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.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Things in Bloom

Spring begins in a few days. Most of the trees are still bare, though.

But some flowers in my yard are blooming, so an elderly border collie and I went in search of things in bloom. We found a few.

By the road, the forsythia I planted years ago from just a stick was in full bloom.

Nearby, the peach tree that I planted years ago had some blooms, too, but not as many as previous years. I'd thought the tree was dying, but it's still hanging on.

The crocuses have beeen blooming for a while . . .

. . . and so have the windflowers . . .

. . . and daffodils.

The bridal wreath is blooming, too. I don't know how old it is, but it was here when we moved in twenty yeas ago.

The corkscrew willow isn't a flower, but it's still pretty. I'd bought it at a garden club sale at the farmers market over a decade ago. When I planted it in a low spot beside the kennel, it was only a few feet tall. 

I didn't plant the weeping cherry that grows along the pasture fence. A bird did that several years ago. My next door neighbor has a weeping cherry, so I know where the seed came from.

That's all that old Maggie and I found so far. Likely a lot more things will bloom during the next few weeks.

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Saturday, March 16, 2019

Towering Over Us

I've blogged before about one of our farms—120 acres of what used to be the 700-acre Philemon Sutherland plantation. Last year, Shentel had wanted to build a 198-foot cellular tower on our property, but we decided an unsightly tower wasn't worth the money they'd pay us. However, a woman who owns the property next door—also part of the original Sutherland plantation—sold out, so we now have a metal monstrosity a few hundred feet from our property line and towering over our place. 

I can also see it from my house, about a mile away as the crow flies. In the center of this picture, which I took from my front yard, a white line extends above the trees. That's the tower.

It took them a while to get the tower up, what with all the rain we've had. First they scraped off the site

The tower site is not far from our property line.

Then they brought in sections of the tower.

. . . and some gravel. And big rocks to keep the heavy machinery from sinking.

Before long, a big crane started putting up sections of the tower.

They pretty much made a mess while getting the sections assembled. (Some of our land is visible in the upper right.)

The photos below were taken from one of our fields behind the tower.

As you drive to our land, you can't miss seeing the tower. (Neighbor woman's house is to the right.) 

This is our hayfield near the road. We once considered it as a place to build a house if we decided to move to a smaller home and to get away from the gas pipeline that's being built less than a thousand feet from our current residence. The tower has now made this field undesirable for a homesite.

Who wants to live under that towering monstrosity?

Not ony is it ugly, it could also cause cancer. . . .

Cell Phone Towers. What Distance is Safe to Live?

World’s Largest Study On Cell Tower Radiation Confirms Cancer Link

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Monday, March 11, 2019

The Interlude

The Interlude, Linn Stepp's latest novel in her Smoky Mountain series, is an enjoyable read.

The back-cover blurb hints at what the book is about: "In this gentle, inspirational romance, Lin Stepp reveals the healing touch and deep peace the beauty of the Smoky Mountains can bring to a hurt and troubled heart."

The two main characters, Mallory Wingate and Lucas James, both have troubled hearts. After Mallory cared for her recently deceased mother during her mother's long illness, broke up with her suitor Ethan, and  succumbed to pressures at the publishing house in Savannah where she works, she suffers a breakdown. While Mallory recovers, she will stay for a while with her grandparents at Millhouse Resort in the Smoky Mountains. Lucas James—a golf pro still affected by the suicide of his bi-polar ex-wife a few years earlier—takes the seat beside Mallory on the plane. At first, Mallory tries to ignore him, but soon they are conversing. He invites her to have dinner with him during a layover and, back on the plane, they sit together again. Flirtatious kissing ensues. "An interlude," Lucas tells her. After all, they won't see each other again. 

But, of course, they do. And therein lies the story. I won't give away the surprises, but there are some mysteries—a series of thefts, (including items stolen from the Butterfly Tea Room and cars stolen from the resort parking lot) and the circumstances surrounding the accidental death of Mallory's father in a hunting accident decades earlier—and a scene where Mallory is in danger.

