Sunday, May 29, 2016

Front porch sitting (at the cemetery)


If you happen to be at the Chariton Cemetery today or tomorrow between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., feel free to stop at the shelter house for a glass of lemonade and a cookie. Volunteers also will do their best to help those who have misplaced friends or loved ones locate graves, although results are not guaranteed. There are about as many people buried here as currently live in Lucas County.

The open house is a joint project of the Chariton Historic Preservation Commission and Lucas County Genealogical Society volunteers. I can't tell you exactly who will be there at any given time because my copy of the schedule is buried somewhere on the kitchen table.

The shelter house, built during 1929, probably to a design by architect William Lee Perkins since it bears all his hallmarks --- including fireplace --- also offers one of the most restful spots for front-porch sitting in Lucas County. You're welcome to do that at any time.


Ev Brightman and I were on the late shift yesterday and didn't have that many customers (the early shift was much busier).


But we did enjoy the views, south across the Baby Heart to the hill beyond.


And north toward older parts of the cemetery.


And probably ate more cookies than we were supposed to while solving many world issues of great importance with just a little casual conversation.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

In memory of U.S. Army Corporal Elmer A. Rowe


U.S. Army Corporal Elmer A. Rowe may come home to Iowa again one day, but as of this Memorial Day weekend, 2016, his remains are unaccounted for --- as they have been since the 20-year-old who called both Millerton and Chariton home was killed in combat in Korea on Aug. 12, 1950.

As of May 11, the remains of an estimated 7,823 U.S. troops remain unaccounted for in Korea --- including Elmer. George Musick, also of Chariton, is another.


So there is no tombstone to adorn with a flag or flowers in the New York Cemetery, where Elmer's mother, Ethel, is buried. His "official" memorial is far away -- a name engraved with thousands of others on Tablets of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, Honolulu.

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Elmer was born January 5, 1930, at Millerton to Wayne G. and Ethel (Duble) Rowe. the third of their eight children (one of his older sisters died in infancy). The senior Rowe was a section hand for the Rock Island railroad, which passed through Millerton on its way from Chariton to Corydon.

Later on in the 1930s, the family moved to Chariton --- but back to Millerton by 1940. Elmer's siblings --- Bertha, Roxie, Thelma, Mary, Carl and Gerald --- were born either in Millerton or Chariton.

During 2012, 62 years after Elmer's death, Gerald Rowe donated to the Lucas County Historical Society his brother's photograph, the Purple Heart Medal Elmer had been awarded posthumously and several telegrams and letters that his parents had received in regard to their son's death. So we are among the custodians of his memory.

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Elmer probably completed his education at Millerton High School, then enlisted in the U.S. Army soon thereafter, in 1948 or 1949. His parents moved their family back to Chariton at roughly the same time, but Elmer's home of record was Millerton.

The Chariton Leader of Oct. 20, 1949, reported: "Pfc. Elmer A Rowe, son of Mr. and Mrs. W.G. Rowe, 1421 Ashland, has completed eight weeks of intensive training in summer maneuvers on the slopes of Japan's scenic Fujiyama, with the First Cavalry Division. He is a rifleman in the 7th Cavalry Regiment."

On June 25, 1950, North Korean forces invaded South Korea, setting off the Korean War. By October, the 7th Cavalry was fully engaged.

On Aug. 21, 1950, Wayne and Ethel Rowe received a telegram at their Ashland Avenue home that read as follows --- "The Secretary of the Army has asked me to express his deep regret that your son, Cpl. Rowe, Elmer A., has been missing in action in Korea since 12 Aug 50. Upon receipt of further information in this office you will be advised immediately. Confirming letter follows. (signed) Edward F. Witsell, major general USA, the Adjutant General of the Army."

The Rowes were the first family in Chariton to receive notification of a missing son --- but that changed very quickly and it became evident later that Elmer had not been the first to die.

