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.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Dr. Jesse Beck of Woodville, KY

A scrap of Western Kentucky history


Tonight at work, an elderly gentleman told me about an old book he owns. It's an antique paperback -- I think he said it has 60 pages -- and it's deteriorating. He wants his son, a chiropractor, to scan it and preserve it digitally.

The book describes the life and medical practice of Dr. Jesse Beck, a physician of the Civil War era in Woodville, KY. It was written by Beck's grandson.

My customer told me a little about the doctor as described in the book. Dr. Beck was a holistic physician; he believed that the health of body, mind, and spirit are interdependent.

Dr. Beck was also an herbalist who concocted many of his own medicines. Every year, he traveled to a distant city herbal market and bought back herbs from all over the world. One of his most popular and effective remedies was an herbal emetic; patients took the medicine and vomited out any poisons threatening their health.

After I got home tonight, I looked for information about Dr. Jesse Beck on the internet. I found him mentioned twice in History and Families, McCracken County, Kentucky, 1824-1989. The book's section on Woodville history says that Dr. Beck came to Woodville, KY, in 1852 from Todd County, KY.

The McCracken County history book mentions Dr. Beck again in the life history of Walter Elmo Jenkins. (Jenkins's wife, Alma, was Dr. Beck's niece.) Dr. Beck is described as a "botanic doctor" who was living near Woodville in December,1852, in a cabin with a split log floor and a few basic pieces of furniture.

For lack of a better image and more information, I'll imagine Dr. Beck as "The Country Doctor", in the old print that we, the people of the United States, keep at the Library of Congress.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Jefferson Davis and the Mennonites

Seen in Fairview, KY


Old Highway 68, west of Fairview, KY
Jefferson Davis Monument in background

Horse-drawn vehicles are a common sight in Fairview, KY. The area around this rural village has been heavily settled by Mennonites. Two Mennonite churches and several Mennonite schools (that I know of) are located within a five mile radius -- evidence of the large population.

Mennonite commerce at Fairview

The Fairview Produce Auction (a Mennonite cooperative) brings heavy Mennonite and Amish traffic to Fairview in spring, summer, and fall. Most of the produce growers are Mennonite and Amish farm families. Many of the farmers come to the auction in horse-drawn wagons loaded with boxes of tomatoes, bags of sweet corn, and heaps of melons. Others pull a trailer behind a tractor or hire a pickup truck.

Across from the auction grounds, a Mennonite lady has opened a discount grocery. She sells dented cans and out-of-date goods, but she also has a small selection of bulk goods -- several types of flour, common spices, yeast, etc. In the back of the store, she has a little deli counter. I'm not sure if she has more Deutsch customers or English; the two worlds overlap at the Pennysaver Market.

On the northern edge of Fairview, at the intersection of Britmart Road and Highway 68, an enterprising Mennonite family has opened a nursery. It's popular with folks from neighboring towns because it's on a major highway. They enjoy driving out in the country and visiting a Mennonite nursery without fear of getting lost.

Jefferson Davis Monument at Fairview

And then there's Fairview's other big attraction -- the Jefferson Davis Monument, a 351-foot concrete obelisk that commemorates the birthplace of the President of the Confederate States of America. It was a project of the Daughters of the Confederacy. Construction began in 1917, and the monument was finally completed in 1924.

Jefferson Davis was born in Fairview in 1808, in a log cabin near the present site of the monument. The actual site of the cabin has been occupied by the Bethel Baptist Church for many years. In fact, Jefferson Davis visited the church in 1886 and presented it with a solid silver communion salver and chalice. 

The Jefferson Davis State Historic Site occupies about 19 acres in the middle of Fairview. Visitors can ride the elevator to the top of the monument, see an interpretive video and exhibits, and visit the gift shop. The park has beautiful mature shade trees, two large picnic shelters and a nice playground. It's a popular site for family reunions on summer weekends.

On the first weekend of June each year, the birthday of Jefferson Davis is celebrated with Civil War reenactments at the monument. The participants (and a significant number of observers) wear garb of the mid-19th century, especially hoop skirts and Civil War military uniforms. Southern belles can enter the Miss Confederacy contest.

Jefferson Davis Days is a curious event in a curious little town, and the tourists who stumble upon it and also encounter the Mennonites must think Fairview a very curious place indeed.

