Monday, April 30, 2012

Saving Pennies

For years I have struggled with my grill. It was a cheapo that I had bought a decade and a half ago while broke and newly out of college. It held up well but had quite a few flaws. The tank holder underneath had broken the first season of use so moving the grill required holding the tank with one hand and moving the grill with the other. It had only two burners and the temperature control only set it at hot or flash fry. If I needed warm or moderate grilling temperature, I turned one side off and put everything over there but you didn't get that good char effect. You basically ended up with stuff that looked like you had baked it in an oven. It didn't have a drip tray so I ended up fashioning one out of some wire and a large can but still it was hit or miss if it caught everything. The pizzo igniter never worked out of the box meaning I always had to have one of those hand held butane lighters with long tips to light the thing. Finally, about three years ago the burners started crapping out with large sections caving in to rust and by last fall, I essentially had two blowtorches where the gas entered near the center of the grill because the burners had rusted completely off. I could have bought new burners for about half the price of the grill but they alone wouldn't address all the other issues so a few years ago I began saving my pennies to live up to my recent motto of buying it right the first time around even if this was my second.

Last summer I had thought about buying one on discount during fall but with a potential move coming and a poor selection left, I put it off. I honestly thought we would have moved by now but we haven't and grilling season was upon us so in March, I finally plunked down the cash and bought a new grill.

I apologize for the cloudiness of the photo from my cellphone which I only recently discovered was due to a gunked up lens from carrying it around in my pocket all day. The above grill is a Kenmore and one that took me an immense amount of searching to find. It met my requirements nicely. Those requirements were:

  • Stainless steel for better rust protection.
  • At least 4 burners for better temperature control
  • Better gas tank holding method
  • Larger wings for putting food, cooking utensils, seasonings and beer to drink while grilling
  • Heavier duty racks that could be removed for occasional cleaning
  • No side burners (don't ever use them and they just take up a lot of real estate and add more parts to go wrong.)
The no side burners requirement was perhaps the hardest specification to find in a grill that met the other requirements but I had a few to choose from and in the end, I opted for a smaller much more cost efficient grill than the other two. I have grilled on it several times already and probably a couple more by the time you read this post and it makes grilling such a joy instead of the battle it has been for the last 15 years. No longer do I have to eat sub par food. The meal that you see at the top of this post was the very first on the new grill way back in mid-March. Two steaks, a handfull of asparagus and some leftover frozen raw shrimp. Surf 'n' turf! Man was is good.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Farm Scenes, Sycamores & A Bone Tree

For me, this photo captures the essence of the farm life. You have some mowed grass, some tall grass, decorative or fruit trees nearby along with an old clothes line for drying clothes, lots of graveled or two track dirt paths leading this way and that, all of which is surrounded by farm fields. I could sit on a lawn swing looking out over this landscape for long periods of time and have.

If I had to pick a favorite tree, I guess I would choose a sycamore. The bone whiteness of its upper branches, green leaves and blue skies always produces such a pleasing contrast to my partially colorblind eyes. Spending time underneath a sycamores shade, a more complete shade than almost any other tree, is extremely soothing with a light breeze that causes the leaves to rustle. I can spend long periods of time laying in the grass looking up through the tree and have.

This bone tree grows down on the family farm and the calcified bone deposits seem to get larger every year. Some of the deer sheds represent flattened implement tires and others simply represent a walk that was briefly interrupted by something white glinting in the distance. This bone tree is only ten years old and I often wonder what it would look like if it was started during my childhood. Perhaps it might now be more bone than tree.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Hangin' On the Jersey Shore

Although I didn't see Snooky or The Situation, I did look back across the river towards lower Manhattan and enjoy the view for few minutes one afternoon as I scarfed down some food between appointments. The lone tower at the right of the photo is the new Freedom Tower under construction where the Twin Towers once stood. Less than a week after I took this photo, they finished building the 100th floor of the Freedom Tower and once again it was the tallest building (not counting antennas) in the U.S.

