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Celebrating my birthday with the Philippi Covered Bridge

 

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One of the perks to my job is getting to see this historic bridge almost every day and today ( Nov 1st) I got to celebrate my 51st birthday with the 175th birthday of the settlement of the community of Philippi and the covered bridge.

The Covered Bridge in Phillippi West Virginia is one of the last two-lane covered bridge in the U.S. and the only one that has a state highway passing through the double arches.  Making the bridge an icon for the town of Philippi, West Virginia and the location of the first land battle of the civil war.

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Historical Marker and pedestrian walkway at the Philippi Covered Bridge.

The original bridge was built in 1852 by a local builder Lemuel Chenoweth from Randolph County, West Virginia. The Philippi bridge stood for 137 years before being accidentally caught on fire in 1989 and burning the bridge to complete destruction.

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The closed Philippi Covered Bridge after the fire. image from the Appalachian Blacksmiths website

The bridge we see today was rebuilt to the same standards as the original two years later and reopened to the public.  The new bridge does include two new features, not included in the original plans, a sprinkler system in the bridge and a pedestrian walkway outside of the bridge. Making the walkway a nice place to see the bridge, the river, and downtown from above the water in the Tygart River.

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View of the Tygart River looking at the Philippi Covered Bridge 2018

Since I enjoy taking photos of the bridge so much, over the years I have invited several friends and family members to join me in enjoying the bridge and downtown Philippi. Yet, this day I walked alone in the icy air to the bridge to share in the birthday celebrations with State Officials, County Representatives, and City Employees. Hundreds of cupcakes and cookies were shared with the community.

Barbour County,West Virginia, Philippi Covered bridge over the Tygart River

Barbour County, West Virginia, Philippi Covered Bridge

On this cold afternoon, our community was lucky to have Senator Shelly Moore Capito come from Charleston to speak to guests and remind us that Philippi is a strong resilient town and that even a flood and fire have not stopped us from creating a friendly, thriving, educated community.  Several other representatives from congress and the city spoke to guests on the future of Philippi and their deep love for the place they call home. It was such a pleasure to be part of the celebration of 175 years of this community and its bridge.

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Senator Shelly Moore Capito speaking at the Veterans Park next to the Philippi Covered Bridge.

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City Manager Jerry Drennon speaking alongside the City Council and Philippi West Virginia Mayor.

With my hands full of cupcakes, I walked back across the river on the walkway to my office on the main street. Thinking about how thankful I am to be working in and for this community. The City of Philippi and I not only shared our birthdays together, but we are also partners in making this small community better for everyone who lives, works or attends college here on the banks of the Tygart River. I am not sure there is a better way to enjoy my birthday than to share a cupcake with a friend and think about the story of this town and how I can be part of it for another year.

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Categories: Birthday Party, Covered bridges, Philippi, Philippi Covered Bridge, Uncategorized, West Virginia History | 1 Comment

Beverly Heritage Center Lantern Tours

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Fall is my favorite time of the year. I love to attend events like the Beverly Heritage Center’s Lantern Tours. Every mid-October the Beverly Heritage Center in Beverly, West Virginia has two evenings of living history storytelling tours. You spend a little over an hour walking the main streets hearing ghost stories of real events that happened in the town. Tour guides take visitors back in time to the frontier days, to the Civil War, and the beginning of the turn of the century.

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Karl Mulac tour guide for the Lantern Tours at the Beverly Heritage Center.                       

At each major stop on the tour, guests walk the streets with lanterns to the front porch of a building where you hear a little history about the building. Then a narration is given by a living history actor telling a ghost story about those who have died in the area.  Included in the tour is a stop at The Logan House where civil war doctor John Huff performed the 2nd amputation of the Civil War. A stop at the historic Randolph County Jail where you hear Stella Collett tell about a strange shooting and trial. Then visitors stop at the local antique shop, The Goff House, where you hear about its use as a Civil War hospital and the boneyard.  The tour then crosses the main street to stop at Laura Jackson Arnold’s house ( sister to Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson) where you hear about her son being drafted into the civil war and his fight to come home.  Then everyone gathers at a settler’s log cabin owned by Jacob Stalnaker and meets his son Adam. Here Adam shares about how he unknowingly built his own coffin and was killed by Indians. Then finally you head to Bosworth’s store (now the Randolph County Historical Societies Museum) where you hear about a young woman falling to her death from a second-story window.  In between each stop Karl, our tour guide, shares other interesting information about many of the buildings located along the main streets. 

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A local actor is telling the story of Dr. Huff saving a Civil War soldier’s life who had a leg amputated in the house.

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Visitors watch Stella Collett tell the story of a murder on Elliott Ridge. 

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View of the Randolph County Jail as the sunset.

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Visitors stop at the Laura Jackson Arnold house to hear a story told by her son Thomas Arnold. 

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 Actor portraying Adam Stalnaker who unknowingly built his own coffin. 

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Lantern on the porch of the Stalnaker Log Cabin in Beverly, West Virginia.

Beverly Heritage Center, Beverly WV, Bank, Courthouse, Store and home

Beverly Heritage Center, Beverly WV,  where the tours begin. 

Beverly is a unique place filled with history and wonderful stories. The fall lantern tours not only give visitors the chance to share spooky ghost stories but support the preservation of these buildings and the history of the area. With a small four-block downtown, the tour is accessible to just about everyone. The Heritage Center can make accommodations for those who need wheelchair access.

My son who was 11 on our visit was overwhelmed with excitement to be allowed to roam the streets of a small town by nothing but lantern light. Then at the end of the tour, he asked if we could come back again next year. He really liked hearing the tails told by the actors and it opened a door to West Virginia history in a way he had never experienced before. So we plan to do the tour again next year with my older son, daughter in law and granddaughter. So they can also walk the cool dark streets and hear the tails of a haunted Beverly.

