Monday, August 27, 2012

Sharing Memories: Lessons from the Pencil Box

Morning: A journal, cup of tea, and a pencil box
JGH & Roots'n'Leaves Archives.

 I am writing along in my Morning Journal, sort of a bitching tirade and then I say to myself, “This pencil is for the trash – so short I can hardly hold it – time to go.” Now I take up the next shortest pencil. How strange that these sharpened pencils are almost a luxury item for me. I write along and think back to being in elementary school. How I hated to sharpen my pencils. Almost always, I broke the lead further up when I was sharpening the pencil. So I would sharpen even more and the lead would break. I was sure that the other kids didn't have this problem. In fact my friends seemed to enjoy going up and standing in line to use the pencil sharpener that was attached to the wall. Probably my technique torqued the pencil so that the lead broke deep within the pencil --- or maybe because I wasn't very careful with pencils and dropped or threw the wooden cylinders encasing slim rounds of compressed graphite. Part of the problem may have been the quality of pencils. Mom may have kept the better quality pencils for her bookwork for Zuckerman's --- but then Zuckerman's probably paid for the pencils – or maybe Zuckerman's were so tight with their money that she was afraid to waste good pencils on children. Hmm, doubtful, Daddy thought nothing of filling my aunts and uncles cars with Zuckerman gas, but then his largess may have been taken out of his gas allotment. Or perhaps this said something about the two of them. But for my role in the dreaded pencil sharpening saga, I always wanted to be perfect, hated learning anything in public. If Mom had a pencil sharpener in her office like the one at school, I certainly wasn't allowed to use it.If she had such treasure, I could have practiced my sharpening skills until there were waste baskets full of ground wood and graphite.  However, her office was off-limits. Anyhow, my need to be perfect, probably means there was an element of ridicule either in school, at home or both --- probably both --- or perhaps just deprived of enough practice.

My recent purchase of box of gaudily Halloween-decorated pencils was a surprise to me. I had not used a pencil since I was in grade school. Now why did I buy those pencils. I certainly didn't fall in love with the garish orange and green pencils, nor the purple and black decorated pencils. I had gotten a small box of “cheapy” pencils for my journal writing. Writing pages and pages in a journal with a ball point pen is not really a pleasing activity to me. Scratchy and blotchy. Also, I rarely could find the broad tip points that I preferred. Hmm, that harkens back to my scrawly writing with pencils that really needed sharpening. I like the feel of a soft broad point flowing across the page. Did not like the sharp scratchy –  pencils or pens. I bet that Mom bought the hard #4 lead pencils for her book work --- and as I remember the writing was lighter, sharper and scratchy – perhaps, I used her pencils more often than I remembered.

I walked out of the store that day with the box of pencils and a little plastic encased pencil sharpener that collected the shavings. At home I found a really good hand-held pencil sharpener – an Xacto pencil sharpener, probably a left over from a grandchild's art project. A good pencil sharpener, but messy to use. The plastic encased sharpener was not messy, but never left an even sharp point. So on my next excursion to the store I bought a battery-run sharpener, the runn of the mill, store-brand brand, which ate up batteries like a hungry lion, and the pencils looked as though a beaver had been at them. So of course, for my cheapy box pencils I now had to purchased an Xacto electric pencil sharpener. My pencil life was complete.

At first, I only sharpened enough pencils for a few days of writing because the pencils and journal were in my bedroom and the fancy pencil sharpener in my office. Then I started sharpening all the pencils in the box; it was a small square box, maybe 2 1/2 “side and came up mid way on the pencils. I liked having a full box of sharpened pencils. When I had to start replacing my Halloween-decorated pencils I purchased the better quality #2 store-brand pencils, and then progressed on to the quality Dixon Ticonderoga #2 pencils.

One day as I while sharpening a handful of pencils to replenish my pencil box I realized how enjoyment I got out of sharpening and using my seemingly endless supply of pencils. A luxury that would have delighted me as a kid. I started thinking about why I dinna like writing in journals with ball-point pens; expensive (when you write 3 to 5 pages daily); I liked the way pencil looked on the page. Even more I liked writing with charcoal pencils, but charcoal was too messy and the soft lead require much sharpening until there was nothing left. I like the feel of the felt tipped pens of the 1980s as they had the feel of paint flowing from the tip --- no scratchiness. Perhaps I was a calligrapher in an early life --- my artistic aunt Gail would hoot at that one, as she thought I was most un-artistic member of my family. Anyhow back to the pencils and pencil sharpener; I had been journal writing for quite a period of time when I actually bought the box of pencils. There were 48 pencils in that first box and it takes a significant amount of time to sharpen 48 pencils down to a nub of a pencil. So of course I had a goodly amount of time to ponder on my box of pencils and the lessons therein:

A box of sharp-pointed pencils is a luxury.
I like the feel of writing with a pencil.
Soft lead is more pleasing to me.
Broad strokes are more pleasing than narrow, wizened marks
I spent too many years afraid of sharpening pencils
Yellow Dixon Ticonderoga #2's are my favorite.
Broad strokes remind me of calligraphy and my aunt Gail.
I like the thought of doing calligraphy – maybe I should take a class or read a book.
I'd like a mentor – a calligraphy teacher that looks like the master in Kill Bill – and wields his calligraphy brush with sword-like insouciance.
A pencil is a luxury and a window to my inner world.
The Halloween-decorated pencils served their purpose to remind me of the lessons of the pencil box.

