From a photograph by Solomon D. Butcher of four daughters of rancher Joseph M. Chrisman, at their sod house in Custer County, Nebraska. From left to right, Harriet, Elizabeth, Lucie, and Ruth. Photographed in 1886.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Historic Log House Is No More

A house I should have photographed



For the first eight years or so that we lived out here, we drove by an old log house every time we went to Hopkinsville.

The structure was actually two two-story log houses ("pens") built side by side with one roof over all. The "dogtrot" between the two "pens" was the entrance hall. It had a wide front porch that must have been perfect for watching the sunset and the traffic on the road. The balcony on the second floor was the same size as the front porch. A massive stone chimney stood on each end of the house.

We used the log house as a distinctive landmark when we gave directions to our house. We talked about how interesting it was to have such a unique, historic building in the neighborhood. We even met the family who lived in it.

I don't know why I never took a picture of that exceptionally fine old house, but I didn't.

One day, as I drove home from town, I was shocked to see that house going up in flames. The volunteer fire department had arrived, but they were unable to keep it from burning down. The next day, little remained but smouldering ashes, scorched trees, and the chimneys.

A few months later, the family bought a modular home and put it on the site where the old log house had stood. I still drive by their place every time I go to town, and I often think of the big old log house that once stood there.

The house is still listed as the "McClellan House" in the National Register of Historic Places for Kentucky. I guess they don't realize that it no longer exists. The construction date is estimated as 1800-1824. It would have been one of the first homes in this part of the county.

In the library, I found a book with photographs of all the Christian County sites that are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It has two photos of the old log house, so I photocopied that page and brought it home.

It's not the same as having a photograph that I took myself, though.

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Monday, October 29, 2007

Lost to Fire

Many treasures can't be replaced.



I've never been burned out by a wildfire, but I have experienced a house fire. In 1978, when I was student teaching in Warrensburg, MO, the principal called me into the hallway one day and told me that my house was on fire. I spent the rest of that afternoon watching the firemen fight a major fire in the huge old house I shared with several other college girls. One of them died in the fire, and another was severely burned.

As it happened, my room did not burn. I was able to go into the building several days later to see what I could salvage. Many things were too smoke-damaged and waterlogged to save, but at least I decided what to I had to give up and what was good enough to keep.

My sister's home burned



My sister and brother-in-law lost their home to fire a couple of years ago. Their son woke up one morning to a fire in his bedroom, caused by a short in electrical wiring. Charlotte picked up her purse on her way out of the house. Wisely, David would not let his family go back in to try to save anything from the flames. Their house burned to the ground, but no one was hurt.

Rebuilding after the fire



Charlotte and David built a beautiful new home and they moved into it this spring. Its design is highly fire-resistant and energy efficient. They have lots of room. Their community has been generous in giving them many things that they needed.

Charlotte and David are thankful for all that they have, but I know that they will always be sad about the irreplaceable things they lost in the fire. In her Christmas card last year, my sister quoted a Scripture that had become especially meaningful to her.

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
(Matthew 6:19-21, Today's New International Version)


I'm thinking about those families in California. In each home that burned, a family's personal treasures were destroyed. In time, the families will rebuild and re-settle, but the loss will always be with them. How they cope with and think about that loss will determine the real extent of the fire damage. It will shape the rest of their lives.

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Saturday, October 27, 2007

Mogul Wagons Revisited

A short history and advertisements for Mogul Wagons



Mogul Wagon ad

Yesterday, I did some research in the genealogy section of the Hopkinsville library for a Pennsylvania lady who is writing a book. A portion of the plot is set in Hopkinsville around 1890-1910, and the rest takes place elsewhere.

While I was looking through the 1897 and 1899 editions of Meacham's City Directory of Hopkinsville, I came across a couple of ads for Mogul Wagons. I photocopied and scanned them, and here they are, for visitors who are seeking information about Mogul Wagons.

Mogul Wagon Company history



Forbes Brothers of Hopkinsville, KYA short summary of the Mogul Wagon Company's history appears in Gateway From The Past, Volume II: A Pictorial History of Hopkinsville and Christian County, Ky. Since 1865 by William T. Turner (published in Hopkinsville by Southern Printing, Inc., in 1981). I came across this while doing research for the lady's book, also!

Mr. Turner, our city/county historian, included the following facts in a caption he wrote for a 1909 photograph of the Mogul Wagon factory in Hopkinsville:

  • The Mogul Wagon Company was organized in 1871 by J. K. & M. C. Forbes.

  • The original factory was located on South Virginia Street between 10th & 11th .

  • In 1906, a new factory opened on 21st Street between Harrison and Railroad Beltline.