Events like these give kids a new way of looking at important figures and places in our past. Unlike the museum experiences, you become part of the story if only for an hour.  For a very reasonable $10 dollar entry fee, we spent an evening with ghosts, learned a lot about the history of Randolph County and helped to provide income to Beverly Heritage Center for the future.

Categories: Beverly Heritage Center, Beverly West Virginia, family fun, family memories, ghost stories, Haunted House, historic locations, Historic Preservation, Uncategorized, West Virginia History | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ghost Visits the Golden Rule

I get asked all the time if where I work, The Golden Rule, is haunted? For a building to be built in 1902 and not be haunted is a surprise. I would say that the building is not haunted in the traditional way. Not in the way horror movies show hauntings, full of evil spirits and terrible outcomes. I don’t have slamming doors, lights turning on and off or cold chills in the building. I rarely hear strange unexplained noises. I work for hours alone in the large empty building day and night, never feeling a cold chill. But, this building does have visitors.

Black and white photo of the side of the Golden Rule, Belington WV.

I have worked in the building around 18 months and after about 6 months of clearing out the building I gave up on experiencing anything unusual. That is until one warm summer evening when the rain poured down and lightning flashed that I meet someone amazing.

This usual Wednesday evening I was working alone doing inventory and getting ready for the antique auction we were planning as a fundraiser. Tables were lined with items from the 1920s to items used in the 1970s. I would list each item on an inventory sheet and photograph it, so we could either sell the item or place in on display in the future. The storm came in about 4pm and darkened the sky and made the inside of the building dreary enough I needed to turn on the lights. With my back turned to the front glass doors I worked listening to the rumble of thunder and the sounds of pouring rain. A few minutes into the storm I head a pecking sound on the glass that brought my attention to the double glass doors at the front of the building. Standing under the aged front arch, was a man. A small aged man, maybe 5’2″ around 70 dressed in an unusual way.

Front view of the arched entry of the Golden Rule after a rain.

The man wore a blue and white striped engineers cap over his head of short white hair. His face was light with a short groomed beard and mustache with crystal blue eyes that twinkled when he spoke. He wore an insulated blue work coat in the style of a1970s coal miner. He wore dark blue work pants rather than blue jeans. The blue of his eyes, hat, and coat contrasted with his healthy pink skin so much it appeared he had just showered and still had the rosy glow of the heat.

I walked to the locked door and smiled at him through the glass. I opened the door slightly to speak to the petite man. I asked if I could help him and he replied that he had worked in the building years ago and had seen the lights on. That he saw my car parked outside as he drove by and wanted to see what was happening with the old place.

His accent was pure West Virginia, charming and educated. I felt the urge to let him in from the cold gray outside and felt no fear bringing the stranger into the building. We stopped at the front of the first floor and he began to ask questions about who owned the building and who worked for the company and what were the future plans for the Golden Rule.

He was so filled with love for the place that he excitedly asked if I knew the Shinn family. He also asked if I had known him or his brother back in the 1970s when he worked at the store. I explained that I was not in West Virginia then and shared who I worked for. He preceded to share that everyone called him Hatchet and he had a brother named Don who worked there off and on too. He explained he helped Don moved the furniture and did deliveries for Mrs. Shinn, who owned the Golden Rule for close to 50 years.  He had run the historic water-powered elevator and trapped bats on the third-floor rafters over the years. I asked if he had been in the building recently and he said, “no not for years and years. I spend most of my time fixing up old cars now.”

We visited for an extended time on the first floor then I offered to show him around.  He was a fit older man, so we talked about what was on each floor when he worked for Wanda Shinn. He shared stories about selling mattresses and box springs and having to wait on the elevator to raise and lower. “It was so slow that you would pile everything you sold on one trip to save time,” Hatchet said.

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We talked about his life as we looked out the windows on the third floor. He said,” I have always loved the view of the rail yard back here.” We stood side by side looking at the aging trains and cars parked behind the Golden Rule. He talked about his last days at the Golden Rule before going to work for the Mines. How being a coal miner had been the best thing he could have done for the pay and retirement. He had made enough money to buy a house and a couple acres of land when he was in his 50’s and had put plenty away for retirement so he could keep rebuilding old cars. We talked about how Belington had changed and how he used to drag race through town on Saturday nights and go to the movies in Philippi. He shared about how everyone for miles around shopped at the Golden Rule. He listed some of the things he bought for his mining job. Finally, he asked me if they were going to save the old elevator or if it was going to scrap. I was excited to tell him that the old water-powered elevator was staying and that we would be looking for someone to work on it soon. I asked if he wanted to see the elevator and if he had any idea how it worked. He was happy to take a look at the old mud covered basement and tell me a little bit about how it worked. He remembered swabbing the piston and waiting on the elevator to slowly carry its cargo up the shaft.

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Empty elevator shaft on the 2nd floor of the Golden Rule Belington, West Virginia.

Golden Rule elevator gears Preservation aliance of WV

Water Powered elevator pullies in the basement of the Golden Rule, Belington West Virginia.  

 

Finally, after about an hour of visiting and laughter, he said he should go. That he needed to get back to the house it was getting late and dinner would be ready soon. I realized that it was about 5:00 and I would need to leave for home too.  He walked to the door and said: “Thank you so much for showing this to me, it looks like she is in good hands.” He stepped down the stairs to the ground and I waved out the door and said: “Hatchet is was a pleasure to meet you, I hope you come back to visit soon”. Locking the glass door behind him I watched out the door for a classic blue car he had told me about. Soon a blue 1970’s Chevy drove by the building towards the town of Elkins. I couldn’t help smiling the rest of the night thinking of my visitor.

