Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Asprin, Bellybuttons and Bandaids

Ah, spring.

This past weekend presented a couple of perfect 70F days with little or no wind and so we set out to rake and plant and sow seeds and celebrate the coming of a verdent summer filled with the smell of roasting brats and roses. Sunday evening, as we sat on the deck overlooking our day's work with a cold beverage in hand, it started. The first itch.

By Monday morning, my neck, nose (nothing's sacred) and chin were blistered. By Tuesday, the small families of ivy rash had moved to the top of my feet and legs. Clearly, maximum doses of Benadry and witch hazel weren't doing the job, so I cried uncle and called the clinic.

It was fairly obvious to my fellow patients why I was there. "Did you try a mud poltace?" A sweet voice whispered over her Ladies Home Journal. "Witch hazel" I replied. She nooded.

My mother grew aloe vera plants and at the onset of a rash, burn or cut would snap the end off a stalk, spit the shoot in half and bandaid the gooey mess to the injury.

We all have our traditions. I thought I'd share some from "American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940."
  • Colds: Turpentine and lard rubbed on the chest. If turpentine isn't available, use coal oil or kerosene.
  • Measles and Smallpox: Dried and baked sty-pig dung made into a tea. Sheep dung works too.
  • Sore Throat: place a small amount of powdered sulphur in a paper funnel, and place the small end of the funnel in the sufferer's oral cavity and blow. If the victim coughs or blows first, the cure becomes a two-fer.
  •  Motion sickness and allergies: place an aspirin in your bellybutton and secure it in place with a bandaid
  • Warts: gather as many pebbles as you have warts, rub one pebble on each wart, then take them to a crossroads and throw the pebbles over your left shoulder. The warts will go with them.
  • Warts (version 2): Take a chunk of dried mud fallen from a hoof of a mule, and rub it on the wart. Spit on the under side of the chunk, and then place it on a gatepost.
  • Stiff neck: wrap a pair of underdrawers which have been worn more than two days around the neck.
A cortisone shot and a day one dose of my methylprednisole multipack complete, I look almost human. But it probably wouldn't hurt to tape an asprin to my bellybutton.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Loosing your Marbles

Two weeks ago, I drove to Nacogdoches to spend summer break with my granddaughter Lily, a fifth grader. Since we really didn't have anything planned, each day unfolded much as it did when I was 10. We woke up when we liked, ate what we liked, and spent most of the morning poking fun at one another's hair and choice of clothes.

The first day, I scanned the Internet looking for cool things to do in town. They'd just moved to Nacogdoches in January and immediately settled in to a new job and new school and so had not had the opportunity to scout out local fun spots. We had a picnic lunch at the arboretum and walked the azalea trail, and visited Millard's Crossing Historic Village where Lily tried the hand pump and corn husker. We made shrinky dink charms and shamrock-shapped cookies for St Patrick's Day. We didn't spend any time in front of the TV.

Since we didn't have television for most of my childhood, my brothers and I spent weekends and summer vacations in the creek catching crawdads, in trees, or playing with green-plastic army men in dirt and tree twig forts. One of my favorites, was a marbles game called "ringer."

You start with either a chalk line on the sidewalk or by drawing a 2 foot circle in the dirt. Each player choose 10 marbles (typically ones they weren't afraid of loosing) and their best shooter. The goal is to knock a marble out of the circle; if you succeed, you get to keep the marble. If you don't, your opponent gets to take a crack at it.

Shannon had Saturday off, and so we decided checkout the historic district and some antique shops. Lily stuck with me as I pointed at one old game after another shaking my head that they were now considered "antiques." We came across a ziplock bag of about 50 Tree Frog Marbles that included a couple of nice-sized shooters. I smiled and handed them to Lily. "Why are you buying those?" she asked.

"Because I lost mine," I smiled.

I have a bid in on these beauties through eBay; now to find a steelie.

How to Play Marbles  ( click here for a little refresher)

Thursday, March 31, 2011


According to Kodak's history of page, the Brownie Hawkeye Flash Model camera was manufactured from 1950 to 1961 and sold for $7.00. The Brownie Hawkeye featured a molded Bakelite body, brilliant viewfinder, a rotary shutter and a Meniscus single element lens that was in focus from 5 feet to infinity and used 620mm film which I was surprised to find is still in production.  As are replacement spools, how-to articles, development houses both locally and online who specialize in black & white photography, and much more.

I found a model just like my father's (shown here) on eBay for $45.00 including the box and pamphlets.

I'm sure all of my baby pictures and those of my mother and brother were captured through the lens of this camera, but I'll save those stories for another time. Instead, I'd like to share an article from The Ladies' Home Journal, November 1892 and my thanks to Chuck Baker for posting (

DURING the publication of the series of the "Brownies" just closed in The Ladies Home Journal, the question has often come to me "What is the origin of the Brownies?" And perhaps there is no better time to answer this question than now, before the next series of "Brownie" adventures shall begin on this page.

