Sunday, July 1, 2018

Editor's Corner


July 2018

"It is by the goodness of God that in our country we have those three unspeakably precious things:
freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and the prudence never to practice either of them."

--Mark Twain

One thing high in the list of values taught in the home of your editor's parents was Patriotism. When WWII began Daddy was not considered for the draft being an only son and having three daughters, yet he burned to do something in the efforts being made to win the fight against intolerance and imperialism. Mother, always his helpmate, burned right along with him and the decision to lend their skills in the Vancouver, Washington, shipyards was firm though not an easy one to make. Mother's brother Jackie Oakley Joslin had not been drafted yet, and chose to go with Daddy leaving Mother to finalize arrangements to rent our home to an officer from the Pyote Air Base, transfer our livestock (which was allowed within city limits at that time) to Grandmother's home in Royalty some 18 miles south of our home. Then trip plans had to be made and one of Grandmother's neighbors was from the Washington area and it was decided that he would accompany Mother and we three girls and do the driving. That fizzled out just north of town and before we got out of Texas as he confessed that his eyesight was not worthy of driving but he would be our navigator, so on we went to Washington state with Mother at the wheel.

Daddy, a pipe fitter, became a welding inspector as his own welding skills were superior and his knowledge vast and he was able to help the new welders be able to become skilled enough to work on the aircraft carriers that they were building...called baby flattops as they were smaller and faster than the older models. Uncle Jackie also worked on the ships as did Mother who became foreman of her own crew being a Journeyman Electrician and an expert with blueprints. She and her crew crawled within the bulkheads marking and installing the electrical circuits according to the blueprints they were provided. They worked until after the war was ended then came back to Monahans; however during that time, Uncle Jackie did get drafted so he was in the Army. They never regretted their part in helping the war effort and we girls were taught to appreciate military service. My own chance to exhibit Patriotism was a few years later, when we had a parade locally to celebrate VJ Day, and I rode on a float seated on an ice block throne that Daddy had enhanced by freezing red roses inside the arm blocks. He was by then the manager and co-owner of the Permian Ice Plant. My white formal did not keep me warm but our Texas summer and my enthusiastic heart did.

May your Fourth of July be celebrated happily, safely, and with Patriotic regard.

Melinda Cohenour's "Armchair Genealogy" pens a discourse on the many sources that can add to your family tree, with "Genealogy, Communications, and Science Or How Our Lives Have Changed!" citing word of mouth, family letters and notes onward to current DNA technology data.

Charlene Cowley admits to a fascination that nears obsession when it comes to the World Cup which she discusses in her column, "A Way with Words" and how watching it brought home a lesson she shares. Thomas F. O'Neill talks about some of the differences in Chinese and American cultures in his "Introspective."

"Cooking with Rod" by Rod Cohenour helps plan a way to celebrate the 4th of July with a great meal and still stay out of the heat. Judith Kroll aka Featherwind lauds the use of cameras and features one of her poems in "On Trek."

Mattie Lennon's "Irish Eyes" updates the Listowel Writers report and includes many pictures to illustrate his news. Dayvid Clarkson's "Reflections on the Day" treats us to another of his haiku's and his uplifting thoughts about how to enjoy each moment of being who and where we are in life.

If Pencil Stubs Online were a horse race, LC Van Savage's compositions would score her a Trifecta as she has poetry, story, and her column in this issue: "Falling Stars, Dying Stars," "The Catholic and The Agnostic," and "Consider This" filled with "Hats! Glorious Hats!"

Bruce Clifford's new occupation keeps him hopping but he managed to send in "Is It You or Is It Me," and "Perfect Day." Bud Lemire's poems, each accompanied by his own photographs, are "Snowy White Owl," "Play It Again, Jerry," "The Tree of Genealogy," and "Springtime in Da U.P."

John I. Blair submitted the following poems: "Blessed," "Consciousness," "Crepe Myrtle," "Moon and Evening Star," "On The Steps," and "The Choice." The Dayvid Clarkson poem is couched within a lovely photo suitable to the title "Arise Spirit of Mine."

The article is a tribute to Leo C. Helmer for all of the research he conducted and presented, concerning music and the people who perform, through his years with the eZine. He loved all kinds of music but undoubtedly Country Western struck a chord in his heart. The many links are to the stories he did, and each holds a wealth of information that he hoped to preserve as it seemed in danger of being lost forever. Because Art Greenhaw with The Light Crust Dough Boys named Helmer as a Lifetime Honorary Member of the long time musical group, this article carries the latest announcement for them. Please enjoy and use the links from "Leo Loved Music."

See you in August!!!

