Monday, November 30, 2009

The Grail Stone

Since the release of The Night's Dark Shade I have received a few inquiries about various topics that are alluded to in the story. One of the subplots of the novel deals with the mysterious "Grail Stone" sought after by the Cathars. While the quest of the Holy Grail of King Arthur's knights was a journey in search of the chalice used by Our Lord and His apostles at the Last Supper, the "Grail Stone" was reputed to be a stone which fell from the crown of Lucifer when the rebellious angel was cast out of Heaven. While the myth of the "Grail Stone" is of gnostic origins tales about it were incorporated into Arthurian legend during the Middle Ages, particularly in the Parzifal cycle as retold by Wolfram von Eschenbach. According to New Advent:
In the...Wolfram version we meet with a conception of the Grail wholly different from that of the French romances. Wolfram conceives of it as a precious stone, lapsit exillis (i.e. lapis or lapsi ex caelis?) of special purity, possessing miraculous powers.... The angels who remained neutral during the rebellion of Lucifer were its first guardians; then it was brought to earth and entrusted to Titurel, the first Grail king. It is guarded in the splendid castle of Munsalvaesche (mons salvationis or silvaticus?) by itself and nourished by its miraculous food-giving power....
Some scholars have maintained that the concept of "neutral angels" is Catharist. Furthermore, Celtic historian Jean Markale insists that the idea of the "sacred stone" has no connection to the original Celtic myths which may have been partially incorporated into the Arthurian Holy Grail legends. The Grail Stone was closely connected to alchemy and the occult. The Grail Stone legend offered the seduction of magic as opposed to faith and devotion. Similarly, heresies such as Catharism, beneath the veneer of a purified, rigorous Christianity, offered an "easy" way to God. It was, however, a way without the cross of Christ.

(Image source) Share

Women in the Wild West

They were a heroic lot. (Via Joshua Snyder) To quote from an article in The American Conservative:

I love tales of heroism. They inspire me. And because they do, I am perplexed by those people who are not similarly inspired. As a student and later as a professor, I found professors, teaching assistants, and students who wanted to hear only tales of oppression, repression, and brutality—as long as the oppression, repression, and brutality was perpetrated by white males. I have watched departments of history become departments of victimology, with a kind of competition among various groups for supremacy among victims, leading to an emphasis on stories of those who had suffered and lost, rather than of those who had suffered, endured, and triumphed. The former are worth studying, but the latter are worth emulating.

In 1985, I presented a paper on violence in the Old West at a historical conference. I described how women, other than prostitutes, rarely suffered from violence, were treated with respect, and often displayed extraordinary courage. For this I was attacked by two women professors in the audience. I provided them with a wealth of statistics and dozens of anecdotes. That only made it worse. It was about then that I realized I was confronting the religion of political correctness and that one of the articles of faith was victimhood. These particular women were not delighted to hear of the derring-do and heroism of their frontier sisters. But history is full of such stories..... (Read More)


Sunday, November 29, 2009

Marian Chivalry

Modern knighthood according to the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate. To quote:

In an age when many theologians and catechists are taken with “bridal spirituality,” the Franciscans of the Immaculate are unique in helping men join their hearts and minds to Mary’s “yes” – the greatest bridal “I do” – while retaining their essential masculinity. I asked Father Angelo Mary Geiger F.I., who writes extensively about Marian chivalry on his Mary Victrix blog, to explain some of the fine distinctions he makes with regard to what authentic masculinity looks like.

“At the heart of anyone’s standing in the spiritual life is interior union with God,” Father Geiger told me. While the Church sees the bride’s union with the Heavenly Bridegroom as a key analogy for this union, Father Geiger stresses that “men must translate their interior life into a plan of action if they are to maintain their spiritual life.”

Such action is necessary because “men are hardwired to take risks. They must face their fears, confront evil and defend the weak. Otherwise, they either naturally lose interest in the spiritual life or unnaturally consent to be emasculated.”

Father Geiger identifies love and war as what distinguish authentic masculinity – though both of which, he says, are fundamentally human, “because the goal of everyone’s life is the union of love, but in the concrete it is lived out in the midst of conflict.”

The Holy Father’s encyclical Deus Caritas Est (“God Is Love”) sheds light on this distinction, Father Geiger notes.

“Authentic love is a balance between what Pope Benedict has described as eros and agape, or possessive love and oblative love,” he says. “Both Christ and Mary at Calvary exemplify that balance. Our Lord defends the honor of his Bride, and Our Lady suffers with her son in solidarity of love and compassion. They both expose themselves to suffering in the face of conflict, but their mutual self-forgetfulness is formed and consolidated by their union of love."


Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Family Pew

Christine has an enlightening post about the often ostentatious family pews in the parish churches of post-Reformation England, saying:
After the Dissolution--the biggest legal transfer of wealth in England's history--the Crown either bestowed or sold the church properties to peers and gentry. By far, most of the estates went to the landed gentry, and thus emerged to prominence, in essence for the first time there, the aristocracy.

The gentleman manifested his status in a number of ways, whether by extensive desecration renovation of the appropriated abbeys and convents into great country houses (in one case, the gatehouse was brutally driven through the nave of an old parish church), or by riding about in ornate coaches, or by constructing the family pew (usually in the impropriated parish church of which he was patron). The family pew served not only to preserve a permanent place for the (invariably non-Catholic) squire's family at church, but also to distinguish them from the rest of the populace, and to denote their patronage of the parish.

Archbishop Sheen and Opera

Pentimento on how Archbishop Sheen helped opera singer Barbara Conrad. Share

Friday, November 27, 2009


Lauren has an informative post on the hooped petticoats worn in Marie-Antoinette's youth. Paniers made skirts so wide that ladies had to go through doors sideways and curved staircases were constructed because they were easier to navigate. Marie-Antoinette did everything she could to gradually introduce simpler styles that were easier to move around in. Share

Autumn Fruit

Preserving fruit in the olden times. Share

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Etiquette at Thanksgiving Dinner

Miss Janice offers advice on how to handle potentially awkward situations at Thanksgiving dinner. Share

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Things We Forget

Under the Gables bids us to remember the hard times of the past. Let us be humbly grateful for what we have. Share


In a sea of change. Scott Richert reflects upon the achievements of the feminist revolution. Share

Book Moments

Two of my books made it into Lucy's "Absolutely-Must-Read" list. I am enchanted. Thank you, Lucy! Share

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Way of Beauty

The Holy Father speaks of the Romanesque and Gothic architecture of the great medieval cathedrals as a "fascinating way to reach God." (Via Joshua Snyder)
"The works of art born in Europe in past centuries are incomprehensible if one does not take into account the religious soul that inspired them," said the Vicar of Christ, drawing attention to Europe's Christian roots. His Holiness later prayed "the Lord help us to rediscover the way of beauty as one of the ways, perhaps the most attractive and fascinating, to be able to find and love God."
Above is a sketch of the Romanesque Basilica of Saint Sernin in Toulouse where Raphaëlle, the heroine of the new novel The Night's Dark Shade, stops to pray on her way to the fête at the castle of the Hospitallers.
They entered the gates of Toulouse in the early dusk, spending the night at an inn near the basilica of Saint Sernin. In the morning they assisted at Mass in the vast cathedral. The pink brick of the octagonal steeple seemed to glow with joy in the morning light, as the bells echoed over the roofs of the city.... the finite infinity of the basilica caused her soul to soar in prayer.... The painted statues of the saints, the silken embroidered banners, the nine chapels radiating behind the apse, the billows of incense, all conspired to flood her with the hope of a better world. After Mass, she placed the colored candles she had brought with her before the altar of the Virgin and, lighting them, she prayed for a child.

