Saturday, October 21, 2006

Memory Intact, Thank You Very Much

StatueSeveral years ago I was talking with someone about the county I lived in as a youth. I mentioned the possible implications of the orientation of the statue of the Confederate soldier in front of our local courthouse; it faced the courthouse with its back towards the rest of the world.

To illustrate we drove by the courthouse where - much to my chagrin - it was observed with its back towards the courthouse and facing outward as all other such statues I have seen. It remains so to this day.

While on business at the courthouse several times over the past couple of years I tried to find someone who remembered - or had heard tell - of the statue so turned. No one did. I was beginning to question my memory until last week when I chanced upon this county newspaper from 1965. There on the front page was a photo of the statue turned as I remembered it, with its back to the street, facing the courthouse steps. I feel better now.

Want to hear my commentary about how the orientation of a statue erected in 1908 - 43 years after the war it commemorated - might speak volumes about the attitude of a rural Virginia county towards the rest of the world? How about how the turning of the statue 180 degrees might (or might not) signal that times are slowing changing back home?

Thursday, September 28, 2006


EyleenLast week my mother, Orrie Eyleen Gill Edwards Brent, gently passed away at home. She was 87. She never liked her given first name, so she never used it. She was a bit spunky; she was Eyleen.

My sister and I were looking for a photo of her for her obituary and ran across this one. We had never seen it before but thought it perfect.

An obit can be found at the Richmond Times-Dispatch or here.

Below is a slightly improved version of the eulogy I managed to get through last Sunday.
Almost 60 years ago our family moved to Chase City. We did not know anyone; we had no relatives closer than Richmond. We were dreaded "come here's." But the people here - and especially in this church - embraced our family and Chase City became our home. We thank you.

After our father died, which was 25 years ago but seems sometimes like the-day-before-yesterday, Chase City welcomed our new step-father John Harper Brent. Some of you know that he was mother's high school sweetheart before she met our father. You welcomed him also, making their years together here truly Golden. We thank you.

Over the past year we were blessed to have wonderful ladies who looked after mother as her health declined. They entered our home as employees; they left as family. We thank you.

Most of us embody a set of contradictions. These contradictions are often the foundation of personality. Some of mother's contradictions you may know... and others you may not.

Mother's first priority was always her family. She did her best to spoil her children & grandchildren, with some success I might add. But while her family knew her as a sweet, loving mother and grandmother, we now understand that she had a secret life after we left home - a substitute teacher in the public schools. At least some of her students remember her to this day as Sergeant Edwards. Others have described her as "tough but fair." She would have liked that.

My sister and I never needed to subscribe to the local paper to learn what was going on in town. We had our mother. Mother was our connection to the Chase City Grapevine. I am sure you have heard of it. You may be part of it. But as much as she valued her role passing on the local news, when her hearing began to fail she refused to wear her hearing aid. We know how much she enjoyed conversation and her participation in the "talk of the town." Why she didn't want to use her hearing aid remains a contradiction - a mystery - to us.

Hair. Our mother seemed to have an abiding interest in hair. She was always getting her hair "done" or "fixed." I never had the courage to ask what that really meant. But it seemed to make her happy. Back in the 1960's she developed an interest in my hair, specifically its length. That interest continued into the 1970's. And the 80's. And the 90's. I have fond memories on my visits home of her trailing around behind me with scissors, just to give me a little trim.

Once you got her out of the house, mother loved to travel. She and Harper instilled the love of foreign places in my daughter, for which I am truly grateful. But mother's best trips were those that brought her back home. Malindi learned that lesson also.

Mother collected cookbooks and read them like novels. She warned my sister and me of dire consequences if her collection were to ever end up in a yard sale. And we believe her. She occasionally tried new recipes. But no matter how much they were praised we never saw them again. Like many good restaurants, and some not-so-good, mother had a menu that seldom changed. I still dream of lime congealed salad, with mixed fruit.

For some reason mother married not one but two electrical engineers. Dad graduated from UVA and Harper from Virginia Tech, both in 1940. It is good that mother was not much of a sports fan. She must have influenced my sister more than she knew. Sue married a Virginia Tech engineer, class of 1973.

Mother was a child of the depression and the privations of World War Two. She squeezed every dime and seems to have never thrown anything away. If you would open any closet in our house, look under any bed, or visit our basement you would understand. Our father and Harper were the same way. But unlike them mother was also a World-Class Shopper. Our father would talk of driving mother to Heaven - his term for Miller & Rhodes and Thalheimers. Mother's prize possessions then were her charge plates - for those who don't remember, the forerunner of credit cards. And how many people do you know that could recite their Sears credit card number by heart?

Shopper she was, she enjoyed most shopping for others. If there was one trait she had that I will always remember it was her desire to do for others. She seemed especially concerned that we were all well fed, very well-fed. And after the blood thinner she was taking often made her feel cold, she was concerned that those around her were cold also.

My sister remembers the time last winter when mother was in the hospital quite ill, flat on her back and hooked up to all sorts of machines. She asked Sue, "What can I get you?"

My nephew Kevin and his wife Heather remember the last time they saw Mother. She asked if they had eaten breakfast.

I remember the last thing Mother said to me two weeks ago. As she was being helped to bed she stopped to ask if I was OK. Knowing she would not hear, I just nodded, smiled, and gave her a thumbs-up sign.

So mother, this is for you. (Thumbs up)

Monday, September 18, 2006

Aunt Jean

Edwardses1947Jean McCallen Edwards, my aunt by marriage to my father's brother Pickett, died last week. She was 93. Pickett passed away this June. Wednesday I will help carry her to rest beside him. Jean was a remarkable woman, worthy of more than a short blog post. If you are interested here is a link to a more complete obit.

I remember the outsider from up north who fit in with the Edwardses of Cohoke better than she knew. I remember the active, optimistic woman who was always fun to be around. I remember her toleration and amusement at my childhood misadventures when my parents reacted (as befitted their role) with sterner stuff. She and Pickett formed a solid cornerstone to my extended family. They were good people who were fortunate to live long, good lives. I will not let myself feel sad when I think of them. But I'll be damned if I won't miss them.

