Friday, April 17, 2009


They were all Americans. They met by the Tennessee River in early spring and butchered each other. The two-day killing was so intense that it is remembered in history as one of the greatest battles fought on the soil of the United States.

Yesterday we were touring the battleground called Shiloh . We find it interesting how the battle related to the topography, the ground, how the army was pushed up against the river and were only saved by reinforcements by water during the night.

So, during the day we spent tracing the history upon the land, we met another fellow doing the same in company with his daughter. You could tell that he was almost agitated with the excitement of day. We talked for a while. He was a southerner and traced his lineage to participants in the battle. He hailed originally from the Cumberland region of eastern Tennessee. He was a retired college professor and a wholly likable gentleman.

Our conversation touched on a subject that has stayed with me... that started me considering. The question we both wondered was this: How could men who were neighbors be pushed to the passionate savagery needed for this kind of killing. Official numbers put the total casualties --killed, wounded and missing -- at nearly 25,OOO.

Here are my reflections later in the evening, after we had retired to the woodland where our camper is now stationed: Throughout history, wars are fought between groups of people who differ in race/color, language, or religion. Both sides realize that "they are not like us" so savagery is made easier by some degree. For confirmation, simply consider our relatively recent wars: Korea, Viet Nam, and those bloody incursions into the middle east.

But, here at Shiloh there were none of those differences. Both sides were Americans; both were the same color, the same religion and spoke the same language. Perhaps this conundrum is a key reason why we Americans have been so obsessed with the civil war since the 186O's. How could neighbors, brothers and aquaintances do this to each other?

It was an invigorating day with spring in full force. Dogwood and redbud were in amazing flower. The sun shone yesterday upon the killing fields where almost at this same time of year soldiers drank from "bloody Pond" were dead men and horses had turned with water red. That happened on April 6 and 7, 1862.

I wish now that we had our southern acqaintance from yesterday for some more "considering".

Bonus question: Guess which key on my computer keyboard has stopped working? I was gonna put some neat photos with today's blog. But technology is failing us on this trip. One laptop has gone belly up and the ancient backup computer we keep as backup can't read the camera card. So, use your imagination!!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Going footloose for a while

It has been this way for many years. Since I was a kid I have appreciated the feeling one gets just before setting out on an extended journey. It is that way now. We leave today.

And, like many other trips, this time we are also a little weak on planning. We like it that way. We happen upon things and experiences without anticipating them. No schedule!

Here's how we plan: We mark off days on our calendar for travel days a full year ahead. We say, "We're gonna be gone here, on those days that have X's on them." Quite often don't know our destination until shortly before leaving. This time we knew only that we were going to take the RV (5th wheel trailer).

Then someone said, "how about we head down to the Natchez Trace?" We agreed that the direction was right, as we would be heading into the northward march of spring. We could piddle around on the Trace we figured, which is something like 440 miles long, take in some neat civil war battlefields while we were about it, and do some serious relaxing. And, since we have been on portions of the trace before, we know there are some interesting experiences to be had under spanish moss-laden trees. Oh yes, and then there are the birds, and flowers and flowering trees and gentle southern breezes.

We were arranging to meet our Canadian pal, Cathy Collins, on the Trace as she returned home from her usual winter in Mexico with her tiny Scamp trailer . But she learned at the last minute that her brother in Scotland had died and she had to beat a direct path home. We will miss her this year.

So, PeeVee (our dog) has had a bath, we are mostly packed, and before long I will hook the whole rig together and get it in traveling mode. Cell phones are wonderful as they allow us to transfer our land line to the cell and get all calls we normally woujld. A laptop with an "air card" usually gets us internet access as we move about. And with a solar (photovoltaic) system on the roof of the camper, we can stop and be quite comfortable virtually anywhere.

Gotta get going now. I'm gonna slap in a photo of some camping spot we have had in the past. We'll see!

The Hired Man, Missus, and dogpal PeeVee

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

What happened to that big mushroom?

We ate it! We sliced it up, dipped it in an egg mixture then rolled it in flour. The frying pan did the rest. Now remember, the mushroom in question is a false morel, a fungus that the books say can cause some problems when eaten.

Didn't happen! The hired man and the missus at Rock Eddy Bluff Farm ate their share. We were followed by our daughter, who was here at the time, and her two children (Ages 1 yr. and nearly 3 yrs.). There was no effect from the mushrooms.

That mushroom was delicious! As you can see from the picture, the mushroom fried up well. We actually ate it for breakfast, and, as I remember, we had little else until noon. The picture shows what was left.

We have found nine small common morels in our drive and will escort them to our digestive tracts soon. It occurs to me that with mushroom season coming on strong, you may like some reliable information. Here are a couple of websites: Mid-Missouri M0rels and Mushrooms and see what the Missouri Department of Conservation has to say.

We will be hunting the little morsels this spring. But we are headed to the Natchez trace in a couple of days. We'll send reports from there and also picts of any "scrooms" that we might happen upon.

Think Spring, The Hired Man and Missus

Thursday, April 2, 2009

I can't help myself

Perhaps I can be forgiven for staying with a subject. It is just that the first rumblings of the new growing season seem so powerful to me. I will spare you all the talk about renewal and the flowery metaphors for spring. Better, I want to show what things look like this morning here in the Ozarks. The photos are only minutes old.

We discovered this mushroom yesterday and waited to harvest it. In the Ozark parlance, this is known as a "red one". The reason is that most native folk around here recognize only the two most common edible mushrooms. The call them red ones and white ones. The white ones are actually common morels. This "red one" is a false morel. They are larger than the white ones. Now, the experts say to be careful with eating the false morels. They say that sometimes eating them can cause serious illness in some people. However, everyone I know eats them without affect, and so do we (and so will be have this one for breakfast tomorrow).
Knowing that there was a remarkable glade of bluebell flowers under the bluffs at Clifty Creek, we ventured there to see. What we found was a treat; bluebells covering the ground beside the babbling creek, under the giant white skeletons of sycamore trees. There we also found our first view of Dutchman's Britches"

And looking up the creek we see the first hints of color arriving. Leaves the size of your pinkie fingernails are appearing, particularly in elm trees. Red bud trees are just beginning to bloom. So are dogwoods. For those who pay attention to the usual sequence of such things, this year has been odd. Every woodland early blooming tree appears to be in about the same stage: red bud, dogwood, service berry, and wild plump.

And perhaps March 31 is a little early for "red ones", but there it is. We are pumped up for spring. Hope you are too.
From the hills, The Hired Man and The Missus