I had never been to New Jersey outside of their airport so all I knew of New Jersey was what I have seen on Season One of the Sopranos. (I haven't actually ever watched Jersery Shore.) So I was pleasantly surprised to see this part of Jersey was anything but what I saw in the Sopranos. There were actually houses with space in-between then, lawns and the occasional gas station that wasn't right on the shoulder of a four lane road. It was almost like back home in the Urban Jungle. If someone forced me at gunpoint to spin the rest of my life near New York City, I think this spot of shoreline in New Jersey might be where I would look first.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Out an About

I'm on the road for a few days and have set my blog to autopilot until I get back. In fact, I think the post for tomorrow is a post written about my last out and about. Hopefully this trip will leave me more time to take a few pictures because I took very few the last time.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Cleaning Out My Camera

Again, I apologize for the poor quality of the photo taken with my cellphone which was before I realized that the cause of the poor photos was from a gunked up lens due to carrying it in my pocket all the time. It takes much better pictures now that it is clean.

With that said, the following pictures were from a trip to a little hole-in-the-wall place named Fat Tuesdays (no relation to the bar chain by the same name) one Lenten Friday in the Urban Jungle. We got there in the nick of time because the place was a hopping with customers and shortly afterwards, people were waiting periods of time to get seated. The food was excellent, albeit a bit spicy even for my taste, but certainly a place I would like to visit again, especially on a non-Lenten time when I don't abstain from meat on Fridays.

This first dish was my side dish that came with my meal and was cajun coleslaw. This stuff was so spicy it literally kicked my ass. It was by far the spicest thing I ate the entire evening.

This picture and the one below was of an alligator hush puppy. At the time, I had never had alligator in hush puppy form and since it was the recommended appetizer, we order it. As you can see, an order is just one hush puppy but boy was it good. However, now that I am writing about this weeks after Easter an the Lenten season is over, I wonder if it even qualified as a food I could consume. On Fridays and other Holy days of Lent, we abstain from meat but seafood is acceptable. Alligator certainly isn't a red meat like beef, pork or chicken but it probably doesn't qualify as seafood either.

For my entree, I had a seafood gumbo which was absolutely delicious. Spicy but delicious. By the end of this and the coleslaw, my sinus cavities were completely clear of everything.

This was my wife's entree of fish, shrimp and rice. It was excellent and not spicy which is the way she likes her food.

Finally for desert, I had my first exposure to sweet potato pie and as you can see, my camera was about two bites too late to the party. My wife and I shared this since we were full from our meals but both felt we must at least try this regional food while we were here. It was good but killing hot from them having nuked it in a microwave before serving. I'm guessing had it been served cold, it would have been excellent.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Bakers, Chickens & Proctors

While doing some preliminary research into the collateral people that my 3rd great grandfather Joseph Baker was around during his brief lifetime, I ran across another dizzying loop in my peripheral family tree. I should say that I am investigating the collateral people mentioned in my post Crossing Paths in hopes that researching their lives might offer up clues into solving the genealogical brick wall that is my Joseph Baker. So I was minding my own business, collecting information to take with me on a possible trip up to that area of the world later this summer, and boom, my head was sent spinning.

As  you can recall in my post about the Chicken Brothers, after my 3rd great grandfather Joseph Baker who was their father died, they were 'adopted' by the Robert Chicken family who knew the Baker family when they crossed paths in Fayette county, Iowa. I put adopted in quotes because I have no proof that they were formally adopted but I do know they took the Chicken last name as their own and lived with the Chicken family until they reached adulthood and married off.

When Robert Chicken adopted the two Baker brothers, he had two daughters of his own. The oldest one, ten years older than 'adopted' son Robert Backer/Chicken, was named Anna and the younger one Virginia. I was reading a death notice on Robert Chicken and it mentioned the married names of both of his daughters. His oldest daughter Anna had married a man by the name of Charles Proctor.

This name sounded very familiar but I couldn't place it so I typed it into my database and sure enough, it popped right up. Charles Proctor had many children but his oldest child was a daughter by the name of Viola Hannah Proctor. She would marry Robert Baker/Chicken. So about the simplest way I can state this is that Robert Baker/Chicken (my 2nd great uncle) would be 'adopted' by the Robert Chicken family and eventually marry Robert Chicken's granddaughter. Robert Baker/Chicken was a husband and an uncle to his wife... at least via adoption.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Best Buy: No Longer That

When I was younger, Best Buy was my addiction. If I needed music, electronics, computers, software, or even sometimes small appliances, it was my go to place. I once joked that the only way I should be allowed in one of those stores was by taking a set amount of cash and leaving the plastic and the rest of the cash back in the car. I loved Best Buy.

