Monday, February 29, 2016

February Book List

February is a short month and so is my book list - only five books read this month! But there two books rated as 5.0, one each rated 3.5, 4.0 and 4.5. So, perhaps, what it lacks in quantity, my list makes up for in quality?

Beginning with the 3.5 rated book - I adore Victoria Thompson's Gaslight Mystery series about early New York City. Murder on St. Nicholas Avenue is #18 and they are as delightful as ever. Frank and Sarah are still on their European honeymoon so when a woman comes to their door looking for Frank to help her daughter who has been charged with murder, their nanny, Maeve decides to take on the case. She gets help from her policeman admirer, Gino, and Sarah's parents. Their success, they believe, will insure them becoming part of the detective agency they will convince Frank to start when he gets home. A fine romp of a mystery - when the new homes in Harlem were 'out in the country'.


My 4.0 is Anne Perry's 21st William Monk mystery Corridors of the Night. Hester Monk helps out a friend by taking her night shift at a hospital. She finds a little girl wandering the corridors looking for help for her dying brother. Hester goes with her and discovers the girl and her two brothers are patients in another part of the hospital. She saves the dying boy. When she talks to the Doctor and his chemist brother about the children, she learns they have been taking blood from them to use in their experiments with transfusions. Hester is then kidnapped by the chemist and taken along with the children to a cottage in the country. Hester is forced to help the chemist with the transfusions being given to a wealthy man.
Not only was the mystery part of this book good, it was interesting to read about the early attempts to perfect the life-saving treatment of blood transfusions.

West With The Night is Beryl Markham's memoir about her life in Africa and how she learned to fly. I said last month after reading the novel Circling the Sun about Markham that I was going to go back and re-read Markham's own book, so I did. I found this to be a beautifully written biography of her life. The poetic prose was not something I expected. She writes some about her growing up years but mostly about learning to fly and what it was like to see Africa from the air. Only the last chapter was about her record setting solo flight from England to North America. (East to west taking off at night, thus the title.) This is my 4.5 rating.

It's been two years since we've had an Inspector Lynley Mystery, but it was worth the wait. A Banquet of Consequences is #19 in Elizabeth George's best selling series. Now if the BBC would just bring the Inspector back to T.V. with some new episodes!
DS Barbara Havers has been put on notice that her next misdeed will land her in the back of beyond. She is so afraid of making a misstep, she won't do anything but toe-the-line. She's certainly not living up to her unorthodox crime solving capabilities. Lynley is concerned and tries to get the chief to cut her some slack.
Havers begs for the chance to pursue a line of inquiry into what first appeared to be a heart attack, but after a second autopsy was found to have been one induced by a poison.
George has such a talent for writing characters and plots that even though we think we've figured everything out, we're always surprised to find out we haven't. So many great twists and turns. I think this is one of the best Inspector Lynley's yet - or maybe I was just hungry to revisit these characters. I am giving it a 5.0 rating - so glad I found it on my last trip to the Corning Library.


I am not a fan of short story compilations. When I read a book I like the entire book to be about the same characters. That said, Memory Wall by Anthony Doerr is one of the best books I have ever read. It is one of those books I wish was mine so I could underline passages and write notes in the margins.
Memory loss is a hard subject for me to read about after caring for my mother in her final years - and fearing the same for myself. Yet this book handles the subject so beautifully, so touchingly.
I've scanned the back of the book (above) so you can read some other comments about these stories.

This is from the last page of the book - a story about a woman who is saved from the holocaust as a child while her friends die. As she nears her own death, her mind returns to her childhood and those friends. "Every hour, Robert thinks, (he is the woman's grandson and has helped care for her) all over the globe, an infinite number of memories disappear, whole glowing atlases dragged into graves. But during that same hour children are moving about, surveying territory that seems to them entirely new. They push back the darkness; they scatter memories behind them like bread crumbs. The world is remade."

Memory Wall is my other 5.0 rated book. Its stories will stay with me for a long time.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Taking A Sunday Drive #17

Kansas, Land of Ahhs (Oz). Kansas, The Sunflower State. Or Kansas, Bleeding Kansas - the one that made me most attentive as a young person reading about the violence and chaos over deciding whether Kansas would enter the Union as a slave state or a free state. It entered as a free state, January 29, 1861. The state is named for the Kansa tribe of Native Americans.

