May 26, 2011

Stay, Cat, Stay!

After being gone for a week, I was told the cat might not be glad to see us when we got home. But he was. In fact, he stuck to me like glue the day after we got home. He knows he isn't supposed to be in the garden, but if the gate isn't latched, sometimes he will take a few steps in before I notice and order him out. Sometimes he will obey, and sometimes not so I don't know if he understands the word or just felt like leaving. But I know he hasn't a clue what "stay" means.

I was working in the garden one morning and the cat plopped down into a patch of Indian blanket (Gaillardia pulchella). I ran into the house to grab my camera and of course he jumped up when I walked over to the flowers. I placed him back where he was, and well, I'll just show you.

And again.


So much easier to get a photo of him through the window.


May 25, 2011

Another New Diet

A week before we went on vacation, I went to the doctor to discuss my osteoporosis medication. My OBGYN put me on Evista last year, but it caused horrible hot flashes, and that's what I wanted to discuss. That took about two minutes and then the discussion inevitably turned to my weight. That discussion/lecture lasted at least fifteen minutes, and in the end I agreed to try his diet for a minimum of thirty days. Even if I didn't lose weight on it, I hoped I would just feel better and gain some energy. His diet sounded fairly simple, plain fruits and vegetables, lean meats with no skins and all the excess fat cut off. No sugar, no dairy, no processed foods, no carbs.

So after we returned, I weighed and began the diet. It was harder than I thought because I had no recipes to turn to. Finally, I checked out some diet books from the library and found that his plan was very much like a combination of the Fit for Life Diet and the Paleo Diet, and recipes from those plans work.

The diet I am on has three levels of thirty days each, and a buffer zone of two weeks between each level. Some people begin on the high weight loss level three, but I knew I would have to work into it, so I began with baby steps on level one. All levels begin with fruit for breakfast, a break of an hour between breakfast and lunch, and a minimum of sixty-four ounces of water per day. At level one I can saute in olive or coconut oil, and have bacon.

Even though I can eat all I want, not long after eating, I feel hungry again. I've wondered if bread and other empty carbs are just filler that keeps expanding long after eating.

Today, I have been on the diet for two weeks, and I have lost nine pounds and am comfortably wearing jeans that I could barely button two weeks ago. I have good energy in the morning, but still have afternoon wilt, the four o'clock fold. I thought it was because I was working in the garden every morning, hoeing, moving big rocks, and bending and squatting pulling weeds. But even with my break today, I had the late afternoon energy drain. The cravings continue, but not as bad as last week. Last week I dreamed I ate a carrot cake with frosting an inch thick. Oh, and that two week buffer after thirty days? On the first day, I get to eat one prohibited thing. So on June 10, I will be eating cake, and it'd better be good.


Weekend in Branson

We finally had some rain last night! Our last measurable rain was May 2, so this was dearly needed. As a result, I can't work in the garden this morning and have the day off. I feel like a kid on a snow day and have a million things I'd like to do, but first I want to catch up on blogging. Not only have I not made any posts in awhile, I haven't got to read any others.

Update, Wednesday evening: While it sounded like we had a good rain, and we had a big puddle on the driveway, I worked in a front flower bed this evening and it was dry as a bone. So I took the day off for nothing.

I left off with our trip to Arkansas, so I'll take up with our visit to Branson. We stayed at a condo at Still Waters Resort with a view of Table Rock Lake. Still Waters Resort is out by Silver Dollar City. The drive from Little Rock to Branson was on a small highway that went through small towns and beautiful scenery. So much nicer than driving the interstate, and our weather was fine until just south of Branson, when it began to rain. That evening we had dinner with childhood friends who own a condo in Forsyth. That's when we learned of the one disadvantage of staying near the lake: there's only one way in or out. Somewhere between the condo and the first intersection, there was an accident. We finally got there, though over an hour later. It was dark and foggy when we began our drive back to the condo, and it seemed like there were twice the number of hills than when we drove in. Hubby drove like it was broad daylight and my heart was in my mouth the entire way.

