Saturday, March 31, 2012

"You're Breeding A Scab On Your Nose"

Betty, Ramona and Ronald, Summer, 1950
 I wasn't quite seven years old in this picture - proudly holding up my baby doll and playing dress-up in one of my Mom's skirts - but I had already heard my Mother say those magic words: "You're breeding a scab on your nose." The admonition is termed a 'quaint Midwestern colloquialism' and means "You're asking for trouble and you're going to get it." Mom would more often use an old adage to warn me I'd better quit what I was doing than to threaten me outright with a spanking. And what might most often merit such a warning at the tender age of seven? Oh, probably teasing or fighting with my little sister; maybe pestering my ten-year-old brother while he was trying to build a model airplane or read a book.

Dad, Ron, Mom holding Leslie, Betty, left, Ramona right. Summer, 1954. (Note 14-yr-old Ron is almost as tall as Dad.)
By the time I was ten, my transgressions were more egregious - they would have included sassing, whining, dereliction of duties (chores), physical and verbal altercations with Betty, disobeying orders and any other "testing of authority" I could come up with.

Whining may have been chief among the reasons Mom would give me a warning. "Why do I have to...."; "I don't want to..."; She's not doing her share...."; "It's too hot...(cold) (early) (late)". She would only have to say I was "breeding a scab on my nose" and I knew I'd better quit whatever I was doing to irritate her.

I do my share of reading English novels and I have often wondered why we whine and the English whinge. I assumed they were derivatives of the same word, but they are not. Whinge comes from Old English hwinsian: "to wail or moan discontentedly", while whine traces to an Old English verb hwinan: "to make a humming or whirring sound." When  hwinan became whinen in Middle English, it meant to wail distressfully; whine didn't acquire its 'complain' sense until the 16th Century.
Whinge retains its original sense but now puts less emphasis on the sound of the complaining and more on the discontent behind the complaint. Whinge or whine, Mom would still be giving me the 'breeding a scab on your nose' warning.

I was lucky to have a Mother and two Grandmothers who had some kind of old saying for almost every situation. I just wish I could remember them all. And I wish someone could tell me the meaning of another one of their sayings: "Laugh before breakfast; cry before supper."

Friday, March 30, 2012

Fishing in Detroit

 Earlier this month I wrote about double cousins, mentioning that there were Mauderly-Ridnour double cousins. Pictured here are two of them with their spouses (and a nice stringer of fish). On the left is Murl Kendrick and next to him his wife, Martha Mauderly Kendrick. Next to Martha is my grandmother, Delphia Means Ridnour and my grandfather, Joseph Rufus Ridnour.
Martha's parents were Joseph Mauderly and Ida Ridnour. Grandpa Joe's parents were Kathryn Mauderly and Rufus Ridnour. Joseph and Kathryn Mauderly were brother and sister as were Rufus and Ida Ridnour. Therefore, Martha and Grandpa Joe were double cousins.

 The four of them were visiting Murl and Martha's son-in-law and daughter, Dates and Cleo Lessner - the two extras in the middle of this picture - at their home in Detroit, Michigan. I don't know if they caught the fish in the Detroit River or elsewhere.

What I do remember hearing about were the trips they made into Canada while they were in Detroit. To me, it meant they traveled "way up North" when in reality they actually went South to get to Windsor, Ontario, Canada from Detroit. (Windsor is the southernmost city in Canada.)

Knowing my Grandfather Joe's fear of crossing bridges, I'm sure he didn't relish going over to Windsor on the Ambassador Bridge. At the time of its completion in 1929, the two-mile long bridge had the longest suspended central span in the world. The style of the bridge is a combination of Art Deco, Streamline Moderne with some Gothic architecture thrown in.
Grandpa might have appreciated the beauty and engineering marvel of the bridge but he probably preferred going to and coming from Windsor via the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel under the Detroit River.

I'm not sure of their reasons for visiting Windsor, but with their interest in gardening and especially Grandma's passion for flowers, it might have been to visit some of the many large parks and gardens located along the waterfront. Known as The City of Roses, the Liebeszauber (Love's Magic) pictured above was designated as the City of Windsor Rose. It wouldn't surprise me if this was one of the many roses Grandma once grew.