~ ~ ~
 © Joan Hill, Roots'n'Leaves Publications

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Sunday Synopsis: 2012 August 26

Today is a quick peek at this last week.  I was pleased to complete the submission to the COG on the Great Discoveries and I was delightful reminded of the great times I had with my Wisconsin cousins. And while I am awaiting the package from Bentley, my desk is getting a thorough cleaning.  Bare desk can be seen in many areas, and the stacks are not as high  --- or as messy.  As the cleaner desk emerges, so does thinking about new pieces, new research, old research in a new way.  Yeah, this too has been a good week.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

121st COGs Great Discoveries; Discovering J.P. McPherson's Diary

Diary of James Peter McPherson,
Dates back to 1850
Courtesy of the Margaret B. McPherson Burmeister Family

Back in the 1990s, when I was a child, genealogically speaking, the first indication of the existence of the diary of James Peter McPherson emerged. A cousin of my McPherson aunties - and my dad, of course -- was interested in updating a variety of family trees. My mother dutifully gathered our family information and  sent the family group sheets to cousin Shirley.

A few months later, family members received a copy of the information that she had put together. Although I was moderately interested, I was also in the process of winding down the business I had started nearly two decades before. I remembered reading the hand-scrawled letter with information about my great-great grandparents, James Peter and Mary Burns McPherson. Yes, and I even remembered being slightly annoyed that there was no signature or date on the document. The letter and the time-consuming family tree constructed by cousin Shirley found its place in the bookshelf, where it lived, untouched for several years.

Later, during a trip to visit the last three of my McPherson aunties, two of the aunties brought out a box of letters that their brother Ralph had written to them. The letters, written in the 1980s, were a treasure trove of family history, old and new, as well as a wonderful commentary of an everyday-sort-of-man about his current life, southern California and the country as a whole. From that time on, my genealogy focus moved more towards the McPherson line of my father.

And so it was, one day I pulled out that notebook to peruse the family tree, and I came across the old, hand-scrawled letter. For the first time, I read not only the words, but examined the handwriting, and took in the essence. I realized that this was not really a letter, but hand written notes, four pages of memories about my great-great grandparents, their travel to America from Scotland and their life in America. As I read, it was obvious that the author of these words, was a child of James P. and Mary B. McPherson, and from the wording, most likely a daughter. Then the book along with the hand-written pages moved to the forefront of my genealogy library.

Even then, I missed the crucial words which would later send me on a nearly five-year search. I had been reading for content, you know, what they did and when they did it. Then one day, these words finally edged their way into my working brain -- Notes from Father's Diary was the heading for a list of marriages performed by J. P. McPherson, a Justice of the Peace. I had read and re-read the list of names and marriage dates, committing them to memory. Then one day, this fuzzy little brain of mine kept nudging me until I internalizing the fact that there was a DIARY.  Then the search was on!

Because I thought the pages appeared to be written by a daughter, it seemed that Margaret Burns McPherson, the youngest daughter of James and Mary was the most likely author. (This proved to be true because a few years later, I found the notes, authored by Margaret Burmeister, included in The Centennial History of the Town of Springdale, Dane County, Wisconsin, 1848-1948.) She died in 1959 at the age of 92 and was until then the last surviving child of the family. Maggie, as she was called in the family, married Carl Burmeister, but I dinna have much any current information about their children or grandchildren, other than they seemed to be settled in Wisconsin.

Not to be deterred. From the computer, I searched and made a list of likely sounding names of Burmeister folks living around Madison. I had some very nice conversations with a few unrelated Burmeisters before I hit pay dirt. Sadly, it was the recently bereaved widow of a grandson of Maggie Burmeister, who directed me to her husband's sisters. I called the first sister, who said to call the next sister, and then onto the third sister. Great contacts I made with these cousins, whom I treasure to this day. I remember when I called cousin L. I introduced myself as a McPherson relative. She hesitated. Then she said, “I don't know that we are related, my family was McFearson” with a strong accent on FEARson. I laughed and said I thought it was just that living in the west had softened the sounds as surely as the wind softened the harsh edges of our mountains. She wasn't too sure, but we talked of family, and sure enough her grandmother was my great-grandfather's baby sister.

Then we started talking about the diary. She said that she thought that years ago her older sister had donated it to the Wisconsin Historical Museum and Library. That was enough for me.  I then contacted the State Historical Library. Talked to many very nice people who searched and searched for the diary of James Peter McPherson. They found a number of articles about him, as well as a couple of articles and pieces written by him, but no diary. "Check again," I said, "I'm sure it's there.” Being nice folk, they checked again, but still no diary.