  • The Mogul Wagon Company was incorporated in 1908.

  • The types of Mogul wagons included: "farm, log, mountain, platform, spring and dead axle coal and ice wagons, drays, floats and gun carriages." (According to Mr. Turner.)

  • A fire on December 28, 1925, destroyed the large factory.

  • The remaining inventory of wagons and spare parts were sold by the Forbes Hardware Company through 1951.

  • After the factory was rebuilt, the Eastern Dark Fired Tobacco Growers Association purchased it, and it was finally dismantled in 1981.


The original Mogul Wagon factory must have been either on the lot now occupied by BB&T Bank or on the site of the medical building, just north of the War Memorial building on Virginia Street. The 1906 factory must have been located on 21st Street on property that is now owned by the Pennyrile Rural Electric Coop, just across the railroad tracks from Hopkinsville Milling.


Ghost paintings on an old building in Hopkinsville, KYThis advertisement for Mogul Wagons can still be seen
on the back of an old building on Main St. in Hopkinsville.



Fire risks at a wagon factory



A wagon factory surely faced a high risk of fire. In the process of manufacturing, a great deal of sawdust and wood debris would have been created. In addition, quantities of lumber would have been warehoused waiting to be used. There was also bark debris from sawing logs, I assume.

The factory would have been as vulnerable to fire as any modern lumberyard or woodworking plant, but it would not have had the benefit of sprinkler systems, smoke alarms, or modern firefighting tools.

Read more about Mogul wagons on this blog:


Hopkinsville's Fire Station and Transportation Museum
More About Mogul Wagons
Hopkinsville, Kentucky, in 1907
Mogul Wagons

(Or, just click the Mogul Wagons label at the end of this post.)

Updated to correct a possible error about the building that currently occupies the site of the original Forbes Mfg. Co.

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Yellow Maple Leaves Make Me Happy

How does yellow make you feel?



Yellow sugar maple leavesOur old sugar maple has taken on its autumn color. It's always very, very yellow.

I am mildly fond of yellow, in subdued tints and shades, but I do not like a lot of intense yellow in my clothing or my home. However, I think this tree is beautiful, and when I stand beneath it and bathe in its golden glow for a few minutes, I feel happy.

The yellow color of these leaves brings back some nice memories of the kids raking up huge heaps of leaves and jumping into them from their swing. Our old kitty, Happy, who was young then, loved playing in the leaves too. He liked to be covered up, and then to spring out and "surprise" everyone.

My happy feelings about these yellow leaves made me wonder what the psychological effect of yellow is supposed to be. I won't claim that I conducted exhaustive research, but I did read a few webpages on the topic of color psychology, and here's what I found. Negative effects are noted in italics.

  • Yellow in the American culture: Sunny, cheerful, inspiring, high spirit, caution, cowardice (Source)
  • Connotations of yellow in Western cultures: Happy, friendly, optimistic, cowardly, annoying, brash (Source)
  • Yellow in the home: Sunny, energetic, creative, intellectually stimulating, friendly, inviting. Deep shades "can enhance feelings of emotional distress." (Source)
  • Effects of yellow: Feelings of optimism, enlightenment, and happiness, a promising future, energy, creativity (Source)


See also:
All About Yellow
The Psychology of Color

Maple leaves, with brilliant yellow autumn colorThis photo also appears in a post on my tree blog.


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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Autumn Sunset

Sunset over the neighbor's farm



Sunset over a Mennonite farm in Christian County, KY


I took this photo one evening last week. We didn't have much of a sunset today -- or much sun at all, for that matter. We didn't mind. We were happy for rain.

If you like sunset photos, check some of the others I've posted. Just click the "Sunsets" label below.

A Rainy Day in Western Kentucky

Drops of water are falling from the sky.



We've had a couple of rainy days, and we're supposed to have a good chance of rain again on Wednesday night and Thursday. Over the last 48 hours or so, we've had over 4 inches.

The cats have not been nearly as enthusiastic as usual about going outside to play. Skittles slept all day on a window sill, contented enough, but Casper couldn't settle anywhere. Every time he went out to test the weather, he was standing at the storm door a few minutes later, wanting to come inside again.

Dennis spent his rainy day driving around with a young Mennonite couple who are visiting from Pennsylvania. While he was gone, I took all the books out of the biggest bookcase in the house and moved it. I've been wanting to get that done for quite a while.

It was a bit surreal to hear the rain falling outside while listening to the reports of the terrible California fires. As dry as we have been, I would send this rain to Southern California in a heartbeat, if only I could.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Volunteer Fire Department Fundraiser

Famous Honey Grove barbecue



Volunteer Fire Department, Honey Grove, KYAfter lunch. at the Honey Grove Volunteer Fire Department


Last Saturday, the Honey Grove (KY) Volunteer Fire Department (VFD) held their fall fundraiser. They barbecue twice a year, and it's an event that shouldn't be missed.