The "Brownie," as the cyclopeaedia informs us, springs from an old Scotch tradition, but it leaves us to follow up the tradition ourselves and learn how far back into the past it may be traced. Now a tradition, or legend, is about as difficult game to hunt to cover as your literary fowler can flush, but enough can be found to prove that the "Brownies" were good-natured little spirits or goblins of the fairy order. They were all little men, and appeared only at night to perform good and helpful deeds or enjoy harmless pranks while weary households slept, never allowing themselves to be seen by mortals. No person, except those gifted with second sight, could see the "Brownies;" but from the privileged few, principally old women, who were thus enabled to now and then catch a glimpse of their goblin guests, correct information regarding their size and color is said to have been gained.

THEY were called "Brownies" on account of their color, which was said to be brown owing to their constant exposure to all kinds of weather, and also because they had brown hair, something which was not common in the country where the "Brownie" was located, as the people generally had red or black hair. There are different stories about the origin of the name. One is that during the time the Covenanters in Scotland were persecuted because they were said to teach a false and pernicious doctrine, many of them were forced to conceal themselves in caves and secret places, and food was carried to them by friends. One band of Covenanters was led by a little hunchback named Brown, who being small and active could slip out at night with some of the lads and bring in the provisions left by friends in secret places. They dressed themselves in a fantastic manner, and if seen in the dusk of the evening they would be taken for fairies. Those who knew the truth named Brown and his band the "Brownies." This is very plausible, but we have too high an opinion of the "Brownies" to believe that they took their name from a mortal. We are inclined to believe that the well-deserving hunchback took his name from the "Brownies," instead of the "Brownies" deriving their name from him. Besides the story does not reach back far enough.

THE "Brownies" were an ancient and well-organized band long before there was a Covenanter to flee to caves and caverns. Indeed, from what can be gathered from the writings of ancient authors, one is led to believe the "Brownie" idea is a very old one. It is fair to presume that the "Brownies" enjoyed their nightly pranks, or skipped over the dewy heather to aid deserving peasants even before the red-haired Dane crossed the border to be Caledonia's unwelcome guest. Every family seems to have been haunted by a spirit they called "Brownie" which did different sorts of work, and they in return gave him offerings of the various products of the place. The "Brownie" idea was woven into the affairs of everyday life. In fact it seemed to be part of their religion, and a large part at that. When they churned their milk, or brewed, they poured some milk or wort through a hole in a flat, thin stone called "Brownie's stone." In other cases they poured the offerings in the corner of the room, believing that good would surely come to their homes if "the Brownies" were remembered. On out of the way islands, where the people could neither read nor write, and were wholly ignorant of what was going on in other parts of the country, so much so that they looked upon a person that could understand black marks on paper as a supernatural being, the "Brownie" was regarded as their helper.

The poet Milton had doubtless one of these "Brownies" in his mind when he penned the lines in "L'Allegro" to the "lubber fiend," who drudged and sweat

"To earn his cream-bowl duly set."

But, strange to say, he was not as complimentary as the untarnished reputation of the "Brownies" might lead one to expect. In some villages, near their chapel, they had a large flat stone called "Brownie’s stone," upon which the ancient inhabitants offered a cow’s milk every Sunday to secure the good-will of the "Brownies." That the "Brownies were good eaters, and could out-do the cat in their love for cream, is well proven in many places.

IT may be gratifying to some to know that even kings have not thought it beneath their dignity to dip the royal pen in the "Brownies" behalf. King James in his "Demonology" says:" The spirit called 'Brownie' appeared like a man and haunted divers houses without doing any evil, but doing as it were necessarie turnes up and down the house, yet some were so blinded as to believe that their house was all the sonsier, as they called it, that such spirits resorted there." Other writers say that the "Brownie" was a sturdy fairy, who, if he was fed well and treated kindly would do, as the people said, a great deal of work. He is said to have been obliging, and used to come into houses by night, and for a dish of cream perform lustily any piece of work that might remain to be done.

The superstitious inhabitants had absolute faith in the "Brownies" wisdom or judgment. The "Brownie" spirit was said to reach over the table and make a mark where his favorite was to sit at a game if he wished to win, and this "tip" from the "Brownie" was never disregarded by the player.
THE seeker after facts concerning the origin of the "Brownies" will find it difficult to gather them in. He may visit the largest libraries in the land and turn the leaves of old volumes that have been neglected for centuries, and fail to find more than that at one time in the long long ago, the "Brownie" was a power in the land that no well-regulated family could fail to do without. One thing is certain, however, the more we learn about the "Brownies" the more we like them. Theirs is a genealogy that one can trace back through the dusty centuries of the past without finding one blot on their scutcheon, or discovering that they descended from a race of robbers or evil doers. It is indeed refreshing to learn that at a time when the age was so dark that even Christianity could scarcely send a ray of light through it, and when every man's hand seemed to be against his brother, when poachers, moss-troopers and plundering men of might were denuding the land, the "Brownies" through rain and shine were found at their post every night, aiding the distressed, picking up the work that weary hands let fall, and in many ways winning the love and respect of the people.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Uphill in the Snow, Both Ways

It took me 20 years to appreciate pinto beans and cornbread.
Mom was fond of reminding us of the starving children in Biafra and although I had no idea where that was, knew that it didn't make the weekly pot of beans and ham hocks taste any better. And it wasn't that I didn't like the taste of beans; I didn't like the thought of beans.