As a youngster, I always enjoyed being around Grandpa's double cousin and her husband. They were fun loving people. Murl tried to teach us how to climb through a broom handle - a trick I don't think any of us ever accomplished. And if we ever came home and found a pile of junk in front of the door, we knew they had stopped by and found us gone. We'd say, "Murl and Marthie were here." It was Murl's way of letting us know we'd missed out on seeing them.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Droit de Colombier

Droit de Colombier - the privilege of possessing a dovecote - at one time was a symbol of status and power regulated by law. (Colombier is the French word for pigeonnier or dovecote.) I never wanted it as a status symbol, I just wanted a dovecote and its attendant residents for the pleasure of watching and hearing the doves. This picture of a circular stone dovecote is at Bemerton Farm near Quidhampton, Wiltshire, Great Britain.

While in Ireland in 1994, I stopped to visit Aillwee Cave in The Burren in County Clare. This dovecote was located near the car park. When I came out of the cave late in the afternoon, these doves were perched atop their abode. I love the stacked stone colombier. Doves and pigeons were kept as a food source. Squab can still be found in haute cuisine restaurants.

Having a fancy stone dovecote would be nice, but I would even settle for one built in part of a barn like this one east of Decorah, Iowa. If I ever had raised doves, I know I wouldn't have eaten them - though I did eat pigeon one time at my Aunt Leona's when I was young. And Mom wrote in her diary on Christmas Eve, 1936, "Caught pigeons this evening. Got 20."  She doesn't tell how they were prepared (Pigeon Pot Pie?) or whether they were for Christmas dinner.

As I said, I would just enjoy watching them; perhaps playing with them as this girl is doing in the painting Teasing the Doves by Emile Munier (1840-1895). This picture was painted in 1895 - one of the last produced by the French artist.

I certainly wouldn't race them, either. I might band them just in case they didn't find their way home from a flight. I've always wondered if this pigeon found its way back to its home dovecote after it rested for awhile on my deck three years ago.

White doves are the symbols of peace, love and as messengers. Even if my middle name, Irene, didn't mean peace, I would still love doves, still listen for their message and still wish I'd had a dovecote.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Foggy, Foggy Dew

The fog was already lifting when I took this picture this morning, but the dew was still heavy upon the grass. I've always loved the fog. Remember Carl Sandburg's poem: "The fog comes on little cat feet. It sits looking over harbor and city on silent haunches and then moves on."? Such imagery in so few lines.

Foggy, Foggy Dew was an English ballad published around 1815 which has many versions. Burl Ives had a hit with the song during the 1940's. He once spent a night in jail in a Utah town for singing it in public. It was deemed too bawdy.

There are also two Irish versions known as Foggy Dew. The first has these lyrics:

Oh, a wan cloud was drawn o'er the dim weeping dawn
As to Shannon's side I return'd at last,
And the heart in my breast for the girl I lov'd best
Was beating, ah, beating, how loud and fast!
While the doubts and the fears of the long aching years
Seem'd mingling their voices with the moaning flood:
Till full in my path, like a wild water wraith,
My true love's shadow lamenting stood.

But the sudden sun kiss'd the cold, cruel mist
Into dancing show'rs of diamond dew,
And the dark flowing stream laugh'd back to his beam,
And the lark soared aloft in the blue;
While no phantom of night but a form of delight
Ran with arms outspread to her darling boy,
And the girl I love best on my wild throbbing breast
Hid her thousand treasures with cry of joy.

The second version which is the one I relate to was written by Charles O'Neill after the Easter Uprising of 1916. Listen to Sinead O'Connor and the Chieftains perform their version:

The only time I don't like fog is when I have to drive in it. What about you, do you like fog?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Peplums Are Making a Comeback

 "Peplum, a short overskirt or ruffle made popular in the 1940's, is making a comeback. While the idea of adding extra fabric at your hips may seem unappealing, the flounce actually helps slenderize your waist and create a feminine shape." When I read that on my home page yesterday, I immediately thought of my Mother's black crepe dress with a peplum. I'm sure it dated from the 1940's.

The black dress Mom has on in this picture from December, 1965, isn't that dress. I don't know if Les and Mom and Dad were attending a funeral, but that is my guess. (That's about the only  time my Dad wore a suit.) I'm also speculating that her black peplum dress may have been one she purchased to wear to funerals - perhaps her Grandfather or Grandmother Means or to her father-in-law, George's - they all died during the '40's.