The resort even came with a wake up service. These guys came by the condo early every morning for breakfast. I'm not sure if their honking was to let the others know what they found or warn them to keep away.

Keep away I think.

These little cuties were down at the loading dock.

Since we had a full kitchen in our condo, we needed to make a grocery run the next morning, and wouldn't you know it, the first store we found was Walmart? Drive 175 miles just to wind up at a Walmart that looks just like the one at home. But we stocked up for the weekend, and then met some friends at Lambert's Cafe just outside Springfield. Lambert's is a real treat, both in the food they serve and they way they serve it. We ordered an entrée and two sides, and waiters came around every few minutes with buckets of fried okra, blackeyed peas, and fried potatoes. Another waiter had a tub of fresh rolls, but instead of bringing them to the table, he watched for people to signal him and then he threw them from across the room. It was all delicious and portions too large to finish.

That afternoon, Brownie drove in from Tulsa and we ate dinner, and later, Lil and her boyfriend GW arrived from St. Louis. The next morning we all went to Branson Zipline and Canopy Tours. There was a problem with a previous tour so we had to wait awhile for our tour to start. I don't know what I expected, but it really wasn't as much fun as I thought it would be. There were twelve in our group (which is the maximum), and the course we signed up for had five towers with lines between and a suspension bridge. We had two guides, a leader and a follower, both friendly and helpful. Except while standing on the towers, which was how we spent most of the time on the tour, there isn't a lot of time to look at the scenery, especially while on the zip lines. The lead guide went ahead to the next tower to aid those coming in, while the follower guide gets each person ready to go. We were supposed to watch the lead guide as he gave signals to help us go faster or slower as we came in. The time of actual zipping was at most five minutes, but the time standing in the towers was about ninety minutes. My back was killing me from all the standing by the time we finished.

That night we went to the Dixie Stampede because that's where all the kids wanted to go. I could see why as there were more young people there than at other shows we've seen. It's a cross between a rodeo and a horse show with some competitive events, an announcer, a clown, some comedy, and a full dinner. They get the audience involved by creating a Civil War atmosphere, half the audience was assigned to cheer for the North and half the audience was to cheer for the South. But as Hubby pointed out, they had the U.S. flag on both sides. There was a pregame show with a juggler who was really good. The stampede show was good, especially if you like rodeo events like pole bending and barrel racing. The meal was served without utensils. I suppose that's part of the fun but I wasn't crazy about eating a whole rotisserie chicken with my fingers. It did make me grateful to whoever invented the knife and fork though.

The next morning after breakfast, the kids and Hubby went down to the lake and made use of the free paddleboats, and I went for a walk around the neighborhood. We all came back tired - walking up and down those hills is as tiring as paddling. After lunch, the kids headed home and we decided to stay one more day. That evening we went to Branson Landing which had flooded just days before. It was cleaned up and everything seemed to be open again.

It was really hard to leave the next morning. I think I could have stayed there all summer.

May 16, 2011

Days Two and Three of Our Vacation and More Research

We spent the night in Hope and went to the County Court House. We started at the County Clerk's Office, but soon moved to the Circuit Clerk's Office where the deed records are kept. Since there is no 1890 census (drat that fire!), we began by searching for my great great grandfather's name. We hoped he owned property at the time of his death and that there would be an affidavit or will which explained what happened to him. No such luck. However, we found where his widow bought forty acres in August, 1895, probably the land they were renting at the time of his death.

Let me give you a review of the family. My great great grandfather Billingsley married in 1887 when he was twenty-seven and she was nineteen. Their first child was born ten months later in 1888, and their fourth child was born in February 1895. He was shot in April at their farm in Hempstead County, and he died a few days later in Nevada County where they had taken him to the doctor.

What my great grandmother remembered of the incident was that her father had some cattle and made a deal with another man to drive the cattle to market and sell them. The man had been seen in town but hadn't come to pay her father his portion of the money. They lived in a dog trot house, which is really two log cabins connected by a breezeway. On one side is typically for cooking and eating and the other side for sleeping. So it's understandable that someone on one side can't see the people on the other side if the doors are shut. As my great grandmother told it, one night she heard a knock at the door and her father answered it. She heard him say something like "Oh, it's you. Have you come to bring me my money?" And then she heard the gunshot. She was four months shy of her seventh birthday at the time, but I'm sure the event and those that followed were talked about in front of her by many people and probably for many years, so I think it's pretty accurate.