In the photo, taken I believe Christmas 1947 at Riverview, Jean is standing behind my grandmother's right shoulder, next to my mother. I am the little bugger on my grandfather's (the Bossman) lap, as ever just a few degrees short of vertical. Aunt Sallie, my father's only sister, and her husband Charlie are on the far left. That's Sallie's son, Cousin Bill, on grandmother's lap. Uncle Winston, daddy's oldest brother and wife Zady are on the right. Pickett is peeking out behind Jean; my father smiles beside mother.

What I would give now for a few hours of conversation with each of them, as I recently had for the first time in about 50 years with Cousin Bill. Time, it seems, is really about all we have.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Have You Had Enough?

RLJsilkscreenI received this email today, thought I would pass it on...
Rickie Lee and two members of the Squirrel Nut Zippers (Tom Maxwell and Ken Mosher) have written a witty, incisive and extremely relevant song called "Have You Had Enough?", in response to these troubled times. Addressing the crookedness of the Bush Administration, and the tremendous and lasting damage they have wrought on our civil liberties, our environment, our foreign relations, our quality of life and on and on, "Have You Had Enough?" is a song that means a great deal to Rickie and is one that she wants to share with anyone who it speaks to.

To that end, this song is available for FREE, downloadable from Rickie's MySpace page. Please feel free to share it with everyone and anyone you know...

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Jane & Fang

Fang & Jane2Our dog and cat get along well. They both seem to realise that the other belongs in the household too. Aside for becoming a bit snippy when one shows interest in the other's food, they seem to enjoy each other's company.

Fang & Jane1But I am still a bit stranged out when Jane lays on the floor and lets Fang lick the inside of her ears. Sometimes Fang will be laying on her face. And Jane just lies there. Maybe they should get a room.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Peyton Neale Clarke, A Biography

I seem to have been busy doing everthing but blogging. One of my recent projects was writing a biography of Peyton Neale Clarke, the author of the book at the center of the book I am writing. On the off-chance that someone else may be interested in Clarke and/or has some addition information about him they would be willing to share, I am posting this biography.

Peyton Neale Clarke - A Biography

In 1897 John P. Morton and Company of Louisville Kentucky published a brown leather-bound volume by Peyton Neale Clarke, a local forty-two year-old stockbroker, titled Old King William Homes and Families - An Account of Some of the Old Homesteads and Families of King William County, Virginia From Its Earliest Settlement. Since reproduced several times in both print and electronic format, almost half of its pages are devoted to only one of these families, the Edwardses. The book includes stories about Edwards family members and an extensive, detailed genealogy reaching back over a century and a half which has been highly prized by our family.Clarke's book

The author seems never to have lived in the county. However it is evident that he was well acquainted with King William through his mother, Judith Browne Claiborne Neale. She was the daughter of James Hill Neale and Judith Edwards, of two well-established local families. Judith Edwards was the only daughter of Butler Edwards, the fifth son of the Ambrose Edwards who figures prominently in Clarke’s book. But Clarke wrote that his mother was not named for his grandmother Judith Edwards but "for the wife of her uncle, William Hill, who married Judith Browne Claiborne of ‘Elsing Green’ ... a warm friend of her mother's..."

Clarke continued that Judith Neale moved to Richmond from King William County about 1840 - when she was 18 - marrying John David Clarke sometime thereafter. Peyton was close to his mother, recording in his book that she “spent the last years of her earnest Christian life in Louisville, Kentucky, where she died October 19, 1895, and is buried in ‘Cave Hill Cemetery,’ at Louisville.” As Clarke also reported that none of his mother’s other children were living in Louisville in 1897, it is likely she was living with him and his family at the time of her death. Clarke dedicated Old King William Homes and Families to her, a dedication missing from the reprints.

Clarke's fraternal grandfather, Andrew Clarke, was born in Edinborough,2 Scotland in 1782. He moved to Virginia about 1800 and married Mary Freeman. Thus a Freeman family history appeared in his book despite having no direct connection to King William County. Andrew and Mary had two children: John David Clarke and Sarah Bruce Clarke, who Clarke reported to have died "before she was twenty years of age."

The 1840 U.S. census shows Andrew Clarke in Richmond as head of a family comprised of one male between 50 and 60 and two females, one between 40 and 50 and the other - presumably Sarah - between 15 and 20. The 1850 census lists Andrew and Mary Clarke in a two-person household. He is 67 and she 60. He is listed as a grocer. Clarke wrote that his grandmother Mary, who "had a narrow escape at the burning of the Old Richmond Theatre in 1811," died November 5, 1851. Clarke added that his grandfather, "a plain and honorable man who lived a quiet, unostentatious life," died February 10, 1860. Both grandparents were buried at Richmond's Shockoe Hill Cemetery.Clarke, PN

Of Peyton's father, John David Clarke, less is known. Oddly Clarke did not provide vital information for his father, other than he was buried with his parents. The census is a bit more generous. The 1860 census shows John David Clarke's family in Richmond. He is 38 and wife Judith is 37. It appears he was a carpenter. All four children - two boys and two girls - are listed by name and age. Sally B. is 13 and is listed as having attended school within a year. Andrew is 12 and also has been to school. Eva is nine and Peyton, born March 22, 1855, is five. Clarke wrote that he was "Reared amid the turbulent scenes of the war between the States." Certainly that was an understatement.

The 1870 census shows Judith Clarke as head of household, indicating that her husband died during the 1860's. While it is possible that John David Clarke died soldiering in the 1861-65 war, his age and Clarke’s lack of comment in the book makes this unlikely. The census lists eldest son Andrew Neale Clarke as 22, a clerk in a furniture store. Eva Neale Clarke, 19, is "At Home." Peyton, now 15, is listed as an apprentice at a furniture store, possibly working with his brother. Clarke wrote that the oldest child Sallie Belle Clarke at the age of 23 married Captain John James Wright in 1867 and they had moved to Kentucky; she and her husband are missing from this census. The Clarkes seemed to be doing well enough financially to afford two live-in servants, black women, 18 and 36 years of age. However family circumstances would soon change considerably.