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Old umbrella on the third floor of the Golden Rule building Belington West Virginia.

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Furniture Polish bottles found in the basement of the Golden Rule Building, Belington WV.

A couple weeks later my boss and I found another person who had worked in the building operating the elevator for several years. We invited Charlie to lunch at a local cafe and planned to talk about the mechanics of the elevator and how it worked and if it could be made to operate on just the basement and first floor. Charlie was happy to meet and talk about how the elevator worked. As we eat and visited I casually told Charley and my boss that I had met another man who worked at the Golden Rule. I said I had met Hatchet and that we had talked for about an hour about the building and elevator. Charlie started shaking his head violently “no” and making a throat noise as he tried to swallow his bite of potatoes. Clearing his mouth he blurted out,”You did not meet Hatchet! He’s been dead 25 years! There is no way that is who you met.”

Being  surprised by his tone of voice  I replied with, “if it was not Hatchet then maybe it was his brother Don.”

Charlie’s face grew grave and serious leaning into the cafe table and said, “it wasn’t Don either, he has been dead 30 years or more”.

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Glass shoe sales sign found at the Golden Rule Belington, West Virginia. 

At this my poor boss about choked on his sip of coffee. Charlie continued to ask me questions about how I had heard of Hatchet and Don. I told him that I learned their names from the man who visited me at the Golden Rule. A short white-haired man who wore a railroad cap.

“That’s impossible!” Charlie said, “You must have met someone else!”

I gave a description of the white-haired man that I met and told about him leaving the Golden Rule for the Coal Mines. I shared his love of the old cars that he often worked on.

My boss and Charley looked at me as if the world had ended. Confused and in disbelief of my description they looked at one another. Finally said, “I have no idea how I would know this information any other way than from the source.”

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Cleaned off shelves at the Golden Rule before floors were cleaned 2019 Belington WV

 

I  joked that I gave a ghost a tour at the Golden Rule and both men laughed at the silliness of the statement. They blew off the strange story I had told them over our lunch. They were both ready to think that I  had somehow gotten the information from some other old man around town and that I couldn’t have met Hatchet. Neither one wanted a haunted job site and no one wanted to share gossip of a stranger at the Golden Rule for fear of scaring off contractors and laborers.

My experience with the Ghost of the Golden Rule was not one that anyone would call scary. Hatchet is happy to see his workplace coming back to life and seemed content to look the place over with me. He made me aware of several things about the building and the town of Belington that I did not know. So If you had asked me if I had seen a ghost at the Golden Rule before that lunch date my answer was “No!”  In my mind, Hatchet is as real as anyone else. But after that lunch date with Charlie, I still find myself wondering who I met that afternoon and if he meant it when he said he would come back to visit me when the building was finished? I just hope he is as happy to see me as I will be to see him!

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Categories: About me, Barbour County, Benefit auction, ghost stories, ghosts, Golden Rule, Haunted House, historic locations, history, Uncategorized, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Creamed Tomato on Biscuits

One of my favorite Appalachian dishes is Creamed Tomatoes. Making it from a batch of garden tomatoes in late summer is a real treat. I always look forward to eating tomatoes from the garden but there is something wonderful about fresh biscuits hot from the oven topped with butter and fresh creamed tomatoes for breakfast that makes the morning so much better. Creaming tomatoes or any other creamed vegetable is not as popular as it once was because people rarely want to take the time to blanch tomatoes anymore. But if I am already blanching them for sauce or canning, saving a few tomatoes for breakfast is no trouble at all. As long as you have some kind of pealed tomatoes available you can use fresh or canned tomatoes. In the true southern tradition, homemade biscuits make this breakfast a feast.

 

Creamed Tomatoed over Biscuits for two servings.

6 Roma tomatoes, or 2 large beefsteak tomatoes, or a mixture blanched and peeled.

1/2 cup whole milk.

2 heaping Tablespoons corn starch.

5 Tablespoon warm water.

2 Tablespoons sugar.

1/8 teaspoon salt.

pepper to taste.

For fresh tomatoes, you will need to blanch and peel at least 6 Roma tomatoes or 2 large beefsteak tomatoes. To blanch tomatoes boil enough water to cover tomatoes. Place tomatoes in boiling water for three minutes until skins wrinkle. Remove from heat and place in a sink or bowl of very cold water for about four minutes and slide peels sink tomatoes. Crush tomatoes with your hands into saucepan removing the core if it is white and tough. Simmer over med-high heat until tomatoes soften and turn to a chunky sauce adding 1/2 cup of milk. Stir mixture and heat back to simmer. In a cup or bowl put two heaping tablespoons corn starch and 5 Tablespoons warm water making a very runny paste. Mix until lumps are dissolved and pour slowly into simmering tomato milk mixture. Simmer until thick like a gravy. Add two tablespoons sugar and 1/8 tsp salt and pepper to taste.

Prepare biscuits and bake until golden brown. Place biscuit on plate open-faced and top with a dab of real butter and cover with Creamed Tomatoes and enjoy the ripeness of summer all day long.

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Although this is not the best food photo, it is a wonderful way to use up excess fresh tomatoes. If by chance you use canned store-bought tomatoes you may not have as many seeds and you can make the tomatoes thinker with the addition of more corn starch and water. This simple dish is a favorite of my husbands and we have it with dinner as a side dish also.