After my great great grandfather died, the man was charged with murder, tried, and hanged. I wanted to find written verification of that. However, other than the deed to my great great grandmother, we found nothing. What is interesting, at least to me, is that my great great grandmother would buy forty acres so soon after his death. My conclusion is that she was paid the money the man owed my great great grandfather or restitution for the murder, and went ahead with the purchase of the land they had been renting. The reason I think that is because she bought the land from an E.(Earnest) H.(Helmer) Amonett and he continued to pay the property taxes on the land through 1898. My great great grandmother paid them from 1899 through 1902 and then they are paid by T.(Thomas) D.(Dolphus) Chambless, brother-in-law of E.H. Amonett.

After that, we couldn't find anything, not where she sold the property, not a quit claim, not a sheriff's deed. Nothing. In desperation, we went across the street to Hempstead County Abstract Company. I told my story to the lady there and she went back to look at her books. The nice thing about abstract companies is that they can look up the ownership by property description, not just by name. She said there was no deed where my great great grandmother sold the land. The next deed is from a man named Hicks, which she said looked to be a family member of Chambless. I don't know, and may never know. The next record I have of my great great grandmother is in the 1900 census where she is listed as a farmer who owns her land free (without a mortgage). So where is the deed selling it?

From there we went to the Hope Public Library to see if their microfiche was any better than the SARA. It wasn't. But armed with the date in which my great great grandmother bought the property, we headed back to SARA to see if we could find the trial record in the criminal records. Still no luck but we did learn some interesting trivia. Some of the crimes that people were tried for were breaking the Sabbath, disturbing a church service, gaming, and bigamy. I didn't think there would be a lot of murders back then, but there were a surprising number of them, and many more listed as Assault with Intent to Kill. Violent times back then. But here is what I find interesting. It was also a crime to carry a pistol. And yet, the man who killed my great great grandfather was doing just that, or carrying some kind of gun, probably concealed or the first words my great grandmother would have heard would have been about the gun. And what that means is that it was a premeditated murder, not just an argument that got out of hand.

Land in Arkansas is divided into quarters of Townships and Ranges, so it was easy to find the forty acres on a map. With that map, we decided to drive out there and see if we could find it. Unfortunately, it was now part of a larger piece of property and there was no road through to the forty acres. However, we did find the nearby cemetery where there are headstones for his sisters. He doesn't have a headstone.

We spent that night in Little Rock and then got up early so we could go to the Arkansas History Commission and Archives. We hoped there would be a mention of the murder in a state newspaper. If you've ever read newspapers from the 1800's, at least in the south, you'll know that they aren't big on bold headings. They tend to run most news together in several long columns so we had to read most of the newspapers from April to August, and all for naught. We spent a few hours there (which was a few hours more than Hubby wanted to spend) and only got completely through two papers, and skimmed the third.

So with that, we gave up, ate lunch, and headed to Branson for some fun.

As frustrating as our search in Hope, Washington, and Little Rock was, I have to say that the people working at most of the places we went were extraordinarily friendly and helpful, from the security guards at the Hope Courthouse to the ladies working at the History Commission.

May 15, 2011

What I Did on My Summer Vacation

Or pre-summer vacation if you will.

Our first stop was Hope, Arkansas, not to see the birth place of Former President Clinton, but to try to find something about my great great grandfather, and the story of his murder. We got there late Monday afternoon, and drove on to Washington, Arkansas where the Southwest Arkansas Regional Archives is located. We only had one hour before they closed. They had one roll of microfiche for 1895, the year he died. With great anticipation, I loaded the film on the viewer, only to find that there was only one issue for 1895, and it was February. He died in April.