I do not remember ever seeing Mom wear the dress, but I do remember her showing it to me and telling me the extra material below the waist was called a peplum. I thought that was such a funny word. I could tell the dress was one she considered special. And even though she never wore it, she would never let Betty and me use it when we were playing dress up.
Maybe it was like some of the clothes I have hanging in my closet - something she always thought she would get back into some day. I wish I had asked her why she kept it - what meaning it held for her.

If you asked me if I ever had a dress or jacket with a peplum, I would say, "No, that's just not my style." But that is because I think of them being like the ones on this suit pattern or the dress at the top of the page.

I would never have thought about the JH Collectibles jacket I bought at Goodwill for $3.00 as having a peplum, though technically it does. A peplum is a short overskirt attached to a fitted jacket. Often the peplum was flared, suggesting a greater curve to the hips, (not something I need) typically worn with a skirt that also flared. In other styles, the peplum fits closely to the stomach and hips leaving the emphasis on the tight waist and are worn with straight skirts - or with slacks as I wear mine.

One of my spring cleaning projects is to clean out my closet. I'm going to donate all those clothes I don't wear - the ones I thought I'd get back into someday - even ones I've kept because they were once favourites of mine. But I'll still keep a few items that have special meaning even if I never wear them again - just as Mom kept her black crepe dress with the peplum.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Queen of the Underworld

Because I only listen to books while driving the short distance to and from the Y or the grocery and while on the treadmill at the Y, I don't like to choose books with too many discs - it takes me forever to get them all listened to. That's why, when I saw there were only five discs in the audio version of a book by one of my favourite authors, I thought Gail Godwin's Queen of the Underworld to be perfect.
Stephanie Zimbalist (remember her from the TV series, Remington Steele?) narrates this version. At first I wasn't too sure about listening to her voice, but she sounded like a young woman just out of college and when she got to the Spanish speaking Cuban parts, she was very convincing - not that I can speak Spanish.
"In the summer of 1959, as Castro clamps down on Cuba and its first wave of exiles flees to the States to wait out what they hope to be his short-lived reign, Emma Gant, fresh out of college, begins her career as a reporter. Her fierce ambition and belief in herself are set against the stories swirling around her, both at the newspaper office and in her downtown Miami hotel, which is filling up with refugees."
It didn't take long for me to get interested in the story line. I could relate to the time period and that the heroine was a young female journalist. To be honest, I don't think I gave much thought to the refugees fleeing Cuba at the time it was happening. Did I realize they had to leave all their possessions behind; that many of them were forced to give up ancestral lands? Even though I heard and read about it, I didn't really appreciate what was going on. It makes me want to read more about the Cuban Revolution.
Godwin introduced so many interesting characters - the Holocaust survivor who makes custom perfumes, the Georgia country girl who is groomed to be the madam of an upscale bordello, Emma's 'aunt' and the aunt's boss who are smuggling arms for the Cuban resistance, the other reporters at the Miami Star and the once wealthy refugees who take menial jobs in order to survive. Just following through on any of their stories  and Emma's would have made an outstanding book, but the book just ends leaving everyone dangling. I want to know what happened to the former madam and all the other characters. From reading several reviews, I know I'm not the only one disappointed in this book.
 In addition to making me want to learn more about the Cuban Revolution, it also made me wonder what my life might have been had I gone on to college and pursued a degree in journalism.

 Julian Barnes is the author of nine books, but this is the first time I've read him. He had been shortlisted for the Booker Award three times and last year won it for The Sense Of An Ending. This is a book about memory, aging, time and remorse. It is a book, that if I owned, would have sections underlined and notes in the margins. For example: "It strikes me that this may be one of the differences between youth and age: when we are young, we invent different futures for ourselves; when we are old, we invent different pasts for others." It isn't a very long book - only 163 pages - but it isn't a book you want to speed through - or if you do, you want to go back and start over as soon as you finish. It is a book to think about.