I became enamored of the Flint Hills of Kansas when I saw them on the way to Texas in 1979. And even though I've never seen them except from the Kansas Turnpike (I-35) on the bit where it cuts through Chase County, two of my all-time favorite books are set in the Flint Hills - Janice Graham's Firebird and PrairyErth by William Least Heat Moon.



Most of our trips have been through, rather than to, Kansas. We have stopped at both Old Fort Hays in Western Kansas. (Going to Colorado.)
(Picture of the guardhouse.)


As well as spending some time at the Fort Scott National Historic Site. (On the way to Oklahoma.)
I remember going into a few stores in downtown Fort Scott while there.
We had also toured the new (1998) visitor center at Mine Creek Battlefield State Historic Site near Pleasanton during this same trip.
The Battle of Mine Creek, also known as the Battle of the Osage, was fought as part of the Civil War in October, 1864.

Northeast Kansas was the one area we went to specifically. First to Atchison, Amelia Earhart's home town where I had my picture taken with her statue. This is in the downtown pedestrian mall, a pretty three block long area of shops.




Then I made Bud drive past some of the ornate mansions so I could ooh and aah and take pictures. This 25 room, Victorian castle is on North Fifth Street.





While the 'haunted' Waggener House is on North Fourth Street. This house is also known as the Gargoyle House for its many gargoyles. One of the red ones is faintly visible on the roof.




The Federal prison in Leavenworth was something Bud wanted to see. This is the picture I took from the street showing the front of the main building.

Near by is historic Fort Leavenworth, the first permanent white settlement (1827) in the future state of Kansas. There is a National Cemetery for Veterans here as well as many monuments.
This photo of Bud was taken at the Buffalo Soldier Monument.

Both these towns lie along the Missouri River and offer some lovely views.



I think the most unusual and surprising thing I ever saw in Kansas was fence posts made out of limestone. In a needs must situation on the treeless plains, this was the inventive answer.



I still want to see the Chalk Pyramids in western Kansas someday. And Mushroom State Park and Rock City. I have the feeling those ancient formations would cause me to say that famous line: "I don't think we're in Kansas anymore."

Saturday, February 27, 2016

My First orchardprairie E-Mail

Yes. I am that woman. The woman who keeps everything. Well, not so much such down-sizing and retiring. But I do still have the very first e-mail I sent after a business associate/friend helped me set up my very own, free, Yahoo e-mail account. The interesting thing about this is that I just thought about him the other day after going through some old photos.

And finding this photo of the two of us. First I couldn't remember his name, which finally came to me once I quit trying to think of it. Second, I couldn't remember his Renaissance Festival persona. It is War Troll. I know because I mentioned it in that first e-mail:

"WOW! I'm in someone's data base! Sorry I didn't reply sooner - I thot this was the test we did the day you were here. I understand the War Troll captured some poor soul at the Faire last weekend. Kari said they really had a ball and took plenty of pictures so I'm looking forward to seeing those."

And here is one of those pictures of Kari taken with the War Troll the previous weekend. If it looks like she and I have the same bodice, we don't. I borrowed hers the weekend I went to Renfest. These were the Salisbury House Renaissance Faires held in Waterworks Park in Des Moines. So much fun!!

Rich's first e-mail to me, the one I was replying to on May 20, 1998, was: "Hi. Just added you to my database. Be sure to check in the "Options" in yahoo. Neat stuff to customize your e-mail like signatures." Eighteen years and I still haven't checked out Yahoo's options. I'm sure they've changed.

Other interesting early miscellaneous e-mails included one from a man about an article for Ultraflight Magazine. His query had landed in our company fax number - re-assigned to us but once the telephone # of a Frank Griffith - and some correspondence with a woman from Scotland looking for information on her Dalgety/Dalgetty relatives in Adams County. I did go out to the Oakland Cemetery at Quincy and copy down all the information from the headstones to send her.

Possibly the best of those early e-mails was one from our son, Mark, back when he was living in the San Francisco area and his e-mail address was dangerbooty. 

