Saturday, November 11, 2017

Telling Their Stories: A Tribute on Veteran's Day


It's Veteran's Day. . .a day to remember those who have kept our Nation free. . .those who sacrificed much in order to defend what we hold so dear. . .

On this day, I would like to honor the Veteran that I knew so well. . .and miss tremendously. . .My Dad. . .Curtis C. Duncan. . .who joined the U S Navy in 1942 and served in World War II as a Yeoman of the 8th Amphibious Command Headquarters in the Mediterranean Operation. He was also on board the flagship of Rear Admiral Frank J. Lowry. . .the USCGC Duane. . .for the Invasion of Southern France. . .one of the vast communications operation crew.  He always said he fought the War behind a typewriter. . .but I have found he did much more. . .

Daddy was always so good to write letters to me, wherever I was living.  Many of them were about the garden, his photography, Mom's cooking. . .So I had the idea to ask him to jot down some of his stories for me when he'd write. It didn't need to be long or formally written. . .Simply what he wanted to tell. . .He seemed thrilled and worked hard on the letters. Over a ten year period, he poured out his memories. . .little by little. . .never lengthy enough for details but he was able to remember the basics. . .There are two large notebooks full, but they don't begin to touch on the details of the life he lived. . .Yet, with much research, and reaching back into my memories of the stories I heard, I've begun to put his story together and have realized what an extraordinary man he was.



USSCGC DUANE CREW--Y2c/S1c C C DUNCAN 1st Row Left--DALE ROOKS PHOTO

"You have served in the greatest Navy in the world. No other Navy at any time has done so much. For your part in these achievements, you deserve to be proud as long as you live. The Nation which you serve at this time of crisis will remember you with gratitude. . ." James Forrestal, Secretary of the Navy
 I noticed that a large group of landing craft was coming into the harbor at Naples, Italy. Since I was stationed on the USCGC Duane and Com 8th Amphibious operation ship, I did not think too much about it. The LST's, LCI's, destroyers and the landing craft were loaded with tanks, trucks, jeeps, plus the army personnel. We were gathering a landing force for Southern France. Two days before sailing, all liberties were canceled. I got up one morning and all you could see was ships--slow ships running at 5 to 15 knots. We were on our way. . .  from the C C Duncan Journal: The WWII Years by Dru Duncan 2017

Y/2C Curtis C. Duncan, Back Row Left

Daddy's story is not  a singular one. It's the story of thousands of others who served in World War II. They have been called "The Greatest Generation." For them, hard times were nothing new. They lived through both the Great Depression and World War II and survived to help build a new and prosperous America that has endured to this day. Through their stories, we can learn what it means to sacrifice for others. After the war, they came back home victorious but changed in many ways as they took on the task of rebuilding this nation. Their love for our country was obvious in everything they did. I consider it an honor to be the daughter of one of those great, but humble, men. . .and to tell his story. . .from the C C Duncan Journal: The WWII Years by Dru Duncan, 2017

 USCGC Duane decked out for the King in Naples Italy, July 1944. CC Duncan on board. DALE ROOKS PHOTO

Please do remember ALL VETERANS this day. . .for their SERVICE to our COUNTRY. . .
whether it was a time of war or peace. . .They each deserve our RECOGNITION.

    Shake a Veteran's hand and tell him
'THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE'
not just today. . .but each time you meet one. . .
Encourage them to tell their story. . .the story of their service to this Nation. . .
STORIES which never should be lost. . .




 And to my Dad. . .a SPECIAL THANKS from me. . .
for enriching my life with HIS STORY. . .



Thursday, November 9, 2017

SEASONED SOUTHERN STYLE: Simply Good Food



". . .It was a revelation to find, when I first went north, that what we ate was not what everybody else in the country eats, because southerners, no matter where they were on the social ladder, ate pretty much as we did. The ingredients were the same, although the preparation might differ with the level of affluence. . ." **

GRAPE NUTS TEA BREAD***  (RECIPE LINK BELOW)

As I've discovered in life that SIMPLE can be the best. . .and the healthiest. . .so have I found it to be true of the foods we eat. . .

After years of trying new recipes with a long list of ingredients, seeking healthy alternatives to gluten and dairy, trying to eliminate preservatives and pesticides, I have decided to return to the food of my childhood. . .simple foods made from scratch (mostly) and of the freshest ingredients I can find. . .I think today's term for this way of thinking is 'eating clean'. . .I call it common sense. . .

