Thursday, July 10, 2008

Family Roots

A few weeks ago my parents, brother, husband, and I made a pilgrimage to Marissa, IL where my dad's parents grew up. He has memories of visiting his grandparents and other relatives there and my sister, brother, and I went there several times with our grandparents. Our great-grandfather, Henry Finger, built this home at 516 Park St. It cost $3,000 to build the house in the 1890's. A neighbor told us that a ghost lives there. My mother assured her that if it is Grandpa Finger, she has nothing to worry about. Across the street from the Finger home is the town park where the school is located. My grandmother told me that when she began school her father carried her across the creek to the one-room school house. The Marissa Academy is now on the National Register of Historical Sites and houses the Historical Museum. I have a document that I was going to donate to the museum but the woman we contacted to let us in was so rude I changed my mind. My great grandfather wrote an essay when he attended the school. In this essay he mentions many classmates by name and describes the town at the time. It was written in 1869 when he was 17 years old. The handwriting is beautiful!

The home with the white pillars is The Finger Home on the Hill which was built by my great-great grandfather, Dr. Heinrich Finger. The current owner graciously invited us in. We showed her some of our photos and documents. The house has had many additions over the years. The living room is orginal to the home. The home stands on a hill outside of town on Finger Hill Road. Mrs. L told us that her husband had grown up next to the Finger home on Park St. and had hunted in the woods around the Finger Farm. He said that someday he would like to live there. When the opportunity arose to purchase the property in the 60's he did so. A story has been passed down that my great-great-grandmother, Auguste Finger was on the second floor of the home when she spied Grant's Army coming towards the town. She got word to the ladies of the town and they put out a spread for the soldiers. Mrs. L also told us that Auguste Finger was known for giving sustenance to those who traveled along the road past the farm on the hill, whether it be to them or their horses. It's nice to know that one has kind ancestors.

The last photos are the little Victorian cottage on Bess St. where my great-aunt Marguerite lived. As I remember, she was short in stature and giggled a lot. The cottage has been a Bed and Breakfast but does not appear to be one now, as there was no sign to indicate such. This house looks like the one I imagined in the Anne of Green Gables series, where Miss Lavendar lived.

My Mother Lies about my Age

This morning I pulled the Thornton W. Burgess books off the shelf. I know there are many more in the series but these are the ones that belonged to my father and were then passed along to me. The Adventures of Reddy Fox is the most read and loved book of the trio although I remember them all well. Children's books were stingy with illustrations back then and I savored each one. I also remember reading these books aloud to other children on the bus when I went to Godfrey school. The last year I went to that school was first grade which would have been about 1957. Mom wrote in the front of the book that I had read it 3 times in second grade in 1961. That would have made me 10 years old in 2nd grade. Thanks, Mom.

I believe these books may be the reason I love the woods and fields so much. The characters are so dear, each with its own personality. The woods and fields have names as well. I think I may be searching for more of these books, although I'm sure the older ones command a price.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

In the Woods

There are several finished projects to photograph but I'm too lazy for that right now.

About noon today I was sitting on our deck taking a break with my knitting when I heard a rustle in the woods. The woods is only about 25 ft from the edge of the deck. I beetled over to the railing just in time to see a red fox chasing another animal. The fox took a flying leap over the gulley and suddenly I heard and saw the great flappings of a wild turkey. It was as if the turkey was running along and the epiphany came to her: "I have wings! This must be what they are for!" Thankfully she made it away in time. Turkeys are not good at flying, what with all that body and the wattle and all. I know foxes have to eat too and I don't begrudge them a morsel in the woods but a whole turkey seemed a bit over-indulgent. It would have been an untidy mess in my little woods.

Another bit of woodsy drama occurred last week. There is an Eastern Phoebe that built a nest on our downspout, under the eave. Mind you, she has a whole woodland at her disposal but apparently yearned for the city life. The babies had hatched and were peeping away, asking for lunch. One day I noticed the tail feathers of a red tailed hawk hanging down from the eave. He had a phoebe tender in his mouth. When I ran out on the deck he flew off with his catch. Again, the predators have to eat also. There are still babies in the nest and hopefully the rest of them will be safe.

Now I am thinking of the books by Thornton W Burgess that I read as a child. I read copies that had belonged to my father. All the woodland characters had names: Reddy Fox, Granny Fox, Danny Meadow Mouse, Grandfather Frog, Old Mister Toad, Sammy Jay, Mother West Wind...I read those books over and over. My children didn't enjoy them nearly as much as I did, which was a disappointment.

I finished reading The Good Husband of Zebra Drive by Alexander McCall Smith. I've been reading this series since the first book came out and savor each one. If you have not read about Mma Ramotswe and her #1 Ladies Detective Agency, I urge you to get the first book in the series ASAP and read them in order. (The first one is called The #1 Ladies Detective Agency.) The next book for my reading pleasure is The Miracle at Speedy Motors. I'm saving that one because I like to space them out a bit. The audio versions are also excellent, even if you have already read the books.

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