Thursday, September 19, 2013

Bonnots Mill; Fall Supper Time Is Here!

It’s that time again—when all the local parishes are having their fall suppers. To find out what’s when, you can either look at the gigantic Coke Building sign on Jefferson Street and the Expressway, or you can look at the schedule on the Catholic Missourian’s website.

Sunday was Bonnots Mill. St. Louis of France parish always gets the award (in my opinion) for most scenic parish hall space. It’s up on a bluff overlooking the Osage River, with only oaks and ash trees between you and the deep blue sky. (For more pictures of this, see one of my earlier posts about Bonnots Mill.)

We got there in midafternoon, so we missed the lunchtime and dinnertime rushes. It was ham cooked with pineapple, and German pot roast, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, sauerkraut, coleslaw, homemade pickled beets and bread-and-butter pickles, applesauce, a platter of sliced yellow and red heirloom tomatoes, and homemade bread.

Plus, as always, your choice of desserts from the glorious dessert table.

The “country market” had a nice selection of bake sale items, canned salsa and preserves, as well as some great-looking garden-fresh vegetables, including sweet corn, some beautiful eggplants, and tremendous, puckery, deep pinkish-red heirloom tomatoes and yellow tomatoes. (Oh, we will miss them in January!)

Someone at the parish has created a bunch of nice postcards of the St. Louis of France church (with its distinctive “Star of David” on the steeple) and of the town of Bonnots Mill—several of the postcards were reprints of historic photos—and all these were for sale. (Ten cents a piece!)

Our m.o. is to go for a walk after the picnic—it helps after such a great meal! So we drove to the town of Bonnots Mill (as opposed to hiking straight down the side of the bluff between parish hall and church). Sue likes to take pictures of antique buildings and the railway. (And so do I—but I don’t do nearly as well as her!)

There’s some really cool stuff in Bonnots Mill. Here’s the historic Dauphine Hotel, which opened for business in 1875. Now it’s a bed and breakfast. (Oh, and that’s the post office, to the right.)

While we were walking around, a fellow in a pickup stopped and told Sue that the church was open this afternoon, if we wanted to go up there and take pictures of the inside.

Oh, boy! We love seeing the interiors of these churches, and we’d never seen the inside of this one before. What a treat!

But even more of a treat: There were people inside! We met a friendly lady named Jeanne Knollmeyer, who chatted with us about the history of the church. Much of our discussion revolved around music, since the church had a guest organist that day, a talented fellow from Clinton, Missouri, named Sam. (Is it Sam Lucas? I can’t recall his last name, but the Internet reveals that a fellow with that name is the organist at the Clinton United Methodist Church.) Anyway—he was up in the choir loft playing, beautifully, the church’s hundred-year-old organ.

It sounded great—the acoustics in the church are superior, and the organ had a nice sound and seemed perfectly in tune. Beautiful music, the first time we’d been in that beautiful, historic church. What a treat!

Next Sunday (Sept. 22) is Frankenstein—Our Lady Help of Christians parish is having its supper. This is a special year for them, as the church is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year. It’s definitely going to be a party there this year! And they always have such good homemade whole-hog sausage . . .

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Neoscona crucifera, Our Little Friend in the Doorway

Yes, it’s “another one of our little friends,” a Neoscona crucifera. Allow me to introduce you. This sturdy, fuzzy, orb-weaving spider constructs her bug-snaring traps (a.k.a. “webs”) around dusk. Then she takes down the whole shebang each morning—consuming her threads, so as not to waste material.

Therefore, it’s too dark for me to get a picture of her in her web at night!

She’s almost certainly a descendant, or at least a relative, of the neosconas we’ve had around the house as long as we’ve lived here. I’m glad for this species’ habit of recycling webs every morning, since otherwise I’d be walking through them all the time. One year, a neoscona built her web each night across our back porch steps.

But this year, this neoscona habitually builds her web right in the way of our front door each night. Yes, I have to keep in mind she does, in case I ever have to dash outdoors some evening!

A word about the name. As you know, I prefer to use scientific names, when I can determine them, because they’re far more precise. And respectful, I think. The common name for this remarkable animal is “barn spider,” and it’s problematic, because other spiders are called “barn spider,” too. (Plus, I resent any comparison of our house to a dusty, cavernous structure for holding horses, tractors, cows, and chickens!)

Anyway, we call other organisms by their genus names (such as iris and asparagus)—what’s to keep me from continuing the trend?

Besides—it’s kind of a cute name. Although “crucifera” must refer to some cross-shaped something on her body (her spinnerets, maybe?), I haven’t been able to learn what “Neoscona” means. The “neo-” surely means “new”; but I don’t know what “scona” means. Meanwhile, I’ll think of those sweet little biscuits the British have with tea: “Neoscona”? . . . Newbiscuit. (Hey, it works for me!)

By day, Ms. Neoscona hides like this in the upper corner of our doorway, making herself as little as possible. Surely you won’t notice me here. She’s almost covering up her little eyes.

At night, she builds her magnificently detailed, wheel-shaped web and makes a fine living off the many insects that flutter toward our dusk-to-dawn porch light.

There was a time when I would have squished her unceremoniously with a broom or sprayed her mercilessly with a garden hose. Thankfully, those days are long past, because I realize that each time I kill a creature, some part of me suffers, as well. So despite my distaste for occasionally stepping into their webs, I give spiders a break. They are fellow Earthlings; they do us vastly more good than harm; and when all’s said and done, they just want to spend their brief lives eating insects, quietly fulfilling their humble destinies. It’s our choice to fear them or to marvel at them. Trust me, it’s much more fun to do the latter!