Saturday, January 20, 2018

News of the World

What a fine, perfectly told story! Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd is an aging veteran of the War of 1812 and the Mexican War. Now, after the Civil War he supports himself by traveling around lawless Reconstruction Texas and reading articles from newspapers to paying audiences.

Along the way he is asked to take on the burden delivering a ten year old girl who has lived with the Kiowas since she was captured at the age of six to her surviving relatives.

She speaks no English and is desperate to return to the only mother she remembers -- her Kiowa mother. 

These are wonderful, believable characters -- I found myself thinking of Gus from Lonesome Dove and Mattie from True Grit. And all the minor characters and even the horses have memorable personalities.

In just over 200 pages, Jiles has brought to life an era and its people. Highly recommended!

Friday, January 19, 2018

Mr. D.A. Yoder of LincolnCounty, NC

Our cousin Barb sent me the following, knowing it would interest me. It's a peek at life in NC in the 1800's, told by the great grandfather of one of her friends. 

It's also a reminder to all of us that perhaps future generations might be interested in our reminiscences.  I loved his description of his school and of travel -- floating around Texas in search of a fortune -- and his philosophical outlook.

I only wish he'd written more. 


An Autobiography

(By D. A. Yoder, Sr.)

          The link between the restless present and the more quiet times of my boyhood days is fast lengthening out.  Though eighty-eight years old I still like to mingle with the wonderful things of life; but am moderate in enjoying them.  The shades of evening cannot be very distant from me.  It is said that “advanced years bring increased leisure, and time employed is life enjoyed”, which is true only in good health.  While I am feeling well I will write this sketch, beginning with my schoolboy days. 

I was a small boy when I first went to school with my oldest brother and my twin sister.  I remember the little log school house with 3 small windows, a rock chimney and a wide fireplace.  There was no system, no district, no committee, and teachers were not examined, though anyone who could write a legible hand and make goose quill pens for the pupils, was considered qualified to teach. 

Just look back for a moment to see the contrast between the present and the past.  When I was a boy, Lincoln County extended from the Catawba River north of Hickory, to the South Carolina line near Kings Mountain; when the towns of Newton, Hickory, Dallas, and Gastonia did not exist; and Lincolnton was a little old town in which cattle roamed at will on the streets and hogs rooted and wallowed in mud holes on the Court Square.

  I was born in Lincoln County and lived in it the greater part of my life, though I remember we once lived in Catawba a few years, then back in Lincoln again yet never moved from the old home place.

When I was a boy perhaps in my teens, I witnessed the hanging of Langford in Lincolnton for the murder of his wife. The gallows was erected near the river west end of town.  I don’t remember dates, only events which made impressions on my mind that time has never erased.

I remember that my father was at work that day on the Court House recently pulled down.

I first saw Charlotte when I was between 20 and 25 years old, traveled with team on plank road from Lincolnton, carried flour packed in barrels which I made myself.  There was no railroad to Charlotte then and very few in the state.  Travel was by stagecoach and horseback, and mails were carried the same way.  The Tennessee farmers drove their pork hogs across the mountains by way of Asheville on through Lincolnton to Charlotte selling them on the way as they traveled.

My father died at the age of 49 years, I being 20 and second oldest of twelve children.  I remained with mother and family until I was twenty-five years old.  Then I desired to see more of the world.  My first adventure was on horseback, a trip across the Blue Ridge Mountains to visit an uncle in East Tennessee.  The next trip from home was an overland trip to Texas in company with Col. George Hedick, L. A. Hoyle of Lincoln and Jacob Rhyne of Gaston County, who immigrated to Texas with their families in 1859.  We traveled with wagons and teams and were two months on the way. 
 I floated around in Texas two years, seeking a fortune but failed to find it.  I was in Texas when the first shot was fired on Fort Sumter opening the War Between the States in which I took an active part in the Confederate Army and realized the hardships and horrors of war.  I was a member of Co. A 10th Texas and fought under command of Gen. Bragg in Kentucky and Gen. J. Johnson in Tennessee and Georgia in the army of Tennessee.

