The Parklands

Yesterday, I was on duty as a docent volunteer at the Parklands’ Visitor Center. It was a beautiful day in the 70s with lots of sunshine. That made it a great day for the school children who were spending time at Beckley Park. Two schools brought their students and it was fun seeing them exploring and playing. 

The Parklands provide not only playgrounds but miles of trails, acres, and acres of wild natural habitat to explore and a visitor center with many learning experiences. “Wednesday Wonders” class for preschoolers was taking place and the little ones were excited about each new experience. Enjoy the slideshow below that shows more random shots of the park and kids having fun!

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Lastly, meet a newcomer, Ranger Randy. This turtle was born and raised in captivity for many years. It was donated to the park for children to enjoy and learn from. The Parklands does not remove creatures from their natural habitat. 

“Beauty surrounds us, but usually we need to be walking in a garden to know it.” Rumi

 

https://www.theparklands.org

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Book Review – The Little Professor of Piney Woods

Inspiring Story

Over this past weekend, I read a book recommended to me by a fellow blogger, Christine Goodnough. You might want to check out her blog. https://christinegoodnough.com We’ve never met, but I enjoy the posts of this prolific writer in Canada. 

The book, written by Beth Day, was published in 1955 and is entitled “The Little Professor of Piney Woods.” It is about a young black man right out of college who opens a school in the deep woods of Mississippi in the early twentieth century. Laurence Jones’ obstacles were many, but he persevered and that school is still in operation today.

The story is folksy, happy, sad and at times maddening, but well worth the read if you like history and happy endings. I recommend it.

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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laurence_C._Jones

http://www.pineywoods.org

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Cow Eyes

“You Have Cow Eyes”

Have you ever been told you have cow eyes? It’s supposed to be a compliment. Cow eyes are big and dark and kind of dreamy looking. That’s one reason to give up beef or at least to not get up close and friendly before a steak dinner.

Well, I once knew a man who had cow eyes. Let me explain.

While not identical, bovine eyes are very similar to human eyes. If you are a science teacher and you want your middle school students to learn first hand about the human eye by dissection, what do you do? You obviously don’t have access to human eyes.

A teacher I knew years ago had access to a butcher and this butcher had access to cow eyes. He was especially fond of the teacher and could not say no when she requested enough for each of her students. They made plans for her to pick them up on a certain day. Imagine his family’s dismay when he came home from work that day with a bucket full of cow eyes.   

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“I absolutely adore cows. They’re the most fascinating gentle and beautiful animals. Their eyes are so amazing. I have ten that live on the land around my house. I love to talk to them.”  Mary Quant

 

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Russian People

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Women 

While in Russia I met many interesting people. There were men who were bus drivers and pastors and volunteers, but it was some of the women who I really felt that I got to know. The interpreter, Natasha (yes, really, Natasha) was a beautiful young woman in her early twenties. She never lost patience with my questions and never seemed to tire of explaining what it was like to be Russian. She was proud of her country and especially that unlike when she was young, now she has the opportunity to meet travelers from all over the world.

Then there was Maria who was about thirty or so, it was very hard to tell because she wore a scarf that appeared to cover a shaved head. Her five-year-old son, Eugenia, was with her. He was wearing undershorts and a soiled button up shirt. After talking with her through Natasha for a couple of days, I learned of her sad history.

She said that she had been born and raised in the Islamic tradition, but was no longer sure of that status. Her mother died when she was a child and her husband and father were both recently deceased and she had no “papers” to prove that she was a citizen. The government had taken her father’s apartment and she was left without a home or income. She and Eugenia had been living in a cemetery for weeks at this point with some food provided by a friend. She was looking for work and offered to clean the church (Central Baptist of St. Petersburg, membership of 1,200) for food for her son.

There were many older women who dutifully cleaned the church, so there was no work there for Maria. They were caring, giving women who had little to give, but soon though, Maria and her son had clothes and food and a few other necessities. There were those who offered to help her in trying to obtain the papers necessary for livelihood. I had no way of knowing the outcome for Maria and Eugenia. I look at their photos and wonder what their lives are like today.