~from The Night's Dark Shade by Elena Maria Vidal

Children of Evolution

Charles Darwin at Columbine High School. Share

Monday, November 23, 2009

Crusaders: Noble liberators or brutal invaders?

With my new novel about the Albigensian Crusade just released, this article was of enormous interest to me. Here is an excerpt:
When Pope Urban II called for a Crusade in 1095, he was hoping to accomplish two tasks, says Stark. First, he hoped to liberate the Holy Lands from Muslim control, which Stark says the pope believed was totalitarian and brutal. Second, Urban hoped to give the warring knights of Europe something better to do than kill each other.

"Pacifism would not have flown at that time," he says. While the knights who went on Crusades believed in their faith, they'd also been trained to fight from the time they were children," Stark says.

"These knights did such terrible things that their confessors kept saying, 'I don't know how you will ever atone for this -- why don't you try walking to Jerusalem barefoot.' And they would do it -- they took their faith very seriously."

More HERE.


Les Noyades

Christine reminds us of the dreadful noyades or "Republican marriages" which began in November 0f 1793 in Nantes. Under the orders of the Republican Jean-Baptiste Carrier, those citizens who had resisted the Revolution were stripped naked, tied together, put in boats and drowned in the middle of the river. Many innocent, non-political persons, including young girls and nuns, were subjected to such gruesome murder. To quote:
Details of the practice vary slightly, but are generally consistent with the description offered above. One author described how "marriages Républicains... consisted in binding together a man and woman, back to back, stripped naked, keeping them exposed for an hour, and then hurling them into the current of "la Baignoire Nationale", as the bloodhounds termed the Loire".[9] British radical and Girondist sympathizer Helen Maria Williams, in her Sketch of the Politics of France, 1793-94,[10] wrote that "innocent young women were unclothed in the presence of the monsters; and, to add a deeper horror to this infernal act of cruelty, were tied to young men, and both were cut down with sabers, or thrown into the river; and this kind of murder was called a republican marriage".[10]
According to literary scholar Steven Blakemore, Williams seems to have regarded this as a form of "terrorist misogynism".[3] Williams' description of the women as "innocent", in his view, "not only suggests that they were not guilty of aiding the rebels, but that they were young 'virgins'".[3] He argues that in Williams' text, the male Jacobin executioners are portrayed as "sadistic, public voyeurs who delight in tying 'counter-revolutionary' men and women into forced positions of sterile intercourse, in a grotesque 'marriage' of the soon-to-be dead." Thus, "if the Old Regime, for Williams, represents the forced confinement of female beauty, the Terror represents beauty's degrading death."[3]

Sunday, November 22, 2009

"Bloody Mary"

An article in First Things by Stephanie Mann about how recent biographies have reassessed the brief and tragic rule of the first reigning Queen of England, Mary Tudor. To quote:
Even without the debate about the burnings, was this reign just an interlude in the history of a nation destined to be Protestant? Was the restoration of Catholicism in England doomed from the start—and not just because Mary and Cardinal Pole just didn’t have enough time? That is the harder question to answer....

The crucial issue for the success or failure of her reign was whether she had a Catholic heir to succeed her. Since she did not, Elizabeth succeeded to the throne and dismissed all of Pole’s bishops save one. As Elizabeth ignored her last will and testament, historians ignored Mary’s circumstances, forgot her efforts and achievements and she gained a nickname she might not deserve. But she and Cardinal Pole left a legacy beyond the fires of Smithfield: an underground counter-reformation Catholicism in England, supporting the faithful and ready for revival again—even if it had to wait almost 300 years.

Women in Asia

From one extreme to another. Share

Saturday, November 21, 2009

A Plague Upon Your Town

The Black Death in Renaissance France. According to the meticulous research of Renaissance scholar Julianne Douglas:
Although the incidence of bubonic plague, the infamous "Black Death" of the fourteenth century, slowly decreased over the course of the Renaissance era, plague was still very much part of sixteenth century life. Outbreaks of plague occurred sporadically throughout Europe, following the movement of goods from port to port and of soldiers returning home from war. Edinburgh suffered a bout of plague in 1529, as did London in 1537-39 and 1547-48; Paris, where outbreaks were frequent, suffered a particularly virulent one around 1564. In 1570, 200,000 people lost their lives to plague in the vicinity of Moscow; Lyon lost 50,000 individuals in 1572; in 1576, 70,000 inhabitants of Venice succumbed. Plague during the sixteenth century was largely confined to cities and towns. Outbreaks usually occurred during the summer months, when rat fleas are most active. Death came quickly to victims: 80% of those infected died within five days.

In the course of my research on plague in the sixteenth century, I came across a small book entitled Deux ans de peste à Chalon-sur-Saone, 1578-79 [Two Years of Plague in Chalon-sur Saone, 1578-79], published in 1879 by Marcel Canat de Chizy, the town archivist. The book provides a fascinating account, culled from the town's historical record, of how the municipality dealt with a particular outbreak of the disease. Interesting to me was how the care of the sick became a community effort, motivated both by Christian charity and the more self-interested desire to limit the extent of the contagion.

(More HERE)

Wine Guide

The holidays are upon us. Celebrate with a good wine and some tips from a connoisseur. Share

Friday, November 20, 2009

Marie-Antoinette and the Theater

Toronto artist Gabriela Delworth is having a fête in honor of Marie-Antoinette. One of the first installments in the series is a post about the Queen's love of theater.

(Photo: Marie-Antoinette's papier-mâché theater at Trianon) Share

Edmund Burke: An Ambiguous Conservative

He stood for both the ancien régime and classical liberalism. (Via Serge) To quote:
At the same time, there is no denying that Burke would have had nothing but scorn for the notion that we could loose ourselves from our fundamental human obligations by writing them off as something historically contingent. Bromwich reminds us that the same Burke who penned the Thoughts also held that our “social ties and ligaments … in most cases begin, and always continue, independently of our will” and that society is a partnership “not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born.” Bruce Frohnen’s essay on Burke and human rights offers a way of reconciling these apparently conflicting aspects of Burke. On the one hand, Burke held that all men “have a right to the fruits of their industry; and to the means of making their industry fruitful. They have a right to the acquisitions of their parents; to the nourishment and improvement of their offspring; to instruction in life, and to consolation in death.” On the other hand, he emphasized that the manner in which these rights get their determinate content is conditioned by particular historical and cultural circumstances and that any responsible defense of these rights must be sensitive to these circumstances. Prudence rather than abstract theory must guide the defender of human rights, and reform rather than revolution must be his program.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

English Recusants

Christine explores the artifacts left by English Catholics who had to hide their Faith in the days of persecution. To quote Hilaire Belloc:
The English Reformation was the most important European event between the conversion of the Roman Empire and modern times. It was the most important because upon it the unity or break-up of Christendom depended. It is of especial important to Englishmen because it is by far the greatest event in the story of their country; but it is of still greater importance to Europeans as a whole, because of England had not been torn away from the unity of Christendom that unity would be intact to this day. It was the loss of England which determined the whole affair. Because of that loss Europe ultimately fell into two camps, the Protestant culture on the one hand, and the Catholic culture on the other.... It was through the Reformation that the dissolution of Europe came and that chaos of which we are now suffering the last, and perhaps mortal, effect.