Related posts:
The Glory of Fairview, KY
Jefferson Davis Monument, Fairview, KY
Seen at Fairview, KY
Pennysaver Market at Fairview, KY
Mennonites and Amish in Christian County, KY

Cat Nap

Simple pleasures



Casper lives by the cat rule, "If you like it, take a nap on it." As you can see, he likes my housecoat.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Mennonite Farm

Somewhere in time





Christian County, Kentucky, has many Mennonite and Amish farmers. In our part of the county, many of our neighbors are Mennonites. This farm (photo above) belongs to one of our Mennonite neighbors.

The yellow strip just past the tree in the center of the photo is a long row of daffodils, blooming beside the vegetable garden. In the summer, red cannas bloom at the garden's edge.

The Mennonite farmers around here are fond of concrete stave silos like the ones in the photo. These silos aren't used much by other farmers, nowadays. The Mennonites will often buy an old silo that's been sitting empty for years, tear it down, rebuild it, and put it back into use. It's a good deal for everyone involved.

The home in the photo is typical of dozens of recently-built Mennonite homes in this area. Most are large, plain, 2-story structures with attic space for storage. The wide front porch (not visible in this photo) is a good place for drying laundry on a rainy day. The main door usually opens to a big kitchen, in true farmhouse style.

I think this photo could pass for a scene from half a century ago, except for a few details -- the machinery in front of the barn and the style of the electric fence posts might be too recent. But just put those minor items out of your mind, and click here to see the same image in black and white as it might have been captured in an earlier time.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

13 Things Men Have Written About Women

Thursday Thirteen


Keely picked up a little book of quotations for me at a thrift shop. Its title is Women: Pro and Con, and it was published in 1958 by the Peter Pauper Press, Mount Vernon. No editor is listed.

The foreword suggests that the book presents a balanced view of women because the few quotations that praise women are much more heartfelt than the multitude of sarcastic quotations about women. Well, maybe. At any rate, here are thirteen interesting quotes.

 1. "Never any good came out of female domination. God created Adam master and lord of living creatures, but Eve spoiled all."
-- Martin Luther (1483-1546)

 2. "In the East, women religiously conceal that they have faces; in the West, that they have legs. In both cases they make it evident that they have but little brains."
-- Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)

 3. "Women have great talent, but no genius, for they always remain subjective."
-- Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)

 4."Women are nothing but machines for producing children."
-- Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821)

 5. "Woman's advice has little value, but he who won't take it is a fool."
-- Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616)

 6. "Nature has given women so much power that the law has wisely given her very little."
-- Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)

 7. "If you wish women to love you, be original; I know a man who wore fur boots summer and winter, and women fell in love with him."
-- Anton Chekhov (1860-1904)

 8. "When women love us, they forgive us everything, even our crimes; when they do not love us, they give us credit for nothing, not even our virtues."
-- Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850)

 9. "Take my word for it, the silliest woman can manage a clever man, but it needs a very clever woman to manage a fool."
-- Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)

10. "Being a woman is a terribly difficult trade, since it consists principally of dealings with men."
-- Joseph Conrad (1857-1924)

11. "Women, cats and birds are the creatures that waste the most time on their toilets."
--Charles Nodier (1780-1844)

12. "To be beautiful is enough! If a woman can do that well who shall demand more from her? You don't want a rose to sing."
-- William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-1863)

13. "A man is in general better pleased when he has a good dinner than when his wife talks Greek."
-- Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)

Core Values and the Golden Rule

In accord on what's important



Tonight while driving home from work, I heard Jim Bohannon visiting with David Armstrong, president and CEO of Armstrong International and a fifth-generation member of the family that owns the firm. His company specializes in steam, air, and hot water systems and has been doing business for over a century.

Armstrong credits the firm's success and longevity to a corporate culture of honesty, integrity and decency. When they hire an employee, he explained, they consider it more important to find someone who will fit well into their culture than to find someone who has a set of skills that exactly match the job description.

What is the culture of Armstrong International? The company's motto is the Golden Rule: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Every employee must share and live the company's core values; these include honesty, fairness, respect, trust, and faith in God, family, and job. See their website's statement of mission, core values, and guiding principles for more about what they consider important.

I suppose all this traditional morality could get a bit "preachy", but David Armstrong teaches by telling stories, not by lecturing. He believes stories (and their morals) can motivate, strengthen bonds, and convey principles so that a workplace culture is built over time, and its values are internalized and exemplified by every employee.