One of the patrons at the library today brought in stories written by his grandmother, one of the original settlers in northern Minnesota. As Jack read, he'd throw in a personal experience here and there: growing up without electricity or indoor plumbing, and riding 30 miles to school every day, in a wagon... in the snow, both directions. And so it started.

Pretty soon we were all bragging about who had the most snow on their bidirectional hill. Rita grew up in rural Wyoming (as if there were a part of Wyoming that was not rural) and shared stories about canning, baking bread and making the kid's clothes. I was still reading Jack's grandmother's journal and announced that she'd put up 500 jars of tomatoes, beans and fruit. "In one year??" Rita replied. "Yep...that's what it says. Sears and Roebuck must have thrown a party when they got the order for canning jars that year."

I didn't like wringing out wet towels and jeans any more than I liked hanging the laundry on lines strung in a cat's cradle across the kitchen, livingroom or bathroom to dry on cold winter days. But I loved bathing in the rinse water. We didn't have a washing machine, so mom filled the bathtub with towels, coloreds and a cup of powdered Tide, and then whichever child was handy would roll up their pants legs, climb in and stomp the mix until the sudsy soup turned a light blue. Then she'd pull the plug and refill the tub until the water level just touched the overflow. After ringing out the last of the wash, we'd hop in and stir up the remaining suds playing submarine until our fingers and toes shriveled like pink raisins.

I probably lost 90% of my potential reading audience with the title alone, but for those of you remaining, rest assured that one day you too will be sharing tales of yore with anyone not quick enough to see them coming and dodge for the nearest exit (uphill, in the snow, both ways).

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Military Monday that I didn't finish until Tuesday

LST 374 (1942 - 1945)
When my father died, my brother and I found an old briefcase hidden under a table on the patio of his apartment. His wife Madeline didn't know it was there and suggested that we just throw it out. In the briefcase was his old address book, the Scrabble game he played with me and my brothers over 40 years ago, a couple of pictures of me and my brothers, my mother, and my children. And an envelope with 30 or so photographs of his ship and his shipmates.

LST 374 (1942 - 1945)

LST 374 (1942 - 1945)

Like many impassioned young men of the time, my father enlisted in the Navy in July of 1942 with a falsified birth certificate. He was 16 at the time and had just completed his junior year in high school. After recruit training at the NTS Newport, RI, he was transfered to the US Navy Training School and received a completion certificate as a radioman with a second-class petty officer rating. After a quick trip to the Norfolk Navy Yard in Portsmouth, he was transferred to the Amphibious Traning Base in Solomons, MD where he joined his shipmates on the LST 374. 

LST 374 (1942 - 1945)
According to Wiki and the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, LST-374 was laid down on 12 November 1942 at Quincy, Mass., by the Bethlehem Steel Co.; launched on 19 January 1943; sponsored by Mrs. Victor D. Herbster; and commissioned on 29 January 1943.

LST 374 (1942 - 1945)

During World War II, LST-374 was assigned to the European theater and participated in the Sicilian occupation in July and August 1943 and the invasion of Normandy in June 1944. She returned to the United States and was decommissioned on 29 May 1945 and struck from the Navy list on 12 March 1946. On 14 January 1947, the tank landing ship was sold to A. G. Schoonmaker. LST-374 earned two battle stars for World War II service.

Don Hanson (top right), USS LST 374

This morning, I completed a Flag Order Form and sent it and a check for $18.00 made payable to The Keeper of the Stationery, The Honorable Mark Pryor, 255 Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington, DC 20510. I've asked that the flag be flown for my father and the men of the LST 374.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Rainy Days

In her later years, my mother began our telephone conversations with a weather update. "Are you okay?" she'd start. "Yes mom, why?" I already knew the answer: she'd called to advise me of the tornado over Tulsa and to remind me to stock up on candles, fresh water and canned soup. When we were children, our home in Dallas had a fallout shelter in the back yard and at the first scent of metal in the skies, we'd scamper across the wet grass, bedclothes under arm to sit in the damp darkness and listen to the wind howl overhead.

The skies today are gray with a low-hanging fog lying heavy on the lake. A pile of research notes, journals and several wads of first drafted letters to the Board for Correction of Naval Records crowds my keyboard. I'm not sure how to finish the drafts. And not ready to turn my back on them either.

Sometimes my research takes me in directions I'd not expected. For all of the sunny day discoveries I've made, there have also been gray days. Generational grandparents, uncles, and cousins who were slave owners. Some who fought honorably in wars; some who did not. Some who worked hard to support their families and communities, and some who turned their backs. I can't undo those events, but I can pick through the scattered pieces of their lives and shed light on their contributions, their successes and marvel at our ability to endure.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Facebook for Farmers

Thurman Dudgeon age 25
Capricorn. Single farmer from
Kentucky, doesn't chew or drink,
likes watermelons.
Ever wonder how your parents met? Your great-grandparents?

I've succumbed to a daily dosing of Facebook to catch up on friends, my kids, my grandkids, the status of our pending 40-year high school reunion and to get the skinny on who's-dating-whom. Technology has made it possible for that information to be available realtime on my moble phone, on my desktop computer, or as a picture-in-picture snapshot on my HDTV. Rather than a paper-based subscription to our local newspaper with my morning tea and banana, I subscribe to an online feed through iGoogle. This morning's eye catcher focused on social networking.

