Scheherazade and My New Podcasts

Having spent most of the day trying to give Itunes an address of my podcast, I am somewhat exhausted.  What a complicated mess their web page is!  I would rather file my 1986 income taxes again than tackle their web pages once more.

The podcast is a series of stories I tell from my book “Four on the Floor.”  After I left industry, I spent a few years teaching math and science in public schools as a sub.  It was fun for me and the kids were generally great to work with.  There were times when the lesson was over and the bell had not rung.  I used those times to tell stories about my kids or my brothers, or exotic stories from science or history.

And kid love gore.  For instance, they loved to hear about the time my older brother blew his big toe off with a shotgun.  That was a gun safety story.  There was a reason for each of these tales.  Kids always want to know why you tell a story.

Of course, the kids asked me to write my stories (I suppose that was so they could tell them to their kids).  Eventually I did just that and now, nine books later, I’ve about decided to quit writing.  If you want to hear one of my stories you can go to the left side of this page to “Blog Roll” and click the words “Four on the Floor Podcasts.”   I am fortunate to have a son who can set these things up for me.

Scheherazade was the best story teller there ever was, with her Arabian Nights stories, much better than I.  But she was highly motivated.  My only motivation was to pass along the art of story telling to a bunch of kids, just to let them know there was something more interesting in life than TV.  I may have convinced a few.

Digging in the Past

Writing is not all agony.  I write things like this for fun and then send them to a friend, Leland Meitzler, so he can post them on his blog.  Besides, they don’t require a lot of research.  That work has already been done years ago when I compiled a genealogy.  The thing for you readers to remember is that they are all true.  Leland’s Blog is very informative and can be found at

http://www.genealogyblog.com/

Don’t Dig Up the Past!

Maybe it is just my family that has problems, but probably not.  I just know that I have been warned not to dig up the past by very serious cousins.  On more than one occasion and on more than one family line.  Of course, reasons were not offered (that would ruin the fun of making the warning).

I have never agreed to stop turning over rocks and looking under them.  I just couldn’t agree when I did not know what was hidden there waiting for me to find.  In fact, I was spurred on by such warnings.

Of course I found ugly things, especially surrounding the reputations of those who were murdered.  That is because it was necessary to blacken the names of those who were about to die.  You see, if a murderer went to trial, it was helpful to have killed a bad guy.  Juries understand bad guys.  Lawyers love to try the victims instead of the perpetrators.  Researchers have to learn to overlook purposeful blackening of names, especially when the victim was involved in a worthy purpose such as interfering with the KKK.

Do you know how the KKK was tracked down in  rural areas in 1874?  The deputy US Marshall went to retail shops and found out who was selling white sheets.  And then he found out who was buying those sheets.  Killers who hide under white sheets in the cover of night probably are not good judges of character, and when they are the ones spreading the stories about someone else, you can take those stories with a grain of salt.

When I began researching, I didn’t know who in my family was a good guy and who was not.  I just dug until I found the facts.  If I found evil people, that is what I reported.  If I found good people (or, “just not bad” people), I would report that as well.  Mainly, I found what type of enemies an ancestor had.  By learning about his enemies, I could get a grasp on my ancestor’s character.

But I will admit that I tend to think the best of someone until I learn differently.  After all, saints and sinners abound in this world and have done so for thousands of years.  There seem to have been more sinners than saints, making the search for holy folks take a little longer than the search for us ordinary types.

Now that I mention it, I do not recall anyone in my family who could qualify as a saint.  There were a few ministers and one who was both a doctor and a minister.  He was in St. Charles, MO in 1809-1811 when the biggest quakes in the US hit the Midwest and I don’t know if he uttered one cuss word.  That might qualify him for sainthood.  I didn’t look at him as a saint, however, but as an entrepreneur.  Because he was both a doctor and a preacher, he made money when people were coming and going.  Smart man, but not necessarily a saint.

And there was my cousin Jefferson Davis Grover (b. 1861and named for a Southern Saint) who was described by female cousins as the “handsomest man in the world.”   He died in 1925 in rather odd circumstances as told by his third wife.  He would not be a candidate for sainthood, either, unless you listened to his girlfriends.

There was a cousin, once, whom family members talked about in quiet whispers.  It seems her mother was not married to her father, but everyone knew about her birth. Of course, she was properly ostracized.  I have tried to locate this cousin who in my mind had no control over what her parents did.  I always felt she was treated rather shabbily.  She seems to want nothing to with the rest of us for some reason.  I can’t say I blame her.  To the best of my knowledge she has not taken a shot at any of us.  Maybe she is more of a saint than any of us realize.