Armstrong is a motivational speaker, as well as a successful CEO and author. His latest book is Hanging by A Thread : The Erosion of the Golden Rule in America (available at Amazon, Abebooks, and dozens of other places).

The Armstrong International website has a free download (PDF) of a little book of Armstrong company proverbs. You can also read a sampling of David Armstrong's stories at his website and watch video clips from his talks.

For me, it was refreshing to learn about a company whose high standards of conduct have enabled it to persevere and prosper. What a contrast to the sad stories of slipshod, self-centered, reckless business mismanagement that I've heard too often recently.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The View From the Hilltop

Early spring in Christian County, KY



I went with Dennis this afternoon to haul some wood he had cut and split. He's been working on a huge  hickory tree that Hurricane Isaac took down in September, 2008.

Now, two long sections of the tree's thick trunk are left. Dennis says that he probably won't cut and split much more of it because the slices of trunk are just too heavy to manhandle. He's going to look into selling the logs.

We stopped at the landowner's house for a few minutes.  I took this photo of the view he enjoys, while he and Dennis were talking. The landowner is retired and he lives alone. He has a small herd of cattle, a horse, and a dog.

The tree Dennis has been cutting up is in the horse's pasture. The horse doesn't like the noisy chainsaw and log splitter, and he stays as far away as possible. The commotion doesn't bother the dog, though; he always comes down to say hello and see what's happening.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Art Deco Facade in Greenville KY

Old building with a 1930s update



I saw this building last fall in Greenville, KY, on a corner near the courthouse in the downtown business district.

The second and third floors appear to have their original fancy window heads. I think the windows might have some Italianate influence, even though the roof line isn't anything special. (If I'm wrong about Italianate, please don't hesitate to correct me.)

I am positive about this -- the concrete front of the building at ground level is Art Deco in style. It was almost certainly added in the 1920s or 1930s. My theory is that a new generation took ownership of the building and wanted to modernize the store front. The fine Art Deco fire station and city hall, built by WPA workers just a block away, may have provided inspiration.

The Art Deco facade was an inappropriate modernization that totally destroyed the building's architectural integrity. However, it's interesting that the facade has developed some architectural value of its own, with the passage of time. I doubt if that will happen with the 1960s facades that Mark wrote about in the comments of another post.






Note: I originally subtitled this post "19th century building with a 1930s update", but I've changed it to "Old building with a 1930s update". I've decided I shouldn't try to estimate the building's age. The building appears to be made of concrete blocks. I did some research on concrete blocks this morning. Hollow concrete block became widely available in the early 1900s, due to new, widely-available block-making machinery. However, both solid and hollow concrete blocks were made and used by individual contractors as early as the mid-1800s.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

IOOF Building in Hopkinsville, KY

Built on a historic site






The IOOF Building, pictured above, is located on the northeast corner of 9th and Virginia Streets, in the historic business district of Hopkinsville, KY.

The dates at the building's crest are the year (1842) that a Odd Fellows lodge was organized in Hopkinsville  and the year (1902) that the building was constructed.  "IOOF" stands for "Independent Order of Odd Fellows" and "FLT" stands for "Friendship, Love, and Truth".

In 1930, Charles M. Meachem mentioned the Odd Fellows Building in his History of Christian County. Following a long list of the names of several generations of Odd Fellows, he recorded these details about the site and building:

These last [persons] named were in charge when the lodge took its great and wise step, and erected its own building, that soon enhanced in value, paid for itself in rentals, and has made the lodge the wealthiest lodge of the order in Kentucky. This step was taken in 1902, and the present three-story block was erected on the corner of Ninth and Virginia Streets, upon the exact site where the cabin home of Bartholomew T. Wood, the original settler of Hopkinsville, stood in the woods, and from the door of which the pioneer and his wife used to shoot the deer that came to drink from the Rock Spring in front of the cabin.

This three-story brick and stone building, on this historic spot, is handsome and commodious. The two first floors are rented. The third floor contains the lodge room, forty by sixty feet, which is not only used by the Odd Fellows but by other lodges, all of which are provided with separate property rooms.  (Source)


The building was falling into disrepair when the city of Hopkinsville took ownership and renovated it several years ago. It now provides office space for a financial advisor and a home health service on the first floor. The second floor has three apartments and another office.