--From Hilaire Belloc's introduction to Brian Magee's The English Recusants: A Study of the Post-Reformation Catholic Survival and the Operation of the Recusancy Laws

American Espionage

The spies of the Revolutionary War. To quote George Washington:
The necessity of procuring good Intelligence is apparent & need not be further urged -- All that remains for me to add is, that you keep the whole matter as secret as possible. For upon Secrecy, Success depends in Most Enterprizes of the kind, and for want of it, they are generally defeated, however well planned & promising a favourable issue.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Mystery of the Rosary

Here is another guest post by author Stephanie Mann, who reviews Nathan Mitchell's The Mystery of the Rosary. According to Mrs. Mann:
Although I found some of the terms that Mitchell uses off-putting and too technical (reframing, re-imagining, reinventing, renegotiating etc) and his repetitious analysis of Caravaggio's paintings (especially "Madonna di Loreto") rather irritating, overall I have to give his work four stars. The book rewards careful and thoughtful reading.

He builds a strong argument for understanding the sixteenth century responses of the Roman Catholic Church to the Protestant Reformation, whether referred to as the Counter-Reformation or the Catholic Reformation, as more complex than uniform and organized programs and processes. By examining grassroots Marian devotions like the rosary, confraternities, and other means of meditation on the life of Christ (Caravaggio paintings or The Mystical City of God by Mary of Agreda), Mitchell demonstrates that Catholic believers in the period following the "dividing of Christendom" as Dawson calls it, embraced Catholic orthodoxy often by adapting those devotions to deeper understandings of Catholic worship, doctrine and discipline.

It is too bad that the publisher could not provide plates for the Caravaggio paintings described throughout the text. With access to the internet, I found all of them of course, but I think artwork should be included in the book when the author analyzes it to make his argument. Caravaggio's idiosyncratic way of presenting the child Jesus, Mary, St. Anne, St. Matthew or other saints in his artwork demonstrates Mitchell's argument that the Counter-Reformation/Catholic Reformation was not a monolithic movement of reform. Caravaggio includes dirty feeted pilgrims and buxom, balanced Madonnas in his works, which often offended viewers because they departed from the accepted iconography of Mary and the saints. And yet he is revealing a deeper understanding of the saints.

The chapter examining the use of the Rosary in sixteenth century England, when Catholics could not openly practice their faith, was particularly illuminating. Because they had no churches in which to worship and only seldom were able to receive the Sacraments, especially Holy Communion, Catholics used the Rosary as a focus for Eucharistic devotion and devout self-offering. Meditating on the mysteries of the Rosary does not require beads, so if beads weren't available or even too dangerous to possess, the faithful were still able to practice this devotion. It allowed Catholics in England to maintain church teaching about the Incarnation, Passion and Resurrection of Jesus as a form of catechetical devotion while reflecting on the Sacraments they SHOULD receive but weren't able to because of government persecution. When English Catholics did possess rosary beads, they were certainly emblematic of being a Catholic. In the 18th Century, as Parliament began to remove some of the restrictions on Catholics, Richard Challoner's "Garden of the Soul" provided more liturgical and sacramental devotion and guidance, but the Rosary continued as an identifying emblem of a Catholic, even in the United States during the 19th Century .

Finally, Mitchell discusses the Rosary in post-Vatican II context, framing his discussion around the term 'kitsch' to understand the endurance of the Rosary even as devotions outside of Mass and the Sacraments were often discouraged in the years following the Council. In spite of that discouragement, or even because of it, the Rosary has remained a favorite devotion among Catholics as diverse as Garry Wills and Mother Angelica, per Mitchell.

This is sometimes a rather cumbersome but more often a very illuminating examination of the Rosary and the Catholic Church's response to the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century and beyond.

Sleeping with the Saints

Jane Austen's final resting place. Her stone at St. Swithin's Cathedral reads:

In Memory of
youngest daughter of the late
formerly Rector of Steventon in this County

She departed this Life on the 18th of July1817,

aged 41, after a long illness supported with

the patience and hopes of a Christian.

The benevolence of her heart,
the sweetness of her temper, and
the extraordinary endowments of her mind

obtained the regard of all who knew her and

the warmest love of her intimate connections.

Their grief is in proportion to their affection

they know their loss to be irreparable,
but in their deepest affliction they are consoled

by a firm though humble hope that her charity,

devotion, faith and purity have rendered
her soul acceptable in the sight of her



Tuesday, November 17, 2009

My Other Novels

I am delighted that since the publication of Trianon and Madame Royale about a decade ago, people are still reading and enjoying them. Here is a review of both books from Cross of Laeken. Matterhorn contradicts the criticism the novels have sometimes received, that the characters are too pious and idealized, saying:
I have read several reviews claiming the books are too religious and/or over-idealize the protagonists. I only want to say that the devout faith of Louis XVI, Marie-Antoinette and Madame Royale is well-documented, and it would not be realistic to ignore or downplay the role of Catholicism in their lives. Nor do I think the royal family are over-idealized. Their spiritual journeys are presented as hard and painful and they struggle with human failings along the way. Against his conscience, for instance, the King signs the Civil Constitution of the Clergy under duress, an action he later bitterly repents. Before maturing gracefully into a noble wife and mother, Marie-Antoinette is portrayed as a kind, charming, but imperfect young girl, apt to be headstrong and rash. Marie-Thérèse's rigidity and refusal to compromise the divine right of kings, coupled with her cold manner (although these are understandable results of her early traumas), contribute to alienating many from the cause of the Catholic monarchy. Nonetheless, the fact remains that she, like her parents, ultimately attains a high degree of spiritual heroism.
Religion may not be a part of some contemporary lives but it certainly played a part in the lives of many historical characters. To ignore or downplay the faith of characters in a historical novel is to destroy the integrity of the characters as well as thwart an authentic representation of the past. Share

The Culture of Pretend

The failure of psychotherapy. (Via Joshua Snyder) Share

Monday, November 16, 2009

Memoirs of a Grandfather, Part IV

The following concludes my grandfather's memoirs. He and my grandmother had four children and built a life for their family in the Philippines, never guessing that their existence would be shattered forever in 1942. In the meantime, Herman tells of his experiences hunting water buffalo, working for the mining camp and avoiding robbers in the hills of Baguio. Frank Arnibal was my grandmother's brother and my grandfather's frequent hunting comrade. Herman does not mention the death of little Fe, my aunt who passed away at age three. Her death was too much of a tragedy for him.
I must mention some of the close calls I had during our stay at Agno. First was an earthquake of such violence causing roaring landslides that filled the river gorge and blocked the river flow until it reached a depth of about 400 feet. Finally, enough pressure built up to break the dam that was caused by the accumulated mud, and the water surged with such force that it tore great chunks out of the mountain as it made its way to the lowlands. It was determined that the epicenter of the earthquake was about half a mile from our camp where steaming water gushed out of a wide crack in the earth that extended half way up the mountain. It washed out a little Royer gorge as it made its way down to the river where it could have easily engulfed our camp site had it been a little closer.

Another incident was when Dugan and I went hunting and I shot a deer across a steep canyon. After going around and coming down on the other side I evidently started a landslide which carried me down the mountain. I managed to grab a little bush just before going over a sheer cliff. It was impossible to climb out so Dugan improvised a vine rope which he threw down and pulled me out. I still cringe when I go down steep hills and wonder how I survived.