Dennis W. and Mildred Halferty learned a few days later in similar fashion that their 17-year-old son, Donald Lee Halferty (left), had been missing in Korea since Aug. 6. His death, on Aug. 6, 1950, at Naktong Bulge, was confirmed during September. Donald was Lucas County's first Korean War loss.

During late September, Anna Musick learned that her son, George, age 33, had been missing in Korea since Sept. 3. His death on that date at Yongsan was later confirmed as well.

Elmer's death was confirmed in a second telegram, received by Ethel and Wayne on Aug. 27 and stating that "your son Cpl. Rowe, Elmer A., was killed in action in Korea on 17 August 50. He was previously reported missing in action 19 Aug 50. Confirming letter follows."

The date of death in that second telegram was a mistake; a follow-up letter, datelined Headquarters, Seventh Cavalry,  Aug. 29, clarified:

"My dear Mrs. Rowe:

"It is with deep regret that I report your son, Corporal Elmer A. Rowe, RA17241189, Company "F," died in action against the enemy while engaged in patrolling the Naktong River in Korea on August 12, 1950.

"Thus Emer laid down his life for his country just as the patriots at Valley Forge and Lexington did. His loss is deeply felt in the regiment and his name will be long remembered.

"Our Chaplain of your faith conducted graveside services for Elmer. The members of the regiment join me in deepest expression of our sympathy.

"(signed) Cecil W. Nist, Colonel, Infantry, Commanding."

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The remains of Donald Halferty were recovered and returned to Lucas County for burial in the Chariton Cemetery a year after his death, during August of 1951.

But the remains of both Elmer Rowe and George Musick remain unaccounted for. They were buried by their comrades near where they fell, but North Korean hostility following the uneasy truce that ended armed conflict continues to prevent a concerted search for their burial places.

The Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, headquartered at Hickman Air Force Base, Honolulu, continues to seek, recover, process and identify the remains of U.S. troops around the globe, however --- so perhaps one day, if the political situation in the Koreas eases, these young men will come home, too.

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A year or two after Elmer's death, Wayne and Ethel Rowe moved from Chariton to Niangua, Missouri, where Wayne died at age 53 on May 14, 1955. He was buried in the Niangua Cemetery.

Ethel Rowe returned to Chariton to live, then died here on Jan. 31, 1961, at the age of 58. She was buried near her parents in the New York Cemetery.

Elmer had many surviving nieces and nephews and one among them has provided the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command with a DNA sample that will be used, in part, to identify his remains --- should they be found.

Since there are no graves to decorate, one way to honor these young men who died long ago now while in service to their country is simply to speak their names. If you read this, please do that: "Elmer A. Rowe" and "George Musick" (left).

Friday, May 27, 2016

"I was a stranger, and you took me in ...."


Some 80 years after World War I veteran Charley Todd died a stranger among us and was buried with military honors by fellow veterans from Carl L. Caviness American Legion Post No. 102 in the Chariton Cemetery, a new generation dedicated a tombstone in his honor Thursday afternoon.

Charley, thought to have been about 50, died in a house fire on Oct. 23, 1937, along with his beloved dog, Queenie. No family could be found to claim his remains, so Legionnaires took charge and buried him with military honors in the Grand Army of the Republic section of the cemetery, set aside for veterans of all wars who have no other final resting place.

Although it was widely known around the square in Chariton that Charley, who had worked as a handyman there for about five years, had served in France during World War I, military records could not be linked definitively to him because his acquaintances actually knew very little about him. He apparently had roamed and rambled around the country since he was a young man. So no tombstone was erected.

Charley's forgotten grave was rediscovered a year ago, just before Memorial Day, and a volunteer drive led by Mary Stout Stierwalt raised sufficient funds to pay most of the cost involved in crafting a replica of the government-issue white marble stones that mark the graves of other World War I and World War II veterans buried in the G.A.R. plot. That complicated task --- marble rarely is used in tombstones these days outside the shops of specialty manufacturers who supply military cemeteries --- was undertaken by the Seddons of Chariton Monument Co., who underwrote some of the project's cost.

