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Down on the farm

Down on the farm
Out of the woods.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Ezekiel 36:28  And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be My people, and I will be your God.
Exodus 28:2 “Make special clothes for your brother Aaron. These clothes will give him honor and respect.
2 Corinthians 5  We know that our body—the tent we live in here on earth—will be destroyed. But when that happens, God will have a home for us to live in. It will not be the kind of home people build here. It will be a home in heaven that will continue forever. But now we are tired of this body. We want God to give us our heavenly home. It will clothe us and we will not be naked.
John 13:34-35 “I give you a new command: Love each other. You must love each other just as I loved you. All people will know that you are my followers if you love each other.”

I think I have mentioned before that my cousins are the siblings I did not have.  I looked forward to summers spent with Terry and Pris, Marlene, and Charles.  The big guys Colin,  and Dwayne were far too old to be companions, but around just enough to keep us careful. When we were younger Terry would come to our home in Rochester, MN for the summer.  We spent happy days roaming the medical museum, the historic museum, the Mayo Clinic, and whatever wonders Terry's inquisitive mind searched out. He was good at that...Terry could make fun happen from a trip to the store.  When we moved to Iowa I usually went to Terry's. We rambled the town, visited friends and cousins, walked out to Cocoa Beach, and baby-sat for money to spend for movies and cherry cokes at the drug store.  We hitched rides to  Washington, or to Grandma's out on the St. Claire Road so we could walk to the swimming pool at the country club. We were not members but someone always would sign us in. We sat up nights in the breathless Missouri heat and talked of futures and plans, dreams and movies, books and wishes, and what to do tomorrow.  We loved one another, as only two lonely onlies can love. We fostered dreams, we shared hurts and fears, we looked after one another.
It was a much simpler world. No one thought anything of two young teens wandering the streets and highways.  We were clean, decently dressed and minded our manners so we were accepted where ever we went.
One night we went to the Muny Opera in St. Louis, the show may have been ROBERTA, with Bob Hope. Afterward we stopped at a bistro for a sandwich and coke before the hour ride home.  Some how we'd miscalculated our money, or maybe it was lost or any rate we hadn't  enough cash to pay the bill.  I sat nervously nursing the rest of my coke while Terry ran to a nearby hotel and cashed a check.  Can you imagine such a thing today? The hotel cashed his check, the Bistro gave us no problems, and we went our embarrassed way.
Although you can be sure we checked our cash more carefully from then on, it didn't slow us down.  Once discovered, St. Louis was our goal, just a bus ride away. We did progressive dinners, beginning with a famous salad at a certain restaurant, and so on through 4 or 5 course meal.  We slipped into night clubs to hear the jazz, or comedy and no one questioned us as long as we did not order liquor.  Not a problem, we were there for the fun, the laughter and entertainment, booze was for adults at the American Legion at home, where the folks were. Where we avoided being and our absence was rarely noted.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Children of the American Revolution

On the eve of the Fourth of July, I want my children to know their own history. This story was hand written by Grandma Blanche Campbell Downs, my mother. I believe she copied it from a genealogy book researched and written by a Gideon cousin. Next time you are here, ask to see this. 
James Isham Gideon was born in Cork, Ireland in AD 1749 of Irish parentage. His father was a hatter (he made and sold hats) by trade and in humble circumstances.(I'm guessing this meant they were really poor!)
He (James) and his two half brothers landed in Norfolk, Va about August of 1764. They settled in Roanoke County, Va. on a large tract of land where they engaged in farming until the Revolutionary War. They joined the Continental Army under Washington and served during the war. (James) Emigrated to Hawkins Co., Tenn. on a farm on War Creek. (the parcel of land was his payment for serving in the army) He died in 1832.(He was 83) He was a Federalist or Anti-Tory, a hard shell Baptist and a Mason.
James G. Gideon (4th child) son of Isham Gideon #1 and Nancy Miller was born in 1822 in Tennessee. He died August 22 1874 in Franklin County MO. (aged 73) His first wife was Martha Eliza Parman? (I am not sure of the spelling.)  They married in Feb. of 1847 in Laurel Co. KY. She died May 12, 1865 in MO leaving 5 small children. On Oct 20, 1859 James married Lurana Butcher in Wright Co., MO. She was born in 1834 in Hawkins Co. TN and died in Franklin Co, MO in 1873.
During the Civil War he, along with his widowed mother and sister in law's family went to Franklin Co, MO for safety. They left Wright Co., known as Gideon Valley, to escape outlaws and bushwackers. When they returned after the war, all their property was destroyed. He sold his Wright Co. land and became a prosperous farmer in Franklin Co., MO. Both James and Lurana are buried on their Old Mill Creek Farm.