During my time with Benguet Consolidated I was friends with the Baguio Chief of Police who called me into his office one day and informed me it was common knowledge that I carried the monthly cash payroll which placed me in a dangerous situation. I carried the payroll along a lonely horse trail from Baguio to our camp site, so he convinced me to carry a .45 caliber automatic pistol for protection. Although I was never held up, the fact that I was armed prevented at least one attempted robbery.

One event which occurred while going to Baguio for the payroll happened early one morning when my horse suddenly stopped in the trail that ran along a Guava grove. Not more than twenty feet from me stood a large wild boar who stopped munching on the Guavas and stared straight at me and the horse. I gently pulled out the .45 and slowly aimed at a spot between the eyes of the boar and fired. The shot caused my horse to jump out from under me, but fortunately I had killed the boar or it would have ripped me and the horse to shreds with those mighty tusks. Incidentally, I used the tusks for paper weights.

I always carried the .45 when hunting. On my first trip to north Luzon in the Gob-Gob valley along the Chico River I spotted several wild Carabao, sometimes called Water Buffalo. This was near the plantation of Madge’s brother Frank. Only one in the herd was in a position where I could safely approach, so in order to get close enough to shoot I had to go down a little stream that led into the valley. Here I climbed a lone tree so that I could look over the tall Rono Grass, and there he stood about fifty yards away in a little clearing defiantly guarding his herd. These animals are considered some of the fiercest on earth with a horn spread of nine feet. As I looked down my sights at this 800 pound animal I remembered the warning the Presidente of the local Bario government who through an interpreter said, “If you try to kill the Carabao he will kill you”. I carried a 30.06 Winchester Rifle with a 220 grain bullet developed by Western Cartridge Co. for the purpose of hunting Carabao. I hit the Bull with a shot to the heart, but he got up and came bellowing and pawing the ground under the tree where I was clinging precariously. With two more carefully aimed shots to the head I finally downed the Bull for good.

To emphasize the ferocity of these animals, I had a harrowing experience on another hunting trip. Again I aimed at the heart and the bull fell only to get up and charge me. The next shot got him through the nose which laid him back on his haunches from which he rose blowing bloody foam from his nostrils and charged again. The third shot broke his shoulder yet he was still trying to get up. While only 15 yards from me I used the .45 to stop him. When the natives dressed him out it was noted that the 220 grain bullet ground up his heart like sausage.

In another incident on one occasion of hunting with Frank, the foreman of the Captazor Road project asked to borrow my rifle to kill deer so his crew could have some fresh meat, promising that he would bring the gun back in time for me to hunt the next day. Since he did not show up the following morning I went to his camp to inquire, but his crew said they thought he had spent the night at my camp. Only then did we realize that something was wrong. So Frank and I started looking for him at the place where he was supposed to have been hunting. We had no difficulty finding him for he was lying on a rocky clearing near the river, his body ripped to pieces by the sharp horns of a huge Carabao bull. The bull lay dead a few yards away at the edge of the river with bloody horns and three bullet holes in his bloated body. Also lying nearby was my 30.06 Winchester with a broken stock and an empty chamber.

One final incident worth mentioning was a hunting trip when Frank and I crossed a river to look for some wild boar that had previously been seen feeding in his Guava grove. It was a hot day and I decided to take a dip in the river. Suddenly, Frank fired a shot just over my head and my first thought was that the man was crazy. Looking over my shoulder, as I swam for the bank, I saw the tail of a huge crocodile disappear in the water just behind me, to which Frank remarked, “He was looking for some white meat”.

As the work on the Hydro-Electric plant neared completion, a compelling urge came upon me to return to Alabama and show off my wife and new baby. So in April of 1929, Mr. Bean, the project supervisor in Manila, booked passage for us on the Norwegian freighter, MV Fernmore, bound for Los Angeles carrying 173 tons of sugar. Being the only passengers we were given special attention by the Captain and First Officer as well as luxurious accommodations. The voyage across the Pacific was pleasant as was our welcome home.

In retrospect, I could not have picked a more inopportune time to return to the U.S., for the year 1929 was the beginning of the Great Depression. The fare home had taken most of my savings other than enough to buy a used Chevrolet Sedan and pay for the birth of our little Fe’ on September 9, 1929. With Papa and Mama’s help, and a job here and there, we managed, until I took over the operation of a Shell service station on Broadway in Sylacaluga, Alabama which helped us manage to survive financially. In 1932 I convinced my former employer, The Benguet Consolidated Mining Co., that they needed me back in the Philippines. Before we left Alabama, I should mention that a disastrous Tornado on March 21, 1932 flattened Sylacauga.

On April 21, 1932 we boarded the Chichibu Maru, a Japanese passenger ship bound for Manila via Yokohama, Shanghai, and Hong Kong. I must mention here our experience with First Officer Tonaka, who was friendly and accommodating to us on our trip across the Pacific. When we arrived in Yokohama he invited us to his home in Tokio, ( not to be confused with Tokyo, Japan), where according to custom we removed our shoes and sat on the floor while we had tea. After this we boarded a train to Osaka where we shipped out for the Port of Shanghai at the mouth of the Yangtse River. Here we went ashore and took a Riksha ride to see the elite district of Shanghai. On walking back to the boat through what was obviously the slums, I saw dead bodies in the side streets, and as we pulled away from the dock I observed boat people dipping water from the river to use for cooking as dead bodies floated near by. Although Shanghai was a large city of wealth and influence, this occurrence showed the disparity that existed between the classes as well as the ignorance and lack of health standards in some Asian cities at the time.

Upon arriving in Hong Kong it was amazing to watch the Captain and Pilot manage to maneuver such a large boat through the maze of Junks in Hong Kong harbor, where it is said that many of the boat people rarely set foot on land. Although Hong Kong was a British Colony at this time, business was conducted in an Oriental manner. For example, the dozens of money changers along the streets all had different values in their exchange of Yen for Dollars, yet on the surface Hong Kong looks like a modern American city.

On the last leg of our journey as we approached the entrance to Manila Bay, before us stood the familiar rock of Corrigador Island on my right and the beautiful Mount Marvales on my left seemingly extending to us a hand of welcome.

After reporting to the main office of Benguet Consolidated in Manila we were off to Baguio in a little coal burning train that took us through many Barios along the way to the foothills of the Mountain Province in the town of Daqupon. Here we boarded a bus that took us up a steep winding road to our final destination, Baguio, which seemed more like home to me than Alabama. Since there was no housing available at the mine site we were obliged to find a place in Baguio. After moving from place to place we finally found a suitable house on Happy Glen Road. Again, I had to live and work away from home, not only because of the arduous trip to the mine site, but also because it did not afford suitable living accomodations for a family with young children. Yet I was able to return home for weekends where I enjoyed the company of our two beautiful little girls.

It was evident when I reported for work at the mine site that the company needed help straightening out the operation of the warehouses. I was placed in charge of all warehouse operations, lumber yard, Dry Goods store, Cold Store and an inventory that averaged about one million dollars. Since most of our vital supplies had to be ordered from the United States, which required from sixty to ninety days for delivery, I devised a quantity card system that eliminated all difficulties in maintaining a ninety day inventory.

The mining operation employed between five and six hundred Philippino workers and between twenty and thirty American supervisors, and produced about a million dollars worth of Gold bullion per month. This was poured into five pound bars for shipment to the US Mint in San Francisco. At the time the value was $20.67 per oz!

