Monday, April 3, 2017

Bound boy

Andy's ancestors came from Ireland.  And before that they came from Scotland.  Slaves..captured in the dim mists of time from their Scottish home...enslaved by their Irish captors...servants, bound in service for life to masters who ruled them with an iron hand.  And then as the famine in Ireland grew and life was hard for everyone, the news came that there was a chance for the United States of America.  Freedom.  How sweet the sound.
Several great-grandfathers ago a ten-year old boy by the name of Elder signed to become a bound indentured servant who would work out the cost of his passage to America by working for a family...a different kind of servitude..with an iffy promise, but better than the life that he could see ahead.  He made the long journey across the Atlantic.  He worked and managed to save some money.  With his savings he bought his freedom...and made plans to pay the passage for another brother.  When he arrived the two brothers worked to bring over another brother.  And so it continued until ten Elder men came from Ireland to start a new life in America.  Sweet, sweet freedom.  Hard work.  But, still, it was what they felt they owed their family.  A chance.  A chance for a new life...
The young man at the bottom center of the photo is Andy's grandfather, Andrew John Elder.  He was the father of John Andrew Elder who was the father of  Andy.
The patriarch of the family in the picture is also named Andrew John Elder, the father of all the children in the picture.
A heritage to be proud of.  Hope makes everything possible.  Even from the fog-shrouded coasts of the gleaming green hills of Ireland, the call for a free life and a new way of living echoes.  Freedom...for every bound boy...and man and woman who cherishes life and lives in hope of a better day.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Drifting with the seasons...

Some days when the sun refuses to shine I close my eyes and drift with the season.  Strong winds, pelting rain, gentle breezes, soft sunshine.  All in all it has been an early spring to remember.  
I have come to the point in my life when I have to write notes on a calendar and remind myself what happened when.  A journal of sorts you might say.  When did we see the four wood ducks on the pond?  Was it March 6th?  Or a late as the 23rd?  When did I see the first peek of a violet in my western sloping field....on the 13th...or the 5th?  And when did we hear the turkey gobble...the 25th..or maybe later?  
Does it really matter?  No, it doesn't, but for me it helps make sense of the onward march of day to day and season to season.   Morel hunting, the first greens that can be picked, the tender flowers adorning fruit trees not yet bitten by a late frost and snow.
Life on my hill in Luna is a chance to detach from the world that hurries by and counts its days and hours by clicking and ticking of the phone and the clock.  Unplugged from my electronics I relish the surprise I find with sunrise, noon and quiet evening.  Stars mark my seasons, the moon's shape the months, the sun a constant reminder of time of day.  Why do I need a calendar or clock?
Close my eyes, hear the sounds of nature all around me.  Content to be here in solitude.  Just to drift with the season.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Winter...and then summer.

I feel like telling these tender blossoms on my red bud tree to be prepared.  Be prepared for something other than snow, sleet, prepared for blazing sun, roaring winds, summer-time temperatures.  Because we have had them all.
Just a little over a week ago we had snow.  And sleet.  Some people had ice.  Cold.  Did I mention the cold?  The wind blew and I pulled my jacket collar tighter around my neck as I ran for the garage and the relative warmth of the car.  
How can it be that right now I am sitting in my house with the AC on?  Last night we debated whether we needed to build a small fire in the wood stove to warm it up a little.  I was chilly.  Put an extra blanket on the bed.  This morning I slipped on my lighter winter coat, popped my sweatshirt in the back seat and took off to run errands in West Plains.  By 9 AM I was suffocating in my light winter shirt.  The sun was sending blazing rays of heat into the car.  I turned the AC on and kept it running all the way to Gainesville.  
I listen to the forecast every day, just because I need to know how many layers of clothing  to wear and what to put on to strip down to.  Crazy.  Just plain crazy. 
But one thing I have noticed.  Everyone is smiling.  It is a beautiful day for the first day of spring.  And we are happy to be out in it.  After could be snowing!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Old School