Yet just a couple days ago, Best Buy announced that it was closing down 50 of its stores across the nation and I found that I wasn't really shocked. In fact, I didn't really even care other than to read about a store that fueled a past addiction. Why? Because I had to think awhile to remember the last time I have been in a Best Buy store. It gradually became obsolete to me in a number of ways and I found replacement ways to fuel my addiction. Let me point out some examples.

Back in the day, you used to go to Best Buy and it didn't matter if you didn't know exactly what you needed. An employee well versed in electronics would help guide you to the right selection. This used to be the same for many of the large box stores that you find out there these days. But gradually they all got away from that mentality for hiring people and I gave up asking people questions there because A) they didn't know anymore than I did and B) they often showed that they didn't care that they didn't know and that always rubbed me the wrong way when I was the person with cash on hand and looking to spend it.

Back in the day, I went to Best Buy to get a choice. These days, like so many others, they are focused solely on providing cheap products to the masses. They focus on cutting the overall price but bring down the quality as well. This also limits choice since they seem to limit suppliers to companies that can meet Best Buy's call for cheapness. The last time I bought a computer in Best Buy probably well over a decade ago, they only had two choices, Compaq or HP, this compared to the six or eight brands I had to choose from when buying my first computer out of college. On that particular day, I bought an HP, which was known for their quality only to discover that they had sold out to the cheapsters too. It was the last computer I bought from HP or Best Buy. Good thing, because that computer that I bought for my parents lasted only a few years before it failed and I replaced it with a quality computer bought online and still works almost a decade later.

Like modern day libraries, Best Buy focused more and more of their retail space to music and movies. The problem with that is that people found that there were much more reasonably prices places to obtain those things without going to Best Buy. Libraries are a case in point as they provide music and movies for free these days. This also further helps to limit the choices offered by Best Buy because of the lack of space to deploy products.

The last time I was in a Best Buy over three years ago, I stopped in on a business trip because a co-worker's camera had shot craps and he needed to pick out a replacement. As we looked over the selection of digital cameras, each one had a tag with two or three facts about the camera, none really pertinent to making an informed decision. When queried, the person manning the display didn't know anymore than we did and was visibly disturbed when my friend proceeded to have him bring boxes out from the locked area underneath the display so he could read the boxes to determine if the feature he needed was part of the software. In the end, he took a gamble, bought it, opened it up in the car outside the store and read the instructions to determine that information, prepared to return it if necessary. I bought a digital camera shortly afterwards but I bought my online where I could easily compare multiple models and brands for all the features I wanted, I could read reviews of people who had bought the same model and were displeased or pleased, and I could read forums where people who knew about the camera where able to answer any questions I might have. My camera still runs and my coworkers camera quit last year and had to be replaced.

So Best Buy is closing a bunch of stores and joining the ranks of Circuit City who only made the same mistakes much earlier. Why am I not surprised.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Amazingly Small World

Last summer while looking into the genealogy of former neighbors to the family farm, I quickly realized that I was related to two thirds of them. I found that I was also related to my bus driver, nearly ten other kids in the same school I went to which only had 200 kids total, and others who were present in my childhood at some point or another.  Funny how growing up they were just farm folks like my parents who seem to know an awful lot about 'who' I was but back then, I guess I just pegged it as being neighborly. On all sides of the family farm, north, east, south and west, those people whom I remember as being neighbors (most are long since deceased) actually shared a common ancestor with me two or three generations back. Some of the relationships I kind of knew where there but not exactly how, others came as a complete surprise.

Flash forward to a couple weeks ago when the genealogy world became abuzz with the release of the 1940 U.S. Census. Due to privacy concerns, our government only releases the census records after 72 years. Eventually when it is all up an indexed, I hope to perhaps track down a few leads for some distance cousins in hopes of tracking down fellow family genealogists that might be out there. But until then, if you know where to look, you can still flip through pages covering areas where your ancestors were living and find them with a little more effort. While looking at my paternal branch, two more realizations that I should have figured out but never did hit me.