Then back to cousin L. "No diary at the State Historical Library," I say to her. So L begins her own search. A few weeks letter, she writes to tell me that she has found the diary in her sister's collection of family artifacts. She even sends a copy of a couple of pages to me and tells me that the diary is too fragile to copy more and this is all there is.

I am thrilled and devastated at the same time.  Reading J.P.'s words was thrilling, but devastating that there wasn't more. L and I talked often over the next few weeks and months. She told me that the diary is a fairly large book, but is very faded at the beginning and some pages are falling out --- too fragile to copy.

My dad taught me that there was always more than one way to skin a cat, which in our terms meant if you can't do something one way, you try another ---and another -- and another --- and another, until you find a way that worked. A trait I had adhered to all through my life, but was not always appreciated by others. In this case, back to the historical library. Yes, they worked with very old and fragile manuscripts all the time, and they would be delighted to copy the diary, and provide a free copy to the family (L's) and make copies at nominal price for other family members. That dinna happen. Then I checked with a local historical library closer to L, but that dinna happen either.

I cogitated on the diary and it became an obsession. During this period, a blogger that I follow had written about photographing boxes of old family letters in a library. WOW! If I couldn't get the diary to come to me, then I would go to the diary – camera in hand. About this time, I had come into closer contact with another McPherson cousin, B, who also lived in Wisconsin. He and I talked about the Diary as though it was the Holy Grail and we were the Searchers. I told him about my idea to come to Wisconsin and photograph the Diary. A plan, we agreed. We tentatively scheduled the trip for October or November, 2010. 

This was a big trip for me. What to do with my dog! Can I still get around in airports or even railway stations with my cane and gimpy leg? It was rather expensive and no one really wanted to go with me, so I'd have to make the trip alone. I blew hot and I blew cold, but all the while I checked train and plane schedules. The day that I almost threw in the towel – just too much to think about, cousin B wrote that he would pick me up from where ever, by train or by plane, and tote me around Wisconsin. It was meant to be. Wisconsin and Diary, here I come. I called cousin L with the news and a date. She would bring the Diary as well as boxes of pictures and letters so that we could photograph these treasures.  A party in the making.

Reservations were made at an Inn near Madison. On November, 4th, cousin B plucked me from the airport and we met cousin L, her daughter D, and L' s older sister E who also had boxes of pictures and treasures. I counted my blessings for cousin B because he really is a good photographer and his skills at the computer are those of a professional whereas I can do it, but it's not pretty or fast. On Friday morning, we met at the Inn's continental breakfastroom to plan out our attack for the day. Then as soon as the other Inn guests departed the area, we turned the meeting room into our work room. Computers set up, boxes of pictures and letters sorted, we told stories, scanned pictures, and finally we turned our attention to the Holy Grail, the Diary. The camera and book mount that I made dinna work so cousin B photographed each page free hand, while L and I carefully and reverently turned the pages. B photographed the original book which had over 300 pages, and then the surviving parts of two other ledger-type diaries. All day Friday and Saturday morning, our little cadre of cousins worked – and bonded – over stories, pictures and the Diary.

Just before noon on Saturday, B and I helped L and daughter D load their boxes of pictures, letters and the precious Diary. We waved a fond good-bye to them as they headed to their homes up north. B and I then headed out to view the land where our great-great grandparents had lived, and finally the Verona Cemetery where they now rest, along with three of their children.
Gravestone for 
James P. & Mary B. McPherson,
Verona Cemetery, Verona, Wisconsin
Courtesy of B Mansur and JGH Roots'n'Leaves Publications

 I thanked B profusely for agreeing to tote me around Wisconsin and most of all, for being there because I dinna think I could have done it -- at least not completed the project -- without him. He laughed and told me that there would not have been a "project" if I had not come to Wisconsin from Oregon to photograph the Diary. O yeah, we had (and still have) a mutual admiration society going on between the two of us.

B took all of the scans and photographs home to organize. He really is very much a professional at this sort of thing. A couple of months later, B sent each of us a very nice cd which had a copy of the Diary and all the letters and pictures we had scanned. Since that time, whenever I have a few extra minutes, I have been transcribing J.P.'s Diary – which only was a possibility because one day those words edged into my conscious brain,  
 Notes from Father's Diary.

~ ~ ~
 © Joan Hill, Roots'n'Leaves Publications

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Sunday Synopsis: 2012 August 19

          Hurumph--- I reviewed my writing and research   --- and the state of my  desk.  Huruuummmph -- not as productive as I had thought, two Sharing Memories sent into cyberspace; three drafts hanging around in blog post list; a desk that hasn't completely seen the light of day for several weeks.

          Well, old gal, was it really that bad?

          You did significantly rework "Snow Storm" to the point that is an OK piece of work;  made edits on "House at Hungry Hollow" and it is good until decision as to where it goes in the overall story.