 

After the audience had gathered just after lunch on an overcast day under big trees that shade the G.A.R. plot, Earl Comstock opened the program and the new tombstone was unveiled.


Pastor Brenda Crossfield, of First Lutheran Church, conducted a brief dedicatory service.


Legionnaires from Chariton, Russell and Corydon then raised a flag on the G.A.R. flag pole --- cleaned and repaired by the city with a new solar-powered light atop it.




Adam Bahr concluded the program with "Taps."


Then it was time to round up Mary and convince her that she should pose with the new tombstone.



Thursday, May 26, 2016

And this shall be a sign ...

 

I've been trying to remember how long we've been talking about a new sign for St. Andrew's. Years and years.

But something else always came up: The roof (twice in three years, the second time because of serious hail), the boiler, the air conditioning, a new "family" restroom, etc., etc.

Finally, Fred placed the order this spring and late yesterday, the sign rolled up in a big semi.

Every Episcopal church in America, or so it sometimes seems, has a default sign position --- identical  (but personalized with church name) printed metal jobs that hang from signpost brackets somewhere out front.

Most have other signs, too. But St. Andrew's had only that metal sign hanging out near the south entrance to the church's half-circle drive.



Chariton's third St. Andrew's Church was built in 1957 in one of the most visible locations in town, just off Highway 14 North. But in the years since, trees grew, an apartment complex developed and the hospital and an assisted living center sprouted in our back and side yards. And the church, rather small and simple, receded. A new sign out by the highway seemed in order.


By the time I got there yesterday afternoon, the sign already had been offloaded into the back of Fred's pickup, which then was backed into position. The sign was flipped as it came out of the pickup, then lowered into position on bolts secured in the previously poured concrete pad.


Unwrapping it actually took the longest time. That sign was packed very securely and arrived without a scratch.


Now all we have to do, once the basic information has been added to the sign, is come up with pithy and erudite one-liners to amaze passers by. We'll see how that goes. The only competition in the pithy sayings department along Highway 14 is the Community of Christ. Maybe we could have a contest.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

A tombstone for Charley Todd


A blue tarp covers Charley Todd's tombstone --- brand new, installed nearly 80 years after he died --- this week in the Grand Army of the Republic plot in Chariton Cemetery.

The tarp will be removed and the stone unveiled during a ceremony at 1 p.m. Thursday, conducted by Legionnaires from both Chariton and Russell. In addition, a flag will be raised on the refurbished G.A.R. flag pole --- new roping has been installed and a solar lamp installed at its top.

Up on the square, Mary Stierwalt --- largely responsible for all of this --- will close Family Shoe Store for a couple of hours so that she can attend. Everyone else is welcome to attend, too.

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This kind of started a year ago, when I wrote here about Charley after compiling a list of those buried in the G.A.R. plot and discovering that his grave was the only unmarked one there. Here's how that post, entitled "A flag for Charley Todd," read:

No one in Chariton knew much about Charley Todd, other than the facts that he seemed to be about 50, had served in France during World War I, worked hard, always was cheerful and was devoted to his faithful dog, Queenie.

According to a report on the front page of The Chariton Leader of October 26, 1937, he had arrived in town about five years earlier.

To make a living, Charley did odd jobs for business and professional men around the square. Eva Walls, who operated an apartment house on West Court Avenue, allowed Charley and Queenie to sleep in the basement. In return, he fired the furnace --- keeping residents warm during colder months.

Tragically, a fire broke out near that furnace very early on the morning of Saturday, October 23 --- and although the building was scarcely damaged, the smoke it generated proved fatal to both man and dog.

When firefighters finally were able to enter the basement, they found Charley on the floor, where he apparently had collapsed while trying to escape, and Queenie on the bed.

The Leader's columnist, identified only as "D.A.N.," noted on another page of the Oct. 26 edition that "Lawrence Stoko and I saw Charley Todd and Queenie late Friday night, only a few hours before they died from suffocation in a smoke-filled basement. After seeing the manner in which Todd beamed with pride when Stoko patted Queenie and termed her a fine dog, I can understand how neither would desert the other."