In the beginning, I was forced to 'clean out my mailbox' because of the limited amount of storage. Then Yahoo gave us all unlimited storage and I became lax about deleting messages. Likewise relegating messages to folders. There have been times though when keeping all those old e-mails has been fortuitous - like when I've needed to go back to find something, an address, a recipe, the date when something happened - I enter a search word and there the information is.

I guess this isn't any different than keeping a shoe box full of letters tied up in a ribbon - maybe not as tactile or romantic - but just as memorable.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Empathy and Pity for Allergy Sufferers

For about a week and half I've been suffering from itchy eyes. They finally got so bad that yesterday my right eye was swollen almost shut. The puffiness below it is horrible. I looked so bad I skipped my swimming class - I didn't want anyone seeing me like this.
I was saying how ugly I was and Bud said no, that I was beautiful. I said something like, "Oh, sure, I'm so beautiful you should take a picture of me and put it on Facebook." Well, he tried, but I hid. The eyes are slightly better today and the overwhelming urge to rub them seems to be passing, so, I'm hoping....

This is the first year since we left the farm that I have had allergy eyes. Those last few years there I suffered every spring. But since I didn't have the problem after we moved, I assumed it was the trees we had on the farm - most likely the Red Cedars since there was an abundance of those.
Right now the only trees budding are the maples and we do have one right above part of our deck and it is wet with dripping sap. Could this be the culprit? Or is it something else?

Having eyes swollen nearly shut always reminds me of the summer the bumble bees made a nest in the seat of our buggy. We knew they were there but took the horse and buggy out for a jaunt anyway.
Betty and I were on the seat, just like pictured above. And I was driving because I was the bossy one and always had to be in charge.
Cousin Frank was standing behind us. He started jumping up and down which made us bounce up and down on the cushion which stirred up the bumble bees. They came out fighting, which means stinging. At that time I didn't wear eye glasses yet, but had on my pretty, sparkly red frames, dime store sunglasses. The bees got under them and stung me around my eyes which were swollen shut the next day.
I got the horse stopped long enough for Frank and I to bail out. Betty was more concerned about Queenie and stayed with her. My cousin and I both got stung, Betty didn't. There's a moral there, I know.
There may also be a lesson I'm needing to learn about pride or some such vanity, which is why I'm having itchy, swollen eyes. Whatever is going on, I am definitely finding empathy and pity for all the allergy sufferers out there!


Thursday, February 25, 2016

99 Year Old Photos

These photos, again in postcard form, are all dated 1917. First the ones I can identify:

June, 1917 and Frank G. Haley, on the right was home on leave from the Navy. He and my Grandpa Joe were good friends, hence their picture together. But why were they standing in a cow lot to have it taken? At first all I noticed was the wagon in the background. But after scanning the photo and looking more closely, that is a cow behind J. R.'s right elbow!
Frank settled in California after his service to his country. At the time of his father's death in 1943, he was living in San Pedro and "could not leave his police duties at this time" to attend his father's funeral. Frank's brother, Tom, was married to Joe's sister, Florence - my beloved "Uncle Tom and Aunt Florence". (Actually Mom's aunt and uncle, my great-aunt and uncle.

This and the following pictures are from January, 1917 and all are of the same incident. Man at top left is unknown. The three together are Simon Haley sitting, Thomas Haley on the right and Grandpa Joe standing behind those two. Note that these men are all in work clothes.

Simon and his son, Tom are the two sitting in the middle of this group. Note the man on the left and the one on the right in back. They are wearing full length fur coats.
The incident I mentioned was the collapse of the bridge these people are arrayed around. And the bridge collapsed when Uncle Tom and his Dad were moving a threshing machine across it.

It was obviously note-worthy based on the number of people, men and women, who made the trip in cold weather to see it first hand. Uncle Tom between the two women in back and Grandpa Joe next to the man in the fur coat on the right in back. I don't know who any of the women are, but I admire that fur muff of the woman on the left in back.

I heard the story about the threshing machine going through the bridge when I was growing up, but never knew exactly where it happened. I always thought it was somewhere around Nodaway. I don't think anyone was hurt. And I have no idea how they got a huge threshing machine out of the creek nor whether or not they had to pay for the bridge repair/replacement. I assume they were moving it in January because the roads were frozen then - that they hadn't been able to move it in the fall due to muddy roads. Purely conjecture.