          Talked with Cora in Canada; got book ordered and permission to use pictures from the Bentley Chronicles with acknowledgement.  Review and chose pictures for the Jabezes article about the Bentley Jabez, so that one should come struggling out of the computer this week.  Also corrected and updated the posts which had Synopsis misspelled --- yikes what lousy proofread am I --- it went on for months!

         Huruuumph-- not all that much work done and completed.

         Even though the writing --- and clearing off my desk --- was not all that I would have liked there were some wonderful gems.  My sis came down from Eugene on Thursday, and on Friday night we went to see  Woody Guthrie's, An American Song  at the Camelot Theater.

          Of course, I had heard about the Dust Bowl and how those poor unfortunates had their land literally blown away.  I never realized that this piece of history affected me because that most terrible dust storm of April 24, 1935, happened six months before I was born.  The Zuckerman ranch where I was raised was a magnet for Klamath County's unemployed of the Depression, and so it was for the a number of  the Dust Bowl refugees.

          Often I have written about those guys of my childhood  -- guys with wonderfully interesting names. By the time I was three years old, we had workers on the ranch with names like Okie, Big Oakie, Little Okie, Gutter Okie (he could gut and clean a duck the fastest of all) , and the Arkies, Little, Big and just Arkie.  There as also a Tex and even a Utah.  Being Mac's daughter, and for a number of years the only child on the compound, not only were these my "friends" but I had a special place.  I have often laughingly said that this was where my "princess" complex began --- other's have not disagreed, but dinna think it all that funny.

          Some of these fellas stayed on, married and themselves raised families; others would drift away, only to return months or years later.  After December, 1941, many enlisted for service in the war, only to return periodically.  These were the guys who if my father wasn't around fixed my tricycle, bicycle, caught my horse when she bucked me off, and later pulled me out of ditches in my early and  nefarious attempts at driving.  These were the guys who ate at the big cookhouse, and for whom my dad installed an "air-raid" type siren to roust them out of the bunkhouse.  These were the guys that peopled my childhood --- and almost every one of them was a Dust Bowl refugee.

          So when I sat in the front row of Camelot's new  theater, the songs and stories resonated with me.  Images flooded my mind, images of long ago times when I was a child and my "friends" had a wonderful array of names and a soft lilt to their speech.  Songs that I have always seemed to have known, now in that darkened theater, once again connected me with those guys with the strange names that peopled my world as a child -- songs that connected me to their lives and plight, and just as surely molded my life.

         A wonderful night of memories  --- brought back through the music and stories of Woody Guthrie.  Thanks, Camelot and a great cast.

~ ~ ~
© Joan Hill, Roots'n'Leaves Publications

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Sharing Memories: For Sue, Skiing on Glass

       Thank you to Lorine McGinnis Schulze over at Olive Tree Genealogy,  for her ongoing series about Sharing Memories.  She has been posting a topic every Sunday since December 8, 2009, which gives me lots of food for thought and writing. In addition, the only rule is to share one's memories for whomever, but no rules about what, when or how often to write.  My kind of series,  since I dinna seem to do to well under hard and fast rules.  Not being a poet, I only write a poem every couple of years and the following is one I wrote about two years ago.  Although my sis was the inspiration,  the memories are mine as much as hers and on any given early morning, the roles in this poem could change -- her to me, me to her.

Early Morning "Glass"
Courtesy of JGH & Roots'n'Leaves Archives



Sun rays caress the far mountains,
Herons stand in silent vigil,
Eagles swoop for early morning morsels,
And the lake – a shimmering mirror.
Sisters slither from warm sleeping bags,
slip into swimsuits 'n' fuzzy sweats,
grab a cup of cocoa, scuff into worn tennies.
Hurry! Gotta get on the the lake before the ripple.”
Cold fingers peel away the rough canvas boat cover,
stow life jackets, towels, and extra skis.
Don't forget the paddle – just in case. “
The big inboard engine coughs to life,
hull edges out onto the molten steel-colored lake.
Head for the other side, better glass.”
We two giggle this morning, the glass is ours,
no need to share with sleepyheads,
never waste the glimmering slick surface on beginners.
The boat slows to a stop, the water stills.
First to ski, slips into the cold moire.
An invigorated gasp greets the morning.
Deep breath, dip into the ski,
adjust the life belt, handles just right,
ski in position, boat slowly pulls the rope tight.
Hit it!”
Burnished water breaks now before the ski.
Lean back into the morning light.
Bask in sun and wind as the ski slices through the shimmer,
sending up showers of sparkling rainbows.
The slick water barely holds the skeg.
Skier, ski, and water are lightly bound
as the skier leans far to the outside where the glass is good.

God has created a new day,
Skier skims the glistening surface,
Silver and green and gold
Cut to right, break the steely still veneer,
Live that the sunset may find you
Arc to the left, jump high,
Worthy His gifts to hold

God and Glass are good.

JGH's note:  I first heard this morning devotional at Camp Esther Applegate on Lake of the Woods when I was a 10 year-old camper.  At home we never sang songs or said grace at meals, so this was a new experience for me.  I thought these were the most beautiful words I had ever heard, and that is still so, some 6o years later.  To me this camp song is closely tied to Lake of the Woods, water skiing and my sense of  God and Nature.  I never skied the early morning "glass" without hearing this song chime in my head.