The real surprise read was Stephen Wetta's first novel, If Jack's In Love. Through most of the book, I felt it was just another coming of age story about a twelve year old boy and his first love. Jack has more than the usual family problems - his father and older brother act in ways that get the family labeled as trash. Their yard is overgrown and piled with 'treasures' collected from the curb-sides by Jack's Dad. The father loses his job and picks fights with the neighbors. The brother is a long-haired hippie doper who is the prime suspect when a clean-cut, preppy classmate disappears.
Jack is a smart kid who gets the best grades in school, but he is picked on and outcast because of his family. His romance with Myra is ruined because it is Myra's brother who disappears and Jack's brother who is charged with murder when the body is found.
I was especially caught by the ending of this novel and by the author's note immediately following the end. It may be his first book, but I hope it is not his last.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Ethic of Reciprocity

I had the unwanted chance to practice the ethic of reciprocity yesterday - or as I learned it as a child, The Golden Rule: "So in everything, do unto others what you would have them do to you" (Matthew 7:12)  If you enlarge the above image you will see the heading is "Creston Police Department." Yep, kiddies, Grandma had an accident.
As I was backing out to leave the Y yesterday morning, I lightly bumped the car next to mine. I got out to look and saw there was a very slight dent above the wheel on the right, front (passenger side) fender and no damage at all to my bumper.
Had the other car been parked within the lines, I would not have hit it at all. They had pulled into and through two parking spots so they were headed out - but way out beyond where they should have been. I started turning as I was backing just like I've done multiple times before and would have been fine if the other car hadn't been sticking out into the travel portion.
Was I at fault? Yes, because I should have been paying more attention. Were they partly at fault for sloppy parking? I think so, but maybe I'm just trying to justify my own action. What I don't have to justify is that I did the right thing: I could have driven off; no one saw the accident. But I called the police and made out an accident report. The other driver couldn't be found, so the policeman left a note for her to contact them.
When I got home and told Bud about it, he thought we might want to pay for the damage if it was minor and not turn it into our insurance company in case it raised our rates, while my thought was, "Why do we carry insurance, then?" But I could see his point.
I talked to the other driver today. The estimate to repair that little dent is almost $600. I called my insurance company. We have earned the "First Accident Forgiveness" benefit due to being accident and violation free for the past five years, so hopefully our rates won't go up.
Did I consider even for a moment just driving off and not reporting the fender bender? Yes, I did. But I knew I wouldn't feel right about it even if I could justify it being partly their fault. As Confucius said: "To know what is right and not do it is the worst cowardice."

At least if I had to have an accident, it was a minor one. Thank goodness neither car looks like my brother's did a couple years ago.
There's another quote which applies: "Character is doing the right thing when nobody's looking." Even if our insurance rates do go up, I'll still be glad I did the right thing and reported my accident. I want to be true to myself* and to set a good example.

(*To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man." William Shakespeare, Hamlet)

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Double Double Toile* and Trouble

Macbeth, Act IV, Scene 1 - A dark cave. In the middle, a Caldron boiling. Thunder. "Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn and caldron bubble."  Daniel Gardner's painting, The Three Witches From Shakespears Macbeth (1775) portrays Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire; Elizabeth Lamb, Viscountess Melbourne; and sculptor Anne Seymour Damer.

*Of course the correct word in the quote is toil not toile, pronounced twal, but my pretty bag that I carry to the Y every day has me thinking about the fabric. The word toile is French for cloth and dates from the 16th Century. My gym bag was a freebie for subscribing to Country Living Magazine a couple years ago. My liking for toile dates back to when I was a teenager.

There are hundreds of toile patterns - even matching wallpaper and fabric to create a room like this. I think I would tire of so much pattern very quickly - too 'busy' for me - though feminine and pretty. Toile de Jouy, or cloth of Jouy, France, was used to describe the 18th Century pastoral scenes made in that area of north central France. Eventually the word toile came to mean any repeated pattern depicting a fairly complex scene. Toiles were very popular in Colonial America.

Mom made most of Betty's and my clothes. When I was in high school I had a white skirt with a light brown toile pattern similar to this rustic one. The skirt was fitted around the hips and then gathered below that. I'm sure there was a name for the style, though I don't remember it. I think I had another skirt made the same way and that Betty had one, too, but again, I have no distinct memory of what they were like - just my toile one.

