Friday, February 1, 2019

Editor's Corner

February 2019

"Love is but the discovery of ourselves in others, and the delight in the recognition."--Alexander Smith

We are loving the fact that this issue begins the 22d year of Pencil Stubs Online which would never have happened if Mike Craner had not sent in his poems when Hobbie$, Etc. was the AMEA Publications offspring in publication at the time as a newspaper format magazine being mailed to seven countries besides 42 states in the USA including Alaska and Hawaii. When notified that January 1998 was to be the last issue of that magazine, he contacted us saying you have to keep publishing because it helps so many people be recognized for their talents. He continued, saying he had recently begun working up web pages and thought that the magazine could make it online. I agreed but with the stipulation that it should be free to access and not be filled with advertising, which the eZine isn't although the Blog version is done through Google now, and they insert "applicable info." The result is that we are here today, thanks to Mike Craner's foresight. What would we do without him?

LC VanSavage author of February's two articles, "Gone" about a nautical mystery, and "I Resolve NOT To" explains why though born on January first, prefers not to make resolutions every year. She discusses in her column "Consider This" the decisions one faces when falling in love with "Young Love/ First Love/Filled With True Devotion." Marilyn Carnell begins her column "Sifoddling Along" in 1914 with events that would shape her life. Thomas F. O'Neill, "Introspective" has begun new courses at the Lock Haven University in Pennsylvania now, though he says he plans to return to China in the future.

Mattie Lennon, "Irish Eyes" - announces what promises to be a collector's item in the music world with a limited re-issue of Count John McCormack's album. McCormack has been named "the world's greatest Tenor" and now those who've never heard him sing will have the opportunity. Judith Knoll author of "On Trek" explains why she believes that we all believe what our eyes see. "Cooking with Rod" by Rod Cohenour presents a great recipe for these cold, wintry days - Smothered Pork Loin Chops by M.

Melinda Cohenour's "Armchair Genealogy" turned in about the only other composition, (besides LC's,) that could make reader's recall that February is the Valentine month when she tells a family story of love, a 72 year marriage, that faced challenges around the globe, featuring her mother's sister Linnie Jane Joslin Burks and her beloved husband Dr. Edgar Harold Burks, Jr. Melinda is your editor's youngest sister.

A dozen poems can be found this month:
    SusanD Dimitrakopoulos aka Spuds, a professional photographer, sends "Wishing Well," and a pic to dress up the page;
    Bruce Clifford penned "We Used to Laugh"
    John I. Blair's five are: "Three Friends," "FatCat Possum," "Lookee!!," "Four Hawks," and "ZigZag."
    Bud Lemire submitted "This Heart of Mine."
    Judith Knoll has two poems this issue: "Always Find Time for You," and "Broken."
          Mary E. Adair, your editor, composed these two in January, "Awake," and
                                    "Our Wagon Train   Rolls On."

See you in March 2019 !!!

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


A Love Story for the Ages

Dr. Edgar H. Burks and wife, Linnie Jane Joslin Burks

      Aah, February! The month we celebrate St. Valentine’s Day has become known as the time of year when we recognize the power of LOVE. Even in the Bible, Corinthians 13:13 says: “Now yet abideth these three things: Faith, Hope, and Love – and the greatest of these is LOVE.”

      Within our family there are a number of great love stories; however, this month we shall honor the lifetime love shared by my Aunt Linnie Jane and her beloved husband, Edgar.

Edgar Harold Burks, Jr. was the only child of Edgar Harold Burks, Sr. and his wife, Mary Louisa Mouck Burks. Born 17 March 1921 in Pineville, McDonald County, Missouri, Edgar grew up in the small town shared by the Joslin family. His parents owned and operated a mercantile in the town. They attended the Baptist Church. Because his name was the same as his father’s, Edgar became known as “Junior” in his early years. After leaving his hometown to embark upon his formal education, ultimately achieving his doctorate, he became known as Dr. Edgar H. Burks.

Linnie Jane Joslin was the second daughter (born 31 Mar 1922) to James Arthur Joslin and wife, Carrie Edith Bullard Joslin. Artie was a farmer and also operated a butcher shop in the town of Pineville as well as serving as the area mail carrier. Carrie was involved in many activities for her church, her ladies clubs, as well as maintaining their home and caring for their children. The Joslins were very active in their church.

The earliest story related to your author concerning Linnie Jane and Junior Burks was that neither young child could properly pronounce their “Js,” thus, as toddlers they called one another “Anie” and “Unor.” Interesting that they considered one another to be best friends even before they were old enough to speak clearly! Surely, this was a love affair that was destined to occur. They encountered one another often as Mary Burks and Carrie Joslin were best friends and shared many civic activities together. The mothers’ close and loving friendship would continue throughout their lives.