Unfortunately, there was another group of women in Russia who worked in what some call the “oldest profession,” prostitution. Apparently many women were all over the country trying to live by selling intimate services. Below is one of the cards left throughout the hotel where I stayed. This is not a profession. And, it is not a choice many women make other than out of necessity. Based upon recent news from Moscow, the situation has not changed for this population of Russian women. 

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Apartments/Schools

In St. Petersburg it seemed that everyone lived in an apartment. I saw no private homes, although I am sure there were some grand ones for those high up in the government, mafia members and others with access to wealth. 

I walked through an apartment complex that must have housed at least a thousand residences. There were no sidewalks, simply paths through the knee-high grass. There was a school that could only be identified by a couple of crude pieces of playground equipment, otherwise, the school looked like another apartment building. 

I visited a couple from Kentucky who lived in a ninth floor apartment and the elevator was out of service. I was rewarded by seeing a mama cat and her kittens living on the seventh-floor landing, making the climb work the effort. 

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Pushkin stock-vector-vector-portrait-alexander-pushkin-471393209

Alexander Pushkin was a poet and playwright who lived from 1799-1837 in St. Petersburg. There was a little town named after him and I was fortunate enough to be able to visit not only the park-like village but also a small hospital there. The facility looked more like a US nursing home of years ago. The beds were small and uncomfortable looking. Many of the patients who chatted away in Russian with clueless visitors looked old but it may have been due more to life conditions than chronological age.

One thing that I will never forget in that hospital was a very large printed, framed portrait of our then current US President, William J. Clinton.

Part 4 of 6

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Books 4

Reader Feedback

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First Book Memories, Favorite Books and Authors

So many of us remember our reader, Dick and Jane from first grade! Nancy Drew mysteries are another favorite among Crooked Creek readers. This chart lists your first memories and your favorites according to comments made regarding the past three posts: 

1st Book Memory

“A Tree for Peter”  by Kate Seredy

Dick & Jane (elementary school book)

Nancy Drew books by Carolyn Keene

“Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott

Favorite Books

“A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” by Betty Smith

“The Good Earth” by Pearl S. Buck

Scriptures from the “Good Book”

Boxcar Children series by Gertrude Chandler Warner

Miss Julia series by Ann B. Ross

Favorite Authors

Mary Higgins Clark

Harland Coban

Shakespeare

Nickolas Sparks

Jodi Picoult

James Patterson

Francine Rivers

Dean Koontz

Stephen King

Lisa Gardner

Access, Storage and Disposal

Most of you indicated that you love books today even though many of you did not have books readily available in your family growing up. Some obtained books from the library or a “Bookmobile” operated in rural areas. I, too, remember those visiting libraries, but I do not if they still exist. An interesting concept today for urban readers, according to one of you is the placement of small repositories where books may be borrowed or added.

You are a generous group, mostly passing your books on to others or donating them. Some of you resale at Half-Price Bookstores. And, it seems that there are always books with which we cannot part. Only one person shared how their books are arranged and that was by alphabetical order. Readers were about 50 to 50% in preference of paper books versus electronic or audio books.

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Pixabay Photo

Genre

Whether you are reading for self-improvement, to learn new skills, to broaden your mind with history or poetry or simply to be entertained or thrilled you are engaging in an activity that will forever be a part of your life. Even if, like one reader, we need to keep a list of the books read so that we don’t buy them a second time, there are passages that affect us in ways of which we are unaware. 

Thank You Pat, Lula, Rose, Kay, Sylvia and Others

I am honored that this blog is one of the things that you read!  

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“Good books, like good friends, are few and chosen; the more select, the more enjoyable.”  Louisa May Alcott

Part 4 of 5

CHANGE TRIVIA

“Things don’t have to change the world to be important.” Steve Jobs

It doesn’t take an investigative mind to prove that change happens regularly before our very eyes and ears. Some changes are significant but many are trivial. I suppose my mind today is on the latter, but I really want to share with you some observations. I’m curious whether you have observed the same changes. 