Security for the transfer of the bullion was very tight and I was often called upon to escort the gold from the mines to the Baguio Post Office in the company’s bullet proof car. The only close call came between the mines and the Post Office where the arrest of armed bandits was made by an alert Chief of Police of Baguio before we even arrived on the scene. I was one of the few who had a permit to carry arms, having renewed my permit with an old friend, Captain Toralba, the Commanding Officer of the local constabulary. To emphasize the strict Philippine gun control regulations, I might mention that when the new superintendent applied for a permit to carry firearms, he was advised by Captain Toralba that he would have to get Mr. Strong’s O.K. He was shocked to learn that the Superintendent had to get the Warehouseman’s O.K. to carry a gun.

Soon after I returned to the Philippines a gold mining boom seemed to sweep the country. Among the many new companies being incorporated was the Gold River Mining Co. who’s new manager was a friend of mine. He insisted on putting me down for 1000 shares at 10 cents a share. Of course I did not have the money, however our mine superintendent, Reed Miller, who had signed up for a block of this stock handed me a check for 500 Pesos saying that was all I had to put up to get the stock. The same day I picked up the stock, I sold it for 65 cents per share and from the profit I purchased a new car. With the balance I ran my stock holdings to well over 3,000 Pesos. This was an improvement over the Depression back in the U.S. where the only jobs available were for $1.00 a day, or a promise of a job at the First National Bank of Sylacauga for $75.00 per month.

During this time I met a gentleman by the name of Morehouse who was opening the new Aloc Mines. He wanted me to set up the books and take on the job of accountant for that company and offered a considerable increase in salary, which I naturally accepted. After a considerable time with this company I became restless and accepted a position with a Philippine company located in Iloilo, an Island about 150 miles south of Luzon, the Island where the city of Manila is located. This company’s exploration of Manganese failed so I returned to Manila and accepted a position with The Marsman Company as head accountant for their store operations in the city of Parocali. When this company also failed I returned to Benguet Consolidated where I was given the position of Assistant Comptroller. It was at this time, when we were living in Manila, that the U.S. military installations in the Philippine Islands were attack by the Imperial Japanese Air Force following the infamous attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7th, 1941. In the Philippine Islands, because of the International Date Line, it was Monday December 8th, 1941, and our lives along with many others throughout the world, were changed forever.
Note: My grandfather started writing this in 1982 at the age of 79 and did not complete it until he was 84. The final paragraph only summarizes the final years before WWII broke out, and because of his advanced age at the time he compiled this, it does not include complete details of events during that period. For information of his WWII years when he was confined by the Japanese to a POW camp at Santo Tomas (a former University located in Manila), refer to the book, A Ringside Seat To War. More HERE. Share

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Night's Dark Shade

O high and glorious King, O Light and Brightness true!
God of Power, Lord, suppose it pleases you,
Make my comrade welcome, and grant him all your aid.
For him I have not seen since fell the night's dark shade,
and soon will come the dawn.
~ from a twelfth century poem by Guirault de Bornheil

I would like to announce the release of my new novel The Night's Dark Shade: A Novel of the Cathars. One of the first reviews is by Christine of Laudem Gloriae, who says:
Elena Maria Vidal, author of Trianon, Madame Royale and, most recently, The Night's Dark Shade, has a gift for writing beautifully while transporting one into past times and places and keeping one's attention riveted as if there oneself.

In the 13th century, Catharism–"The Great Heresy"–had swept through Languedoc, France and gained a stronghold, its adherents of noble and common stock alike. The problem was so serious the Catholic Church had instituted a crusade against the heretics, who had drawn numbers of the faithful away by their esoteric teachings. Louis VIII, crowned in 1223, would lead the crusade, reclaiming Aquitaine and much of the southern territories and leaving to his heir, St. Louis IX, a Capetian reign that extended from England to the Mediterranean.

In the midst of this medieval landscape, enter the maiden Raphaëlle de Miramande, vicomtesse, protagonist of The Night's Dark Shade, who, bereft of her father as well as her betrothed, both killed fighting alongside King Louis "the Lion" in the crusade, fears an unclear future. The Knights Hospitaller of St. John, that august military order whose members numbered the fiercest warriors against the Saracens, play a prominent part in this novel. Without giving away two much, two knights in particular represent opposite poles in young Raphaëlle's moral life–on the one hand, duty, obligation, and fidelity, and on the other, passion and temptation....

The Night's Dark Shade will be a book kept on the shelves of our family library, and will be mandatory reading for my little ones once they've gotten a bit older. Elena Maria Vidal has been gifted with an eye for historical detail, an energetic imagination, an elegant writing style, and a keen and informed faith, all of which blend attractively together in this her latest work.
Thank you, Christine!

Author Stephanie Mann has also composed an insightful review. The following is an excerpt:
Historical fiction is a fascinating genre because when done well it reveals truths about both the past and the present. It allows us to experience both what was unique to the era of its setting while recognizing what is universal in our humanity.

The Night’s Dark Shade: A Novel of the Cathars represents historical fiction done well, particularly when revealing the dangers of the Cathar movement in the 13th century and holding up a mirror to the 21st.

By telling the story of Raphaelle de Miramande’s encounter with a castle occupied by Cathars, especially with the Perfecta who may become the young heiress’ mother-in-law, Elena Maria Vidal bravely dramatizes the consequences of Cathar teaching. I say bravely because the Cathars or Albigensians are very often depicted as heroes for their opposition to the Catholic Church or as victims for their suffering in the Albigensian crusades against them in southern France—perhaps because their admirers sympathize with their sexual ethics and their Gnostic elitism....

Highly recommended for historical fiction buffs of any age for its plot, characterizations and often eloquently descriptive prose, The Night’s Dark Shade is particularly suited to young readers. Anyone who enjoys the genre, however, will revel in their escape into the world of 13th century southern France.
Thank you, Stephanie!

The Night's Dark Shade can be purchased HERE, and will soon be on Amazon as well. Signed copies of the book are currently available directly from me.

Memoirs of a Grandfather, Part III

The following is my grandfather Herman Strong's description of his life in the army, his decision to stay in the Philippines, and his meeting with my grandmother, Magdalena Vidal Crosby.
Up to this time I had not been subjected to any strict military training, however, after being fitted out with proper clothes it was ‘Hup 2-3-4’ from Reveille until Recall. Regardless of how hard it was to cope with the strict disciplinary action in this lonely forlorn place, I now feel that the basic training I underwent has served me well in meeting the adversities I confronted through the years.

For some the Army is a good place to ‘goof off’, while on the other hand the Armed Services offer many opportunities to improve one’s capabilities. When it dawned on me that I was stuck with it for the next 3 years I decided to take part in those activities that would relieve me of the boring routine of drills and guard duty. As for guard duty, I learned early that if your rifle was clean and your uniform was ‘spic and span’, you had a good chance of being selected as Orderly. I was often accused of ‘bucking’ for Orderly, and in most cases when I was assigned to guard duty I was selected for the coveted honor which automatically excused one from all duty for 24 hours. As a result I usually spent this time in Manila.

I took the prescribed course in Heavy Artillery not only learning the mechanical operation of the 12 inch disappearing guns, but also how to plot the course of a moving target. At our first actual practice with the big guns I was plotting the course of a target towed by the “M.P. Harrison” at a distance of about 6 miles. The result of the first shot was a direct hit. I think that this, along with my winning first place in a ‘semi four’ contest was the basis for Captain Blair promoting me to Private First Class. My years of hunting as a country boy had paid off.