Our grandmother, Carrie Joslin, was gifted with the ability to memorialize everyday events as poetry. One of her poems recently published in this ezine concerned the budding love affair between Linnie Jane and Edgar and may be read here, titled “Courting” and though the date of publication was listed as about 1942/1943, the date was more likely about 1938 or 1939: "Courting"

On 24 March 1940, Edgar and Linnie Jane would recite their vows of marriage, promising to love another, to bind their oath of marriage according to the laws of God, and to be devoted marriage partners through prosperity and financial distress, through health and sickness, as equal and sharing partners, forsaking all others until death dealt them separation. These vows would be upheld with joy and laughter, and a fierce devotion to bearing an equal yoke. The young married couple then embarked on a life filled with service to God and man, surprise events, adventure, life-threatening civil wars, and their ultimate quiet enjoyment in their golden years.

Edgar and Linnie Jane attended college together at Southwest Baptist College in Bolivar, Missouri, following their vows of marriage where Edgar entered into his ministerial studies and Linnie Jane majored in Religious Studies. She was also active in Literature and Writing, being elected President of the English Club, a staff writer for the student newspaper “The Mozarkian,” and being drafted into the Sigma Thu Theta sorority. Edgar was also quite active, serving on the Baptist Student Council, studying Greek, serving as Parliamentarian of the English Club, and participating in the Ministerial Conference.

Following their graduation from Southwest Baptist College, Bolivar, the two headed to Waco, Texas, where Edgar would continue his studies at Baylor University. (Excerpts from the obituary provided by his daughter, Alice Anne Burks, are utilized in this text for accuracy in reporting. Where such quotes are utilized, it will be noted by referencing “Obituary”)
Following his ordination as a Baptist minister, Edgar accepted pastorships at various churches over the next several years. He guided Baptist churches in Noel, Splitlog (Goodman), Cabool and Ash Grove in Missouri as well as churches in Texas and Kentucky.

In late 1954, in the church at Cabool, Missouri, Dr. Burks invited the congregation to participate in a drive for Missionaries by holding a Lottie Moon Mission Movement in their church. After a full week of inspired sermons and witness statements from various speakers from around the nation, the drive had not resulted in the call to service by those attending as had been hoped. On a late evening, following a mid-week service, Linnie Jane and Edgar knelt at the altar to engage in fervent prayer that God would bless their efforts by guiding acceptance from the persons He wished to carry on His work abroad. Following several minutes of intense prayer, there was heard an audible question: “Why not you?” Both Linnie Jane and Edgar turned, (thinking the question must have been voiced by the other) and began listing the “obvious” reasons they could not become missionaries: they had a child, they were too old, they were involved in a long-term commitment to their church… Then, they realized the query had not come from either of them. Thus, they began searching the aisles and hallways to locate the one who had voiced this question. Not another person was at the church. No cars other than their own occupied the parking lot. They had both heard an audible Call to Service from their beloved Father in Heaven.

Thus, they contacted a few of their mentors from within the various universities and churches and Baptist organizations they had served alongside. With each word of opposition they presented, some source would break apart the stumbling block. Within months, all questions of denying the Call had disappeared. Thus, they headed to Louisville, Kentucky, to finalize their training. Linnie Jane and Edgar were to become missionaries. Where they would serve, only God knew.

In Louisville, Kentucky, Edgar would begin studies at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Linnie Jane would begin studies at the Women’s Missionary Training School also in Louisville. Both would be highly successful and complete their studies quickly. Now it was time to head to the country chosen for their mission service: Nigeria, Africa. From the Obituary:
“The Burks were appointed as missionaries of the Southern Baptist International Mission Board for work in Nigeria, West Africa, serving there for thirty years. The Burks were assigned to teach in the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary, Ogbomosho. In addition to teaching duties at the Seminary, Edgar also served in the Missionary-Advisor (Director of Missions) to the Igbomina Baptist Association, 90 miles north of Ogbomosho. Most week-ends were spent among the villages there, encouraging churches and helping plant new churches.
In 1965, Edgar was elected the Executive Secretary of the Baptist Mission of Nigeria and they moved to Ibadan, where offices for the Baptist Mission and Nigerian Baptist Conventions were located. In addition, he also served as Director of City Missions and advisor to churches in the area.
In 1976, Edgar asked to be transferred back to the Seminary and again picked up the teaching ministry and office of Vice-Principal. His great joy through the thirty years in Nigeria was to see his students grow into capable pastor, church and convention leaders.
After retiring from the mission field in 1986, Edgar served on the staff of First Baptist Church, Springfield as Assistant to the Pastor, Interim Pastor and Bible Teacher.”