Someone knew that Charley had a brother, Ike, who lived at Vinton --- but he couldn't be located. So on Sunday afternoon, members of Carl L. Caviness Post No. 102, American Legion, took charge of the remains and Charley was buried with military honors in the G.A.R. plot at the Chariton Cemetery.

A week later, Ike Todd --- who said he had been traveling in South Dakota when authorities tried to contact him in Vinton a week earlier --- came to Chariton to learn the details of his brother's death and to look for a service revolver and valuable watch, which he thought Charlie should have had.

Sheriff Miles Mason informed him, however, that nothing like that had turned up; that Charley's only belongings had consisted of clothing, a few trinkets and a dollar watch. So Ike went home and that was that. But authorities did learn that Charley's full name was Charles Noble Todd.

Last year, I borrowed a flag from my neighbor, Don Garrett, who had just brought a pickup load to the cemetery to be placed in veteran flag holders, walked over and stuck it in the ground at the spot where Charley's headstone should have been.

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My usual strategy after writing about something is to sit back and think about how nice it would be to do this or that, but actually do nothing.

Up on the square, however, Mary Stierwalt --- who had read the post --- decided to do something.

Several of us tried first  to verify Charley's service. If that could be done, he would have been entitled to a free government-issue stone matching those on nearby graves.

But Charles Todd is not an unusual name, World War I records are not easily accessible and Charley had neither family members nor friends --- not even family connections in Lucas County --- who might have provided some clues. In addition, he was a roamer and a rambler --- we had no way of determining where or when he might have enlisted to serve. 

In the end, Mary adopted a different strategy. She worked with the Seddons of Chariton Monument to determine how much it would cost to create in white marble and set a tombstone for Charley that matched those of his neighbors in the G.A.R. plot.

She then invited contributions from Lucas Countyans present and past to help with the cost, and many did. The Seddons not only did the work, but contributed, too --- and I've not asked Mary how much she invested personally, but I'm sure that she did.

That tombstone, now firmly planted at the head of Charley's grave and covered by a blue tarp, is what will be unveiled on Thursday.

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The G.A.R. plot, which consists of six double lots, was purchased on Sept. 15, 1893, by Daniel Iseminger Post No. 18, Grand Army of the Republic, to provide a burial place for comrades who had no other place to be interred.

After the last Civil War veteran had died, the plot was deeded to the city of Chariton on July 1, 1944, with the restriction that it be set aside for the burial of "any active or retired serviceman from any branch of service who can't afford a burial place elsewhere." Lucas County supervisors paid the perpetual maintenance surcharge.

Charley's grave is one of 20 there, including veterans of the Civil War, World War I, World War II and Vietnam.

Also Thursday, a flag will be raised for the first time in many years on the G.A.R. plot flag pole, refurbished as part of the effort to mark Charley Todd's grave.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Lucas County's other Grand Army chapters


I've written quite a lot about Daniel Iseminger Post No. 18, Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.), Lucas County's largest post of this nationwide fraternal organization for Union veterans of the Civil War. 

Chartered on Oct. 18, 1879, with 14 members, Iseminger was one of Iowa's older posts and during its course had a total of 260 members. It was dissolved on Dec. 31, 1933, after a majority of those members had died.

Although the G.A.R., founded in 1866, also was one of the first organized U.S. political advocacy groups, it was never intended to be perpetual. It was dissolved in 1956 when the last member, Albert Woolson (1850-1956), of Duluth, Minn., died.

But there were three other Lucas County G.A.R. posts, too --- in Russell, Lucas and Derby.

The largest of the three was Francis M. Nolan (generally called Frank Nolan) Post No. 208, chartered at Russell on March 17, 1886. That's the tombstone (above) in the Chariton Cemetery of Francis Nolen in whose honor the post was named. I'll come back to him later but, yes, the post spelled its surname "Nolan" while the man and his family spelled it "Nolen" --- an oddity that never was resolved.

