Gentle traveling

On Memorial Day we spent the whole day just sitting and visiting. Anne fixed us a great breakfast of sausage biscuits and cinnamon rolls, and then, we just sat on the porch and rocked and caught up on family news.

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Jeff went out to ride around on his tractor and “make hay”, and we tried to figure out what this bug was.

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Then we chatted some more and looked at pictures of our families until it was time for lunch.

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After lunch we Anne and I drove down to her daughter’s house to feed the cats and let the dog out.

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Anna, Anne’s #2 daughter lives in an updated log cabin on the farm.

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Big Al and I actually stayed in #1 daughter Ellen’s house. Anne and Jeff have five (or maybe more) farms, and a real estate rental business renting out farm houses on many of the farms. As a matter of fact, Anna works for them and is the property manager for the rental houses. She was at the beach for the holiday weekend, and we didn’t get a chance to see her. Ellen and her baby live in Nashville and just come to the farm occasionally, and they were in California attending a class reunion, so we didn’t get to see them either.
Anne and Jeff run a few head of cattle on their farm which Jeff says has been over-farmed for so many years that the only thing that will grow there is hay.

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While Anne and I were feeding the cats, some of the cows came down to see us. Lily, the donkey, also came down. Lily is there to keep the coyotes from bothering the new-born calves. Anne says she’s not sure whether Lily has ever chased a coyote, but she sure does chase the lab and the German Shepherd away. They are terrified of her.
When we got back from seeing to the dog and cats, it was too hot to sit on the porch, so we sat in the house under the air conditioning and talked some more.
For supper we went into town to Dickson’s great little Mexican restaurant. Really good Mexican food, and very inexpensive. During the day, I had suggested that Al and I drive the northern part of the Natchez Trace, and Jeff found a brochure he had telling all about it, and what to look for at each mile marker. We thought it would be much more pleasant to potter along with almost zero traffic at 50 miles an hour rather than cope with white-knuckle driving and 18-wheelers.
We got on the road in good time (before 9:00) on Tuesday morning, and met up with the Trace about 15 miles from Anne and Jeff’s house. We stopped to look at an old tobacco barn and ride on a short section of the old trace.

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The sign was right, there were some spectacular views from the old single track lane.

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Because we were traveling at a much slower speed, Big Al wouldn’t let me stop and read all the historic signs. But we did stop to look at the monument to Merriwether Lewis of Lewis and Clark fame.

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I was unaware that he died in Tennessee. I guess if I had thought about it I would have said he died in Oregon or something.

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From what we could tell he “met his end” at a road house on his way to deliver diaries and other papers from the expedition to Washington.

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The third time we stopped in the morning was to take a picture of the Tennessee/Alabama state line.

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I decided if I could have a picture with on foot in Arkansas and one foot on Texas, I could do the same thing for Tennessee and Alabama.

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We had lunch in Tupelo, and then realized that we would have to keep on trucking if we were to get to Covington by dark. The afternoon was spent just riding along on the trace, enjoying the scenery and the peaceful surroundings.
We left the trace in Jackson, MS, and joined I-55. We made good time on it, and rolled into Covington about 8:30.
Today we have spent doing the wash and doing a little shopping. After we went to lunch (great recommendation for Cafe Rani, Erika) we went to Target and got some socks for Big Al, a bath mat for the tub (many motel bathtubs have their non-skid surface worn away), and a new ice chest. Our old ice chest (new when we came back from England in 1982) had finally lost its stopper and it leaked a little on the seat of the car. We got it dried out, but decided it was time to put the poor ice chest to rest.
Now we’re repacking and waiting for Bill, Erika, and the kids to get back from Baton Rouge. Nice lazy day, and a good way to travel.

A couple of “down” days

We arrived in Texarkana at 8:15, only two hours late on Amtrak (which is really pretty good, considering we spent so much time sitting on sidings “waiting for freight traffic to clear.”) Betty and Keith had left the car at the station before Keith went fishing for the morning, so we retrieved it, and went to their house for a nap and to get cleaned up, since we couldn’t get into the motel until after 3:00 pm.
By noon or so we were ready to face the world. I had made a lunch date with Sue Ellen Hall, one of my girlhood friends, so we had a nice time catching up. Then we went by to see her parents, elderly and I’m not sure they knew who I was, but we visited a while. While I was out, Big Al went shopping for some jeans that would fit him – the cowboy store is about the only place that carries them. He was able to get two pairs, so he was a happy camper. I had tried to start my wash at Betty’s, but apparently I don’t understand her new, state-of-the-art washer, because it just sat there and looked at me. Anyway, she came home and finished the wash while we went and checked in at the motel.
Dinner at Bryce’s again (never pass up that opportunity).