Clarke’s sister Eva eloped and married Clinton DePriest on July 7, 1871. She died that August, less than six weeks later. "She was a most lovable and popular young woman, and her romantic marriage and early demise awakened a flood of sympathy from even entire strangers, as the number of poems, newspaper notices, etc., published at the time testify." He provided no clues as the circumstances of her elopement or death. We do not know if her death is connected, but that same month Peyton moved to Kentucky. As he was only 16 it is likely he initially stayed with his sister Sallie and her husband, probably near Louisville.

Clarke wrote that his older brother Andrew later moved to Kentucky, in 1879 when he was 29. An A.N. Clarke - probably Andrew - is listed in the 1880 census as living in a Louisville boarding house. He is described as being born in Virginia, 32, and a clerk in a store. Clarke mentioned in his book 17 years later that his brother was living in Paducah, Kentucky and was “the local manager of the R.G. Dun & Company Mercantile Agency.” Clark also mentions that Andrew had married in 1895, at the age of 47. The 1900 census finds Andrew with wife Katie in a Paducah boarding house. He is 56 and she 36. No children are mentioned. He is listed as a commercial reporter, which describes the business of R.G. Dun and Company. After 1900 no mention of Andrew or Katie has been found in census records.

When Peyton's mother moved to Kentucky is not known. We do know from census records that she was living with her daughter Sallie Wright in Anchorage, Jefferson County, Kentucky - now a suburb of Louisville - in 1880. Oddly, no reference seems to exist in the 1880 census for Peyton Neale Clarke, even though by this time he had married Mary Newman of Louisville and they had a young son.

Mary Newman was the daughter of William Houston Newman and Elizabeth Howard. Like many Kentuckians, the Newmans had Virginia connections, providing Clarke with a reason to include a short Newman family history in his book, again despite having no obvious ties to King William. Like his grandfather Andrew Clarke, Peyton's father-in-law was in the grocery business.

In naming their four children Peyton and Mary followed the tradition of using established family names. William Newman Clarke, born October 9, 1877, was named after Mary's father. Eva Neale Clarke, born April 21, 1883, was named after Peyton's late sister. Sadly this Eva Neale Clarke also died young, a little over two years later, on May 20, 1885. She was buried at local Cave Hill Cemetery near her mother’s relatives. Namesake Peyton Neale Clarke, Jr. was born on April 29, 1888. Sanford Howard Clarke, born January 4, 1896, was named after Mary Newman's brother Sanford Keith Newman3, who had died the year before.Clarke Home 1333 copy

The 1890 census forms for almost the entire U.S., including Kentucky, were burned in a 1921 Washington D.C. fire. However we know from other local records that about 1893 the Clarke family occupied a home at 1431 South 3rd Street, Louisville. It would be renumbered in 1909 as 1333. This would remain the family home for over 40 years. Clarke also mentioned that his sister’s husband, Captain John James Wright, retired about 1890, and they were living in Dresden, Germany at the time the book was published.

The 1900 census finds the entire Clarke family listed at their home for the last time. The eldest son, known as Newman, is 22 and listed as a clerk. Twelve-year old Peyton Jr. is "at school." Sanford is four. They have two single female servants. Rossie Keating (?) is white, 27 years old. The other, Lucy Hamilton, is black and listed as 45. For at least another twenty years she would remain a member of the Clarke household.

Clarke wrote in his book only that he was "engaged in business." However in as early as 1886 Clarke was listed in a city directory as an Assistant Manager at R.G. Dun & Co. - a commercial credit reporting company - at 826 6th Street, Louisville. In 1933 this company merged with the Bradstreet Companies to form Dun & Bradstreet Corporation, or, since 2003, D&B. At some point Clarke left R.G. Dun and formed his own business, P. N. Clarke & Company. This was likely to have occurred before the 1900 census that describes Clarke as a “broker,” not his job title in the city directory nor the primary business of R.G. Dun.

The 1910 census lists Peyton Sr. as a “broker of stocks and bonds.” Peyton Jr.,now 21, is an automobile salesman. This was two years after the Ford Model T was introduced. Fourteen year-old Sanford is still in school. The 1910 census shows that a male servant, coachman Jacob Williams, has been added to the household. He is 28, single, and is listed with a racial designation that looks like "Mu" or mulatto. Rossie has gone, replaced by another young (20) unmarried female servant, Cora Russ (?).

The 1910 census also shows that Newman is now married to Eda Turner. This occurred perhaps as early as 1908 as he is listed in the city directory in 1908-09 as living in the St. James Apartments on St. James Street. By 1910 they are living at 520 Belgravia Court. At census time they have a 2 month-old boy, William T. Clarke.
In Caron’s 1911 Directory for Louisville, P. N. Clarke & Company is listed as occupying rooms 307-316 of the Columbia Building. They are described as “brokers and financial agents.” Joining Peyton Sr. in the directory is his eldest son, Newman. Peyton Jr. is a clerk.

In 1917, as the U.S. entered WW I, Newman and Peyton Jr. registered for the draft. Newman was 40, married, a broker of stocks and bonds now with John L. Dunlap & Co. at 58 Main Street. He and Eda had moved to 1907 3rd Street. Peyton Jr. was 29, single, living with his parents, and was employed by the Louisville Athletic Association as Secretary to the Louisville Baseball Club, likely the Colonels of the minor league American Association.

The 1920 census lists Peyton Sr. as a “financial agent.” Sons Peyton Jr. and Sanford are living at home. Peyton Jr. is listed as 29 but is 32. Sanford is listed correctly as 23; he will be 24 the day after he is enumerated. Both are single, with occupations listed as “none.” A new servant has joined 69 year-old Lucy Hamilton. She is Sally Elizabeth Surding (?), white, 36 and married. Newman, Eda and nine year-old William T. (listed as Turner) are still living at 1907 3rd Street. In 1926 Peyton Sr. found time to write a second book, Digest of Kentucky Tax Laws, published by the Kentucky Tax Reform Association. It was a slim volume, 28 pages.