"1 in 6 Marriages Met Online" I found the headline interesting and unnerving at the same time and so I read on. recently conducted a survey of 11,000+ of their members who'd met and married within the past three years to determine the number who had met through an online dating service. Admittedly, the article was a sales pitch and the metrics, a reach:
  1. Through Work/School 36%
  2. Through Friend/Family Member 26%
  3. Via Online Dating Site 17%
  4. Through Bars/Clubs/Other Social Events 11%
  5. Other 7%
  6. Through Church/Place of Worship 4% 
“The world has changed,” said Greg Blatt, CEO of “We get married older, we work longer hours, we move around more, we’re generally busier. These changes have put pressure on the way we traditionally have met our significant others. Luckily, with these changes has come an increasing openness to doing new things. Online dating has grown so much in part as a response to these societal changes, having become the third most important way we meet our significant others, even though it didn’t even exist 15 years ago.”

He's so wrong. Although technology has expedited the transaction, the underlying vehicle, correspondence, hasn't changed in thousands of years. The median age for first marriages in the United States in 2007 was 27 for men and 25 for women (my great-grandparents were 27 and 20, respectively in 1892). The typical workday in 1890 was 10 hours 6 days a week; for farmers, the 7th day was only shortened by the amount of time it took to drive the surrey to church. And as for an increased openess to doing new things...

Julia Pigg age 19
Scorpio. Farmer's
daughter from
Kentucky; loves

As Chris Enss explains in Hearts West: True Stories of Mail-Order Brides on the Frontier:  "The vast acres and the trees and the gold were all there, and the men set about carving their place in the wilderness. By the early 1850s, western adventurers lifted their heads and realized one vital element was missing from the boundiful western territories: women." The Matrimonial News, a San Francisco-based newspaper was dedicated to "promoting honorable matrimonial engagements and true conjugal facilities" for both men and women through advertisements. Published weekly in San Francisco and Kansas City, Mo, gentlemen's ads under forty words were published for twenty-five cents in stamps or postage; ladies' ads under forty words were published free. Anything over forty words cost either sex a cent a word.

Ads were fairly progressive conversation for the time. The letters ranged from fun a flirty to down to business: "I am fat, fair and 48. 5 feet high. I'm a No. 1 lady, well-fixed with no encumberance; I am in business in the city but want a partner who lives in the West. Want an energetic man that has some means, not under 40 years of age, and weight not less than 180. Of good habits. A Christian man preferred."

The point that Mr. Blatt failed to mention, but that his survey clearly pointed out, is that 77% of us still meet and establish relationships through personal introductions, though work or church. The scarcity of women in the West in the 1800s and rapidly-changing times challanged traditional-thinking men and women to find new ways to secure a mate. Sometimes the relationships failed. Most of the time they endured.

I don't know how Thurman and Julia met, but they worked together to build a home, a farm and a life together. It's not the way you meet your partner that ensures longivity. Respect. Common interests, common goals, joy and the affirmation that you're both taking the journey together seems to be the key.

A newspaper article in the local newspaper written by Ms. George Scott  around 1930 reads:

"The quaint little city of Orrick and community has many places and people of interest...if you were to travel west of town for four miles you would find one place of great interest. There a west road loses itself behind a screen of maple trees, flowers, paw paw bushes, honeysuckles and sumac. There a wife, modest and unassuming, and farmer with his hospitality dwell. Their home is know as the Riverside Home... Upon approaching the home one is attracted by the inscrition on the cement walk: If you can't smile don't come in.

As one enteres the house, a moto upon the wall bears these words: "I'm satsified, My little home is poor and plain, No tapestries are there. No marble statues grace it and no clock is on the stair. But I've a little plot of ground, we labor in each day. So thankful for the growth and yield, we often stop to pray. A tree nearby gives gracious shade and God is there to guide; My little home is plain and poor, but we are satisfied."

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Bending the Map

In 2004, Cessna Aircraft Corporation announced the integration of the G1000 glass cockpit in their C172 single-engine airplanes. The good news was that this new avionics and navigation package provided pilots with a host of tools including: integrated weather, entroute charts, airport diagrams, Sirius satellite radio, and a moving map display. And, they allow the pilot to choose how they'd like their maps displayed: north up, or track up.The goal of this integrated solution was to provide the pilot with a greater awareness of their position. But good tools do not make a good pilot.

The photo on the left was clipped from the blog site of a newly certificated private pilot in his G1000 equipped 172. You can see that he lives north of LA and that he's proud of his equipment. As a flight instructor, I see that his oil temperature is high and oil pressure low, which means that he probably forgot to check the oil, which in turn could make for a very short flight.

Prior to GPS navigation, aircraft were equipped with radios that received signals from ground-based transmitters. The onboard radios transmitted a signal to an instrument on the cockpit that pointed to the transmitter or, in the case of satellite-based transmitters, an imaginary point in space. Coupled with this informantion, the pilot consulted maps and verified that they were on course. Then, using a basic time*speed=distance equation, determined if they'd make it there in time for dinner.