~ ~ ~
© Joan Hill, Roots'n'Leaves Publications

Monday, August 13, 2012

Sharing Memories: The Snow Storm

       Thank you to Lorine McGinnis Schulze over at Olive Tree Genealogy,  for her ongoing series about Sharing Memories.  She has been posting a topic every Sunday since December 8, 2009, which gives me lots of food for thought and writing. In addition, the only rule is to share one's memories for whomever, but no rules about what, when or how often to write.  My kind of series,  since I dinna seem to do to well under hard and fast rules.

 Snow Storm

Outside the schoolroom window, the snow had changed; now dusting the old, dirty snow with a new white coat, then to dropping great flakes, covering the teeter totter and making the swings look like they had small lumpy children sitting on the seats. Then the wind started blowing so hard that the snow came straight at the window next to where I sat.

Children,' instructed the teacher, in a high anxious voice, “when I call your row number, I want you to get your coats and things from the back of the room and then return to your seats until every one is ready,”.

I knew something was wrong, even though the rest of the children seemed so excited with the change in activities. "Second graders can be so dumb,”  I thought to myself.

Row one. Hurry now.” The sounds of little chairs being scooted away from the tables and giggles at the coat rack seemed to annoy the teacher. “Hurry now, no talking.” The noise subsided as the children from row 1 returned to their little tables. “ Now row two.” Then row three, and finally she called row four, my row of tables. I put on put on my new coat momma had made as Christmas present for me, then tugged and pulled on the ugly rubber galoshes that she insisted I wear. Only then did I pick up the little suitcase that carried my new Christmas doll, with all the little clothes that momma had made, and the little quilt that Grandma had made. I carefully checked the latch to make sure it was secure before I returned to my seat.

Even though it was too early to go home, our teacher led all of my class out into the hall, through the front door and out to the line of buses. I found a seat next to the window near the back of the bus because I was nearly the last one off of the bus after school. It was important to get a window seat before the big kids got on the bus because they always pushed us younger ones around. I hugged the little suitcase close to my chest as the bus filled up, and the bigger kids jostled around for good seats. Finally, all were aboard and we left the school and began the long road home. I thought to myself, Maybe when some of the kids got off and the bus isn’t so full, I can get my new doll out and dress her in a different outfit.”

The kids who lived along the highway got off first. Didn’t seem fair, as they were the last ones to get on in the morning but the first ones to get off after school. It was nearly dark when I got on the bus in the morning, and getting dark when I got off at night. The Dixon kids got off, then the Simons, Flemmings, Browns, and the Dehlingers. Now the bus turned up hill, following its route onto the dirt road that followed the foot of Stukel Mountain. The wind was blowing the white snow and engulfing the yellow bus. Drifts began to form on the less traveled road, as the bus trudged up the hill, letting children off as they came to their homes along the road. Then up along the foot of the mountain, the drifts got deeper, but still the big yellow bus plunged through the drifts, depositing children in the knee-deep drifting snow in front of their homes.

Now up the south hill road, past Tollivers, then the past the house of the new family that had moved into down by the railroad tracks, along the river. The snow got deeper and the drifts got higher as the bus ker-chunked and thumped it’s way through the growing snowdrifts. Then the bus came to a shuddering stop in a great snowdrift. The bus driver tried to go backwards, then forwards, then backwards, but the yellow bus would not budge. The bus driver pulled on his heavy gloves, pulled down the earflaps of his red plaid cap and got out to try to dig the snow from around the wheels. The two or three older boys, who were still on the bus, jumped out to help the bus driver. Soon they all climbed back in the bus, as the snow was too much for their meager efforts.

Okay,” directed the bus driver, the gruffness of his voice belied his fear, “I want all of you kids to sit close together to keep warm. Help should be on the way soon.”

The older boys and girls got the younger children together in the front of the bus. When the older boy tried to get me to sit with the other children, I just shook my head. “I am quite warm. I have my little doll blanket that my grandma made,” I said as I spread the blanket over my stockinged legs. “My coat is very warm. My momma made it for me.”

Unsure what to do with such resoluteness, the boy returned to the front of the bus with the other children. After a bit, he came back and again asked me to move up front with the rest of the children. I gave him a look, and then said, “No, I am waiting for my Daddy. He will come and get me.”

The boy shook his head and went to the front of the bus again. Some of the children began to cry. Winter’s early darkness was coming on; the snow was still coming down in blowing swirls across the road; and the temperature in the bus continued to drop. Still I sat in my seat by the window, my doll blanket tucked around my legs, and the little suitcase hugged tight as if there were warmth coming from it, waiting for Daddy to come and take me home.

I see lights coming behind us,” yelled one of the boys. The driver and older boys went to the back of the bus and peered out through the snowy frosty glass. There were lights coming.