The first one was that my paternal branch and my adoptive paternal branch were practically neighbors. My great grandfather farmed just down the road to a fellow man whose not yet born grandson would eventually adopt me at the age of eight years old. Even my non-blood roots interweave into my biological roots. The second realization was reading through the lists of other neighbors and coming across many family names that are familiar to me in my current time frame and location. Though I work with some of them, I've always known they lived over in the area where my paternal branch took root nearly a hundred years ago but never suspected that their families are also long time area residents. I still don't know that for sure but since their last names aren't that common, it certainly would be a good bet that they are related. It would also be a good bet that some of their family tree branches intertwine with my own.

Before I began to research my ancestry, I always felt that I was just a nomad among nomads and that the fact that I grew up in southeast Iowa was just a random occurrence. But every step of my genealogy research has proven this wrong and has only bound me tighter to this land where I now live and raise a family of my own. Where once I wanted nothing better than to escape the confines of this part of the world to explore the rest, now I want nothing better than to spend the rest of my life here putting down even deeper roots. Where once I was just another person in a land populated with many, I am actually one among a tight tribe of people, our trees tightly woven and growing together, sharing branches and roots and far to complicated to ever separate. It is an amazingly small world but one that I now understand much better than I ever did and one that I have come to love so much more than I ever thought possible.

Friday, April 13, 2012

New York Driving Is Not for Wimps

This wasn't my first trip to New York City. In fact, I've been there a few times over the years but all those times I either wasn't driving or I was mostly driving out to the far end of Long Island and away from the inner city. But this trip was different. Not only would I be visiting the inner depths of New York City and its surrounding boroughs, but I would be driving in it as I visited almost four dozen locations among it over four days spread out through the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Harlem, and the Jersey shore. I knew it would be bad but I really wasn't prepared for quite how bad it actually was.

My first clue was when I picked up my rental car and they were going through the events that would cause me money such as golf ball sized dents, knicks in the windshield and scratched longer than four inches. What surprised me was that any damage to the bumpers were fair game and not counted against me. Really?

I'm struggling with how to accurately relay how New York driving is because it is like driving on a foreign planet where you don't know the rules ahead of time. In the course of my four and a half days in the city, I ratcheted up my aggressiveness while driving by a factor of ten and I would guess I was still a factor of ten short of the aggressiveness of the average seasoned New York driver. It wasn't so much rage that won the day though I saw my share of that directed my way but it was who was the bigger bluffer. Since it is all a blur, I think I will just try to demonstrate what I mean with a few verbal snapshots.


I'm not sure how anyone navigated New York City before the advent of GPS units for the car. I had one and still got off course more than once when the directional changes came faster than I could change directions given the traffic restrictions I was in. Not to mention that from the seat of the car, all of New York looks like the same ten blocks repeated over and over with no view of the horizon whatsoever. I felt fortunate when I could judge the location of the sun enough to get a sense of direction and that only happened perhaps a handful of times and when it did was only fleeting. I think my longest duration (mileage wise) on any one road was 7.8 miles when I was heading up north of Manhatten to a location. Other than that, the mean duration on a road was probably somewhere less than a mile.


Real estate is at a premium in the city which was expected so parking is also a premium. There were no parking lots that I saw so if you parked, it was on the street which meant that if you wanted to park legally, you better know how to parallel park or you are screwed out of the gate. Everywhere I went involved stopping in front of our desired location (double parked) to drop off one person while the other person, me, would drive around for the next twenty minutes looking for a place to park legally. This meant trying to navigate a snarl of one-way streets and keeping your bearings so that once you parked you could find your way back to your partner and then back to the car later on. Much easier said than done. People parked close so parallel parking was very hard to do at times and I even inadvertently used my bumper a couple of times making me thankful that they didn't count. As I was exiting my car, I once saw a lady with barely a few inches between her bumpers and the car on either end. I dumb foundedly watched her bump/crush her way out of the parking spot with no fewer than a dozen direction reversals. It was no wonder that crushed/bruised/missing bumpers were a common site in the city. Finally I mentioned the word legal when it comes to parking because so many people in New York City just double park. They simply stop in the lane of traffic, put on their emergency flashers and walk away. On many streets there were cars bumper to bumper parked on either side of the road with just enough room for two cars to barely pass by in the middle. Now when you have people double parked in both directions, which is a rule and not a chance occurrence, navigating them and the oncoming traffic was like a cross between the old game of Frogger and the game of Chicken.

