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.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

SOTK 2019

State of the Kitties Report: Summer 2019
by Tanner
(chief house cat)

Some things have changed since the last time I posted. Camilla, the 20-year-old cat matriarch, died recently and was buried near Dylan and Olivia. The kitties, Otis and Charlotte , are a year old and are all grown up and have their own interests. And I have a new job. 

The kitty Otis has always been scientifically inclined.  For a while, he studied string theory, as you can see in this video that Mommy posted on Facebook. 

You can also see it on Facebook:

But Otis has given that up and now studies geology. Here he is with part of his rock collection. He can throw the little white rocks, but he can't move the big rock no matter how hard he bats it.

The kitty Charlotte isn't as experimental as Otis so she likes to think inside the box. Sometimes she thinks  inside several boxes.

But getting back to my new job: For a couple of years I have done night rat patrol in the garage. Well, Alfreda helped, but I did most of the work and I was the boss. I got so good at it that rats stopped coming into the garage and stayed outside. That's when Mommy offered me and Alfreda jobs as perimeter patrol cats, and we accepted. We have to walk around the house several times a day and check under bushes. It is a big job because there are a lot of bushes. Here I am contemplating a spot of sunlight and looking at suspicious leaves. 

We have to work for Jim-Bob, who has been in charge of outdoor cat-work since George died a couple of years ago, and he can be a demanding boss. But he often takes breaks after he's gotten us to do cat-work.

He makes us attend cat-meetings. Here is a picture of one of the meetings. Jim-Bob is showing us where we will work that day, or we are more or less looking in the same direction. Even if we don't share his vision, we pretend we do.

Chloe, who is Jim-Bob's sister, also works for him, but she mainly does her own thing. Sometimes she stays out all night.

Anyhow, we mostly stay outside all day. When Alfreda and I come in for the night, we are exhausted.

I gave my rat patrol job to my kitty Arlo who has given up being an artist and decided to do meaningful work, so he stays in the garage at night now. I don't have a picture of him working because it is dark in the garage. Sometimes Alfreda or I will join him, but we are usually too tired after working all day (see above picture) and it's not like rats are over-running the garage.

I still have my part-time job, promoting my mommy's books. If she sells books, she buys cat treats, so it's a win-win situation. If you haven't read her books, you might go to Amazon and take a look. Click on the title and you'll go right to the Amazon page: Patches on the Same Quilt, Them That Go, and Miracle of the Concrete Jesus. These are also available as ebooks.

You can learn about my mommy's books on her website, too: (Remember, books sold = treats for Tanner.) I promise I will share the treats with the other cats.

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Friday, August 02, 2019

Heinrich Surber, 6th Great-grandfather

During the 18thcentury, several of my ancestors came from the Palatinate, a dangerous region.

One of these ancestors was my 6th great-grandfather—Heinrich (Hendryk) Surber, age 50—who arrived in Philadephia on the ship Mercury on May 29, 1735, with his 15-year-old son Heinrich/Henry and 5-year-old daughter Verena. His wife Anna had apparently died on the voyage. Here is an account from a Surber message board on Ancestry that was credited to being on

On 29 May 1735 the ship Mercury, William Wilson, master, last from Rotterdam, Holland arrived at Philadelphia, Penn., with 186 passengers. Most of these passengers were from Zürich and nearby Swiss towns. These people were members of the Reformed Church in Switzerland.... This colony is one of the few whose history can be traced from origin to destination with some detail. On 7 Oct. 1735, The Nachrichten von Zürich(a newspaper), published the account.... The journey of the colonists from Zürich to Basel is told by Ludwig Weber, one of the emigrants who later returned from Holland. His notes were published in Zürich. The following is taken from his notes.

"...The main body consisting of 194 persons, embarked in two ships [on the river to the ocean, in winter weather]. They suffered intensely thru rain and cold and were poorly protected with scanty clothes and provisions.... the nights were wet and cold. Moreover the ships were crowded so badly that there was hardly enough room to sit, much less lie down. There was no opportunity to cook on the ships; and as they were compelled to remain on the ships day and night, the cries of the children were pitiful and heartrending. ...Quarrels between men and women were frequent."

... [They transferred from the two river ships to the single, larger ship Mercuryin late February, so] after leaving Mainz their journey was a little more comfortable as they could at least cook on board the ships.

... When they reached Neuwied, Weaterwald Canton, in Bavaria, four couples were married by a reformed minister. They were as follows:

1. Hans Conrad Wirtz and Anna Goetschy
2. Conrad Naff, of Walliselen and Anna N.---
3. Jacob Rathgeb and Barbara Haller both of Walliselen
4. Conrad Geweiller, a gardener and ---
...186 passengers in all on the ship Mercurythat reached Philadelphia 29 May l735....

In a letter from John Henry, the son of Rev Goetschy, to Zurich dated 21 July 1735 wrote in part the following: "After we had left Holland and surrendered ourselves to the wild and tempestuous ocean, its waves and its changeable winds, we reached through Gods great goodness toward us, England. After a lapse of two days we came to the Island of Wight, and there to a little town named Cowes, where our captain supplied himself with provisions for the great ocean trip. We secured medicines for the trip and then with a good East wind we sailed away from there. After a day and a night with the good wind we were buffeted with a terrible storm and the awful raging waves as we came into the Spanish and Portuguese oceans.

For 12 weeks we were subjected to these miseries and had to suffer all kinds of bad and dangerous storms and terrors of death. With these we were subjected to all kinds of bad diseases. The food was bad for we had to eat what they called "galley bread". We had to drink stinking muddy water, full of worms.

We had an evil tyrant and rascal for a captain and first mate, who regarded the sick as nothing more than dogs. If one said "I have to cook something for a sick man", He replied "get away from here or I'll throw you overboard". "What do I care about your sick devil?". In short, misfortune is everywhere upon the sea, we alone fared better. This has been the experience of all who have come to this land and even if a king were to travel the ocean it would behave no better.

After being in this misery sufficiently long God, The Lord, brought us out and showed us the land, which caused great joy among us. But three days passed, the wind being contrary, before we could enter into the right river. Finally a good south wind came and brought us in one day through the glorious and beautiful Delaware river which is a little larger than the Rhine, but not by far as wild as the Rhine." [They landed at Philadelphia, PA]
This account is probably typical of miseries our Palatinate ancestors endured during their escape. I have blogged about another of my Palatinate ancestors, Matthias Nehs, on my Naces of Lithia blog. He arrived in Philadelphia on September 21, 1731, on the Brittania. Among my other ancestors who escaped from the Palatinate were Nafzgers (Noffsingers) who arrived aboard the Phoenix on September 15, 1749. Several Naces married Noffsingers. Other Palatines were Fringers and Zirkles, but I'm not sure when they arrived. 

I’m glad these ancestors made their arduous and dangerous trip to get to America, and that their descendants migrated from Philadelphia westward to the Great Wagon Road and came south to Botetourt County. 

If they hadn’t, I wouldn’t be here.

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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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