Digging up the past is fun, as long as no one is hurt by it.  To this day, I have no idea why my cousins advised that I not research the family.  Maybe they heard something I missed.  Most likely they believed something that on the truth scale, ran between zero and one-half.  Maybe it made them feel important to be the sharer of family secrets.

No Messages from me from Beyond the Grave

I am still writing for a friend’s blog.  Here is a recent effort that is self explanatory:

Beyond the Grave

Filed in Thomas Fiske articles on Apr.05, 2010

Another amusing article by my friend, Tom Fiske:

Thomas Fiske I saw an Internet article titled “Texting from Beyond the Grave.” New technology allows a person to embed a chip in his or her granite tombstone that can be excited by telephones in the future so that a dead person’s typed message can be read out. Maybe a photo, too…

And I thought, “Some people just can’t let go.” But I also wondered if I were to leave such a statement, what my last message to the world might be. Would it be something like, “I told Evie I was sick…” or “Love your neighbor,” something that has been done much better and more often in the Bible. I just do not know. I doubt it would be one of those silly items that people send each other on the Internet each day—you know, one of those stories that is simply too cute to pass up, so you have to send the drivel on. Finding the right message would be a tough decision.

One day in 1944 in middle school a teacher had a boy by the name of Gilbert Lutz stand beside him in class. He commended the boy on his ability to carve. It seems the kid had boldly carved his name in a wood toilet seat in the boys’ bathroom. The teacher finished his special address to the carver by saying, “Of course, if that is where you want your name for all the world to see, you certainly have made your mark on the world.” I heard later that his parents were forced to replace the seat. We students wondered if Gilbert was allowed to keep the old seat so he could frame it and hang it on his wall at home.

So these new granite/electronic tombstones carry with them a great responsibility. But we genealogists can forget about them (and unadorned toilet seats, too) because we are already leaving powerful messages behind. Just a short list of a few generations would do, but many of us are also writing about our lives and the lives of our parents and even their parents. Most of these are monumental tales of proud, inner-directed folks.

I recall a Jewish lady who went to Poland in search of her ancestors. She was directed to a German Concentration Camp where her ancestors were put to death. Hers was a poignant story of bravery and destruction that carried with it a reminder of what can happen when we do not watch our political leaders very, very carefully.

My family was not Jewish (that we know of) but it consisted of soldiers in various wars. One was a corporal under Daniel Boone and General George Rogers Clark around 1784. He was not a big-time hero, but his deeds and deeds of those with whom he served, helped form this country. Those were the days when both moms and dads had to be good shots with a long rifle. Some of my people were Indians as well, so I came from a vast collection of shooters and shootees. They had very instructive tales to tell and I am writing them down as well as I am able.

You may choose a different course, but I believe I will forgo the granite messaging service. I have decided to  let my genealogy be my testimony, and my message for future generations.

Maybe I can’t let go either.

Easy for Some . . .

One of the interesting writers I have read recently, writes about murders in history with a keen insight and great sense of humor. Immediately, I was jealous of Keven McQueen (www.kevenmcqueen.com), who teaches English at a Kentucky university. His students are just plain lucky.

It was my brother who told me one of Keven’s books included a tale about our great-grandfather, the man who helped Confederate General John Hunt Morgan escape from Yankees in 1863. I did not know the story Keven told. It was news to me. But I never claimed to know all there was to know about my great-grandfather Pryor.

Keven was hard to find on the Internet, but once I had turned up enough rocks around his university, I stumbled across an email address for him– no doubt just for his students. So I wrote to Keven and asked if he had written about any of the murders I had written about. He soon responded. The answer was in the negative, so I had no reason to be jealous of him were not for the fact that Keven was a better writer than I.

I took out my irritable feelings toward Keven by saying that he was very hard to locate and that he needed a web site. I even offered to get more information so he could set up a site. He responded by saying that he had a friend who would put one together for him. And, by golly, he did!

So Keven has a nice web site and it has more personality than mine. Another strike against him.

The angst of writing not only includes the agony of punching keys on a computer while deciding whether you are using the correct verbal form of, say, preach. In the past tense is it “prought”? Maybe not. The angst of writing also involves reading other writers who say the same things you do, but they do it better.

