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Tag Archives: Jesse James

Five Things About Me

 

A couple of weeks ago, my publisher, Ambassador International of Tales of a Cosmic Possum, asked me to write about five things that most people don’t know about me. It was fun, so I thought I would share it with you.

I love movies! Whether it is Disney, James Bond, a romance, a musical, a mystery, or a history, movies entertain me. Going to a theater or watching on TV, I become mesmerized into the story. There have been times that I have wanted to become part of the fantasy, because it deeply touched my emotions. My preference is for happy endings, but the reality check of those with unresolved conflicts or some form of estrangement is also thought-provoking. Though identifying with the characters is fun, movies also stretch my mind/world view to see life through someone else’s lens.

When I was around four, I met President Dwight D. Eisenhower. In a long line of people, my parents and I were outside a church in Augusta, Georgia. (Since then, I have found out that it was the Reid Memorial Presbyterian Church, where the President attended in that city.) I can still remember that it was Daddy, then Mother, then me. As the President walked by, he shook Daddy’s hand and then smiled and patted me on the head. It makes no sense that I can still visualize this occasion, but I do. I guess I am supposed to have this one in my memory bank.

Image result for eisenhower visit to church in augusta georgia

Image result for eisenhower visit to church in augusta georgia

Pulitzer prize-winning photo of Presidents Kennedy and Eisenhower.

My grandmother Lulu used to regale my brother and me with stories of our relatives, both the unknown and the infamous. Over and over, we would ask for her version of our cousin, Jesse James. He was the son of a Baptist minister, but he robbed banks and trains. Supposedly, his crimes were payback for the way he and his family were treated during the Civil War. (Perhaps this scenario was similar to the legends of Robin Hood.) Jesse James had staunch friends and family that protected him during his life of crime. So interesting now as an adult that I was enamored with the romanticized thoughts of a cousin that chose to be a thief, so he could provide for his impoverished family.

Jesse and Frank James, c. 1872Jesse and Frank James, c. 1872

Robert Ford (Credit: The Print Collector/Getty Images)

Both my grandmothers and mother made jelly and preserves every year. They started the spring season with strawberry preserves, following that with peach and blackberry preserves, and ending with apple jelly in the fall. It saw that it was hot work, as they all dealt with the steam from the jars boiling and the fruit being brought to a boil. But it wasn’t long after I married that I chose to follow in their footsteps. There really isn’t much enjoyment from the process, but there certainly is in eating the finished product. I, also, enjoy sharing them with friends and watching their eyes light up with anticipated pleasure. If I could only bake biscuits, like those three ladies, to go with those preserves, I would be truly be a happy camper.

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Crime or mystery novels have always been a favorite of mine. Patricia Cornwell, Louise Penny, Ken Follett, Robert Ludlum, John Grisham, John Hart, and Tom Clancy are some of my favored authors through the years. To go along with this choice of reading, one of my uncles worked for the CIA. Somewhere it became part of my outlook that I would make a worthy agent. In my imaginings, I would capture Russian spies, save America, and never be taken prisoner. Traveling from one exotic place to another, I would make friends on every continent, but remain savvy as I found traitors and enemies. No, this never happened. In real life, I research to find truth about my characters and and use my creativity to construct and shape the worlds they live in, that I will never see.

Louise Penny has one of her characters say,

“The four sayings that lead to wisdom:
I was wrong
I’m sorry
I don’t know
I need help”

Sounds like wise statements to me. Do you agree?

 

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Bury the Past? Oh, No!

My grandmother, Lulu, loved history, and she shared its stories often. As a card-carrying member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Colonial Dames, and the Magna Charta Dames, she was proud of her heritage. As a former teacher in a one-room schoolhouse in Kentucky, she never lost her love for learning. As a former home school teacher of her three sons and daughter, she put their education on a firm footing in their early years on Mirror Lake Farm, outside of Shelbyville, Kentucky.

When she wasn’t reading, she was writing. Her book shelves were full of history’s stories, both fact and fiction. She regularly visited the Shelbyville Library, attended her monthly book club meetings, worked as a reporter for the local paper, researched family history in neighboring counties, and wrote multitudinous letters to family and friends inquiring about their histories.

Carrying pads and pencils, she spent hours in the NSDAR Library while visiting with her oldest son in Washington, DC. She was an extraordinary researcher and never gave up on finding the truth, even if it meant chasing rabbits. She said she smiled when she walked into this library.

Born on May 17, 1896, in Woodford County, Kentucky, she never lived in any other state. Her imaginative travels to other places in the past would have made for good reading. She described them as if she had been there.

Whether it was the Hitt family traveling by raft down the Kentucky River to escape the Indians or Jesse James on a lathered horse, running from the law, the escapades were never dull.

And, yes, he is a relative I will tell you about another day.

 

As a retired teacher myself, I find it fascinating that my grandmother taught in a one-room school. For three years, she lived one month with a family and then another throughout the school year. This was part of her pay, free room and board, and the town shared the expense. Lulu took her packed pail to school, just like her students. Wood for the stove was donated, but it was her job to lay the fire for the day during the winter. She had various numbers of students throughout the year, since school attendance was governed by the crop season. Grades 1-8 worked at the same time in the same small room; it must have been bedlam at times with all the recitations.

This teacher and lover of books became the wife of a future farmer when she married Wallace C. Collins. Moving from Louisville to Shelbyville, she cooked over an open fire while their farmhouse was being built. The family lived in the garage until then.

As the Collins family increased, so did the work for Lulu. She made her own butter and bread and canned and froze vegetables from her garden. Rising at 4:00 each morning, she fixed breakfast for the family and any workers that were there. My dad often spoke of the biscuits, gravy, potatoes, bacon, sausage, and eggs that were a staple.

On Wallace and Lucile’s 25th wedding anniversary in 1943, Wallace died. At age 47, Lulu took over running their tobacco and dairy farm on Mt. Eden Road. During this time, the tobacco make the farm payments to the bank, and the cows paid the other bills. Both were necessary to make ends meet, and Lulu never faltered.

When we visited every summer, it was a unique experience from our city life. We always went in June, and I slept in my aunt’s bedroom. Roosters woke us up, and the mooing of cows headed to their pasture from the barn was the breakfast music. Several times a day neighboring peacocks visited and added their raucous noises to all within hearing distance.

It was like time stopped for me there. The agenda was loose, and the days were lazy. We went to the Shelbyville County fair, visited relatives, and checked out the horse farms. I read to my heart’s content and listened to the tales of yesterday. The cadence of the voices was mesmerizing, as both nostalgia and excitement peppered the stories.

Oh, how I wish I could remember more. Bury the past? Oh, no!