Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Tiger tiger burning bright

Tiger lilies are in full bloom this week along the east side of the house, brought in from the farm by my mother I think to make this strange place in town seem more like home. I admire all the other lilies in their various colors, but this is my favorite in all likelihood because of its associations.

I think it's Lilium lancifolium, an early import native to Asia that has been flouishing in gardens here for a long, long time. I recall only one failure, during the year of the Easter freeze, when early shoots were killed and the bulbs chose to snooze underground rather than trying again. They were back the next year in full force. It seeds enthusiastically and spreads in a gentle non-threatening way.

Many lilies are similar, including at least one that is native to this place, Lilium michiganese, or Michigan lily (below), spotted most often by me along the Cinder Path --- the most familiar stretch of which is inaccessible this year because an interminable U.S. 34 bridge project blocking the town entrance and muddy dirt roads impeding access to the other.

Orange is an appropriate color for today since the weather map has turned that color, signifying a heat advisory for most of the state. Although the predicted high is only 93, the "heat index" --- whatever that is --- prediction is 106. What in the world did we do with ourselves before we knew there was such a thing as the heat index? More heavy rain predicted for overnight.

The under-reported story out of our big splash last week (total rainfall now estimated at up to three and a half inches in under an hour) involved a little girl in north Chariton sucked into an unprotected hilltop storm sewer entrance, then spat out alive a block or two away when the force of the water blew the grate off a lower secured entrance. Lucky kid. Lucky us. Just plain lucky all around.

The grass is cut, most of the potted plants watered, air conditioning turned up here and elsewhere --- so I'm free to pursue cooler pursuits today and grateful for that.


I do miss Iowa Public Television, absent from my viewing schedule mostly because I'm hesitant to mess with the rabbit ears after having figured out how to get one channel (WHO) to come in clearly after the dawn of the digital age. But not enough to subscribe to either a dish or cable hookup.

The good news is that many PBS programs can be viewed at PBS online and I see that "Season 8, Episode 2" of the "History Detectives" is available there. I'm going to have to find time to watch it. Browsing Google News this morning I came across an article from the Kirksville Daily Express reporting on a segment of that interesting program that deals with Henry Clay Dean's cane and the likeness of a copperhead snake upon it.

Dean, who spent a lot of time in Chariton before, during and after the Civil War, was perhaps the region's best known Copperhead --- an advocate of state's rights and therefore at that time a major fan of the Confederacy and the rights of the good white folks down thataway to enslave and in general dehumanize anyone they cared to. That's a little unfair, but only a little, on my part because he actually was opposed to the extension of slavery and believed slaves should be freed, but through gradual purchase from their owners by the federal government rather than emancipation. But still ...

Henry Clay, a Methodist preacher and non-practicing lawyer, arrived in southern Iowa in 1850 to preach first in the Keosauqua, then the Fairfield, circuit of that denomination. He also managed to get appointed chaplain of the U.S. Senate in 1855.

His home beginning in 1871, called Rebel's Cove, was located high above the Chariton River bottom just over the imaginary line separating Appanoose County (Iowa) and Putnam County (Missouri) southwest of Moulton and southeast of Centerville. The Appanoose County ghost town of Dean was named in his honor.

Although the house burned in Henry Clay's lifetime, taking one of the best private libraries in the area with it, its site, the nearby family cemetery and lots of scenic countryside along the river have been incorporated into Missouri's Rebel's Cove state conservation area, another of those places I intend to revisit --- one of these days.

For now, I'm anixious to see the "History Detectives" episode featuring his cane. His politics were deplorable, but he sure was an interesting guy --- also featured in one of Mark Twain's books, "Life on the Mississippi."

Postscript: Well, I did watch the Henry Clay Dean segment --- and it's worth watching. But as such things usually are, a little odd. In the first place, the segment implies that Dean's descendants, many of whom still are around in northern Missouri, weren't that aware of his place in history (they are); and that Iowa/Missouri historians and history buffs arent' aware of him either (they are). My favorite part was the closing statement of the segment --- that Dean, no longer feeling welcome in the "North," moved south to Missouri. Well, that's true, in a way --- about three miles south into Missouri. Oh well, at least the program established the authenticity of the Copperhead cane.


Ed said...

I watched that episode along with most episodes of History Detectives. The one this week has a very interesting splurb on Andrew Jackson's mouth stolen off the U.S.S. Constitution. Who knew?

Frank D. Myers said...

After watching the setment, just added a postscript. Interesting, but my favorite part was the statement that after the war, no longer feeling welcome in the North, he moved south to Missouri --- which is true in a way: About three miles south.