 

Categories: Back yard garden, biscuits, canning, creamed vegetables, Tomatoes, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

Visting with Ghosts (1650 miles from WV to CO and back)

My trip home to attend my mother’s internment in my home town of Boulder Co. was like no other trip I have ever made. Returning to the mountains in Colorado, I not only said goodbye to someone I loved, but I spent much of my time revisiting childhood friends and reliving memories. I am not sure if everyone goes through similar feelings of joy and comfort when they experience a lifetime of memories and nostalgia but this trip was about visiting with the ghosts of my past and those of Colorado’s wild west history.

I am lucky to have found a man who also enjoys the history of the west, folk tails, museums, old houses, cemeteries and old friends. This trip was planned to incorporate visits to “Doc” Holiday’s, Kid Cassidy’s, Buffalo Bill’s, My Ex-inlaws and my mother and father’s graves and cemeteries. We road historic railways, we became silver miners for a day, we hiked to cemeteries, we toured historic homes, eat spicy Mexican food and laughed at stories of our youth. Several times I felt that we were in a movie about growing up in the 1980s when the only music on the radio was from my generation and faces from high school filled a table at a local pub.

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Tom and I resting on the shore of the Colorado River, Glenwood Springs, Co.

Somewhere between the kind words said about my mother at a toast in her honor, I floated away to a quiet place of sweetness and memories. A happy place where she was healthy, young and had a huge smile on her face. I like that image of her best, smiling and hugging me. Her ghost was there at the table with us, she was finally part of the parties that I was always going to in high school. She was the honored guest this time and took time to lean over each guest to let them know that they were always welcome to visit her as she played hostess like she always did in our home. Her ghost was happy and free and that night and so was I. The evening turned into a beautiful blending of the past and the present I will never forget how much love I felt in that pub that night! Thank you to everyone who took the time to come and those who sent well wishes during this challenging time.

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Some of my high school family. We are missing a few faces in the photo but I have never felt better about who I have called my friends over the years.

Memories and ghosts were tangible at the cemetery the next day. I looked for and found the family plots of my first husband, my aunt, uncle, and other extended family members all buried within yards of my parents.  It was nice to settle a debt that I had owed to them for the years that they all supported me through youth. It was wonderful to say thank you and place flowers and stones on their graves. Even the memories of my first marriage had less sting and more forgiveness for things that were never in my control. I said a prayer of peace to the crowd of ghosts that sounded me and the funeral of my mother. I knew I was surrounded by the love of my family and friends.

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The Lowrey clan gathered together after my Mother’s internment.

During the service, my family joined together to say some wonderful things about my mom. We all shared memories of things we remembered about her. We placed things in her cremation box that meant something to us and sent her remains into the ground covered in her favorite flower, the yellow rose. It was not hard to let her go, it was the very best send off a woman who was trapped in a broken body tortured by Alzheimer’s could get. The relief we all felt about her transfiguration spilled into joy, laughter, and sweet storytelling.  It was the perfect afternoon with her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchild. We chatted as her spirit looked over our shoulders at photo albums and scrapbooks, she held her great-grandson on her lap and enjoyed his laughter. I even think I heard her laugh out loud at one of my brother’s corny jokes.  I hated to see her fade away as we walked to our truck after the gathering. With armloads of memories stuffed in overfull boxes, I stopped to say goodbye to my family. Fully knowing that the matriarch of my family, the roots, that kept us together, was gone and we could possibly scatter like leaves in the wind. I felt something shift and knew that I wanted to be sure that did not happen. She had worked too hard to watch the family get distant.

The following day we traveled to Georgetown Co. in search of silver mines and train rides. The day was full of historical adventures, Christopher got to spend time on the Georgetown Loop train and take an extended tour in the Lebanon Silver Mine. The Georgetown Loop was completed in 1884 as a way for miners and their cargo to move up and down the 2 miles of steep incline between Georgetown and Silverplume Co. In the end, the train travels 3 miles of track to reach its final destination only 2 miles away, with a short trip around the loop over the canyon and Clear Creek river. In between the two depots, there are two historic silver mines that visitors can tour to learn more about the lives of miners at the turn of the century. So this was a welcome cool spot on a 99-degree day in Denver.

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Georgetown Loop Train

High bridge of Georgetown loop

The high bridge over clear creek river Georgetown Co

We even learned about Tommyknockers and Dragon’s Blood, which were often found in mines.  Tommyknockers may very well be the spirits of dead miners looking out for living miners with their tricks. Christopher believes he heard one on our tour… poping and cracking the roof of the silver mine. We also found what miners called Dragons Blood. Where silver ore tarnishes and leaches through the walls. It is said that if you fallow the Dragon’s Blood it would lead you to his guarded treasure. In fact, the myth is somewhat true because often where there was silver tarnish leaking through the walls you would find a silver seam in the mine. It also meant that you might pay with your life if you tried to take the Dragon’s Treasure.

We also learned the average life expectancy of a silver miner in Colorado in the late 1890s was 36 years old….Let that one sink in for a minute…. My husband would have been dead almost 20 years by now. Leaving many woman widows before they even turned 40. What sad dark lives the Welsh immigrants lived to come to American and start a new life for their children.

That evening and the next two days we spent in Glenwood Springs, Co. hunting down the grave and museum of “Doc” Holliday my favorite dentist, gunman, and gambler. It was a nice hike to the Linwood Cemetery averaging about and 1 and 1/4 miles all uphill. ( I thought I was going to die, not enough oxygen at about 5,800 ft above sea level).  With beautiful views of the town of Glenwood Springs and the Colorado River. The cemetery is old for Colorado standards many of the graves are from the late 1800s and many are miners. TheDoc Holliday’s gravesite is covered with coins, cards, cigars, and roses, making a testament to his popularity even today.