Without these old photos to remind me, the tale would probably be lost even to my memory. By writing about what I know, the photos and memories are preserved.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

100+ Year-Old Photos


I feel privileged to have these old family photos and happy to share them.

They are all postcards, which seems to have been popular in those days.
Here are three Means cousins. Delphia left, Blanche right and Jessie in front.
Note the hats - all with feathers although Grandma's white ones don't show up too well. These girls were stylin' for their photo.
I didn't crop this picture because I wanted the raised edges to show. "Taken February 27, 1915" is written on the back. Almost exactly 101 years ago! Grandma would have been almost 19 years old.


Another Means relative, Grandma's cousin Lloyd. I don't remember hearing about this cousin. I need to do some research, but I believe he was the son of Samuel Means. This is one postcard which was used. He wrote to Grandma: "Howdy Cuz, I was sure glad to hear from you. I always like to hear from the folks. You know this is a photo of my big fat self, now I want one of you, C. Ans soon." ( I think the capital C stood for Cousin and Ans is short for answer. And this was way before texting shorthand!)
The postmark is too faded to read except for OCT, but I know it was before 1916 because it is addressed to Miss Delphia Means, Corning, Iowa.

When I first saw the above postcard photo, I assumed it was another one of Grandpa Joe - until I read the back. This one is for sure Grandpa because it is noted on the back.

It is dated October 4th, '14. It wasn't mailed, but Grandma's name and address are on the right side. It looks to me like that is in Grandma's handwriting. On the left, 'correspondence here' section is simply 'J.R. Ridnour' and that is written, I'm almost certain, in Grandpa's hand.

Another of Grandpa Joe and his team and buggy. No date or names on this one and I can't see the two women in the buggy very well, but I think they are his sisters, Florence and Lottie.
There is no doubt that is Grandpa laying on the ground with the big smile on his face. I have heard he was very proud of his team and he certainly looks proud and happy in this photo.

Tomorrow some more old photos - but only 99 years old.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

My Experiences With Rubeola and Rubella

Monday, February 23, 1959 - fifty-seven years ago today: "Got up at 7. I went back to school today. After being out for 2 weeks, there is quite a stack of homework to be done."

There was a full moon that day, too. This is the photo I took of the full moon at 7 this morning, before it set.

February 7 diary entry: "Guess what I'm coming down with. The measles. Finally. I've been exposed to them enough times."

It was surprising I hadn't had the measles when I was much younger and had been exposed to them. The measles I was coming down with were called the Red Measles or Hard Measles or more precisely, Rubeola.

I didn't feel too bad that morning when I got up but by evening I was miserable. Three days later I had a terrible sore throat and cough and was beginning to break out. Four days later I had a high temperature, 104°, and very bad headache. Mom hung blankets over the windows to make the room dark. The worst part of being so sick was not being able to do anything - not even read! Grandma & Grandpa came up to see me. "I made Mom and Grandma come upstairs and talk to me. I was so lonesome."
The next day Mom came up in the afternoon and read the funnies and the Free Press to me. "I'm finally broken out and how! I'm sure miserable. Mom gave me a sponge bath. It sure felt good. Leslie doesn't like my spots. He won't even look at me."
Mom even wrote in my diary for me for three days. It was my voice, but her handwriting. I can understand her not letting me do anything, Rubeola can have very serious consequences, eye damage being one. The high fever could result in encephalitis (swelling of the brain). In some severe cases of the red measles, death even occurred.

After a week, I tried going downstairs but "got run right back up". Finally, the next day Mom allowed me to stay downstairs on the davenport all day. I was happy about that but VERY happy that I had lost so much weight while ill. "Down to 128 pounds. Hope I can keep it down." After ten days I gradually began feeling better, was able to eat and get some strength back. By the time I was able to go back to school, my younger sister and little brother both had the measles. I wrote: "Both kids are thoroughly broken out and quite sick. I feel so sorry for Leslie." Apparently I didn't feel sorry for Betty.

On March 20, I finally got all my make-up work done and turned in. Four days later I came down with the 3-day measles, also known as German measles or Rubella. I wasn't nearly as ill with those. Leslie and Betty also had them at the same time as I. The biggest danger of this form of measles is to the fetus if a pregnant woman gets rubella.