Frank Nolan Post began with 26 charter members and 80 veterans had belonged by the time it disbanded on Feb. 18, 1920.

Grigsby Foster Post No. 320 was chartered at Lucas on May 15, 1884, with 22 members, but dissolved 10 years later on Aug. 8, 1894. A total of 45 veterans joined the post during its 10 years. Nine of its members transferred to other posts in 1894.

Grigsby Foster, after whom the post was named, had served as a farrier in Company E, 7th West Virginia Volunteer Cavalry. A coal miner by profession, he arrived in Lucas between 1870 and 1880 and died there on Feb. 18, 1881. He is buried in Fry Hill Cemetery.

William H. McKnight Post No. 491, of Derby, was chartered on Oct. 9, 1891, with 13 members. Although this was Lucas County's smallest post, with 25 members total, it continued until Jan. 1, 1917, when it was dissolved.

William McKnight, after whom the post was named, had enlisted as 4th corporal in Co. G, 34th Iowa Volunteer Infantry, during 1862. He died near Derby on April 8, 1888, and is buried in Goshen Cemetery.

Francis M. Nolen, namesake of the Russell post, was born Dec. 12, 1827, in Ohio, where he married Rebecca L. Mauk on May 4, 1851, in Muskingum County. They moved west and settled on a farm near Chariton during 1854.

During October of 1862, when he was 34, Francis enlisted in Company E, 34th Iowa Volunteer Infantry, a unit raised largely in Lucas County. He was commissioned 1st lieutenant on Oct. 15, 1862, under the command of Capt. Nelson B. Gardner. He served until Jan. 11, 1864, when he resigned his commission --- most likely due to ill health --- and returned to Chariton where he died two and a half years later, on April 27, 1867.

Rebecca did not remarry and lived in Chariton until her death on Sept. 27, 1905, age 74. The stone that marks both their graves appears to have been erected after Rebecca's death.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Chariton's first Decoration Day


The grave of William F. Hall, a veteran of the 34th Iowa Volunteer Infantry who died at age 22 on Aug. 27, 1866, would have been among the 14 decorated during Chariton's first Decoration Day observance.

This is the week leading up to Memorial Day, set aside to honor men and women who died while in military service to their country. For the better, most likely, it's become a day to remember all departed loved ones. For the worse, we sometimes lose track of the original purpose.

Memorial Day originated as Decoration Day during 1868 when the newly organized Grand Army of the Republic's commander, General John A. Logan, declared May 30 a day to decorate the graves of fallen Union soldiers with flowers. Various groups had been decorating graves in various places --- including the former Confederate States --- at various times during the years immediately after the war. But this formalized the observance in the North.

It's believed May 30 was selected as the date because it was thought the most flowers would be in bloom then --- the date itself had no significance. The term "Memorial Day" was used first, so far as anyone can determine, in 1882. But it still was Decoration Day in many places until after World War II. Those flag holders and miniature flags came along later, too. The original focus was on flowers.

From the beginning, it became customary to decorate the graves of all Union veterans, in part because the remains of most who had died in service were not buried near their homes. Instead, the remains had been gathered from scattered battlefields and temporary cemeteries and re-interred in national cemeteries throughout the war zone. Additionally, most of the veterans buried near their homes by 1868 had died of complications of diseases or wounds related to their service.

A century later, during 1968, congress moved Memorial Day to the last Monday in May in order to create a three-day weekend.

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Chariton was not on the cutting edge of Decoration Day observances --- a fact noted by several editors of The Patriot as the 1870s advanced. 

"Next Friday, May 30th, is Decoration Day. We have not heard of any arrangements being made to honor the soldier dead buried at Chariton. Great preparations are being made everywhere else," The Patriot editor noted in his edition of May 28, 1872.

Two years later, on May 27, 1874, the lament in The Patriot was similar: "Next Saturday, May 30th, is the day set apart for strewing or decorating with flowers the graves of soldiers who died in the war of the rebellion. Neighboring towns have made the necessary preparations for a suitable observance. Will Chariton permit the day to pass with observing it?"

