Tuesday, September 29, 2009

More Frankenstein for You

Here are a few more pictures from the Frankenstein fall festival, which was Sunday.

I felt they ought to be in a separate post because they don't have a lot to do with the festival, per se; plus that previous post was getting a little long, it seemed.

Anyway, here are a few pictures of the church's exterior, and then some photos of the church's cemetery.

On the cemetery, the boneyard, the bury-patch, the marble orchard: Yeah, we have fun and go to the festivals and enjoy watching the kiddies do the bean-bag toss. We pig out on the excellent home-baked chow. But we also like to walk through the old cemeteries.

There are some very old graves in the Frankenstein cemetery. A large number of tombstones are written in German. I'm sure many of the individuals buried here were the founders of the community.

I have to say that the old custom of having a cemetery in the churchyard must go far in helping people keep everything . . . in "perspective." I think our society likes to pretend that death doesn't happen; graves are locked away from us in special plots of ground, segregated from our daily lives, so that we don't have to be reminded of death often, unless we whoosh past it while driving (which is desensitizing), or if we choose to visit it.

But the people who put these stones here wanted us to see them. Us! . . . Yes, us. The people from the future.

But when the cemetery is right there each time you go to church--right in the center of town, right next to the playground, right there in the background of the fall festival, the summer picnics, the wedding receptions and baptisms, some of the most significant moments of our lives--it helps remind us of mortality, of history, of ancestry. It's not necessarily a downer.

And it adds a silent--yet distinctly present--voice to the chorus of sensations all around us.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Frankenstein Fall Supper

Man, oh, man, is this a great time of year to live in mid-Missouri. We're right in the thick of fall festival time, just like autumn itself is officially here, with cooler temperatures and trees that are coloring up.

Today, I'll be a woman-of-few-words and simply post some pictures from yesterday's jaunt to Frankenstein, where the nice people of Our Lady of Help Parish had their annual fall supper.

The menu was homemade country sausage (which is really, really good--not greasy, and fairly mild; very meaty), turkey and dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans spiked with a bunch of black pepper, homemade coleslaw (the vinegar kind, very light, just the way I like it), applesauce, and--the soul food for us German-types--sauerkraut, in this case, augmented with white beans.

And then there's the bread basket, butter, and jelly, and last, but not least, your choice of dessert.

I seee-lected a nice piece of peeeee-cawn pie. Sue and Bonnie both picked up pieces of blackberry pie. Ooh-la-la. All this food is fit for a king, and we gotta eat it!

After eating, we didn't spend too much time looking around at the country store, the bake sale, the beer garden, and such, but we did linger each time the kiddie train passed by. Those kids enjoy it so much, it's a pleasure just to watch them.

The church in Frankenstein is lovely, and we did linger for a while in its sanctuary, appreciating the old wooden pews and the lovely ornamentation, including peaceful statuary, beautiful stained glass, and excellent decorative wall paintings.

If I were to decorate a church, I think I'd make it look something like this. Or at least, I'd want it to feel like this.

Finally, finally, finally, if this post has encouraged you at all, get out your calendar: Next Sunday is Linn (St. George Parish). Sunday, Oct. 11 is Bonnots Mill (St. Louis Parish).

Here's a flyer for proof:

Oktoberfest 2009

Thanks to Mayor Landwehr, I found out about this little video of the Old Munichburg Oktoberfest. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. And in this case, a video is worth a thousand pictures.

It all went very well--there was rain in the morning, but it had stopped by the time the festival officially began. And for the rest of the day, the weather was pretty much perfect. Just a few gusty winds, and a couple brief sprinkles. Sunny, blue skies.

There was a group of visitors from Muenchberg, our partner city in Bavaria, and they seemed to enjoy their visit, almost as much as Jefferson Citians enjoyed meeting them.

The Lions had their fund-raising grape stomp; the Loehnigs and the Wurstjaegers (I've told you about them before) performed at the traditional music stage.

The organizers are perfecting the event--this year the kids' zone, German music and folk crafts, and the German supper, were all loosely grouped together, while the more raucous beer garden and its blues and rock music, the vendors, and the car show were in another area. I think separating the mellow areas from the rowdier crowd made everyone a little more comfortable.

This year I sensed that the festival workers were in a pretty good mood--busy, but on top of things, and enjoying the day. Which is a good place to be.

And we sold loads of Capitol Brewery tee-shirts, and about a ton of Hott & Asel baloney.

Good day. Good day.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Munichburg Part 2

(Continuing from yesterday.)

So thank goodness a neighborhood association formed, just about the time we moved here, composed of business owners, residents, and others who care about the district. (Notably absent from membership are renters and their non-resident landlords, but no surprise there.)