Click on author's byline for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.
This issue appears in the ezine at and also in the blog with the capability of adding comments at the latter.


Armchair Genealogy

Genealogy, Communications, and Science

Or How Our Lives Have Changed!

      As another Fourth of July appears upon the horizon, your author has been engaged in a bit of nostalgia. The Fourth was once one of the primary celebrations among those of us in my core family – MomMay, DaddyJack, sisters Mary, Noralee, and Jacquie. Often there were parades with bands and floats and colorful costumes and fireworks. At home, there were always big meals featuring homegrown produce, favorite family recipes, and more fireworks. These celebrations were accompanied by lots of joyful conversation, more family members congregating along with friends and neighbors, many times featuring stories of other times, other celebrations, other meals. Such was the fabric that made up the patchwork of memories. Now, family members are spread miles apart – those that yet walk upon this earth - with so, so many having passed beyond the veil.

      And on this nostalgic note, I find myself pondering how very much times have changed. Back in those days of yore, I was a youngster far too involved in the NOW, the present, the excitement of sparklers, marvelous displays of fireworks loosed by the various hometown groups offering magnificent shooting stars and cascading trails of light against the starlit sky. The stories shared by the older family members about their lives and their parents, cousins, siblings provided merely a background white noise to the excitement of my own little world. On this day, looking forward to our next Independence Day events, I can only wish I had listened more closely, shown more appreciation for the wealth of knowledge being offered. And I yearn for my own children and grandchildren to surround me with their love and their youth – and, of course, for them to have an appreciation for the stories of our ancestors. Communication. The means by which oral traditions are handed down. The method by which generations from time immemorial have learned about life, about tradition, about recipes and songs and stories and courageous acts and heroes walking among us.

      This brings my thoughts back to how very much communication plays a role in genealogic research. My sisters and I were blessed by having been born in a family of folks to whom tradition and lore played a huge role. Although the ways in which maternal and paternal grandparents imparted their knowledge differed, both provided marvelous glimpses into our ancestral heritage and clues for pushing our research backward, ever backward, in time.

      As researchers, my sisters and I were blessed by a wealth of handwritten information from family historians who treasured the knowledge with which they had been endowed. Many of our stories were handed down to us because our grandmother, mother, and aunt on my Mother’s side were prolific letter writers. Especially my Grandmother Joslin who carried on multiple daily pen pal exchanges with dozens of family members scattered about the world as well as friends and neighbors whose lives had carried them away from the hometown. In the days before instant communication by Messenger on the Internet, even before the slightly more lasting communication via email, these letters comprised inquiries about the health of family members, celebrated new life (giving valuable information about date, place, and circumstance of births as well as names), imparted wonderful color about crops, weather, prices of goods and the personal impact of historical events.

Page One
      We were gifted with many a copied (handwritten copy or photocopy or retyped copy even) transcript of these family treasures. Our own digitized family tree evolved as a result of my sisters Mary and Jacquie reading to me (as I entered the data) from the three primary sources of family lines: The Bullard, Godwin, and Hopper maternal lines as compiled by their respective family historians. We first entered the names of our core family, then branched back using these photocopied materials and painstakingly entered dates and locations (where available) for births, marriages, and deaths. Only after we scoured the materials for these basic facts did we permit ourselves to delve into the STORIES that accompanied some of the profiles. Profiles in courage – absolutely – and the source for my own growing passion to KNOW about these people whose blood courses through my veins! For it was only with the introduction to the day-to-day lives of these ancestors that my interest was piqued. And the more I delved into the process of matching the stories with the facts the more my interest grew.

Page Two
      As the years passed, more and more of these family historians have joined our ancestors in their walk into eternity. More and more of their knowledge has been lost, and more and more I value what is left of their contributions. My maternal aunt, Linnie Jane Joslin Burks, was invested with her love of genealogy at an early age – thank Goodness! She engaged in a time-honored method of interviewing the elders of the family to capture their memories. Aunt Linnie Jane did not seek to guide their recollections, merely strove to jot down the very words they used to tell their stories of childhood memories or family lore that had been passed down by word of mouth to them. After her death a few years ago, her husband, Dr. Edgar H. Burks gathered all her treasure trove of letters, notes, relics, and boxed them with the intent of shipping them to your author for safekeeping. Somehow, that never happened. But, recently, a cousin posted copies of some of those treasures she had found in the local McDonald County, Missouri library. It is my hope and prayer that all those treasures were, likewise, donated for preservation and will be made available to researchers from now on.

