Monday, May 25, 2009

Remembering a soldier....

Today is Memorial Day. A time when most Americans, hopefully, take the time to say thank you to our fallen soldiers and sailors and to pray for those who remain in the field.

I am thinking of one particular soldier today. His name was Finis Ray. He was born around 1814 in North Carolina. As a young man, he moved west to Missouri, where in 1839 he married Miss Susan Isabel Carman. They set up housekeeping on the frontier and began raising a family. They had five children. Their youngest, Rebecca Lavina, was born on Christmas Day 1856. In July 1860 tragedy struck when Susan Isabel died. Hard times were just beginning for this family.

In December of 1861, with the Civil War raging throughout the country, and particularly dreadful in the Ozarks, Finis Ray donned the navy blue uniform of the Union Cavalry. He was a volunteer with the 4th then the 14th Missouri State Militia Cavalry.

For the next few months, his unit fought the Confederates throughout the southwest part of the state. This area was considered important by both the Union and Confederate armies due to the many mines in the region. Whoever controlled this area would have an advantage because of the ready supply of lead available for ammunition.

On May 30th, the 14th was stationed in Neosho, MO. Commanding officer, Colonel John M. Richardson, later wrote that he sent "six reliable men" into the woods for picket duty that night. Finis was one of those men. One has to wonder what he was thinking that night as he sat in the woods, watching for the enemy. Was he thinking of his 5 children home alone without him? Or perhaps he was remembering his beloved Susan Isabel.

The next morning, May 31, 1862, the Confederate forces attacked. The Union forces at the battle were routed by the Second Mounted Cherokee Rifles. The Confederate commander, Colonel Stand Watie, stated in his report following the fight that the Union "loss in wounded was undoubtedly heavy. Many if not the greater part, of the Federal forces escaped on foot, and their dead and wounded were found some distance from Neosho, they having fallen in their flight."

The report from Colonel Richardson of the 14th included this information, "Our loss is 8 wounded, 2 missing, and 1 taken prisoner by the enemy."

Finis Ray was one of the missing. No one even knows what happened to his body. Some of the deceased soldiers were buried in the cemetery in Neosho. Their are no grave markers for them. Later the local people erected a monument in their honor.

Eventually some of the bodies of the soldiers from Neosho were reinterred in the National Cemetery in Springfield, MO when it opened. Some of these were unknowns. Our family has chosen one of those unknowns to honor by laying a wreath on the grave in memory of Finis.

Finis Ray made the ultimate sacrifice in hopes of preserving our beloved nation. Today, I take time to honor and remember this dear great-great-great-grandfather of mine and the many other men and women through the years who have given their all for our country. Thank you to each of you. Your sacrifice has not been forgotten.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Good Neighbors

I believe it was Robert Frost who wrote that, "good fences make good neighbors." We live in the country and that has proven to be very true.

We have been fortunate in that the last two places we have lived, we have had excellent neighbors. In both locations, the neighbors were very quiet and peaceful. They were friendly without being too nosy. They seemed happy to have us in the neighborhood.

I hope we will be lucky enough to find another place like that when we move.

Ozarks Neighbors

These were our neighbors in the Ozarks. A herd of Black Angus cattle was literally on the other side of the chain link fence which surrounded our yard. The cattle were on three sides. We really enjoyed watching them.

Our dog Lady, a pyrenees collie mix, especially loved playing with all the baby calves born in the spring. She would go to the fence and stick her long, skinny nose through the holes. The baby calves would cautiously come closer and closer, sometimes even touching their noses to hers. Lady would bark at them while wagging her tail. The calves would run back into the field kicking their heels up in play. Lady would race around the yard as fast as she could, then return to the fence to begin their game again.

The cattle interacted with all the assorted animals we kept on the farm. For awhile we had sheep. Two of our little rams had a crush on the Angus heifers. The rams would literally follow the heifers around in the field, content just to be with them.

Even the chickens and the cattle were friends. One day while I was looking out the window, I noticed the big Angus bull was over by the chicken house. He appeared to have his head pressed against the fence while a hen was rubbing against him on the other side. They looked as if they were having a conversation.

It was a crazy neighborhood, but everyone got along well.