Finally, in the 1930 census, Peyton Sr. is listed as 75, with no occupation given. Mary is 72. Newman Clarke has returned to live at home. Now 51, divorced, he is listed as a broker of stocks and bonds. No references to his ex-wife and child have been found in this census, the last currently available to the public. Peyton Jr., 42, is listed as a stenographer at City Hall. He remains single. For the first time in 30 years Sanford is not listed as living with his family. In fact, Sanford seems to be missing from the 1930 census altogether. Also missing is Lucy Hamilton. Perhaps reflecting the times, the census shows no “servants” but that they have taken in a border, Lottie Bledsoe, white, 45, and married. She is listed as a housekeeper at a “private house,” probably for the Clarkes.Clarke Graves

The 1930’s were hard on the nation, and the Clarke family. The depression must have been particularly distressful for financial advisors and stock and bond salesmen. Peyton Sr. was the first to die, March 10, 1936. He was almost 81. He was buried near his mother and daughter Eva. Only seven months later Peyton Jr. joined them. He was 48. Next was Sanford Clarke in March, 1937, only 41. Mary Clarke witnessed this all; she lived two more years, passing away in May, 1939. Like her husband she lived to be 80. Finally Newman passed away in November, 1944. Today they all lie together in Section P, Lot 661, at Cave Hill Cemetery.

In 1941 a Miss Ada R. Turner was buried at Cave Hill, but not with the Clarke family. In 1982 William Turner Clarke was also buried at Cave Hill, although with neither the Clarke family, nor Miss Ada. More research is necessary to determine if these were Newman’s ex-wife and son.

Author’s notes:
The sources of most of this biography come from Clarke’s Old King William Homes and Families, and US census records found at Additional information was found using various internet sources, especially, a web site of the Old Louisville National Historic Preservation District. The photo of the Clarke plots at Cave Hill was provided by Gregg Fowler, a former resident of King William County, now living in Louisville.

In looking over what I have been able to learn about Peyton Neale Clarke and his family several questions present themselves: Why did Clarke write so little about his father? Why did Eva Neale Clarke choose to elope and what caused her death? Where was Peyton Clarke and his young family during the 1880 census? What took Captain John James Wright and wife Sallie Belle Clarke to Dresden? What became of Andrew Clarke and his wife Katie? What happened to Newman’s family? Do they have any living descendants? And why did Clarke devote so much space in his book to the Edwards family? Maybe more research will answer these questions.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

FloydFest 5

Merged-Crowd2Last week-end was FloydFest 5. This was my third festival, my wife's fourth, and Virginia - my wife's niece - has been to them all. Also camping with us were Virginia's father John (who won the Best Camper Award this year), daughter Rachel, and friend Mike.

RREFloyd06As usual the week-end featured great music - especially from folks I had never heard of - and interesting weather. This year the weather was sunshine and wind. It was Actually it was hot and mostly dry. Quite a change for a festival widely noted for being wet and cool.

The music started on Thursday night this year with Railroad Earth playing to a good sized early crowd. Friday brought an early morning wind gust that took our large community tent down the hill 30 feet, scattering camping gear everywhere and breaking a pole connector. My minimal staking efforts were improved upon as we reestablished base camp. Duct Tape and friendly neighbors to the rescue and we were back better than ever.DonnaFloyd06

The biggest change this year for us were the tickets. Because the tickets we usually buy were sold out we were forced to purchase the more expensive VIP tickets if we were to camp as we had in previous years. But these tickets came with added features we quickly came to enjoy.

As VIPs - an almost humorous title in this neo-hippy egalitarian, if temporary, community - we had backstage passes that allowed us to eat, drink and hang out with the musicians. We also could sit on stage during the performances. Since the food was good and company pleasant, and there was SHADE, what was not to like?JakeFloyd06

Every year I have attended Floydfest I have had moments when I wonder why I was putting up with the obvious annoyances and irritations. I keep telling myself that I am getting to old for this. While the festival is very well organized, the site kept clean and attractive, and the attendees remarkably friendly and well-behaved, the long drive and camping out for three days can be a Challenge. Then, often when I am least expecting it, it all becomes worth it. Usually it is the music - live, fresh, inspiring. Sometimes it is just a seemingly random human act of kindness. It also can be the beautiful Blue Ridge mountains. Occasionally the music, people and setting all come together and the joy is almost overwhelming. My musical highlights...LobosFloyd06

RRE once again justified my devotion. I have heard them eight times now over the past two years. Tim especially seemed on fire Thursday night. Eddie From Ohio was just Too Much Fun; I need to hear them again. The Akoya Afrobeat Ensemble kept everyone rocking and smiling during the only rain shower of the festival. Jake Shimabukuro was just jaw-dropping. Who knew what a ukulele could do? I have never heard Donna the Buffalo play better. And Los Lobos just tore up the crowd Saturday night, justifing my opinion that they have been arguably the best American band over the past 25 years.BestCamper06 Finally, Sunday morning gave me the Campbell Brothers sacred steel in the dance tent. Christian music this side of Bach never sounded as good to my ears. If I had heard a complete difference set of musicians I probably would have been just as satisfied.

Hot, tired, and a bit sunburned we left Sunday about mid-day. Floydfest 6 is just around the corner.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Have You Hugged Your Parents Today? Don't Worry, We Will!

Parent Hug 2Last spring, I think it was about Mother's Day, I was driving to visit my sister and her family. Not far from their home I saw this sign in front of an assisted living facility. It rendered me almost speechless.

While I am sure those who came up with this advertisement thought it would speak well for the care given to their residents, to me it spoke of something very, very wrong.