Toile patterns were popular for transferware - a decorative technique for pottery - developed in England in the mid 18th Century around Staffordshire. Colors used were blue, green, red, black, brown and purple. If I were going to collect toile transferware dishes, it would most likely be the brown ones; perhaps green.
Toile has been in and out of style just like anything else - popularity waxes and wanes. You can find toile in bedding ensembles, dishes, even flatware handles. The cutest example I found was this pair of Wellington boots. I've been thinking about getting some new boots. I could really go for these and with that rooster detail, I could see Kari and me having Mother/Daughter wellies.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Signs of Spring on St. Patrick's Day

First, Happy St. Patrick's Day. Here is an Irish vignette I made from a card I received, the green carnation I gave hubby dearest and my (limited) whiskey container collection. The Poteen Jug on the left is Wade Irish Porcelain. The middle container is an Old Fitzgerald Sons of Erin decanter which once held 100 proof Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. It has a map of Ireland showing the four provinces, Connaught, Leinster, Munster and Ulster as well as all the counties. It also displays many of the Irish family name crests. The jug on the right is a Tullamore Dew, 12 Year Old Blended Irish Whiskey container. The logo below the harp and Irish Wolfhounds reads: "Give Every Man His Dew". There's a small booklet hanging from the handle which tells the story of Tullamore Dew and gives drink recipes using it. I stopped in Tullamore when I was in Ireland and bought a small bottle of their Dew. I can attest to its 'light and delicate flavour' attributed to the water used which comes from the River Vartry. The back label reads: "This jar contains Uisge Baugh (The Water of Life) Blended Irish Whiskey.  

I have had my own personal signs of spring since I was a teenager. The first of these was hearing the spring peeper frogs. When I heard their mating calls, I knew spring was nigh.

Not long after I heard the first spring peepers, I would hear the Plover's killdeer, killdeer as they ran along the ground. In fact, we always called them Killdeers rather than Plovers. They nest on the ground. I can remember walks with my Mom when I was a very young child. We would see a Killdeer walking away from us dragging one wing along the ground as though it were injured. After we had followed along for a way, the bird's wing would magically heal and it would fly away. Mom explained it was acting hurt to lead us (or any predator) away from its nest. Even when we looked for the nest it was difficult to see - the eggs looked so much like speckled stones. Others may listen and look for Robins as harbingers of spring; I listen for the Killdeer.

The wearin' o' the green even extends to the willow trees - another sure sign of Spring. They are one of the earliest trees to show green and I love the smell of willow trees. (I took this picture yesterday.)
Whether it is a sign of global warming or just one of those years of a warmer than usual winter, even the daffodils are getting ready to bloom. One of my all time favourite poems is William Wordsworth's I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud:  

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils. 
I have a niece whose maiden name is Wadsworth. I wonder if she went back far enough on her family tree if her ancestors were once Wordsworth. Might she be related to the famous poet whose poem, also known as The Daffodils, was first published in 1807?

While driving from Mount Vernon to Colonial Williamsburg thirty some years ago, I had a personal dancing with the daffodils experience when I saw entire fields of wild daffodils in Gloucester County, Virginia. Until then the largest plantings I had seen were on an acreage on the north edge of Johnston where they were being naturalized. 

Frogs, plovers, willows or a host of daffodils fluttering and dancing in the breeze - they are all sure signs of spring.

Friday, March 16, 2012

That Old Cape Magic

 I read the last of the four books Kristina sent me last fall, Richard Russo's That Old Cape Magic which was published in 2009. Russo is a Pulitzer Prize winner (for Empire Falls in 2002), so that coupled with the fact that it was one of Kristina's reads, made me expect a very good novel. It took me awhile to get into the story. I was probably more than half way through the book before I actually started liking it.
For Jack Griffin, all paths, all memories, converge on Cape Cod where he took his childhood summer vacations and where he and his wife, Joy, honeymooned. It was the dream of his parents to own a home on the cape, which they never managed to do. It was their last wishes to have their remains scattered in the waters of the cape which became Jack's duty. At times the book was funny, but it was mostly an examination of Griffin's relationship with his parents (and their hold on him) and with his wife of 30 years.

Cynthia Riggs, a thirteenth-generation Islander, lives on Martha's Vineyard in her family homestead, which she runs as a bed-and-breakfast catering to poets and writers. Deadly Nightshade is her first novel and features a feisty 92-year-old sleuth. The book's descriptions of the island and the characterizations of its inhabitants was good but the writing left a lot to be desired. Transitions between scenes and chapters were pretty choppy.

For me, the best part of both these books were the memories they brought back of my own trip to the area in the mid '70's.