Here are some questions for you:

1. Have you noticed that many celebrities when introduced on TV programs now walk onto the stage applauding, apparently, for themselves? Surely that is a fairly recent habit. 

2. What about the experts interviewed on news or talk shows who when asked their opinion begin their response with “so” and then proceed? So, when did this trend begin and does anyone think it adds to the information provided?

Words are inanimate so they do not have the power to change, but we at times change their pronunciation for no obvious reason. The first time I noticed this was during the Vietnam War. Out of the blue, that country was pronounced differently for a while. 

Let me make clear that I am not talking about the mispronunciation of words. I have the utmost empathy in such circumstances since it has never been a personal strong suit. I don’t know if teachers still have students read aloud in class, but back (way back) in my day it was expected. Like it was yesterday, I recall my humiliation standing in front of the class and reading in Ms. Miller’s fourth grade. Suddenly I came to a big word that I had not encountered before but I forged ahead and read, “She was deter-mind-ed to succeed.” 

3. Have you noticed the different pronunciation of any of these words over time? Is there a big authority somewhere who arbitrarily one day simply proclaims, “We will henceforth pronounce __________ differently!”?

WORD

ORIGINAL

CHANGE

Vietnam

vee-et-nahm vee-et-nam

harassment

huh-ras-ment har-uhs-ment

divisive

dih-vagy-siv di-vis-iv

Appalachia

ap-uh-ley-chee-uh ap-uh-lach-ee-uh

Chili

Chil-lee Chil-lay

Please share some of your own observations with us. 

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Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world.

For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.    

Margaret Mead

Part 3 of 4

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Transition

Gee to Spot

As shared in an earlier post, I was born in 1943, in a four room house, on Crooked Creek Rd. in Anderson County, KY.  It was before zip codes were introduced and the mailing address was simply “Gee, KY”. My maternal Grandfather ran a general store in Gee, not far from our house. In addition to selling groceries, chicken feed, nails and gas from the one pump out front, he was also the Post Master of the Gee Post Office located in one corner of the store. Later, when he retired, the Post Office was moved down the road a few miles to Spot. Yes, that is right, “Spot, KY” was the new address for folks living on Crooked Creek Rd.

Our house had no plumbing or electricity, but before I was one year old, electricity was installed. This feature lead me to believe that I had super powers, because for the first few months my Dad would hold me up to the dark, bare bulb hanging in the middle of the ceiling. I was too young to understand that it was my father pulling a string that made the bright light appear, rather than the touch of my hand.

War

As I grew, however, I soon learned that mine was not a magical life, after all. I heard a lot about the “war going on over there” and I thought that meant the enemies were right over the hill in front of our house. As I sat on our front porch swing I kept waiting for Japanese helmets to appear on the horizon. Gas and sugar were rationed, but there was enough love to go around. I received a doll for one of my first Christmases. She didn’t hold up well. Her hair fell off and her “skin” deteriorated and I was told it was because all the good materials had to be used in the war. I kept Mary Rose with me throughout many decades, but finally let her go in 2013 and I still regret that decision. 

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Mary Rose

Family

In addition to my parents I was fortunate that my grandparents lived nearby and they were very influential in my early life. My older brother fulfilled his role by doing all the tormenting things that big brothers do so well, such as on occasion hanging me by my feet from a tree in the front yard. My baby brother was born with an intestinal malformation that would have been easily corrected today, but which proved fatal before his second birthday. A few years later, I had a second cherished younger brother who I protected fiercely.

Town

When I was in second grade we moved from Gee, leaving my beloved grandparents behind. It felt like a different world living in town, the big city of Taylorsville, KY.  The transition from a two room school holding grades one through eight to a large school system which included a High School and cafeteria did not start off pleasantly. My first day was in February and it was cold and the wind was whipping my carefully brushed hair every which way. Mom was guiding me through a short-cut to the school when suddenly our feet were plunged into ice cold water. Our short-cut had been concealed thin ice.  This awaking was just the beginning of my new school experience.