      Thus, the first example comes to mind of how science and technology has impacted genealogical research: from personal interviews with elders where their memories were captured by hand on notebook paper or diary to the wonders of the Internet where such documents are made available to all by virtue of another advance in technology: the scanning machine that digitizes images and creates a virtual image! How incredibly marvelous!

Page Three
      The caution here is, as always, to appreciate the story, capture it, digest the story, but always check the facts if at all possible. For these memories are much like the old game of Gossip, where a circle of friends shares by whispered utterances the “same” story until, once all have had an opportunity to put their own spin on the knowledge they just gained, the last link in the circle recites his or her own version – often completely unrecognizable from the little tale first offered. This is illustrated for your author by the story handwritten below in the document shared recently on Facebook in one of the family history groups devoted to our Hopper line. The story related by this ancestor regarding events during the Civil War somehow conflated details related directly to me by my grandmother regarding the same incident. In the handwritten “memory” preserved in the library, Great Grandmother Malinda Hopper Bullard saved NOT the farm from being burned (as was the story told by her daughter, my grandmother, to me) but – only a sidesaddle. In the story related to me, Malinda did indeed ride sidesaddle, but that saddle played no part in her paying a “Yankee dime” and a tart response that saved the family farm from being burned as were most in that area. Memories – gossip – details lost or mixed up in the telling. Regardless, the memories are priceless.

Page Four
      In the same way technology has changed our lives and our research with regard to direct communication, it has also changed the way in which we preserve concrete (or marble, or granite, or…whatever material one’s ancestors headstones are made from) information gleaned from the final resting place for those beloved ancestors. As has been related in an older column, our Grandmother Carrie Bullard Joslin was an avid family historian and a generous sharing person. Her favorite little picnic hike involved carrying tracing paper and chalk as well as graphite leads and manilla paper to the graveyard, along with a tasty lunch. She would walk the graveyard, carefully preserving the headstones and markers (tracing paper and chalk for the bas relief, manila and graphite for the raised lettering), then spraying the tracings with preservative, rolling carefully into tubes and using wrapping paper rolls to transport them to the local library. There, these priceless bits of information would be carefully typed into listings for each cemetery or private burying place and stored for future historians’ research. Now, devoted researchers trek to the cemeteries and overgrown family plots with their GPS devices and smart phones equipped with digital cameras. They carefully notate the complete location information and share the disappearing data with the world through such websites as Find-A-Grave and its similar ilk.

      Another example of how science has affected our research methods lies in the proliferation of social media sites, which take the place of personal handwritten communiqu├ęs (termed “snail mail” by our youth). Facebook and Twitter and similar Internet gathering places offer space for individual pages or formation of special interest groups (such as that above where my Aunt’s handwritten pages were shared by another cousin on the Hopper group page). These gigantic social gathering places offer Search methods that permit one to locate a person, a page, or a group in their quest for family tree information.

      As exemplary evidence, your author has engaged in extensive research for many, many years to solve a few mysteries in our family line created by closed adoptions or even by family secrets. One such mystery involves my first husband who always believed he was not the biological child of his mother and the man who gave him his surname, but had been adopted as had been his younger sister. Through the wonders of DNA combined with the miracle of the Internet and social media, we recently discovered this to have been true. My grandson, a direct line descendant of my first husband, consented to provide his DNA sample. Shortly after the results were posted, I was contacted by a beautiful young woman who had been seeking her biological father. Their DNA match left no question but that my first husband was, indeed, her bio father. He was a magnificently handsome man with a troubled and painful past brought about by the family secrets that clothed his own identity in a cloth of tangled lies. Through his yearning for family, he endlessly sought that perfect family – a family perfection that could never be found. We are in contact with this lovely young lady – a woman who shares a striking resemblance to my daughter, her half-sister. We are blessed by this miracle! This young woman has also engaged in her own research and, through her contacts, we now have the name of the biological father of my first husband (who has, sadly, passed on before this information could be shared with him). We shall continue, in concert, to seek the biological mother and, thus, round out the essential family line that will provide future generations with truth rather than clouded mysteries for his descendants.

      Similarly, a search for the biological family of my granddaughter-in-law has succeeded in finding her full siblings, her biological maternal grandmother, and her biological father. In this instance, DNA from her test results coupled with extensive decade-long research via typical genealogical sources by your author provided a means to search from generations back down through the vital document trail found on After confirming our long-held belief as to the identity of her closest in age sibling, we were able to actually locate her through Facebook. The sisters have now been able to share (as sisters should) with photos of their children, facts of their lives, and their continuing love for one another. This link is proven by DNA, by memory, and by documentation. Amazing!