The answer was, "Yes."

The next year, The Patriot editor devoted several inches of type to a lengthy complaint, commencing: "Have we no soldiers buried in our cemetery? If so, would it not be well to honor their memories by scattering a few flowers on their graves the 30th inst.? Every other town almost, observes Decoration Day with some appropriate ceremony and by adorning the graves of Union soldiers with a few flowers. Why not Chariton?"

Why not, indeed.

The answer, it would seem, was the absence of an organization willing to take on the job. That gap was not filled until Oct. 18, 1879, when Daniel Iseminger Post No. 18, Grand Army of the Republic, was organized. Chariton observed Decoration Day for the first time the following May as a result.

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Chariton's first Decoration Day observance was scheduled for Saturday, May 29, 1880 --- most likely to avoid conflicts with church services on the Sabbath, May 30.

The skies opened and rain poured down on the scheduled date, however. "Saturday was the gloomiest day of the year, and all thoughts of observing Decoration Day were wholly abandoned by the largest proportion of our citizens," The Leader of June 5 reported.

"But late Sunday morning a few started out notifying others to meet and form in procession, which resulted in a fine display and a creditable attendance."

The Patriot of June 2 attributed the success of the observance to D.M. Galloway, "who at an early hour on Sunday morning took the initiatory steps for carrying out the program. Mr. Galloway also went to the cemetery east of town (Douglass Pioneer) and decorated two graves."

"The flowers for the decoration were mostly furnished through the efforts of Mr. Galloway, who with the assistance of a few comrades tended largely to make the decoration a success," The Patriot added.

The procession from town square to the cemetery "was headed by the Consolidated Band, followed by the Knights of Pythias in uniform, Fire Companies, Grand Army of the Republic and citizens. Eloquent addresses were delivered at the cemetery by Col. Dungan and J.C. Mitchell."

According to The Leader, 14 Chariton Cemetery graves were decorated and "the whole was under the direction of Capt. McCormick and J.H. McFarland."

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Oliver Coffman's grave would have been one of the two decorated by Galloway at Douglass Cemetery, but there's no way of telling who the other might have been.

Two years later, a list of the 15 graves decorated during 1882 in the Chariton Cemetery --- and by then Decoration Day observances were well established --- was published in The Patriot so we can be fairly sure that 14 of these were the first to be decorated as Chariton began, somewhat belatedly, observing Decoration Day:

Austin Wayland, Co. E, 34th Iowa Infantry
William S. Henry, Co. L, 4th Indiana Cavalry
William F. Hall, Co. K, 34th Iowa Infantry
Lieut. Frank Nolan, Co. E, 34th Iowa Infantry
Major Joseph R. Jay, surgeon, U.S.A.
Major Henry W. Jay, surgeon, 34th Iowa Infantry
Sergeant John S. Birkhead, Co. H, 1st Iowa Cavalry
Volney D. Douglass, Co. F, 17th Iowa Infantry
John H. Stanley, Co. C, 13th Iowa Infantry
John Scott, Co. F, 3rd Iowa Cavalry
Noah N. Larimer, Co. B, 6th Iowa Infantry
Frank Savacool, Co. K, 46th Iowa Infantry
James Mitchell, Co. F, 6th Iowa Infantry
Harry K. Morgan, Co. E, 19th Iowa Infantry
David T. Mitchell, Co. F, 17th Iowa Infantry.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Stalking Patrick & the Southwestern Chief


Saturday was one of those days that wouldn't stretch quite far enough, so I missed Lucas County's first Big Day of Birding despite good intentions. Hopefully, there will be a second --- and many more in future years.

I did, however, successfully stalk Patrick Cremeens and catch up briefly during the early afternoon with him --- and the nephews, niece and assorted grandnephews and grandnieces he was throwing a picnic reunion party for --- in the big stone shelter house at Red Haw.

Of the nephews and niece, Eric Cremeens was the only one I'd met before --- and he was only one day old at the time. Time flies. The "kids" are (from left) Aron Cremeens, Jill (Cremeens) Polich and Eric Cremeens.