The Old Munichburg Association’s been busy these last nine years attacking the problems on numerous fronts.

--Lobbying the City Council to pay more attention to our neighborhood and all the other historic/endangered neighborhoods in town.

--“Branding” the neighborhood with “Historic Old Munichburg” banners, flower plantings, decorative street sign posts, and (soon) a small park and landscaped welcome sign on Jefferson and Dunklin.

--Getting a Neighborhood Watch program started.

--An ongoing oral and pictorial history archives project.

--Getting a CID (Community Improvement District) program started, wherein landowners agree to be taxed slightly more for a number of years in order to get the city to put our sidewalks and gutters higher on its list of priorities. (It really makes sense for the city to hire a single, good contractor to replace all the sidewalks on a block, instead of each property owner doing it for himself, which would lead to a patchwork of more-or-less poorly done concrete work.)

--Getting approximately twenty buildings in the neighborhood placed on the National Register of Historic Places; this was done in one big application, and many of the properties are contiguous, thus in a “district.” This of course decreases the possibility of having the charming brick homes in our neighborhood mowed down to make, oh, a convention center, or yet another parking lot for state-government workers.

--Initiating and participating in an annual Kristkindelfest celebration in early December, which has been a fruitful partnership between the neighborhood’s most prominent, historic, ethnic German church, and the local retail and gift shops.

And last, but certainly not least in terms of energy and planning:

--Hosting an annual Oktoberfest fund-raiser, which takes place in the Dunklin/Broadway/Jefferson area on the last Saturday in September. Live music, German dinners, craft and vendor booths, dachshund derby, kids’ area, beer garden, and so forth.

And this festival is tomorrow! If you’re nearby, I hope to see you there.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Munichburg Part 1

I’ve mentioned our neighborhood before, but today and tomorrow I want to tell you more about it.

The reason is that Saturday is our neighborhood association’s big fund-raising event, its annual Oktoberfest. Here is a link for more information.

We live in Jefferson City’s Old Munichburg neighborhood, which is basically a “Germantown.” In the mid-1800s, it developed as its own little village, separate from Jefferson City, which was to the north, on the other side of Wears Creek (which is now the Highway 63/54 expressway).

Jeff City’s official downtown is on a hill close to the Missouri River—the main street is High Street, which runs along the crest of the hill. Hence Jeff City’s downtown is known locally as “uptown.”

Meanwhile, Munichburg developed to the south, on the other side of Wear’s Creek, and later became known as the “South Side.” It was primarily settled by Germans, and many of the folks immigrated from the same town in Bavaria: Muenchberg.

The German immigrants called their Missouri settlement “Muenchberg” after their hometown, but English speakers, overhearing this word, interpreted it as “Munichburg,” since they were familiar with the name of Munich (which is a much, much larger city than Muenchberg). And the name “Munichburg” stuck.

So Munichburg developed its own little business district, centered on Dunklin and its intersections with Madison and Jefferson. A few businesses in this area have long, long histories. Busch’s Florist, for example, has been around since 1890. The ECCO Lounge has been there, under different names, since the middle 1800s. Even the local Coca-Cola bottler is a direct descendent of its predecessors, all basically at the same location: Moerschel Products (1922), the Capitol Brewery (1892), Wagner Brewery (1870s), and Gundelfinger Brewery (1847).

In addition to these businesses, there were groceries, dry goods stores, hotels, funeral parlors, even a separate fire department.

There were German-speaking churches, too. The Central UCC was formed 151 years ago as the Deutsche Evangelische Central Gemeinde—Central German Evangelical Church.

Even the house we live in now, our home, was originally built in 1874 as a German Methodist Episcopal Church (a way for German speakers to participate in Methodism the way the AME Church developed as Methodism for African Americans). My dad (who should know) contends that our house is the oldest structure in the city originally built as a house of worship that is still standing. Hmmm.

But you know . . . things change. That’s all history. Cars revolutionized people’s neighborhood choices. The town grew and Munichburg was absorbed. The Germans lost their accents, the Anglos started drinking beer, and both were assimilated and mixed across the town, constituting a more generic “white” population.

By the 1970s and ’80s, Munichburg had become an “inner city” neighborhood, endangered by neglect and low-income rentals. As the old-timers died or moved away, nonresident landlords purchased the sturdy brick homes and began renting them out, speculating that the property might be developed someday as a new convention center or something.

(For as long as I can remember, Jefferson City has had wet dreams about building a big convention center, an income-producing panacea for a community that refuses to increase its taxes, annex adjacent neighborhoods, or allow riverboat gambling. But this is another entire topic.)

