Saturday, July 22, 2017

Smelling The Sunflowers

The only time I remember ever planting sunflower seeds was in the backyard of our house on 4th in West Des Moines. It was along the fence near the dove cote where they flourished.

They weren't your typical sunflowers, but rather Tithonia 'Torch' also known as the Mexican Sunflower. I chose them because they were supposed to attract butterflies, especially Monarchs. I was not disappointed.

Two years ago a volunteer sunflower started growing along the south side of the deck. At first I was going to pull it out but it was in an okay location so I let it grow. I was so glad I did. Looking at it made me happy.
I posted this photo on Facebook with the caption: "I finally get Van Gogh!"

Though, to be honest, I still don't understand how someone could pay almost forty million dollars for one of Van Gogh's Sunflower paintings.

I remember the first time we drove through Kansas, The Sunflower State, and saw field upon field of sunflowers. Awesome. (Or maybe that is Oz-sum.)

This year the biggest volunteer sunflower is about ten feet east of where it was two years ago, but there are a number of smaller plants where that first one was - one of which is blooming.

The funny thing is, even though I have an aerosol spray can of Renuzit New Naturals 'Sun & Flowers' in the bathroom (something I bought many years ago and never used until now), I had never tried smelling the sunflowers until this summer. I didn't think they had an aroma. I thought their appeal was visual.
I understand not all sunflowers do have a fragrance, but these, these lovely volunteers have a sweet, sugary, cotton candy smell that I love. And they are just the right height to stick my nose into - watching out first for bees - every time I go by them.
Smelling the sunflowers - a small pleasure on a hot July day.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Hotter Than A Pepper Sprout

The only kind of pepper I've grown in recent years - an ornamental called Calico. And I don't know exactly what 'hotter than a pepper sprout' is, though the Johnny Cash/June Carter song Jackson made it a common term. But I do know it is hot. Very hot. The high today is to be 100° with a heat index of 110°.

This long, hot, dry spell makes me think of the heat wave the summer of 1980. The kids and I lived in an old, two-story farm house without even the thought of air conditioning.

It was the summer we practically lived at the beach at Lake Icaria - going there as soon as I got off work and staying until the sun had gone down. Somewhere I have pictures of Kari and Preston from that time but this photo of that beach is of Preston's daughters, Deise and Dominique, and son, Devin twenty-nine years later.

Three cousins bein' cool the summer of 1980, Kari, Suzanne and Kristi. Our grass isn't quite as brown yet as it was then, but it's headed that way. Only a small chance for some rain tomorrow morning.

A cold front is forecast to come through tomorrow night and bring temperatures back into the upper 80's and 90's. That will be a welcome change. In the meantime, I'm just grateful the air conditioner unit hasn't failed, though I'm not looking forward to next month's electric bill. Hope you're staying cool.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Makes You Wonder Why

"Lonely looking sky, lonely sky
     And being lonely

Makes you wonder why
    Lonely looking sky

Lonely looking night, 
     lonely night

And bein' lonely
     never made it right

Sleep, we sleep

For we may dream
     while we may dream

For we may wake
     one more day

Glory looking day, 
     glory day

And all its glory told a simple way
     Behold it if you may

Glory looking day on

Lonely looking sky"

The Grammy award winning soundtrack album to the 1973 movie Jonathan Livingston Seagull has long been one of my favorites. Two of the songs are especially meaningful, Be and Lonely Looking Sky. Some of the latter's lyrics accompany a few of my many, many sky photos. 

Makes you wonder why; you really shouldn't.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

A Relative On The Iowa Peace Officer Memorial

I don't know if family members are aware that we are related to one of the peace officers whose name is on the memorial located on the state capitol grounds. I've known for many years, since visiting him and his wife in their Des Moines home, that Mort Staggs' father was killed while on patrol, April 20, 1928. I was reminded of her son's demise when researching 'Aunt Bertha' for yesterday's blog post.

This is James A. Staggs' picture from the Officer Down Memorial Page. He was 42 at the time of his death and had been a Des Moines police officer for five years. (Badge # 72) Cause of his death is listed as "vehicular homicide", with weapon: "automobile; alcohol involved".

In this photo, he looks a little older. It is from the Find A Grave website and was added by a retired Des Moines police officer. Here is an account about James' death from the Find A Grave site:

"Appointed to the Des Moines Police Department on March 26, 1923. Killed in the line of duty April 20, 1928 at 6th & Crocker in a patrol car accident.

Officers Staggs and Fred Davis were headed back to the station in their patrol car with a prisoner they had arrested for intoxication. They observed a sedan ahead of them zigzagging back and forth. Assuming the driver of the sedan was drunk, Staggs proceeded to draw up next to the car in an attempt to pull it over. The sedan suddenly swung toward the patrol car, forcing it to veer sharply to the left. At that moment a 6th Avenue streetcar was about to pass the two autos and Staggs turned the patrol car into its path.

Officer Staggs' head was crushed and he lived only a few minutes. Officer Davis received a head wound and a skull fracture and their prisoner had cuts and a skull fracture."

I have family members interested in law enforcement that will probably find this post more interesting than others, but it is a snippet of family history I wanted to share.

James and my grandmother Delphia were first cousins, though Grandma was closer in age to James' son, Mort. I will always remember how welcoming Mort and his wife Louise were when I contacted them and then went to their home in search of family history. And I remember hearing about Mort and Louise from Grandma when growing up, so I believe the two families were close.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Chasing Down "Aunt Bertha"

On the back of the postcard style picture is written in my Grandmother Delphia's hand: "Mother (Tillie Means) & Aunt Bertha" (Matilda, standing with her hand on Bertha's shoulder). To me it seemed obvious they were sisters, but I couldn't find Bertha listed in my great-grandmother Matilda's obituary, nor her sister Becky's (Rebecca). I was stumped for about three days.