Prairie Neighbors

These are our neighbors on the prairie. Aren't they cute! Even though they are already fat, these guys are always sticking their heads through the fence and looking for a handout. Who could say no to such adorable faces?
I hope you are having a beautiful spring in your "neighborhood."
Blessings to you.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Loving Good Junk

I love junk. I like to think that I love good junk, but others might dispute the distinction. These photos show some of my graniteware collection on my barn wood shelves on the screened in porch. I just love looking for assorted old things to add to this grouping. I dig through piles of junk at thrift stores, garage sales, flea markets, and auctions looking for more treasures.
My junk addiction probably started when I was very young and a little old man gave me a gift.
Back when I was just a wee little lass, my mother and aunt managed a gas/convenience store located on what was then, a busy 2 lane highway running through the heart of a remote country village. Most of our business came from tourists passing through on their way to larger vacation destinations in the Ozark Mountains.

Across the road from our gas station was a shop designed to draw in all those city dwellers with their large wallets. This was the mother of all junk stores. It was actually more like a Junk Palace. It was owned and operated by a very old little man named Mr. C.

I loved going to visit Mr. C's flea market. I still remember how the big wooden door always creaked as my little hands turned the knob and I entered this magical world. There were more treasures inside than my child's eyes could take in. The shelves were crammed full of goodies practically from floor to ceiling! I walked the aisles in amazement of what wonderful things could be purchased if I only had enough money. I didn't know what many of the items were, but it didn't matter. My imagination ran wild with the possibilities of what I could create if only I could buy some of these treasures.

During one special visit to the junk kingdom, Mr. C. gave me a gift. I believe it was my birthday. That day Mr. C. gave me a set of vintage gold tumblers in a gold metal carrying caddy. I was overwhelmed. They were the most beautiful glasses I had ever seen. I thought they must have been the finest, most precious glasses in the world. I couldn't believe I now owned something so wonderful! This was the perfect gift in my eyes.

When we got home, I insisted that we use those beautiful glasses at my birthday party. I was certain I had the most elegant 4th birthday party anyone ever had! Then I asked my mother to pack them away in a safe place. I didn't want to take a chance on anyone breaking my magnificent glasses. I took them out only on special occasions.

I kept those glasses for many years. I was deeply saddened after one of our frequent moves, when I realized that the golden glasses hadn't made it with me.

Now I decorate my home in a sort of funky, country style with lots of worn wood and chippy paint. Yet I sometimes find myself searching through flea markets in hopes of finding some shiny tumblers in a gold carrying caddy. They wouldn't match my home, but they are, after all, some of the finest glassware in the world. How could a girl hope for anything more precious than that!

Blessings to you.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Spring came......and went

I noticed this house far off the road one winter day. It made me smile because it reminded me of spring. The house is sky blue and the trim is the color of puffy white clouds. I could just imagine some woman living on the prairie who just couldn't face another dreary winter day, so she painted her house to look like spring. I was envious of her having color and beauty to drive home to every night during the long, cold months of winter.

Winter is hard on the prairie. This was our first winter this far north so we had no idea what to expect. It turned out to be the worst winter here in 30 years! The first snow fell on November 30th. It basically never left for many months. It almost melted a few days later, but it never completely vanished. Then the really nasty part of winter arrived. The temperatures fell and the snow storms began appearing every 2 to 3 days. Our driveway became impassable before Christmas. Going anywhere required me to dig our car out of a snowbank, then shovel a path to the cornfield. Next I had to shovel a path out of the cornfield back to the driveway to actually reach the road. Finally we had to just leave our cars at the end of the driveway and walk the quarter mile to the house through the drifted snow carrying our groceries and other purchases.

Eventually that didn't work because our cars wouldn't even start when the temperature fell to (-25) and the windchill was (-40)!

We were trapped in a cold, dreary world. For many months, the land was white with snow as far as the eye could see, and the sky was a gray expanse as far as the eye could see. Occasionally a clump of trees would tie the two together with their bare, black branches outlined against the barren landscape. Months passed before the snow stopped.

Then the rains began. This past March was the wettest one on record here. It was followed by an April where it rained 2 of every 3 days. It was during these long dreary months that I spotted the "spring house". It's bright color scheme seemed to shout to the world that someday spring would return. I have been patiently waiting.

On May 1st it seemed that spring might have come. I noticed that the grass was growing. The cherry tree was blooming. The air was warmer. The wind had quit blowing from the north. We actually saw the sun for 5 days in a row!

Yesterday morning when I opened the front door, I discovered the dream was over. The icy wind was blowing in from the north again and it was cloudy. I had to retrieve my heavy, fur-lined winter coat from the hall closet where it had been banished just so I could bear to go outside. If I wasn't moving, I swear I would get in the car and drive to Sherwin Williams and buy some sky blue and some white paint. I might even get some bright yellow and green paint too just for flowers. Spring is going to come, even if I have to bring it myself.