Months later - I took this photo this week - the sign is still there; as is my discomfort that strangers would be hugging parents daily in lieu of their children. If this does not bother anyone else, maybe I have lived too long.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

The Summer Doldrums

It is not that I have run out of blogable material; in fact I have such a backlog I don't know where to start. I am low, very low on the mental energy necessary to do justice to my posts.

I am headed to the beach today for some R & R. Then after a few days in Virginia working on my history project I will be back home in time to pack for Floydfest. Somewhere during all this I will start posting more regularly. Bare with me.

- Analog Man

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Thistle & Shamrock Tour Photos

P1000184.JPGI have selected and uploaded to Flickr some photos from our trip to Ireland and Scotland. They can be found here.

I was surprised to find that I took many more photos of Scotland, surprised because Ireland was so strikingly beautiful. If I had been thinking of a photo album at the time I would have taken more and purhaps different shots. It is odd that many of the images I still carry in my head never made it into the camera.

Here is one may daughter liked, the southern part of the island of Hoy, the Orkneys. The sun was just right.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

May 1, 1942

Buck & Pickett001
Standing at the front gate of Riverview Farm in service to the United States Navy, on the left, my father, on the right, my uncle Pickett.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

For My Packer Friends

BibbonFerryThe photo was taken aboard the Northlinks ferry MV Hamnavoe off the coast of mainland Scotland and Stromness, a port on the Orkney Islands. This was the only time I had opportunity to wear my GB Packer cap as the weather was otherwise too warm.

I will have more photos next week. Between now and then I will travel to Virginia to visit with my mother and attend the funeral of my uncle who passed away this morning.

Steptoe Pickett Edwards (Pickett), was 95. I posted about him last year. More later when I feel a bit less sad.

Monday, June 12, 2006

The Thistle & Shamrock Tour

The Thistle & Shamrock (a.k.a. the Look Right, Drive Left or We've Been Here Before) Tour is over. We returned just before midnight last night, tired but happy.

We had a great time and I have more than enough to blog about for weeks. But first there are clothes to wash, bills to pay, sleep to catch up on. But before I nod off, several observations...
  • Ireland was wonderful, just wonderful; but I fell in love with Scotland.
  • The food in both countries was much, much better than is traditionally thought.
  • Driving on the left is not all that hard; figuring out where you need to turn is the trick.
  • Guinness Rocks!
  • Saint Andrews is to golf what the Vatican is to Catholicism.
  • We were prepared for just about everything but the wonderful weather.
  • The place we wish we had scheduled more time was the Orkney Islands off the north coast of Scotland. It is a very special place.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Ketching Up Is Hard to Do

I am still a month behind with my blogging. This will get worse real fast. This afternoon my wife and I fly to Ireland for a week, and then from there to Scotland. I will probably have zero opportunity to blog from there.

Check back in two weeks. I expect I will have more tangents for you. Now One-Bag-Bibb needs to finish packing.

Have I mentioned what a busy spring this has been?

My Father's Boat

Dad's BoatIn the spring of 1956, a few months after my grandfather died, my father and I took an unusual Saturday morning trip to Riverview, the family farm. We did not stop at the then empty home but went straight down the riverbank to the boat house. There my father took measurements from the small rowboats my grandfather had built over the years.

These were Pamunkey River working boats, boats made for fishing and hunting. Nothing fancy; definitely not "recreational." I remember they leaked. We always had to bale them out before using them, and often while my father paddled, I baled. Baling is a good job for a small child; the idea of the boat filling with water - sinking - was a powerful motivating force for an otherwise easily distracted boy. That morning they were in even worst shape than I remembered, but they served the purpose. We went back up the hill and drove home.

The following year, or maybe 1958, Dad started building a boat in our backyard based on the design he documented that Saturday. However this boat would be larger, large enough to easily seat the four members of our family. It would also have a motor. He built it from oak and marine plywood, half inch on the bottom, with 3/8 sides. He covered it with newfangled Fiberglas cloth and a white gelcoat. It was just over 19 feet long, almost twice the size of its progenitors. It very definitely did not leak.

Our family used the boat for week-end outings on the large, newly build lake close to home. Daddy and I fished and hunted from that boat. We took it to my other grandmother's farm on the Potomac; one particular morning we caught more spot than we knew what to do with. Under full power it planed, but was very stable. We could make almost 20 mph; not bad for an 18-HP Evinrude pushing a heavy flat-bottomed boat. I even water-skied behind it.

After my sister and I went away to college the boat received less use, but it remained in our backyard until after my father died in 1981. After our local minister admired the boat my mother sold it to our church to give to him as a going away gift. She had asked me if I had any objections, and I had told her to go ahead. Just looking at it reminded me of my father and the times we shared. The pain of his loss was still too fresh; not seeing it I thought would hurt less. Besides, I had no use for it then. He would have approved; boats need to be used.

In doing research into my family's history - and the history of Pamunkey Neck - I have been reminded over and over of the dominant role of the rivers in people's lives. According to a letter I recently found and my latest conversation with Uncle Pickett, as late as the 1940's my grandparents helped support the farm by fishing with nets when the shad were running. They used those very boats I later baled from. And my grandmother could not even swim. I decided if I was going to write about Pamunkey Neck I need to spend some time on the water. And there would be no better way than in my father's boat.

A few months ago I located the now retired minister and gave him a call. He certainly remembered my family and the boat. But, unfortunately, he said that in a weak moment years ago he had sold it. Worse, he could not remember the name of the buyer, only that he lived near Lynchburg, a community called Forest. It was to Forest I drove that morning looking for a boat.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Further Adventures

After the last post the ketch-up condenses; think of a spicy tomato paste reduction.

The Monday following our trek to Pamunkey Neck I spent at the Library of Virginia looking at manuscripts, maps, & microfilm - the 3m's. Of the three the microfilm was the most valuable, and the most difficult to use. I don't know how many hours it would take before blindness, but it can't be many. Each time after a long session at the microfilm readers - for me anything over three hours - my admiration increases for those who, for love or money (or madness), make extensive use of these devices. As we say in the south, "bless their hearts."