Some writers such as Keven write easily, while others pound out each word with great difficulty. I used to say, and may have said it here, that the author Wendell Berry’s words are like feathers on a page while mine are like nails driven into an oak board—and bent over. On a scale that extends between Heaven and Hell, Keven is closer to Wendell than to me as a wordsmith. But I enjoy the warmer temperatures.

John Hunt Morgan and Two Mothers-in-Law

There is a reason for my absence from this blog. I have been finishing a book. It is about the clandestine affair of the escape of Confederate General John Hunt Morgan from a Yankee prison in 1863, among other things, and is called General Morgan’s Legacy.

While I have been writing I have not been keeping up with the news. But when I came up to the surface of current events, I was amazed at the escapade of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Her trip to the Middle East seems fraught with concerns for the President and the State Department. And for the future.

Suppose in 2008 Mrs. Clinton wins the election and Mrs. Pelosi is still Speaker of the House. Mrs. Pelosi decides that Mrs. Clinton is not handling foreign affairs to her (Pelosi’s) satisfaction and Mrs. P. decides to talk directly with Middle Easterners about it. Would we soon find that there is room in Washington for only one mother-in-law? I suspect we would.

And there would be a great fall-out that would go far beyond any mere Conservative-Liberal disagreement so far.

Challange to Daylight Saving Time

This very day I was asked a very important question by a fan who loves my blog (yes, there is one). She thought I was wise enough to know all kinds of things and asked,

“What is the purpose of Daylight Savings Time?” It is a timely question because sooner that usual we are going to have to make an adjustment. March 11, I believe.

My correspondent, who is old enough to enjoy telling her age, has the initials MM. I refer to her as MM and imagine that she is really Marilyn Monroe because I have seen pictures of her as a young lady.

Here is the wisdom I laid on her about the purpose of Daylight Savings Time:

Dear MM,

The sole purpose of Daylight Savings Time is to refresh one’s memory about the location of each clock and timer in his or her abode. I seem to have 43 of the things. Twice a year I am forced to reacquaint myself with all the devices as I reset them. They lurk in strange, hard to-get-to places in dark corners, such as on top of the water conditioner on which dwells black spiders that have red symbols of death on their shiny bodies.

It takes me about a week to change every timing device during which period many things go bump in the night and angry mail delivery people get wet in the day when the sprinklers go off inappropriately. It is always a race to see if I can find them before there is a lawsuit filed against me.

If you need any more help on this or any other topic, please let me know.

Peacocks and Terrorists

Recently on an Internet List that concerned itself with genealogy, a few people took a detour about peacocks.  Peacocks were not, as I recall, related to any of us. But I read various stories with amusement as people told how the found peacocks in various unlikely parts of the country.

Unable to stand it any longer, I chimed in.  I said I had lived in Arcadia, California and could tell a thousand stories about peacocks and none was favorable, except for the rare occasion when I could cheer at seeing a flat one in the roadway.  “They ran wild in the city,” I told readers, “and we citizens had to tolerate them. They were a protected species.  We could not feed them, chase them off, look at them sideways or do anything else that might be deemed offensive.  In fact,” I continued, “Arcadia’s peacocks have almost as many rights as terrorists in U. S. custody.”

I am waiting patiently for a complaint, but so far no one has said anything except one lady who added that “peacocks are terrorists.”

POW in the War Between the Sexes

Having grown up with two mean older brothers and no sisters or close female first cousins, I was brought up with a very scant knowledge of girls and women. But I was smart from the beginning; I didn’t understand females and admitted it. Despite my groveling and deference I grew up suffering at their hands. Women can detect even the slightest fear and will take advantage of any male who shows it.

Women teachers seemed to single me out for disapproval. No matter how hard I tried to please them, they came at me with a look of extreme displeasure, not unlike Representative Nancy Pelosi, who looks like the “before” picture in an ad for hemorrhoid sufferers.

In industry the person who caused me the most trouble was a woman named Mary Ann Something. She was bright, a very good manager and a sharp union steward, while I represented management. I could have a terrible day, but it always got worse when Mary Ann appeared in my office. I once tried to enlist Mary Ann in the ranks of management (we could have used a higher level of manager) but she would not sell out her Labor ideals and bore down even harder on me. No good deed goes unpunished.

In my personal life I have had two wives, a daughter, a step-daughter, a daughter-in-law and several granddaughters but my understanding of females has not improved because of them.