In this community, we have had numerous octogenarians and at least four that I can count right now who are still living in their 90s+. . . My own great Aunt Pearl lived to be 101 (or was it 103?) years old. . . How did they do it? What was their secret to longevity? . .I can think of several reasons. . .and most definitely I'm convinced their diet played a huge roll. . .They ate whole  foods. . .grew their own gardens. . .canned their own fruits and vegetables. . .used mostly basic and easy recipes. . .They ate meat from the chicken yard. . .the hog pen. . .the pasture. . .and the woods. . .There were no GMOs. . .Few chemical preservatives. . .No additives. . .Simply Good Food. . .
There is no doubt the ladies in our community were terrific cooks. . .It was an art. . .and one that is fast becoming lost. . .It's how I ate for at least 30 years. . .but then it became easier and it saved time to grab prepackaged items than baking my own cookies. . .than canning my own veggies. . .than spending time in the kitchen. . .Easier but not healthier. . .for I have become 'food sensitive' and/or 'food intolerant'. . .I know, I know. . .It sounds funny, but let me tell you, it is not. . .Ingesting just a smidgen of my trigger foods, I can get violently sick for days. . .and it can take weeks for me to completely get over it. . .In my search for a diet that would take out those foods and preservatives, I realized that family recipes and the old foodways. . .with a few changes. . .were exactly what I needed. . .and maybe what others might need, too. . .
Come with me on my journey to healthier eating through recipes from the 1920s to the present day . . .I'll share the original recipes and processes of cooking homemade. . .Where I've tweaked a recipe for myself, I'll share that with you also. . .This will be just good homemade food. . .I plan to share recipes for 'company dishes' such as my Mom's dressing in time for the holidays. . .and her candied sweet potatoes with lots of butter, pecans, and coconut. . .along with foods for everyday eating. . .and all Seasoned Southern Style. . .
To get you started, here are a few links to recipes I have shared in the past. . .
























Mouth watering, yet?
I'll be back soon with my Mom's Dressing Recipe. . .
a combination of white bread and cornbread and lots of flavor. . .
Get your taste buds ready. . .It's delicious. . .




**Passage from Born in the Delta by Margaret Jones Bolsterli, 1991


Thursday, October 12, 2017

Come Join The Barn Quilt Trail



Have you heard about the nationwide popularity of Barn Quilt Trails? It was in 2003 that I spotted my first Barn Quilt while traveling through Tennessee on my way back to Virginia. . .A quilt block painted on the side of a barn. . .I thought what a unique idea some crafty lady came up with. . .Then I saw the second. . .and the third. . .and I was hooked. . .I wanted to see more. . .I wanted my own. . .but at the time all I had was a townhouse in Williamsburg. . .No barn, outbuilding, garage, or shed to place one on. . .So I tucked away the Barn Quilt photos in my desk. . .but they were never forgotten. . .In fact, it seemed Barn Quilts were springing up all over the country.


The credit for Barn Quilt Trails appears to be a result of  Donna Sue Groves's desire to honor her mother's quilting expertise by painting an Ohio Star quilt block on their tobacco barn in Adams County, Ohio. There was so much interest that Donna realized what seemed to be a simple project had wide appeal and could benefit her community aesthetically and economically. In 2001, she worked with local people to create a 'clothesline of quilts' as many others joined in with their painted blocks. The first quilt trail was born. Now there are 43 states with quilt trails. It's become a movement that I think surprised many people, but then, who doesn't love the soft comfort of a handmade quilt and the memories they bring?
As in other parts of the United States, quilting has almost become a folk art of the past, but I did witness our Delta ladies piecing and quilting very early in my childhood. . .It began my lifelong love of quilts. In fact, I pieced my own first quilt when I was 3 years old.


Mr. and Mrs. Turner were a lovely couple who lived in a small, two bedroom shotgun house on my Grandmothers property. . .and only footsteps from our back door. . .I dearly loved them and visited almost everyday. . .She was an excellent quilter. . .Usually there was a quilt top in a frame above the kitchen table so she could work on it in odd times. . .Her husband also quilted. . .I had never seen that before. . .a man quilting. . .but I was young enough that I thought men were suppose help. . .and wondered why my own Dad didn't quilt, too. . .
Most days I found Mrs. Turner piecing the beautiful patterns found in newspapers or borrowed from other quilters. . .She was either cutting or hand-sewing the little pieces. . .One day I decided it was time that I tried my hand at piecing. . .I wanted to make my own quilt and I wanted fabric and scissors to do just that. . .She wouldn't allow me to use the scissors but she did pull out the Sears Roebuck catalog and showed me how to tear the pieces from that. . .Then she helped me paste them onto a sheet of paper. . .Unfortunately, I don't have that first quilt. . .and I wasn't as satisfied with it as much as I would had it been fabric. . .but at the same time, I knew I'd have quilts in my life from that day on. . .I have made my own quilts, but mostly I began collecting them. . .I've hung them on walls as art. . .I've displayed them on quilt racks. . .I've used them in an obvious place--the bed. . .I've given workshops on how to piece. . .I've given programs at various organizations. . .I've written a booklet about my Grandmother Duncan's quilts, of which I am now the proud owner. . .I have been published twice in quilt magazines with patterns of my own design. . .I participated in several national quilt shows. . .In other words, quilts have surrounded me. . .enveloped me. . .kept my interest. . .for most of my life. . .Barn Quilts were a natural next step. . .