I actually thought she might have been married to a Staggs. Grandma had a cousin, Mort, and I *knew* his mother and grandma Delphia were cousins. But when I looked up Mort's parents his father was James and his mother was Maggie. To make a long story short, I just needed to go back one more generation to James Staggs parents: William J. Stagg(s) and Bertha L. Lippincott. I also found the Lippincott's in the 1870 census where Bertha is listed as 'Berthena', age 10. Great-grandma Matilda (Tillie) was 7 and Rebecca (Becky) was 12. Older siblings were Lydia, 13, Sarah, 15 and Thomas, 18. All were born in Iowa.

This is a picture of Sarah. Her blouse looks similar to the ones Tillie and Bertha have on in their photo.

This is an earlier picture of Sarah on which Grandma had written: "Aunt Sarah and 'Old Crab' Conally". That still makes me chuckle. I still haven't worked out how she was married to Caleb Conally first and then married to Nathan Bozarth (see my post, "Old Crab Conally" October 21, 2012), but Aunt Sarah died March 6, 1935 in Niangua, MO as did Nathan C. in 1897.

My great-grandmother, Matilda (Tillie) Lippincott Means with her husband, George Robert Means are buried in the Mt. Etna Cemetery (Adams Co. Iowa) as is her sister, Lydia Jane Lippincott Elliot. Lydia was born November 25, 1857 and died May 12, 1897. The Find A Grave site does not give a spouse name nor any children's names. It only says: "She died at her home in Mt. Etna, May 12. The cause of her death was a tumor." Rebecca (Becky) Lippincott Earll died in July 1929 and is buried in Gothenburg, Dawson County, Nebraska as is her son, Ami Lippincott.

Rebecca Lippincott Earll

That accounts for the daughters of David and Catherine Lippincott, now if I can just find more about Thomas W. whom I believe lived somewhere in Missouri. Also, tomorrow, more about Aunt Bertha's son, James A. Staggs, a Des Moines policeman killed while on duty.

Monday, July 17, 2017

A Few More Old Family Photos

Aunt Lois, Mom (Ruth) Aunt Evelyn and their cousin Ray. Ray was born in May, 1922, so I guess this picture to be Spring, 1923. Lois was born June, 1920, so almost 3. Ruth born January, 1919, age 4. Isn't she just the cutest little girl? And is that a huge bow in her hair or something behind her? Evelyn born November, 1916, age 6. It also looks like she might have a bow in the back of her hair. Ray tragically died after being kicked in the stomach by a colt the month before his 18th birthday.

 Grandma Delphia, her brother Orphas and sister Drothel. Orphas was born in 1883. There was a sister, Delilah born in 1890 who died aged 2, then Drothel born in 1893 and Delphia in 1896. So guessing their ages in this photo, 9, 22 and 12?

Besides the marked age differences in the photo, the other most surprising thing to me was Grandma Delphia's long curls.

Is that why Mom curled my hair like that when I was young? It made me wonder if I could see familial similarities.

I decided my little sister Betty, pictured age 2 with Grandma's cat, most resembled a young Delphia. Though perhaps if young Ruth had had long curls instead of short hair I would see more of a resemblance?

I just love looking at old photos of family members and trying to piece together the puzzles of their lives.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Changing My Mind Back Again

At first this post was going to be about paying my respects, then it was going to be about paying homage, now it is a little bit of both.

Paying homage - to my Grandma Bessie whose birthdate this is. Larkspur, meaning lightness, is the flower for July and Ruby is the birthstone. Grandma wore a ruby all the time I can remember. It was her engagement ring.
Grandma and Grandpa Lynam (with daugher-in-law, Ruth, and three grandchildren, Ronald, Betty and me) on their acreage with a view of northwest Corning on the hill east of them (1945).

It was as I was looking in my diaries (1956-1961) on this date to see what I might have written then about Grandma's birthday that I decided to go back to my first idea...

Paying my respects. These two women were once my sisters-in-law. After their brother and I divorced I never had much contact with them until the last few years when I reconnected with the youngest, Sherry, on Facebook. But even when we once again lived in the same town, I never did see Marjo. Yesterday was her funeral.
I went to the family visitation out of respect, but also to again see these two boys who once were favorite nephews. I have reconnected with the oldest, Alan, via my son's (their cousin) birthday three years ago followed up by becoming Facebook friends, but I haven't seen David since he was about ten.

When I walked into the funeral home at first I didn't see anyone I recognized, then back in the corner I saw a man I was sure had to be David - and it was. It was so good to see and hug him again. Alan came in a few minutes later - another hug as he called me one of my favorite endearments, Auntie. To still be thought of as his auntie means the world to me.

Picture of Alan, Marjo, Danise and David scanned from the funeral program. These three are her remaining children. I can't imagine losing one child, let alone three as she had.

And the diary entry that made me change my mind back again to writing about Marjo? Sunday, July 16, 1961: "Left (Kenny's home) at 5:00 a.m., there (Marjo and Danny's in Kansas City) at 8:00 a.m. Took kids (Alan and David) to Swope Park Zoo." Fifty-six years and I still remember that day. Had I read this diary entry before yesterday I might have asked those boys if they remembered it too.

It is Sherry's Facebook profile picture of her and Marjo that I borrowed to post above. She was also there yesterday. We recognized one another thanks to 'seeing' each other on Facebook, but it was the first time to see her in person probably since Kenny's funeral in 1980 - and I don't remember talking with any of the family that day.

My son, Douglas, bears the family name and is my link to these former in-laws. Time will eventually heal some of the sadness over the death of their sister and mother. Time has healed some of the acrimony of divorce - I am very grateful for that.