Our new house was big with two stories and a bathroom. It took some time getting accustomed to using the toilet inside that nice house. I still see my Dad mowing the big yard with pride and can smell the fresh mown grass which seemed to make his smile wider.  That was a good thing, because my father suffered from what was then called “involutional melancholia,” now known as chronic depression. Electric shock treatments took away much of his personality along with his smiles for many years.

Phillip

Like a Little Blue Bird

He ran from room to room, a blur of blue, little legs bouncing in small jerky steps, sliding on the linoleum and sucking butter from his finger tips that had so swiftly dipped into the bowl. He kept looking back over his shoulder, his pale blue eyes both joyful and afraid. As young as I was I knew this was a triumph for him, something much more significant than it appeared. Was it Mother’s look of fear that told me? Yes, it must be that, or was she more sad than afraid? Finally her hand roughly caught hold of his blue jumpsuit and his forward momentum was halted like a tiny bird flying into a window. My heart pounded as I waited for her to spank him for running away from her and for stealing the forbidden butter. I wanted to cry out, “He’s just a baby, he just wanted to taste it.” As I held my breath, remembering the sting of her hand, I was amazed to see her start to cry holding him close while he wiggled to free the buttered hand and get it to his mouth.

Christmas is Coming!

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Not wanting to see any more, I returned to looking at the toys in the Montgomery Ward Catalog. As a first grader I had little understanding of calendars like the one hanging on the wall in front of me. But, I did know that it was December and December meant Christmas which reminded me that I had a letter to write to Santa. Mother said my baby brother, Phillip, wanted a teddy bear and I should tell Santa, since Phillip was too little to write. I guess she hadn’t noticed that I couldn’t really write either.  It seemed a better plan for our big brother to do the letter for both Phillip and me, but maybe at twelve he was too big, because he sure didn’t seem interested in Santa Claus. So, I guessed it was up to me. The days passed and when we were almost half-way through December according to my teacher, I could think of nothing but Christmas. It didn’t look like Christmas or even feel like it at our house, but I knew it would come, because nothing can stop Christmas.  It was there near the bottom of the calendar and each day brought us closer to that magical morning. On the day that the calendar said thirteen (13), for the first time, that I could remember, my Mother sent me to bed without tucking me in. It was okay, because I knew Phillip had been crying a lot and I believed that his stomach hurt. He needed Mother more and anyway, I was a big girl.

Dad

The next thing that I remember was a big rough hand shaking my arm. “Wake up, wake up, now,” my Daddy said. I must be dreaming, my father never woke me up and besides I could see through the slits of my eyes that it was still dark. The covers were warm and I sank farther into the featherbed hoping the bad dream would stop. There it was again, “Wake up, now,” and then the covers were drawn back and I was assaulted by blinding light, cold air and the acrid smell of burning wood. Even sleepy and confused, I understood, suddenly, that this was no dream. My father’s face was not familiar. His eyes, usually smiling for me, were solid black and his mouth, under his large humped nose, was drawn down tightly. I was afraid when he started to push my arms into my coat. What was he doing? Where was Mama?

Before I could figure out any answers he did the strangest thing.  He wrapped the bed covers around me and even partly over my head and he began carrying me through the house. It was then that I saw where my mother was. She was holding Phillip and washing his little naked body. Surely he was cold, even in front of the glowing wood stove. Why was she bathing him when it was still dark outside? He didn’t seem to mind. He was just lying across her lap, not kicking or even looking around as she stroked him with tfullsizeoutput_819he wet washcloth. Before I could say a word my daddy walked right out the back door, still carrying me. The covers fell from my head and I felt ice cold wind hit my face and my bare feet, which by now were dangling out of the bottom of the mound of quilts. My daddy pulled me tighter and I was comforted by the smell of stale tobacco and fresh soap which I knew so well. As he carried me through the yard, the grass crunched under his feet and he was holding me too tightly. With one eye and my nose buried in his neck, the other eye could see the stars. Smoke was curling from the chimney in the center of our little house and the smell of the burning wood, from out here, was more pleasant. I felt him bend forward and heard the car door open and then felt my quilt-wrapped body touch the car seat. I wanted to ask where we were going and why we were alone, but I could not make words hook onto the questions and even if I could have, my mouth would not have spoken them. I was shaking hard and the smell of gasoline from our old car made my throat burn. Then I glimpsed huge snowflakes swirling in the two white trails of light coming from the front of the car. Snow! Could it be Christmas?