The Honey Grove VFD enjoys local renown for their barbecue. Mitchell and Otto, brothers-in law and both in their 70's, are the talents behind the legend. They've been cooking pork shoulders and hams, open pit style, for many years, and they have perfected their methods.

Late in the afternoon, the day before the fundraiser, Mitchell and Otto start the fire. All night long, they keep the fire smoldering with good hardwood (oak and hickory preferred), as they turn and baste the meat. The next morning, they cook some chicken quarters too.

When the pork is done, it's taken inside and pulled apart into shreds for sandwiches. It's always tender, delicious, and a bit greasy. Mitchell has told me that they baste partly with fat, to keep the meat from drying out while cooking.

The fire trucks are moved outside for the day, and tables and chairs are set up in the fire department building. They start selling barbecue around 10 a.m., and by noon, the place is pretty busy with folks stopping in for lunch or carryout. It's a chance to visit with neighbors and to catch up with the local gossip and the doings of the fire department.

If you ask for a plate lunch, you'll get a large Styrofoam plate with compartments. The big compartment will be heaped with barbecued pork (or a chicken quarter,) and the other two compartments will hold your choice of baked beans, potato salad, or cole slaw. You're issued two slices of white bread, and you can pick up a homebaked dessert and a soda when you pay. The plate is just $5, but you are welcome to give more than that.

This time, they were also selling raffle tickets for a nice quilted wall hanging that someone had donated. Usually a business meeting is held in the afternoon, and it's sometimes followed by gospel singing or a bingo. (My kids loved the fire department bingos when they were little!)

I haven't heard how much money was raised this year, but I hope the neighbors were as generous as they could afford to be. The men and women of our volunteer fire departments serve without pay in a vital and dangerous job. At least, the rest of us should support the fundraisers that help them purchase the equipment, suits, and supplies they need.

Honey Grove Volunteer Fire Department trucksFiretrucks moved outside for the day


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Saturday, October 20, 2007

Friendship Quilt

Quilt made by the Christian County (KY) Extension Clubs



Extension clubs friendship quilt

This lovely quilt hangs in a meeting room in the Extension Service building at Hopkinsville, KY. Each block was made by one of the Christian County Homemaker Clubs.

The new Extension Service building has been finished for several years, but this was the first time that I'd visited this big meeting room. One of the county agents, a friend of ours, retired this week, and we were invited to come by and eat a piece of "retirement cake" at a reception that honored his 32 years of service.

The white walls and rather sterile atmosphere accent the fabrics and handwork of the quilt. It's the sparkling jewel of the room.

Retirement cake

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Tall Corn and Steel-wheeled Tractors

Farming in the early 1920s



Image of an old-time farm tractorAvery Tractor from the early 20th century


I love the old-time photographs in my 1920 World Geographies book. Here are a couple of farming images from the 1920s or before. Today, the tractor above would be over 85 years old, but at that time, it was the cutting edge of farm technology. The text has these comments:

On these large farms [in the upper Great Plains] a particularly valuable help to the farmer is the modern farm tractor. This machine burns gasoline or other forms of petroleum, is very strongly built, and takes the place of many men and horses in hauling heavy loads and performing difficult tasks. With it a dozen plows can be pulled at once; plowing and harrowing can be performed in one operation; or the engine may be used to pump water or to saw wood. Some of them have high wheels; but many of them creep along the roughest ground with "caterpillar" tread like the mighty Army "tanks."

Source of the above quotation and the accompanying images: World Geographies: Second Book, by Ralph S. Tarr and Frank M. McMurry, copyrighted in 1920. Published in 1922 by The MacMillan Company, New York


Look how tall the corn is in the photo below from this old book. The tallest stalks must be 12 to 15 feet in height. I remember my parents talking about the tall corn they remembered from their childhood.

Notice also the variation in the size of the plants. The seed was open-pollinated in those days, and every plant was different. Today, corn seed producers tightly control the pollination of each plant to produce tons of seed that is exactly identical (or as identical as possible.) That's why every plant in a modern cornfield is pretty much the same size.

Nowadays, field corn has been hybridized and selected for size of ear, disease resistance, and days to harvest. If we start using the entire corn plant to produce biofuels, we may start seeing tall corn like this again!

Tall corn in the early 1920sA Nebraska farmer of the early 20th century
stands in a field of tall corn.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Wind Has Passed

Windy day



Windy hilltopIt's nearly midnight, and the wind has finally died down. The windchimes have stopped clattering, and the electricity has quit flickering.

