Our month started with gratefulness for the safe arrival of our grandaughter Brianna from her month of required study in Spain. Trent was home for the Independence holiday weekend, so he and Bri's parents drove to Chicago to meet her plane. Her cousin Elijah was there to join them while they were in town. They drove home in time to invite us to celebrate the Fourth with them and with Brian's mother Dot. Brian's grilled steaks and sweet corn and Mary Ellen's side dishes were good, but being with their family to hear about June's activities was even better. That gang went onto see the fireworks in Marion; and in deference to our age, Gerald and I went home to go to bed.
(Brian's mother Dorothy is here with him and Mary Ellen not only to escape the hot Arizona summer but to visit her Illinois family and pursue her camping enthusiam. Dot has a small camper behind her car that she sets up herself. I find that very impressive, and she has camped in most national and many state parks. When she is not away camping this summer, she is comfortably encounced in the Taylors' air-conditioned larger home-away-from home camper in their back yard. I have not yet seen her as much as I'd liked with all her camping activity, but we did enjoy that holiday feast.)
Mid-month Jeannie and Rick made an unexpected trip down because of a college friend's funeral. That gave us an opportunity to catch up a bit with them. Jeannie was working on plans and painting a huge wall decoration out in our driveway for a women's conference at their church the next weekend, and I enjoyed hearing about that. Of course, she did some bycyling while here.
One Saturday afternoon on a “just to get out of thehouse” car ride, Gerald took me up and down country roads skirted now with July's deep green trees and shrubbery. Some of these roads were familiar, but some I had never been on before. Gerald remembered them from childhood trips from their farm on the edge of the Mississippi bottom area up to the very hilly roads where his relatives lived in the same county. Most of these roads had begun long ago by early pioneers getting to their farm homes that were beloved even with the lack of electricty or an in-house water source. Now the few homes that remain are lovely and lived in by people who work in town but like being close to nature. Despite the roads' narrowness, they were all in good shape in this 21st Century. On the rare occasions that we met another car, it only seemed as if there might not be room for two cars to pass. We always made it.
Another pleasure this summer has been watching a mama goose and her growing babies, which are now almost as large as she is. At the beginning, there was no male goose with the family, which was unusual. We wondered if he had been killed since male geese are very diligent fathers. Later in the summer, she has been joined by a male, so we had to conjecture how that has happened. When they are not swimming in the lake, they are gorging in the middle of our neighbor's soybeans across the lane. Much like the deer we frequently see, if they are on one side of the lane when our car approaches, they seem to think they will be safer on the opposite side. So we have to slow down to let them cross.
Seeing deer is so common that it is not as big a thrill as it used to be. However, I love this summer's memory of seeing a mother doe on the road to Katherine's house one evening. She was followed by her young triplet fawns.
When I cut through the country to go to town, there is a small piece of shaded road through a swampy area just west of New Dennison. (New Dennison used to be a railroad destination with a general store but is now a cluster of houses and a church building built by early German farmers and much later used by Baptists and now called Living Stone Community Church. The country doctor who delivered babies in this rural area lived opposite that church house, but his home has since burned near the end of his daughter Marguerite Lashley's life. Dr. Burns would meet the Presbyterian minister who came on the train from Carbondale and drive him with his family in his buggy to Shed Church. After Sunday dinner with the doctor's family, the minister would catch the train back to Carbondale.) But I digress.
This rural road west of the village has trees that meet over head, and I love driving through there. This road is sometimes closed after heavy rains with a creek going under it and thick woods and swamp area bordering it. Marylea Burnham told me how bad the mosquitoes used to be when she'd ride her horse down that road. However, now I frequently wave at dog walkers there. New lanes off the road lead to a couple houses and one lot preparing for a new house, so I hope the mosquito population is less. It seems like the perfect place for deer, but in all the years that I've gone through there, only once did I have a deer cross in front of my car. Recently, however, I saw a fawn way ahead crossing at the far end of the road by the stop sign joining the Old Creal Springs Road, so I now remind myself to stay alert as I drive through. What I did see one late night coming home from Katherine's was four tiny animals crossing single file to get to the north side of that swampy woods. I have no idea what kind of animals they were, but I now own an indelible mental photograph that I enjoy while I hope to see them again sometime.
Garden produce has also been a summer pleasure. Gerald brings in zuchini and blackberries and now big round red tomatoes. Three zuchini plants produce way too much for us, but if Gerald had planted only one or two, they might have died and we'd had none. So we are kept busy shredding them for the freezer to make zuchini bread next winter or giving them away. Gerald came home from his latest breakfast with Union County family with a huge container of sweet corn from his brother Garry, who carries on their father's tradition of growing give-away vegetables. Garry also sent a supply for Gerald to give to our sister-in-law Opal, and that visit resulted in a large crock pot full of her garden's abundant supply of green beans at our house. Some of those went into the freezer.
Because refinishing the outdoor furniture on our front porch and then the door has not been enough to keep Gerald busy despite all the grass mowing he does, Gerald husked all the corn Garry sent us and has become an expert on shredding zuchini. I am grateful for his help and glad these two activities kept him out of the extreme heat we have been experiencing at least for a little while. He also spends considerable time following the Scrap Yard Dawgs softball team by reading about their games and Monica Abbot's pitching and discussing this with Gerry. And we both follow photos and bits of information about our new great grandchild Caroline, who is scheduled to come for a visit next week.
Mary Ellen has been able to see Caroline before us. At Erin's baby shower here last spring, Vickie's high school friends Connie Dahmer and Joan Mangan met up with her. Together with Connie's younger sister Brenda and Mary Ellen, they plotted for the group to visit Vickie in Texas. That happened this week and resulted with many photographs on the Internet. Bill and Beth Jordan were in Houston at this time, and so this Crab Orchard gang were able to attend one of Gerry's Scrap Yard Dawgs ball games. We have enjoyed their trip vicariously, but it will be more fun as they come home today and we get to debrief Mary Ellen on these Crab Orchard adventurists.
We have loved hearing about Brianna's Spain journey and seeing all her really gorgeous photographs gathered in a photo book, which she is pleased has room for many more travels. She took these photos with her phone, which just goes to show that exponential progress in technology that Thomas Friedman wrote about. When I told her and her mom about my Internet friend Anne Born's walk through Spain, they started exclaiming because they had just been talking about that walk that Brianna would like to do someday.
Yesterday we picked up Brianna to go to worship with us, and it is always a joy to sit in a church service with a grandchild. At dinner afterwards, Brianna asked questions, and Gerald recounted for her some of our adventures and hardships getting started farming. One of his professors had told him it would be impossible to start farming without $10,000 capital; and though he had saved well during his four years in the Air Force, that was much more than Gerald's savings. It was also commonly said in those days, as it is today, that you needed to inherit a farm to make it farming. Gerald proved all the naysayers wrong, and I bet there are some young farmers out there today also proving negative folk wrong.
It is indeed a blessing to receive phone calls and hear about our grand-kids' and great grand-kids' activites. It is also a blessing to have them ask about our histories because we know how almost everyone regrets when it is too late to ask loved ones about their lives.
Well, it has been a good July so far, but I need to stop now and go upstairs and fix some of those garden veggies for our lunch.