Being a good basketball player provided an excellent excuse for special priviledges which I exploited fully. There was a course offered in typing of which I also took advantage, learning the keyboard in one day. After a week of diligent practice I could type 120 words per minute which came at a most crucial time as a vacancy for the clerk’s position on the “M.P.Harrison” was coming up. With Captain Blair’s recommendation I had no trouble getting the job and was immediately promoted to Corporal.

The Commanding Officer of the Mine Planter Harrison was First Lt. Ruben, a mathematical genius who could add a column of figures such as Army serial numbers quicker than the average person could add figures on an adding machine. An example of an Army serial number would be 6349247. I was quite impressed with him as well as with the ships other officers; the Captain, the Deck Officer and the Engineer. They were three of the nicest men I have ever worked with.

I think it was Thanksgiving Day 1925 when we had a Turkey dinner with all the trimmings including Shrimp salad, after which I went to the parade grounds to watch a post baseball game. About an hour later I began feeling sharp pains in my stomach so I dashed to the infirmary where the doctor diagnosed my pain as ptomaine poisoning. A stomach pump was immediately applied, however the pain was so great that I became unconscious. When I regained consciousness I heard many mournful sounds coming from the emergency room where many of my comrades from Battery C were waiting for treatment that never came because there were not enough stomach pumps to save them. Of the Thirty-Three people who partook of the Shrimp salad only 5 survived. An investigation of this tragedy revealed that the shrimp was prepared in a tin pan and remained there for several hours before it was served. A recent X-ray of my stomach revealed a scar which remained as a result of that poisoning experience.

The “Harrison” was a versatile ship that was not only used to plant mines and tow targets, but was often called upon to serve as a passenger ship between Corregidor and Manila. It also conveyed high military officials to many of the 7000 islands that make up the Philippine Archipelago. Some of the more interesting ports of call were the islands of Mindanau, Leyte, Panay, Cebu, Samar, Iloilo, and the Leper Colony in the Sulu Arghipelago. My fondest memory was the trip we made in 1926 to the Indonesian Islands of Borneo, Sumatra, and Java. I believe that the most beautiful women on earth can be found on the island of Java. Much more could be said about these islands as well as many of the other exotic places in the region, but that is not the point of these notes.

The next most important turning point in my life occurred one day near the end of my enlistment when an excursion boat full of young women from a Normal School in Manila docked at Bottom Side Pier near the location where the ‘Harrison” was docked. Although I was not one of the welcoming tour guides, I did make my presence known, especially to one young woman named Magdalena Crosby, whose outstanding beauty and personality surpassed all other girls I had ever met in the Philippines. A few letters back and forth led to a meeting in Manila where we got better acquainted, and in no time this young woman had me tied around her little finger so tightly I didn’t know whether I was coming or going.

In the normal course of events I would have requested a return to the U.S. for discharge since I had no intention of reinlisting. However, meeting “Madge” changed everything and multiple decisions had to be made in a hurry. Advance notice was required as well as request for approval before one could be discharged in the Philippines. This accomplished, then the biggest decision of all now confronted me; whether or not I should get married. I think the adventurous spirit that had so often preceeded my actions prompted the decision to marry and take my chances on a new life in this strange land. So on April 9, 1927, six weeks before discharge, (at the age of 23), we were married in the home of a Protestant minister in Manila with my good friend Marcellus Ratliff as Best Man.

Shortly after our marriage, Madge took a position as a high school teacher in Baguio, a resort town some 150 miles north of Manila. Also situated in this area was Camp John Hay, a military resort which was to Manila the same as Camp David is to Washington, D.C. I was fortunate enough to get a pass to complete my last weeks of service in this beautiful resort spending most of my time with Madge as well as looking for employment.

After discharge I returned to Baguio where I had some favorable contacts with people at Benquet Consolidated Mining Co., who were planning to build a hydro-electric plant on the Agno River in order to furnish additional power to their mining operations. My experience as company clerk while in the Army qualified me for the position as office clerk on this new project.

The project was located about 4 hours from Baguio by horseback over steep mountainous terrain, and the camp site consisted of an office, store, and sleeping quarters all constructed with Cogon grass and Pine slab flooring. Here I joined the surveyor, Mr. Lilly, an Englishman, and about 200 Igorote laborers who cleared trails and road sites into the camp. Later an electrical engineer named George Ritter and his wife Blanche came, and a mining engineer, named Dugan, was employed to do the tunnel work.

When Madge became pregnant with our first child, and since living conditions in our camp site were not suitable for pregnant women, she remained in Baguio. On August 10, 1928, our first child, Floy, was born in Baguio, and Madge joined me as soon as she was able since one had to travel by horseback. I carried little Floy on my horse under a raincoat during one of those tropical rains the area is known for. Travel along the narrow rocky mountainous paths was treacherous for both animals and humans, and the rain increased the danger, but we finally arrived safely at the camp. (To be continued....)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Memoirs of a Grandfather, Part II

My grandfather's memoirs continue with the account of his time in high school, his engagement to Lessye Martin, his search for steady employment, and how he came to travel 10,000 miles away from Alabama.

Time passed so swiftly and during the latter part of 1919 we moved to Hackneyville to a large well built house on a small farm. My oldest brother, Albert, would come down and apply his expert carpentry skills which made the house into a show place.

It was here I started high school in the large multi-room Hackneyville High School where the following 5 boys comprised the best basketball team anywhere around; Douglas Watson, Fon Hancock, Jute Reed, Leon Smith and myself. While at Hackneyville High I fell in love with a cute little brunette named Lessye Martin.

Finishing high school in 1922 posed quite a problem since financial conditions were not favorable to go to college, (which Lessye wanted to do). Also the fact that local employment was unavailable I decided to go to Florida, a decision that was prompted by Stacy Faircloth, a friend of Lessye’s sister, Edna. This being my first adventure on my own I soon learned that the next meal depended entirely on my ability to find employment. I worked at many different occupations in Winter Garden, Florida; store clerk, truck driver, packing and hauling oranges, and finally plumbing. It happened that Bill Kempson, owner of the Winter Garden Plumbing Co., needed a helper. Since I knew nothing about plumbing he sent me to plumbing school and as soon as I finished the course of instruction he turned the shop over to me and then spent full time on his insurance business. The business was a profitable one and in 1924 Bill offered to sell me the business for $3,000. The owner of another local business, George Walker offered to loan me the money. This obligation seemed too big for me, but to this day I wonder if that wasn’t one of the biggest mistakes I ever made. However, those are circumstances one can never be sure about.

When Bill turned the operation of the business over to me he opened a joint bank account. This worked fine until Bill, a compulsive gambler began to over-draw the bank account. A long distance call usually prompted him to deposit enough to cover outstanding checks. This happened so often that I got fed up explaining to my suppliers why the checks bounced. However, being torn between the purchase of the business or operating under these circumstances was more than I was willing to cope with and I was also a little homesick.

After all these years I am still trying to find some justifiable explanation for the action that I took at this turning point of my life. In retrospect I would surmise that several facts might have had a bearing on the direction I took. First, I was unable to find employment around my home town or in Birmingham, and second, thoughts of traveling to foreign lands as my brother Walter had done while he was in the Navy, were going around in my mind, so I would say it would be impossible to predict what any twenty year old might do under such circumstances.

It was about this time that a lady named Mrs. Teal who lived in Millerville, Alabama had gained a state-wide reputation for her fortune telling ability. I do know for a fact that Uncle Julian Watson, who had a pair of mules stolen, went to see Mrs. Teal and she so clearly described the location of the stolen mules that Uncle Julian had no difficulty locating them.