In addition to the landlords and their disinterest in upkeep (much less renovation), the neighborhood’s infrastructure has deteriorated. The sidewalks and gutters on our street are the same ones installed in the 1920s (hence, you can hardly see the sidewalks anymore, and the re-re-re-resurfaced street is nearly level with the curb in many places). . . . Anyway.

The Old Munichburg Association was our district’s response to this situation, and it’s made some tremendous progress since it organized in 2000. That is why I encourage you to attend the Oktoberfest this Saturday—it has to do with historic preservation, with community, and most importantly, with the future.

Black Walnut Update: Harvest Time

Time for another update on the walnuts' progress! I feel like I skipped a few weeks, but there was "no change" for the longest time, it seemed--and now they're all ripe and falling off the tree. At this point, the tree is almost bare of walnuts, and the branches that were drooping so low (one even onto the ground), have rebounded now that the weight is off.

The leaflets are falling, too, turning yellow and brown. They sprinkle and flutter down with each breeze, or when rains fall.

The trio of walnuts I've been showing you have already fallen and gotten mixed up with all the rest. So here's a different trio.

As the nuts mature, the hull (just under the leathery green part) changes drastically, from dense and nearly woody (something like an extremely unripe pear) to fibrous and squishy.

And black! See?

I think the thing that makes them fall--not counting harassment from the squirrels (we'll get to them in a minute)--is that the hull gets so loose and soft, the weight of the entire fruit detaches it from the stem.

There's supposed to be a Boy Scout from Moniteau County coming to collect them this year, as a way to help fund his trip to Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico. But he hasn't shown up yet. (Maybe it's been too rainy and damp; you should really collect walnuts on a dry day!)

So we've been pitching the nuts into a casual pile at the base of the tree they came from. Which is mighty convenient for the squirrels, who have built a nest in the same tree. Talk about the life of Riley!

It's rainy today again, but each time the rain stops, the squirrels creep around the branches of the walnut, causing the leaves to rustle and the boughs to toss. They remind me of monkeys at the zoo.

Here are links to my previous posts about the progress of our nuts this year:

August 22

July 16

June 23

June 6 (which includes photos of pickled walnuts, too)

May 21

May 8 (when they were just flowers)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Frugivory in Early Autumn

As you might remember from an earlier post, breakfast doesn’t feel complete to me without fruit, and fruit itself—with its punchy colors, its sweetness, its cool intensity—goes far in making me feel, well, happy . . . or happier.

I want to share with you one of my recent finds, down at Schnuck’s in the produce section: Mars seedless grapes, grown by Two Hawks Vineyards over in St. James. (Yes, Missouri has a lot of grape growers! Look here for a listing.)

Here’s a picture of a bowl of these lovely, sweet grapes, mixed with morsels of kiwi. The combination of colors really appeals to me.

The grapes remind me a lot of concords, in that they have a dark skin that can slip off; and the flavor is rather similar, as well, though more mellow than concords, and lacking the candylike “SweeTarts” taste that concords can have.

And of course, seedless grapes are quite nice for the table.

Yes, I’ll still get me a package or two of concords, since they’re in season right now, and make up a concord grape pie or a grape kuchen.

And the fruits are just one sign of it, aren’t they. It’s getting to be fall, and yellow leaflets sprinkle down from the walnut tree with each breezy gust. Maples around here are starting to show color.

It’s just time to think about pears, apples, and pumpkins, instead of, say, berries, peaches, and beans. The seasons keep turning, don't they.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Letter from the Editor

Well, a brief letter, anyway. Yes, I am an editor of books, but don’t hold it against me. My intention with this blog is to have a bit of an outlet from the daily grind of reading other people’s stuff and, instead, to express my own thoughts—as if mine were as worthy as someone with a publishing contract’s.

When people find out I’m an editor, they often say, “Ugh! How can you do that all day?” You’d think it was as icky as being a plumber, up to my knees is sewage all day. No, it’s not that bad. (Well, usually.) But I have to admit that one of the big challenges of the job is this: Anyone else who reads a book can just stop, if they decide they don’t like it for some reason. But an editor has to keep reading, and rereading, and fixing—basically, until the thing is good to read!

And I’d like to add that rarely do editors get to choose what they edit; people and publishers approach you with their sundry manuscripts and offer you money, and then you get to work. It’s not like going to the bookstore, heading to your favorite section (for me, that would be natural history, food writing, or regional studies), and selecting the manuscripts that look fascinating.

Instead, you wind up editing books that nobody would dream of reading (or correcting) for free. Well, it seems that way. Especially as a freelancer, when you are given manuscripts that no in-house editor wants to look at. Thank goodness there are nonalcoholic beers, or I would be in real, real trouble.