On of the enjoyable parts of a Lin Stepp  novel is a strong sense of place. There are some wonderful descriptions of hikes that the main characters take. Plus the Millhouse Resort, surrounding town, and Great Smokies are all important to the story. The map provides a handy way to see where various senes in the novel take place.

A strong sense of family is another hallmark of a Lin Stepp novel. The Interlude emphasizes and demonstrates the importance of family.

The main characters—and several minor characters—are well-developed and believable. Stepp's background in psychology no doubt played a part in both illuminating the emotional problems Mallory and Lucas had as well as providing believable solutions.

What did my youngest cats, Charlotte and her brother Otis think of the book?

Charlotte: I  thought that the purrfect place to read The Interlude was on the cat-shelf in a sunny window.

Charlotte: The sun could shine right through my ears and illuminate the book. I liked the book. What did you think, Otis?

Otis: You know I'm always looking for a good book. I liked The Interlude and I give it two paws up.

 Otis: I prefer to do my reading in bed. I had a little trouble turning the pages until I realized I was using the wrong side. Once I got into the book, I thought the best part was about the cat, Baby. My favorite part was when she had kittens in the closet!

Charlotte: Otis, you're giving away too much of the plot! But I liked the part about the cat, too.  I could really identify with Baby. I'm going to share the book with our mom-cat Alfreda. 

Alfreda: Can't I finish my nap first, Charlotte?

Charlotte: You should start reading now! It has a cat in it!

Alfreda: Oh, a cat? Then I'll probably like it. But first I want to finish my nap.

Charlotte: No, you should start reading it now!

Another plus about The Interlude: a cat! (But the cat doesn't appear until later in the story.)

NOTE: I received an advance reader copy of this book. The Interlude will be released on April 2, but it is available for pre-order from Amazon now.

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Saturday, February 23, 2019

Cool Branch School Desk

Back in October  2017, I bought this little desk at an estate sale down the road. It came from the Cool Branch School which hasn't existed for decades.

The desk is so small, it must have been used by first or second graders. 

In the 2007 edition of Franklin County Virginia Yesterday and Today (that I also bought at the same sale), there's a picture of the school and some students from days gone by.

I wonder which child in the picture sat at the desk I bought. The boy on the far right? The little girl in the middle of the front row, maybe? Perhaps, at one time or another, they all did.

A former student of Cool Branch passed away in January. His obituary mentions that his education begn at Cool Branch. I wondeer if he used this desk. 

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Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Samuel Sutherland

Cabin on Sutherland planttion. A double pen log cabin covered in weatherboarding.
In 2016, I blogged about the Philemon Sutherland plantation in Union Hall. I thought Philemon’s story of fighting in the Revolutionary War and moving from Prince Edward County to Franklin County was pretty interesting. Recently Bill Sutherland, who lives in North Carolina and is researching Sutherland genealogy, saw that post and emailed me with a story about Philemon’s great-grandson, Samuel Sutherland. 

From a bit of searching on, I learned Samuel (born November 15 1845) was the oldest son of William Milton Sutherland (1821-1899) and Angeline Semones (1820-1900). William was the son of Philemon Sutherland Jr. (1789-1824) and Mary “Polly” Berger (1787-1873).

A neighbor near the Sutherland place once told my husband and me that a Civil War soldier named William Sutherland had lived in the old house. 

A old kitchen once stood to right of center of this picture.
According to Find-a-Grave, Pvt. William Milton Sutherland “served in Company C, 57th Virginia Infantry, Confederate States of America Army. From 57th Virginia Infantryby Charles W Sublett, page 85, published by H E Howard Inc, Lynchburg VA, 1985: SOUTHERLAND, WILLIAM M.: Enlist 21 Oct 1864 at Camp Lee in Company C. Captured 1 Apr 1865 at Five Forks. Transported to Point Lookout MD 5 Apr 1865. Took oath and released 10 June 1865. 5 ft. 7 1/2 in. tall, dark complexion, gray hair, gray eyes. Residence in Franklin County VA.