We've had a strong wind all day. This evening, wind gusts up to 50 mph were accompanied by a lot of thunder and lightning. We received no rain here.

A tornado was reported near Julien, about ten miles west of Hopkinsville, and another was reported near the Pennyrile State Forest in northwestern Christian County.

The flickering electricity was making the computer restart constantly so I turned it off and disconnected it from the phone line for most of the evening.

We did have a nice rain last night -- about 1-1/2 inches. We're very grateful!

Bar
Update:
The Kentucky New Era reports that strong winds blew over a lady's mobile home and left it upside down on Highway 109, northwest of Hopkinsville near the Pennyrile State Park. She was trapped inside it, and after rescue, was taken to the hospital for lacerations to her hands. Two other mobile homes nearby were damaged. The Northwest Volunteer Fire Department worked several hours in that area, clearing trees and debris from the roads.

No one, not even the National Weather Service, was able to say whether the damage was caused by a tornado or by straight winds. The National Weather Service reported a tornado in that area, but called it "unconfirmed." A team of weather investigators was supposed to visit the site today.

Casper Likes Autumn

Fallen leaves are fun!



Cat in autumn leavesCasper attempts to find the leaf that crackled

Reports of Prairie Fires and Wolves

Turn of the century homesteader adventures



I'm fascinated. I've recently discovered the New York Times (NYT) archives. To travel back in time, just use the search bar (below the masthead) and select the "1851-1980" option.

If you ever want to research U.S. history from 1850-1920, this is an excellent resource. NYT news reports within that time frame can be viewed free of charge in PDF format (Adobe Acrobat reader required.)

I spent a while today reading a few of the many old articles about Hopkinsville, KY. Wow, what an eye-opener regarding local history. To summarize it in just a few words: slavery, its aftermath, and tobacco. I may write a post or two about some of the events, but I need to read more of it first.

I even found a couple of short, but interesting stories, about Rock County, Nebraska, in the NYT archives. (Rock County in northern Nebraska is where I grew up.) Both articles are from the era when northern Nebraska was being homesteaded.

A February 24, 1911, dispatch from Bassett, Nebraska, reports that 1000 men and women conducted an intensive wolf hunt (PDF file) over 175 square miles in northwestern Rock County. Apparently they didn't find as many wolves as they had expected.

The homesteaders probably didn't realize what a large range wolves may have. According to a PBS website, "Wolf packs usually live within a specific territory, which typically ranges in size from 50 square miles to 1,000 square miles, depending on prey." I expect that some substantial livestock losses led the homesteaders to organize the hunt.

The other article is a report from Newport, Nebraska, in November of 1892. It concerns a prairie fire that 200 people from Newport and Bassett went to fight.

No lives were lost, but some families lost their homes, barns, and everything they owned as well as many tons of hay. In other cases, the buildings were saved. At the time of the report, the fire was still burning fiercely in a southeasterly direction.

At that time, a great deal of hay was shipped out of the Newport area via the railroad. It was terrible to lose the year's hay harvest.

Some families had to take refuge in lakes and wells. Water for firefighting would have been brought by horse and wagon from such sources. Probably "gunny sacks" were soaked in water and used to beat back the flames. They might have plowed firebreaks around the buildings that they managed to save.

This prairie fire took place at Clarksville in Clark County. I have no idea where Clark County was, but apparently it was close to Newport, Nebraska. I can only guess that it might be a "ghost county."

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Old Van Has New Home

Bread truck to be refurbished



I don't know what part, if any, Prairie Bluestem had in the sale, but the 1954 bread truck apparently has a new owner.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Sunset Chat with a Mennonite Career Girl

Conversation along a country road



Autumn sunset

I had a nice walk tonight with Isaac and both cats. Whenever the cats come along, the walk is just a stroll, but that was all right. I wasn't feeling too energetic anyhow. I took this photo at the bottom of the hill, at the junction of our lane and the highway.

Isaac and the cats dropped out when we came back by the house. I walked on down the new road that our Mennonite neighbor has built to his newly-wed son's house. Along the way, I met a young Mennonite lady. She was barefoot, so she was walking at the edge of the freshly-plowed field rather than on the gravel.

We chatted a while. She is here from Pennsylvania, visiting for a few weeks. Two of her brothers and their families live just east of us, and another brother lives a few miles away.

She said that she works in a greenhouse in the spring and summer, where they sell bedding plants. The busy season at the greenhouse is over for this year, so she is on vacation until February.

It was interesting to talk to her. I finally had to excuse myself and go home because it was getting dark.