Playing Chicken

As I said, the bigger bluffer usually got the right-of-way. Basically the rules were simple. Get your front bumper wedge in front of the neighboring cars bumper and the back of the vehicle they were following and you could move over to that lane. If you couldn't, you would probably literally still be sitting there to this day with people honking at you. Lanes were not relavent because if you stayed in the proper lanes, you would not get where you wanted to go. Instead, you had to use other lanes and then cut into the line or face sitting at an intersection trying to turn left across traffic for the next three years because the proper lanes were always more than full of cars. At a low point, I actually swerved around a turning car which had to stop for a old crippled guy to hobble across an intersection to get into my desired lane. The car I swerved around expressed their displeasure at my getting ahead of them by blowing the horn and the old guy expressed his displeasure by using his cane on the hood of the other car. That is the way New York driving works.

Road Rage

I lost track of the number of times I was honked at for not driving fast enough or aggressive enough for the driver behind me but the incident I'm about to relay to you really took the cake. While sitting in outer of the two lanes that were about to turn right onto the George Washington Bridge, a third lane in the go straight only lane were trying to cut into my lane. As I stated, this was almost mandatory at times to get anywhere. But one fellow tried to create a fourth lane in oncoming traffic and cut off one of the cutters in the third lane and was trying to cut me off. I had been sitting in this lane through several traffic light cycles and had enough so I kept close to the bumper in front of me so that he couldn't get his bumper in between without simply bashing in the side of my car. He honked his frustration as well as the guy whom he cut off and I drove onto the bridge and forgot about it for a couple minutes. That is when I saw the same van come roaring up through traffic violently cutting people off in his attempt to reach me. I knew what was about to happen at that point. He was going to attempt to cut me off by violently swerving in front of me and hitting his brakes. I sped up and got my bumper within a couple feet of the bumper ahead of me (which at 45 miles an hour was insanely close) and tried to maintain the gap while the van pulled along side me violently mashing his accelerator and brakes and swerving like he was going to smash into me while he expressed his displeasure that I hadn't let him into the actual turning lane from two lanes outside of it. After what felt like minutes of this but was probably less than thirty seconds, he roared off and disappeared.

Thick Skin

In order to actually make it to where we were going, sometimes you just had to put your car into play and have thick skin. While waiting at an intersection to cross when the light turned green, turning traffic would fill up the lanes across the intersection leaving no room for you. In a normal world, you would sit waiting for space to open up before cross the intersection so not to block the intersection should the light turn read while you are sitting in it. However in New York world, all this did was cause people to drive around you filling up the void and leaving you no closer to your destination. So I did what I had to do. I drove into the intersection inevitably blocking it up when the other direction got the green light and then listening to people honk our their frustrations until I was able to progress enough to clear the intersection. You get used to it.

Ratcheting It Down

By the end of day four, I must say that I was beginning to become accustomed to being super aggressive while driving. I cut people off at will and even honked at cars not driving aggressive enough. I became part of the problem. So after decompressing from a day of flying back to the midwest, it felt odd driving back here in Iowa. For days afterwards, I found myself in situations where in New York I would have swerved around someone who wasn't aggressive enough with their left turn across traffic or would have have honked my horn to show my displeasure at them pulling out in front of me or cutting me off. I always had to mentally check myself and remind myself that I was in Iowa. Fortunately after my limited exposure, I was able to shed the aggressiveness fairly easily. But it makes me wonder what someone with a longer exposure does when they come to the laid back driving style found here in the midwest. Do they ratchet down their driving or simply proceed thinking we are just easy pickins' when it comes to driving?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Madness for Mushrooms Has Arrived

Morel mushroom slightly larger than a baseball in its natural habitat
I originally had a post about a particular aspect of my time in New York City and surrounding area but I pushed it back a couple more days to share my traditional post about the mushroom madness that I succumb to every year about this time plus a couple weeks. This year has been so warm that everything is two weeks ahead of schedule.

