Thursday, June 30, 2011

Ghost Town and Death Mask (Adventure - Part Two)

Yes, there is a ghost town and a death mask in this post.... so, keep reading!

Buckle up... here's the quick version of my adventure to find "the sign".

After driving 2 hours south to the ole home country, we were joined by our cousin. He became the Clayton Magical History Tour guide.

Venturing down some roads where we encountered not another soul... very remote!

This road led us to the forgotten and abandoned ghost town of:


And to this circa 1900 country store where my grandfather and his brothers would buy supplies during their hunting trips.

My cousin explained that deer season in the early days lasted only two weeks. The men would load up an entire boxcar full of food, gear, and horses, then they would unload everything at the Yancopin store.

Next stop: Arkansas City, once a thriving river town full of showboats and commerce, but now Main Street looks empty and sad... a shell of its former self.

This is the town where my mother grew up, where my great grandfather and grandfather were sheriffs. Although it is still the county seat, most every one and thing has moved away, including the river which was once the life blood of this little community.

They were the Arkansas City River Rats.

My brother in front of the volunteer fire department's (hand-cranker) fire truck. Is it any wonder that half the town burned down in the 50's?

The little church where my mother was married in 1952.

And the beautiful baptistry font where my mother was baptized in 1929.

Next, I asked for the town museum's key where I found my grandfather's picture sporting his 1936 G-Man look.

My grandfather was personal friends with J.Edgar Hoover because he was the country's first sheriff to be trained at Quantico's FBI school (1936). My grandfather brought back to Arkansas all the modern crime-solving techniques of the day... fingerprinting and plaster cast-making.

By making plaster casts of a criminal's crime- scene- shoe prints, the Sheriff solved a local crime shortly after his training. Very early C.S.I. stuff.

In the town's museum I saw the actual shoes and casts related to that crime. Along with...

the criminal's death mask.

This mask used to hang on Sheriff Clayton's office wall, death masks being in vogue in the 30's. John Dillinger's death mask can be found at the FBI building in Washington.

Futhermore, lest, you think this was yet another Southern story of small towns, good ole boys and racism, my grandfather snuck (not a real word, but I love it too much to not use it.) this accused man out of the county jail under night's cover, avoiding an angry lynch mob.

My grandfather had a reputation among all types of people for being a fair, honest, trustworthy man. He made sure that this man had a fair trial.

But... the death mask became a warning to all potential criminals: No crimes in this county... not on Sheriff Clayton's watch!

The Desha County Courthouse
where both my grandfather and great-grandfather worked as Sheriffs and Collectors. My grandfather once kept his new bull in the pasture behind this building, and it was a unique day when the bull escaped running wildly through this building.

Ye Ole Drunk Tank

Don't ya think spending the night in this cell, with the only ventilation being this small window, would cure all drinking problems?

Next: Old church in the nearby Selma town.

Town? Well, actually just a wide place in the road.The Claytons had settled in Selma in the 1820's, but when the railroad was built, all the families moved toward the railroad and away from the mosquitoes.

Needing some TLC.

Doors were nailed shut. I peeked through the crack.

The earliest Arkansas-born Clayton (1831).

This Selma Cemetery headstone was of my great great grandfather, Chesley C. Clayton.

Chesley's father (James S. Clayton) had been a river boat captain and land speculator from South Carolina, arriving in Arkansas in 1828. He captained a steamboat route from Arkansas Post to New Orleans.

Sadly, at a young 29 years, James died in a New Orleans cholera epidemic. Hoping to find him at this spot, I did not.

Neither did I find his wife. So a mystery still surrounds those two.

I will be working on that.

Brother, Cousin, and Mom in front of the courthouse.

I didn't find "the sign", but I think I discovered a whole lot more.
I brought back a lot! Memories of a day spent with my 82 year-old-mom, big brother, and
second cousin Clayton (whom I never get to see) along with a better knowledge of family history.

Also... I brought back some really cool pictures taken with my new Canon EOS Rebel T2icamera... purchased totally with more proceeds from selling my clutter!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

De-Cluttering Venture Becomes an Adventure

Yellowed and fragile newspaper clippings, a letter dated 1945 from my dad to his parents explaining why he wanted to quit West Point, silly poems and stories from my youth, travel brochures from my mother's 1950 European trip, and lots of forgotten photographs are some of the items I have been digging through piece-by-piece. Whew.

I was very intrigued by the following photo. It is a picture I have never seen, probably snapped around 1956. Several things about the photo interest me. For one, it is an early color picture. Secondly, it is my grandfather and some of his brothers, along with a cousin. My grandfather collapsed of a heart attack shortly after this picture was taken (not necessarily that day or even that year, just some time around this period of time... and at this very hunt camp). Could it be one of the last taken of him?

My grandfather is the first one on the left.

The final thing which caught my attention was this:

Check out the sign which reads: Clayton's Hunting Club. Clayton was my grandfather's last name and also my son's given name.


Tomorrow we are going on a mission to find it. I am taking my brother and my 82- year- old mother with me. It is a two hour drive down to the old home country of SE Arkansas. My mom has never seen the place where her father died... over 54 years ago.