Anyway, I came to this realization because I recently had the opportunity to edit a forthcoming publication that tells the story—in words, old newspaper clippings, and photographs—of Jefferson City’s breweries, saloons, and beer gardens (particularly, though not exclusively, as a German cultural phenomenon). The tone is rather scholarly, but a spirit of nostalgia and a host of fun, cool facts give this full-bodied publication some sparkle and a frothy head. Like all good history, it evokes the feel of the time for the reader.

. . . They say that one’s “perfect job” is the one that is so interesting, and so enjoyable, and so satisfying, that it doesn’t “feel” like work. And I realize that this manuscript was so interesting to me that it didn’t feel like a job. Instead, it felt like a guilty pleasure, something fun, which was distracting me from my “real” work, the manuscripts that kill me with boredom (even if they help me pay the bills).

But if there is a way to work only, or mainly, or even fairly regularly, on books that I care about, and be paid for it, I have no idea how to make that happen. Or maybe it’s a perceptual problem; as Joni Mitchell put it, “Pleasure moves on too early; trouble leaves too slow.”

Meanwhile, as this particular book’s production schedule moves forward into design, layout, manufacturing, and finally marketing, I can be a cheerleader for it without perjuring myself in the process. I feel a sense of pride and tangential “ownership” in that I truly care about this one. (And not just because my dad wrote it.) Sometimes, indeed, work doesn’t seem like work.

Notes on the pictures: This post features some images that won’t appear in the book—we had a photo shoot one afternoon with some local brewery memorabilia, and these are some of the “outtakes,” which I mainly took for my own jollies. Harriet Waldo, here in town, has a nice collection of “breweriana” and was kind enough to allow us to take photographs for the forthcoming book. Capitol Brewery, which had previously been named Moerschel Brewery, closed in 1947; it was located on Dunklin, not very far from where I live today.

Stories abound about the old neighborhood brewery. In the early 1900s, for instance, my great-grandpa would send my grandpa and his brother—as boys—down the few blocks to Moerschel’s to “pick up a bucket of beer.” I have heard that my grandpa, as they traipsed back from Moerschel’s with the beer, was strong and flexible enough to swing the bucket of suds clear around in a vertical circle—over his head—without spilling any. (Because spilling a bucket of beer would have been rather tragic!)

(By the way, just because I love beer and its cultural history and stuff doesn’t mean I’m falling off the wagon. So don’t worry, friends!)

Monday, September 21, 2009

Argiope aurantia and Egg Case

On the morning of September 13, when we were heading out the door to go to Kansas City to see the last stage of the Tour of Missouri, we noticed that "Mrs. Lady" (our pet name for the Argiope aurantia that has built her web by our front door) had just blown an egg case.

Woo-hoo! As you might recall, we've been tracking our argiope's development since well before she was born. See here for a picture of the egg case she almost certainly hatched out of.

And here is a picture of her (we're pretty sure it's the same one) when she had her web temporarily in our yuccas. (Including a nice view of the, um, posteriormost end of her opisthosoma.)

Anyway, I think it's beautiful to see the cycle of life continue. And argiopes, also known as black and yellow garden spiders, are gloriously big. And they always seem to gravitate toward the tomato plants--they guard them from hopping and flying pests like graceful, tiger-striped protectresses.

For a long time I was quite arachnophobic, but argiopes were one of the first spiders I felt warmly toward; when one or two take up residence in your garden, they stay there all summer and become like strange little friends, miniature pet tigers, pouncing on entrapped grasshoppers, giving them a little sedative to take the "edge" off, then wrapping them up like a burrito to eat later on.

This is the first time, I think, that we have caught an argiope so soon after she's created an egg case.

Her skinniness was almost shocking. And as she hobbled around and around the case, weaving the web structure that will keep it safe through the entire winter, her legs looked wobbly and clumsy. As with all female creatures, giving birth can't be easy on her system, either. She looked exhausted. She looked sore. But she still had to weave the support webbing before she could haul off and rest.

While I was taking pictures of her, she did pause for a few moments on a tomato leaf. I didn't notice it until I looked at the pictures later, but she's actually resting on her pedipalps, using them in addition to her wobbly legs, to support her bod.

Then she got back to work on the scaffolding that surrounds and supports the egg case. No, she wasn't moving very fast at all.

She went around and around.

. . . At this point, a week later, she's back in her lovely orb, catching bugs, and looking fine. Getting her strength back. Getting ready for her next egg case!