The greenhouse is her career for now; if she marries, she will probably retire. Young married Mennonite women don't usually have outside jobs; they are busy with the work of being a wife and a mother. Her trips to Kentucky will be one of her memories of her young, single days.

Drought Continues in Kentucky

Hoping for a wet winter



Christian County, Kentucky, like most of the state, is still in desperate need of rain. All of Kentucky is experiencing severe, extreme, or exceptional drought. Our county is in the extreme drought category, about 12 inches below normal in rainfall at present.

A recent headline in the Kentucky New Era summarizes the sad story of the harvest: "Corn yields down 50 percent, tobacco down 30 percent, soybeans devastated."

A cold front is bringing us a shower tonight, and we're thankful for it. I hope it rains all night. Some farmers have sowed their winter wheat, and this little shower should help it germinate.

I imagine the firefighters are as thankful for rain as the farmers are. Our volunteer fire departments have had a hard summer of field and forest fires.

A recent article in the Kentucky New Era described the toll that constant fire-fighting has taken on the equipment of the volunteer fire departments. Most of them use older equipment that requires ongoing repair, even in the best of times.

Our burn ban in Christian County had been lifted after we received a little rain, but now has been re-imposed. In fact, there's a burn ban across the entire state.

The Kentucky Department of Agriculture has set up a website and hotline for farmers who are buying or selling hay. I've met several big loads of hay on our little highway recently, apparently going to a farm in our area.

There is a bit of good news about the weather. We're supposed to have a "La NiƱa winter," and in Kentucky, that typically means a wet, mild winter.

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Monday, October 15, 2007

Another Table Decor Idea

Perfect favor for a Valentines Day party





At the LWML luncheon last Saturday, one of these spoons was placed at each table setting. Purple and gold are the LWML colors, so they were made with yellow net and purple ribbon. Each spoon held three Hershey's kisses. I can certainly imagine them made with red net, a white ribbon, and a Valentines Day message on a heart-shaped tag.

Country Ham Festival in Cadiz, KY

Big crowd in Cadiz for 2007 Ham Fest



Saturday was a busy day for the Netz family. Isaac went to Nashville and Dennis spent the day with the Boy Scouts in Clarksville. I played the piano for a women's service group's district meeting at our church, and then drove over to Cadiz, KY, to meet Keely and her boyfriend at the Trigg County Country Ham Festival.

Main Street of Cadiz, Country Ham Festival 2007The Kentucky New Era (KNE) had reported that Cadiz was expecting up to 60,000 visitors over the weekend, and there was definitely a huge crowd there when I arrived at about 4:00 p.m.

I found a parking place right away at the First Baptist Church lot, just east of the festival area. I walked down the hill and with the help of the cell phone, found Keely and her group.

Dozens of booths (over 200, according to the KNE) lined the sidewalks, and the air was full of the aroma of food. Vendors were selling country ham biscuits, as well as the usual corn dogs, popcorn, etc. Other booths had all sorts of merchandise. "Ms. Triggy" was posing for pictures with children, and clowns were making balloon animals. Keely said there were carnival rides in the area where she had parked.

The hog-calling contest was in progress. Several ladies called first. The winner was decided after a "call-off" between the top two contenders, and she received a $50 savings bond. Then the men competed. One fellow embellished his hog call with his interpretation of hog snuffling. Another fellow gave an "Ozark hog call," and another contestant declined the microphone because he had plenty of natural volume. The winner was decided by applause, and another $50 savings bond was awarded.

We went in several of the antique stores. Keely tried on some old hats and I bought 8 old snapshots at the bargain price of 4/$1.00 and an accompanist's edition of the 1966 Methodist Hymnal. Here's a yo-yo quilt I saw in one of the stores. (I've written about the nice antique stores in Cadiz before.)

Cadiz has many concrete pigs on the sidewalks in front of the stores and even in front of some of the houses. I think they are probably a Chamber of Commerce project or something similar. Each one has a unique paint job. They're very cute. A few samples:


I had to get home so I could get food ready for a church potluck dinner, so I left at about 6:30 p.m. A country singer was entertaining a big crowd as I walked back to my car, and the streets were still packed with people. When I stopped at the gas station on the way out of town, a beautiful sunset was lighting the sky.

Sunset over Sonic in Cadiz, KY

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Sunday, October 14, 2007

Cubans go to unusual lengths to post blogs

Gutsy Cuban bloggers



Cubans go to unusual lengths to post blogs

This is an interesting and very revealing article about the limitations on free speech in Cuba. It's well worth reading, just to gain a fresh appreciation for the freedoms we enjoy in the United States.