This sounds so good, so sweet and easy and wonderful. It fails to speak to the trials and tribulations faced by the Burks as they answered their call to service. A few of the stories related to your author through the years either directly by Uncle Edgar or Aunt Linnie Jane are now retold to the best of my recollection.

First of all, Linnie Jane was gifted with the ability to play music on any stringed instrument – by ear and without training. She was so very good that in college, she gained the position of soloist on both piano and organ for the famed college orchestra. This gift had become apparent early in her life as she gravitated, naturally, to the keyboard at church. Often, as a little girl or young teen, she would be the accompanist for the church choir. After scrimping for years on the minimal salary paid a Baptist minister, the Burks managed to purchase a piano for Linnie Jane’s use. After learning of their assignment to Nigeria, they arranged for the piano to be shipped over, carefully crated to prevent moisture issues or damage. Imagine their dismay when the piano arrived – in pieces dumped in a variety of crates and barrels and missing key parts!

And then, there was the first Night Market they chose to attend. Night markets were held because by day the heat was over-whelming and the villagers were busy with their usual occupations and housekeeping. The night markets were a maelstrom of activities held in little pockets of torchlight. Tents and wheeled jitneys transported the farmer’s or rancher’s goods to be displayed on open tables, with no refrigeration. Voices in multiple dialects competed with one another for the attention of the shoppers. The paths between the pockets of light were packed with swarms of humanity. Edgar told the story well, conveying to the listener his intense apprehension at exposing his young wife and very young daughter to this whirlwind of strange and unintelligible chaos. He gripped Linnie Jane’s hand in his while she held onto Alice Anne. At one tent, Linnie Jane expressed interest in fabricated artisan goods. Edgar bartered for the item she wanted. He collected the woven cloth, gripped her hand again and headed off, slightly annoyed that she seemed to be pulling back from him. After proceeding about twenty paces, he turned to urge her on – only to find that he had in his grip a very black young African woman, not his very pale and Caucasian wife! Oh, where, oh where can Linnie Jane be!!! In a panic, he immediately loosened his grip and whirled to look at all the droves of humans as they hurried past. Nowhere could he locate Janie and certainly knew his chance of spying little Alice Anne was slim to none. For about three quarters of an hour he searched, his panic and dire foreboding increasing with every step. Finally, he stopped, said a prayer and began to think: Where should he, logically, look for Linnie Jane? At that point, he heard a drum beat, then the sound of a zither but with a strangely familiar tune, a religious anthem. Could it be?

Edgar began following the sound as it faded and then rose in volume along with the breeze and the chorus of voices chattering around him. Finally, at the very edge of the lighted area, backed only by jungle and complete darkness, he located a circle of tribesmen – and at the very center, none other than Linnie Jane. She was now playing the zither – and teaching the tribesmen the words to “Nearer My God to Thee.” Seated nearby was little Alice Anne, her face glowing in the light from the central firepit. The lost were now found!

Interestingly, the chance music that enticed Linnie Jane to seek out the musicians would serve to ingratiate the young missionary and his family to the local tribesmen. They could not say Alice Anne, so her “name” became Shonna and her parents Mother-of-Shonna and Father-of-Shonna.

Soon after setting up their house in the little village near Ogbomosho, the Burks (still in the midst of unpacking necessities) were paid a visit by the local village elder and three of his wives. Not having been apprised of local customs, Linnie Jane invited them in and turned to Edgar with a raised eyebrow. He smiled at their visitors, raised a hand to indicate “just a moment” and rushed into the little kitchen to hold counsel. They quickly brewed a little pot of local tea and set out cups to serve their guests. A bit of the local flatbread was all they had available to serve, but their guests politely tore off a piece and rather quickly finished their servings of tea. They sat there, nodding and smiling at one another, attempting to communicate by various hand gestures – not at all certain of what intent was being conveyed. After an hour, then two, Linnie Jane excused herself, back to the kitchen and then out the back door. It was time to ask for advice from their mentor – the missionary whose time in service was soon to be over – and ask what they should do. When told the complete story of the visit, he said, “On, no! You have been impolite to the elder! You have not told them it is time to go? You must return home and immediately bow to him, then each wife, smile, and show them the door. That is the courtesy here!” Done deal.

