Monday, April 12, 2010

Magnolia x soulangeana

To say that the saucer magnolias (magnolia x soulangeana) now in full blossom around town are the most showy of the early bloomers is an understatement --- they're more like lavishly produced Broadway musicals. This example is in the arboretum near the Southgate apartments.

These are not the magnolias of the South, which are evergreen and cannot withstand harsh northeren winters, but a deciduous hybrid apparently developed in France and now widely popular in England, the United States and elsewhere.

Wherever they came from, I'm glad they're here --- and hope they make it through the blooming cycle without getting singed. I'm still a little haunted by the great Easter freeze of a year or two ago that turned many things bright and beautiful into small blocks of ice, including the magnolias.


I did battle for a while yesterday afternoon with the big clump of Indian grass that grows in the back yard surrounded by a few other native plants. A very small prairie fire seemed like a good idea several weeks ago and the neighbor assured me the flames would be out by the time the fire department arrived --- but I desisted. So now, denied fire, I'm hacking away at last year's growth.

Interested in instant gratification, I always plant stuff too close together, so the expanding prairie grass now is overwhelming a few other plants that need to be moved --- and right now. I also have an over-abundance of purple coneflowers elsewhere and intend to move some of the excess out there, something else that needs to be done this week. No matter how small and modest, and my gardening efforts are both small and modest, there's always something to do.


By design or accident, the gate to the tree dump down by the river was left open yesterday, so I was able to haul away dried stalks, branches and other winter-related debris. The dump, intended only for lawn and garden debris, became a bone of contention last fall because of illegal dumping --- and now it's supposed to be open only from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. I'm putting that here so I'll remember it and avoid the embarrassment of driving around for a day or two with a pickup load of tree limbs while waiting for the dump to open.

So much junk, so hard to get rid of. There are about half a dozen items in the garage that require hauling over to the landfill northeast of Attica --- if I ever get around to it. Remember the good old days when much of the stuff you bought was intended to last at least a generation or two? Now it's designed to fall apart or become obsolete in a year or two so we have to buy more.


Not throwing stuff away allowed me to solve a minor genealogical puzzle yesterday evening. The troublesome accumulation, starting to tumble out of the closet where such things are kept, is a pile of unfiled notes and research notebooks dating back 40 years. Something has to be done --- filing the useful, disposing of the rest.

These notes were gathered back in the days when most of us interested in genealogy spent a lot of time writing letters, traveling to research libraries and visiting courthouses and cemeteries rather than plugging names into Internet search engines.

The puzzle involved a niece of my great-grandmother, Susan Elizabeth "Lizzie" (Dunlap) Dent. Great-grandmother Lizzie's family was plagued to a degree unimaginable now by tuberculosis. She died of it along with three of her siblings prior to the turn of the 20th century near Rock Rapids in extreme northwest Iowa. When that happened, my great-grandfather, Cassius M. Dent, and their two sons, Homer and Frank, set out for Wyoming. My grandmother, Ethel, was sent to Lucas County to live with relatives.

The moves to Wyoming and southern Iowa fractured ties with what remained of the Rock Rapids family --- Great-grandmother's sister, Allie, who had married Frank P. Wallace, Rock Rapids undertaker and furniture merchant, and had three daughters, Irene, Ida and Kathryn.

I remember Irene, who lived in Des Moines with her daughter, Aletha --- a pioneering female executive for one of the Des Moines insurance companies before her unexpected death while still in her 30s. Aletha was a friend of my dad's, but he didn't especially care for Irene --- who could be a major piece of work when she put her mind to it --- so we lost touch.

Years later, I reconnected with Irene and tracked down Ida, who had never married. But could never find Kathryn, in large part because she and Irene were severely estranged. I didn't even know, or thought I didn't who she had married --- and that husband was the bone of contention between Irene and Kathryn --- he wasn't quite good enough for the almighty Dunlap-Wallaces.

Sorting through a notebook yesterday I discovered that I'd transcribed parts of the Frank P. Wallace probate file many years ago while on a research trip to Rock Rapids, and lo and behold there was Kathryn's married name --- Werkhoven. Her husband was, as it turned out, Gordon Ivanhoe Werkhoven, who had for some reason changed his name to Workhoven after moving his family to California.

So I was able to track down Kathryn at last --- not in any great detail, but at least enough to know what became of her. And I'm glad to know that.


The cormorants, dozens of them, were back in their bleacher seats (dead trees) along the east shore of the big pond last evening and two pelicans, either left over from Saturday night's party or new arrivals, were overnighting.

So I'm anxious to get down there and see what's going on this morning and had better call it quits here.

No comments: