Monday, February 28, 2011

Sunday Synopsis: A bit late, 2011 February 28th

I thought about my Sunday Synopsis yesterday --- on Sunday --  but decided not to write it until later in the day.  In retrospect, writing and setting it up to be published later would have been a better decision. Those are the lessons of life -- usually in retrospect.

Last week was a good week.  Each week a pattern of my work and life seems to become apparent.  I am never bored and always have more on my plate than I can accomplish by myself.  At one time in my life, I had lots of people who helped me keep all the balls in the air  --  now, I tend to juggle alone.

This past week I accomplished the following:
Regarding  Uncle Ralph's Letters,
  *  completed the entire transfer of the blog to a clean Word document!!
  *  wrote a grant proposal to Archives.com for the purchase of a "one-project"indexing software and some graphic and editorial assistance.
Regarding blogging,

  *  submitted a late week 8 offering for the 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History.


  *  worked on the Womens History Carnival offering.

Other than that my life was a flurry of snow (a foot of the white stuff), taxes, and just "life happens" stuff.

My intent for this week is the following:
 For Uncle Ralph's Letters
  *  draft Release form and letter (a two week left over-- needs to hit the top of the pile this week)

For Writing (just picking one thing this week):
  **  Update ""Clay" for submission.

For blogging"
  *  finish and submit Carnival entry.
  *  Post for Tombstone Tuesday.
  *  Post "Sounds" for 52 Weeks entry.

I like a road map, even though I tend to do what I want, when I want.  However, the road map at least keeps me going in the right direction -- most of the time.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

52 Weeks of Genealogy, Week 8: Technology, It's In The Genes

Thank you to Amy Coffin of the  We Tree for the series 52 Weeks of Personal History & Genealogy. Although I am a bit late, I so liked this topic, I am just now posting the selection for Week 8, Technology.  Even though,  I rarely follow directions to closely, I really liked what Amy's prompt brought forth from me.



Technology: It's In The Genes

One hundred years old, that's how old my dad would have been this month. That infernal internal combustion machine, called the automobile, chugged and clamored through his childhood. In 1918 his older brother, Ralph, gave his summer earnings to their folks to buy their first car. My dad at seven years old, and his eight year old brother Clive, took to the automobile like ducks to water. Tinkering with the car provided much more excitement and interest than feeding the horses and cows, or cutting ice or wood. Watching their older brother Ralph, remove the radiator in the below zero weather and place it behind the kitchen wood stove so it wouldn't freeze made tinkering with cars and their parts an okay sort of activity and even a necessary one.

By the time the family made their first trip out to California from Minnesota, the two young brothers were only 10 and 11 years old. Even though they were just little boys, whenever Ralph had to work on the car, Harold and Clive were eager helpers. With just a few tools, screw driver, knife, couple of wrenches, and hammer, the three would dismantle and put the car back together. By the time, the family arrived in Calipatria, the boys were on their way to being good mechanics.

They just wanted to know how this new-fangled machine worked and no one was around to tell them that they were too young, didn't have the right tools, didn't know how it worked. They just figured it out. Even though dad had less than an eighth grade education, he spent the rest of his rather short life looking at things, figuring out how they worked, and then doing it. Never asked anyone if he could design and build his own equipment, take apart airplanes and then rebuild and fly the planes, or take a dream and make it real -- he just did it.

My dad would have liked to have known my son. He would have understood his grandson who looked at computers, and asked, “How does that work?” My dad would have nodded approvingly, as my son, barely out of his teens,  blithely chatted away as I watched in dismay, while he disassembled my first computer (a 1981 Osborne) at the kitchen bar. He would have understood that young man's desire to not only understand the “nuts and bolts” of its hardware, but delve into the abstraction of software to design complex possibilities which in turn become a reality – from designing and programming “fuzz-busters” for combat aircraft to machines that assure food quality and safety.

I wonder just how this desire to delve into the new cutting edge technology will play out in future generations – I do believe it's in the genes.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Sunday Synopsis: 2011 February 20

Tonite, in the worst way, I wanted to go hide and read a book, watch TV, or Skype  --- well, in fact, I did do a bit of Skyping with my sister, but I was multitasking by trying to reconcile a couple of things so I can finish my taxes.  My sis can talk  on the telephone while she is doing all sorts of chores and things.  Unfortunately,  that is not my style  --- when I am talking to someone, I like to focus my attention on the person --- and so with my work tasks. So I dinna even get to fully enjoy my Skyping. Now that I have sniveled and whined, on with the Sunday Synopsis, which is much more difficult than I had anticipated.  A worthwhile exercise, even tho sometimes frustrating.

