Sunday, October 25, 2009

Don't ask ...

Well, it's been one of those days --- tracking down allegations of trees poached by an errant logging operation on the old Miller homestead, now owned by my aunt. I had not planned on spending the afternoon trekking through the timber with a very helpful deputy sheriff and the owner of adjoining land, chasing to ground what appears to be a misunderstanding about property lines. The details? Don't ask. I don't want to talk about it, other than to say I'll sure as heck be glad when that place sells.


Every time I sat down to write about something last week I thought of a new way to complain about the weather, and there's really no point to that. It's too wet, there are too many crops that should have been harvested by now still in wet fields and it's been a long time since we've had a full day of sunshine.

But most days the sun does shine at least for a while (it waited until about 3 p.m. to cloud up today) and when it does shine, the fall colors have reached the spectacular point. So I'll post a few leaf photos.


Since there was no point in being outside much of the week, I spent a lot of time under the fluorescents in the commons area of the John L. Lewis Building on the Lucas County Historical Society Museum campus sorting photos and documents.

The messy secret of nearly every local history museum is that somewhere, usually out of sight, is a not-especially-accessible hoard of photographs and papers. We're trying to make ours more accessible, but this is a job designed for obsessive-compulsives and I'm only that part of the time.

The saddest (and perhaps largest) pile is composed of "orphans," interesting photos of interesting-looking people who are completely unidentified except, when we're lucky, by an accession number that can link a photo to a donor who didn't know the identity of the subject either. These aren't thrown away, merely filed as "unknown" in the faint home that some day someone will wander in, ask to check out the orphans and recognize a face or two.

There's a lesson here for anyone who has photographs he or she hopes will survive his or her demise. For heaven's sake, get a pencil or non-smearing pen and write the identities on the back. Otherwise your heirs will do one of two things --- throw them in that big dumpster that will be parked in what once was your driveway into which a good share of your precious pile is going to be tossed or box them up and take them to the nearest museum where people like me will wring their hands as the pile of orphans grows higher.


On a more positive note, headed back to Oskaloosa on Monday afternoon, when the sun actually was shining, I took a slightly more cheerful photo of Chief Mahaska.

What troubles me about Mahaska I decided is that he looks too new, having recently and at great expense been restored, waxed and polished. That should not be taken as criticism of the wonderful people who ensured his survival for another century or more by making the restoration possible. It's just a matter of not seeing what we expect to see, and I expect a piece of outdoor public sculpture of Mahaska's age to have developed a green patina --- like, you know, Chief Keokuk, lording it over the Mississippi in that beautiful park in Keokuk. You just can't make everyone happy no matter what you do.

I also took time Monday to visit the Book Vault, in Mahaska's line of vision just west of city square park in Oskaloosa. Wow! What a great book store for such a relatively small town (having William Penn College just a few blocks away probably helps make it possible). Not only is the selection extremely broad, but the setting on several levels of an old bank makes a visit lots of fun. Besides, it's right next door to the Smokey Row coffee shop and a door connects the two. So stop in the next time you're in Oskaloosa!


Now I'm going to get back to fussing about felled trees, property lines and how I'd rather have spent my afternoon .... On the other hand, I was extremely impressed by the professionalism of the Lucas County deputy along for this odd little joyride, I met some interesting people as the investigation progressed, no harm was done and it really was a great day to be outside.

1 comment:

hugh w said...

you mention orphans, a number of years ago,working in NYC, went to a reunion of sorts of people who as kids were put on the Charles Loring Brace "orphan train" west to escape poverty and all that goes with it, to head to the open country and the fresh air, etc. etc. Lots of interesting info about it on the internet.
Hugh Wallace Watervliet, NY