In September of 1956, Edgar and Linnie Jane had made a long trip to carry out part of their mission: the planting of the gospel and, hopefully, a church among those who had never heard the Word of God. They had been transported by lorry as far as the road could go. Then, their load-bearers carted off the food, water, and other necessities for their overnight stay in the jungle. They walked, following their carriers, behind a trio of men bearing machetes to cut away the jungle vines to permit their passage. After many miles, they forded a river on a makeshift raft. Then, more miles of trudging through the jungle. Finally, they arrived at their destination: an isolated group of tribesmen, rumored to be the descendants of headhunters. There preparations for a sermon were made: trees felled, the trunks cut into logs, the logs then split into halves which would form benches for the “congregation.” Each end of the huge log benches were supported by wedges cut just for this purpose. At the front, an interpreter, and a pulpit from which Edgar could deliver his sermon.

Just as Edgar was warming to his subject, satisfied the interpretation was going very well, the congregation seemed to turn their attention away from him to the sound of drums at a great distance. Suddenly, the women in the group began tearing their clothing, wailing in a forlorn manner, and weeping. The men, approached the fire-pit, drawing out ashes which they spread upon their foreheads, gnashing their teeth, and groaning. It was all very frightening and most confusing, until the interpreter turned to Edgar, taking him into his arms and then spoke: “These people, who grieve for your loss, are with you in sorrow. For the drums bring us a sorrowful message – your father, the man from whose loins are you delivered, has passed on to his rewards.”

Thus, did Edgar learn of the sudden death of his father, Edgar Harold Burks, Sr., from a catastrophic and instantly fatal heart attack. The message had traveled by phone in the United States to a ship offshore, then by radio ship to ship, then to the African shore in Nigeria, then by smoke signal and drum to the jungle where he taught the descendants of headhunters the Word of God. Amazing.

But all was not so easily handled. For Nigeria in these early years was in the throes of civil and political unrest. The Igbo (Ibo) were the most culturally adept of all the most populous tribes in Nigeria. Situated in eastern Nigeria near Ibadan, the Ibo had long sought independence for Nigeria from Britain. From the 1930s onward, they had worked to encourage other tribes to join them in their bid for independence. As has been written about the Ibo:
“The Igbo had the most robust economy in the country in their east regional homeland. Not only did they supply the country with its leading writers, artists and scholars, they also supplied the country’s top universities with vice-chancellors and leading professors and scientists. They supplied the country with its first indigenous university (the prestigious university at Nsukka), with its leading and most spirited pan-Africanists and its top diplomats. They supplied the country’s leading high schools with head teachers and administrators, supplied the country with its top bureaucrats, supplied the country with its leading businesspeople and supplied the country with an educated, top-rated professional officers-corps for its military and police forces. In addition they supplied the country with its leading sportspersons, essentially and effectively worked the country’s rail, postal, telegraphic, power, shipping and aviation services to quality standards not seen since in Nigeria…”

On 29 May 1966, leaders of the Hausa-Fulani north region (largely Muslim clergy, overlords, and their civic leaders) who were strongly opposed to liberation from British rule launched a genocidal attack on all Igbo. Their intent was to slaughter or drive the Ibo out of Nigeria completely.

Edgar and Linnie Jane had, at that time, a devoted houseboy who was Ibo. He was a student at the Mission school, yearning to become a Baptist minister to his people. He was a bright and well-loved member of their little household. With this announced genocidal assault having been launched, it became clear that their houseboy must be shepherded to safety if he (and they) were to survive. Thus, they set out upon a very dangerous trip. They hid the young man in a crate among like crates in the back of a lorry and headed for the border. Along the way they encountered a troop of Hausa militants who had set up a roadblock. Warned of the roadblock by loyal tribesmen who had preceded them on foot, they broke open his crate, and entered a nearby river where they ducked under the water, using reeds as breathing devices. Their lorry had been driven through the roadblock by their friends and awaited them just beyond the checkpoint. They had almost given up hope when one of their allies splashed the water in an arranged signal and announced the Hausa had gone on and the way was now clear. They hastened to the waiting lorry and managed to safely convey their houseboy beyond the border to safety.

Every four years, the Burks returned on furlough from Nigeria. They were given the opportunity to mix visits with family members and professional duties related to their service. On one of these visits, they visited Linnie Jane’s brother, Rex Edward Joslin and also her sister, Lena May Carroll, and their families. They brought with them little mementos of Nigeria: a monkey skin purse for your author, hand-crafted animals made from bone and monkey skin and fur, a carved head (beautifully crafted to resemble a Nigerian leader), and various baskets woven from native grasses. They also brought fabric in colorful patterns, some with traditional prints, some tie-dyed and some memorializing the long British rule. On one trip, they were to deliver a speech to various Southern Baptist churches and schools reporting on the progress of the mission work in Nigeria. They chose to wear clothing made for them in Nigeria. Here is a photo taken by Uncle Rex of Edgar and Linnie Jane so attired:

Much has been reported here concerning the work done by Uncle Edgar. It must be noted that Aunt Linnie Jane played a very important role as well. When she decided to provide schooling for the women of the tribe, introducing them to God’s Word, from her Obituary:
“After language study she was assigned to teach at the Women’s Department of the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary, Ogbomosho.”