Grandparents

Finally, Daddy told me, “I’m taking you to Miz Sea’s” and I felt a little bit warm. The car sped over the gravel. I bounced on the seat because I could not move my arms pinned deep inside the covers. We didn’t have far to go and soon we were turning from the gravel of Crooked Creek Rd. onto the gravel of my grandparents’ road. Before we reached the top of that short winding road, the porch light came on and showed against the brown siding of the tiny house.  As my Dad set me inside the front door, he said to Mammy, my grandmother, “His fever won’t come down. We’re leaving for St. Joseph’s.” Without a word she put me in bed beside my grandfather, who didn’t say anything, although I knew that he was awake. Mammy tucked me in and I watched her kneel beside the couch where she slept, close enough that I could reach out and touch her. She began to pray. As I went to sleep she was saying, “Not our will, but yours’ be done.”

School

At Marlow School later that day, the snow stopped for a while and we children were allowed to go out for recess. I stayed on the porch and watched the kids who had boots playing in the schoolyard. A girl who was just getting there was walking straight toward me.  This was unusual, because the kids from the big room, grades five through eight, never paid attention to first graders. She stopped, looked at me for a moment and said the two words that punched me in the stomach and sent me falling. I fell back and back with my arms held wide as though I was trying to fly in reverse. All the time I floated my feet somehow stayed in contact with the concrete floor. As my back touched the clapboard of the building I melted and ran down the cold boards, my warmth causing steam to sizzle and then rise when it encountered the icy floor.  The cold seeped into my body then, freezing it solid so that her words could no longer penetrate.  Now, the only thing that could pierce me for the rest of the school day was the stares from dozens of eyes.  The eyes belonged to the students who had witnessed the words that knocked me down, her words that caused me to freeze into a block of ice.

An icicle was stuck in my throat, causing my brain to hurt like it did when eating homemade ice cream that my mother made in the summer. I thought about Mother and wondered if she knew that girl would say those words to me. I wondered if my big brother had heard them, too. Then, I remembered that he had not been on the bus that morning. Where was he? I had always felt safe knowing that he was in the schoolroom right next to mine, the one with the other big kids. They had a man teacher with an arm that didn’t move and I was glad that I was not old enough to be in that room.  Both my teacher’s arms could move and once today she used them both to hug me. Mrs. Morgan was pretty and she was kind, but why had she let that big girl say those hateful words? Why didn’t she make her take them back?

The bus ride home was much quieter than usual and I missed my big brother being there with me. Even though kids were all around me, I was alone and still frozen solid. Most of the children were staring but not in a mean way. I think that a girl offered me gum, but I am not sure. I sat, cold and hard, and watched the scenes passing the frosty window of the bus. The farms along Crooked Creek Road, where we lived, had turned to a thick blanket of white since I rode the bus from my Grandparents’ home that morning. The hills, trees and barns looked as though they had been covered with vanilla ice cream. I felt my heart begin to soften and to thaw a little, as the snow reminded me that nothing could stop Christmas.

Home

When the bus stopped in front of our house I saw that the snow in our yard was not smooth, but messy with footprints going off in all directions and there were cars that I did not recognize parked next to the road. Strangest though were the tire tracks that went right up to the front porch. That didn’t make any sense. Neither did the little white coffin that stood in our living room when my Mother met me at the door.

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