I think, like all her kind, she's hoping it will be a good long time yet before the deathly frosts come.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Gallatin, Missouri: The Corner Café

My notes about Gallatin can’t be complete without a small restaurant review. By now, I hope you know that Sue and I do appreciate high-class, artistic, and even healthy food as well as down-home food. The latter isn’t usually the most excellent food you can consume, but there are still reasons to celebrate it and enjoy it now and then. And in small towns, it’s pretty hard to escape. In France, you eat snails. In diners, you eat burgers.

With the Corner Café, there are definitely pros and cons. First, the cons. Numbers 1 through, like, 54 are: It’s smoky in there. Cigarettes, cigarettes, cigarettes. I mean, I can handle some smoke, but my eyes started really burning. There was no designated smoking section. The ceiling fans were all spinning like crazy, too. Amazingly, there were no ashtrays on the tables. But I think anyone who wants one can have one.

We went in there about an hour after the Tour of Missouri passed through; the place wasn’t particularly crowded, but MAN did it smell of smoke.

Here is another con: The restroom had a big sign saying something like, “Don’t put toilet paper in stool.” . . . Um, say what? . . . Does that mean what I think it means? When I washed my hands and pushed the paper towel into the trash can, it looked like others had interpreted the sign the way I feared it meant. Oh my gosh, don’t they have plumbing here? (I mean: Quick! Call a plumber!)

Okay: Maybe by now, a week after we were there, that little problem has been fixed. And no, it didn’t smell like doodie in there. It didn’t smell bad in there at all. It just smelled like . . . cigarettes.

Are you completely grossed out by now? Okay, hold on. One more “con.”

It really took a while for our food to appear. I think it was a kitchen thing and not a waiter thing. I know this isn’t fast food, but then it wasn’t very busy when we were there. We had a copy of the St. Joe newspaper at our table, and we read that. But we were starting to get kind of annoyed.

Just when we were about to say “enough,” the food appeared on white oval plates. Hmmm.

Hey, it was actually pretty good! Sue got a Southwest-style chicken sandwich, and I got a burger that came with pepper jack cheese, bacon, ranch dressing (to the side, thank you), actual green leaf lettuce, actual ripe red tomato, and fries. A ripe tomato! This little café has achieved something that eludes all the corporate-ass buying power of Chili’s, Rubee Tewsdee’s, and all those types of places: Red, ripe, in-season tomatoes!


And the bacon on the burger? The real deal, thick cut, and juicy. Mmm.

Nahhh, this isn’t “art cooking,” but there is a way to make burgers be good, and this little café did the burger right.

Other stuff on the menu included various other diner foods, plus some kind of chain-brand pizza. I mean, it’s a pretty typical small-town diner, you know? Relaxed. And an excellent place to hang out if you’re a smoker.

And the place does have a reputation for its smokiness—we got that from two different sources while we were exploring the town. When we told one lady we had eaten at the Corner Café, she immediately chirped back: “Oh, I’m sorry!”

You’re probably wondering what to make of this review, and frankly, so am I. Is it thumbs up, or thumbs down?

Well, it depends. If you’re a smoker, then it’s a definite thumbs up—freedom to enjoy a cigarette before, during, and after your meal! If you can’t stand cigarette smoke, it’s a definite thumbs down; you will hate-hate-hate it. If you’re flexible when it comes to air quality, and you appreciate small-town diners, then you’ll probably enjoy the place. I was favorably impressed by the burger and by Sue’s chicken sandwich. The prices were reasonable, the people were friendly enough. And yeah, we were there in part to support a locally owned business, the backbone of America.

It is what it is.

One more comment. Next to the cash register was a basket of cookies—apparently homemade, packed in threes in plastic wrap. Chocolate chip; white chocolate and macadamia nut . . . Mmm. Okay, when I was paying the bill, I bought a three-pack of the latter to eat while we were driving home.

A few hours later, when we got back on the highway as we were leaving Adam-ondi-Ahman, we opened them. And guess what.

The cookies were delicious. But even after removing them from the plastic wrap, we could taste the cigarette smoke right in the cookies. And I think that sums it all up pretty well.

Corner Cafe on Urbanspoon

Gallatin, Missouri, Part 3

Gallatin, Missouri, has some serious history. For one thing, Gallatin is where Frank James (brother of Jesse) was put on trial for an 1881 train robbery during which two individuals were killed. Former Confederate General Joseph Shelby testified on his behalf, and in this trial James was acquitted. Which was no big shocker, given the Civil War politics of this part of the state.

Gallatin is also famous for having one of the few remaining, operational rotary jails—called “squirrel cage jails”—a rotating cylinder with a pie-shaped cell for each inmate. National Register of Historic Places.

