Peevish Pen

Ruminations on reading, writing, rural living, retirement, aging—and sometimes cats. And maybe a border collie or other critters.

© 2006-2019 All rights reserved

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Location: Rural Virginia, United States

I'm an elderly retired teacher who writes. Among my books are Ferradiddledumday (Appalachian version of the Rumpelstiltskin story), Stuck (middle grade paranormal novel), Patches on the Same Quilt (novel set in Franklin County, VA), Them That Go (an Appalachian novel), Miracle of the Concrete Jesus & Other Stories, and several Kindle ebooks.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Solving a Mystery

When I was in elementary school, the three types of books I liked—and the ones I was most likely to check out of the Huff Lane School library—were horse books, biographies, and mysteries. Horse books fed my passion for horses. I'd started seriously wanting a horse when I was seven but didn't get my first one until I was thirty-two. Biographies made me realize that people—even ones who'd lived and died long ago—could lead pretty interesting lives.  Mysteries intrigued me and kept me guessing until all the clues led to a solution. I especially  liked the way the girl detectives solved mysteries: first they noticed something amiss, then they looked for clues, and the clues finally led them to a solution. I wondered if I'd ever solve a mystery.

Recently, I did. The solution revealed some secrets about someone who had lived over a century ago—my 3rd great uncle, Matthew Harvey Nace, from Buchanan, Virginia. He was the relative no one would mention—he apparently did some dastardly deed and then disappeared. Every so often, I'd Google him (his first name sometimes appeared as "Mathew") without much luck. Then, I got incredibly lucky when I found a newsletter from Richmond's Hollywood Cemetery about a Nace monument being restored—a monument that Matthew Nace built for his wife Evaline, who died in 1854 after giving birth to their fourth child. (The infant, a girl, died six weeks later.) 

Nace Monument in Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, VA
Photo taken by Mike Ruble on July 28, 2018
Now I had some names and places, so I started Googling for other clues. And I found them.

Matthew and Evaline were married in Lynchburg in 1847. The 1850 census showed that 26-year-old Matthew, his wife Evaline Augusta Fuqua Christian, and daughter Fanny were living in Richmond where he was a merchant and one of his Christian in-laws lived next door.

Soon their son William (no doubt named for Matthew's father, William Nace) was born in December 1850 and their daughter Virginia Harvey in 1852. After Evaline's death, Matthew and his family moved to Brooklyn, New York. The 1855 Brooklyn census shows him living in a $10,000 stone house with his children, three Irish servants, his brother Robert, and an "L.P. Nace" who supposedly was a sister (although Matthew had no sisters). Matthew's job was "tobacco," and he was a partner in Nace & Coe—a company he was later accused of robbing and swindling. That, I concluded, was the dastardly deed.

His partner Israel Coe took out a newspaper ad after Matthew mysteriously vanished:

Matthew did write a letter to his former partner, and this letter—published Wells Vs. March case in Reports of Cases Argued and Determined in the Court of Appeals of the State of New York, Vol. 30, p. 346—explains a little more:

. . . and there Matthew Harvey Nace seemed to drop out of sight. But I kept Googling and occasionally checking info on I got lucky—and solved the mystery of what became of Matthew.

It turns out that Matthew didn't go directly to California—and he didn't sail. But he remarried (in Indiana), changed his name, ended up on the West coast, had a few more children, and had some interesting adventures. I've blogged about what I discovered about him on my Naces of Lithia genealogy blog. You can read what I learned about Matthew here: 


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Thursday, July 11, 2019

Rose of Sharon

Rose of Sharon bushes abound in my yard. When I moved here in 1999, there were none. I transplanted one from my house in Roanoke, bought another at K-Mart for 25¢, and Mama gave me one from her yard. Through the years, those Rose of Sharon bushes have taken off. Here are some pictures from a few weeks ago:

Bees and hummingbirds love these flowers.


Monday, July 01, 2019

VDOT Damage

The lavender Rose of Sharon at the southeast corner of my property was lovely this morning and covered with blooms. This afternoon, not so much. Workers from the Virginia Department of Transportation saw fit to lop off hunks of it.

They didn't bother to clean up their mess—just left the branches lying where they fell.

Some of the branches were strewn several feet from the bush.

Other branches were just dropped.

They also mowed down some of the wildflowers near my mailbox.

They even hacked limbs off the peach tree behind the mailbox.

I confronted a VDOT worker when he returned from lunch and told him I didn't appreciate what they'd done. I also told him VDOT should clean up the mess they left. 

I'm not holding my breath.


Monday, June 24, 2019

Bearly There

We've had a lot of bear sightings in our area recently. Some neighbors have spotted bears not far from my house, and about a month ago I'm pretty sure a bear dumped out one of my planters and then threw it across the deck. 

Bears have left their mark down the road at Polecat Creek Farm, too. On the power pole on our property, there are some deeep scratches.  A few strips of wood have been pulled off.

A nearby roadside pole at the corner of our property also bears some scratches.

Here's a closer look:

And two even closer looks: 

Apparently bears like scratching posts. How nice of Appalachian Power Company to provide them.

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Sunday, June 16, 2019

Rorschach Clouds

A Rorschach test involves inkblots that people interpret. Last week there were some Rorschach clouds in the sky. What do you see in them? The first two pictures are from last Monday when we had rain:

The following pictures are from last Tuesday:

Remember that song about clouds from the 60s—"Both Sides Now"? 

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Monday, June 10, 2019

Kittens of Mass Destruction

On June 10, 2018—during a heavy rainstorm—I heard a cat screaming on the front porch. Thinking it was one of the regulars, I went to the door and called. No one came, but the screaming continued. I looked under a chair and found a sopping-wet gray and white kitten. He was so small he fit into my hand. I brought him in and dried him. That's how Otis joined our  household.

Two days later, my husband heard something crying near his shop. I went out, plucked another gray and white kitten from behind a tractor tire, and brought her inside  Otis was overjoyed to see her, and she was overjoyed to see him. So that's how we got Charlotte. 

The two were inseparable. They played hard and were the most destructive kittens I ever raised. Climbing the curtain is a favorite activity. 

They're also fond of climbing bookcases . . .

. . . because they're so much fun to jump from, as Charlotte demonstrates.

Otis has liked string ever since he was little and has amassed quite a collection.

His current favorite string is the drawstring from a pair of sweat pants. Maybe he likes it because it's the same color he is.

He usually carries it around and keeps it near.


One of Otis's favorite things to do with his string is the run around the kitchen table with it.

We weren't sure which kitty kept taking the sink strainer from the kitchen sink, but we knew it wasn't 20-year-old Camilla at the door. Or Arlo, who is leaving the scene.  Only Otis seemed to be staring at it with interest. 

When we found it had been moved near Otis's string, we had a good idea who the culprit was.

A cat treat bag was taken from upstairs and carried to the downstairs den—a place which Otis and Charlotte have claimed as their abode. The bag was ripped open and all treats were consumed. I blame Charlotte for this one. I've caught her trying to open treat bags before.

When we rearranged some furniture, we found three more cat treat bags under the sofa. One had been ripped apart and emptied; the other two had been clawed and bitten but the treats were still inside. 

They also ripped the stuffing out of a cat bed. When we saw the mess, we at first thought they'd killed something.

Tanner insisted he had nothing to do with it.

Arlo insisted he had nothing to do with it, either.

A box of papers I'd taken downstairs to store in a closet was pushed over and the papers scattered. 

Perhaps they wanted the box for themselves. They're big cats now. And they love boxes whether they fit in them or not. 

Hard to believe they've been here a year already.

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