This week I started off in fine shape and did the following:
1 - Wrote the  "Toys of My Mind" piece.
2 - Presented "Toys" at my Tuesday critique group; good critique for edits.
3 - Edited and posted "Toys."
4 - Updated the piece on the Sigford house at Matney Way and posted for "Those Places Thursday."
5 - Transferred another 50 pages of  Uncle Ralph's Letters to a clean Word document.
6 - Found an indexing program -- won't purchase until Letters are transferred
The end of the week looked a bit puny as far as writing, blogging,  and genealogy was concerned.  I kept thinking about it but never got into the swing of it; housekeeping chores, exercise, and taxes took end of the week precident.

My intent for this next week is to do the following:
For Uncle Ralph's Letters
*  transfer at least 100 pages to the clean Word document (that will leave 122 pages remaining to transfer)
*  draft a "Request for Readers" letter (left over from last week).
*  draft a Release form and letter (left over from last week).

For Writing (from last week)
* Update "Clay" for submission.
* Edit "House" and "Legacy of Sharp Pencils."

For Blogging
*  Post for Tombstone Tuesday
*Post for 52 Weeks of Genealogy's Tech prompt -- should be fun.
*Post for Those Places Thursday
*Post for Surname Saturday with a bio of a McPherson 

My major roadblock to accomplishing  the above will be finishing my taxes and reclaiming my desk.  I don't work well in chaos and right now my desk is chaos.  However, having a road map is important, even if I have to take more time negotiating pot holes and rocks --- the goal is in sight.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Those Places Thursday: Sigford Home on Matney Way, circa 1919 to 1923

Outside the house on Matney Way, circa 1924
Uncle David Keyes, Gail Sigford, Ruth Sigford
Although I grew up less than a half mile from the house on Matney Way, I never knew that my mother, Ruth,  and my aunt Gail were born in that house.  In fact,  I didn't even know they lived there until I was an adult.  Years later when one my mother's twin sisters, Loise, talked about the place on Matney Way, she was very disparaging about the house and land. She would almost spit out the words,  "Just an old shack on an alkali flat."   My mother's feelings of reticence about this house were undoubtedly influenced by her sister who was 14 years older.

The house on Matney Road burned to the ground in about 1923;  my mother was just 4 years old at the time. Nearly seventy years later, she shared her memories of that old house :

"The house on Matney Way burned to the ground, probably in late summer  or early autmn of 1923, when Gail [her younger sister] was a baby, well perhaps more of a toddler.  I remember my mother carrying a baby out of the house in her arms while the house was burning.  We lost almost everything in this fire.  My mother saved her round topped trunk where she kept all of her treasures.  No one was died in the fire and we still had our cows, car, buggy and Nell [the horse].  That was the only house that my parents ever owned."

Even though I never saw this house, it looms large in my memory for many of the treasured family pictures of my mother's family were taken when they lived there.

Ruth Sigford, 1 year old
late summer, 1920




Sigford twins, Loise and Joyce with brother Clemmon
in the buggy behind beloved Nell, circa 1922
Lone Pine School in the background



1920, Sigford children at the Matney Way property
Clemmon, Joyce holding baby Ruth, and Loise
and dog

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

52 Weeks of Genealogy, Week 7: Toys of My Mind


Dust covered boxes in the attic daunted my search for a box of dishes to send to a granddaughter. If the dust wasn't enough, the hand scrawled labels on the boxes greatly impeded my search – “Pictures, 1943,” “1932 Olympics,” “winter clothes, 1965.” “Ice Skates.” But the box labeled “Toys” had me on my knees for a tumble of memories.

Fingering the old, crackled leather, I remembered  my younger sister, as she often wore her “chowboy” boots, vest  and chaps. Silver colored “six shooters” hung from her tiny frame.

Rusted trucks and tractors morphed into  rows of toy trucks (usually red) and tractors, graders, earth movers (usually yellow) that entertained by the hour my younger brothers. And coonskin caps atop their unruly mops while they hunkered over the chess board.

From my children, a gaggle of dolls some now hairless, armless, their blue eyes vacant with loss, danced across my mind in their former splendor; a battered “Stoney Burke” hat tossed over boxes of paints, brushes, and tattered art work mind ; model cars and airplanes tucked in amongst books on the moon, space travel and posters of Apollo missions reflected the scientific bent of the youngest

Grandchildren's treasures, now a jumble of Ninja turtles, chemistry sets, boxes of beads, soccer balls, baseballs, basketballs; trucks, cars and model airplanes vie for space; homemade “flat dolls” and their flat paper-doll-like wardrobes; a doll houses, hand-crafted, complete with miniature dolls and furniture; old, dried out bottles of finger paints cradled in a red wooden easel, still festooned with torn sheets of newsprint.