      Other mysteries remain to be solved. For your author, the two brick walls that comprise our greatest frustration are, maddeningly, connected to the direct lines of Carroll and Joslin! We shall continue to utilize all avenues available to us to chisel away and, hopefully, some day, break down those walls to provide our future generations with truth and light rather than mysteries and secrecy.

      As always, you are encouraged to keep on adding leaves and roots and branches to that Family Tree!

Click on author's byline for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.

Cooking with Rod

Here we are, celebrating Independence Day again. This time of year the weather is normally HOT which makes it a bit difficult spending too much time outside. Still, you may hunger for hearty and healthy, satisfying meals. But, no grilling in this heat!

This meal takes you back in the cooled environment and is easy to prepare without an oven. (Whoever invented the electric skillet should wear a halo!)

It has all the elements one needs for a 4th of July meal: great beef, some corn on the cob, mashed potatoes and gravy, and for dessert - WATERMELON! Best of all, you don't have to crack a sweat to deliver an outstanding meal. And, guess what? That perfect gravy requires no stirring, no worry about lumps, and is perfectly seasoned. Here's how you do it.

                                                                          Bon appetit!

Savory Chopped Steak and Gravy

Serves 6 - 8:

  • 4 lbs ground sirloin (ground round or 93% lean ground beef) 
  • 1 lg. can Cream of Chicken Soup 
  • 1 sm can French Onion soup 
  • 1 sm can milk (just use the onion soup can to measure)
  • 2 Tbsp. Ground black pepper (or to taste) 
  • 2 Tbsp. Original Mrs. Dash (or to taste) 
  • 1 tsp. Garlic powder (or to taste) 
  • 1/4 cup Minced onions 


Press entire package of meat into large electric skillet. Season top side, using half of all listed, except minced onions. Brown thoroughly. Using standard spatula, cut meat into serving portions before turning. Season flip side with remaining spices, reserving minced onions.

 Whisk together Cream of Chicken soup, French Onion soup, milk, and minced onions.

Pour gravy mixture evenly over meat. Cover, bring to a boil, then lower heat to simmer. Allow to simmer about 25 minutes.

Delicious served over mashed potatoes or rice or noodles.

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A Way with Words


'Not another football article!'

As I write this month's column, I am fully aware in my mind that not everyone will be as excited and enthralled with the World Cup 2018 as I am! So I will begin with a promise, I promise to you my readers not to babble on too much about football per se and I promise that my column will have a point by the end of it so bear with me.

Now it is very safe to say that I am not sporty at all whatsoever! My main memories of PE (Physical Education) at school consist of me handing over many hand written letters with a badly forged signature explaining why I should be excused from PE yet again and me hiding out in the school library for the duration of the lesson until the bell rang. But give me a television and a football match, that I can do. I will happily sit there observing the game and giving my opinion on the players tactics and the manager’s poor management skills.

So the World Cup! (There, I’ve said it again, I'm sorry!) This has been the focus in our house over the last three weeks. I have every game highlighted in our TV guide so we don't miss a game and my World Cup Results Chart is proudly displayed on our fridge. I just love how so many people from so many different backgrounds and walks of life can all come together (most of the time in harmony) for one mutual love and understanding- this humble sport. We have all heard the famous account of the Christmas ceasefire during World War 1. How opposing sides came together and embraced in a game of football. I’m sure you'll all agree when I say it was a truly magical and momentous moment in history. This is the power of football.

So going back to one of the earlier matches in the competition, I remember watching Portugal play their first game in the group's (against Spain) and I was immediately struck by the confidence and the calm, well composed demeanour of Cristiano Ronaldo. For those of you who are not into this sport so much and didn’t see the game, Ronaldo scored as a result of being given a penalty in the fourth minute, he then went on to score again (from a free kick taken at the 20 yard line). Even though Portugal didn't win this match against Spain (they drew 3-3) Ronaldo scored a hat-trick (a total of three goals in one match).

This leads me nicely onto what I want to write about this month, as I watched that game and in particular Ronaldo, I couldn't quite work out how on earth he was able to keep his calm. I kept thinking how much pressure he must be feeling right now, with millions of people around the world all watching him and all expecting great spectacular things from him! In those seconds leading up to him taking the penalty and his free kick, I couldn't help but think about what may be on his mind. What possibly does one say to oneself under those circumstances? I personally don’t think I could handle that sort of pressure at all. Then I realised something … Cristiano Ronaldo believes in himself! He doesn't doubt even for a second his ability, he trusts in his own knowledge of the game and in his own incredible skills. There is no self-procrastination, no self criticism and absolutely no doubt at all! He trusts in what he can achieve and he truly believes and knows he can do it!