This method of navigation, referred to as "dead reckoning" was a favorite of the Lewis and Clark team. Rather than ground-based instrumentation, they logged the position of the sun, moon or stars and used a cronometer to measure time. The second most popular means of navigation was by reference to landmarks, known as "pilotage." What both forms of navigation have in common is the map.

I've often wondered how the settlers survived long trips, not just in terms of food, shelter and the rigors of travel, but the loneliness and fear that comes with being lost. The truth is, sometimes they didn't.

We know that adults form mental models of their environment: a mental picture of the way things "should" be. When their environment presents a different picture, sometimes we rationalize that the information we're receiving is wrong; the compass is broken, our watch has stopped or our charts are mistaken: we "bend the map" to fit our mental model. Imagine Lewis and Clark standing on a mountain spinning their maps until they agreed on the appropriate orientation.

For whatever reason, Joe G1000 pilot ignored the annunciators on his instrument panel warning him of a potential engine failure. His story had a happy ending, but this behavior is common: how many times have you taken a wrong turn and continued on that path before asking for directions? Or running out of gas?

A friend of mine used the acronym "TLAR" in one of our instrument ground schools as a good reminder to balance good tools with good judgement. TLAR stand for "that looks about right."

I recently read "Deep Survival" by Laurence Gonzales; a fantastic read and good insight into characteristics shared by survivors and thought I'd paraphrase as they're a good reminder of the skills our ancestors relied upon as they treked to the New World and their new homes:
  • "Perceive, believe: even in the inital crisis, survivors immediately recognize, acknowledge and accept the reality of their situation...they believe they will succeed
  • Stay calm: in the initial crisis, they make use of fear...which turns into anger, and that motivates them makes them even sharper
  • Think/analyze/plan: they organize, set up routines and institute disclipline and disregard thoughts that their situation is hopeless
  • Take correct, decisive action: they deal with what is within their power from moment to moment, hour to hour, day to day. And they leave the rest behind.
  • Celebrate your successes: survivors take great joy from even their smallest doing so, they create an ongoing feeling of motivation and prevent the descent into hopelessness.
  • Count your blessings: they become rescueres instead of victims...there is always someone else they're helping more than themselves, even if that someone is not present
  • Play: movement becomes survivor who had to walk a long way counted his steps, one hundred at a time, and dedicated each hundred to another person he loved
  • Do what is necessary/never give up."
Early day three of the Apollo 13 mission, an explosion and subsequent CO(2) leak necessitated the flight and ground crew to come up with an alternate plan to return the astronauts safely home. Procedures called for the crew to use their onboard sextant to find a suitable star and then use the onboard computer to verify the guidance platform's alignment. The debris from the ruptured service module blocked all visible stars... so they used the Sun. At 73:46 hours the air-to-ground transcript describes the event:

Lovell: O.K. We got it. I think we got it. What diameter was it?
Haise: Yes. It's coming back in. Just a second.
Lovell: Yes, yaw's coming back in. Just about it.
Haise: Yaw is in...

And I imagine Jim Lovell turning to look out the porthole of the Lunar Module at his beacon home and saying..."that looks about right."

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Time Travel

I'm a planner. Walt once remarked that I'm not one to be spontaneous. "I'm spontaneous...I can be spontaneous" I remember replying. "Yes" he responded "but it's well-planned spontaneity." And so the prelude to all my adventures are laced with subtle panic attacks.

Two weeks ago today, I started the morning early: 4am rise and a hot shower coupled with a cup of caffeinated coffee and a final weather check before launching off on a trip to California. For some thirty years, this would have been a typical work day; but since retiring, I've started doing something that had always been a dream: flying airplanes. Today, I was delivering a new airplane to its owner 1500 nautical miles away in the winter, across some very large mountains, through military training zones, avoiding restricted military airspace and across the Mojave dessert in a 700 pound airplane.

The day I received the contract for the flight I started planning. The trip would take three days with good weather. Which route would be the best to avoid winds and mountain obscuration? The southern states had seen record snowfall and our regional airport was still closed; who'd been able to clear their runways so I could refuel? Do they have landing fees? Do they have room in the hangar for my plane for the night? Are there crew cars or shuttles available to local hotels? Do they give discounts? What's my backup plan? What should I pack for emergencies?

In the days and nights leading to the trip, I rehearsed the route and looked for points I could choose as alternates, should I run into bad weather. Although this all sounds like a made for TV drama, it's actually the same steps that every pilot takes before embarking on anything more than a Sunday drive around the patch.

After departure and checking on with Air Traffic Control, I began to settle in. The air was smooth and cool and the snow blanketing fields and roads reflected off the mirror white surface of my wings.
I log system trends 30 minutes into each flight and compare them along the journey both as baselines for the new owner and maintenance technicians and to alert me to any potential equipment failures. Oil pressures, fuel pressure and temperatures all looked good, and I had gas plus reserves to make my next destination: Double Eagle field, just north and west of Albuquerque. About 20 miles east of Tucumcari, New Mexico, the weather system I'd hoped would pass north of me took a detour south and lowered the visibility between me and the mountain range just east of Albuquerque. Some airplanes are equipped to fly in the clouds; this one was not. I landed in Tucumcari and called Flight Service, an FAA weather and flight planning service used by pilots, to double check my forecasts before pushing on. The ceilings lifted and I continued the flight.