September is the best time to visit Cape Cod and the Islands - the summer hubbub is over yet the weather is still lovely. Driving from Logan Airport in Boston down to Sagamore Bridge and onto the Cape was an easy trip. Once you're there, it is a succession of one small town after another...Sandwich, East Sandwich, West Barnstable, Barnstable, Dennis, East Dennis, Brewster, East Brewster, South Wellfleet, Wellfleet, Truro, North Truro.....all the way to Provincetown. But once you're in Provincetown, you feel that old cape magic.
I often wonder how I would feel about a place if I went back now. Would I even recognize anything? Being on Cape Cod was my first ocean experience. One of my favourite memories is of walking way out into Cape Cod Bay when the tide went out - amazing.

I did not go to Martha's Vineyard, but rather to Nantucket. The ferry ride over to the island was pretty rough and even though I got sea sick, I tried to pay attention to everything about the journey - the sea gulls following the ship, the light houses out on the points, the harbor as we docked and the cars began driving off the ferry and on to the island.
The best way to get around the town of Nantucket was by bicycle. Mine had what I came to think of as a Jessica Fletcher basket on the handle bars - which may be why I still have to have a basket and a bell on my bike to this day.
I loved looking at all the old homes. The widow's walks atop them were fascinating. Imagine your husband's whaling ship due back in port and it wasn't in yet. Those platforms on the roofs were where the wife would go to pace and keep a look out. When the ship didn't return, the look out became a widow's walk.
The sad thing about color photos taken 35+ years ago is that they fade and lose their vibrancy. The blues of the ocean and sky are no longer as sharp as they once were. Even though this photo has been in an album, the edges have begun deteriorating.

These shoppes may be new buildings made to look old or they may actually be old, original buildings. Downstairs in one of them was a restaurant where I ate my first quahog clam chowder and drank my first Ramos gin fizz. I've had many clam chowders since, but not as good as quahog. And even though I talked the bartender out of a list of ingredients for the Ramos Fizz and tried making them many times, mine never tasted quite as good as the ones on Nantucket. Even the New Orleans version wasn't as good and that is where they originated. Perhaps it was the ambiance. Perhaps it was because it was a first time experience - or maybe it was all a part of That Old Cape Magic. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

You're The Reason God Made Oklahoma

I always loved the 1981 David Frizzell and Shelly West hit You're The Reason God Made Oklahoma. One of the reasons I like the Stuart radio station (KKRF 107.9 FM) is because they play the older tunes which is where I heard this song this morning. It brought back some good memories.

 Not the least of which was our first trip to Oklahoma during spring break in the early '90s. Can you see Bud in this photo? He is nearly camouflaged - fits right into the scenery. Years before this trip, I had read about the Heavener Runestone in a novel. It became one of those places I wanted to see for myself.

The Runestone is enclosed now and protected from defacement. The theory is that the carvings were made by Viking explorers hundreds of years before America was discovered by Columbus. Heavener Runestone Park and Historic Site is located atop Poteau Mountain at the edge of the beautiful Quachita Mountains that stretch across the Oklahoma-Arkansas border.

The park is not very large. At one time it was a state park but is now maintained by the nearby municipality of Heavener. The town was named for settlers Jacob and Elizabeth Heavener after Jacob and their son William were hung by Jayhawkers for being Union sympathizers. Information about the park can be found at

The runic alphabets used letters known as runes to write several Germanic languages before the adoption of the Latin alphabet. Whether or not these marks are Norse runes has long been debated. Mystery lover and romantic that I am, I choose to believe they are real. And I'm especially fond of the rune which looks the most like an R as it means journey. If you're thinking about making a journey, Eastern Oklahoma is a beautiful area to visit.

There's a full moon over Tulsa,
I hope that it's shining on you.
The nights are getting cold,
In Cherokee County.
There's a Blue Norther passing through.
I remember green eyes and a ranchers daughter.
But remember is all that I do.
Losing you left a pretty good cowboy,
With nothing to hold on to.
Sundown came and I drove to town,
And drank a drink or two.
You're the reason God made Oklahoma,
You're the reason God made Oklahoma.
And I'm sure missing you,
I'm sure missing you.