The school picture from my sophomore year in high school.

I don't understand why I never got the measles when I was exposed to them in grade school, nor why I had both Rubeola and Rubella so close together, but I will always remember all the school I missed my sophomore year as 'the year of the measles'.




Monday, February 22, 2016

The Windmills of My Mind

When I think of windmills I naturally think of the one behind Ron & Ruthie in this picture from 1970. The windmill south of our house on the farm where I grew up. One like all the other windmills on all the other farms of that era.



Or even a wooden one like this one somewhere out in the plains of Nebraska. I'd always wanted to see a wooden windmill. Naturally I wanted to get up close and personal once I did.


It was sometime in the 80's when windmill took on a whole new meaning. I was reading in the newspaper about all the wind generators being built up around Alta in Northwest Iowa. Oh how I would love to see those up close.


I finally had the opportunity when coming home from a trip to SE South Dakota and SW Minnesota.




It was fascinating to see all those huge windmills in the farm fields.
It never occurred to me they would someday be built so close to where I lived in SW Iowa.


Seeing this round barn just down the road from the windmills was an added bonus that day.

Adams County's wind farm is now up and running. I believe there are something like 65 turbines in the area South of Hwy 34, North of the Adams-Taylor County line, East of 148 and West of N64 (the road to Lenox).


Picture taken from the same location, Mercer Corner on Hwy 34, but I used the telephoto lens to show the old microwave tower on H54 east of Mom's.
These behemoths would definitely have been visible from her house. What would she have thought of them?


What totally surprised me when looking out my window a few nights ago, was that I could see the blinking red night lights on those windmills almost twenty miles away.

I know there has been a lot of controversy about the wind generators. Would I want to live near one? I don't know. But if they help our country's energy situation, until I have more information to change my mind, I think they are a good thing. They're definitely fascinating!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Taking A Sunday Drive #16

Tennesse, The Volunteer State, 16th state to join the Union. I always thought the nickname was in reference to the Civil War when it actually comes from the role the state's volunteers played in the war of 1812.

Tennessee was the first destination state of our trip east in 2008, specifically, Shiloh National Military Park.

I took many photos there on my new digital camera - all of which were lost as I mentioned in a previous Sunday Drive post.
One of the ones I took was at Bloody Pond, supposedly turned red with blood during battle.
This would be the first Civil War Battlefield toured on this trip.


We stopped in Chattanooga and toured the Battle of  Lookout Mountain area before heading to Tellico Plains and the Cherohala Skyway.


The only photos I have from this trip in Tennessee are three of the Bald River Falls area in the Cherokee National Forest.




This was a very scenic, very pretty hilly, curvy drive between Tennessee and North Carolina.






We came through Tennessee again in 2014. This photo is from an overlook along Highway 70. Beautiful country.





The twin towers of Castle Gwynn, home of the Tennessee Renaissance Festival. This was taken while passing by on the highway. Would love to go back and visit the grounds someday. Built as a private home, fashioned after a twelfth century border castle in Wales.


One of the generating plants of the TVA.





No matter where we roam, it is always going to be the natural sights that inspire me the most and that I remember the best. (3rd Bald River Falls photo from 2008 trip.)

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Central Park In Our Hometown

Recently my younger brother and I were talking about the fountain and the bandstand in Central Park in our hometown. I think the conversation started with a remark I made about the fountain and he asked, "What fountain?" "The fountain in the middle of the park. As I understand it, the one designed to look like the original that was there way back when.", I said. I told him I would send a picture when I found it. The only one I could easily find was one taken in the background at my 50th class reunion.


Hard to see the dark fountain with the tree behind it in the photo.
But I remembered to take my camera this morning when I was going to Corning so I could get a better photo of it.



I got there to discover this: The pool part of the fountain, but no fountain. It has been removed for repair according the person I asked.



Searching online for a photo of the fountain did not turn one up, but I did find a beautiful painting of it.


Each year at the end of July, artists from all over come to Corning for the En Plein Air Festival and judging. This piece was done in 2007 by artist Peter Yesis.