That evening, I flipped through TV channels as I checked weather on my laptop. "Wagon Train" was playing on an oldies channel. It took my ancestors between 4 to 6 months to make the same journey I was making in 3 days. And they didn't have the Weather Channel.

I spent the better part of today reading about the Industrial Revolution and the history of passenger travel in America. On October 3, 1893, General Roy Stone was appointed Special Agent in charge of the new Office of Road Inquiry within the Department of Agriculture. With a budget of $10,000, ORI promoted new rural road development to serve the wagons, coaches, and bicycles on America's dirt roads. Congress passed the Federal-Aid Road Act of 1916, but the effort to build roadways was put on hold with the onset of WWI. The Federal Highway Act of 1921 saw the construction of two-lane interstate highways which continued through the 30s with jobs programs and then into the 40s to build more roadways to support the war effort.
In 1900, 8,000 Americans owned cars. By 1920, that number had grown to 8 million. In the cities, most people traveled by train or trolley; in rural areas, the horse and wagon ruled. Although regional airlines first launched in the 1920s, they were luxuries indulged by the wealthy and didn't become popular with the general public until 1960.

My great-grandfather had a surrey he drove into town a couple of times a week to deliver and pickup goods, and my mother. Although they only lived about 7 miles from town, it was too far to walk to the high school and so during the week, my mother lived with her aunt in town. Travel beyond the township took planning: weather preparations; care for animals, children and the household because the trip typically spanned days rather than hours.

As "Wagon Train" played in the background, I Googled transportation + stagecoach and found they too were good planners. This experpted from the Omaha Herald, 1877 "Tips for Stagecoach Travelers."

The best seat inside a stage is the one next to the driver. Even if you have a tendency to seasickness when riding backwards -- you'll get over it and will get less jolts and jostling. Don't let "sly elph" trade you his mid-seat.

In cold weather, don't ride with tight-fitting shoes, or gloves. When the driver asks you to get off and walk, do so without grumbling, he won't request it unless absolutely necessary. If the team runs away -- sit still and take your chances. If you jump, nine out of ten times you will get hurt.

In very cold weather, abstain entirely from liquor when on the road, because you will freeze twice as quickly when under its influence.

Don't growl at the food received at the station -- stage companies generally provide the best they can get.

Don't keep the stage waiting. Don't smoke a strong pipe inside the coach. Spit on the leeward side. If you have anything to drink in a bottle, pass it around. Procure your stimulants before starting, as "ranch" (stage depot) whisky is not "nectar."

Don't lean or lop over neighbors when sleeping. Take small change to pay expenses. Never shoot on the road, as the noise might frighten the horses. Don't discuss politics or religion.

Don't point out where murders have been committed, especially if there are women passengers.

Don't lag at the wash basin. Don't grease your hair, because travel is dusty. Don't imagine for a moment that you are going on a picnic. Expect annoyances, discomfort, and some hardships.

We'll be bringing around complimentary beverages. As soon as the Captain extinguishes the fasten seatbelt light, you may grab a bowl of popcorn and enjoy our inflight movie.

Friday, January 28, 2011


Late last summer, my Conneticut cousin Mark came for a visit. The last time we'd seen one another was in 1965 at a small family reunion; we were both 12. Mama, my brothers and I took the Greyhound from Dallas to Norman, Oklahoma to Aunt Mildred's house, where the reunion was to be held. Although it had been a couple of years, she, Uncle Forest and their kids once lived in Euless, Texas and so I knew those cousins. Mark's parents Rosemary and Hank and his sisters Margaret and Judy were also making the drive. That would be our first and only meeting.

I've mentioned before about how oddly comforting it is to meet a relative for the first time. You can't deny physical simularities and mannerisms. Mark is tall: 6'4 or 6'5 with Dudgeon dark hair and eyes. He has our great-grandfather John Pigg's profile and smile. He laughs easily and has a gentle curiousity about our family and its history and by the end of the first afternoon, we decided to take a road trip.

Two of my mother's brothers, Thurman and Dennis, still live in Missouri. Dennis is the youngest of the Hicks children and the last to leave Orrick. After a little arm twisting, he agreed to be our tour guide for the afternoon. The plan would be to pick him up in Springfield, drive to Orrick, and return to Springfield that evening. I don't remember ever meeting Dennis, but all of the Hicks children bear a striking resemblance to one another and so meeting one is like having a piece of Mama with me for a bit.

We picked him up around 10am at a church in town where his wife June works and headed north on Hwy 13. Walt and I had made the drive the previous October to lay a headstone for Mama, but had taken the interstate. Dennis took the backroads pointing out pieces of history as we drove. So much had changed: the movie house, where the flood had taken this friend's house or that cousin's. Where the high school kids would neck on Saturday nights.