The only disappointment was the paid entry to what is called the Doc Holliday museum. With only one item that might have belonged to him (a derringer pistol), it was not worth the $5 dollars to see in my opinion. The rest of the room in filled with other information and items from the same time period. So we did read new articles written about him and see other guns from the time period but sadly nothing that really struck me as impressive.

While in town we did stop at a local history museum in a 1905 downtown home. We enjoyed looking at the antiques from the turn of the century and learning about local history. The Frontier History Museum of Glenwood Springs has a wonderful collection of items including one of President Teddy Roosevelt’s saddles that he used bear hunting in Colorado.

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Christopher and Tom look at the gravesite of William F Cody AKA Buffalo Bill. 

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Close up of grave of Buffalo Bill Cody

 

Then we headed to Golden Co. to visit with longtime friends and to see the gravesite of Buffalo Bill Cody and his museum. The collection of items here is huge and very complete for the same $5 dollars you get ten times the exhibits and information then at the Doc Holliday Museum. You also can walk to a Jefferson County Nature Center and visit the Boettcher Mansion. A 1917  Craftsman/ Tudor style home that is often open to the public and free. Where they rent the building for weddings and other large events.

The gravesite of William F. Cody (Buffalo Bill) is on the top of Lookout Mountain in Golden, Co. It allows you a wide panorama view of not only Golden and Denver, but East into the grasslands of Colorado, and West to the peaks of Breckenridge and others ( my camera freaked out and I lost all the shots I took from the observation area of Lookout Mountain). The grave is part of a large poured cement patio with a grave covered in raw white quartz. Very traditional in the area to decorate an ugly cement topped graves with local stone and a granite headstone. My grandmothers’ cemetery has a couple graves marked this way. Buffalo Bill’s grave is usually covered in coins, most often a buffalo nickel. We added nickels without buffalos and a penny to the collection saying a prayer for Buffalo Bill and the cities of Boulder and Denver and those that surround the mountain for peace and prosperity.

By the end of our trip up Lookout Mountain, it was time to meet up with a friend for lunch. The amount of traffic and regional construction change made me wonder if I had ever lived in Golden at all. I was lost and thought we would never find our restaurant. Finally finding the El Amigo restaurant, I fell back into a time and place of wondering through memories and felt at ease. Laughter came easy and the warmth of my friend made me relax. I had worried that somehow I would be judged after all these years. I was in some way still being the scared high school girl that I had left behind 3 decades ago. The discovery was that I was not being judged at all but again supported in my dreams and passions was the most comforting thing I have ever experienced.

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Nick Plumber and I out to lunch and sharing stories. 

I put to rest, so many worries, fears, and uncertainties, on this trip that I know that I will never be the same. I am better for knowing each and everyone one of my high school friends. I am healthier because I have a wonderful family, who supported me on this adventure of healing. I am stronger for letting go of the people and things I don’t need anymore. I am freer because I have finally become the person I worked for all these years to become.

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Jolynn Powers in front of a huge sagebrush plant. Glenwood Springs Co. 

So when I am asked if It was hard and sad to go home for my mother’s funeral I have to honestly say “NO!, it was a wonderful time. It was the best gift she has ever given me and I am so happy she is free!” I just wait for the confused look on the face of people who do not understand that I like visiting with ghosts and smile broadly.

 

Categories: About me, ageing, Buffalo Bill, Change, Christopher, Death, Doc Holliday, Family, family memories, Healing, historic locations, Home, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Boss Woman, not Boss Man

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 JoLynn Powers on the first day of basement clean up and demo at the Golden Rule. 

Being self-employed and being the Boss Woman on the job at the Golden Rule over the last 6 months is one of the best things I have done for myself. So I just wanted to share an experience with all of you that I find interesting and makes we want to continue the work I do. As the Redevelopment Coordinator for the Golden Rule Building and several smaller community beautification projects around the Barbour County Area, I am always working on projects with multiple people. My job entails working with and supervising volunteers and contractors to get a project completed. I make sure they have the supplies they need and work with local and state officials to keep them updated on our projects. I plan events to promote our projects and do community outreach to get the volunteers involved.

I often manage the challenges that arise as we do construction, demolition, redevelopment and finally instillations. I love working with people and supervising a crew and love to get my hands dirty.

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Team of AmeriCorps working with me at The Golden Rule summer of 2019.                                   Left to right. Sarah, Kelsey, Me and William.

So the day when I had a crew working in the building doing demolition of 2500 square feet of hand made pine shelving I was surprised at my reaction of a just a few words said by a total stranger. As I was heading upstairs to work on tossing hundreds of boards into a dumpster I was approached by a man from the community on the first floor. He had let himself into the building and spoke to me unexpectedly. He said “Hey,…. where is the Boss Man?” I turned and asked him if I could help him with something and what did he need. Again he asked if he could talk to the”Boss Man.’ Being a nice person I never said, “Hey Asshole I’m the boss and that is why I am talking with you.” I just continued to ask questions and answer them for him. Finally, he said he was looking for work and wanted to know if we were hiring and who should he talk to. To this, I said, “No one is hiring laborers at this time, but if you are a contractor like I am, then the main office may be able to help you. They are looking for bids on HVAC, electrical, roofing and plumbing.” The look on his face was of total confusion. Frustrated he asked me who my boss was and where was he. I gave him the name of both of my supervisors and told him to call the office. Then it finally sank in, that I was the crew supervisor and not a man. I think that was almost too much for him.

volunteers help at the GR

These volunteers and AmeriCorps spent a day doing nothing but moving furniture and displays for me at the Golden Rule.