Hubby was a real trooper and looked through the criminal court trial books while I checked the cemetery books and criminal court fee book. There was no index for any of these other than the cemetery books, and the criminal books weren't dated well, so it was time-consuming and frustrating to try to find anything.

The criminal court fee books had the name of the person on trial, but not the victim. It also had the nature of the crime and the verdict in most cases, so I scanned the pages for murders, and Hubby scanned for my great great grandfather's name. I found one murder trial that ended with an execution, but there was no record of it in the trial book. So when they shooed us out of there at 4:30, we hadn't learned anything.

We spent another hour looking around Washington. Established in 1824, the town was the county seat, and in 1836 the first courthouse was built. Washington was an important town at one time. It was on the Southwest Trail which was the main route pioneers took to Texas, and many of the important men who fought at the Alamo stayed there. It was even said that Sam Houston did some of his planning at one of the taverns in town, and it is also reported that a local blacksmith forged the first Bowie knife while Jim Bowie stayed there.

Choctaw Indians were taken through there on the famous Trail of Tears. Men who were going to fight in the Mexican War gathered there. During the Civil War, the Confederate government made it the Capital of Arkansas. It's decline began when the railroad that connected the state to Little Rock was built through Hope, and the county seat was moved to Hope in 1939.

Please excuse the quality of my pictures. It was near sunset and all the buildings have fences around them that make it hard to get a good shot of the building.

A bigger and better courthouse was built in 1874. It served the county until 1939 when the county seat was moved to Hope.
This would probably be the courthouse where the trial was held. Since it was after hours, we didn't get to go in, but there is a court room on the second floor, and I imagine that is where it took place.

From there we went to the old jail. At one time it was a bed and breakfast inn, but now it is a private residence. This would be the place where the man who killed my great great grandfather was jailed and later hanged. It doesn't look at all like a jail, does it? Both it and the old courthouse eventually became residences.

Most of the buildings in town are part of the Washington State Park, and have been restored. They are open on tour, but we didn't get to do that. It's a beautiful little town and gives an ideal look at life in the 1800's. I love the board sidewalks through the town.

We stayed in Hope that night, and next door to the hotel was the Dos Loco Gringos restaurant. For those who aren't familiar with Spanish, that translates to Two Crazy Foreigners (foreigners when in Mexico, not in Hope). The food was fine, and I probably wouldn't have remembered it at all if it weren't for the cake. Chocolate Fudge cake, a huge slice of it, about five layers tall, with thick frosting, whipped cream, and drizzled with chocolate sauce. It was more than two people could eat, and it was to die for. I mean, seriously, it's worth a trip to Hope just for that cake. Remember that the next time it's only an hour out of your way to stop by there.


Vacations, Pix, Genealogy

An Evening at the Waxahachie Chautauqua

A few weeks ago, my in-laws bought tickets for an Old Fashioned Singing at the historic Chautauqua Auditorium in Waxahachie. All I knew was that all of the hymns would be pre-1950. Not something I would normally go to, but the in-laws, especially my mother-in-law loves gospel singing, and she didn't want to go alone, so we agreed to go. I had forgotten about it until Hubby reminded me while we were out shopping yesterday afternoon. By then I really didn't want go even though I'd always wanted to see the inside the building too as this is the oldest Chautauqua Auditorium in the state. But since the in-laws get out so seldom, go we did.

This photo was taken about thirty minutes before the performance started, because the in-laws wanted to be early. The interior really is something to see, as much of it appears to be originial, although I know it underwent restoration in 1975. It smelled of memories and old wood, not an unpleasant smell at all.

The Chautauqua Auditorium was built in 1902 in a time when there were many like it. For two weeks every year, the Chautauqua Assembly provided education, art and entertainment for local residents. The last in Waxahachie was in 1930. During it's heyday, they had entertainers such as Will Rogers, William Jennings Bryant, and politicians and performers from around the United States. People came by train and set up tents on the grounds to be near the events. It must have been great fun and a break from their everyday farm lives.