After the LOV I retreated south and spent another day with my mother before driving to Charlotte, the Neighborhood Theatre, and my only rendezvous with Railroad Earth this tour. My daughter and an assorted collection of her friends met at Boudreaux's next door for dinner before the show, the band played to a moderate but enthusiastic Wednesday night crowd, after which I rolled back home by 2 in the morning.

A rare week and a half around home followed. The last Monday in the month found me again in Charlotte having a new starter installed in my car. The old one had been asking for relief for about a year. I guess after 200,000 miles one should not be surprised. Relief was granted.

I was then better prepared for another trip north. After a short visit with my mother and attending to various of her financial affairs I was off again to Richmond. My sister was again the gracious hostess. I spent a pleasant afternoon with my Uncle Pickett, his wife Jean, and my cousin who was visiting from Colorado. After another day at the LOV my sister and I visited with another cousin and her husband to talk with them about the mysterious five acres in the Northern Neck (see the May 21 post). They seemed pleased that I had already been trying to resolve the issues involved and we agreed on where we needed to go.

JohnSThe next day I bought a new digital camera (in an ongoing, generally losing attempt to keep up with my more technologically advanced daughter) and headed west to visit with one of my oldest friends. John, a contractor who has been living for a couple of decades in one of the most beautiful spots on the planet, surprised us all a few weeks earlier by having a heart attack. Much too young for that, he still handle it like a pro. He walked into the UVA hospital and walked out two days later (even though they charged him for three, much to his consternation) with a stent replacing a clot, new drugs to take, and some advice. He looked good despite it all and withstood my complaining about him setting a bad example for the rest of us.

I left the next day headed to western NC and dinner with my daughter. But along the way I spent two hours looking for a needle in a haystack, or more accurately the boat my father built about fifty years ago.

Monday, May 22, 2006

A Visit to the Other Neck

Have I mentioned that I am writing a book? Well, I am. It is a family & regional history with cosmic overtones. I am past 30,000 words now and just getting started. Collecting and tidying up over 300 years of Edwards and Virginia history takes some effort.

It also takes research, since information about Pamunkey Neck and my family is well scattered. And since I am separated from my topic by space as well as time I have decided to enlist help from those living in the area. That is why the Sunday following the funeral (which by the way was a gorgeous day) my sister and I set off to visit another distant relative on the other side of the family, a Pamunkey Neck native who, as a local forester, knows the county as well as anyone.King William Historic Features copy

My hook to involve him in my project was an out of print map published in 1976 - while I was actually living there - that located old county historic sites, mainly homes. Of course he is living in one. I wanted to update and expand this map (my draft shown) using modern computer technology. He said he would be happy to help.

After arriving we were warmly greeted and I laid out my maps and the other research documents I had brought along. If he and his family thought I was nuts they were polite enough not to show it. I outlined my map project and a little of how it fit into my larger book project. He answered my questions, corrected a few errors on my map, and made some suggestions. We agreed to stay in touch by email and that we would see each other at the family reunion in the summer.

After leaving my sister and I decided to take a detour on some back roads to the area of the county where my family has lived for hundreds of years. Driving past the church my great-great grandfather had built and preached in we noticed a small group of cars, people, and an open door. Although my sister had once been inside, I never had. So we pulled in.

The church had recently been sold to a local businessman along with the adjacent farm. The new owner had done a wonderful job renovated the long unused church and this Sunday afternoon he and his family were walking about. As we walked up introducing ourselves I noticed another distant cousin standing to the side. The new owner invited us to look around and he and his family left in their mini-van, stopping a few yards down the road to talk with our cousin's brother, the seller of the farm and church. We could quickly tell by the look on her face and the tone of the conversation on the side of the road that things were not well.

For the next 90 minutes, after the new owners had driven off, my sister and I were reminded of the deep passions land can inspire. Inside the church our cousins talked almost non-stop, generally about matters we little understood and people we did not know. Pride, money, land, time, and family were the themes with the both of them feeling that they had come out on the short end. The sun lowered, we made our way back to the car and said our good-byes.

Have I mentioned what an interesting family I have?

Sunday, May 21, 2006

A Visit to the Neck

GillsMy mother's brother was 89 and had been in poor heath for some time; so his death could not be called unexpected. Yet for me it was hard to grasp. He had always seemed a larger than life character, so very full of himself. I am confident that everyone who met him has a story about the time he did this or did that. He is on the left in this photo with my grandfather and his brother, about 1920.

Unlike my mother, who was too weak to attend the funeral, his mind was clear to the last. A couple of years ago at his wife's funeral of he reminded me of events from my childhood over 50 years earlier. Some of my earliest memories are of following him around my grandmother's farm as he did chores. I remember feeling so grown up when he let me ride on the tractor with him. I looked forward to helping carry slop to the hogs somewhat less. As I grew up I saw him less an admirable role model, but to the end he was always a force to be reckoned with, now someone to miss.

One of those spring cold fronts was moving into Virginia as I headed north to pick up my sister. But we reached the chapel with time to spare. The chapel, now owned by a local funeral home, was once a church co-founded by my great-great grandfather; behind it lie generations of relatives. Although the temperature had been dropping all morning with light drizzle, it was not until we headed outside toward the gravesite that the skies opened up. By now the temperature was in the 40's and the rain was coming down sideways. I stood with my umbrella behind my cousins trying to block the rain from coming underneath the tent, to little effect. Graveside remarks were brief. My uncle would have enjoyed it all.

After the service my sister and I escorted a family of distant relatives to my grandmother's home, now part of a subdivision and owned by a nice woman who gave us a tour. Then, while my sister visited with our cousins, I split off to meet with a local surveyor. I had hired him to do some work for my family on a lot we own in that sub-division, but now I needed to talk with him about a separate five acre parcel my mother co-owned with her late brother. I had been unable to reconcile the description of the parcel on the 1919 deed and its location on the current county tax map. The Q&D title search I had conducted at the local courthouse some months earlier had turned up more questions than answers; we needed professional help.