From the deepest part of my belly, I wanted to be an ass and say ” I am the Boss Woman on this job and how well do you work for women?” But in reality, letting him figure it out on his own and speaking to him in terms that would only be handled by the boss I had confused him to the point of frustration. Then when he realized that we had no need for laborers just licensed contractors he was disappointed and equally angry. I spent the rest of my day… irritated. Let’s just say being called the boss is one thing, but to be referred to as a man is never going to go down easy!

I have spent the last week after this situation thinking. I work with some of the most wonderful men in the world and I would not trade any of them for others. My Project Manager and Director understand my love for redevelopment and home improvement and are happy to have me and treat me with the same respect that any person deserves. I have a family who supports me in my passion to build, remodel, and redesign so I rarely ever have a conversation that is not met with equal understanding and passion. But I have to figure out a way to be tactful about explaining my roll at the Golden Rule when a man is confused about the work I do.

After using a grout bag I sweep up the lose grout before washing the tiles

My job for several days was doing grout on our family room floor. Grout bags are a wonderful product as long as you don’t mix too much water into the grout.

So this woman is her own boss and the boss of others and often the main contact for a redevelopment construction site. I have become the thing that I always wanted to be and doing work that I love. I have a team of people I work with who let me enjoy my work and are happy that I want to be involved in community development. So I will just have to get used to surprising people and learn how to say,” Boss Woman, Thank you!”

 

 

Categories: About me, Boss lady, Building rehabilitation, Community Art, community service, Golden Rule, Redevelopment projects, Uncategorized, Woodlands Development Group | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

The Ferryman Silently Waits: An Allegory

So in response to my mother’s passing, this short story pop into my mind and needed to be written down. Hope you enjoy it.

The Ferryman Silently Waits

In the dark shadows of my heart, the Ferryman has come to collect his due. Staring at me from the shoreline, his faceless image reminds me that I still have not released her for this last passage. He is waiting for me to say goodbye to her, to send her broken bones across the river on his watery vessel. Frozen in my tracks I am unable to scream at him from my grassy hill, to tell him how much I hate his presence waiting on me. The Ferryman is always silent at the edge of the river, pacing, waiting, quietly. I try to ignore his presence drifting in and out of the shadows of the oak trees of my mind. I pray that he loads the ferry with someone else’s remains and crosses the river with them instead of her. My prayers go unanswered and he continues to wait and watch until I am prepared to pay his fee to release his ferry from the shore. His payment for crossing the river is the sacrifice that we all must pay. He gathers our tears. He collects the wailing of our hearts and mourning cries of our souls. His dark dirty hand collects our pain and suffering like gold coins as payment for the journey. Charon the ferryman needs this toll of pain and suffering to raise the veil on the foggy river, to deliver our loved ones to the other side.

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I refuse to bring her to the shore, refuse to load the casket on the wooden planks of the waiting pallet. I have not added the daisy chains to the deck of the ferry, nor the candles or candy for her voyage. It is not for me to release her into his care. It is not my place to send her to the other side. I dare the Ferryman to come up the shore and take her. I yell at him from the moss-covered hill. “She is still mine and you cannot have her.” In his dirty dungarees, he says nothing and only raises his hand as if the payment was already due. He knows that death has already come. The shrouded body of my mother is peaceful and beautiful. Like a spider, I have her cocooned her against the elements. She resides safely on the hilltop covered in moss and flowers. I have no strength to place her in the casket or load it on the wagon. I have no will to drive her down the hill to the river for the silent Ferryman.

cable ferry
The Ferryman does not care for me, he has no sympathy for the living, and his job is only to serve the dead. He does not have the means to bring death to the old, sick or those born too early. His only power is to transport his passenger from the land of the living to the land of the dead. My heart is broken and I fall on my knees in the flowers, pray. I pray for understanding, forgiveness and for love. I feel the heavyweight of my loss in my heart. I am not sure how to face another day without her.
A storm is brewing on the horizon. I watch, as the clouds turn gray and rise in heaping mounds. As the last member of her generation, she will join all the others that have gone on before her. The storm knows my mother is coming and wraps its icy breath around her. The Gail wind tries to raise her from her deathbed. A draft of wind moans through the trees and across the shore into the mist of the river. I know there is nothing more I can do for her in this world. As her shroud flaps wildly in the wind. The Ferryman watches the storm arrive and signals to me that it is time for the arrival of his passenger. I know that the fury of the storm will take her if I do not begin the painful parade to the river.
There is no escape from this journey. It is cruel to the spirts to delay their joyful reunion and I know that I am being selfish. I know that it is wrong to cause this suffering. However, suffering is a small price to pay to have one more glorious morning with her. I rise to my feet, lift the heavy remains of the woman who gave me life onto my shoulder. I lower her into the casket and place it on the wagon. I load the flowers, candles, and candy in the wagon until it is overflowing. I drive a team of grey, mute donkeys down to the shore. There I slowly lower her casket from the wagon onto the Ferryman’s pallet. With a faceless reach, he slowly pulls the rope attached to the pallet on to the planks of the wet ferry. The river rises to meet them as my tears shower down on the dark blue-gray water. I stand motionless, knee-deep in the cold water. Drained of all my strength, I stand watching as the Ferryman ties off the pallet and raises his pole to push the wooden vessel into deeper water. The Ferryman’s toll is paid, as I begin to shudder with tears. A shiny silver coin would have been much easier to part with then this wooden casket.
The Ferryman reaches hand over hand as he pulls the heavy rope that moves the flat bottom ferry into the current of the river. Slowly the mist turns to a white wall of thick fog. There is no noise except the sounds of rain hitting the river and the creaking of the saturated boards straining to keep the ferry afloat.
She is leaving me behind. She floats with a stranger to a new land. “Choran, do not leave her for the wolves”, I yell into the fog as the ferry disappears from my sight. All that is left is the sounds of the rain on the tree leaves and the creak of the wet wood in the distance. The Ferryman will ride with her through the passage, into the cove, where he will release her from all pain and memories.
Soaked and chilled to the bone I slowly slog back to the bank. My wet clothing weighing me down, I fall on my face in the soft slit of the shore. In the sand, I wish I could trade places with her, to stop my own pain and to find freedom in death. The cold finally drives me ashore back into the wagon where the team is waiting for me. Silently I promise to get them home to a warm, dry, barn. I spend the remainder of the night in front of the fire, warming my bones with a strong brandy until the storm passes.
The Ferryman never reappeared on the river near my farm. My mother’s remains never wash ashore downstream. I believe her trip was successful in reaching the cove and shore of Hades. I know that after the storm I found the sky more colorful and peaceful than I had ever before. The sun shone down on the flower-covered hill and the river returned to its gentle flow. I am sure that the Ferryman was paid that night and I will not see him again for many more days. Love comes at a price that no one is prepared to pay. However, I would not miss this adventure for anything in the world. To love and be loved is more valuable than any pain that the Ferryman can bring me.

