Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Where Are The Tree Houses?

I was talking with my friend, Jack Wood, with the Jackson-Madison County [Tenn.] library, when he asked this simple question - Where Are the Tree Houses?

We were lamenting the loss of simple activities that promoted creativity and imagination. He remembered how he 'found' lumber in his neighborhood to build his tree house. My experience was much the same. My tree house was in a mulberry tree located on the back property line on a hill. I had inherited the tree from my brother, Denny, who had held the tree as his own for many years. The lowest limb on the mulberry tree was beyond my reach, which kept me at bay. Denny has always loved chocolate, so whenever he had extra money it was spent for candy bars. In an effort to torture his little brother, he would keep his 'treasure' in a brown bag which he suspended high in the air in the mulberry tree. He also created a booby trap with fish hooks on the trunk of the mulberry tree to prevent access.

As a determined adventurer, as soon as he left for school, I began planning. One of the problems with the mulberry tree was its proximity to the sight of Mrs. Frey. Since I was the small, adorable child, she was often concerned that I might be injured and phoned my Mom. This protected me from the normal fighting with my brothers, who were larger, but prevented my attempts at scaling the mulberry tree with tools and ladders.

On this day, I decided that if I dragged a small wooden box under the mulberry tree, I might be able to jump while reaching upward to snag that lowest limb. In our building, I found a empty nail keg, which I thought would be excellent stepping stool. Unfortunately, the ground beneath the mulberry tree was rough and irregular. I steadied the barrel and climbed upon it. 1 - 2 - 3 and jump. I caught the lowest limb and thought I had achieved success. As I worked my way closer to the trunk of the tree, I realized that I missed the line of fish hooks up and down the mulberry tree.
I swung my legs up and around the limb, easing my way toward the bag of candy bars. Ouch! What was that? Ouch! I had been skewered by one of the booby trap fish hooks. Facing defeat, I began to realize how high above the ground I was hanging in pain. Deciding I couldn't jump down, my plan focused on moving to the trunk and shinnying down the trunk to the safe terra firma.

Making it safely to the trunk, wrapping my arms around the trunk, I started sliding down the tree. Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! Fish Hooks! Reaching the ground with tattered clothing and three fish hooks protruding from my body, I ran with all my might to the house to tell my Mom what Denny had done to me. My screaming must have alarmed Mrs. Frey because my Mom knew exactly what had happened before I arrived. Ok, good and bad memories surround that mulberry tree.

I agreed with Jack that libraries often served as the source of information and discovery for our communities. Woodworkers would review Popular Mechanics or Woodworking magazines for ideas to build. My oldest brother, Joe, learned to build radios and simple electronics from magazines. These early experiences formed a pathway to his career as an Engineer and Systems Analyst.

Early memories and experiences shape our love of history and often form the foundation for our desire to collect and share the stories of our family. As my great-neice and great-nephew were found climbing in the cherry tree in their grandparents' yard, I was reminded of my mulberry tree just down the hill from where they climbed. [They live in the historic house where Mrs. Frey watched out her window.] Dig deep, share your stories, and help those who follow you to create their own special memories. Keep the story alive.

Be sure to record or write down the stories/memories of your family. Document the date, time and location for posterity.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

What's the Most Important Task in Genealogy?

Photo of the old railroad depot in Rocky Hill Station, Kentucky.

I recently attended the funeral of a wonderful lady who was aged 99 years and the next day attended a funeral of a high school classmate who was aged 54. One of the lessons I learned from attending these two memorial services was the need to prioritize life.
My calendar is always full of tasks with articles, books, and lectures. What happened to those times when I filled my calendar with driving visits to relatives. Those times when I learned that my Great Aunt Grace loved collecting Avon bottles. [She shared a bottle with me.] I also learned about her family history and wonderful stories of growing up in the Bee Springs community in Kentucky. Or the visits with my Great Aunt Jen where I learned about my Great Grandmother Clara or my Aunt Jen's in-laws.
This past weekend my sister and brother-in-law trekked into Beckton, Kentucky to visit our oldest nephew, Brett, and his wife, Becky. They have recently moved to Kentucky from Texas. After checking out their new home located on the banks of Barren River, they told me about a small family cemetery located across the road. In a moment, we went cemetery hunting. We found a typical burial ground surround by an iron fence. Filled with briers and tall grass, we were able to read a few stones and identify the family. More about this on another day.
After this exciting cemetery visit, we headed to Mammoth Cave National Park for lunch. Brett also loves history and takes every opportunity to pull stories out of me. Our Martin family held many, many reunions in the Old Hotel at Mammoth Cave. [Edmonson County, KY]
They have recently completed a wonderful new Visitors Center at the Cave, which adds even more opportunities for visitors to gain an understanding of this historic place and the people who lived and visited here. If you get a chance to visit, be sure to try the Peach Cobbler with Chaney's Dairy Barn ice cream. Once we had this great lunch including conversation, we walked around on the grounds and enjoyed the beautiful (pre-Spring) day.
As we drove back to Park City from the Cave, my nephew asked me about Rocky Hill [Station] just up the road. I told him that my Dad, his Granddad, was born. The explanation included information about Granny and Papa Martin's farm, and that although the house was now bricked, it was the house where Dad was born. We drove by the house and up the road past where Aunt Jen lived, and where her in-laws lived next door. I also told him that Dad's cousin owns the farm now and lives about 2 miles up the road.
We turn at the crossroad and went through the town of Rocky Hill [Edmonson Co. KY - There is a Rocky Hill in Barren County, too.] We stopped so I could take a picture of the old depot. My nephew is the manager of the natural gas system in the area, so he showed us their work area there.
As we talked, I remembered coming to this town cemetery for a burial. My nephew suggested we drive up this other crossroad by the railroad and see if the cemetery was near. I spotted the Rocky Hill Cemetery with a large sign on our right. We slowly drove through this well-kept cemetery until we began to recognize names. I hopped out of the truck with my nephew right behind me. I walked toward a family surname, and there was the grave of my Great Aunt Jen and Uncle Hubert. More stories followed as we returned to the truck and headed back to the house.
What's the Most Important Task in Genealogy? Sharing the stories and spending time with family. As we share the discoveries we've made in our family history, the people and places in that story come alive for those new 'hearers.'
Keeping the Story Alive is the goal of every family historian. Time to get back to those deadlines.

J. Mark Lowe
J. Mark Lowe Reviews
Springfield, Tennessee Speakers
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