I have even taught in public school, where I often told my charges that women can do anything but play left tackle for the Detroit Lions and most men can’t do that, either. And I meant it. I wanted to be on record as pro-female when they took over the world. But my pretty students took this comment as mere groveling and wrote beside my name in their book of executions, “head of the line.”

My only saving grace is that I have a very good talent for fixing things. I would be pushing up daisies right now, if it were not for the day, early in my substitute teaching career, when a seventh grade girl I didn’t know brought me a handful of parts to her eyeglasses. It was during a test and she was losing time, so I quickly reached into my briefcase and bought out a tiny screwdriver and some very small screws. I had her glasses put back together again in less than a minute. She told other girls and my life was spared from that moment on.

There were several widows on my block and I was allowed to help them with electrical problems and plumbing disasters. That way I managed to continue in not good but tolerable standing with the female community. But it took lots of work to stay at that level.

The Bible says I came into this world with nothing. Nothing, that is, but a minus quantity of points with the opposite sex, and I have been trying to break even all my life. Like Sisyphus with his task of rolling a huge rock up a hill, I have been given the task of understanding women and failed every day.

Remarkable Headache Cure

If you knew me, you would never guess that I am, or was, a frequent victim of headaches.  These were not the “My headache is gone!”  run-of-the-mill type headaches, either.  These were blinding, splitting, go to bed without any dinner and no TV headaches.

One afternoon, while in the early throes of one of these killer aches, I decided to take a walk and get away from it all.  Living in upper San Dimas, CA at the time,  I hiked  to the closest trail I could find that led into the mountains.  It wasn’t long before a path took me around the side of a hill among the trees and away from all the noise of city life.
Suddenly I found myself alone.  There was no noise except for the chirping of a mocking bird and the cawing of a crow.  Maybe a bee was zipping from flower to flower.  The silence was stunning.  Also stunning was the pile in front of me that had been left by horse which had recently gone on ahead.  I was, after all, on a bridle path.
I stopped for some reason and took it all in, looking for a way to step around the pile, so I could continue up the hillside.  It was then that I experienced an olfactory hallucination!   I do not know to this day how it happened, but suddenly I was transported back to my youth when I would leave the big city and visit a farm for a few days.  The farmer had lots of horses.  It was Bluegrass country, you see.  Those were happy times when the only responsibility I had was to clean  my shoes and report for meals on time.
Unfortunately, my mind didn’t spend much time in that place. The forlorn cry of a hawk wheeling overhead snapped me back to reality.  When it did, I realized my headache had fled to other places.  I was healed!  Well, not permanently, but for the afternoon.  I found that as headaches occurred in the succeeding months I could dispel them by walking up into the hills until I found another fresh pile.  It had to be fresh green stuff, mind you.  The brown material with a crust on it would not work.  Eventually, I was able to go for weeks without a headache and I can now report that I have not had a really bad one for years.  Talk about a miracle drug!
Since that time I have offered this miracle cure to others.  It has been successfully used against three headache sufferers, one hernia and a hangnail.  I am sure it would help most people.
I have offered this miracle compound to people in a local hospital, but my kindness was refused.  You would be amazed at the numbers of people who don’t want to get well.  But I am sure most readers are not like them.
Probably, since most people live so far from a race track, they cannot get their own supply of this nostrum. I am prepared to ship a one pound box without delay.   There is a modest cost, of course.  But I offer a warning:  use it right away.  The shelf life of this curative is very short.
Please let me know of your needs;  I have connections at Santa Anita Race Track. The regular spring season is about over and it will not be until the fall when a fresh supply will return to Arcadia.

Planning for Grandchildren

One of the stories I told seventh graders had to do with names.  That is, I warned them to start determining now the name they wanted their grandchildren to call them.  And it was good advice.  When I was first faced with the challenge, I was far too young to be a grandfather.  So when the little guys would call me granddad, I would yell at them, “Uncle, darnit!”

It wasn’t long before they began addressing me as “Uncle Darnit.”

Well, maybe I didn’t always say, Darnit.”  And maybe their mothers got after me.  But I was happy.

Anyway, it didn’t last.  Somehow it was all perverted and now I am known simply as “Granddad,” or “Uncle Granddad.”

I was young and stupid and I didn’t plan for the important things.  Nobody warned me.  I hope my former seventh grade students will be ready when their time comes.