Sunday, October 29, 2017

Along the Way--the Graveyard Search

Puzzles can be hindrance for me. In frustration I often say enough is enough, but the last few years of genealogy searches, becoming acquainted with new and equally curious relatives, and constantly sorting notes, has pushed me out of my small comfort zone.  Inquiring mode is not my strength, but perseverance is.

John Clendening, about 1885

Luckily, the two combined to finally give me an answer to a family member lost over time: What ever happened to my grandmother's father, who left his two baby daughters to be raised by his sister after his wife died in childbirth? Did he intend to leave them only for a short time? Did he plan to send money or return one day? Did they ever see him again? Where did he go?

During a cold winter in Kansas a few years ago, I began sorting every picture and letter that my mother and grandmother had saved. Somehow in the hundred years that had passed, my mother managed to save her mother, Pearl's, few written letters from her father, John, written in the 1890's.

The few letters carried sad and somber tones:

 August 25, 1895 Denison, Texas
    I halve had beter health this summer than yoursal. I could not brag any fefor few 2 years. People ses that I look beter than yousal. We halve had now rain for a munth and it is getting very dry hear. The worms took to the cotton and hurt it right smart but we wil make some and I guess that it will be worth just as much as it would have bin.

Septemeber the 13, 1896
Dear Children, 
     I halve received to letters from Pearley sinse I halve ritin last....
     I don't hear much bout Christmas this year. Times are prety hard out in the country because the people did not rais much last year.
     We had our picture taken when we wer hunting and will send it to you. it is only tolerable good wane. It was taken down at the forks of the bagey river in the Indian territory. 

My mother and grandmother never spoke of John, and his letters stayed hidden in my mother's underwear drawer until her death.  Last year research done by our cousin, David Peters, found out that J.C. Clendening was buried in the Grayson County Poor Farm in Sherman, Texas. David notes, "John C. Clendening has the definition of a tragic character: losing both of his older brothers in the Civil War; his first child dying as in infant; then losing his wife at the age of 37 in childbirth leaving him with two little girls to raise alone. It is hard to imagine what the weight of the world must have felt like to him. Moving to Texas and starting over must have been his thought at the time he left." 

Jack and I decided it was time to find my great grandfather's grave. On our first trip to Sherman, physically searching for the Poor Farm Cemetery we looked for help and direction from the libraries, courthouse, and a postman delivering mail in the area where we thought we might find the cemetery. No luck.

Six months later and with more information than our maps, we drove to Sherman. Still after several hours of driving and searching we found nothing but a park, which we walked from East to West and North to South. Nothing.  

At last, and with the perseverance given to me by my father, I politely asked a crew of city workers if they knew anything about this lost cemetery.  Immediately, one man looked at me with a smile of curiosity. "Yes, Mme, I know right where it is. If you can wait till 4:30 I can take you right to it."  

Across the street from the park stood a row of Honey Locust trees guarding one cock-eyed gate. Like Sleeping Beauty, the fence row of gnarled trees protected the view of the long forgotten cemetery. 

Inside the gate, like the book had explained were more unmarked graves than marked.  We walked, searched, and read what we could and then realized that my great grandfather's grave
The Grayson County Poor Farm Cemetery
would never be found.  The records at the home had been lost in a fire decades ago. Our hearts broke as the man helping us pointed to a piece of old wood. "That is what most of the cemetery markers of these folks looks like.  I do my best to cut around them so people can find them, 
but the weather and the lands have covered most of them."

The resting place of each unfortunate is marked by a head and foot board, each made of well planked bois' d-arc, painted white with the number of the burial, which is kept in the "dead book" at the superintendent's office.

The city worker and gentleman who helped us find the lost cemetery. 

Now we know that my great grandfather was laid to rest December 5, 1925 somewhere on this hillside in Sherman, Texas.   