Patrick doesn't fly, so it was fun to watch his progress (on Facebook) via rail and rented car from San Diego to Chariton --- and to speculate about the comparable travel times "then" --- a century ago when the U.S. rail system was intact --- and "now," when Amtrak is the only game in town.

Although the California Zephyr --- Chicago to San Francisco and back --- passes through Chariton daily, the trains don't stop here any more. Osceola and Ottumwa are the nearest stopping points. And because there's no longer a passenger rail link between the greater Los Angeles area and Salt Lake City, it's a challenge to get here from there.

So Patrick boarded the Southwestern Chief in Fullerton late Wednesday afternoon, arrived in Albuquerque about noon Thursday and in Kansas City early Friday morning where he rented a car and drove up. He'll reverse the journey starting Tuesday.

Patrick had reserved a room aboard the Chief, so did travel in considerable style and comfort with access to the observation car and dining car, too. It's a great way to travel, he says --- providing you're willing to allocate the time to do it, then slow down and relax a little, just watching the scenery roll by.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Who is this frayed caballero?


This dashing young man with a sash, some 15 by 20 inches in size and battered, turned up in a museum storage drawer earlier this year while we were evacuating the Lewis Gallery, but the poor guy has no back story.

The accession number tells us he arrived in 1968 and that the donor was Dick Kirkham, Chariton city treasurer at the time who moved elsewhere with his family about 1970.

The absence of an associated story suggests that the Kirkhams knew nothing about the subject; most likely it was a found item or perhaps an auction purchase, bought for the frame. Obviously, he once was framed and displayed on someone's wall.

There may be a Lucas County connection --- or maybe not.

If you recognize this guy, we'd love to know about it. If you don't, feel free to make up your own story about who he was and how he ended up in Chariton.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Jesus hates them, this we know ...


Some days, a guy learns more than he (or she) really wants to know about friends, virtual and otherwise, via the social media. 

Among them, those who rise up in the morning and fire off a quick post, perhaps a tweet or two, about how much he or she loves Jesus. Then, the follow-up --- a few shared memes aimed at those who, by implication, Jesus hates as much as these Jesus-loving folks do.

A couple of weeks ago, the usual targets were Muslim, although black folks, gay folks, people with brown skin, the Obamas, Democrats, liberals and more were available to add a little variety. Lately, however, it's been all about transgender people.

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I came across a couple of articles the other day that linked formative experiences in another life of mine with the current phenomenon, and thought I'd share. The first, republished in the online version of Out magazine is headlined, "Meet the Woman who cared for Hundreds of Abandoned Gay Men dying of AIDS." The second, written by Sarah Posner and published online at Fusion, entitled "How trans people in bathrooms became the new 'homosexual plague.' "

The story of Ruth Coker Burks, who functioned as a one-woman hospice for men dying of AIDS in Arkansas from 1984 into the mid-1990s, is not exactly new. It was published more than a year ago in the Arkansas Times and has been told in part, or fully, elsewhere, too.

In short, Ms. Burks came upon a young man dying of AIDS during 1984 in a Little Rock hospital who had been abandoned by his Jesus-loving family and soon discovered that there were many more like him. With assistance from the Arkansas gay community, and others, she became a one-woman source of aid and comfort to them. In more than 40 instances, when families declined to claim their bodies, she arranged cremation and burial in her own family cemetery.

Many of us remember those times and that's a factor in generalized distrust --- even contempt --- of and for those who announce their passion for Jesus but fail to follow through by carrying out his directives.

Posner, in her article, suggests that those invested in stirring up the current anti-transgender frenzy are motivated principally by an abiding issue for right-wing Christianity --- the need for a mythic satanic counterforce to rally the troops against. Gay people in general are not working as effectively as that imagined counterforce as we once did, back in the day when Jesus-lovers could be more easily convinced that their gay sons were works of the devil. Gay people in general still are targets, but transgender people, a tiny minority and among the most vulnerable, are the more tempting ones now.