The surveyor gave me good news; he believed the lot still existed. It had not be surveyed out of existence. Things like that happen, much to the delight of the legal profession. It was just not where the tax map indicated. However he said that the parcel is landlocked; it has no designated right-of-way. After all these years obtaining that right-of-way now could be tricky. I told him to hold off doing anything else until I talked with my cousins. This will get interesting and there will certainly be a post or two about this coming up.

By now almost dry, I met my sister and our family of distant relatives for dinner at a local restaurant, a recently restored Hotel/Tavern. I was hungry and the food was good. We then drove back to my sister's. I slept well. Which, as it turned out, was a good thing. I had a big day coming up.

Next, tales from the other side of the family...

Saturday, May 20, 2006


HeinzIt has been a long time between posts, more a sign of mental fatigue on my part than a lack of things to post about. Time to play Ketch-Up.

The Saturday prior to our trip to Chicago we had a birthday party for my wife, the big L. We had a large crowd of friends and family, and a good time. My photos were not worthy, so I waited until PixieRn sent me hers. By that time I was well into the Chicago / Wisconsin trip series. Below are a couple of pix from the party.

The second week-end after returning from Chicago was to be Railroad Earth Week-End.Balloons The guys were on a southern tour and we had tickets to hear them open for the Derek Trucks Band at the House of Blues in Myrtle Beach on Friday night and in Wilmington Saturday night.

But three days after Chicago my wife became - in her words - as sick as she has ever been. Her doctor said it was a combination of flu and pneumonia; the effects lasted for weeks. Already struggling with keeping her classes on track after being at a conference the previous week - and teaching an overload this semester - she had little time to rest.Birthday-Cake So it became round after round of work / collapse / work / collapse, with me trying to be care-giver.

A music week-end for her became out of the question, but we still had two sets of tickets. Since PixieRn was already at the coast my wife suggested the two of us use the tickets while she rested. PixieRn was excited to join me but towards the end of the week she too was not feeling well enough to go. By that time we had received word that my uncle had died and would be buried Railroad Earth Week-End.

I had convinced myself that I could hear RRE Friday night and then drive to Virginia in time to pick up my sister and make it to the church mid-day Saturday. Technically possible, practically foolish. So I began trying to unload the tickets. I was able to give away the HOB tickets to a colleague of my wife's at the last minute, but the Wilmington tickets went unclaimed at will-call. Trying to give away the tickets was a short, frustrating experience.

Saturday morning I headed north into cold, rainy weather and a funeral.

Tomorrow, the story continues...

Friday, April 21, 2006

Analog Man Does Windoz

WindozIt has been about a week since HELL FROZE OVER. So far both Boot Camp and Windows XP have been performing flawlessly. I'm not surprised by Boot Camp - beta or not - but XP is remarkably better than the other half dozen Microsoft operating systems I have used. I still remain booted into OSX most of the time.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Rooms w/view


While walking to the Field Museum across Grant Park I took this of one of my favorite Chicago buildings.

Several years ago, one cold, windy but sunny morning, I was headed across the park to the Field Museum when I turned my back to the wind for a little relief. Until that moment I had not really taken in the magnificent Chicago skyline. My jaw dropped. So instead of the warmth of the museum I decided just to walk around and look at buildings. Not particularly dressed for the occasion, I like to froze.

The memory of this building, while not the most spectacular or famous downtown has to offer, stuck with me. Although the architecture is sort of typical of a century ago, it was where it was placed that caught my eye.


Here is another view. Makes you wonder how they got it up there.


P.S. Did you like that "like to froze?" My county boy personae peakin' round the corner.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Any Damn Fool

Any Damn FoolThe morning after Phil's party I stopped for breakfast at the Machine Shed in Rockford, IL. While settling up I noticed this book for sale on the counter, Any Damn Fool Can be A Farmer - Growing Up on a Wisconsin Farm, by Bob Knopes. I am working on a family history project of my own - and it looked like a good airplane read. So I bought it.

Turns out that Bob grew up just a few miles from where I worked in Janesville, WI. I must have driven past his family's farm hundreds of times. Small world.

What makes the book worthy of his efforts and yours - besides the writing which is much better than typical books of this kind - is the reminder of a way of life that is fastly disappearing. Family farming was - and is - hard work. It is reassuring that it usually does not make hard people.

Bob's story may not have enough drama for some; I'm sure that was just-as-well for his family. A couple of fires will have to do. But it is as real as that wonderful smell of earth being turned about now on Wisconsin's farms. I recommend it, especially to my friends along the Rock River.

P.S. - In case the book's title offends our friends in the agricultural community, Bob is referring to something his father often said, but did not really mean. Barnyard humor.

Friday, April 07, 2006


PhilThe real reason for my trip to Chicago was to attend my ex-boss' retirement party in Wisconsin. I didn't tell them I was coming; it was wonderful seeing the looks on my co-worker's faces and be able to thank Phil for being such a great boss.

It has been a full two weeks since Phil's party - and post party - plenty of time for the $500,000 in small bills, the two Dallas Cheerleaders, and the case of Glenfiddich to arrive. Since Phil has obviously decided not to be extorted, I am making good on my threat to post this photo.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Field Day

Marshall-Field-SignAfter my trip to the Field Museum I went downtown to pay homage to the enterprise that played a major role making it all possible, and do a little shopping.

Marshall Field's may or may not have been the world's greatest department store, but it remains my favorite. Although immitated, the atriums remain wonders to behold.

Marshall Field was a country boy from Massachusetts who moved to Chicago in 1853. Clerking in a dry goods store he saved his money, bought into the business, bought out his partners, and became the richest man in Chicago. TiffanyCeilingMarshallFieldsHis State Street store was as commercially innovative as it was beautiful. I wanted to take my own picture of the Tiffany iridescent glass ceiling five stories up, but found the floor traffic too dense. So I lifted this from Google Images. But photos cannot do the place justice; one must stroll about.

Fields had gone through several corporate owners recently and unfortunately will be rebranded as Macy's this year. That may be good for Federated Retail Holdings, Inc., but it will be another part of Americana lost.