It soon became apparent teaching the women was nearly impossible when they all had children needful of their attention. Linnie Jane would improvise, creating a dual-purpose training program where the older children were taught childcare alongside chosen adults and the younger children began their training in good hygiene, while being cared for and taught age appropriate lessons from the Bible. It was so delightful to have Aunt Linnie Jane demonstrate one of the songs the women would sing, while carrying a babe upon their back, attached by means of a cloth wrapped multiple times round themselves and the little babe. She would sing in the language of the women, a beautiful smile upon her face as she gloried in this fond remembrance. This program became the model for future programs led by the Southern Baptist Missionary Union. From her Obituary:
“She gathered all the children and began a nursery/preschool department which has continued as a laboratory training school for church nursery and pre-school workers of the Nigerian Baptist Convention. She also served as an advisor, writer and officer of the Nigerian Women’s Missionary Union. She especially loved working with the village churches where she and her husband served as advisors and church planters. “After spending thirty years in Nigeria, she and her husband retired in 1986 and joined the First Baptist Church, Springfield, Mo. where she remained active as a Sunday School teacher and Woman’s Missionary Union worker as long as her health allowed.”

There were, of course, many more adventures during those thirty years in Africa. They both contracted malaria at different times from the mosquitoes that swarmed. At one point they were actually in a stream populated by piranha. They became quite fluent in the Yoruba and Ibo languages and many of their dialects. Their friends among the other missionaries, the African people, those who they met while in transit from Africa back to America were too numerous to count.

When, in 1986, the Burks returned Stateside after ending their missionary service in Africa, they were torn between their love of two countries, two peoples, and their many friends both in Africa and in the United States. It was a difficult transition for them, but they eventually settled into a lovely home in Springfield, filled with mementos of their years abroad, a PIANO, a violin for Edgar, and a yard full of trees, beautiful lawn, flowers and the animals they cared for – both domestic and those natural inhabitants – squirrels, birds, butterflies and so forth.

Edgar H. Burks authored an important book regarding the Baptist Mission service in Nigeria, titled “Planting the Redeemer's Standard, A Life of Thomas J. Bowen, First Baptist Missionary to Nigeria.”
Dr. Edgar Harold Burks, Jr. in 2015

Aunt Linnie Jane Joslin Burks lived alongside her beloved husband until the effects of Alzheimers rendered it impossible for her to be properly cared for at home. She moved into the Baptist Home in Ozark, Missouri. Uncle Edgar visited her there daily until her death 14 March 2012.

Both Linnie Jane and Edgar were born in March, they were wed in March, their one child was born in March and both passed beyond the veil in March. A fascinating coincidence.

This story is one of a love that began between two little toddlers and lasted throughout their lives. The marriage of 72 years is only a part of that story. Uncle Edgar was 94 when he passed away, having lost the love of his life four years prior in 2012 when she was 89.

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

Cooking with Rod

Smothered Pork Loin Chops by M

      This month my sweet mate has chosen to offer one of her most adaptable recipes, one she and her Momma made up many years ago. Believe me, it is delicious! 

This dish is filling and very tasty. Serve it with a crisp salad, hot breads, and a couple of side dishes of vegetables.

      Bon appetit~!

Smothered Pork Loin Chops by M


  • 5 lbs. boneless Pork Loin chops, about 1 inch thick
  • 1 medium head cabbage, cored and cut into wedges
  • 3 bell peppers (green, red, yellow or mixed), cut into strips
  • 2 lg. Bermuda onions, sliced rather thick, about ¼ to ½ inch
  • Cracked black pepper
  • 2 Tbs. parsley
  • 2 tsp. Celery seed
  • 2 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • 2 Tbs. vegetable oil (more if needed)
  • 1 12 oz. Dr. Pepper
  • Water as needed

    Add vegetable oil to large covered electric skillet. Set heat at Medium heat. Season chops on both sides with black pepper and other seasonings. Brown lightly.

    Turn chops over to second side. Top with onion, then pepper strips, finally cabbage. Add a bit of the Dr. Pepper. Cover and permit the skillet to begin softening the vegetables atop the chops. After about 15 minutes, check the skillet. Make sure the liquid has not cooked off. Add more Dr. Pepper to the skillet. Cover tightly again and let meat continue to cook.

    When vegetables are crisp tender, remove to a bowl and keep warm. Check chops. They may need to be turned to even the browning process. If they are now done on both sides, remove the chops to a serving platter. Keep warm.

