Thursday, March 31, 2011

Antidote for Horrific Newsstory Fatigue

Overwhelmed by the seemingly neverending stream of newsstories about mankind's seemingly neverending atrocities? Here's a fix I picked up from the Presurfer.

We should all be so loving to each other as these two are.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Jacob With the Blue, Blue Eyes

I had only those few years to know our grandfather, from the time our family moved back to Kentucky after the war in 1946 until we migrated on to northern Ohio in 1950 looking for steady work for our father. Jacob had clear blue eyes, a gentle manner, and a way of gathering the grandchildren at his feet to listen to the Appalachian stories. I can hear him as though it were yesterday. With six children who made it to adulthood, married, and all had children, it was a good sized clan that got together at the old homestead on Sundays.

The clan had been settled in Lewis County, Kentucky, for fifty years before our mother joined and married our father in Connecticut where he was building planes during World War II. They were all teachers, farmers, and factory workers - the salt of the Midwestern earth. The Civil War had left Kentucky poor. Previously a highly agricultural state, the size of farms dwindled, and the Great Depression took out many of the manufacturing jobs. By 1940 the per capita income had dropped to 54% of the national level.

The patriarch of our clan was Jacob Dillow. He was born in 1875 in Greenup County, just east of Lewis County, the sixth of ten children of Abraham Dillow and Sarah Hall. Abraham's Scottish-Irish family had settled in frontier western Virginia in the 1700's, gradually making their way up to northeastern Kentucky over the next hundred years. Sarah's family was Pennsylvania Germans who followed the migration route of many Germans down the Ohio River Valley. Both families settled in East Little Sandy in Kentucky. Abraham and his three brothers went off to the Civil War, all on the Union side against their Virginia cousins on the Confederate side. More on Abraham and Sarah later.

Jacob spent his first six years in Greenup, Daniel Boone country once inhabited by the Shawnee and the first white settlement in Kentucky. It would have been part of the bustling traffic on the Ohio River in the 1800s. His father, Abraham, was a farmer in Greenup; with his family of seven children, all under the age of 15, he pulled up stakes and moved the lot of them to Champaign, Illnois, in about 1881.

Jacob grew up on the farm in Illinois, no doubt working the farm with his father, raising cattle and poultry in Illinois until he was 15 years old. Abraham again uprooted the family, by now with three more children, and moved all 10 children to Lewis County in about 1890. Along the way, Jacob had been able to get some education, for by the time he was grown he was able to attend "normal school" in Lewis County to get a teaching credential in the 1890s. A five years older brother, Willard, died about this time at age 25, and three years later his next younger sister, Dolly, died at age 20. This must have been a difficult time for this family and for Jacob.

Jacob taught school as an itinerant teacher through those years, going to live in a community that needed a teacher, often in a one room school house. One of his teaching assignments was at Clarksburg and one of his students there was Grace Martin, 8 years his junior. A Portsmouth Times article on December 8, 1902, announced "The Eloping Couple".

Jacob Dillon, age 26, and Miss Grace Martin, age, 19, of near Vanceburg, Ky., were married at the probate office this afternoon by Rev. Henry W. Hargett. The bride was a handsome little woman. They ran away because her parents objected to the match. She left home ostensibly to go to Cincinnati, but instead joined her lover and came to this city. There will be some surprised parents at Vanceburg, tomorrow.

Why did they have to run away? Grace was 19 by now, not too young to marry in those days. She wasn't pregnant - they didn't have their first child until 4 years later. He would have been on a social par with her family, respectable as a teacher. About this our mother says, "Mary Jane (Grace's mother) didn't want any man to have her".

In any event, the eloped couple remained in Portsmouth for the next two years. He gave up teaching to work for two years in a steel mill and she worked in a shoe factory, saving their money until they could return to Lewis County and buy a thirty acre farm with a brick farmhouse on Dry Run. "We had the only brick house around," says our mother.

Jacob went back to teaching and farming, mostly tobacco. Over the sixteen years from 1906 to 1922 they had seven children, all born at home with a midwife. One of the children, George, died in the home in 1925 at age 17 from diabetes and pneumonia, both treatable these days. I know this was tragic for the family; our mother, now 96, still talks of him.

Five of the seven children, in 1918:

About life at the farm, the oldest brother, Elwood, wrote to our mother, Ramona:

I can remember my dad dismanteling an old barn between our garden and Dry Run. I also recall grandfather Martin with a slip scraper and team removing a bank in our front yard. I am almost certain that the barn was built after Pa bought the farm. During the 1913 flood, waters were in this barn and Pa had placed planking to reach the barn. He removed some second floor boards from the barn loft, built a Jon boat in which we boated across the backwater to grandparents’ home. Do you remember the foot log Pa built across Dry Run Creek? It was from this crude foot log that I fell with my bicycle on top of me. It was at the confluence of Gander Branch and Dry Run Creek that Pa lost his “9” Ford Coupe. This car was washed about two hundred yards down stream. Later, I bought the damaged Ford, put another body on it and had a serviceable auto.

Was this that "9" Ford Couple lost in the creek?