So, William was captured just before the Civil War ended and was a POW for a while. But his oldest son Samuel also fought in the Civil War, and therein lies a story. 

According to Bill Sutherland, “Legend has it that he [Samuel] was wounded so badly during his last battle that he was left for dead on the battlefield. The next day while gathering the dead, someone poked Samuel to check for signs of life and to everyone’s amazement he was found to be alive with half of his face and one eye missing. Without proper medical care, someone stuffed a bandanna into his eye socket to keep everything from falling out, and he eventually recovered. I am not aware that he ever married or had children and as far as I know lived out his remaining years in that home.”

From checking the census records, I could verify that he’d never married—and each census record except the last verifies that he lived alone as an adult. 

In the 1850 census, he was a five-year-old in his father’s home. Several other Sutherlands and Semones lived nearby, including William's brother Ransome who lives the household of a Mary Sutherland who is 11 years older. Could Mary be a sister?

In the 1860 census for the North Eastern division, Samuel is listed as a 14-year-old. His father’s real estate is worth $1500. The names of people around them are different, so William's family might be living in another area. Possibly William built the large cabin to house his growing family. Two properties adjacent are unoccupied.

In 1870, William and Angeline’s family has increased, and 23-year-old Samuel is still living at home where he works as a “farm laborer.” On the same page is William’s brother Ransome and his family.

In 1880, Samuel is not on the same census page as his father, and he is listed as single and living alone. 

The 1900 census is not available, but his father, William Sutherland Sr., died in 1899. He is buried in Northfield Cemetery in Union Hall. Did William's son William M Jr. take over the old house? 

In 1910, Samuel is still single and lives alone. He owns a farm that is not mortgaged. He lives near the farm of my great-uncle and aunt, John H(enry) and Bertha Smith,. (I know that John and Bertha Smith lived for many years near what is now Dillard’s Hill Road area, not far from where Appalachian Power Company built Penn Hall. I believe that Sutherland land extended up that far north.)

Samuel’s brother William M. Sutherland Jr. is farther down the page of the 1910 census and William’s farm (which he owns free of mortgage) is near the farm of my great-grandfather, Henry Silas Smith. It seems likely that William Jr. is the one living in the double-pen weather-boarded house on the part of the Sutherland farm that I own. Perhaps his wife Annie wanted to gussy the old cabin up by having it weather-boarded and painted white.

In 1917, Samuel applies for a rerating of his original disability pension. It’s hard to read, but it seems Samuel at age 66 is no longer able to work as a farmer and has “done no work for 10 months” because of a problem with “optic nerves and internal injury due to fall.” Doctor Giles, whose house is a quarter mile from where I live, signed the application.

Samuel had applied for a pension years earlier. According to Bill, “Samuel applied for and was awarded partial veteran disability benefits around 1902 and full disability around 1912. The files are in the Virginia State Library archives and available for viewing online in their digital collection. I had a hard time reading most of the handwritten content and only some of it could be legible. One application entry that I thought was interesting was that Samuel described his service history as ‘enlisted in 1861 and serving until Jacksons death’ then ‘being paroled after the surrender at Appomattox,’ so at some point along the way he was captured and imprisoned.”

In the 1920 census, Samuel “Sutherlin” is still living alone. William Jr. is still on the same page as my Smith relatives.

But in the 1930 census, something changed. Samuel (age 84), listed as “uncle,” is residing at 304 Maple Avenue in the Rocky Mount District 0013 household of George W. Sutherland. Also at the residence is a Henry Turnbull, listed as “servant.” Was Henry perhaps a caregiver for the elderly Samuel?

In 1931, Samuel dies of myocarditis, chronic nephritis, bronchitis, and influenza while in Richmond. 

Why is he in Richmond? Perhaps he’d applied for admission to the Robert E. Lee Camp Confederate Soldiers Home there. But did he get to spend any time there? At any rate, his body was sent back to Franklin County for burial in Northfield Cemetery where his brother and other members of his family are also buried.

Rest in peace, Samuel.

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