Sunday, March 27, 2016


When I was about 11 years old I pitched a real fit. It is the only time I ever remember throwing a fit and certainly the only time it worked. 
But this was beyond the pale. Daddy was going to visit Grandpa Downs and planned to go alone.
Since Grandpa lived with us for a year when I was six, we had been good buddies. He'd taught me to use the Dewey decimal system, and I used it to fetch his reference books for his grand
opus, the HISTORY OF THE AMERICAN PRESIDENCY. Since Grandpa moved to Evanville, IN and we had moved to Rochester, MN I had not seen my pal. We had spoken, and written occasionally, but had spent no time together at all and now Daddy was going to see him and leaving me home! They were going to go to some race in Indianapolis and Uncle Gene and cousin Jimmy were going, too.
It was SO unfair that Jimmy could go see Grandpa and see the race and I was being left home. Somehow this argument worked.
We were hitching a ride with a pilot who was delivering a 3 seater to it's new owner. I do not recall what kind of plane it was, certainly not the usual Cessna 140 or 170...for one thing it
did not have a tricycle landing gear, which interested me. How my father ended up in the pilot seat I do not know, but we took off into a beautiful blue yonder, and sailed past cotton puffs
and through rays of warming sun. I was small enough to fit in the single passenger seat in back, but I was crammed round with dufflel bags and luggage and barely had room to turn the
pages of my book. I must have drifted off, and when I woke we were circling the airport at Joliet. The familiar sinking feeling in the stomach told me we were losing altitude quickly. Maybe too quickly? Daddy kicked the rudder, nearly standing on it, pulling the stick so hard I could feel the constriction in my knees.....he was trying to turn the landing into a touch and go, but the plane was having none of it. The nose refused to lift and with a sickening thud the left landing gear crushed in on itself and the right wheel circled around it in a neck wrenching ground loop. The sudden halt threw me hard against the seat belt I still wore, then smoke drifted up from the overheated engine. Hands were pulling on me, 
jerking at the belt latch, dragging me roughly through the hatch, over the wing and onto the tarmac. Under the boiler suit, I defined a woman's figure, stocky and strong enough to hold
all 110 pounds of me in her arms. She set me down, patted me over, checked me out thoroughly and asked if I would like a cookie. I've never turned down a cookie in my life, so I said
yes, of course. Behind us the crunched plane was being sprayed down with fire retardant. I have no idea where my father was in all this time. Not by me. 
We took a train to Indianapolis and met up with Grandpa, Uncle Gene and Jimmy. We got to Indy, spent the night and got up early the next morning to get out to the track. Grandpa did not go. 
Even then, the Brick Yard was an amazing sight. We climbed nearly to the top of the bleachers. It was sunny and hot, and I was soon fried and miserable. After an eternity Bill Vukovich won. 
After dinner I was abandoned in the hotel room with a radio and a Gideon Bible for company while the "men" went out. I didn't 
even get to spend any time with Grandpa. The following day we took a long slow train ride back to Rochester. 
I spent most of the time wishing I'd lost the battle to attend the 1954 Indy 500.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

A Minute at the End of Love

Robby swept the light bulbs right off the dining table  and growled at me when I came in. I hung onto a chair, buggy eyed and scared by this odd behavior. Robby's eyes were red like from crying, but big brothers give piggy back rides, they never get mad and never, ever ever ever cry. His mother shushed him, saying something about little girls not being to blame for what big people did.
I had been at the Miller's house for two days. That wasn't unusual, Susie was my very best friend in the whole world. In the first week of the first grade she pulled me off the school steps and into the game she was playing. Her whole name was Brenda Sue Millard and she was right in the middle of the family. Her big sister, Letha was a senior in high school, Robby was 14, Brenda Sue was 8, then Billy who was 5 and Patsy who was 3. I liked to pretend that the Millards were my own family. Robby was the perfect big brother and I thought he liked me. The idea of Robby hating me made my tummy roll. I ran into the bathroom to throw up.   Susie followed me in. Accustomed to sick siblings she wiped my face with a wash cloth and patted my back, shushing, patting  and tsking me.
When we returned the glass was cleaned up and Robby had gone, to work, to practice, to somewhere else. Outside with the neighborhood kids we raced around the yard playing cowboys and rustlers and Indians. The morning scare was forgotten for the time being.  Mom picked me up just as we were starting to have fun.
A few weeks later my parents announced that we were moving again. We were going to Minnesota, two whole states away on the map. Mrs. Watson showed us on the big pull down map. She even drew a line along the road leading away from home so we could see how far it was. On the last day of third grade, Mrs. Watson, the best teacher ever in the whole wide world, pronounced that Susie and I were "best friends forever", but it didn't help. I wanted to stay, never to move again.
I was much older before I learned that my father's affair with a Millard sister in law had led to the suicide of a cousin just a year older than Robby the night before the light bulbs smashed on the dining room floor.
Sometimes we  get to understand what happens, just as the grownups tell us we will.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