We don't think he ever returned to see his family again. How long he continued to "rite" is unknown. His daughter, Pearl, lived in Ardmore, Oklahoma from 1914-1920, so she may have been able to find her father in Denison or Sherman, but we will never know. More mysterious abound than were solved, but at least he is at rest in my heart.   

Thursday, October 19, 2017


Days gone by...
Riding on a streetcar in New Orleans
  remembering days gone by
A stranger's face looked familiar.

"Did we go to school together," I ask the man.
  He studied my face and smiled.
"Miami," I say, "Class of '65."

"Yes, we did," he laughed. "I'm Steve G, and
  your dad was the golf pro, wasn't he?"
"Yes, he was." I smiled with pride. "I'm Letty."


Becky, whose heritage includes Cherokee,
It's a small world,  afterall
  is a walking anthology
Of people, places, and events.

A neighbor, and I discovered we both 
  knew Becky from different experiences, and
Becky knew another neighbor, Jay.

Our dog, Lucy,  knows our neighbors by sniffs and 
  dogs who bark behind the fences. 
We knew Jay because of his dog Cooper.


One evening walking we saw Jay.
  "Are you Jay, Cooper's dad?" He nodded, "Yes."
"We have friends in common," I continued. 

Back and forth the dialogue flowed,
  as we discovered common ground.
Goodbyes were said, then Jay turned and spoke.

"Squee stah a lo he." 
   I stopped, listening to the flow of his deep voice.
"Small World," he replied in Cherokee.


Letty and Melissa Young, Jefferson Dragons
On a rooftop in Columbus, Ohio
  Among strangers, we toasted to a Sooner victory.
Then a familiar smile appeared through the crowd.

Jumping up I ran calling, "Melissa, Melissa." 
  The teacher hugs were felt from deep inside.
Memories made it feel like yesterday, minus twenty years. 

In only minutes we shared our common threads: 
  My move to Kansas and teaching middle school,
Her move to Temecula, Ca. teaching elementary.


Knocking on a stranger's door to say, 
  "Your Halloween pumpkins are delightful."
Can lead to old friends uniting.
Spinning Pumpkins, attention grabbers

In a crowd of thousands dressed
  in Sooner reds or Texas burnt oranges
A voice calls out, "Ms Watt, Ms Watt." 

The teacher in me yearns to make connections,
  whether in 6 degrees of separation
Or right night door.

  as the Cherokee people say,
"Small World." 

What is your Squee Stah A Lo He story?

Monday, October 9, 2017

Oh, Chihuly

OKC Museum of Art, Chihuly centerpiece
Chihuly floor to ceiling 
Playfully reacting to art is how I define a memorable moment in a museum.  Even though Chihuly Art * strikes me as "Do Not Touch" glass, in reality it's expressive nature demands more than a stance and stare by viewers.  Dale Chihuly tempts and teases me to reach out and touch, "I dare you."  But years of my mother's quick arm lashings and Do Not Touch scoldings prevented me from doing something costly and stupid. 

While touring the OKC Museum of Art with friends Lora and Leah, we were delighted to walk through the Chihuly gallery filled with illuminated colors of topaz, gold, scarlet, silver, cobalt blue, emerald green, and shapes that shift like in a dream.

The three of us did our best to be content with looking from various angles at the colorful structures of sapphire, amethyst, canary, and indigo. When we walked into a hallway leading to another room filled with bold designs, we were stopped in our tracks.  The lighting in the ceiling flooded the hallway in streams of colors from the Chihuly art hanging above us. Our mouths dropped open in amazement.  Not being satisfied to stare with heads leaning backwards we took our own bold move, and sat ourselves down on the floor at the far end where no one would walk on us, merely by us. From sitting we finally built up the nerve to lay on the floor. 
3 L's laughing not lounging on the floor

A ceiling filled with Chihuly's colorful designs. 