We arched south of Richmond on Hwy 10, then joined Hwy T winding through Camden and more stories. Dennis has my grandmother's softspoken rappid fire technique for fitting 10 minutes worth of information into about 2 seconds. Grandma Frances would call every year on my birthday and I'd freeze as my mother handed me the phone. "I can't understand her, Mama." "Youbeinagoodgirlforyourmother?" Grandma asked. Mama whispered,"Say yes." Needless to say, I didn't catch most of the Camden stories.

Hwy T rejoined Hwy 210 just outside of Orrick. I knew my way from there. We turned west on Brashers Road and then right on Hwy Z: downtown Orrick.

One hundred years ago, Orrick was a bustling farm town on the banks of the Missouri River. Today, most of the land has been purchased by corporations, shrinking the small business man to near extinction. Mark and I wanted to see the stories. Grandpa Pigg's bank, the drug store, where Aunt Eliza lived, Grandma and Grandpa Dudgeon's farm. We'd heard the stories; Dennis knew where they took place.

I asked Dennis if any of the old folk were still around. "We'll see." and walked into the bank. "I'm Dennis Hicks," he announced to the teller, "do you know me?" Turning my head to Mark, I whispered "He's going to get us shot." Mark nodded. "No sir, I don't believe I do," she replied. We thanked her and went next door to the post office. "I'm Dennis Hicks, do you know me?" he asked the postmaster. "No sir, I don't." "Hi, I'm Donna Hanson, Tillman Hicks' granddaughter. This is my uncle and cousin." I explained why we were there and asked if there was a town historian or one of the older residents who knew my grandparents and would share stories. "Well, there's John Allen Lee." Great!! A lead. "Could you tell me where Mr. Lee lives?" I asked. "Well, I'm not allowed to do that, I'm sorry." We thanked him for his time and left thinking that just driving by the old places would be a treasure in and of itself.

Just as we started to cross the street to our car, we bumped into a woman leaving the VFW. "Hi, I'm trying to find John Allen Lee. Do you know where he lives?" I asked. "Sure" she smiled.

Mr. and Mrs. Lee were wonderful hosts. They remembered Dennis.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Look it Up.

Wednesdays were vocabulary word day in grade school. "Mom, what does reticent mean?" "Look it up." was always her reply. About 1964 a book salesman knocked on our door and sold mom two copies of the Webster's New World Dictionary of the American Language (enlarged from the consise edition) with Student Handbook. With student handbook means that the first few pages include color pictures of the presidents from George Washington (1789-1797) to Lyndon B. Johnson (1963- ). I wrote "1969" in black pen when Nixon took office.

Aside from the over 10,000 words in this particular dictionary, you'll find sections on astronomy and space, biology, chemistry (including nuclear energy and valence... another vocabulary word), the plays of Shakespeare, modern physics, Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, homonyms, music history highlights, the Constitution of the United States, and calorie chart.

Other than magazines and the Bible, these two dictionaries comprised our home library. Most of the time our black and white TV didn't work, so I'd read. I'd go for the illustrated words first: anvil, aphelon, carpel, cartridge, hen's egg, harlequin, nerve cell, samovar, tea shoot, and vandyke beard and wonder why some words were illustrated and others not.

If I let the book fall open to its comfortable middle: "nefarious, nepenthean, nephew, neuritis" with the only illustrated word located center page along the spine's crease: "nerve center." Seriously?

I volunteer at the local Family History Center on Wednesdays as a researcher/consultant. But most of the time, I tell stories. I brought in Grandma Julie Dudgeon's ledger today for show-and-tell. And then started reading a new book that I'd ordered from the Ray (Missouri) County Historical Society. I quoted the author, William E. Paulson, in last night's blog. What's unique about this recount is that he pieces together the stories behind the events. Mr. Paulson starts with Block 1 Lot 1 in the township and identifies the evolution of merchants and residents of Orrick from its dedication as a village in 1869 through the book's publication date of 1975. Here's one of my favorites:

"East unit of Lot 6: Mr. W.T. Bailey had been a harness maker for years, but always working more or less as a silent partner of E.L. Hunt in Block 15. Since about 1928, he worked for himself. However, the harness business was failing. In 1947, he retired and devoted full time repairing shoes... About this time, Mrs. Bailey developed an illness and the doctor recommended goat's milk. Mr. Bailey acquired several goats. He made halters for his goats and for others in the area. He started taking a national magazine covering the milk goat industry...and noted that not one of these magazines advertised halters, so he decided to place an ad just to see if there was any demand for the product. Soon he was devoting full time to filling orders for halters. When he died in 1948, Hallie took over the business and continued there until 1963. Breaking away for awhile, how may of the following parts of harness can you identify: pole strap, breast strap, hame strap, breeching, quarter strap, hames, back band, blinders, tail crupper, reins, belly band, traces, tugs, bits, halter, spreader..."

Language changes.

In his opening paragraph, Mr. Paulson states that "This writing covers not only my memory, but I have relied on writing of my father, Elmer A. Paulson, who was born and raised in southwest Ray county, a tailor in Orrick for over 66 years and a factor in potatoes for over 40 years." Okay, that made me smile. I'm not sure what a factor in potatoes is, but I'm sure that if I look it up, I'll find it illustrated.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

"I have come to the conclsion that History is not history; it is legend or just literature." (William E. Paulson, "Orrick as I Remember" 1975.