Looks like two, no three sets of lights,” growled the bus driver, sounding as though he had ordered the help. “Now we will get some help getting out of here.”.

The big boys were cheering, and the younger children were still snuffling and crying.

I told you that my Daddy would for me,” I smugly told the boy who again tried to get me to come to the front of the bus.

When the rescuers arrived, the first one on the bus was my Daddy, that ruddy-faced Scotsman, snow covering the felt-brimmed hat he always wore. He strode to where I was sitting with my blanket and suitcase. “Daddy, I was waiting for you to come,” I whispered to him as he picked me up and carried me to his warm car.

Daddy, along with the other men, put all of the children in the warm car and pickups. Then he and the men from the ranch began digging the snow-covered bus out of the drift. Once it was free, the men left it along the side of the road until the county road crews cleared the roads. With their chained-tires gripping the heavy snow, the three children-ladened vehicles chunked through the snow, back down the hill, depositing children at their homes along the way. There were still several children in the car, when Daddy drove into our yard. Momma, laughing with relief, came running out of the house -- coatless -- through the drifting snow to hug Daddy and me. She then began helping the cold frightened children into the house.

Come in. Come in. Get those wet coats off. I have hot chocolate on the stove, just waiting for you --- all of you.” Momma settled the children around the warm oil-stove with cups of steaming hot chocolate. She then began calling the parents of the children stranded at our house. Not a difficult task. When she called the first person, other worried neighbors picked up the phone on that old fashioned party line. Soon parents were coming through the snow to pick up their children and take them home. The feeling of relief that the children were safe, made it seem like a party. Some stayed and had a cup of hot chocolate, talked about how deep the snow, how high the drifts.

Later that evening, I held my baby sister and softly told her, “Daddy will always come through the snow to take you home.”
 ~ ~ ~ 

 © Joan Hill, Roots'n'Leaves Publications

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Sunday Synopsis; 2012 August 12th

           The Jabezes are in a holding pattern.  I wanted to finish the article about the 2nd Jabez- Burns-McPherson-cousin before finishing up the series  with my grandfather, yet another Jabez Burns McPherson cousin.  I dinna know much about this 2nd of the 3 cousins who went to Canada, so I thought it would be a short and quick piece to write.  That was before I came upon the Bentley, Alberta, website and found a wonderful lady named Cora.  The site has a gallery of pictures --- 347 pictures of Bentley and Bentley-ites from  1900 to the present.  I printed over thirty that pertained to my McPherson relatives, or sometimes just the era.  There were  pictures of my Jabez (this 2nd of the 3 cousins) and his sawmill, his house, and his wife who killed a bear.  How cool is that?  Way cool, WAY.

          After I saw the website, I papered the town with emails -- emails to the library, to the museum, and to the town clerk.  As near as I can tell, all emails were forwarded on to Cora, the local acknowledged town historian.  She was going out of town for a few days, but  I had a nice conversation with her husband --- and she even took the time to send me an email before she left.  I can hardly wait to talk to Cora.  In fact, this morning,  I told my daughter that if I were independently wealthy, I'd hire folks to look  after the place and head off to Bentley myself.  I was that jazzed about Bentley --- and this was not even about my grandfather, but one of his cousins of the same name.  Cool, Way Cool.

          As I was thanking my lucky stars for Cora, I also remembered the ladies of Bethel, Vermont.  Marge, the Assistant Town Clerk, and Heidi, of the Historical Society, were so helpful in providing information about the Jabez Burns McPherson (father and uncle of the Jabez Burns McPherson cousins --- and son of James Peter McPherson).  I am always so amazed and touched at the lengths people like these three wonderful ladies will go to help someone they don't know and who lives thousands of miles away;  they do research and send information on people they don't know and not of their genealogical line, for sure.  Indeed, I am fortunate to have people like these three ladies show up in my life.  I must always remember to "pay it forward"  and most of all, to convey my most heartfelt thanks.

          So this week has been a "putter about" week --- a bit of miscellaneous reading,  looking at Bentley pictures from the web, "ruffing-in" what I know about this 2nd of the cousins, starting to outline the article on my grandfather, the last of the Jabez Burns McPherson cousins.   I even have a piece that I have re-worked completed  for the Tuesday meeting of my Crit Group.  I don't usually do "re-writes" for the Crit Group, unless I have substantially changed or improved the piece.  When I wrote "The Snow Storm" several years ago, I was dinged badly (and deservedly so) for some rather poor writing techniques.  Still I liked the story so I gave it new life.  Y'all will probably see it sooner or later on the blog as part of the "Sharing Memories" series.

         Life is good  ---  even though we are still baking in near 100 degree weather --- life at Hill's-on-the-hill is indeed good.

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 © Joan Hill, Roots'n'Leaves Publications

Friday, August 10, 2012

Sharing Memories: First Grade at Henley Grade School

         Thank you to Lorine McGinnis Schulze over at Olive Tree Genealogy,  for her ongoing series about Sharing Memories.  She says, "We all want to find information on our ancestors and are overjoyed to find an ancestor’s diary or journal. But what about our own memoirs? It's important as genealogists that we not forget about writing our own story. We may think writing about ourselves is boring or egotistical but stop and think how excited your descendants would be to find a journal or dairy that their great great grandmother (you) wrote."