We laughed, pointed, admired, and gazed at the incredible art illuminating the hallway.  Dale Chihuly's art gave us a moment to remember. His designs and colors still float serenely through my mind's eye leaving me with the desire to discover more  Chihuly at Crystal Bridges, Bentonville, Arkansas.*

The temptation to touch, to peek, lurks within my spirit. On the cruise ship last year a magnificent blue glass Chihuly stood in the middle of crowded room. Since no one seemed to notice the art amidst the throngs of people and with an ever so slight desire to touch the magical art, I walked over to view the glass tentacles of twirling blues and greens.  Suddenly, before I could reach out to touch two little girls scooted in front of me pointing, twisting their hands and arms like licorice, and giggling at the glass work that sat on the floor reaching upward to five feet in the air, just the right size for children.  It was their giggling that caught my attention, so rather than touch I giggled. After all, the glass work demanded a show of spirited feelings.  
Similar to the swirling art on the cruise ship.
It can be viewed at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens.

So, until I win the lottery and buy my own Chihuly to touch, I will continue to giggle in delight, twirl in circles like the swirls in his spherical shapes, and admire the glass art from a distance.

**Please click on the colored links to other sites. 

This is what we have to look forward to at Crystal Bridges.
Thank you Annette Mackey for sharing.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Sex in the Sixties

Sex in the ‘60’s is not the same
  As Sex in the Sixties!

It took me nine years and nine 
  To come up with that line.
I could have been laughing about it
  For nearly a decade.  

Sex in the ‘60’s is not the same
  As Sex in the Sixties.

The playboy’s death must have
  Streamed through my mind.
I never wore a bunny tail
  And never felt sexy,
But oh, could I clean house and cook a meal
 To the music of Janis Joplin,Get It While You Can
Dance to Aretha late into the night, and
  Jump into bed and frolic till the sun came up.
Then wake up, go to work, sexercise before dinner,
  And do it all over again by a Bad Moon Rising
Sex in the ‘60’s is not the
  Same as Sex in the Sixties!

In the early morning sunrise
  We watch the bunnies play in the yard.
Cleaning house is teamwork
  Before company arrives.
Eating out is our reward for a     day
  Or to meet up with friends.
An evening drink on the patio gives us time to admire
  Our colorful flowers, butterflies, and birds.
A good novel to read, a game to watch on TV,
  Our needs and energies have changed.

Sex in the ‘60’s is not the same
  As Sex in the Sixties!

Then I looked at dining room tables and giggled
  Wondering how many positions we could enjoy.
Nature’s bushes and quiet lake shores
  Offered sexy retreats for couples.
On hot steamy nights at the drive-in movies
  Lovers parked on the back rows
Hiding their passions from their parents
  Sliding down onto the vinyl seats
Exploring, touching new places as hearts
  Beat faster and moans were muffled.

Sex in the ‘60’s is not the same
  As Sex in the Sixties.

Dancing is for the Stars now
  Since my back is not so limber.
Exercising is at the gym before ten am
  Naps fall anywhere throughout the day.
One day on the golf course
  Takes two days to recover.
Heating pads and ice packs give more comfort
  Than a shot of tequila or a “screaming orgasm.”
Maybe not…..

Sex in the ‘60’s is not the same
  As Sex in the Sixties!

Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay

  Rings of Otis and times that have drifted by.
Purple passions are the flowers in my backyard
  Not the drink that caused our bodies to gyrate.
I Want to Hold Your Hand means the same thing today
  As it did then, and goose bumps still signal that feeling. 
Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow once consumed my worries
 But love in the sixties calms my soul and keeps my heart beating.

Sex in the ‘60’s is not the same
  As Sex in the Sixties.

Pushing myself day by day,
  My body groans in pain and aches.
Believing that I could do it all then
  And I can do it all now.
But I’ve been fooled before.
  Nightfall can’t come soon enough.
The gentle kiss, a light touch of love, a brush of the hand,
  Our bodies touching in pleasure.
With the deepest love of my life
  Sex in the Sixties is still Beautiful

* Take moment and enjoy the music that is linked to the highlighted words.