Stayed tuned for what we might find tomorrow!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Introducing My De-Cluttering Bike

Say "Hello" to my Felt Cafe 24 Bike. Totally made possible through my de-cluttering efforts. Mrs. Beasley and lots of other childhood treasures sold on Ebay helped me achieve my goal.

This afternoon, I completed a full 15.82 mile River Trail loop, burning 837 calories, according to my i-Phone app. Two deer, one water skiing competition, two drug dealers, one Snickers bar break in the River Market (okay... take away 271 calories burned for that), a raccoon, two hours, and a difficult 97- degree- non-shady- very- hot- 15- minute home stretch finale, and I'm done.

So much fun.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Legos and Sons (+De-Cluttering Update)

In my de-cluttering process, now in its fifth month... gaaaahhhh... I have encountered Legos... a lot of Legos... no, really a very large amount. Star Wars, Harry Potter, castles, and pirates--- my sons had them all; my sons built them all.

I have stepped on many a Logo brick and sucked up many a little Lego man arm into my vacuum. I have routinely cursed their little selves.

One day, however, as with other childhood passions, the Legos oddly remain tightly closed within their plastic tubs.

This is just one of five lego tubs this size.

And I ask myself, as all moms should, "Where did all the time go?"

There is a heaviness and sadness which can wash over me like the tide coming in when I am napping on the beach and the sun begins to go down and suddenly my towel is wet from the ocean coming near. Because something extremely fun and incredible is being finished, completed with

no mulligans or do-overs.

There is no 'parental re-set button'.

Life happens. Eras are completed. The page turns.

Back to Legos.

How does a boy build a Logo castle? One brick at a time.

How does a mom build a son? One small investment at a time.

One baby bottle. One rocking to sleep. One bedtime story. One band-aid over a boo-boo. One quick game of catch. One lemonade stand. One kiss. One midnight sled ride. One encouraging word. One parental act of discipline. One "no". One "yes". One frog. One funny bug. One goldfish. One bunny. One tail-less hamster (no rodents with tails allowed). One puppy. One bird. One lightening bug catching contest. One pep talk. One "I love you". One "you're the best". One "don't give up." One "there is no one else like you". One "I believe in you". One "you can do it" One E.R. visit. One late night homework project rescuing. One mom-the-taxi-driver trip. One driving lesson (Lord, help me.) One college application. One final room cleaning. One dorm room move-in. One hug. One phone call or text message. One "God loves you so much". One "I love you, buddy". One brick at a time.

Where did all the time go?

Sadness at its passing. Joyful confidence in knowing I can account for every minute. Progress and set-backs all wrapped up in one because, as Martin Luther once said, "It is frightening to think that we mark our children simply by being ourselves." In spite of having me as their mom, I am able to take a step back and admire the three castles which this Kinleystead has constructed.

There is much satisfaction in knowing that (with lots of help from the most awesome dad in the world... my husband... Happy Father's Day to you... even though you are not my father, but have been the greatest father my sons could ever have had.) I... really we... it was definitely a team effort... were the major players in...

building our sons.

P.S. De-Cluttering Update:

The second half of the attic, my mom's trunk from 1950, three basement boxes, and some drawer are left, then I will have been through every square inch of Hillcrest Cottage... de-cluttering and organizing. Dear Reader, I hope you are rooting me on!

In this long process, I have encountered so many things that have made me ask, "What do I do with this?" I mean... what do you do with a letter written in 1950 from my grandmother to my mother right after my parents were married which speaks of a summer so hot they had to burn the crops and the wedding gift of the lovely silver tomato server for which my mom "will find many uses" (ha ha to that if you knew my mom).

Or the cupcake decoration topper from 1966... they don't make 'em like that any more.

I have to answer these questions.

My dad's baby shoes from 1923 which did not get bronzed.

Original Smiley Face from 1970.

Break My Heart... 1956... Saved by My Mom... From My Grandfather's Grave.

Before the Internet... How We Read About Teenage Idols.

1945 WWII Ration Card of My Gr. Uncle (who was like a grandfather to me & had no children of his own)

Some things are easy to sell on Ebay, some things I will throw away, some things are important links to my family heritage, and other things I hold in my hand and wonder what to do....

After the gathering of incredibly- cool -stuff comes...
a sale like none other... with stuff you won't believe I have saved for so long.

Go Me!

P.P.S. If you read this blog but have never commented, now would be a great time to begin because I need encouragement to keep going in my de-cluttering project plus bloggers need and want comments and interaction. So many of you tell me how much you enjoy reading...

So... Ollie, Ollie Oxen Free! ... come out of the shadows and comment.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The DAWG Days of Summer

Last week I needed a jacket while riding my bike. This week it is a 100 degrees. The extremely hot weather unexpectedly invading has everyone talking... and complaining.

I did some reading about the expression "The Dogs Days of Summer" and found this internet article:

I have always enjoyed knowing the origins of words and expressions. However, in the South, "The Dog Days of Summer" usually conjures images of front porches and dogs too lazy to move. When it's hot in these parts, all of creation goes into slow motion.

I could not resist taking this picture.

It's Arkansas, y'all.

This dawg's face speaks for us all.

There's only one remedy for days like these: Get to a lake ASAP. I find myself wishing I had a lake house to which I could evacuate.