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Saturday, October 13, 2007

Autumn Flowers

Eupatorium coelestinum, wild ageratum, blue mistflower



Blue mistflower

If you live in western Kentucky, you'll see these purple/blue wildflowers blooming in the road ditches right now.

They are Eupatorium coelestinum, or blue mistflower, also called wild ageratum. They are one of my favorite wildflowers. As you might guess when you look at the flower, they're a member of the aster family.

They like moist areas. I sometimes see them growing side-by-side with goldenrod which is a very nice color combination. This solitary specimen is growing in a damp area in the ditch just up the hill from our mailbox.

Only slightly related:
I couldn't resist buying the flowered handkerchiefs below. They are just a sample of the patterns in the stack of ladies' hankies at the Mennonite store at Fairview (KY.)

Ladies handkerchiefs

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Friday, October 12, 2007

Remember Popcorn Balls?

Old-fashioned popcorn treats



When I was a child in northern Nebraska, popcorn balls were a holiday treat. If there was a party, someone might bring a bowl of popcorn balls. After the Christmas program at school or church, you might get a little paper sack of hard candy with a popcorn ball tucked into the top of it.

The popcorn was held in ball form by an adhesive -- a syrup, cooked at a high temperature. When it reached about 275°, it was poured over the popped corn. Then the cook, working quickly with buttered hands, shaped the hot, sticky corn into balls. When the syrup cooled, it hardened. Popcorn balls were chewy, and sometimes scratchy.

Some people's popcorn balls were packed so hard that you could barely bite them, and other people's popcorn balls were barely stuck together. It depended on the cook's method, mood, and recipe.

The flavor of the syrup varied, too. Sometimes it was molasses-based. At Christmas time, the popcorn balls were often made with red or green syrup. I think some people used Kool-ade mix to add color and flavor.

Except for a batch of popcorn balls that I made about ten years ago just for fun, I don't think I've seen a popcorn ball for several decades. Have they fallen from favor, or am I just living outside the popcorn-ball zone?

I have six Mennonite and Amish church cookbooks. It is interesting that the only one that has any popcorn recipes is the Kansas Mennonite cookbook.

I checked several of my modern cookbooks and didn't find any recipes for popcorn balls, but my 1960s Fannie Farmer, Betty Crocker, and Good Housekeeping cookbooks all have popcorn ball recipes with several variations.

My 1947 edition of The Household Searchlight Recipe Book has a "Prize Winning Recipe" for popcorn balls from Winifred J. Wells of Mooers, New York. I've posted it and a recipe for an oven-baked popcorn crunch on my recipe blog.

Related site:
History of Popcorn, Caramel Corn, Cracker Jacks, Popcorn Balls. The Nebraska popcorn-ball "legend" at the bottom of the page is interesting. I've never seen heard of sugar cane growing in Nebraska, but maybe they mean sorghum? They do grow a lot of popcorn there.

Update:
Jello Popcorn Balls. My sister says the recipes at this site are similar to the popcorn balls she made when her older sons were little. (That would have around 20 years ago!) The Jello syrup doesn't require a long, hard boiling and a candy thermometer to make sure you've got it to the right stage.

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Marigolds for Keely

My daughter's favorite flowers



Marigolds

My daughter Keely has always loved marigolds. When she was little, I had a big garden every year with lots of marigolds mixed in with the vegetables. I'm sure that's where she developed an affection for them.

Keely used to say that she was going to have marigolds at her wedding. I don't know if she still thinks that or not.

I like the brash scent of marigolds. It's part of their personality -- they're bright and spicy. I wouldn't want to wear their fragrance myself, but for marigolds, it's just right.

I've always liked the yellow marigolds a little better than the orange ones. In fact, the marigolds in the photo are my favorite sort of marigolds. Like Keely, I developed an affection for them when I was a little girl because my mother grew them.

Another reason I like them is that they're easy to start from seed. The seeds are big enough that they're not hard to handle, and they germinate fairly quickly. They're not too fussy about how deep they're planted. In the garden or a flowerbed, they'll often reseed themselves.

These marigolds have struggled through months of drought this summer, and now that it's nearly time for frost, they're finally looking pretty. I'll hate to see them go.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Stovetop Popcorn Is Still Possible

I love microwave popcorn, but I can live without it.



Popcorn I suppose you've heard the bad news about microwave popcorn. Some people who've worked in popcorn factories have a serious lung condition from inhaling the chemical, diacetyl.

Opinions vary about how much a typical user of microwave popcorn is at risk. It seems prudent to avoid inhaling the steam as much as possible.

Due to the worker safety and possible consumer health issues, I've been thinking that we should give up microwave popcorn until they stop putting diacetyl in it. I have a couple boxes of microwave popcorn on hand, but when they're gone, maybe I'll just get a bag of regular popcorn.

