turned into pretty good cats. And it only took 3 years.

Lord, have mercy. Two and a half more years before I can expect Dixie to be a little lady cat.



Thursday, August 13, 2009

Visiting the Ex-Neighbors

I went downtown yesterday afternoon to get my hair done, decided to go back home by way of the courthouse to get my license tag renewal, and that put me within 2 blocks of where I used to live. I decided to drive down the old street and see what had changed. When I reached the block where we once lived, I spotted an old neighbor out in her yard and decided to seize the opportunity to stop and ask her a question that I've been meaning to ask the next time I saw her.

Vickie is one of those people with a major green thumb and works in her yard every day. She has layered in vines and blooming plants and added rustic iron fencing and little statues tucked in among the greenery. She has the knack, as did my grandmother, of being able to snap off a branch of something, stick it in dirt and have it immediately take root. I remembered that many years ago she got a start of the mock orange bush that lived in the center of my mother's front yard and I wanted to know if she would give me a start. The mock orange bush was always one of the first harbingers of spring, bursting forth with white blossoms along about my birthday every year.

We had a great time visiting and she gave me a tour of her yard. Not only did she have many descendant bushes of the original mock orange she acquired from us, she has altheas of every color, a big clump of lilies like the ones I had admired in the yard of our other neighbor Ben and many other tempting plants that she has promised to give me starts from when the weather gets cooler and transplants will have a better chance to take hold.

We went inside to get soft drinks and she showed me the renovations she has done since I was there last. Her house is one of the old early 20th century houses with high ceilings and decorative woodwork, similar to the style of my mother's old house. They have been painting and redoing wood floors and installing antique lighting fixtures and she gave me a real case of remodeling envy to see what can be accomplished when you have an eye for salvaging unique pieces from antique stores and Habitat for Humanity.

While we chatted and she showed me pictures of her new grandson and brought me up to date with what her two kids were doing these days, we heard a most unlikely sound...thunder. A few minutes later, we heard an even more unlikely sound...rain. It rained for a good 20-30 minutes, good heavy, soaking rain, with loud claps of thunder. She and her husband and I stood on the front porch and watched it for a few minutes, enjoying the sight of something we've not seen for weeks. You could just hear all those plants in her yard giggling with the sheer joy of the good soaking they were getting.

I waited out the heavy downpour, extending my visit longer than I had intended, and thoroughly enjoying the rare opportunity to pass the time with old friends. Her husband said if I'm going to bring rain with me, I need to visit more often.

I left with the promise that we would get together after the first norther this fall and she will load me up with cuttings to try transplanting to my yard. In return she wants a load of pine needles, if I can spare them. (I just looked at her with my jaw hanging - spare them? I've got pine needles enough for the whole county.) I hope by spring I might have the pleasure of seeing mock orange in my front yard again.

Now for the Dixie update--she has a new devilish trick. She gets on the back of the couch, oozes down over my shoulder, cuddles up next to my face and purrs like mad. Sooo sweet, you say. Gently, she puts her little nose up to my cheek - and hauls off and bites me. She's one little rascal.


Sunday, August 09, 2009

Mystery Solved

When I went out to water the plants night before last, I discovered one pot where there was no longer a plant - just dirt. The plant in the pot next to it was in pretty bad shape. It appeared that something had been either chewing on it or just tearing it up for the fun of it. I moved the surviving plant to the other side of the deck and decided that some bird had been looking for nesting material.

Today, when I got back from running errands, I glanced out on the deck and discovered the rest of the story.

I guess he likes the cool dirt in that pot, which is just the size for a squirrel bed. He saw me studying him through the window and I think I saw a tiny squirrel tongue protrude for a second.

I get no respect.


Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Blushing in the Driveway

You remember the song by Barbara Mandrell, I Was Country When Country Wasn't Cool? There's a line in there about parking at the drive-in movie and turning down the radio because you didn't want folks to know you were listening to George Jones. Mother used to tell me that back when Hank Williams was popular and no one had air-conditioning in their cars, you would indeed turn down the radio when you came to a stop where others might hear you listening to hillbilly music. It was considered somewhat uncouth to listen to that tacky stuff.

I found myself thinking about that this week when I pulled up to the mailbox in front of my house and lowered the window to get the mail. I was listening to an audiobook, the most recent offering of David Sedaris. I am really enjoying the book, but I do not recommend it without a note of warning. His humor and writing gets a little rough every so often and it is liberally sprinkled with language you would not want your mother to know you are familiar with. Funny, yes, but if you have tender ears, don't go there.

I wasn't thinking when I pulled up to the mailbox and lowered the window. After all, it's not like the book is a constant stream of profanity. It's just that a sentence will pop out every now and then that turns the air inside the car blue. And rather than finding it offensive, it usually makes me laugh out loud. The guy is good at catching you off guard and presenting a hilarious comment within a network of words not used in polite company.