But the biggest historical significance attached to Gallatin is that it is the second official address for the human race! It turns out the Garden of Eden, the very birthplace of our species, wasn’t far from here (it was in present-day Independence, in Jackson County); and in fact an area just north of Gallatin, called Adam-ondi-Ahman, is where Adam and Eve resided after their expulsion from the Garden.

Well, that is what the Mormons believe. With their prophet Joseph Smith’s direction, they settled in the area in 1838, and their numbers grew rapidly. On August 6, they attempted to vote in the town of Gallatin but were confronted by about 200 non-Mormons. The ensuing brawl and skirmish is seen as the event that started the Mormon War in Missouri.

I think we can all agree that this was not exactly one of Missouri’s proudest moments. But I guess you can see why the non-Mormons were worried: The Mormons were starting to outnumber them, and they were wanting to vote. They kept to themselves and didn’t mix very well with the non-Mormons. They had different political ideas, came from a different part of the country. Not to mention how downright weird their religious beliefs must have seemed. Frankly, they were viewed as a cult.

So the Latter-Day Saints were driven out of the state and ultimately found their homeland out West, in Utah. But they still believe that Adam-ondi-Ahman is where Adam, the first human, lived and died and where he will appear again to meet with humanity at the end of time.

So it’s a big deal, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints owns the land in this area. It is clear that bus tours come here. And there are fences preventing you from traipsing through this sacred ground, but well-marked gravel roads lead to clean picnic areas, parking spots, and viewpoints that have interpretive signs telling about the history of the area and the Mormon settlement.

It’s an incredibly peaceful place, and there is very little trash about. I suspect someone from the church comes out regularly and picks up litter, just like you would pick up trash from the grounds of a church. It’s that clean.

And yeah, when you see a place, and you know that it is holy ground to somebody, you can’t help but be awed by it. It is a large, beautiful valley bordered by the Grand River and by hills sacred to the Mormons.

Once the Mormons were expelled, the Missourians who disliked them renamed the area “Cravensville.” And certainly the Mormons do take a lot of ribbing about their beliefs. Even Robert Ramsay, in his scholarly, neutral-toned book Our Storehouse of Missouri Place Names, writes amusedly about it, recalling Mark Twain’s quest throughout the Holy Land in Innocents Abroad to locate the tomb of Adam: “Had he known all the treasures of his native State, he might have spared himself the labor of journeying so far to weep over the sepulchre of his earliest ancestor. Apparently he was quite unaware that the historic spot had already been identified and located in his own Missouri.”

One of the people I spoke to in Gallatin (a non-Mormon) had told us that the Mormons who take care of the Adam-ondi-Ahman property might make us feel “watched,” and we got the idea that we might be made to feel like undesirables—but we didn’t experience anything that made us feel uncomfortable.

I’m sure that the Mormons do keep a close eye on people who look like they might be visiting the site to make fun of it (or worse). I mean, if you had the history that they do in this area, wouldn’t you keep watch, too?

But if you’re in the area, I encourage you to visit Adam-ondi-Ahman and reflect on its history; among the many themes to contemplate here are the expulsion of Adam and Eve from their Garden, and the expulsion of Latter-Day Saints from the many settlements they built, and from the state, here in this nation where we cherish our Freedom of Religion.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Clara Day

Today’s a special day in our family, because it’s the anniversary of when Grandma Renner was born—on a farm in Kincaid, Kansas, on September 17, 1897. She grew up in Washington, Missouri, and lived her entire adult life here in Jefferson City. She lived to be nearly 101 years old.

The things she saw. Horse-and-buggies. Cars, radio, television, airplanes, lunar landings . . . Ballpoint pens . . . Digital alarm clocks . . .

Anyway, I just wanted to say that Sue and I commemorated her a little this evening with some “everything” pizza from Pizza Hut (the Pizza Hut on Christie Lane is right across the highway from where Grandma’s house was, so she became a fan of it).

She always wanted to pronounce it “peetzer.”

We also picked up some “peach shodie” from the supermarket—back in the 1970s, when Nehi or one of those companies came out with peach-flavored soda, Grandma decided she loved the stuff. And she always pronounced it “peach shodie.” Maybe it was just a collision of enunciation, or maybe it was a denture thing.

Anyway, it’s a fond memory—of Grandma sitting in her chair next to her big picture window, sipping that fizzy orange stuff so contentedly.

(Yes, my brother, my cousins: This is indeed one of Grandma Renner’s glasses; remember them, with the tulips?)

When I was preparing for this post, I looked through an old photo album of my parents’, and I decided to take pictures of some of the pictures (yes, we do have a scanner; no, I don’t know how to use it).