4th of July Old Style

In our little town the 4th of July was a very big deal. The Parade formed behind Court House Square, looped around, and proceeded past our house, past the church, and marched the entire length of Pleasant Ave. to where the street dead ended at the park. The Mayor lead the way in a convertible borrowed from whichever dealership had the biggest, brightest and shiniest car to loan. A big hand painted sign hung on the car door told which entrepreneur lent his best. Next came the Homecoming Queen and her court, in another borrowed vehicle, followed closely by the High School Marching Band. The Sheriff rode his big black horse, his son was mounted on a prancing pony and behind them followed the boys from the farms and ranches surrounding the town. All tossed hard candies and suckers from bags hanging from the pommel of the saddles. Nest the 4 H winners lead their prize winning calves, goat kids, lambs, or carried the hen, bunny or goose that had taken the fair by storm. The clowns followed with pooper scoopers and silly antics. The Shriners rode bicycles in intricate patterns they practiced all year, weaving in, out, round and back, making the crowds gasp at the near misses.  Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts rode hay wagons, waving and singing camp songs.  A local Barbershop Quartet sat in the back of a pick-up truck singing SWEET ADELINE.
That was the official parade and after that anyone and everyone could join in. Tots on trikes, boys bashing garbage can lids, majorette wannabees, all proudly strutted those 10 blocks. Families watching from their front porches would fall in behind pulling Radio Flyer wagons carrying picnic baskets, blankets and babies, ready for the speeches, the games, music and the booths selling cookies, pies, home made ice cream, and sweet tea, all for sweet charity. Darkness brought the fireworks, OOOOOOOOOOOOOhhhhhh! AAAAAAAAAAAAhhhhh. Then the long trudge home, hot, sweaty, sunburnt, tired, proud and happy.....we were the USA. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Missouri Home

The old road from Aurora, through the outskirts of Springfield, led past the WigWam Motel, out and across the cricks, through the crags, bluffs and and over the hills.  Red and gold in the fall, paynes' gray, dun, and dull black in winter, forest green on hunter green on olive green in summer and a miracle of dogwood, ground roses and apple green in spring.  About three quarters of the way to Union, in the midst of towering pines and overwhelming cliffs a weathered, hand painted board was impaled half way up a preposterous hill. It read "hot biskits and honey". At the top of the hill an ancient black iron stove sagged on three legs outside of a rickety old cabin.  No one ever appeared at the sound of our motor. No dog lounged on the falling porch, no chickens scratched about the yard and no granny woman pulled "biskits" from the rusty oven.  Daddy always promised that "next time" we would stop and climb to the top of the ridge.  We never did.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Mary Elizabeth's Great Adventure

My paternal grandmother, Mary Elizabeth Plumlee Downs was a woman who knew her own mind. What was right was right. God was her Father, Jesus was her Savior, and the Bible was her guide. These facts didn't change because her husband abandoned her. She gave up her beloved spot on the Board of Directors of St. Elizabeth Hospital in East St. Louis, her church and her dream job as high school English teacher.  She sold the elegant, and lovingly polished furniture, and left the grand old apartment building to head west.
At least one brother and two sisters lived in the area in and around Bozeman, Montana. Brother Clinton and his wife ran a motel just outside of Yellowstone Park during the summer months. They owned a house in Bozeman, but in the winter months they ran a motel and lived on a nut farm north of Los Angeles about 60 miles. Sister Sara owned a meat market/neighborhood grocery store. She and her two sons lived behind the store in a tiny apartment, not much more than a kitchen with two bedrooms and a bathroom. Sister Laura lived in Helena. They quickly closed ranks around their beloved baby sister. During the winter, while Clinton was in California, Mary Elizabeth stayed in the Bozeman house, got her Montana teacher's license and applied for work. No local jobs were open.
Then she learned that the mining companies badly needed teachers due to new legislation requiring them to provide one teacher for every thirteen children living in the mine village. Transportation, housing, and food supplies were included along with a salary higher than most teachers ever saw in a lifetime. However, only single women under the age of fifty need apply.  Grandma was over 50, married and planning to stay that way, but evidently figured they didn't need to know all that. She was hired.
Her first job was at the Mike Horse Mine and she loved to tell the story of how the mine was discovered.
In 1890 a miner, Joseph Hartmiller and his horse Mike, were out prospecting along Beartrap Creek. Old Mike was startled by a rattler and began to buck. As he kicked he struck a stone and uncovered a vein of ore. The prospector made his fortune but never forgot it was the horse that found the mine, and Mike Horse lived out his days in green pastures.
 I do not believe she was their first teacher, but was certainly their last. She taught all the children from kindergarten through ninth grade. She was proudest when one of "her" children went on to high school.
 When the mine shut down, she collected and redistributed the books stamped Mike Horse Mine School and moved on to another mine to teach.
ME and Grandpa Downs never shared a home again, although they traveled together during summer vacation and for holidays. Grandpa died of an overdose of barbiturates in about 1967. Grandma lived well into her 90s.