          Lorine has been posting a topic every Sunday since December 8, 2009, which gives me lots of food for thought and writing. In addition, there are no rules, you can jump in when you want, choose any topic that takes your fancy, write when and what you want to write -- no rules.    My kind of series,  since I dinna seem to do to well under hard and fast rules.

          For this inaugural  piece I am skipping to a prompt from Week 1 of 2012, memories of the first day of school and first grade.


          I was only five years old, and wouldn't turn 6 for two more months, when my mother took me to my first day at school. Not turning six for two more months doesn't sound like much, but I was always the youngest in my grade -- academically not a problem, but socially and physically I was about a half year or so behind my classmates. That would remain so until I was in high school.

          Henley grade school, folks dinna start saying Henley Elementary until years later when the Junior High School was built --after I graduated from high school.   In retrospect, it was rather a small brick school house with a row of classrooms on each side of a long hallway. I thought it huge, but there were probably only about six to eight classrooms, and a small cafeteria/gym.    

          Back to the first day at school.  My memories were of a huge gigantic building and my mother firmly clasping my hand in hers as she towed me behind her into the building.  There were lots of kids --- at least to me there were more kids than I had ever seen before. Sometimes I had played with my two cousins, and once in a while mother would take me down to Kigers who had a boy, a year or so younger than me, but mostly I was with adults, which made me a bit out of sync with my classmates.  

          I was intrigued by the little tables and chairs -- it felt like a play house. I liked having a table to myself, but we had to share, two to a little table. I must have met my first grade teacher on that day, but I don't remember her on  that occasion, but her name was Hattie Carden.  Of course, I only knew her first name years later when mother talked of her.  To me, she was Mrs Carden (Her name may have been Garden or Gardner, but to my mind, she was Mrs. Carden, and that she will remain).  She was old (probably at least 40 or so) and had a ruler that she tapped the hands of children who were being loud or unruly.  I don't think she ever "tapped" my hand with the ruler because I loved her.  She was my favorite teacher for years, though I don't know why.  Probably, because she indulged my pretentious play acting.  According to mother, Mrs Carden told her that I was a very imaginative child and was always "play acting."  Hmm, some things never change, now I just write my dreams and play acting.

          I do remember being impressed with the cart that was brought to our room for mid-morning snacks -- except they always had milk and I hated milk.  The cookies or graham crackers, however, were a treat.  Yes, back those days milk and cookies or graham crackers were snack appropriate  --- no one worried about "lactose intolerance" or "sugar high's" -- but it was the cart on wheels with two levels of trays that was most interesting to me.  Stacks of little napkins, milk glasses and plates of cookies or crackers covered the trays and were handed out by the cafeteria cook.  I think it must have seemed like having a tea party with my dolls  --- even now, a hostess cart will bring a mile with a glimmer of a memory, which I am sure goes back to those early amazing rolling snack carts.

          One of the boys I met on that first day was Jack, he would later become a cousin of sorts, as he was a cousin of my future husband. Jack was short like me,  always fiesty, and a friend all through our twelve years at Henley Schools.   Anyhow, on the last day of our first year at school, my mother was talking with Jack's mother and she said" I thought you had a little blond-haired boy?"  

          "Yes, he started the year out blond, but his hair got darker and darker."

           I am sure I must have met other children that year because out of our high school (Henley High School) graduating class of 35, twelve of us had started school together in the first grade.  But I only remember Jack, whose blond hair turned as dark as my own.  Funny, how one remembers little things like that like the color of a classmate's hair -- but then my hair was always a glossy dark brown -- never blond.

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 © Joan Hill, Roots'n'Leaves Publications


Sunday, August 5, 2012

Sunday Synopsis: 2012 Aug 5th

Yesterday was a WaHoo day!  It doesn't take much to make me happy--- at least so it would seem.  I was ecstatic to finally file the last to the reams of research that I had done tracking down all of the Jabez Burns McPhersons.  The sons of James Peter and Mary Burns McPherson continued the naming pattern (at least to some semblance of pattern) set down by their parents.  Sons William, James and Jabez each named their sons William, James and Jabez Burns --- well, that is not exactly so, as my great grandfather James Burns McPherson did not name any of his sons "William" or "Peter",  but the "James", "Jabezes" made as much confusion as I could take. From that pesky McPherson side, there are only four with the name of Jabez Burns McPherson, but three of those were born within five years of one another.  At one time three of the four lived in the Imperial Valley, within a 50 mile radius.

 As the count goes,  I have also identified five men with the name Jabez Burns, well six, maybe seven, if one counts the change from "Jabez Dawson Burns" to "Dawson Jabez Burns."

Out of ten or eleven Jabezes, eight were born from 1842 to 1878, then the name seemed to lose out in favor of more popular names. .Strangely, I have only found one Joseph Burns in this family group  --- strange, because Joseph was the father of that first Jabez Burns.