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Saturday morning I wanted to take some pictures around Texarkana, so we went to the cemetery to get pictures of the family graves for me to include in the genealogy.

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My grandparents’ gravestone – and also the final resting place of my parents. My folks didn’t want us to spend a bunch of money on markers for them, since they were both cremated, so we sprinkled their ashes on Nannie and Gankie’s grave. Big Al thinks we ought to have their names added to the stone for future generations to know where they were, particularly since he’s seen me obsessing over birth and death dates when I’m trying to do the genealogy.

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Uncle Stuart had enough space for all of his children and all of their husbands.

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Uncle Jim and Aunt Mary are buried near all the rest of them, so three of the Eakin girls with their husbands are together in the Texarkana cemetery.
After the cemetery, Big Al and I went down to the Post Office for the obligatory picture with a foot in two states.

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And finally we had Betty come take our picture together (NOTE, I’m in Arkansas, and Big Al is in Texas.)

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We stopped by the houses my grandparents and parents lived in.

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2017 Laurel,, where I was born and lived off and on until it burned when I was in college.

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1924 Laurel, where my grandparents moved to after 2017 burned, and which my parents bought from them when they retired.
Sunday was a day spent in the car as we drove from Texarkana to Burns, TN, where my cousin Anne and her husband, Jeff, live. It was a very uneventful trip (TBTG) and we arrived in time to visit a while before supper. They live on a farm in the rolling hills of Tennessee between Nashville and Jackson. They have two daughters and have built them both houses on the farm. Both girls are away for the Memorial Day weekend, so we are staying in Ellen’s house.
I’m sitting on the porch in a rocking chair drinking my tea and looking out over the woods and fields.

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Searching for more of my roots

Tuesday we didn’t have anything really planned, so we just set out to take a ride around north-central Illinois and Indiana. First we went across the line into Indiana and took some of the lesser roads through farm country. We happened upon a lovely little lake, which turned out to be named “Cedar Lake”.

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It looked like it was a vacation destination for the area, but with kids still in school, it was almost deserted.

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Even the martins seemed to be away from their house, and the house sparrows had moved in.

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From Cedar Lake we headed back into Illinois, and travelled along the perfectly straight roads along the section lines, between fields that were just planted and those that were waiting to dry out enough to get a tractor in. We found an area called the National Tall Grass Prairie Reserve, an enjoyed seeing some of what was left of the prairie. The road took us to Wilmington, where we stopped for lunch. We didn’t think we were very hungry, but they had stuffed peppers, and Big Al couldn’t resist them. The plate turned out to have two enormous bell peppers, stuffed with ground beef and rice mixture, with a gigantic mound of mashed potatoes, and the whole thing sprinkled with little green peas. I, on the other hand, had a chicken salad sandwich on croissant. It was probably bigger than I had anticipated, but the croissant was flaky, fresh, and home-made. YUM!
While we were eating lunch we noticed a sign that said, “Historic Rt. 66”

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I consulted the map and found that – yes, there was a stretch of Rt. 66 still in existence there. So of course, we had to ride on it for a couple of miles.
By that time, we decided it was time to head back to the motel. We took a little nap and went to supper just up the road from the motel.
On Wednesday we got up early and headed for Peoria/Pekin, Il, to search for my great-grandfather’s naturalization paperwork. He must have been naturalized in a county court before that was done centrally, because I can’t find any information in the federal records.
We arrived at the Tazewell County Genealogical Society office a little before noon, and we started to look for any information about him or any of the family. We couldn’t find anything, even though I had federal tax records of him in Morton in Tazewell County in the mid-1860s, and the whole family in Morton in the 1870 census. I then tried to find some information about his wife and her family, but the society didn’t have anything on them either.
By this time I was beginning to feel like everything I thought I knew about Papa’s family was false. Finally the ladies at the society suggested that I should try the Public Library in Morton. Since there was a Cracker Barrel over there and Big Al’s stomach thought his throat had been cut, we drove over to Morton, had lunch, and then found the library. I joked that if we ever found out anything about Frank Griesser’s general store it would turn out to be where the current Cracker Barrel sat.
At the library, I hit pay dirt. For the Centenial of the town in 1977, the paper had published a history of the early years of Morton.

