Monday, July 19, 2010

Hot time in the old town ...

OK, so nobody's dancing --- and a couple of dozen folks had by this time late in the game gotten up and waundered away to look at something else. But I liked this overview of Saturday night's barn dance and ice cream social --- or maybe patio dance in front of the barn is more accurate, on the LCHS museum campus. There will be more photos of the event on the historical society blog.

We had a good time and a good crowd despite heat and humidity. By 7 p.m., the big pin oak downslope from the barn was shading the patio and a good breeze had kicked in. So no one got overheated --- other than the dancers, and I'm afraid they got very hot. Free ice cream and ice water proved to be very popular, and there was plenty of both and not much left over.

By about 8, the dancers had continued on their way over to Woodburn --- the hot spot for Saturday night square dancing these days in this neck of the woods and we closed up shop and went home. It was just a nice relaxing way to spend a little time.

That big metal chimney-like item behind the dancers in the middle of the photo, by the way, is the old boiler from Old Betsy, the fire department's pride and joy (see the July 4 entry for photos if you've forgotten). It appeared mysteriously on the patio a few years ago when Old Betsy got a boiler transplant because the walls of this one had burned thin in a few spots and has just been sitting there since.

It's a great conversation piece, but a little awkward, and will be moved elsewhere fairly soon when we start working on the descent to the new blacksmith shop just out of this photo downhill to the right.


About 4 a.m. Sunday, the skies opened up again --- this time to the accompaniment of tornado warning sirens. I thought about staying in bed, then got up and came downstairs --- barefoot and without a robe --- just because it seemed like the thing to do. Then it occurred to me that I really would like to be wearing slippers and a robe if inadvertently blown to a new location east of town, so went back upstairs and got them (as the sirens continued to sound), and for good measure picked up my billfold --- just in case. We didn't blow away.

A friend, I learned later, was out running around his yard in another part of town in his underwear rescuing the cushions from lawn furniture. My cautious neighbors across the street went to the basement, setting a better example for all of us.

Same deal this morning (although without the sirens) and it's raining right down now --- and that's predicted to continue through the week. Such weather!


Dick Stone stopped in at the museum just to poke around and visit this afternoon. We're not really supposed to be open Mondays, but I'd gone out to work for a while in the library --- and anyone who stops in when someone is around is welcome, inside or outside of regular hours.

It was another of those times when I wish I'd had a tape recorder (or whatever they're calling recording devices these days). Dick is in his 80s now, coming off a stretch of sickness. He used to be a fur buyer of major proportions, running regular routes as far west as Colorado and Wyoming and bringing pelts home to Chariton to process and market.

We were looking at an old photo of Crystal Lake in the 1920s --- that's Chariton's Crystal Lake (also known as West Lake, Gun Club Lake, Country Club Lake, etc.; not Hancock County's) --- when there was a dance pavilion on a point on the east shore. Dick got to telling his story about hunting ducks just south of the pavillion on Nov. 11, 1940 --- the day the great Armistice Day storm blew in --- watching it move in with ducks coming in by the hundreds before it and finally taking shelter himself behind a big old tree that, he says, is still along the shore. Great story. I've heard it before. But it's still a great story.

Then we got to talking about another photo that we've been puzzling over for a week or two. It's the sort of thing that would cause a PETA member to have a seizure. Six or seven men are standing or kneeling in front of an old cabin that's serving as a backdrop for a display of a couple of hundred fox pelts. Great shot, probably dating from the early 1950s. Not at all politically correct these days.

Everyone, including Dick, agrees that one of the guys looks like the late Jerry Wells, and Dick offered a couple of  possible names for some of the others. He thought the location was Slab Castle, down on a bluff above the Chariton River just off the New York Road southeast of town. If that's the case, I'm fairly excited. There were two Slab Castles, a newer one built after the first one burned (and it seems to me the second one burned eventually, too). I've never seen either, although my Dad remembered both --- owned by the Penicks, I believe, and the site for all sorts of partying --- some genteel (near the turn of the 20th century) and some, especially at Slab Castle II, not so genteel. At least that's a starting point.

Dick got to talking about how the weather had frustrated his efforts to plant a big garden this year. He remembred, he said, that during the last Depression people who had nothing ate well if they had a big garden. He thinks we're going to end up in that situation again. Wouldn't surprise me.

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