Needless to say, my subscription to Ancestry.com was well used these past few weeks -- and will continue to be.  Also, so grateful that the 1940 Census was online, even though I kept finding myself sidetracked on tangential trails.

As a follow-up and to fill in some wanted details, I requested the William Burns McPherson military records (those should prove interesting), death certificate for Clara McPherson Manly (what in the world was she doing in Seattle when she died), and as much as I can get from the little town of Bentley, Alberta, Canada(just because).  I would love to have more Bentley information before I  write about the next to the last Jabez in the series -- Jabez Burns McPherson, son of William B. McPherson, but I am ready to move on to my grandpa, Jabez Burns McPherson,.

For the omng week--- finish up this Jabez B, then on to my grandfather.  Also have a Sharing Memories started, a piece due for crit group, and of course, the albatross of my life, Uncle Ralph's letters --- can't tell if it's a dead weight or a good luck in disguise.  BTW temperatures on my hillside retreat are near or over 100 degrees, so long cool drinks in the shade seem to be in order for the next week or so.  Enuff talking to myself, and back to work.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Sharing Memories: A Summer in Paisley

         Thank you to Lorine McGinnis Schulze over at Olive Tree Genealogy, who has an ongoing series, since 2009 about Sharing Memories.  She says, "We all want to find information on our ancestors and are overjoyed to find an ancestor’s diary or journal. But what about our own memoirs? It's important as genealogists that we not forget about writing our own story. We may think writing about ourselves is boring or egotistical but stop and think how excited your descendants would be to find a journal or dairy that their great great grandmother (you) wrote."

          Lorine has been posting a topic every Sunday since December 8, 2009, which gives me lots of food for thought and writing. In addition, there are no rules, you can jump in when you want, choose any topic that takes your fancy, write when and what you want to write -- no rules.    My kind of series,  since I dinna seem to do to well under hard and fast rules.
          For this inaugural  piece I am going back to a prompt from Week 1 of 2012, "A First Childhood Memory."    Although I have earlier childhood memories, this particular one is so vibrant in my mind, it begs to be told.

         The summer before I started school, my fifth summer, wrapped me in the most wonderful memories.  My dad was charged by the Zuckerman Farms to open a potato market on some virgin land in Paisly, Oregon. I dinna know where the potato land was, nor do I now.  Just not important to me, but what I remember was the wonderful summer we lived on the John Withers' ranch.  We stayed in the old homestead house, which was then an  overflow accommodation for family and visitors. I remember an old fashioned sink with a flower-patterned curtain to hide the plumbing and dishwashing pans and supplies.  One time I was talking to my mother about the Wither's ranch, and I mentioned the "little tiny windows."  She laughed, "You're right, Joannie, the kitchen window looked down over the pond and it was made up of lots of little panes of glass  --- some very old and wavy."  We were both surprised that I remembered that detail of the old homestead house.
         Sometimes mother would take me up to the Big House where the John Withers family then lived.  I remember the smell of the oiled wood floors, and probably oiled furniture as well.  I don't remember John Withers or his wife, but I do remember Mrs. Latta.  She was Mrs. Withers mother.  She was round and soft and liked to hug.  I liked to be hugged.  The usual treats of cookies and lemonade, paled in comparison othe the greatest treat of all.  From someplace upstairs (we never went up the stairs), she said she would find some toys for me to play with.  She placed in front of me a doll, a long forgotten doll  --- one that not been in a child's hands for many, many years.As she placed the box in my hands, she cautioned me that I must be very careful when playing with this doll.   The delicate porcelain doll had her own special box.  She was dressed in a yellowed satin dress,  The dress had lace at the neck and sleeves, and a ribbon and lace belt.  She was the most beautiful doll that I had ever seen --- probably made even more special by the reverent way Mrs. Latta handled the doll.  I never knew who had been the lucky little girl to have such a treasure.  Since then, I have seen a couple of similar dolls, without the old satin, lace-be-decked dress, on eBay.  I thought about bidding once, but decided the doll of mind was all that I needed.
          For my first six years, I was brought up as an only child, surrounded by adults, but that summer in Paisley, I was surrounded by the Withers children and kin.  We played at the pond; ran through the grass; sipped lemonade on hot afternoons; however,  the the greatest memory was of the circus that the Withers kids put on.  There were acrobatic tricks, a dog show(all the dogs were bathed and sometimes filled the roles of lions, horses, and cattle).  A boy had a black hat and introduced all of the acts.  I was by far the youngest, so I was dressed up in a "fancy dress" from the attic and I rode in the circus parade (on a wagon pulled by a dog/horse).  I was the princess or so I thought.  There must have been a quota of interested adults/audience, but that was of little importance to me.  The big kids let me be part of the circus.  I was so proud.
          Such a magical memory.  Seventy years later, on a summer's day, I can still see the pond, the black dress, and kids laughing and playing all around me -- magical.

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 © Joan Hill, Roots'n'Leaves Publications