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I was afraid I wouldn’t find anything there, because the families were all gone from Morton by 1877. Frank Griesser died in 1875, and his widow moved to Peoria across the river, and her parents and siblings moved to Chenoa some time between the 1870 census and the 1880 census. Luckily, the newspaper included some “pre” history, and I found out Joseph Evans was the first postmaster for the area in the early 1850s and he also established the first library that he ran out of his home. My sister Harriet, who is a librarian, will be pleased to learn that the she comes by the profession naturally. Harriet Evans was was Joseph’s wife, and their daughter Harriet was Frank Griesser’s wife.
Frank Griesser’s store was located near the present day intersection of I-75 and the main road into Morton – right where the Cracker Barrel is today!

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In 1859, the post office was moved from Joseph Evans’ house at Evan’s Corner to Frank Griesser’s General Store, and Frank became the post master.
Later, in 1870, Frank became the town clerk of Morton.
The newspaper had a picture of his headstone from the cemetery, although we didn’t have time for me to look for it myself.

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For all the Genealogical Society didn’t have any record of the families, it turned out they were important people in the early days of Morton, and in the society of Tazewell County.
We got back to Matteson in time to meet Ray, Kathy, and Katie for supper at the Irish Pub. Big Al got shepherd’s pie with a glass of cider (hard). I have been eating so much, I chose a Cobb Salad for dinner, but it was so big I couldn’t finish it. We headed back to the motel, got packed and had a good night’s rest before Sonnie picked us up and drove us to Chicago to Union Station where we caught the Texas Eagle, back to Texarkana.
Right now Big Al is sacked out on the seat, snoring softly, while I finish up this post.

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Texarkana to Chicago

Yesterday we had a chance to go to church at First Presbyterian Church, Texarkana, AR. It was Youth Sunday, and we really enjoyed the service. We had an opportunity to say hello and goodbye to the Cogbills, the McClerkins, the Moores, John Calhoun, Mark Richards, the Halls and lots more folks. It was fun to see them.
We went to lunch with Betty and Keith at the Italian Garden – a locally owned and operated restaurant in Texarkana. After lunch, we went back to Betty’s and washed all our clothes and repacked for Chicago. Betty and Keith took us to the train station, and we caught the Amtrak. It was right on time pulling out of the station at 8:50 pm.
As soon as we got upstairs into our roomettes, Tony, our steward, came and hustled us to the diner for dinner. We didn’t think we were hungry, but I polished off a steak and Big Al devoured a lovely piece of salmon.
We finished off dinner and went back to our compartments. By the time we got to Little Rock we were in bed and off to dreamland.
The crew had to come through our car from their quarters to the dining room, so the chatter in the hall woke us up about 6:00 am, so we got up, dressed and headed for breakfast. We got to St Louis before we finished, and then the train headed out through the fields.

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Lots of neat little family farms. Because of the work being done on the high-speed rail line, we skipped all the stations between St Louis and Chicago.

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Before we knew it, the Chicago skyline was visible out the window.

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Ray met us and whisked us away to his taxi driver Sonnie who sees that he gets where he going. The G8 Conference was just breaking up when we arrived at Union Station, but Sonnie managed to avoid the really awful traffic downtown and get us down to our motel, about 30 miles south of downtown near where Ray’s woman friend lives.
We got our rental car from Enterprise and then met Kathy (aka Kitty) and her daughter Katie for dinner.

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Ray!

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Kathy

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Katie
We had dinner at Northwoods Hearty Home Cooking. Wonderful food, but away too much of it.

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After supper we came back to the motel. I sat down to write the post and Big Al fell asleep watching TV. I’m not far behind. Who knows what tomorrow will bring.

Lots of Nostalgia

We started out the day with George McCasland’s graduation from Texas A&M at Texarkana.