    Add water to the skillet and using a skillet safe spatula begin loosening the browned meat bits. The au jus thus formed may be used as a sauce or form the basis of a gravy if you choose to add a flour-water mixture. Stir constantly to prevent lumps.

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

Sifoddling Along

In 1914 several events made world news – the Panama Canal was completed, and in faraway Sarajevo a group of fanatical assassins started World War I by shooting the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie. I don’t know how much the Panama Canal may have influenced my life, but World War I and another obscure event of that year were to affect it even though I didn’t show up for 30 more years.

That summer a wayward polio virus found my Daddy and attacked. He was 9 years old and living in the relative isolation of a small hamlet in the Ozarks. Had he lived in a city ghetto, it is likely that he would have had enough frequent sub-clinical exposures that it wouldn’t have amounted to much, but in his case, like that of much more famous Franklin Delano Roosevelt, his isolation from other children had left him vulnerable to the most virulent form of the disease. I was far in the future, of course, but when I took an epidemiology class at the University of Minnesota I learned that before the polio vaccine was developed, more people had polio than measles, most thought the mild infection was a summer cold and didn’t associate it with the much feared infantile paralysis.

The events that happened before my birth I learned about from family stories, many of them told by my Daddy, and sometimes other versions from relatives and friends. Everybody I knew or know in the Ozarks is a story teller. The oral tradition is still alive and well, but waning in the beginning of the 21st Century as personal interaction gives way to technology. This is a sad loss as the old stories bind people together in a shared heritage that is rapidly slipping away into individual isolation. A wise Rabbi I once knew told me that the biggest mistake ever made was writing down the Bible. So long as it was oral lore, it could be changed to fit if circumstances changed. Once it was written down, they were stuck. He had a point.###

My Daddy’s name was Thomas Alton Carnell, but he decided he was better suited to be called Bill and he stuck with that for the rest of his life except for legal requirements. This early show of independence and self-perception were key parts of his personality. Polio, the Ozarks and later, a woman with a sweet disposition and a spine of steel were to prove benchmarks in the way his life evolved and therefore the lives of his children. I have no doubt that they affect how I see myself today.

Times were already hard when Daddy got sick. His mom, my Grandma Babe, had died three years before from complications of a pregnancy. She remained a beautiful saintly ghost that was always in the background of our lives. Once in a while we would get out the family photos and comment on how pretty she was, how her dark eyes were apparent even in the sepia picture and how much my sister looked like her. Daddy was the youngest of her four children, a winsome, incredibly bright child with black hair, eyes so dark brown that you could hardly see the pupils; he had a strong and athletic little body – the fastest runner in the neighborhood, he said. I have a picture of him wearing a little sailor suit with a wide brimmed straw hat tipped back on his head. Ii shows what a cute child he was. At six he was just at the last age when I mother would want to nuzzle his neck and soak up that heavenly “little-boy smell”.

He grew up to be a very good looking man. That isn’t just a statement of a proud daughter; many a woman told me that he was movie-star handsome. When he was born, the nurse who helped deliver him said he was the prettiest baby she had ever seen. Just some of the stories I was told about his early years and the history of my family. These stories bound me in silken bonds to the other members of the family. It seemed that everyone was worthy of a story that made them unique while at the same time linked with the entire clan.

Daddy was precocious. When his parents of older siblings refused to read the comic Katzenjammer Kids to him, he set about learning to read on his own. It is well known family lore that he was only four years old when he accomplished it. Something that his children were unable to do and I know I always felt a little inadequate that I had not been that bright. His father, my Grandpa Tom, faced with four motherless children didn’t waste any time in finding a new woman to care for them. He found a young widow of good family who had recently lost her husband in a mining accident; she was looking for security and a place in society. Grandma Annie and her boy, Sonny joined the family in the fall of 1910. The next year a half -brother was born completing the cast of characters on one side of my family.

Perhaps Grandpa Tom should have taken a little more time to check out his options before choosing a young widow-woman with a temper like a wildcat. They rarely got along and though they never divorced, they lived together only sporadically after the children were older. Since Grandma Annie and Uncle Son lived across the street from our house, Grandpa Tom would appear once in a while in my life. I thought he hung the moon because he always catered to my whims. Grandma Annie seemed to take special delight in tormenting Daddy, especially after he could no longer walk and get away easily. When he came down with polio and had a high fever, it was assumed by the local doctor that he had meningitis. He was packed in ice for seven days and when he emerged, his right leg was withered and his spine was painfully curved.

Thirty two years later, I had the same disease at age 6, but I was much more fortunate in that I was not nearly so seriously damaged. Our common history was an unspoken bond between us, but the real story is the effect of Daddy’s being physically crippled on his outlook on life and how he coped with its limitations, the circumstances of where he lived and how he raised his family.