My brother commented that he hadn't been in that park for decades. I said, "Well, you probably haven't seen the new bandstand either. Or, I should say, the second new bandstand."

The old bandstand plays a featured part in Saves Nine, the second book in his Time Will Tell series. I searched without luck for a picture of the bandstand that stood in the northeast corner of the park for so many years. Then I remembered the mural in the Post Office.

I knew it was painted to represent our hometown bandstand, part of the WPA's depression era Federal Art Project. Marion Gilmore's prizewinning sketch was titled Band Concert. The mural was to be painted on the prominent end-wall above the Postmaster's door. And that is exactly where I took this photo this morning. The band leader was reputed to represent Homer Snodgrass, the lovely man who did lead the free band concerts once held in Central Park.

When the old bandstand fell into disrepair and was too far gone to save, it was torn down. In the late 70's or early 80's, a new one was built. Volunteers were asked to help with some finishing touches. I was part of the Ag Diversity group which laid paving blocks.

Again, not the best photo, one of our 50th class reunion group at the Southeast entrance to the park with the 'new' bandstand above on the right. This bandstand had several problems, one of which was its small size. After about twenty-five years, it too, was deemed unfixable.

It was torn down and replaced by this current version of the Central Park Bandstand. To my knowledge there aren't any concerts held here, but the weekly farmer's market is each Thursday evening during the season.

Another view of the fountain base and the new bandstand. Maybe the next time my brother is in the area we should plan a visit to the Central Park in our hometown. With luck the fountain will be back in place for our enjoyment.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Fourth Street Sanctuary

In October, 1987, thanks to Bud's status as a veteran (Vietnam), we were able to buy our first house with a VA Loan.

This was how it looked from the front. My beloved yellow Duster in the drive and only one cat*(Cassie) in the yard. (*Reference the song, Our House.) It was so good to get out of the apartment - the one I was loathe to sign a six-month lease on because I didn't think I would be there that long - and ended up living there three years.

A later view (but still before we added the deck after those front steps broke) showing the yucca I planted next to the drive and all the flowers along the south side of the house. The upstairs was unfinished but provided lots of storage space. We were able to cool the entire house with just that one window air conditioner.

The house had been vacant for several months when we bought it. All through the summer the yards had been kept mowed. After we moved in and met the neighbors on both sides, Bernice, the neighbor on the south told us that the elderly woman who had lived there loved flowers and that the back yard was full of flowers if we would let them grow in the spring.

Thank goodness I listened to her. I was able to identify most of the flowers when they came up. If I was in doubt, I asked Bernice if she knew. There were peonies, phlox, perennial sweet peas, bleeding heart, tulips, daffodils, gaillardia (blanket flower), which was new to me, trumpet vine, grape hyacinths, and on and on. There was very little mowing to be done back there - even if the entire back yard had been mowed off when we first saw it.

 Another view taken early in the morning looking east as the sun rose. There was a sand point well which is what we put a roof over and made into a pseudo wishing well. On the left is the outdoor cage we built for my two white doves. In the back, next to the alley, was a partial wooden fence upon which grape vines grew. We never had any grapes, but I once picked the leaves and a friend at work, of Greek heritage, made me some dolmades. I get hungry just thinking about how good those stuffed grape leaves were! The tree just to the left of center was a peach tree and we did have peaches from it some years before it died.

This may have contributed to the demise of the peach tree - the Floods of '93. This was the back yard - full of stinky flood water and all kinds of other people's property that came floating in. It was one time I was glad to see more rain. After the flood waters receded it washed the yard clean(er).

Our house was completely surrounded by water. In fact, once we decided to leave before it possibly came into the house, we boated out, right down Fourth Street.

Luckily, the only parts of the house flooded were this screened porch on the back and the dirt crawl space under the house. We had gotten almost everything out of this area before the levee broke sending flood waters into Valley Junction, the area of West Des Moines where we lived.

This back porch was the inside area of my sanctuary. It held many of my favorite things. I had my stereo and LP's back there. It was where I went to listen to music, read, relax.

Except for the winter, when it became an indoor storage area, it truly was a place to get away. Cassie the cat also enjoyed the peacefulness, especially when the little grandchildren came to visit.

Between the beautiful back yard and the space I created on the back porch, there was sanctuary on Fourth Street.