I hope the sun is shining at your place. Blessings to you!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

My Blogging Rules for Me

I was looking on the internet for some scrapbooking ideas about a year ago when I stumbled upon my first blog. It was a good one. The author had wonderful photographs illustrating what she had done. She had good directions describing how she had done it, and she had written a beautiful story explaining why she had designed this particular card for a certain person. This was a great blog. I bookmarked it and checked back in frequently to see what she had created.

A few months ago I decided to begin redecorating our home. I reentered the blog world looking for ideas. I was soon hooked and have spent countless hours reading other people's blogs. I have found some wonderful blogs during this search. I have also gained some insight into what I would and would not do if I ever had my own blog.

Here are my blogging rules for myself.

1. This blog is ultimately for me. This is my place to put down the ideas swirling in my brain, and to improve my writing skills. It would be very encouraging and flattering to have other people read my work and comment. It isn't necessary though. Please don't misunderstand me, I will be happy if this blog encourages or assists anyone else in their daily life. Ultimately though, this blog will serve its' purpose even if I am the only one who ever sees it.

2. A blog is NOT a personal diary. It is more like a flashing neon sign beside the world's busiest information super highway. Theoretically speaking, NOTHING is personal on the internet. While most people using the internet are good people, some are not and would use any personal information they can possibly find for destructive purposes. I don't want to give the evil ones any more ammunition than I have to, so I will limit the amount of personal information and photographs I post.

3. This is not a place for me to air personal gripes, pet peeves, or gossip. I will try not to criticize individual people here. I may occasionally air my views on public policy and political figures though. I believe dialogue and debate are good. They help us decide what we truly believe and why. Attacks are unnecessary however. The world already has enough shouting, so I will try not to add to the chaos.

4. I will try to emphasize quality over quantity. I would rather have fewer posts of good quality then many posts of inferior content.

5. I don't expect anyone else to have these rules or any rules for their blogs. A person's blog should reflect their taste and their style. I would never tell someone else, particularly a random stranger, how they should raise their family or run their business. I would also never tell someone else how to operate their blog. It's their creative place to do what they wish.

6. I find that I am often a rebellious person. In other words, I break the rules. Consequently, don't be surprised if you see me breaking my own personal blogging rules! It could happen at any moment.

Blessings to you!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Everything changes... or does it?

While looking at my photos over the weekend, I noticed something unusual. I have several photos of sunsets and cherry blossoms taken in our yard in early May. The photos are strikingly similar. The peculiarity is that they were taken one year and 500 miles apart. The photos from 2008 (pink cherry blossoms and leafy tree) were taken at our home in the Ozark Mountains. The photos from 2009 (white cherry blossoms and pine tree) were taken at our little house on the prairie.

I think God may be whispering a message of reassurance to me. As I begin to worry what the future holds, He is reminding me that He is the constant. The sun will rise, and the sun will set. Seasons will come and go. Life will go on regardless of where we live, and His hand will continue to guide us.

Blessings to all.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

A Moving Experience

I had previously started another blog about my life as a transplant to the prairie. Just a few days after making my first large entry though, everything changed. My husband went into work on a Monday and was told he was being laid off on Friday. 4 Days Notice! We were very upset because we have been here less than a year. Last year we moved 500 miles from home so my husband could take this job because we thought it would provide more job security. We had no idea what we would do now.

When my husband returned to work on Tuesday, his employer told him that they would try to find him a position with the company at another location. They hoped they could keep us in the continental United States but made no promises. Wednesday brought different news. My husband was told then that he could remain at the current location, but would have a different job doing something he had never done before. On Thursday, the company told my husband he could keep his current job but they were creating a position for him on a new shift on different days. Friday he decided he should go ahead and apply for a transfer anyway just so we could be sure that he could actually stay employed.

So I find myself packing boxes again. We have been married almost 24 years and this is our 10th move. I'm getting pretty good at packing, but I can't really say that I enjoy it. The irony in this move is that my husband's new job was available last year. We could have moved last summer and it would have only been about 30-45 miles. Now we are facing another move of more than 500 miles and having to get adjusted to a new home and community again.

At least my husband has a job though. So many people are struggling just to find employment right now. I am truly grateful to his employer for recognizing the sacrifices that my husband had made for them previously and trying to reward him for his commitment. Hopefully this new position will work out and we can stay for more than a year.

My husband has begun the search for a rental home in our new location. Meanwhile I am busy packing boxes and preparing the little camper for the possibility of it becoming a temporary "home" again.

You can see that my life is a roller coaster full of ups and downs, and plenty of turns. It is never dull. It is always an adventure.

Blessings to you!