 

 

Categories: Death, Ferry boat, Ferryman, fiction, Ohio River, short story, sickness, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Veteran friendly 4th of July Traditions

In 28 years of marriage, my husband has never attended a fireworks display. I have taken the boys to the events alone and have enjoyed spending many holidays with my older son, his wife and my Granddaughter. With my husband staying home alone. I have often wanted to share the day and festivities with him also, but the noise and crowds are too much for my Persian Gulf War Vet.  He never complains about skipping some family events and I never pressure him. I understand that staying home is better for him then feeling stressed, but this year that all changed for the better.

On a whim, I bought Asian Sky Lanterns thinking that the kids could enjoy taking them out to the local lake over the holiday weekend and send them off into the sky. I had no idea how much fun and joy a paper lantern would bring to my husband, me and the little ones. It was a simple moment of peace, quiet and beauty that my husband could enjoy.

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Paige, Christopher, and Tom filling lanterns with hot air.

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Christopher watching his released lanterns.

These lanterns are rather large and take several minutes to fill completely up with hot air so they will float away. These were easy to light and there is no frame inside the lanterns. The lanterns are made from tissue paper and cardboard so this does increase the risk that someone would either get burnt or the lantern would catch on fire. We did lose one to fire and we just tossed it in the trash on the way home. They are not expensive I paid $3.00 each for the 4 lanterns. When doing further research you can get around 12 small lanterns for about $10.00 dollars and large ones for 6 for $8.oo dollars. Much cheaper than the 40 or more dollars I have spent on sparklers and snakes in the past.

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Sending messages to the heavens.

It was a wonderful sight to see my husband helping the little ones get the lanterns lit and filled with hot air. Then as they ballooned out with hot air he helped them launch them over the water. Within a minute or two they would rise and float to the ridge top before slowly floating back down onto the water in a very quiet, peaceful way. After the tissue paper gets wet it will deteriorate and the fuel is burnt away and sits on a small cardboard square that is burnt up when the lantern falls from the sky.

As we loaded everyone back in the truck and headed to get ice cream my husband asked if we could do it again with smaller lanterns. I was pleased that he had enjoyed himself and the kids loved it. It was a perfect way to end our 4th of July and be able to have my husband be part of the events. I feel like this is a great option for families that have sound sensitive children or adults. It is pretty and colorful without the crowds or noise. With adult supervision, this is a  great way for families to spend time together and included everyone.

So I hope whatever you did for the 4th of July holiday, I hope you spent it with friends, family and made wonderful memories. We now have a new family tradition that we can share on holidays and while camping if we want to. It was so wonderful for me to find a way to include my husband in our celebration. Happy Independence Day!

 

Categories: 4th of July, Asian Lantern, family fun, family memories, Uncategorized, veterans | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Leaving Life Behind

So I have avoided this post long enough. I have spent a little over a week trying to figure out how to write about losing someone I love deeply. My conclusion is there is no easy way. The fact that this love is the root of everything that I am, makes losing my mother all the more complicated. It is similar to the feeling I have when I speak about my father. It is a void, an emptiness, loneliness, and “A Hole in My Soul” as the band Aerosmith put it.  You carry the emptiness with you forever.

Veda M Lowrey age 84

Veda M Lowrey age 84 Rolla Missouri

So the death of my mother was unexpended but not surprising. She lived 89 wonderful years, loved deeply, lived truthfully and honestly. She worked harder than just about anyone I have ever known and gave everything to her family. Her children and brothers and sisters were everything to her and she enjoyed spending as much time as she could with all of them. She was loving, stubborn and strong and you always knew where you stood and usually, that was under her grace.  I have often wondered how she ever spent 40 years alone as a single parent raising 4 kids after the death of my father. Now at 50 with two sons of my own, I understand that it was the best thing for her and us kids. I remember how proud she was when I graduated from college and disappointed she was when I got a divorce. How she warned me about not burning the candle at both ends and tried to teach me how to slow down and enjoy the ride. Lessons that I don’t ever think I learned, but I do try to remember them when life wears me out or people try to grind me down.

Veda Maxine Lowrey age 21

Veda Maxine Lowrey age 21

I am my mothers’ daughter for better or worse and I know she is still here with me looking after me and kids. I share her passion for reading, flowers, and peaceful quiet homes where you feel safe and loved. It was a pleasant life she made for me and my siblings and we knew we were lucky to have her.