Once again today I found myself spinning wildly down a rabbit hole in search of some real pioneer stories. It started with my great-grandmother Julia Dudgeon's ledger.

Julie Dudgeon was a writer. As the Secretary for the "Ladies of Hope and Comfort," she documented not only meeting notes, but who was visiting whom, who'd just had a new baby or bought a new hat. She wrote in charcoal pencil the date, where the purchase was made and the price she paid somewhere on every piece of furniture she bought. And she kept a ledger to the penney of everything she and my great-grandfather bought and sold.

The front cover of the ledger reads "1896 to 1896," but the last entry is dated 1952. On the first page they sold a hog for $7.35, chickens and eggs for $6.00 and bought tobacco ($.10), curtains ($2.35), a dress ($.35), life insurance ($15.00),shoes ($1.00),an ax handle ($.15), harness tools ($.30) and whiskey ($.23) along with dried peaches, salt, stamps, nails, and bleuing. About every 6th entry was for more tobacco and with each entry, the pressure of the pencil heavier. Several were underlined. My guess is that grandma Julie didn't care for grandpa's smoking.

What's wonderful about this book is that the more I read, the more I felt like I was on an archeological dig, unearthing ancient shards of their daily lives. The stories that I've heard are of Thurman Dudgeon, the "Watermelon King." The truth is that they made 80% of their income selling chickens, eggs, a pig now and then, potatoes and vegetables from the garden. There's a $.15 entry for "advertising." Raise your hand (those of you with corporate jobs) if you've remembered to include advertising and marketing in this year's departmental budget. Smart businessfolk.

In 1902, they bought a cow ($20.00), a colt ($30.00), sewing machine ($10.00), $.20 for a haircut, more tobacco, $1.00 for the Orrick Times, sold hogs ($35.20), bought shoes ($2.00) and sold a skunk for $.45.

The last entry in the ledger reads "The flood came...stopped our bookkeeping."

The flood was in July of 1951; Grandpa Dudgeon died of prostrate cancer the previous November. My mother and uncles have all told me that grandma lost the farm in the flood. The house still stands and so I assume they mean crops, livestock, furniture... her way of life.

On the back cover of the journal, she wrote: "Laura [her sister] took her three litle children moved down in the Rine Island Saturday evening Mar 2, 1929. I am praying God to send them some help."

Monday, January 24, 2011


What do you do with a 30-year old macaroni necklace?

Going through boxes this weekend, I found a Father's Day card I made in 1959. I'm sure it spent time taped to the refrigerator and then later, tucked into an old shoebox. As children, most every accomplishment is an attempt to gain praise from our parents and loved ones. My father left when I was 7, but the need to please him did not.

Mom worked long hours to provide for us and so wasn't available for parent-teacher conferences, to watch me compete in sports, or to attend the school plays. She did make it to my 5th grade piano recital and walked to the community pool one hot afternoon to watch me practice sprints. And she kept macaroni necklaces.

Mom loved my adventures. The retirement complex where she lived in California had a central meeting room where the residents would play cards and "one-up": verbal banter with the winner being the person who's child or grandchild was the most accomplished. Mom would call before the weekly card game and giggle "Give me a story Donna. Wha'd you do this week??"

When my father died in 2005, I sat by his bed and whispered things I remembered from my childhood: watching him untangle Christmas tree lights on the livingroom floor; climbing up in his lap to watch Bugs Bunny before going to bed. Then I clipped a lock of his hair and taped it in the back of my passport and told him about the grand adventures we would have.

My brother Don and I found an old briefcase tucked in the bottom of a storage closet on his patio. The fittings were covered in mold from years of exposure. Inside were treasures from my childhood: a Scrabble board, his address book and business cards from the early 1970s, photographs of my mother, my brothers and me, and pictures of my children. Tucked in the back of the address book was a yellowed envelope in my handwriting. Inside was my college graduation announcement.

He was with me when I worked for Chase in Hong Kong and climbed the steep steps to the Big Buddah. He was with me when Woody and I sailed across the South Atlantic in a 34' CAL.

In 2009 when mom died, I taped both of their locks in the back of my logbook. It was the first time they'd been together since 1961. They were with me when I passed my Lear 60 SIC checkride. Last month, they were with me when I flew a light-sport aircraft from NW Arkansas across the Texas plains; through the I40 pass in Albuquerque, New Mexico; across the great meteor crater; through Sedona's canyons to Lake Havasu, Arizona. This morning, my logbook sits on the corner of my desk under my David Clarks. And I can hear my mother's voice whisper "Give me a story Donna..."

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Who are these guys?

I fade. Since I haven't posted since 3rd Quarter 2010, I wouldn't blame the two of you who follow this blog for not following the blog. Today, however, I could use some help.

The good-looking dark haired fellow in the top center of this photo is Thurman Dudgeon. My guess is that the rest are as follows:

Two tall men flanking him are either George Tate Dudgeon, James A. Dudgeon and/or William C. Dudgeon. The two women standing are probably Minnie Lee Dudgeon and Fannie Bell Dudgeon, his half-sisters with Linda Lyle. My 3rd great grandmother Martha Lou Phillips died; he and Linda married in 1877.

Any takers??