Monday, March 12, 2012

You Light Up My Life

Debby Boone's hit song from 1977 could have been the theme song for the Rural Electric Administration which was established in 1935 to bring electricity to rural areas. And by changing life to night, you could have a song for yard lights and porch lights.
The yard light on our farm was just like the one pictured here at Grandpa & Grandma Lynam's acreage on the west edge of Corning. That's Ron holding Betty with me in my cute winter hat. (Late 1945) The first rural electric lines in Adams County were energized in July of 1937. By March of the following year, there were 230 customers on 125 miles of line north and west of Corning.

By the end of 1940, there 200 miles of electric lines including south of Corning. Our yard light was just to the south of where Maurice and Shorty Reichardt were working on their plow in this picture. Dad must have been offering advice. For reasons of his own, Ron decided to hold a cat while I (sitting on the tractor seat) turned my back on everyone.
Having a yard light meant not having to chore in the dark. It meant coming home at night and not having to fumble our way to the house or leave the car lights on until someone got inside. A yard light could show who was there if a car drove in at night. And porch lights meant just enough of a glow to light the yard for outside play, although Mom didn't like leaving the porch light on because it drew bugs which came inside when the door was opened.
A yard light on at a neighbor's in the middle of the night could mean trouble - someone ill, a varmint disturbing livestock - or the farmer out helping birth a calf or lamb.

Mom had another use for the yard light if I sat out in the car with my boyfriend too long after he brought me home from a date - she would blink it on and off several times. That meant: "It's already past your curfew. Get into the house now." If I didn't respond within a few minutes, she would blink the light again - then I was really in trouble.

When the mercury vapor lights became all the rage in the 1960's, the folks finally had one installed. It was nice to have a light come on at dusk and shut off at dawn. But it wasn't long before the countryside was dotted all over with night lights. Personally, I'd rather see the stars and have a light I could turn on when I needed it and leave off when I didn't.

Debby Boone's song was a song about love - "You light up my life, you give me hope to carry on. You light up my days and fill my nights with song. It can't be wrong when it feels so right, 'cause you light up my life."   In the case of porch lights and yard lights - you light up my night....

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Come Again No More

Come Again No More is the second of Jack Todd's trilogy of the Paint family. It picks up with the next generation, though many of the characters we met in Sun Going Down are still around for part two. Family patriarch, Eli, has banished his favourite daughter, Velma, to raise her two children on her own. Even when her tuberculosis worsens and she has to go to a sanitarium in Denver, Eli lets his grandchildren go to an orphanage rather than take them in. By the time he finally decides to make amends to his daughter, she has died and his granddaughter, Emaline, isn't going to make a family reunion easy for him.
This saga continuation is mostly about the depression years and the struggles of farmers and ranchers to keep their land. It ends in 1940, so I'm sure part three will cover the war years. I enjoy reading about this era and about the western Nebraska and Wyoming areas. I don't find anything online about when the third book will be coming out, but I'll be watching for it.

From the inside cover: "Vivid mysterious and unforgettable. The Butterfly Cabinet is Bernie McGill's engrossing portrayal of the dark history that intertwines two lives. Inspired by a true story of the death of the daughter of an aristocratic Irish family at the end of the nineteenth century, McGill powerfully tells this tale of two women."
The book unfolds in chapters that alternate between the prison diary of the mother and the unburdening of a former nanny at age 90 as she tells her secrets to the niece of the young girl who was killed. It isn't light reading, but it is a thoughtful exploration of maternal love and guilt and there's the mystery of what really happened the day the child died. The tale also touches on class, religion and the political situation in Ireland at the end of the 19th Century and the beginning of the 20th.

Jojo (named for the Beatles song) Moyes won her second Romantic Novel of the Year award for The Last Letter From Your Lover, a double love story.  In the first half of the book it is 1960 when Jennifer Stirling wakes up in the hospital. She remembers nothing of the car accident that put her there, nor her wealthy husband, not even her own name. Searching for clues about her life, she finds an impassioned love letter signed simply "B".
In 2003, young journalist Ellie Haworth is searching the dusty archives of her newspaper for a story that will resurrect her faltering career when she finds another handwritten letter with an ardent plea. Ellie becomes obsessed with finding out what happened to the lovers. Did they live happily ever after?
Sophie Kinsella called the book, "A fabulous emotional and evocative book, perfect for anyone who loves Mad Men."  I also found it faultless in its portrayal of what life was like for women in the 1960's. Having the two love stories intertwined made the changes in attitudes toward women's roles very apparent.
It is hard to say which of these three books I enjoyed the most. They are all good in their very different ways.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Grandmas' Aprons