This picture was taken on Easter Sunday when I was at last able to get out into the woods to hunt for then little fungi I love to eat. Because of the dry spring we have been having, carried over from the dry summer, fall and winter we recently had, I wasn't expecting much. Although I was surprised that we did find quite a few, it was still a lackluster performance compared to recent years. We didn't find any gray morels which are the first morels of the season to appear. However we found their larger and yellowed colored cousins scattered throughout the woods. Normally we would find a 'mushroom machine' which is the term I give for a recently dead elm tree and you would be able to pick a dozen or more mushrooms from near its base. But this year with the dry conditions, we only were able to find three or four morels under any mushroom machines that we located. Added to those we just find scattered throughout the woods, we ended up with a smaller than normal harvest of perhaps three pounds. My share of the loot fit into a 2.5 gallon ice cream container which is enough for a half dozen good messes to cook up.

I cooked up the first mess last night by sauteeing them on the grill with some fresh picked asparagus and some mushroom burgers. I topped the burgers with more morels, placed them between a pair of grill toasted buns and ate the asparagus on the side. Life just doesn't get any better.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Martin Luther Rice: Another Brief Civil War Career

On some levels, my 3rd great grandfather's Civil War service is similar to that of my 3rd great grandfather George W. Ware who I have already blogged about. Both were injured not in battle, but in camp and both were only in their regiments for a short time. They also both suffered from their injuries for the rest of their lives. The main difference is that where George W. Ware signed up for three years and only made it a few months, Martin Luther Rice only signed up for a few months and he finished his duty despite his injuries.

Martin Luther Rice was born in Noble county, Indiana in 1845 and moved to Illinois sometime after the start of the war. Towards the end of the war in May of 1864 however, he enlisted for 100 days and on June 18th, 1864 he was mustered into Company A of the 140th Regiment Illinois Infantry at Camp Butler. That very day, his regiment boarded a train and headed south to Cairo, Illinois where they hopped a boat to Memphis and from their marched 30 miles to the east to the Wolf river where they spread out and guarded a railroad between there and Holly Springs, Mississippi for the next three months.

About one month into that railroad guarding stint, my 3rd great grandfather was tasked with digging a vault with a grubbing hoe and somehow ended up falling with the hoe handle striking him in the knee. Evidently he was able to continue because there were no hospital records and no absences for duty. Martin would stay with his regiment during a battle in LaFayette, Tennessee where he would again suffer injury by losing two of his upper left molars, cracking a third and chipping a bicuspid while pulling out the rifle ramrod with his mouth in the heat of battle. Still my 3rd great grandfather stayed with his unit and eventually they made their way back to Memphis and from their back to Chicago, Illinois where Martin was mustered out on the 29th of October, 1864.

According to the unit history, once the men had given up their arms, they were asked to reorganize and march through Missouri in pursuit of General Price. While many of them did, Martin Luther wasn't among them because there was a receipt showing that he paid for transportation from Chicago to St. Louis at the rate of $0.0206 per mile for the 281 mile trip costing him $5.79. He was also charged another $2.47 for a bayonet, a tompion which is a plug for the end of the rifle barrel used to keep out water and dirt and a spare cone which was another stopper used to seal up the breech from water and dirt. The first item was probably a souvenir but the other two for the rifle back home perhaps? When he got back home, he packed up his gear and headed to Clinton county, Iowa where he would meet and marry my 3rd great grandmother Amanda Virginia Smith on her family farm which I visited and blogged about here.

They stayed there for a few years and then moved out west to Monona county Iowa in the northwest corner of the state and settled down to farm and raise a family. In the early 1880's, Martin files for disability from his old teeth and knee injuries. He claimed his left knee now caused him great pain from his ankle to his hip preventing him from walking much without crutches or just standing for long periods of time. Oddly enough, he claimed that his knee also sometimes smelled badly but the doctor just noted it and didn't say anything else about it. Martin had lost another molar on his right side and with the three gone on the left, he rightly had difficult chewing his food and complained of poor digestive organs. He claimed he was slightly deaf since the war and that in the 1870's after the war had suffered a blow to the head which was causing him to lose his eyesight. Like my other 3rd great grandfather, Martin also suffered from chronic diarrhea but claimed his was due to having had to survive for three weeks on nothings but hard tack and black beans. I don't doubt his explanation one bit.