Because Grandma had such a long, gradual decline, I find it hard sometimes to remember her when she “had it goin’ on.” In part, it’s because she always seemed “old” to me—I was the youngest of all my generation, and my mom was the youngest of her siblings. Grandma was sixty-eight when I was born. And sixty-eight was a lot older in 1965 than it is today.

Also, Grandma had extremely poor hearing, which prevented her from wanting to go out a lot, and I often had a hard time communicating with her, since I was a soft-spoken little girl.

. . . Anyway, I’m posting these pictures to help me celebrate Grandma the way I want to remember her. Like on Christmas morning, 1970, when she was explaining something to me.

Or the day after my birthday in 1971.

She was a really warm and nurturing grandma.


Then, on September 17, 2001, the day Grandma Renner would have been 104 (three years after Grandma’s death), we welcomed little Daniel August into the family—Grandma Renner’s newest great-grandson, my brother’s second child.

The timing was a coincidence, supposedly.

. . . But I’m not sure I quite believe that.

So happy birthday, Grandma, wherever you are, and super-happy-birthday, Daniel. We’re tipping our peach shodies to you, too!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Gallatin, Missouri, Part 2

So Saturday we were in Gallatin to see the Tour of Missouri racers whoosh by, and after the race, we were getting a load of the town square. Not too much shakin’, to be honest, but we were jazzed up by what Sheryl Warren was doing with her restaurant, Seasons on the Square.

Since it was midafternoon, and that restaurant wasn’t open yet, we decided to check out the nearby joint called “The Corner Café.” Definitely one of those “local color” establishments. But I’ll do a proper review of it in another post.

After eating there, we continued our stroll around the square and got sucked into a shop called Elbert’s Department Store (“Big and Tall Men’s Clothing”) (660-663-3541).

Look, we couldn’t resist—they had handmade signs on the windows advertising Levi’s for $29.99, and you can’t beat that with a stick. We were sucked in.

And we had a blast! Realize: I usually hate clothing shopping. But I sensed something different here: A complete lack of pretentiousness. Oh, no, I’m not a stick-figure skinny heroin-chic anorexic model type? . . . That’s okay!

Here is something else: The two women working there were actually helpful and friendly. Afterwards Sue and I were trying to remember the last time we were in a department store and actually had a clerk help us find our sizes among all the clothes on the racks, provide tips on shrinkage of one brand versus another, offer opinions on how clothes were fitting, present other sized garments to try. . . . And here we had two nice ladies helping us find clothing.

So we did buy, indeed. And more than just Levi’s . . . Sue got her first-ever pair of Carhartt jeans (ooh-la-la), and I got . . . well . . .

Yeahhhhh . . . they’re genuine Big Smiths. (And no, I don’t intend to wear these to client meetings!)

I should also mention that we were indeed a pair of women in a men’s clothing store, and the women helping us didn’t bat an eye. Sure, jeans are jeans and it’s not unusual for women to buy men’s Levi’s, especially in rural areas where people are more practical when it comes to rugged clothes for gardening and farming.

But even when it became clear that Sue and I were “together,” there was no difference in how we were treated. I know a lot of my friends in bigger cities would think it is outright dangerous to “come out” in a small town, but you know what? Sometimes the small town is incredibly tolerant—even appreciative—and welcoming of good folks who are eccentric, or different, or have different views.

And we simply enjoyed our afternoon there in Gallatin; in retrospect I’m so glad we were too late to see the cyclists start in Chillicothe, because if we hadn’t been forced to hopscotch ahead of the pedaling peloton, we would have missed this fine small town.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Gallatin, Missouri, Part 1

While the fastest cyclists in the world were touring Missouri this week, we did our own mini Tour of Missouri ourselves. Nooo, silly, not on bikes, but with my car. And this is why I haven’t been posting as often as usual. Plus, now that we spent a week out driving the wheels off my car, I’m behind with work, with groceries and other errands, with mowing the yard, well . . . with darn near everything. So I hope you’ll bear with some lateness and lameness.

We really did follow the cyclists, seeing them every day except for Tuesday and Wednesday. Thursday, they rode into Jeff City for a finish. Friday was the time trial in Sedalia (yes, and it was fascinating to watch). Yesterday was the final race, in Kansas City, and we saw them ride repeatedly around the curvy and hilly Liberty Memorial area as they rode circuits all the way to the river downtown and back.

But I want to talk about Saturday. We tried to make it to Chillicothe in time to see them start, but we underestimated how long it would take to drive there. We were still en route at 1 p.m., when the race started. So with Sue looking at the map and performing mental calculations of our route, mileage still to go, and speed, and those same projections for the riders, we determined that we should be able to make it to Gallatin before they arrived in that small town.