My visit to the IOOF Building

This morning I went with a friend of Keely's to see a two bedroom apartment in the Odd Fellows Building. (Full disclosure: I asked to go along so I could see some of the building's interior.) We met our guide and entered the big front door on 9th Street (photo above). I think the ground floor of the building has 16-foot ceilings.

A long, wide staircase leads to the second floor -- about 25 steps. The second floor has 12-foot ceilings. (These are my estimates of the ceiling heights, not official data.) The man showing us the apartment said that the third floor is still a large open room, just as it has always been. I don't know if it has been renovated.

Our guide unlocked the door to the apartment. We stepped into a hallway that led to a small kitchen/living area at one end of the apartment. On the other end of the hallway, doors opened to the two bedrooms and the bath.

Each room (except the bath) has large windows that look out onto the rooftops of Hopkinsville's downtown.  I noticed the pigeons perched on chimneys across the street. In the photo at left, taken from Virginia Street, the three second-floor windows on the left side are in the apartment we visited.

The apartment was pleasantly clean and light. A laundry room is located at the rear of the building and a reserved parking space is provided. Keely's friend liked the apartment, and is hoping to rent it. I'd like to see the upper floors of more old buildings in Hopkinsville repurposed like this.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Old-time Brickwork

Interesting brick detailing





A corbel is defined as a shelf or ledge formed by projecting successive courses of masonry out from the face of the wall. Racking is defined as masonry in which successive courses are stepped back from the face of the wall. (Source)


Brick is added to a building from the bottom up, so the brick pattern at the top of this building was added by stepping the bricks out from the main wall. Thus, it must be a corbel, I think.

The pattern of the bricks is interesting and it also creates attractive shadows. There are bricklaying rules about how far each row of masonry can safely protrude beyond the previous row.

These are the second story windows and roof line of an old building in Hopkinsville, KY. It sits next to Metcalfe Flowers on East 7th Street.

I believe Mr. T. L. Metcalfe had a business here, about a century ago. He owned a laundry and a newspaper in addition to his flower business, and they were all located on East 7th Street. I don't know the building's recent history.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Spring Snow

Lady Spring wore white and green.



Sleet and snow with a sharp wind -- it felt like winter this afternoon. The roads were wet but not slick when I came home. Now the temperature has dropped to 30°, and we have about an inch of snow on the ground. Tomorrow's high will be in the 40s, so the snow won't last long. It won't hurt the winter wheat in the photo above. This was taken along Edwards Mill Road, east of Hopkinsville, KY. Little River is just behind the trees at left.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Sandhill Crane Cam 2009

Watch the Sandhill cranes at Rowe Sanctuary


Rowe Sanctuary's Sandhill Crane Cam is on the internet again this year, March 7 through April 8. Via the webcam, you can see and hear the great flocks of Sandhill cranes on Nebraska's Platte River as they rest and feed in preparation for the next leg of their migration.

Carolyn Hall, a retired lady who lives in my old hometown, Bassett, Nebraska, goes to Rowe Sanctuary every year as a volunteer guide for the Audubon Society. Hundreds of visitors come to observe the cranes from blinds at the river's edge.

In the morning, great flocks of cranes rise up from the river and fly out to the fields in the area to feed, and in the evening, they come back to the river for the night. It is a spectacle of nature.

Carolyn described the return of the Sandhill cranes this evening: "Great pink/orange sunset with thousands of cranes flying and it looked like landing on the meadows north of the river. The river is iced over except for a narrow ice filled channel."

Sleet, icy roads, and cold temperatures caused many people to cancel their tour reservations today, but the volunteers still kept the webcam going.

Carolyn will be running the camera on Thursday morning (March 12). She says that by 8:00 AM (CDT), there is enough light to get a good view of the river and the cranes. This morning in the cold and sleet, the cranes didn't leave the river until after 10:00 AM.

Ducks in a Row

Natural order





I saw these colorful ducks at Target last weekend. I like them, but I don't need them. I can't accumulate a big collection of spring decorations. The shed is already full of Christmas decorations. Besides, I already have the fireplace mantel ready for Easter with a cute little family of white ceramic rabbits.

The expression "get your ducks in a row" has a solid basis in duck behavior. Little ducks will follow their parent in a fairly orderly fashion, whether waddling through the grass or gliding through the water. It's a fascinating thing to see.