By 2005, I no longer lived in a townhouse. . .I suddenly found myself to be the owner of two barns, three outbuildings (at that time--there are more now), a farm shop, an old country store building, and the manager's home. . .Although it took me three more years before I began painting Barn Quilts, I was gradually adding photos to my quilt stash as I traveled through many states. . .They seemed to be everywhere. . .and by 2008 I proudly displayed six Barn Quilts on our property. . . But time and weather took their toll within a couple of years. . .All but two were sent to the barn storage bins. The two remaining were displayed on our home, under the porch roof where they would be protected. In fact, one became our logo for the Widner-Magers Farm Historic District and Duncan Farmstead which has been photographed many times by people who happened upon it.


Our Cotton Boll Barn Quilt has been a hit with so many 
and continues to be pinned on Pinterest.



It was while adding POPS OF WHIMSEY at our two shotgun houses, I decided we should use the barn quilts again this year. . .We needed to bring color to the drab gray buildings. . .Once we finished the LITTLE CHAPEL IN THE FIELD, I pulled out two of our badly weathered Barn Quilts from 2008 and gathered the paint buckets. . .This time I made sure I used exterior paint to guard against the weather.


The term Barn Quilt implies that an entire quilt is painted on wood. . .but that's not the case most times. . .Normally, only one quilt block is selected. . . The size of the block is also left up to the creator.  I decided on 4' X 4' plywood squares for our outbuildings. . .A standard size for blocks displayed on a barn is 8' X 8'. . .The easiest quilt block patterns to paint are those comprised of simple geometric shapes, such as triangles, squares, and rectangles. Simple shapes and vibrant colors for these two updates assure that they are easily seen from far down the road.

AMISH CROSS


NINE PATCH

Once we displayed our quilts on the houses, I thought 'Wouldn't it be great if we had our own Barn Quilt Trail right here in Northeast Arkansas?' . .There are plenty opportunities. . .Barns, sheds, garages, outbuildings. . .Viewers would follow a map printed from the internet and read about each one as they drive through the countryside. . . It's happening throughout the United States with a wide variety of people creating the blocks. . .not only by individuals but quilt guilds, schools, churches, and 4-H clubs have participated across the country. . .Why not here? . .Quilts are a part of our heritage, too. . .


How do you join in? . .Simply by painting and displaying a Barn Quilt of your own. . .Then EMAIL us with a photo and where the Quilt is located if you would like to be placed on the Delta Quilt Trail map for all to see. 

We would also appreciate you sharing information with us that could be added. . .about your family. . .your memories. . .why you chose that particular block. . .anything you would like to add. . .This isn't required but would mean so much to everyone. . .
This PDF will get you started. . .
There are many other ways for painting and displaying these quilts, but the above link will give you the basics. . .You can see more techniques at my PINTEREST BOARD. . .You'll also find numerous barn quilts from across the country for inspiration there. . .And. . .if you have any other questions. . .EMAIL US. . .We'll be glad to answer your questions. . .



Soon I'll repaint the other four quilts and display them. . .adding to the Delta Barn Quilt Trail beginnings. . .Hope they inspire you to paint your own. . .It would be a way to give back to our community, just as Donna Sue Groves did for Ohio years ago. . .


Let's put our beautiful land and barns on the map. . .
our own DELTA QUILT TRAIL map. . .



Check out more Posts of the Delta Quilt Series at the bottom of the page.



Tuesday, September 5, 2017

History Through Postcards: Steamboats On the Rivers



Steamboat's A-Coming!!
Steamboat's A-Coming!!