P.S. I got some great pants on sale!

Monday, April 03, 2006

Soldier Field - Chicago

SoldierField1After walking about in the Field Museum for six hours week before last I decided to get some fresh air. Soldier Field is next door, so I walked the colonnades.

The stadium finished undergoing a renovation several years back, the new architecture making for some striking juxtapositions. Soldier Field2 This photo was the best I could do showing how the old and new blend - or don't. I'm more a Burnham man myself.

At one time the north end was open, framing the Field Museum as this old photo shows.

The NFL team that plays here most frequently shall not be written.

Friday, March 31, 2006


SueT-RexThe Field Museum is justly known for its dinosaurs, the most famous being Sue, the largest, most complete, and best preserved Tyrannosaurus rex fossil, ever!

She has her own website.

Now, when I think of my sister...

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Chicago Skyline


This was taken about 9:00 last Thursday morning at the north entrance to the Field Museum. I Photoshop merged three (over?) exposures.

Since this landscape orientation neither fits nor does much justice to the view I decided to try another approach. Now take your screen and turn it 90 degrees clockwise and scroll. Isn't that better?


Sunday, March 26, 2006

The Palmer House - Chicago

Palmer-House001If Analog Man does not post for over a week something must be up. It was, in this case a trip to Chicago - with a side adventure to Wisconsin. Enough material was gathered for several posts, which are forthcoming.

My base of operations was the famous Palmer House in downtown Chicago. palmer1910My wife 4 C's convention was again there and I went along for the ride so I might attend the retirement party of Phil, my ex-boss, Friday afternoon. More on that later.

The Palmer House may no longer be the fanciest hotel in town, but it once was. What it may now lack in modern amenities is more than made up for by the best lobby in town, shown above on a postcard they gave me this morning. I wanted to lie on the floor and take a picture of the practically naked woman in the center of the mural, but I thought that a bit too, uh, obvious. The ceiling is actually much taller than the postcard would lead you to believe.

The second postcard - from 1910 - I pulled off Google images. By then the famous Brownie, invented by the chef at the Palmer House, was already 17 years old. And yes, I had one there three nights ago. It cost almost 10$ but was worth it!

After a bit of rest and reflection I will have much more...

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Signs of Spring

Pear-TreeThis Bradford Pear in the park did not spend much time wearing white this year; the green leaves rapidly began to show themselves.

And my tomato seeds germinated well but became quite "leggy," as last year. But this year I replanted them deeply in larger containers. So far no real tomato leaves.

Tomato-PlantsWhile it has been warm, a cold spell starts tonight - highs for the next week or so in the 50's.

We are celebrating my wife's birthday this week-end with friends and family from out-of-town arriving today.

More later...

Saturday, March 11, 2006

A Young Man of Letters


Now that I have taken over my mother's finances I have been looking through long stored piles of family papers. Last week I was looking for some old deeds and ran across perhaps my first letter.

It was to my mother when she was in the hospital having my sister and I was staying with her mother. I had just turned four.

I don't think my handwriting has improved much, although I am a better speler.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

For My Friends in Wisconsin

Spring-FlowersI thought you might like to see what spring will be like for you, in about TWO months.

The Bradford Pear tree across the road will be in full glory in about another week.

My tomato plants just popped up from seed.

Photos of both when I get back from my trip to Virginia.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

The Unequaled Self

Unequaled SelfOne of my first posts on this blog directed your attention to an online version of The Diary of Samuel Pepys. Pepys (1633-1703) rose from humble beginnings to become a high ranking English civil servant, Member of Parliament, and confidant of Kings during perhaps the most turbulent time in modern British history. His fame, however, lies in his private diary (1660-1669), at the time unique, and remarkable to this day for its eyewitness accounts and personal candor.

Pepys was seldom heroic; much of what he tells us about himself and the London of his day is unpleasant. He and London are frequently all too human. Only recently have versions of his coded diary appeared uncensored. Yet he transcends his time and place with a zest for living and honesty (at least in private) that is admirable and all too rare. Claire Tomalin, the noted English biographer, won the Whitbread Book Award in 2002 for her Samuel Pepys - The Unequaled Self, which I have just finished. It was wonderfully written, adding context and detail to my daily doses of Sam and making him part of my extended family.

While it helps to have an interest in English history during Sam's time - I am well underway writing a history of my own - Tomalin's book and the online diary are worthy for their window into the larger human condition - how far we have come, and haven't. As a bonus, the daily contemporary annotations on the website are frequently as interesting and amusing as Pepys. I recommend both highly.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Garrison Keillor

KeillorThe closest we have to Mark Twain today is Garrison Keillor. I first heard his A Prairie Home Companion in the summer of '83 and have been a regular listener ever since. I've laughed. I've cried. The music has been pretty good too.

Keillor has a way of making me feel good about being a human being; not a easy task these days. He is forever pointing us towards our best. I feel better each and every time he talks to me. He may be the greatest living American.

Like Twain he is a keen observer of mankind, its follies both personal and collective. When the spirit moves he can be devastating.

I would have loved to have written this. If anything he is too kind. Little Man in Salon, February 8th, 2006.

'Be well, do good work, and keep in touch." ®

Saturday, February 18, 2006

The Rich Get Richer...

The gap between rich and poor has been growing since 1980, growing considerably according to U.S. Census data. The chart above tells the tale for North Carolina. Remember, this is not the gap, this is the change in the gap over twenty years.

With nothing to indicate that this trend will change I suggest we look towards our neighbors to the south, i.e. Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, etc., if we want to the glimpse what the future may well be for our country. Do we really want to structure our society like theirs, with a vast gap between the haves and have nots? We are headed that way, fast. At one time we offered our strong middle class as a model for the rest of the world. What will we have left to show them in the future - besides smart bombs and Wal-Mart - our shrinking Bill of Rights?

The full state-by-state report can be found here.

By the way, if you are viewing this from above the Dividing Line, here is the chart for Virginia. I wonder what the chart might look like without NOVA.