Just as I reached out to get the mail, he began to describe a conversation with a New York cab driver and out came a string of words, most of them beginning with the letter "f". OMG, I thought, looking in the rear view mirror and out the side windows to see if any of my neighbors were outdoors and within earshot. I did not see anyone, thank goodness.

So now, for the duration of the audiobook, I am being a little more cautious. I'm switching to NPR as I approach the mailbox. My enjoyment of David Sedaris' writing will be my own guilty pleasure.

That and satellite radio's Bluegrass Junction. It wouldn't bother me all that much for the neighbors to know I'm a bluegrass junkie, but there's still a portion of the universe that doesn't understand that hillbilly and bluegrass music is not tacky.


Do Not Feed the Wild Animals

There's a reason why they say don't feed the wild animals. This is an example of what happens when you do. They move in and take over.

"Are YOU talking to ME?"

Pray for me.


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Red, White and Blue

Not that I ever tan worth a darn, but with the excess heat this year, I refuse to spend much time outside and as a result I am more pasty white than usual.

As I mentioned before, the shoes I wore on Saturday (which happened to be the third day in a row I had worn them) produced some painful toes after walking on uneven ground and in sand out on my country ramble. Sunday morning I had what amounted to a subdural hematoma at the base of my big toe. It was bluish purple and hurt. It has improved to the point of looking like a normal bruise, but still a blue where there shouldn't be any.

Finally, never let it be said that declawing your cats' front feet will completely protect you from claw damage. Scout jumped in my lap while I sat at my desk, got off balance and over-corrected and her back claws skidded across my bare legs just below the hem of my shorts. I have a lovely criss-cross of bright red scratches on my thigh.

I certainly look patriotic at this point, but I would really rather just wear my flag shirt.


Sunday, July 26, 2009

Party Crashing

I don't often get to visit with my 4th cousin and fellow Mobley genealogist Maxine, so when I got wind she was headed to this part of the country to attend a birthday party for her sister, I invited myself to attend. The party was in Lexington, about a half-hour's drive east, at the home of her niece.

On the one hand, I was really taken with their home, with its back yard full of decks under shade trees, a quaint outbuilding across the driveway where they keep their hunting gear and horse tack and crafting area, and the interior of their house that is full of my kind of antiques. (While I appreciate the ornate and elegant antiques, my kind of antiques leans more to the practical pieces that graced our grandparents' homes and I also have a real fondness for antique store fixtures.) The attraction somewhat paled when the hostess began telling me of their ongoing snake issues, but they still have a great place for comfortable country living. So long as you have a gun at hand when the next rattler comes along.

I was pleasantly surprised that Maxine's sister remembered me and that another genealogist quasi-cousin that I know was in attendance. I was able to visit with each of them, eat some mighty fine BBQ and indulge in a great slice of birthday cake - all the while sitting on a sprawling deck in a rare and pleasant July breeze.

One of the attendees was this colorful fellow, who punctuated the afternoon with squawky comments. One of his more piercing shrieks was aimed directly at me as I snapped his picture. Made me jump about a foot.

I rarely attend parties and I certainly don't make it a habit to crash them, but this time it was worth it to do both. Almost everybody there was related to me, some near and some distant, all were pleasant to visit with and a day in the country is always welcome. Today I'm making it up to the dogs and cats who very much resented losing a day of their weekend with Mom, and I'm resting my feet which were not happy with my choice of footwear yesterday. (I shucked my shoes last night to find that my toes had swelled to an alarming state. All better this morning, but there were a few hours last night when I was stepping carefully.)

Sometimes you need to shake up your routine. I surely enjoyed shaking mine.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Black Clouds Circling

I can't say I didn't expect it. When I got my daily low-carb ice cream bar yesterday afternoon, I noticed it wasn't quite as firm as usual. And there was this funny humming sound ever so often from the direction of the kitchen.

This morning when I checked, the freezer wasn't freezing and the refrigerator wasn't fridging. Thankfully the meat was still frozen and it was still pretty cool in the refrigerator, so I proceeded to begin the transfer of the stuff I definitely needed to keep to the small refrigerator in the garage. And, thankfully, I've not been keeping quite so much stuff on hand lately. Everything I absolutely needed to salvage found a home in the smaller space available. Looking on the bright side, if there is one, I finally pitched all those impulse buys that didn't work out and you feel guilty just tossing out right.

Ironically, today is the day the dishwasher repairman from Sears is supposed to come. In the old days, you could probably persuade a repairmen to go ahead and deal with both ailing appliances as long as he was here, but I know better. God forbid that a dishwasher repairmen touch a refrigerator in this day and age. So, I placed a second request for repair service and it will be a week before the refrigerator repairmen shows up.