But no favorite toys come to my mind as favorites from my childhood. For sure, I had the line up of dolls and their accouterments and also a set of “six shooters.”  As a family, we had games, Scrabble, Monopoly, Checkers, and Chess, but those – rather a bore to me.

What I remembered of my childhood reached into that world of my mind. My old roan horse nuzzling me across the fence,  sometimes she carried this  princess to far off lands, sometimes into battle, or helped save the village from some unseen enemy. She was indeed a magical roan.

Then, the old war surplus raft plied the canal in front of our house. Slunk low under the willow branches to escape marauding “Injuns”; or my foot on the bow, leaning forward in search of new lands; or laying on the cool rubber bottom watching cloud figures overhead.

“My” tree along side the canal provided a special retreat, a harbor from hurt, a castle above the ground and listened to my child's heart and soul but cast no judgment.

Perhaps most special of all, the car that my father built for me. A washing machine motor turned belts and pulleys as I traversed the ranch compound. A race car sometimes. Transporting me to far away places on a sunny day. The absolute embodiment of a father's love.

A tree, a horse, a rubber raft or a washing machine motor encased in a metal body – not what one would usually consider a favorite toy, but these are the memories of my childhood at play. The toys of my mind.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Tombstone Tuesday: 2011 February 15th, McPherson Family Headstone in Verona Cemetery, Dane Co, Wisconsin




A cold November wind blew across the Verona Cemetery as we searched for the McPherson Gravestone.  "Can't miss it." echoed in our ears as we traversed the hillside, back and forth and up and down.  From the Sexton's description, I was looking for an older, more imposing stone.  However, once found, this McPherson Family  gravestone presented it's own secretive history.

The side facing the Verona Cemetery gates was inscribed:
James P. McPherson
1816-1900
Mary Burns
Wife of  James P. McPherson
1822-1920

I had known that James had died and was buried in Verona; also that Mary had died in Lisbon, North Dakota and was returned Verona to be buried beside her husband.  However this stone a even more stories to tell as we circled around back. The back of the gravestone had  names of three of the children of James P. and Mary B. McPherson; Harriet, who died at 3 years of age; Elizabeth, who died at age 11; and the couple's first born, William B., who died at the age of 73.  Harriet and Elizabeth died when the family lived on the farm in Springdale, so I thought it was unlikely that they would have been buried in Verona.  I was also surprised that William shared the grave plot with his parents and younger sisters, as he was the head of a rather large family of his own.

Finding the gravestone of my great-great grandparents made my heart sing in  the cold blustery Wisconsin wind  --  but my head was a buzz with questions about Harriet, Elizabeth and William.  Questions for a day, when I am warm and toasty in my office.



 The inscription on the back of the McPherson Family gravestone:
Harriett B
1862-1865
 Elizabeth S.
1863-1873
William B.
1842-1926

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sunday Synopsis: 2011 February 13th

Missed posting a Sunday Synopsis for last week. We had some house repair issues that needed immediate attention which left me rather scattered. However, I am regrouping. I started out mulley-grubbing about not getting anything accomplished. This morning when I sad down a made my writing/blogging/genealogy To Do List for the week, I realized that I had done some work --- without even being aware of working.

I have ruffed-out two piece that I think will become polished stories, essays or blogs.

I also poked a bit at my Uncle Ralph Letters; I had thought that I would just download to Blurb and print. However, there are some problems. I have a definite image of the finished product and Blurb just isn't going to be the vehicle. So I am cross-checking my blog with my Word documents; I made many edits on the blog after I copied and pasted to my blog from the original documents. In addition, I have to figure out the best way to index the letters.

My intent for the upcoming week is to complete or work on the following:

1 - Re: Uncle Ralph's letters (this may take weeks to complete):
* Work on getting my original Word copy verified with the Blog copy
* Update my Scribus publishing program
* Send our A Release for the few living family members mentioned in the letters. I have verbal approval but I want a signed written copy for my files.
* Draft a request for "reader" (persons who would be willing to read all or portions of the Letters before it goes to print.
* Find a source or someone who knows about indexing a document of this length.

2 - Writing:
* Review and/or rework "Clay" before submission.
* Rework "House"
* "toys" draft to final
* "Pencil box" draft to 2nd draft or more

3 - Blogging; The blogging week is outlined --- some easy, some not so much, so pulled from older genealogy writings, and hopefully "Toys" will be ready before the week is over.

Now to complete all of this whilst finishing taxes, ramrodding the repair guy, a critique group will definitely keep me busy.