Martin's first claim for disability was denied because he had never been reported absent and there had been no evidence of injury at discharge. They also noted that there were never any medical records to confirm his injuries. However, perhaps due to numerous affidavits from friends of acquaintances, he eventually was granted full disability in 1890 and received that for the next nine years until he died in 1899 at age 54 of stomach cancer. (I wonder if this was the cause of the poor digestive organs.) My 3rd great grandmother would continue to collect his military pension until her death 23 years later at the age of 73 at her home in Whiting.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Footprints On the Ceiling and Ants On the Floor

My daughter fell asleep on the front chair, something that almost never happens. I assumed she had a busy day and since she is a grownup 5 year old now and doesn't take naps, she was just worn out. However when she woke up an hour later just as I was getting reading to put her to bed, she seemed a little confused. Never the less, she let me carry her up to her bedroom.

Despite the fact that she was wearing a long sleeved shirt and jeans, I could feel the heat emanating from her body and suspected as I was carrying her up that she may have a fever and not merely tired. That still didn't prepare me for what happened when I laid her in her bed and told her that I would be back in a second to take her temperature. She started screaming about the footprints on the ceiling. I came rushing back and followed her pointing but failed to see any footprints so I asked her again thinking I might have misunderstood her. Again she said in a very scared voice that their were footprints on the ceiling.

I started panicking because now I new she was sick. She was burning up with a fever and hallucinating. Not good. I tried to make a dash for the bathroom where the medicine and thermometer resides but every time I got more than a step away, she started yelling about the footprints on the ceiling. I calmed her down as best as I could and said the footprints weren't going to hurt her and that I needed to get the medicine to make her better. So I quickly dashed out of the room leaving my poor daughter whimpering in bed.

Back with the thermometer, I checked her temperature which was 101.5 degrees! Yikes. I dosed her with medicine and started putting cold wet wash clothes on her forehead to force her fever down. I kept rotating the wash clothes because her head was so hot that after a minute on her head, they were steaming hot. I was frantically trying to call a good doctor that I know, my wife, but she was on call and as I found out later, tending to a much sicker patient. Finally after about a half hour, the fever started falling and my daughter fell to sleep. By morning, the fever would be gone and she would be back to her normal self. I asked her about the footprints on the ceiling and she remembered them and told me matter of factly that they must have been in her imagination. I reassured her that sometimes that happens when we are sick. Of course, I knew better by then.

According to our family doctor, my wife, it is not uncommon for some kids to hallucinate when they have a high fever and it isn't something to worry about unless your child starts convulsing. Then you need to worry. Fortunately my daughter never did that so all is well. It is funny though, because as I write this, memories of my childhood come back and I just remembered a particular instance when my brother had a high fever and started hallucinating about ants crawling all over the floor. Chalk up yet another thing inherited to my daughter.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

George W. Ware: A Civil War Career Cut Short

When I first studied George W. Ware, my 3rd great grandfather and his involvement in the Civil War, I was enthused. I figured if anyone had a story to write about it would be him. All I knew at the time was that he enlisted in 1862 for three years and his regiment saw action at Shiloh and several dozen battles in Mississippi, Georgia and up through the Carolinas. Although there is a story, it certainly wasn't what I had expected.

The online genealogy databases has George W. Ware enlisting on January 9th, 1862 and the battle of Shiloh in Tennessee began on April 6, 1862. But all his disability and pension and military records state on many different forms that he enlisted into Company D of the 15th Iowa infantry on September 1862, nearly 5 months afterward. Although not a veteran of Shiloh, he was at the Second Battle of Corinth, Mississippi where some serious hand to hand combat occurred along with heavy losses on the confederate side.

George W. Ware's military career wasn't much of a career for just short of two months after enlistment, it came to an end. On October 25, 1862 at the Holly Springs camp near Lagrange, Tennessee when a wagon became stuck after hitting a tree stump, George helped get it unstuck by helping to lift it and in the process severely sprained his lower back. He was carried to his tent and inspected by camp surgeons but there is no word that they were able to do anything for him. He moved with the rest of his regiment down to Lake Providence, Mississippi and while the rest of his company worked on digging a canal between the lake and the Mississippi river in an attempt to bypass the Confederate stronghold of Vicksburg, George lay in the Lake Providence hospital where he still suffered from his lower back sprain along with a new affliction. The new affliction was deemed chronic diarrhea and eventually that led to disease of the rectum. Ouch!
The next spring, George, still suffering from his injury and affliction, was given an honorable discharge on May 18, 1863 and was sent home. His pension papers were full of sworn affidavits from friends and neighbors who testified how he went from a strapping young man who could do most anything to one who on his best days could walk with a cane and who on his worst days could barely get buy with crutches and partial paralysis of his left arm and shoulder. He eventually received his disability pension and lived until the ripe old age of 73 and then his widow, my 3rd great grandmother Sarah Jane Echard Ware until she died eight years later.