Old age is not a beauty pageant. Nothing about it is pretty,  slick or shiny. Being smart, rich or kind, will not save you from the ravages of time. The process is painful, dirty, slow and humiliating. You lose everything you worked for and often the very people that you love most. It is not meant for the weak and to live 89 years means she was a fighter and wanted what was left in this world for her. I love that about her and only hope to be the same strong fighter in my future.

photo of Boulder Colorado and the front range by Alex Smits

Photo of Boulder Co by Alex Smits used with permission

Rest in peace mom, I will think of you often as I plant my flowers, when I find a good book that I just can’t put down, and when we are eating a well-cooked meal at home with the table full of laughter and wonderful memories. Gods speed on your journey and take my love with you.

I will be returning home to Colorado in a few weeks to place my mother by my father’s side in my home town of Boulder, Co. I will be spending lots of time with family, friends and working on what the future will be like without her. Forgive me if my writing is sporadic for a couple of months. I am not sure what I will be writing about or how often, but I know I  will be posting about our trip and the revelations I make as I search for my roots. 

 

 

Categories: Colorado, Death, Family, family memories, Healing, old age, Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Letting my Freak Flag Fly; Why be Normal in a World of Boring Social Standards.

04032e39628da637db8b079e2ea20a26Recently, I was surprised by a very negative statement about kids and adults with the blue or green hair. The statement was from a friend and fellow artist and I was taken back that they disapproved of the wild hair styles of recent years. I was surprised at my gut reaction to the statement also. I was hurt and defensive of the young people and angry that we are still having this same conversation 30 years after I had this same conversation with my own family about my friends and my hair choices.

jill hamilton and Jolynn powers oct 1987 bad hair day (2)

Jill Hamilton and Me around fall 1988

I have also recently re-watched” The Greatest Showman” where the topic of freaks comes out in obvious ways. For those of you who have not seen it “The Greatest Showman” the movie is about P.T. Barnum’s rise to fame as a sideshow producer and circus millionaire. So the word freak is used in many ways, some positive and some negative, but over all a way to describe a person with unique attributes. Many of my readers remember side shows and many of us will have fond memories of  a visit to the circus. We can remember how seeing the circus made us feel and the excitement of getting a chance to see something new and different.

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Lion Tamer at the Circus 2017

I was lucky enough to see one of the last Barnum and Bailey circus acts before they retired their elephants. I took my then 5 year old granddaughter and my then 8 year old  son  with my daughter in law to Charleston, West Virginia to see the show. It was amazing and so educational. We were able to see acts and animals from around the world, the costumes and acrobats were outstanding . We laughed and cheered and enjoyed the show.

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last year for the elephants at the Barnum and Bailey Circus Charleston, WV

We watched and accepted that these are hard working performers and they are talented. But years ago this was a freak show, a place of the weird, odd and a place of the new and unseen. As a kid I thought of sideshows and circuses as a place of magic and mystery, of the unknown and the amazing. I loved them and the performers that worked the shows. I loved reading about the strange and unusual in my “Ripley’s Believe It or Not” paper backs and I loved seeing the amazing things listed in the Genius Book of World Records. The Chinese man with the longest finger nails pops into my mind along with the tallest man.

I like millions of others have always felt different, odd, or even broken at times. I was a round peg in a square hole, most of my life. My unusual learning style and disability have always made me feel like a freak. Over the year I have found that many contemporary artist, performers, musicians  feel that way too. Many were kids who grew up with ADHD before we knew what it was, many were Gay, trans-gendered or drag queens before the 80’s AIDS crises killed so many of them. Many were born with physical traits that the ruling class disliked, such as to pale, to dark, to tall, to short, to fat, to skinny, to much hair or to little, to many body parts or to few, that caused ridicule. Some had talents above what was expected  and others were able to do tricks that most would never dare. They were unique, talented and blessed with something original. So when I look back at my life my most loved and closest friends were freaks and still are today. Most became successful in art, music, and literature, the engineering, some make fashion and others heal the sick, but we all come from an authentic place of understanding and support.

Junior year photo

So when a young person dies their hair or gets a tattoo they very well may be feeling like a square peg in a round hole, just like I did years ago…  They maybe just exploring what their deeper self has been telling them for years that they are different and unusual. That they are a rare gem and that in stead of being ashamed they  are trying to embrace it. It is this embrace that we all long for our whole lives. We search for  a person or group that understands and excepts us as we are.

Being a freak has taught me valuable things, that I am still proud to use each and everyday. For one thing never judge a man/woman by his looks. First, when we value the shell we miss the very best part of a person and often miss out on meeting the most amazing people on the planet. Second, Everyone of us is struggling with something. Some of our struggles are more obvious then others, be supportive and understanding of every story.  Third,The world is hard enough without people jumping on the hate train. Share goodness, build up the world and make it a better place. Fourth, everyone has a story, listen, learn and understand. This is how we build community and effect change. Then finally freaks are strong because of  adversity. Struggling and challenges are nothing new, we endure much to get to where we are going. Don’t for one minute think because someone is disabled that they weak or helpless. Often they are more adapted to the real world then the average person. Keep you pity to yourself, no one wants to be looked down on from a fake pedestal.

Halloween is coming costume

Halloween Costume building 2018

So as I dye my hair again for the 2000th time in my life, I wonder if maybe blue or green is my color. I wonder if that young woman who had black hair and got tattoos knows how many people will love her in 40 years. How much goodness she will bring into this world and how many wonderful creative people she will meet. I wonder if she even understands how strong she is and how she will over come her weaknesses and disables to reach new levels of people around the world with a blog. I hope she keeps being freaky because is a gift.

It is uniqueness that makes the world so beautiful. Never for one minute believe that being a freak is a bad thing.

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trick or treating in Elkins, WV 2017

 

 

 

 

Categories: Uncategorized | 2 Comments

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