In pondering my situation it occurred to me that this Mrs. Teal might have the answer. So one Sunday afternoon Leon Smith, his girl friend, and Lessye and I drove to Millerville to see this famous fortune teller. When she told me I was about to take a long voyage and that Lessye and I would never be married I was so shocked because nothing could have been further from my mind at that time. It had been a foregone conclusion that Lessye just had to be a part of my future. It now seems unbelievable, but a few days later I went to Birmingham to visit my sister and look for work, and not finding work I became so distraught that I wound up at a U.S. Army recruiting station. I was informed that the farthest place from Alabama for which I could enlist was Fort Mills on the Island of Corregidor in the Philippine Islands, a place I had never heard of. So, on that 23rd day of June, 1924 I signed up for a three year hitch in the U.S. Army. I was 21 years old.

I dropped Lessye a note telling her what I had decided to do and she fired back a telegram saying, “If you love me please do not join." It was not only too late, but I think I had already decided that taking this road would at least solve my immediate problems.

So off to the Philippines I went, but first to Maxwell Field in Montgomery, Alabama where I was immunized from everything, and, as a result of all the shots, I was hospitalized on July 4th, 1924 with a temperature of 104 degrees. After I recuperated I went by train from Maxwell Field to New York City. In addition to looking over the big city, I also enjoyed the sights on Coney Island, after which I boarded the U.S. transport, ‘Thomas’, that carried us through the sweltering Panama Canal. Here we had a nice visit in Panama City then on to San Francisco for a couple of days. From San Francisco we were shipped off to Honolulu where I met a beautiful Hawaiian girl who clerked in the United Souvenir Store. After showing me the town she came dockside to see me off and placed a lei around my neck while the fellows on board ship looked on with envy. As the band played “Aloha” it seemed like the whole show was for my benefit.

As the old transport, ‘Thomas’, pulled out of Honolulu for the 7,000 mile journey to the Philippines, I took stock of my finances. Finding I had only $1.65, which was about all one could expect from a Buck Private’s salary of $21.00 per month especially after visiting New York City, Panama City, San Francisco, and Honolulu. So I decided to blow the works in a crap game. Winning my first roll I continued to double my bets until I broke the game which amounted to $64.00!

For many days we ploughed through the wide blue Pacific with nothing to look at but seagulls and flying fish. Finally after arriving for a short stop at the Port of Guam in the Mariana Group of Islands, we landed at Manila, the city known as the Pearl of the Orient where we tied up at Pier 1. We then transferred to a U.S. Army Mine Planter which carried us to Corregidor, the impregnable fortress at the mouth of Manila Bay. My final destination was the barracks in Battery “C” 59th Coast Artillery on Corregidor, which as the crow flies is about 10,000 miles from Alabama. (To be continued....)

Prophecy of St. Edward

I had not heard of this particular prophecy before but it appears to be coming true. Share

Friday, November 13, 2009

Memoirs of a Grandfather, Part I

Having written a great deal about my grandmother Magdalena and her courage during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines during World War II (HERE, HERE, and HERE) it is high time to give some background about her husband, Herman Strong. Born in 1903, Herman was an Alabama farm boy who later became a writer, author, hunter, craftsman, as well as a world traveler and a successful businessman. While going through some family papers, my mother recently came across my grandfather's remembrances of his life, beginning with his childhood in Alabama to the Japanese invasion in 1942. The occupation and his subsequent imprisonment in a concentration camp Herman covered in his book A Ringside Seat to War.

Herman was the youngest son of eleven children. While his father Elisha David Strong was a poor farmer, his mother, Alison Missouri Watson, came from a formerly well-to-do family who had lost their wealth in the difficult years which followed the War Between the States. Rural Alabama in the early twentieth century was not too different from the antebellum days, as Herman describes in the memoirs which he began jotting down in 1982 at the age of 79. His quaint prose reflects another era but his wise insights are timeless. My grandfather's memoirs begin as follows:
For some time now I have had a feeling that I should make a note of events that took place during the early years of my life, especially the first eight years when I resided a the place where I was born.

One reason for making these notes at this time is the fact that I am now approaching my Seventy-Ninth birthday, and it follows that unless records are made now, my memory will soon fade into oblivion.

These notes might also serve as an analysis to substantiate my belief that every human being was placed on this earth for a specific purpose and that no one will be called away until that purpose has been fulfilled. Another reason for making these notes is the fact that the many times I visited Papa after Mama’s death he would say, “I don’t know why the Lord is keeping me here. I want to go on and be with Allison”. On many occasions I would find him sitting on the front porch talking with some young fellows, and this fact alone was sufficient evidence that he had been left here to share his bountiful knowledge with those young people.

Even though our determination of that purpose may not be in accord with that of the Supreme Being, I hope that I may find among these notes some evidence to support the theory that, at this date, at least some of my errands here on earth have been accomplished. The purpose of these notes are to record only those events that I can actually remember and it is quite possible that many of the events will not be recorded in chronological order.


As I recall, the house where I was born was referred to as a frame house and consisted of two rooms with a fireplace and a hall that separated the two rooms, and had a front porch across the front of the house. A walkway about ten feet long connected the main house to a log kitchen. (The kitchen was a carry over from an original log house.) The large fireplace in the kitchen was used for cooking our meals which were served on a large table in the center of the room with benches on each side of the table....

The so-called mule barn was situated directly in front of the house and consisted of a log corn crib with a hayloft. On one side was a wagon shed and on the other was a mule stall and a small open loft in the back. The crib and sheds were covered with shingles rived out of White Oak blocks with a Fro.

I presume that this lay-out was known as the proverbial ’one horse farm’, since the only farm animal we had at that time, other than a milk cow, was a little mouse colored mule named Jenny. Old Jenny not only did all the plowing, but also pulled the one horse wagon that took the family to church every Sunday. (Some neighbors still used oxen.)

Across the road from the mule barn was the cow lot and stalls. All I can remember about this was our old brown Jersey cow and calf. After she was milked in the morning she was let out to pasture and milked again in the evening when she returned.

I suspect that the little scratchy pants I had to wear when I was about 4 or 5 years old is the reason I can vividly recall how my Grandma carded, spun and wove those woolen threads into cloth. The spinning wheel and loom sat in the southwest corner of the living-bedroom where grandma used to sit and card the wool and cotton into little rolls which she fed into the spinning wheel shuttle. I was allowed to mash the pedal that made the spinning wheel go. I do not remember much about the loom except that it sat in the corner with some cloth always in the process of being woven. I detested the scratchy pants especially since the better dressed boys of my age were wearing store-bought suits.

One eventful date I won’t soon forget occurred on February 10, 1910 when Haley’s Comet streaked across the northern sky. I remember getting piggy-back on the shoulder of one of my brothers, and from the walkway between the house and kitchen he carried me out into the open to view the comet. (I had just turned 6 years old the previous December.)

....I will always remember the little animal cookies that my grandma cooked for me and got me to eat them by teasing me to bite their heads off. (Hear-say has it that I was a sickly kid). This occurred when I was about four or five years old, as grandma died in January, 1909.

I have only a blurred memory, (no details), of the illness and death of my grandmother and my little brother John Heflin, both of whom died on January 10, 1909.