In the early 1900’s children were economic assets as they provided much needed labor to help the family survive. At least that is how it worked in the rural Ozarks. Being disabled was no excuse to be a slacker. Grandpa Tom had many different enterprises. From 1904 to 1912, he had been the Sheriff of McDonald County, MO. He was also a farmer, a merchant, and later a guard at the State Prison. When Daddy was a young boy, after he became crippled, Grandpa Tom owned a saw mill. Daddy had to be useful, so he was assigned to go down into the sawmill pit and toss out the barked slabs that remained after the usable boards were sawed. He once told me about the biggest log he ever saw and how many board feet of lumber it yielded. Sadly, I didn’t write it down and have no idea how big that virgin timber log was.

Another epic year was 1918 – the year World War I ended and Spanish Flu sickened or killed millions. Daddy fell ill to the point that (as Grandpa Tom later told me) “I left the house thinking I would never see him alive again.” That tough little boy did survive and not far away a six year old girl nearly suffered the same fate. She was to be my Mom. She was so ill and her recovery so slow that she missed an entire year of school. Tragedy added to the difficulty of that year. Only after the war ended on November 11, 1911, Mom’s oldest brother Clancy died of flu and/or pneumonia in France. The awful telegram came at a time when there was much sickness in the Big Sugar Creek Valley. Mom told me that the only thing that kept my grandmother from losing her mind was she was too busy caring for the family and neighbors who were too ill to do their chores. Like Grandma Babe, Uncle Clancy remained a presence in the family – a handsome cowboy who went straight from a Montana sheep ranch to Ft. Riley, KS to join the Army. He didn’t go home to visit first as he said it would be too hard to leave from there. Photos of Uncle Clancy were handed about with reverence so long as his parents and siblings lived. I have the little cane bottom chair that was made for him as an infant. Four generations of toddlers have sat on it and been told the story of Uncle Clancy’s short life.

McDonald is a strange little microcosm located in the middle of the U.S. It would be easy to think it would be a blend of many regional ways of life – perhaps it was as it was curiously different from other cultures I have lived in or read about. There is an overarching southern, Scots-Irish mountain way of life on the surface, but it has produced some quirky and odd people that are strangely funny and endearing. As a young person, I was inordinately proud to be from McDonald County. I was astonished to learn that I wasn’t actually born there. I was in college before I realized that the hospital where I was born in Stella, Missouri was actually slightly over the border in Newton County. I could hardly believe my eyes when I read the map. How had that escaped my attention for 18 years? Mom and I went home when I was three days old, so I suppose you could say that I got there as soon as I could. That pride has led me to defend McDonald County most of my life. Non-residents seem to take great delight in denigrating and poking fun at us as if we were more “hillbilly” and backward than they.

Yes, we are slow to change our ways, there is no city of any size and the population of the whole county is still fewer than 25,000 souls. Add in the astounding percentage who can trace ancestors back more than 100 years and the resulting intricate kinships, it isn’t surprising that it might get a little confusing to strangers. Given that human nature seems to be in constant need of finding a group to look down on in order to fluff up their own egos, McDonald County residents were sitting ducks– poor with few prospects, little opportunity to escape its borders to learn more about a bigger world and not inclined to leave anyway. It was a small Eden with a moderate climate, lots of pristine water, good bottom land to farm and warm social connections. What more could you hope for? I grew up in cozy little Dog Holler. To this day, if I see too much sky, it makes me nervous. The high prairie or the open sea leaves me exposed like a bug, too visible and vulnerable. I am happiest surrounded by lots of trees, and a small moving stream nearby. Water that is too still bothers me, too. Depths unknown, possibly weedy and all kinds of creatures poised to do me great harm. No thank you.

As an example, they had no advance notice of Haley’s Comet so when it flew over the sky looking “like a wash tub on fire” according to Daddy, the mothers hysterically gathered their children to them certain that the end of the world had come. Poor as Job’s turkey, residents realized that they had better cling together in order to survive. My birth in 1940 allowed me to witness a seismic change in culture from that of the 17th Century and earlier to the 21st.

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Irish Eyes

Ireland’s Greatest Tenor,
Lakes and Tight Bastards

“ . . .riverrun past Eve and d Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by commodious vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs.” The opening line of Finnegans Wake. James Joyce said, “Time and the river and the mountains are the real heroes of my book.” The river he referred to was, of course, the Liffey, “. . .before she ever dreamt she’d ever lave Kilbride and go foaming under Horsepass Bridge . . .”