While I can limp along just fine with the small refrigerator for a week, it has no ice maker and there is now no room at all for an ice tray in the freezer compartment, even if I still owned ice trays. I predict I will be hauling in the picnic ice chest and buying a bag of ice on my way home every day for the next week.

In other news, Dixie has decided to torment Boo and Scout and they are beginning to fight back. The house is a cacophany of snarls, hisses, yowls and sounds of things crashing as they bound from corner to corner. They do get along for the most part, but Dixie in mean mode can try the patient of a saint and the heathen cats ain't no saints.

The stomach bug that has had hold of me for the last couple of days seems to be on the wane, but not completely gone.

It's still hot.

The latest upgrade of Farm Town has caused major glitches in some areas that have cast a pall on the fun there.

You would think with all these dark clouds hovering above me, it would rain a little.


Monday, July 20, 2009

The Dixie Report

I am having so much fun with Miss Dixie. Every day she comes up with something new to add to her bag of tricks.

Dixie has a whole floor full of cat toys - rattly balls, crackly cat tunnel, catnip mouse, chirpy bird, and the list goes on - and she plays with all of them throughout her day. But, the best toys are the found toys. She has discovered the wastebasket under my desk. I will hear her rattling around under there and she will be deep into the basket, looking for kitty treasures. This morning she had a great time killing an envelope she found lurking in its depths.

Her newest trick is reminiscent of Tinker, a cat of some renown in our family's past. She goes into the kitchen or the utility room and yowls for someone to come find her. Tinker would pull this same stunt while hiding in the bathtub. When the unwary victim comes into range, out springs Miss Dixie to wrap around your ankle like the Tasmanian Devil of the old cartoons.

While there is no doubt she knows her name, she is beginning to exercise her cat prerogative to ignore your call if it suits her. But I have her number. All I have to do is open the refrigerator door and she will come running from the farthest reaches of the house to help you decide what you should prepare for the upcoming meal.

"There's some chicken on that shelf up there."

She has moved into her own spot on the bed at night, right between the dogs, and is pretty much adjusted to our sleeping routine, although she did wake me up Saturday morning by pouncing on my nose. But when she curls up next to me with that wild, happy purr, I can overlook a little nose pouncing.

I'm really not sure how we got along before she joined us.


Joining the Crowd

A few weeks back I was in conversation with the programmers at work, who are considerably younger than this old programmer. (They are generally patient with my archaic knowledge of such things as COBOL, but sometimes you can see in their eyes that they are wondering if I was on speaking terms with any of the dinosaurs.) The conversation turned to Facebook and Twitter. Did I use them?

Well, I said, I had set up a Facebook account but I just couldn't yet see where it might fit into my world. I primarily wanted a presence there so that old high school and college friends might be able to connect, keeping in mind that my old high school and college friends are doddering and elderly themselves. I really didn't expect to spend much time there.

Then a couple of my genealogy contacts started posting messages and picking back and forth with each other. I couldn't keep out of that. Then a former co-worker who moved to New York City made contact and it was fun to have a way to fire off a brief "hey, how are you" and find out she was doing ok when there is no longer much we have in common to chat about. She travels a lot and takes great pictures, so I am also able to enjoy her adventures in a vicarious way, one brief moment captured at a time.

Then some current co-workers came on board. We don't always have time to chat at the office and it has provided little glimpses into what we do when we don't have our noses to the grindstone.

And now we have a small community of first cousins who are tweaking each other's noses. I have often wished we first cousins were in better contact and I am sensing this might be a way for us to keep in touch and get to know each other as adults, one zinger at a time. So far there are six of us active and I hope our number grows. I've often envied the sibling relationships that exist in the group of first cousins of which my father was a member. While I don't expect Facebook to create that kind of environment for us, at least it gives us a venue to communicate in brief conversational bursts and learn something about each other.

In a few weeks I've gone from seeing little use for the application to looking forward to checking in a half dozen times a day to see what's going on. If nobody is active, there is always an interesting quiz to take. That in itself can get addictive.

And we won't even discuss the Farm Town game. It's not an addiction, it's an obsession. My fondness for games, and especially sim-type games, has cause me to adopt Farm Town with a vengeance. I continue to have a great time building my little farm, planting my watermelons, peas, cotton and such and then going into the Farm Town community to hire folks to come harvest when the crops come in. Yes, it is a complete waste of time. I am enjoying it immensely.

So, I give. I'm an active participant in Facebook.

Now Twitter on the other hand? I don't think so. I just don't see the point of logging my entire day, line by line. Who cares that I'm standing in line at Starbucks? I'm afraid Twitter will have to do without me.

After all, there's no Farm Town there.