On the other hand, I hope that microwave popcorn companies don't lose so much business that they go broke, causing all the workers to lose their jobs!

We used to make air-popped corn, and before that, stove-top popcorn. I don't think I have my air popper anymore, but I do still have my cast iron skillets.

All you need to make popcorn in a skillet is

  • a little cooking oil
  • popcorn to cover the bottom of the pan 1 kernel thick
  • a lid
  • medium-high heat
  • patience and vigilance

It takes at least five minutes before the popping starts. When the corn finally begins popping, shake the skillet sideways constantly to keep the corn from burning. Listen carefully, and when the popping stops, take the popcorn off the stove immediately and dump it into a bowl.

With all that pan-rattling, stovetop popcorn is a noisy project. I'll bet many of us have happy memories of that sound, though.

My mother used to make caramelized popcorn. She added a bit of sugar, and she popped it with vigorous pan-shaking. I don't know how she avoided burning the sugar -- I can't do it! Sometimes, I get a bag of kettle corn at a fair or carnival, and it reminds me of my mother's popcorn.

Later, when I was in college, I had a little electric popcorn popper. It was an electric heat coil and a pan that fit onto it. Many of the girls in the dormitory had them, and every evening, the smell of popcorn filled the hallways. Often, it was the smell of burnt popcorn. Those electric coils had no thermostat.

We had an air popper when our kids were younger, and they made many big bowls of popcorn with it. Air-popped corn is bland, so they spritzed it with Pam® cooking spray and dumped salt on it, to add flavor. Most of the salt could be found in the bottom of the bowl when the popcorn was gone.

Unfortunately, the old methods of making popcorn produce dirty dishes. That's one of the reasons that microwave popcorn has become so popular in my home and across the nation. I hope they get this diacetyl problem solved soon.

Related:
Popcorn popularity high despite cautions

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Hopkinsville's Fire Station and Transportation Museum

Renovation of an old fire station is underway.



Old clock tower in Hopkinsville, KYThe clock tower on Hopkinsville's old fire station is looking very spiffy these days. It has fresh paint and perhaps even a new roof. It's a well-known landmark, sometimes used as a logo for Hopkinsville. I'm glad to see it looking so well.

The fire station and clock date back to 1924. The clock has been cleaned and repaired recently, and it's keeping good time on all four sides. Before its repair, it was seriously losing time.

Old fire station and clock tower, Hopkinsville, KYThe work on the clock tower is part of the renovation of the old fire station. It will eventually be opened as the Woody Winfree Fire and Transportation Museum.

Woody Winfree donated Hopkinsville Fire Engine No. 1, a 1928 La France to the museum several years ago, as well as other articles from his extensive collection of old fire-fighting equipment and memorabilia.

Regarding Winfree's donation:
The City of Hopkinsville originally purchased the truck in 1928 for $1 per pound. The $13,750 sticker price marked the greatest expenditure for fire equipment to that point by the city. It was the first truck in the Hopkinsville Fire Department built from the ground up solely as a fire engine. It was active for 40 years until it was declared surplus in 1968. Winfree brought it at that time.

Source: "A Herculean Task" by Matt Killebrew, Kentucky New Era, January 27, 2004 (Subscription may be required -- not sure.)


1928 LaFrance fire engine
The La France had a cracked block when the article was written in 2004, but it was scheduled to undergo repair.

A Mogul Wagon will be displayed here. The museum also owns a 1926 pumper, another fire truck of unknown-to-me vintage, a 1909 Model 10 Buick, a restored Model T, a 1957 John Deere tractor, and a collection of antique gas pumps.

I walked by the fire station a few days ago and peeked inside. A couple of men were working on the lights. When one of them saw me taking photos of the old front doors, he invited me to come to the rear of the building and admire the new doors. They are replicas of the old door, and they look great.


New back doors at fire station museumOriginal front doors at fire station museum

He pointed out the openings in the ceiling where the firemen slid down poles, just like the story books always said they did. I asked about the corrugation of the concrete floor in front of the back door. He explained that when they came back from a fire run, they came through the back door, and the corrugation helped to clean the horses' feet and the wheels of the fire equipment.

Renovation crew inside fire station museum
The old fire station is located across the street from the Pennroyal Museum. It will be a nice addition to Hopkinsville. Mr. William Turner, our very knowledgable county historian is deeply involved in the project. Besides his natural interest and his professional duties, the renovation is taking place next door to his office.

A few weeks ago when I came out of the courthouse, I heard a loud, spluttering engine, and over the hill came Mr. Turner, driving an old fire truck down Main Street. It made me happy to see that. I'm sure it was pretty cool to be at the wheel, too.