When the war ended I was thirty years old and penniless and very much discouraged.  Then I turned a new leaf in life.  I married and went to work in real earnest to obtain a living by farming, though I never had a strong ambition for hard work just for the fun or the money, but necessity urged me and it was a case of “root hog or die”. 
When I was twenty one years old and began to work for myself, I was with the class that mowed the wild grass meadow along Potts Creek with the old time Dutch Scythe for 50 cents per day, and cradled wheat for $1.00 per day in the longest and hottest days in June when days were more than eight hours long.

 Thanks to the man who invented the mower, the reaper and binder.
I have firsthand knowledge of the events of almost a century, the greatest century of progress in the history of the world. I have lived to see some of the wonderful inventions and discoveries which have transformed the earth - the telegraph, the telephone, the wireless, the aero plane and the automobile.

The world has rushed on with giant strides.  It seems that I have lived several centuries in one.  Providence has been kind to me, I have enjoyed fairly good health all my life.  I have tried to take the world easy in its mad rush to obtain the things that perish.  I still look straight to the front and try to keep step to the music of the time, let it be
“Yankee Doodle” or “Dixie”.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Snow Birds

Yesterday's snowstorm brought the usual crop of birds to our feeder -- cardinals, juncos, red-bellied woodpeckers, blue jays, titmice, etc.

But we were surprised by a big flock of common grackles -- I don't think we've has a visit from them before. They are quite beautiful -- iridescent blue/green head and shoulders.

Alas, all my pictures were though rather cloudy windows -- it was way to cold to lurk around outside till the birds weren't alarmed.

The new visitors hogged the feeders and we put extra birdseed on the porch railings, as well as refilling the feeders. 

We are staying warm and staying put. The driveway up to our house is passable only by the jeep with chains.

Wednesday night lows around 10.

But a warming trend is on its way with the fifties by Friday -- let's hope the birdseed holds out!

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

A Very Good Read

Some cookbooks make excellent reading. I'm thinking of Marjorie Kinnan Rawling's Cross Creek Cookery, Clementine in the Kitchen by Phineas Beck, and Edna Lewis's The Taste of Country Cooking, all on my kitchen shelf and all well-used. Now here's another.

The Presidents' Cookbook (published 1968) is a fascinating bit of social history, detailing the food served in the White House during the various administrations from George Washington to LBJ.

There are gossipy stories about the presidents and their ladies, staggering menus of multi-course meals, descriptions of decorations for grand functions, glimpses of the family life (oh, the rowdy T. Roosevelt children!) and the challenges of running a household like the White House where every move is subject to political criticism -- a wealth of detail that makes even the lesser known presidents come to vivid life.

(A touching story about McKinley: in order to protect his wife Ida who was subject to brief fits of epilepsy, he defied protocol and had her seated beside him at all dinners so that, at the signs of an approaching seizure, he could place a napkin over her face until the fit passed.)

And there are wonderful recipes -- some more of historic interest, such as Martha Washington's Harty Choak  (artichoke) Pie that involves sugar, grape juice, cinnamon, ginger, and beef marrow. I'm not tempted.

But her dessert recipes sound delicious -- Trifle, Shrewsbury Cakes, Maids of Honor, and Bread and Butter Pudding. And I'd like to stir up some Sack Posset and Syllabub, just to satisfy my curiosity about those drinks.

Of course the tastes of the age, the state of the Union, and the idiosyncrasies of the presidents influenced the food. Thomas Jefferson, who was fond of French cuisine and spent mightily on wine (from his own pocket) unlike Abe Lincoln who was "almost entirely indifferent to food except that he liked apples and hot coffee." (Despite Lincoln's simple tastes, Mrs. Lincoln organized a banquet that was hailed as "one of the
finest displays of gastronomic art ever seen in this country."

If you like to cook, there are many tempting recipes. (Jackie Kennedy's Radziwill Sauce (mayonnaise, horseradish, guava jelly, mustard, tarragon vinegar, salt Tabasco, heavy cream, and sherry) sounds just right to accompany the smoked chicken we sometimes make.

As a brief bit of social and political history, this book is well worth looking for. It's out of print now but available online from second-hand book stores and other sellers.

I only wish there were an updated version -- though given what is said about the eating habits of the current POTUS, perhaps it's just as well no one's attempted it. 