Jacob died in 1953, and Grace followed 15 years later. Together they raised seven children who had 14 grandchildren. Jacob educated many of the children of Lewis County, Kentucky. All of his children but Ramona remained in the Lewis County area, though many of the grandchildren have scattered. The old homestead was torn down to put a freeway through, but I can still remember the grandfather with the blue, blue eyes, and the nights catching fireflies down the front lawn of the homestead with all the cousins.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Japanese Cherry Blossom Festival 2011, San Diego

This weekend Jennifer and I headed down to Balboa Park's Cherry Blossom Festival to spend a day in Japanese culture and to be in solidarity with our Japanese brothers and sisters. We also have some friendly photo competition going on for spotting and capturing the best shot.

We share our day of Japanese adventure, starting with the Festival.

The Japanese Friendship Garden is a hidden jewel I hadn't visited until this day, 2 acres that will make you feel you are in Japan. Given the recent events, this was the perfect place to go. The festival celebrates the earth cycle that no matter how harsh the winter, spring will come and life is renewed.

Jennifer got the best cherry blossom shot.

the best sign of spring,

the best Zen garden,

the most creative bamboo dripper,

and most creative temple with reflections and her off center signature.

Read here about another Zen garden.

I'll claim the best temple composition,

Koi pond garden,

and people picture.

Jennifer's body language shows her determination to be a first rate photographer and film maker. And yes, Jennifer, Mr. Sidewalk Monitor was right. Your foot was off the rock.

We walked outside the Garden to catch a glimpse of the canyon where work is going on to add 14 acres to the current two acres. A pine tree will be planted as a memorial for those who lost their lives in the earthquake and tsunami, symbolically anchoring one side of a bridge across the canyon. We could already see many blooming cherry trees in the canyon. How beautiful this will be for the people of San Diego when finished!

We walked over to the Menghi to see the Maneki Neko exhibit. the Japanese beckoning cats. Jennifer and I couldn't figure out why all the cats had a raised paw, some left, some right pawed. Read here why.

We topped the adventure off with a late Japanese lunch at Katani's in Carmel Valley, Udon noodle soup, tempura, and some Japanese lessons from Jennifer. A great day, even if Jennifer did top me in the photography category.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Shoulders We Stand On

I thought this interest in gathering the family history was a late life phenomenon. I go to my genealogy classes and they are populated with older people, taught by even older people. Our great-grandfather documented all the descendants from his surname immigrant in New England, an indentured servant to the colony of Dover, New Hampshire in the early 1600's. But I recall even in my thirties looking in phone books for others with the same family names, even writing to them at times. Once I received a long letter back from a woman on a wheat farm in Montana who didn't know anything about the family. I figured she was just lonely out there and wanted to make a connection. In her younger years Patty spent time on the family tree after the Internet opened up information until she became so consumed that she had to pack everything up and mail it to me.

My foray back into the family history was inspired by wanting to be a D.A.R., a Daughter of the American Revolution, since I knew we must have at least one Revolution patriot, half blood New Englanders that we are. Saying you have one isn't enough, you have to "prove" it with documentation of every generation going back to the 1700's.

I took classes and got my D.A.R. through the New Hampshire patriot researched by our great grandfather, and along the way found other Revolution patriots as well as frontiersmen and women, migrations where no roads or rivers were evident, cousins fighting cousins on the same battlefields, tragic losses of children.

I found not all those searching for ancestors are late lifers. We just have more time. And so, I am looking for those not yet found, source documenting those we know, and I'll be putting up some of their stories here. It's the stories I wonder about. How did they live? Did they have enough to eat? What was it like learning the next settlement had just been massacred by Indians? What made them pick up and move on even further into the frontier? How did they have ten babies with no medical care and no help?

Tune in. If you are family, look to meet people you didn't know. And if you're not family, perhaps you'll be inspired to find your own.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

El MonteTrail, in La Canada de los Coches Country

My Gourmet Hiking Club buddies made a last minute change in plans to check out the newly opened El Monte Trail - just three weeks ago - and what a wonderful trail on a beautiful San Diego day. Two miles to the top of El Monte. Boulder free for a change, a bit of a luxury in hiking out here.

Not only that, but I checked off one of the Ranchos of San Diego County from my visit and hike all the San Diego ranchos and missions list. Back in the days of the missions, El Cajon in East County was pastures for the padres cattle and sheep, and pigs were raised in the the low hills to the east, now the town of Lakeside, in La Canada de los Coches, or “glen of the pigs”. In the years of the ranchos (about 1831-1848), La Canada de los Coches was granted so pigs could still be raised for the Mission. At only 28 acres, it was the smallest of the San Diego ranchos and entirely surrounded by the huge El Cajon rancho.

Our hike was in the Lakeside mountains but close enough I will count it as a rancho hike. Just a short distance up the trail we could see the valley laid out below, now mostly agricultural but the controversial Sunrise power line is going in through the valley.

Actually, we had two mountains to go up. The switchbacks on the far mountain will lead us up through the col between El Monte Valley and Blossom Valley.

See, no boulders or rocks on the trail. Yay!

We had a great view of El Capitan which Kathleen and I have said all winter that we were going to hike.

And finally, the goal of all this effort, a gourmet picnic in a gorgeous setting, accessible only on foot.

After all, we are the Gourmet Hiking Club.