It's common to see even adult ducks swimming in a line or perched in a row. The same instinct for formation helps ducks fly with the flock in migration.

Herding ducks is another matter altogether, as any herd dog in competition would tell you.

In English, we mean "getting organized" when we speak of "getting our ducks in a row". Personally, I don't have a strong natural herding instinct. My ducks are usually all over the place, despite my barking at them. While I'm busy getting a couple of ducks in line, the rest of the flock wanders away.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

The Neighbor's Shed

Storage space



The dried plants are hollyhock blooms. Soon they'll be used for seed.

How to Eliminate Daylight Savings Time

Never "spring forward" again.



This is the night that we switch to Daylight Savings Time. I've already set my watch an hour ahead. It will take a week or two for my internal clock to synchronize. The anticipation of losing an hour's sleep is making me cranky already.

Keely has a good idea. Instead of setting the clocks an hour forward in spring and an hour backward in fall, how about this? Everyone sets their clocks forward half an hour and leaves them there permanently. We'll split the difference between the two time seasons and call it Standard Half Time (SHT). A brilliant idea, no?

It's true that people in other countries would need to add or subtract 30 minutes to go from their time to SHT. However, it should be an easy calculation for them. They already have to do conversions for many American units of measurements -- miles, inches, quarts, gallons, pounds, etc. In comparison to some of these, the SHT time conversion would be a few seconds of simple mental math.

Did you know this? Our nation's annual change-over to Daylight Savings Time probably isn't saving any energy, according to a study at the University of California, Santa Barbara. The small energy savings from an extra hour of natural light is offset by the extra hour of air conditioning that most people require in the summer, and the extra hour of heating in early spring and late fall.

Of course I'm spoofing about SHT, but really, why do we put ourselves through this annual unpleasantness if it's not accomplishing anything?

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Nine Historic Homes in Henderson, Kentucky

A few photographs of Henderson's historic residential district


I took these photos of handsome old homes in Henderson, KY, when my son Isaac and I visited the town last fall. Henderson has a great number of buildings, commercial as well as residential, that date back to the great days of tobacco shipping on the Ohio River.

It was hot on the afternoon we visited Henderson's historic residential district, and my companion was a little impatient. I didn't do the walking tour as I had hoped. Rather, I drove through the district and got out of the car a few times to take photographs of the luxurious homes built in Henderson's past.

It would be better to walk the tour than drive it as I did. It's often difficult to find a parking place, and some of the streets are heavily traveled. I didn't get to find and identify most of the houses and commercial buildings on the tour brochure.

Henderson is an interesting town. We would still have several days of things to see and do if we were to visit again. Maybe we'll go again this spring, with Dennis this time, so we can take him to the LST memorial  just across the river in Evansville, Indiana. Dennis is a Navy veteran, and he would really enjoy touring the ship. I'm planning to post some photos of our visit to the LST later this week.


Related posts:
Folk Masonry Seen in Henderson, KY
Audubon State Park 
Sunset Over the Ohio River

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Folk Masonry Seen in Henderson, KY

Eccentric brickwork



This modest little house in Henderson, KY, would be quite ordinary if its brickwork ran in straight, horizontal lines. However, as you can see (click the photo for a closer look), the bricks are laid in a very curious way.

The bricks at the corners are set mostly straight and square, but in the rest of the wall, the lines of brick and mortar meander around the stones. It's an interesting example of what I'd call eccentric brickwork or folk masonry.

I saw this little house last fall when my son Isaac and I camped at the Audubon State Park at Henderson for a couple of days. I'm planning to post more of the photos from that little excursion later this week.

Update:
When I got the top photo ready to post, I overlooked the photograph below of a more spectacular example of eccentricity in brick and stonework. As I recall, this home was near the one in the other photo.


Related posts:
Audubon State Park
Sunset Over the Ohio River

Sunday, March 01, 2009

March Landscape

Early spring in Christian County, Kentucky




March definitely came in like a lion here. The wind blew hard all day, and it is still blowing 10-15 mph. The overnight low is supposed to be about 18°. Brrrrr. The daffodils are almost ready to bloom, though.

I took this photo on my way home from work, late this afternoon. These trees sit on a little hill, and they are always so nicely silhouetted against the sky. The copper-toned grass may be little bluestem. It has a reputation for bright winter color, and it is native to this area.
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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.