Say the word apron and what comes to mind? The word itself is Middle English derived from the Middle French naperon, diminutive of nape cloth, modification of Latin mappa napkin. Apron was first used in the 15th Century.
I first think of the half aprons my mother always wore when I was a child. Often they were made out of the scraps she had left over from sewing a dress or skirt and two or more fabrics might be combined in order to have enough material which sometimes resulted in some pretty wild aprons. If she were making a little fancier apron, a bottom row of diagonally cut pieces would be sewn on and embellished with rickrack.
The aprons like my Grandmother Lynam is wearing in this picture with Dad as a child were almost like wearing a second dress. I call this an over all apron, though I'm not sure that is the right term.

Grandma had taken her apron off for this picture with Dad and Ron as a baby, but Great Grandma Aggie still had hers on. It is hard to find old pictures of women in their aprons because they did take them off for picture taking.
Aprons began as protective clothing for men, such as blacksmiths and farriers. It wasn't until the 17th Century that women began wearing them. Most women only had two or three dresses. Aprons helped keep the dress clean and were generally easier to launder.
In the 1950's, the cobbler apron became fashionable. I can remember Mom making and wearing a few like the ones pictured on this old pattern envelope. Aprons not only kept the housewife's dress clean, they were handy to carry things in - eggs from the hen house, produce from the garden, apples from the orchard.

This is not a picture of Grandma Ridnour's apron, but I swear she had one exactly like this. It is the style she usually wore and the material looks so familiar. Perhaps it was made from a feed sack as many of Grandma's were. Aprons were not only protective coverings, they could also be used as pot holders or dust cloths, to wipe sweat from a brow or tears from a face and they were an excellent place for a shy child to hide behind.

When I learned to iron, handkerchiefs and aprons were what I learned on. And when I learned to sew, an apron was my first Home-Ec project as a high school freshman. I still remember the green, white and grey striped fabric I bought for it in Biggars basement. It was twenty-five cents a yard and took less than 2/3's a yard. First we had to sew the band depending on our waist size and then gather the fabric and sew it onto the band before adding the ties and a pocket and hemming it. I remember sewing the gathered material onto the band and sewing on the pocket as being the hardest to do. I think Mrs. Poindexter gave me a grade of a C or maybe C+. I didn't like Home-Ec - not the sewing, not the cooking, nor the meal planning - not even the section on child care. It was a required course I just had to get through.

I never wore aprons much though I started married life with the one I made in high school plus a few more made for me by my Grandmothers. I got started collecting them in the '70's and wearing them once in awhile. My favourite style was the butcher or grocer style. It looped or tied around the neck and waist, was mid-thigh in length and had a pocket or two and it was usually made from a heavier material like duck cloth or canvas. I also had a thing for carpenter's and waiter's aprons.

I hunted out some of those aprons for the picture above. You can tell by the wrinkles they have been packed away a long time. (Probably should have practiced my ironing skills Mom taught me.) Most of them  I found at garage sales. The pretty coral colored one says 3M, next one is printed Red Rose Animal Feeds, underneath those two, the white one offers Special Rates for Bar Mitzvahs and Weddings. The blue, white and red one reads Parisian Extra Sour in the large black letters and World Famous San Francisco Sourdough Since 1856 in the circle on the blue top. Next to it is one of the two Organic Gardening and Farming aprons I have - probably bonuses for subscribing to the magazine. The blue and white striped one says simply Paris Bistro while the little servers' bar apron barely visible at the top says Applegate's Landing. I don't remember the Applegate's Landing restaurant chain from the '70's. They may not have made it to Omaha or Des Moines, though there were some locations in Kansas. Apparently their feature was a salad bar set up in the bed of a Ford Model A pickup truck. The burgundy apron barely visible underneath is the only plain one in the picture.

I had many, many more aprons before downsizing and moving, but I didn't keep all of them nor any of my Mom's homemade ones, though I think some of the granddaughters did. And that apron from Home-Ec was long gone. If I ever do want to wear an apron again, I still have plenty to choose from. Wearing an apron and baking cookies seem to go hand-in-hand......if I were just that kind of Grandma......