The White Dirt Ditch, an out-cropping vein of Mica which we called Isinglass, was only a stone’s throw from the house, and is one of my most cherished memories. Venturing this far from the house at that time in my life was in itself a daring feat. My sisters, Lena, Floy and I used discarded knives and spoons for digging tools as we tunneled into the soft dirt bank. I use the word ‘dirt’ loosely because the material was actually more like talcum powder and was not gritty. Lena and Floy used the sheets of mica we extracted for their play-house windows.

When I hear those beautiful words from the 23rd Psalm, “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures, He leadeth me beside the Stillwater”, a picture of our pasture flashes before my eyes. Here a clean clear stream wound its way through the green meadows on its way to the Enitachopco Creek. The grass in this meadow was constantly clipped and groomed by our cows and looked like a modern day fresh mown lawn....

It was in the fall of the year 1910 or 1911, but not yet cold enough to wear shoes, that I was allowed to go with my brothers to pick Chestnuts at the edge of the woods behind the old Bradberry place where we picked up at least two Roller Champion Flour sacks full. The mention of wearing shoes brings to mind that one of my brothers bragged he could burst open a chestnut burr with his bare heel....

One of the most frightening experiences in my life at that time occurred late one Sunday afternoon as I was returning home alone from a visit with my cousin, Douglas Watson. A heavy thunder storm came upon me between the Mathis place and our house. Suddenly, it became as dark as pitch. The trail through this heavily wooded area could only be seen by the constant flashes of lightening as torrential rain soaked me to the skin. Then an earth shaking clap of lightening hit a large virgin pine not more than fifty feet from me lighting up the sky as I watched it strip half the limbs and bark from the top to the bottom of the tree and even plowing up the road a great distance from the tree. Obviously I got home but I can’t remember how.

My policy of avoiding hear-say stories must be broken in order to reveal the phenomenon of Papa’s much repeated story of my brother Olney’s disappearing voice. Papa heard Olney’s call for help from a dense wooded area behind the old Mathis place. As he ran to the spot where he heard the voice, he heard the call still further down the hollow. After rushing to that spot, which was near the bank of the Enitachopco Creek, the voice came again, this time it seemed to be coming from the middle of the creek. Without hesitation Papa made a final dash and jumped into the middle of the creek, after which there was no further sound. Since the creek was shallow and the possibility of Olney getting drowned was minimal, Papa went back home to find Olney safe and sound unaware of what had happened. Since no one can question Papa’s honesty and integrity, it can only be concluded that the voice that Papa thought he heard was a premonition of Olney’s premature death.

Since I would not have reached the age of six until December 1909, I probably did not start school until the fall of 1910. As I recall the school was conducted in a large one room structure with a pot-bellied stove in the center of the room around which the younger First grade students were seated. It was here that I learned the alphabet, which was prominently displayed on an A-frame chart. The first page contained the letters ABC in both large and small letters, and on the next page we advanced to the words; Apple, Ball and Cat, which were colorfully illustrated....

As a matter of record I might mention that since farming was the primary occupation of most people in this community, schools were accordingly conducted to allow students to be absent during planting and harvesting seasons.

I remember one day when my brother Walter was still living at home, we were chopping cotton in Papa’s brag patch (cotton field), and Walter gave me a good nettling for leaning on my hoe too long. Farming the red hills of Tallapoosa County in the early 1900’s was a way of life for most Alabamians. Rather than dwell on the adversities of this harsh life, I will mention some of the more enjoyable aspects of it…. Nothing is more gratifying than watching a wheat field grow to maturity, harvesting the wheat with a hand held scythe-like cradle. After thrashing comes the pleasure of having the wheat ground into flour which Mama made into a loaf of bread that would melt in your mouth.

Speaking of Papa’s brag patch, brings to mind the day when the cotton bolls were fully open and the brag patch looked like driven snow. The whole Clan turned out that day to pick cotton and when the day was over, and the weighing done, it was found that brother Lunie had put us all to shame by picking 600 pounds of cotton!

....I remember one frosty morning when I awoke early because Papa promised to let me go with him to Alexander City to sell a bale of cotton. To be sure that our feet did not get cold, Papa had heated two large stones which Mama wrapped in an old quilt and placed on the floor of the wagon. It was the usual custom that after the cotton was sold and the necessities purchased we would get a dimes worth of cracker barrel cheese, a box of crackers and sit in the wagon and wash it down with a bottle of Coca-Cola. That alone was worth the whole trip.....

It was in the early Fall months of 1912 that Papa sold the old home place to Mr. John Peppers for three or four hundred dollars and purchased the Charles Harris place near Goldville for one thousand dollars. This 80 acre farm consisted of a beautiful white house, a tenant house and barn, a mule barn and stables on the South side and a cow barn and buggy shed on the North side along with a smoke house....

Although I was only eight years old at the time I was assigned the duty of driving the milk cow and calf to our new home for which Mama complimented me by saying, “You have done a man’s job today!”

The farm had not been cultivated for several years which posed quite a preparation problem. However, the whole family from the oldest on down pitched in and cleared the fields for planting.....

I will make no effort to recall the many interesting things that took place that first year at our new home, yet one occasion I shall never forget. Papa had gone to Alexander City that day to sell the last bales of cotton and as he graced the table that evening he said, “Thank God for our abundant crop which has enabled us to pay off the farm in full.

I recall the one room school house which I attended until it burned down about two years later. After that, classes were held in a small one room building at the cross roads in Goldville under the largest oak tree that I have ever seen. It was here that I fell in love with a little red-headed, freckled faced girl named Grace Patterson. As with many small boys I would often get into scuffles with other boys, but of all the fights I had at the Goldville School the aftermath of the one I had with a boy named Alvin remains deeply imprinted on my mind. Alvin, who was twice my size, reported me to the teacher for some reason evidently serious enough to cause the teacher to give me a licking. After this I got permission to go home. Instead of going straight home I stopped on the trail between school and home and when Alvin came along I jumped him and gave him a good beating. After I let him up he ran ahead of me and told Papa. When I got home Papa was ready and gave me a whipping. He lifted me off the ground with one hand while laying on the switch with the other. (I never realized he was so strong). While I was receiving this punishment he was also explaining that he was not whipping me for fighting, but for way-laying Alvin along the trail. To him, the act of way-laying was an underhanded and cowardly thing to do.

It was during the first year at our new home that I learned to swim. My brother, Hugh, and some of the local boys let me go with them to the ‘big hole’ on Enitachopco Creek. There Hugh threw me in and said, “Swim or drown”. Somehow I managed to paddle back toward the bank to lots of laughter from the other boys standing by, and that the whole episode had been prearranged....

It was the winter of 1919 that we had a 12” snow, and as we had no snow boots, Papa showed us how to wrap ‘gunny’ sacks over our shoes which made walking in the snow easy. He also taught me how to track rabbits to their dens. When they jumped out, they were unable to go over or under the snow and it was great fun trying to catch them.

Here are other memorable occasions; Christmas 1916 when all the children and grandchildren were at our home; March, 1918 when Papa and I were working the back forty and Mama brought us some cold water and hot buttered bread, along with the sad news of the mysterious disappearance of the USS Cyclops that carried my brother Olney to his death along with over 300 crew members and passengers; and also the sudden death of my sister, Floy.

In the month of April 1917 I was incapacitated with what was then called Rheumatism, but was later diagnosed as Polio. It started in my right ankle then moved to my knee and on up to my hips, then slowly went down my left leg. This took place in a period of two or three weeks with no permanent damage, whereas many others afflicted with this ailment were crippled for life. (To be continued....)