For those who lived along the Mississippi River and its tributaries, that cry was exciting. Steamboats in many ways were the only link our ancestors had to the outside world.
During the 1810s there were 20 boats on the Mississippi River. By the 1830s there were more than 1200. But, it wasn't just the Mississippi River that handled steamboat travel. We know that in the 1880s and possibly earlier, steamboats moved up and down the Pemiscot Bayou north of Dell, as well Big Lake, Little River, and the St. Francis River. In this part of the country, a boat was about the only way to travel through the swampland. . .until the railroad arrived around 1902 (in Dell). . .


If the steamboat happened to be a Showboat or a Passenger Boat,  the festive songs of the calliope filled the air miles before it's destination, calling everyone to the river.

The Liberty Belle


Inside a Passenger Steamboat

A showboat was a form "Floating Theater" that went from town to town along the waterways.  Plays, musicians, singers, melodrama and vaudeville were featured. . .

Riverboats, Memphis, TN

As late as the 1950s, a type of showboat often tied up at Barfield Landing outside of Blytheville, Arkansas. For a night on the town, these boats were popular. There was a huge dance floor, a live band, drinks and food. I was small but remember Mom dressing in beautiful evening wear  and Daddy looking so handsome in his suit and tie. They often went with other couples and had to leave home early to ensure a place on the boat. I could hardly sleep knowing that the next day I would hear all the details.  My imagination ran wild. By the time I was old enough to experience it myself, the 'dance' boats were gone.


Passenger Steamboats were very popular before the 20th century. . .Southern farm roads and railways were almost non-existent. . .but on a steamboat, a person could travel from Memphis to New Orleans, for instance, in Southern Style. . .

Belle of Memphis Dining Room

Steamboats were also the 18-wheelers of our century, carrying barrels of food, lumber, lumber products, tobacco, general goods for the household. . .anything that could be shipped.


More important to the many farms and plantations along the way, steamboats carried our bales of cotton to the markets. . .or to a port city such as Memphis. . .or St. Louis.

Memphis, TN ca 1870

Memphis was a major port on the Mississippi River for decades. . .


Memphis Levee 1909






1914




While the passengers traveled lavishly,  the boat workers had a life of sweat and toil for very little pay. . .The hazards of the river never let up. . .

1906

"You and me
We sweat and strain
Body all aching
And wracked with pain
Tote that barge
Lift that bale
Get a little drunk
And you land in jail. . .

I get weary
Sick of trying
I'm tired of living
Feared of dying
But ol' man river
He just keeps rolling along."
from the musical Showboat

The Delta Queen, ca. 1970s

Eventually, the steamboats were forced off the River, due to the safety hazard of their wooden hulls--with one exception. In the 1970s the Delta Queen was granted the opportunity to again travel on the Mississippi, Cumberland, and Tennessee Rivers. Joining its sister stern-wheeler were the Mississippi Queen and the American Queen, both built with a steel hull.  I was fortunate in my adult life to experience river travel on the Delta Queen four times. . .and the Mississippi Queen twice. . .Wonderful experiences. . .Nowadays, the only steamer with overnight accommodations is the new Queen of the Mississippi, which is based in Memphis. . .



Only a few steamboats still move along the Mississippi River in New Orleans, Memphis, St. Louis and other river cities. . .offering short trips on the paddle-wheelers. . .The sight of these historic riverboats convey a powerful reminder of steam-boating during the antebellum days of the past. . .days that are gone now and only spoken of in river folk lore. . .

The Robert E. Lee





. . .yet one truth remains. . .
that OL' MAN RIVER. . .He just keeps rolling along. . .




Coming Next: 
HISTORY THROUGH POSTCARDS: COTTON GINS AND MARKETS




Thursday, August 31, 2017

Little Chapel in the Field Reveal



We've done it . .The Little Chapel in the Field exterior is finished. . .Would you like to venture a guess of the final cost of this up-grade? . .$136.25. . .Had John and I not done the work ourselves, of course it would have been more. . .But, we enjoy a challenge. . .We had to take it slowly. . .and could only work when we had a spare hour or two. . .We also spent time searching the barns for make-do items we could incorporate. . .'It was a labor of love.'
I've had the idea for a while. . .since the year we purchased the up-right piano from a local country church. . .Crossroads Baptist Church was razed several years ago. . . The Blaylocks got in touch with us before the church was torn down. . . They ended up giving us so much more, including pews, a podium, songbooks and Bibles. . .I thought we might build a chapel for ourselves one day. . .Like we need more buildings . .(I think at last count we had twelve.)
Chapels or churches among the tenant houses and in local small communities are historically a big part of our Delta history. . .Country churches dotted the back roads. . .where almost every little settlement had it's own. . .Many were used for grades 1-8 schools in the early 20th century also. . .
So after a tornado damaged the roof and porch of our smallest example of a tenant house, I saw an opportunity to turn it into our own unique little chapel. . .As they say, 'The rest is history'. . .(pun intended).