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He got his Bachelor of Science degree in History and Political Science. It will let him teach school while he gets his Teacher Certification.
When the graduating was over, Big Al and I headed out to Washington, AR – my ancestral home on my mother’s side. First we stopped in at the Southwest Arkansas Regional Archives where I was able to look at some papers of Judge John Rodgers Eakin who was a Justice of the Supreme Court of Arkansas in the 1870s and 1880s. I had seen most of the information that was available there, but I was able to identify when my great-grandmother, Mary Harris, moved to Arkansas and met and married my great-grandfather. She and her family were consistently in the census records in Versailles County, KY, through the 1880 census, and then she turns up in the Arkansas marriage records in 1884, but I had nothing about her or her family moving to Arkansas. I found out that her parents homesteaded some land in Perryville in northwest Arkansas. It just happened that William Spencer Eakin was living in Perryville at that time, running the newspaper, and they fell in love and married. This also gave me some confidence that I had the correct Harris family in my research.
After we left SARA, we drove around Washington (population 148) and finally found the old Pioneer Cemetery.

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We poked around there some and read some of the gravestones, like the one for the two infant children, a little boy and his sister.

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It’s a nicely kept old cemetery, lying sleepily in the sun.

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After we left the cemetery, we went by the old gin.

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we stopped by the old blacksmith’s forge where Jim Bowie made the original Bowie Knife.

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The smith showed me around.

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He had the fire going and was heating some iron.

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He also showed me some of the examples of his work where he recreated Jim Bowie’s knife.

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On leaving the blacksmith shop we took some pictures of the court house. Since my ancestors were all lawyers, it’s likely they tried cases in this building.

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This was where they kept the defendants while they were being tried.

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Then we went by the old tavern.

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When we finished looking at all the old buildings in Washington we headed to Hope, to take a look at President Clinton’s birthplace (because as a good Democrat I felt like I needed to at least say I had been.)

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We got back to Texarkana by about 5:00 and went over to Betty’s to meet Claire, and to eat some of the great bream Keith caught yesterday.
After supper, Betty took us down to see the downtown community garden, that the five downtown churches have started.

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They are having a really good time working in the garden, and everything is growing great guns. Everything that they grow is available for the picking, and anything that isn’t picked by passersby is donated to one or another of the hunger programs in southwest Arkansas and northeast Texas.

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These peppers fell off the bush when Betty was showing them to us. It’s a really good program, and they are all really enjoying it.
Tomorrow we go to church and then repack for a week in Chicago. Train leaves Texarkana about 8:30 pm.

The first day of the rest of our lives

We got up in time to have our breakfast, compliments of the Fairfield Inn.

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We had the the car loaded to the max, but everything fit in.

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Even though Big Al was convinced it would never fit.

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We decided to get in the habit early of staying off the interstates and seeing a little of the countryside. Consequently we headed north to Sherman, TX, and then turned east on US 82. It’s a good road, with some stretches of two-lane, some stretches of three-lane, and some stretches of four-lane road.
While we were riding along I got a call from the title company saying that they were sending the wire of the “get” (the money left over after all the expenses of the sale of the house were paid).
About a half-hour later, I checked USAA on my handi-dandy iPhone ap, and saw the money was sitting in my account! Now that’s the kind of service all banks should aspire to!
We stopped in Clarksville, TX, for lunch at a McDonalds.

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There doesn’t seem to be much difference between the ones in the wilds of north Texas and the ones in the metroplex of Dallas-Fort Worth.
We got into Texarkana about 2:00 in the afternoon, checked in at the motel, and re-powered the iPads and iPhones.
Then we went over to Betty’s house (sister). Her garden in the front yard really looks great.

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Keith had spent the morning at the lake and had brought home several bream (hence the sunburn).

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Betty was about ready to go to dinner because she needed to go to the Community Garden after dinner, so we headed to Bryce’s.

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It’s absolutely required to eat at Bryce’s when you go to Texarkana!

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My dinner!

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Big Al’s dinner (note the Strawberry Shortcake!)
When we walked in to Bryce’s one of the ladies behind the counter said, “Look! It’s an Oregon Duck’s shirt” (because that was the t-shirt I was wearing). She said, “My nephew used to go to the University of Oregon.”
I said, “Who was that?”
“LeMichael James!” she answered!

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She didn’t know why I wanted to take her picture. I assured her she was a celebrity, or at least related to one.

The Deed is done

We signed the papers about 3:30 pm, so we are officially homeless now, although we should have quite a little nest egg to live where we want.

Be sure to check out our new digs. Everything is going great.

Now, if only I can figure out how to post pictures from the iPad.

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The empty living room.

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My empty office.
If all this works, hopefully I’ll keep you all updated on our travels.