I went to see Benton Breeding in the nursing home on Monday of this week.  He had come there to recover from the effects of a fall and broken bone a week or so before.  I could see that he was tired as he sat in his wheelchair, but I just wanted to say hi..and glad to see you back home.  Little did I know that in a few short hours he would leave us to go and join his loving wife Genelle and his family and friends.
I will miss him.  In the spring of 1977 Andy and I came to Gainesville, bought property, and made plans to settle in town.  The first thing I needed was a teaching job.  We had been camping while we were searching for the perfect place here in Ozark County.  I asked the realtor, who was on the school board at that time, if there were any vacancies that I might apply for.  He sent me to the superintendent's office.  And I met Benton Breeding for the first time.  I was a little uneasy going to interview in camping clothes, but I shouldn't have been.  We had a little talk.  He asked me some questions.  We talked some more.  And in short order I was hired to teach half time at the Junior High and half time at the Elementary.  Talk about lucky!  I didn't know how lucky I was.
Benton, or Mr. Breeding, as I called him while he was my boss, and I always got along fine.  I could tell that he ran a tight ship.  My experience with school superintendents was varied...some were pretty much in for the ride and others ruled with an iron hand.  But Mr. Breeding was definitely old school..and just what I needed.
After he retired we still kept in touch.  We went to church together.  We visited at Vaught's during coffee time and Sunday breakfast.  I still remember how pleased I was when they named our then-new football field and facility after him when he retired.  I would drive past the sign each day when I went to work at the new elementary school, and with a smile,  recall my years teaching under him.
Once, when we were eating breakfast at Vaught's, I got the chance to thank him for hiring me on that May day so long ago.  I told him how wonderful my time had been teaching at Gainesville and that he was a big part of that.  He had paved the way for our school to be one of the best I had ever taught at...and I told him so.  He smiled.  He always smiled.  He thanked me for the kind words.  I hope  he knew just how sincere I was.
And then I remember my first Christmas teaching here in Gainesville.  I had just dismissed my junior high class and was getting ready to leave for the elementary school when word came from the office that Mr. Breeding needed to see me.  Something about a "Christmas bonus".  I was surprised.  I had never gotten a Christmas bonus before.  What could it be?  I knocked on his door and he told me to come in.  All smiles, he reached down beside his desk and pulled out a shiny apple and a huge orange.  "Merry Christmas, Mrs. Elder!", he said.   I replied, "and Merry Christmas to you Mr. Breeding."  
Old school.  Definitely old school.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Winter's not done yet.

March snows have become something to deal with here in the Ozarks.  Usually we have had at least one or two good snows a winter, but lately that has been the exception rather than the rule.  We have been spoiled this year by spring-like weather since late January and all through February.  People were even saying they would have liked to have at least one snow before spring came officially.  Well....they got their wish.  
It didn't snow very long up here on the hill.  The morning was gray and cloudy.  Threatening skies seemed to say that winter had not left us without a last hurrah.  Shortly after lunch it started up here.  Thick flakes fell fast and furiously.  The wind blew snow up on the porch and plastered the sides of trees and buildings and even our bluebird house.  I wonder where Mr. and Mrs. went to hide from the wet flakes swirling around the entrance to their preferred home?  They were probably nestled down in the nearby woods, out of the cold and the wet.
Buzzards gathered on a tree to our south.  I went out to take their picture when it stopped snowing.  They took exception to my presence and flew off before I could get more than a few shots taken of them huddling on the branches.
All in all it is a pretty sight to see the snow falling up here on the hill.  Nice to be inside where it is warm and cozy and not having to fight my way through the wind and cold.
Winter is not over yet.  We still have a few weeks to go.  And who knows what these last days of the waning season will bring.  More snow?  High winds?  Or maybe just gentle breezes and welcome sunshine.  Whatever happens, winter is almost gone.  And I, for one, am ready to welcome spring.