The building we started with sure didn't look like much. . .just a small, grayed outbuilding. . .damaged by the winds and tornado. . .
Obviously. . .something needed to be done. . .We rolled up our sleeves and got to work. . .Nothing sketched out. . .We made it up as we went. . .The only rule was: We had to use as many repurposed supplies as we could. . .only purchasing items if we had absolutely nothing else.


 Our first task was to remove the porch. . .saving the decking that was usable. . .
Instead of side steps, we decided to place steps at the front.



We needed posts next. . .After combing the barn stalls with no luck, I remembered that I had seen the 1950s metal posts from my Grandmother's home in the loft of the big barn. . .Did I wait for a younger person to come along and climb up there? . . Of course not. .  .I've climbed all over that barn in my lifetime. . .I wasn't about to stop now. . .Sure enough, after upsetting Sissy and Fred (our barn owls) and digging through decades of junk, I spotted them. . .Perfect. . .
We did purchase the side railings. . .but the hand rails were recycled off the previous deck. . .They were given to us several years ago. . .




We decided to add the steeple before the porch roof. . .Can you guess what it is? . .A garden trellis. . .
It was black iron, so John simply painted it white. . .He made the aluminum cross from an old pair of crutches. . .We decided to leave the steeple open because we often have very strong winds and find ourselves in constant repair mode of our other buildings. . .This way the winds can blow right on through. . .


The building was spray painted white to look as if it were a little weather worn. . . the metal posts and rails were hand-painted with enamel. . .

First coat of paint. . .



Replacing the skirting with vintage corrugated tin. . .salvaged from other buildings over the years. . .was probably the hardest task of all. . .It wasn't the tin itself but the ground of 'concrete' (gumbo). . .If you live in this area, you know what gumbo is. . .and how it turns to 'concrete' in the Summer heat. . .Poor John had to get the pick axe out. . .for two days. . .


Once the skirting was in place, it was time to frame in the roof. . .and add new corrugated tin. . .leftover from re-roofing one of the shotgun houses earlier in the Spring. . .


We wanted a larger bell. . .and will be on the look-out for one. . .
but for now, the smaller bell will do. . .
To make the porch look more complete, we filled in the peak with more tin. . .





Our little chapel was done. . .We thought. . .but it was looking a little plain and lacking. . .We didn't want real windows for maintenance reasons. . .This had to be simple. . .


I was inspired by the country church birdhouse that John made for us a few years ago. . .Why not copy that idea on a much larger scale?. . .Had no idea what to use that wouldn't be costly. . .We searched the farm. . .without luck. . .One day while on a run to Lowes, I spotted fencing marked down to 98c per board. . .I guess you know we loaded them up. . .




Finally, the day came to begin adding accessories. . .and flowers. . .I planted white lilies in the concrete planters. . .It will be next year before they bloom. . .I also added day lilies to a big planter in back. . .Pulled out the wrought iron chairs and table, stored from my childhood home. . .Mulch. . .A bench on the porch. . .Simple things. . .
By the way, those stones around the flower pots are chunks of concrete salvaged from an old fireplace torn down a few years ago. . .That's the nice thing about having a big farm with lots of barns and buildings. . .STORAGE galore. . .


By next year, when the flowers and shrubs begin to take hold, our Little Chapel in the Field should look as if it has been there for decades. . .Isn't it amazing? . .One of my friends has dubbed it 'adorable'. . .It's almost hard for us to believe the before and after photos. . .

Before

After

Our Little Chapel in the Field turned out much better than we ever expected. . .Next Summer we'll work on the interior. . .adding the items from Crossroads Church and a few other articles we have found along the way. . .For now, I'm content to enjoy the outside. . .


Early Sunday is my favorite time to sit on the porch and gaze out at the cotton fields. . .enjoying the cool of the morning and the many Blessings we have here at the farm. . .It's very quiet, except for Faith (our dove) cooing at me. . .and sometimes a mockingbird fusses a little. . .No traffic or distractions. . .No tractors or machinery. . .Cool. . .Quiet. . .Calm. . .On days like that, my thoughts inevitably will go back to an old church hymn from my youth. . .

There's a church in the valley by the wildwood,
No lovelier spot in the dale (Dell),
No place is so dear to my childhood.
As the little brown (white) church in the vale. . .