The pension papers, all 106 pages of them, were full of neat information and included previously unseen (at least to me) items such as their marriage license, Sarah's middle name (Jane) along with her county of birth in Virginia (Augusta), the birth dates of several of their children and confirmation on the death dates of George and Sarah. The one bit I had been hoping to find out was George's middle name. The records spelled out Sarah's but George always just used the middle initial of W. with no record of what W stood for.

My 3rd great grandfather George W. Ware was the first of my eight ancestors whom I was able to obtain all their military records and it was very interesting to interpret and read them. It will probably take me many evenings over the course of many weeks to fully process the records for all the clues and information they contain. With seven more to go after him, I have quite a project on my hand.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Call Me Batman

I have lived in this house for eight years. One would think one would know if all after that long in a relationship but evidently not. A few years ago, while my wife's aunt was visiting, there came a bat a fluttering around our office in the basement. I grabbed a broom and did what any manly man would do. I beat the shit out of that bat with two screaming girls trying to hide behind me. My wife was actually ON MY BACK which made it hard to swing that broom but I managed and I won. Since five years had gone by before our first bat, I figured it was a fluke and had probably gotten in some evening through an open door and had just hung out in the basement until my wife discovered it one day. Now that I think about it both have high pitched squeals but my wife has the higher decibel limit.

So as I was sitting here at this very computer in that basement office some three years later writing some witty post for my blog, I heard what sounded like something falling onto the floor in the adjacent laundry room followed by some rattling of various objects in that room. Now let me take a step back and say that when it is nearly nine o'clock in the evening and one is hearing something rustling around in a room where no one should not be, one's heart starts beating a little faster.

So I tiptoed over to the room, why I don't know unless I hoped that sneaking up on rustling critter would somehow benefit me, and slowly opened the door. Normally this would be followed by a thorough search of the room to find the culprit but this time the light shining around me and through the cracked door into the darkened room highlighted the object immediately. It was a bat. Before I could say bat, it flew right at me and out into the office.

Quick as I could, I shut the door leading upstairs hoping to contain the bat to its present location and successfully accomplished that goal. However, I was on the wrong side of the door of my bat slaying weapon, the broom. So after swatting at the bat with my hands to keep it from draining me of blood on one of its swoops near my head, I darted out the door and slammed it behind me. I quickly armed myself with the broom and crept (there I go creeping again for no apparent reason) back down the stairs to the office and slowly opened the door.

Again, I saw the bat immediately on the far wall desperately trying to crawl behind a bookcase and the wall. So I crept over there keeping a wary eye out for a swift move towards my hair or neck and whacked it a good one with the broom. It fell and hit the stepped portion of the foundation wall where the concrete and wooden part of the structure meet and there it met its maker as I beat the shit out of it with a broom. God them things are ugly.

When it was thoroughly dead, I scraped it into a nearby gift bag from some store that my wife had saved for future gifting purposes and through the sucker outside and then disposed of the bag. It was only then that I realized that my heart felt like it was going to jump out of my chest and it took a minute or two to calm down. I must say, beating bats are a good workout.

On the plus side, I think I know how they are getting in the house. In the downstairs utility room, there is a stud cavity that is 95% blocked off but in that 5% that is open, that is where any wiring going from the basement to the main level of the house is routed. The cavity goes up to the attic which eventually leads to an access hole in the garage that is capped by a garage door with an old rubber door seal that has a malformed spot in the center where it folds the wrong way and has taken on a permanent set that leaves a small gap between the door and the floor. So item one on this weekend's agenda is to fix the door seal and then seal up the stud cavity between my attic and my basement laundry room. I don't want to have to beat the shit out of another bat.