Now, in The River Liffey Stories you can find fascinating information about Ireland’s capital river from Kippure to Ringsend. (See pic at bttom of page.) It takes you from Liffey’s source in the majestic Wicklow Mountains as it meanders through towns and villages of beautiful County Kildare and County Dublin before reaching the sea in Dublin Bay. The damming of the Liffey in 1940 created what is now the beautiful Blessington Lakes.


(Speaking of which, the picturesque village of Lacken, which overlooking the lake, is renowned for its storytellers. A granite seat is been erected there which bears the Gaelic inscription, Sui Sios agus inis sceal dom, which translated means, “Sit down and tell me a story.” The seat was “worked” by the McEvoys, a famous family of Ballyknockan stonecutters , from stone extracted from their own quarry.)

Lacken seat

The River Liffey Stories takes us on a journey which explores the history, geology, flora and fauna, and the people of the river through the ages until the present day. The project is collaboration between County Wicklow, County Kildare and South Dublin Heritage Departments with Bailey & Blake Video Productions. Visit their website;  (See Cover Pic at bottom of page.)

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The John McCormack Electric Edition

Following a successful fundraising campaign, for the first time ever, the complete recorded legacy of this great singer, John McCormack, is to be published shortly. Completing a project that began 25 years ago, The John McCormack Electric Edition, a 16-CD box and 100+ page booklet is limited to 1,000 sets worldwide, many of which are already subscribed. The Electric Edition covers the years 1925-1942 and the early 1904 recordings. It draws from six major collections in Ireland, America, Canada and the UK, and contains over 240 recordings as well as unpublished material and all of the extant radio broadcasts.
Count John McCormack

Count John McCormack (1884-1945) was Ireland’s greatest Tenor, believed by many to be the finest lyric tenor of the 20th century. World famous, he was as popular as the Beatles, U2 or Elvis Presley. He made over 600 recordings on shellac 78s. These are slowly but surely deteriorating, but this project will ensure that his complete recordings (1904-1942) are preserved in the best possible sound for future generations, saving an important part of Ireland’s cultural heritage. The recordings cover opera, Irish folk song, popular song, religious music, and songs from Russia, Germany, Italy and France.

While reissues of recordings by John McCormack have often appeared in the past, they have too often been poorly transferred and, crucially, played at the wrong speeds. Also, much material of interest has never appeared. This is not a profit-making venture. It is being funded by subscription in order to cover the cost of producing the set. So far, several hundred subscribers from 12 countries around the world have joined. How did it all happen? Cork collector of original McCormack recordings, Jeremy Meehan, chanced to buy on eBay four of John McCormack’s 1904 cylinder recordings being sold by Ward Marston. During a subsequent email exchange, they discovered a mutual desire to see the complete Odeon McCormack recordings issued on CD, and Ward Marston told of his disappointment at the failure of earlier projects. Jeremy offered to fundraise to enable it to happen, and two years later, in 2014, The John McCormack Odeon Edition (4 CDs) was issued. Gramophone magazine, reviewing the set, said that “…this must be counted as one of the major historic CD releases of the last decade.” Limited numbers of The John McCormack Edition remain, but the set will only be issued once. Details at; .

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My Christmas Present

A good friend, who is well aware of my economy consciousness and parsimonious outlook on life gave me a book for Christmas with the words, "This’ll suit you ye mane hoor ye.” It’s The Justified Tight Bastards Guide To Life by P.J. Moore. The author examines some of our perceived financial woes from a holistic rather than a purely economic viewpoint and demonstrates how these problems may be dealt with by a simple shift in perspective. For instance, “Being bored is a dangerous condition, financially, to find yourself in any more than occasionally. When you are bored your desperation to alleviate the situation will drive the temptation to spend money to a critically high level, even if, or perhaps especially if, you can ill afford it.”

Every page gives good sound advice on saving money. It is written in a style perfect for my warped sense of humour. It is capable of giving many laughs and the advice will certainly make your money go further. With headings such as “White is Shite “ lesser-known facts about white bread to “Don’t Go Shopping on an Empty Stomach” the 356 pages are loaded with valuable tips. The author, Athy born, P.J Moore, opens with a quotation from Somerset Maugham; “ Money is like a sixth sense without which you cannot make a complete use of the other five.” He (P.J. not Somerset Maugham) can be contacted at;

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Luke Kelly Statue

The late great Luke Kelly is now commemorated by two statues in his native Dublin. One is a life-size bronze of a seated Luke Kelly singing and playing the banjo. It was created by John Cull and was donated to the city by the late Gerry Hunt and is located on South King St.
The Bust Sculpture

The second sculpture, a marble portrait head of Luke Kelly, created by award winning portrait artist Vera Klute, is on Royal Canal, Guild St/Sheriff St.

See you in March.

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