Thursday, March 2, 2017


When I look at daffodils  I see pure sunshine.  Even on a cloudy, blustery day, their brave faces still speak of what lies behind the cool wind and rainy gloom.....the sun is shining somewhere, up there, in a blue sky we can't see from down here.
We have some beauties that we planted long before we had a house up here on the hill.  They were nestled into the ground up under our martin house in the fall.  We covered their beds with leaves and mulch and added a layer of chicken wire to keep the armadillos from digging them up over the winter.
The snow came.  The rain came.  And in the spring we could see the beginnings of green shoots coming up through the brown and matted layers of their winter bed.  Pulling the chicken wire off was another matter.  Trying to be careful and not damage the tender stalks we finessed the protective mesh off the daffodil bed.  And they bloomed.  Not very strong...just small little bits of sunshine there in the greening grass.
We nurtured those blooms and mowed around them....protecting them from harm while we decided where to put them when it came time to dig up the bulbs in the fall.
Since we had not built our house yet, we hit upon the idea of putting them down by the road so they could be shared with anyone who drove by.
And that is where they are today.  It has been several years, and as daffodils are prone to do, they have spread and multiplied along the bank above my county road.
I look for them each spring.  Searching the ground for the tender green shoots.  Being careful not to step on any that are beginning to break through to the light.  But I have found  these flowers to be very forgiving.  They will spring up again and again.  They don't need much encouragement.
You have all heard the saying "Bloom where you are planted".  My sunny daffodils remind me of that every time I see them.
Blooming right there.  Bringing sunshine to me even when times are gray and blustery.  The perfect reminder to hang in and hang on.  Because the sun is always shining...and the sky is blue.  Maybe not here...but somewhere. a sunny little bloom.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017


The Joplin tornado of May, 2011 shook our world.  But it brought us a blessing too.  A blessing in the form of an elderly couple, left homeless by that devastating windstorm.  Gladys and Olen Reding were visiting their daughter and her family here in Ozark County on that fateful Sunday afternoon.  They had come to see their great-grandson graduate from high school and, fortunately, decided to stay the night before returning to their home in Joplin.  While they were here, their home was blown away....their belongings scattered, their lives changed forever.
Where would they live?  At first, I can imagine they thought they might be able to return to their hometown where they had lived their entire married life.  But as time went by, they settled in, here in Gainesville, far from their old stomping grounds.
Most people in their nineties would not be able to make the transition after such a blow to their everyday life.  I don't think I could.  Everything gone..or almost everything.  The more I talked to them at church and visited with them in their new apartment in town, the more I realized that they treated this as another phase in their life.  Gladys would reminisce about this or that, something that she had there in Joplin...and then just lift up her arms, wave her hands and exclaim, "But that was just all blown away!' and follow this statement of fact with a laugh and a smile.  Olen missed his tools...and his car...and his workshop.  But he also would say..."Who knows where they are now."
They were in my Sunday School class.  Always able to give some insight into the lesson, and faithful in attendance.  We would have Sunday dinner together at Vaught's or The Antler after church.  Visit.  Oh the stories they could tell.  I loved our time together.
Olen had the most wonderful speaking voice.  When he prayed you could almost imagine the angels in heaven stopping what they were doing to attend to his words...always heartfelt, always full of faith and joy.  
Gladys was one of the most lovable women I have ever met.  She would tell me  how she and Olen started courting.  About her life in Joplin.  And her life after she married.  AnnE, their daughter, posted a picture of her folks on their wedding day.  Olen, so handsome and tall in his Army uniform.  Gladys, a beautiful bride in a gorgeous dress, smiling the smile that only a new bride has.  Obviously in love.  For ever.
And now they are gone.  Within a short day of each other.  He went first.  She followed.  I have an inkling that she knew that she wanted to see him safe home first before she joined him.
Thank you Olen and Gladys.  Thank you for showing us courage.  Thank you for showing us grace in all circumstances.  Thank you for loving us.  And thank you for letting us share a short part of your long lives with us.
Go in Peace.  Go in Love.  Go ... and we will join you one day.