And we just barely made it!

And like the racers do, once our rushing and speeding was over, the kickin’ back and enjoyin’-the-day began.

Gallatin, Missouri: The seat of beautiful Daviess County; a town with a four-way stop.

The scene on the town square was already set up when we arrived: A forest of U.S. flags planted in the earth by the courthouse swayed in the breeze, and the sun blazed on the dusty downtown as kids, their folks, and the older folks all gathered along plastic police tape to see the spectacle.

A van with loudspeakers preceded the racers along with the early contingent of cop cars and motorcycles. The van hesitated while one of the occupants announced what was going to happen. “I want everyone here to say ‘whoosh’ on the count of three: One, two, three . . .”

And everyone dutifully called out “Whoosh!”

The announcer then explained: “Okay, that’s just about the same time it will take for the riders to go through here!” (He then reminded everyone to stay out of the street, and so on.)

And then the racers came through, smooth like quicksilver but made of all muscles, tendons, bones, their sunglasses and helmets, their jerseys, their bikes, their tanned skin all shining.

Of course, it was amazing to see them; it always is. Their average speed that day was about 28 or 30 mph, I think.

But I’m sorry that I didn’t skip the view of the racers this time and focus on the faces of the people—like ol’ farmer Clem over there next to a vacant storefront. Or the three kids we saw later on, as they pedaled their bikes around the quiet sidewalks of the town square, their bike-enthusiasm switched completely on by the race.

It didn’t take much time for the streets and sidewalks to empty; the true cycling fanatics sped off to catch the stage finish in St. Joseph. And the locals stopped at the Farm Bureau tent for free hot dogs and watermelon slices or else just went straight back to whatever they were doing.

The whole place just cleared out. Saturday afternoon.

We wandered around, though. Plenty of beautiful, stately buildings down there, now vacant, needing attention, capital, a business, a market. It made me sad to see what looked like dilapidation in progress.

But as we walked and took pictures, we did feel a steady pulse, and I want to share that with you.

The first person we spoke to was standing in front of a striking mustard-yellow storefront, which appeared to hold the town’s only fine dining establishment, Seasons on the Square. We chatted about the bike race and about Gallatin in general, and about how the Tour of Missouri is great for tourism, particularly in shining the spotlight on smaller towns that could really use some publicity.

Or as I put it, “St. Louis and Kansas City are used to hosting national and world-class sporting events; but when was the last time Belle, Missouri, had the opportunity to be seen by a worldwide crowd of any type?”

We ended up going inside the restaurant to continue our conversation—the lady, Sheryl Warren, is the owner of Seasons, and she explained that she’s a nineteen-year resident of the area. She’s also a schoolteacher. (How about that! Two jobs!)

The restaurant wasn’t near opening yet (they would open at five), but I did get a chance to tell her I was impressed by her menu and wine list. Seasons offers a nice variety of Missouri-made wines as well as some other types for people who . . . just haven’t met the right Missouri wine for them yet.

The menu features appetizers of bruschetta, artichoke and white cheese dip, and something called a “portabella boat,” which is a grilled portabella cap topped with their signature artichoke and white cheese dip.

The entrees include chicken breasts stuffed with sun-dried tomatoes and basil and topped with marinara; grilled portabellas; smoked, grilled pork chops; flank steak; ribeye; grilled sea bass with a honey-lime glaze served on a vegetable mélange; sautéed, herbed shrimp tossed with angel hair pasta; and an ahi tuna steak.

Each entree comes with fresh-baked bread, a choice of dinner salad or soup, and a choice of one side. The entree prices range from ten to twenty dollars.

Sides include baked sweet or Irish potato, garlic mashed potatoes, baked steak fries, and a vegetable of the day. You can get a grilled chicken salad with chicken that’s been marinated in a Cabernet vinaigrette.

There’s a chicken sandwich and a half-pound sirloin burger, plus a children’s menu, too.

There’s a nice view of the lovely courthouse, and in case you haven’t picked up on it yet, the owner is friendly and great to talk to. Even before it was open for customers, the place had a good vibe because of her enthusiasm and sincerety.

Since I haven’t eaten a single bite at this restaurant, I can’t do any real kind of review of it, but I can tell you that the place looks great, comfortable, upscale without being snooty, and I guarantee you that the next time we’re in that neck of the woods, we’ll give it a try. And I encourage you to do the same.

Seasons on the Square
105 North Main
Gallatin, Mo. 64640

PS: I’m not the only one who’s noticed Seasons on the Square. See here for more information!