I didn't really know what to expect at this event as mother-in-law only said it was a singing, and just hoped it wasn't like the off-key singing of the 5th Sunday Singings of my youth. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was a concert type performance and the singing was wonderful. The singers were local people and at least two of them were from mother-in-law's church, which is where she bought the tickets. There were moments of humor between songs but the focus was on the beautiful harmony of the group, and their solos. The singers were in semi-costume, although I'm not sure what era they were trying for.

When we picked up the in-laws, mother-in-law came out carrying a quillow which she said she was going to sit on unless it got cold. She said another woman in the church told her the benches are hard and she should take a cushion. She should also have passed that information on to us so we could have brought the cushions from our patio chairs. The benches weren't bad at first, but they are not built for people with bad backs. At the end of the first hour, my sciatic nerve was screaming and no amount of turning could relieve it. I looked around and no one else seemed to be squirming in their seats, and very few brought cushions. I thought I could stick it out to the end, but when the end came, my left leg was numb from thigh to toe. I felt sorry for the performers who were also sitting on hard benches on stage. But as Hubby pointed out, they stood up every few minutes and we didn't have that option.

I took a naproxen when we got home, and rested on an ice pack, and today I am much better. At least I can sit in a chair again. If I ever go again, I'll know what to expect. They will have more performances this year which I assume will be the same as last night: June 10-12, September 9-11, and November 11-12.


May 06, 2011

More Lilies

We finally had a good, long rain Monday, and the lilies love it. Arc-en-ciel and Alba are also blooming, but I like this cluster of pink lilies.

I still haven't cleaned the pond this spring, but so far the lilies are forgiving and blooming wonderfully.

May 04, 2011

Home is Where the Food Bowl Is

Next week we are going on vacation, and I've got every detail planned - except what to do with the cat. I asked a neighbor to feed him, so I know he won't go hungry, but he is more than spoiled now and I can't think of any way to let him keep his routine. I know. I can't believe I've spent so much time worrying about this silly cat. Good grief, he was a stray fending for himself for years, a few days won't hurt him. Actually, I'm not worried about it hurting him as much as him taking revenge on us when we get back.

Let's face it, he's not a sweet, lovable cat at his best. If leaving a dog for a few days results in poop in a shoe and chewed up pillows, I'm afraid to think what the cat will think up. Hubby calls him my cat, but the other day he rushed into the room wanting to know where the camera was. I told him, and he grabbed it and dashed back outside. Why? To take a picture of the cat. Not his cat? I think he's in denial.

So what's his routine? He comes out of the dog house when he hears Hubby open the back door and runs to his food bowl meowing every second. Hubby feeds him some milk and opens the regular door to the garage where the cat has a pillow in a box, then puts dry cat food in the bowl. If Hubby doesn't do all of those, the cat either sits at his bowl or at the door looking at it and then Hubby, and of course meowing, until Hubby obeys. Then the cat spends the rest of the day in the box waiting for us to scratch his ears when we walk by. He might come out to eat or drink, but he usually just snoozes in the box all day. In the evening, he comes out and wants the canned food and then more dry. In that order. Then he wants to be petted and follow us around. The cat spends the night in the dog house where he has another pillow in another box.

I consulted other cat owners and my neighbor and decided to take his food and bowl over there this week. She will feed him in the morning and evening, and I'll take him over there at meal times so he will have time to get used to this new routine before we leave. I took the food over there last night at dinner time, and gave him the canned food over there. Then I came home while he ate. I really expected him to be back here soon after, but we didn't see him the rest of the evening, and he didn't show up for milk this morning either. I began to wonder if I had somehow locked him in the garage overnight, but he wasn't in there, and he didn't come when I called. I finally got curious and walked over to the neighbor's house and there he was asleep on a chair. That ungrateful little mooch! It didn't take him long to jump ship.

However, when he saw me, he began following me even though I decided to go ahead and take my walk. When a car went by, he dove into the poison ivy lining the bar ditch and I thought he would go home after that. But he didn't. He was still behind me two blocks away so I gave up and came home. If you've ever noticed how walking a dog stirs up the neighborhood dogs, you should walk a cat.

He came home with me, and he desperately wants me to pet him. Uh no. Anyone know how to get poison ivy germs off a cat?