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Nature Red in Fang and Spinneret


In the morning the spider caught the stinkbug on the orchid...

... and spent most of the day wrapping it up . . .

By evening the work was complete and spider began hoisting the meal aloft.

I love living with Nature!

Friday, January 12, 2018

Books, Books, Books

Yesterday being rainy and me with a cold, I found myself reorganizing several troublesome drawers and trying to get rid of the accumulation of little notebooks from past years. Jotted down addresses, brilliant ideas, good quotes, mysterious scribblings . . . a hodge-podge of stuff.

One notebook was from my time in rehab after my accident in October of 2016  -- during which time I did a lot of reading. 

Two books that I read then were John Greene's The Fault in Our Stars and Jo Walton's Among Others. Both of these novels referenced numerous other books and authors and, having nothing better to do at the time, I made a list for future reference. In my little notebook. So today I moved the lists onto my computer and decided (fiendish chuckle) to share them with you.

If you make it through the lists, I'd be interested to hear if any of these particularly resonated with you.

Mentioned in The Fault in Our Stars (a diverse and intriguing list many of which I have managed not to read --- yet)
His Dark Materials – Pullman (have read them all now and loved them)
Birdsong – Faulks
War and Peace - Tolstoy (groan)
Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – de Bernieres
Memoirs of a Geisha - Golden
One Hundred Years of Solitude – Marquez (embarrassed to say I haven't read any Marquez)
Atonement – McEwan (read and enjoyed, somewhat to my surprise)
A Suitable Boy - Seth
Shadow of the Wind – Zafur (on my bedside table)
Love in the Time of Cholera - Marquez
Midnight’s Children – Rushdie
Ulysses – Joyce 
Germinal - Zola
Cloud Atlas – Mitchell (I keep thinking I want to read this but somehow don't
Remains of the Day – Ishiguo
A Fine Balance – Mistry
The Five People You Meet in Heaven – Albom
The Folk of the Faraway Tree – Blyton (I used to love Enid Blyton but missed this one)
The Wasp Factory -Banks
A Town Like Alice – Shute
The Ice Queen – Hoffman
The Archivist – Cooley


From Jo Walton’s AMONG OTHERS (mostly fantasy and sci fi.  I am familiar with many of the big names, Heinlein, Asimov, Silverberg, Adams, LeGuin. In the Fifties, I read lots of SF and even subscribed to the magazine Fantasy and SF -- I'm sure much of what I read has stuck with me but I kinda quit reading much sci-fi  after the Sixties. Now i find myself returning to some old favorites and enjoying a lot of authors that I missed. )