So what can we take from this? We don’t have to be fantastic football experts (or an expert of any sport for that matter) to learn a thing or two from this brilliant and very inspirational public figure. When he is under pressure and expectations are high he thrives. So why can't we? We simply need to start believing we can do it! And trust me, I am one of the world's biggest self-procrastinators, I find faults in almost everything I do and talk myself down and out of doing a lot of things. Purely because I don't believe in myself and I don't trust I can. Think how many penalties and free kicks Ronaldo would miss if he thought in this way. He certainly wouldn't be where he is today with a self-destructing attitude like that.

So let us all make a pact now in preparation for the next time you are asked to do something that scares or intimidates you, that we will believe in ourselves and trust in how truly incredible we really are! Let's all be like Let's all be like Ronaldo! For only then, when we believe and know in our souls exactly what we are capable of, we will finally be able to fulfill our true destinies and achieve our highest dreams possible. For when we love ourselves unconditionally (and we believe in who we are and what we do!) … that is when true miracles will start to occur.

Wishing you all a beautiful month ahead, filled with long, warm glorious days. Take care, until next time …

Click on author's byline for bio and list of other works published by Pencil Stubs Online.

Consider This


Hats! Glorious Hats!

Among the thousands of clothing items out there, my favorites have always been hats. I simply love them. Alas, I look terrible in them and when I wear one, my well-meaning friends and family regard me with expressions of disbelief and horror and I realize I have again disgraced myself. I know their glances are not so well-meaning. But I love hats anyway and have been on a life-long search for one in which I’ll look great and won’t make people recoil. So far, no luck.

Hats have always been one of the ways people used to establish their own persona, and likewise to identify that of acquaintances in a crowd; People could always recognize who were the less wealthy and who were not, by their hats. Down through time and history, hats have marked who were the ones in charge, who were the worker bees, and who were not. It’s not like that today, because even kings and queens are seen sporting baseball caps, but back in the day, hats announced one’s identity and often even one’s occupation.

Were hats always worn for warmth? Frequently, but mostly, I think, they were a status symbol. Here in Maine, most of us care little for High Fashion head gear when the temps dive below zero and our nose hairs freeze into tiny spears. Hats, to those of the cold weather persuasion, are essential for life itself. But when the temps rise a bit, hats can display a bit more message. After all, we humans were not given gigantic boney head crests or colorful apices to flash about like a prehistoric reptile. Now, all we have up there is hair, so we have to put something on top to show we are better, richer, smarter and definitely taller. As time passed, we worked at wearing expensive headpieces, often bejeweled, to tell the world we were upper crust. After all, only the lowly working class wore working class hats so everyone would know their place in the caste system which we pretend we don’t have here in the US. It would have been unseemly if a shabby laborer’s hat were on the head of a big deal business mogul.

And so many hats in the last of the 1800s became large and fancy and were often adorned with feathers, so much so that bird species found themselves on the tottering edge of extinction. Many millions of birds had to die so that milady could have their long, beautiful tail feathers, wobbling and waving on her crazy hat. Sometimes even the entire bird, now taxidermed, would be wired to her chapeau, perched firmly amongst fake flowers and grapes. The more dead animals and birds, fake flowers, real feathers, veils, strings of pearls and other “jewels” and ribbons that a woman could pile onto her hat, the more she hoped it would proclaim she was a wealthy, upper mucky-muck.

And those huge platters-of-everything hats were a status symbol, and they were glorious! The old photos of them are wondrous to see. One wonders how female necks could support all that finery; and how did women anchor those creations to their heads? I’ll tell you—hat pins, a huge business back then, now gone the way of the buggy whip trade.

Regardless of temperature, precipitation and wind velocity, atop their heads were those huge, overly-decorated gaudy, amazing platters covered with anything and everything. Women seemed able to walk the streets in hurricanes, those enormous, gorgeous displays staying in place. They could because of those long, expensive hat pins and also because women back then grew their hair out, and out, and out—and then twisted it up on their heads in what was the Gibson Girl look---and so to that large nest they pinned those huge examples of au courant millinery. Milliners back then were always busy. Not so much anymore.

Today’s women would not think of wearing those gigantic, heavily laden hats as status symbols, but let’s be honest; we do like to flash a little Prada, Gucci, Coach, Chanel, and Versace if we are lucky enough to snag one of those labeled items from Goodwill.

Women back then---well, they were something else! They really did suffer for their beauty. But in those days, and maybe even in these days, grandmothers’ advice for their long-suffering granddaughters is that it “takes pains to have beauty.” Back in the 1800s, it surely did. Today’s women would never endure such idiocy. Beauty can actually be comfortable. So can status symbols.

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