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Monday, October 08, 2007

Fiery Sunset

Fireball over Hopkinsville



Bright sunset over Hopkinsville, KY

I was glad I was turning east at this intersection instead of west. I'm sure the sun was blinding. This was taken at the intersection of Highway 68/80 and the Pennyrile Parkway, east of downtown Hopkinsville, KY.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

"Y" Exercise?

Meaningless motion



Walking on a treadmillSometimes when I'm at the Y, walking on the treadmill or riding the exercise bike, I look at the other people in the room and wonder why we're all there.

Of course, we're all trying to stay healthy. But it's amazing that we choose to waste so much body strength and energy on worthless motion.

Obviously, our lives don't demand much hard physical labor nowadays if we join special clubs just so we can burn calories and use our muscles.

We labor and the machines go, but nothing is produced. You'd think they could rig those machines to pump water or produce electricity or something. Then the "Watts" reading on the machine's workout statistics display would actually mean something.

One day this week, a man -- a chubby fellow -- had a Coke and a bag of chips with him on one of the elliptical machines. He was stepping along in a leisurely manner, sipping and nibbling.

When his Coke and chips were gone, he got off the machine and left. Wow, talk about unproductive motion!

I'm a little surprised they let him take food in there, but maybe there isn't an official policy about it. Maybe no one had ever imagined that someone would want to eat chips while working out.

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Thursday, October 04, 2007

Steel Wheeled Tractor at a Mennonite Farm

Steel wheels limit contact with the world.



Tractor with steel wheels on a Mennonite farm

I drove a Mennonite neighbor lady to the dentist this morning. She was still helping in the dairy barn when I arrived to pick her up. A cow was having a calf, and things weren't going well. The vet was there to assist, and my neighbor lady was finishing up the milking while her husband helped the vet.

All ended well. Both the cow and calf should be all right, and we arrived at the dentist appointment in plenty of time.

While I was waiting for the neighbor lady to get ready, I snapped this photo of their steel-wheeled tractor, parked on the ramp to the haymow (2nd floor) of their barn. Their church rules (Wenger Mennonite) require them to use the steel wheels.

The idea behind the rule is that steel wheels prevent the tractor from becoming a vehicle for travel. While they don't see anything morally wrong with riding in cars and other motorized vehicles, they choose not to own them because vehicles decrease ties to their own community and increase ties to the world.

The steel wheels are durable, but they probably compact the soil more than pneumatic tires. They are surely rough-riding, also. Maybe that's part of the reason why many Mennonites go to the chiropractor regularly.

Steel wheels in some other Anabaptist groups



I've read that Old Order Amish farmers in some areas use steel-wheeled tractors, but all the Old Order Amish around here farm with horses. They sometimes use farm equipment that is powered by a stationary gasoline engine, but pulled through the field by workhorses. I've seen them baling hay with this sort of setup.

The New Order Amish here (Beachy Amish) have fully accepted pneumatic tires, and they do indeed use tractors as road vehicles. They usually pull an old pickup truck box that's been converted into a covered trailer. The husband drives, and everyone else rides in the trailer. The tractors go 30 or 35 mph on the highway, and they often drive them to town and all over the county.

Out in the Wichita, Kansas, area where my brother lives, some of the Mennonite groups use steel wheels that have a regular tractor tire stretched over them -- no air or fluid involved. The rubberized wheels have a bit of a shock absorber, but they still impose a physical limitation on the distance that can be traveled on them.

My brother says that sometimes "English" farmers buy the rubberized steel wheels for equipment they are going to use for brush-hogging and other rough work. (The Mennonites call us "English" because that's our main language.)

Carriage house



Morning glories in October sunshineI also saw these morning glories in our neighbor's yard while I was waiting this morning. The vines are growing on a nice new shed, across the driveway from the barn. The shed has a workshop on one end, and a carriage house on the other end.

I had to think a while to come up with the term "carriage house" in the last paragraph. First I wrote that it was "like a carport." Then I called it "a storage area for buggies and bicycles." Next, I tried "garage." Finally, I remembered that there is a perfectly good, old-fashioned word for the shed where the buggy is kept.

Related site:
John Deere Steel Wheel Tractors

Related posts:
Mennonites and Amish in Christian County, Kentucky
Horse and Buggy Country

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CONTENTMENT: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry, live simply, expect little, give much, sing often, pray always, forget self, think of others and their feelings, fill your heart with love, scatter sunshine. These are the tried links in the golden chain of contentment.
(Author unknown)

IT IS STILL BEST to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasure; and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.
(Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957)

Thanks for reading.