Adams - The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (One of my favorites)
Anderson -The Broken Sword, Ensign Flandry, Guardian of Time
Anthony- A Spell for Chameleon, Vicinity Cluster, Chaining the Lady 
Asimov - The End of Eternity, Guide to Science, Foundation Trilogy, The Left Hand of the Electron  
Austen - Emma (I love this book)
Blyton - Malory Towers (another Blyton to look for)
Boyd - The Last Starship from Earth
Bradley - The Spell Sword (I loved The Mists of Avalon but was not so impressed with subsequent entries in the series)
Brazil, Angela (author) 
Brunner - Stand on Zanzibar
Carpenter - The Inklings (bio), Tolkien (bio) (I want to read these)
Churchill – History of the English- Speaking People (and this)
Clarke – Forgotten Enemy, Imperial Earth, Childhood’s End
Clement – Mission of Gravity
Coney – Hello, Summer, Goodbye; Charisma
Cooper - The Dark is Rising Sequence  (just finished rereading all of them)
Cussler - Shockwave 
Delaney - Babel 17, Trouble on Triton, Empire Star, The Einstein Intersection
Phillip K. Dick
Donalson – The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant (intriguing)
Eliot -Four Quartets, The Wasteland 
Ellison - Dangerous Visions 
Engdahl - Heritage of the Stars, Beyond the Tomorrow Mountains
Fowles - The Magus (I LOVED this book -- have read it many times and may have to have another go
Garner -Red Shift
Graves – I, Claudius (I read this when I was in high school -- one of the few books on my parents' shelves. Time for another re-read.)
Harrison - Make Room! Make Room! (the original, I believe, of Soylent Green)
Heinlein -The Number of the Beast, Starship Troopers, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Citizen of the Galaxy (on my shelves. H is a sexist of the first water but he can sure tell a story.
Henderson - Pilgrimage ( I think I read this about half a century ago an seem to remember liking it)
Herbert - Dune (Loved this and have read it many times. I found the sequels disappointing.)
Hughes -Crow (poem)
Huxley - Brave New World  (of course)
Kerr - When Hitler Stole the Pink Rabbit  (really?)
Ursula K. LeGuin -The Farthest Shore, The Eye of the Heron, The Word for World is Forest, The Dispossessed, Wizard of Earthsea, The Lathe of Heaven, City of Illusions, The Winds (very much enjoyed Earthsea)
Lewis, C.S. (author) (from Narnia to his sci-fi trilogy, his novels and even his Christian apologetics, I've read and enjoyed all his works)
Marx - The Communist Manifesto 
McCaffrey – Pern series, Dragonquest)
Miller - A Canticle for Leibowitz- (Another one I remember reading and liking a looong time ago)
Montgomery - Jane of Lantern Hill 
Moore - Lot
Niven - World of Ptavvs, Ringworld, A Gift from Earth, The Flight of the Horse, The Mote in God’s Eye (with Pournelle) 
O’Brian - Voyage to Alpha Centauri
Piper, H. Beam (author)
Plato - The Symposium, The Republic 
Ransome, Arthur (author) 
Renault – Return to Night (a Renaukt I'm not familiar with)
Robinson - Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon, Telempath 
Shute - An Old Captivity
Silverberg - Dying Inside, Stepson of Terra, Up the Line, Born with the Dead, The World Inside 
Simak -City
Smith, Cordwainer (Author) (Is that a cool name for an author or what?)
Smith, D.- I Capture the Castle, The Starlight Barking (these both sound most interesting)
Streatfield, Noel (author) (read many of these as a child)
Sturgeon - If All Men Were Brothers 
Tey -Daughter of Time (I went on a Tey rampage maybe twenty years ago -- time to reread)
Tiptree - Warm Worlds and Otherwise 
Tolkien - Lord of the Rings (of course)
Vonnegut – The Sirens of Titan
Wyndham The Chrysalids (another that I know I once owned and read but don't remember)
Zelazny -A Prince in Amber (and other in the Amber Chronicles), Creatures of Light and Darkness, The Guns of Avalon, The Dream Master, The Sign of the Unicorn, The Dream Master, Isle of the Dead, Roadmarks, Doorways in the Sand (I think Ethan had a lot of these books at one time and I gave a look but didn't get into them -- may give Z another try.)

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Word Play

This semester in the Great Smokies Writing Program, I'm offering something different. After hearing from various would-be students that they just didn't have the time to devote to critiquing others' writing as well as producing their own, I've come up with something painless and fun. It's a class called Wordplay: To Get you in the Mood . . . for Writing.

This is the brief description: When you're not ready to commit to a lengthy piece of writing but welcome the chance to discover or reignite the flame of creativity, Wordplay is for you. No take home assignments at all -- just brief in-class writing in response to a wildly varied series of prompts, adaptable to any ideas you may already have and all based on different ways to tell a story. Voice, imagery, mood, setting, dialogue -- we'll explore and discuss these and more, as well as inspiration, research, and process in its many manifestations. Who knows where this no-stress, no guilt workshop will lead you?

I plan to begin with a physical prompt -- a mysterious object concealed in a box which each person feels -- not to identify the object but to write about what it makes the writer think of.  I got this idea from a psychology experiment I participated in when I was in college -- it's amazing how the sense of touch can lead one into free associating.

Later we'll explore the other senses -- look what the taste of a madeleine dipped in tea did for Proust.

And there will be of the prompts will be for scenes that reveal character -- a family holiday dinner, a brush with the supernatural/inexplicable, an argument with a friend, a conversation with a deceased relative . . .

And, as they say, many, many more.

If you're in the Asheville area and this sounds like something you'd enjoy, follow THIS LINK for more information (Go to Class schedule and scroll down.) Classes begin February 20 and meet every Tuesday for 10 weeks at the Riverlink offices in the Arts District, 6-8:30 .