Peevish Pen

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

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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, January 25, 2015

Sunday Stealing Stolen

I stole this A to Z meme from Anita over at Blue Country Magic, who got it from Sunday Stealing. Figured I'd give it a try.

A. What are your favorite smells?
Lilacs and roses. Real ones, not the smell-less variety so prevalent today. I have a lilac that I grew from a slip picked from my grandmother's lilac, and a rose that was a slip from my mother's yard. Here's the rose:

B. Can you go a whole day without caffeine?
I doubt it. Gotta have coffee! But I've gone years without a soft drink.

C. Who knows more about you than anyone else?
Probably my husband of 47 years. But it could be various Internet spy-bots or whatever they're called.

D. What song did you last listen to?
I can't remember. I can go whole days without listening to songs.

E. Do you wear socks to bed?
When it's really cold.

F. Can you change a car tire?
The last tire I changed was on my 61 Ford Falcon in 1966.  Could I do it now? I don't know.

G. If you could choose one color to wear for a whole year, what color would you choose?
Black. Most of what i have is black. Second choice would be blue, my favorite color.

H. Do you cook often?
Every day. I've stopped eating processed crap food, so I need to cook if I'm going to eat.

I. What’s your least favorite season?
Winter—it's cold and often has dangerous weather. Plus it's so bleak, and my electric bill is higher because of the heat.

J. Can you sew?
Enough to do basic repairs. I actually have a sewing machine that I've forgotten how to thread, so I haven't used it in years. I did take hoe-ec in 7th and 8th grades, and costume construction in college.

K. What is your favorite fruit?
Blueberries and strawberries, which are the most diabetic friendly. I don't eat much fruit because of what it does to my blood sugar levels.

L. Are you health conscious?
As a gluten-sensitive diabetic, I certainly am. I'm also conscious that a lot of medical advice (from the American Diabetes Association, for instance) is pure crap and/or propaganda from Big Pharma that wants to sell meds and treatments—not cures.

M. Do you think you’re very conscious of the feelings of others or more self oriented?
Depends on who the others are, and how I'm feeling. But, as I've gotten older, I've gotten more empathetic.

N. Do you curse a lot?
Not much. Only when a situation requires it.

O. Do you remember lyrics easily?
Sometimes. I can remember lyrics from 50 years ago, but I can't remember any recent ones.

P. Can you roll your tongue?
Yep, but why do I need to?

Q. Is there a certain food you often crave for no reason?
Sometimes chocolate.

R. What was the last book you purchased?
Does it count if it hasn't arrived yet? I pre-ordered James Nagy's Smith Mountain Dam and Lake, but it won't get here until mid-March. The last one I purchased that I've received was Talk About Trouble, a collection of oral histories collected in the 30s by WPA writers.

S. Where was your last vacation?
I'm not even sure when my last actual vacation was. Maybe to Lancaster Pennsylvania in the mid-80s.  I prefer short trips to vacations.

T. Last movie you watched? Did you enjoy it?
TV movie, Amazon Prime on the iPad, or in a theatre? The last movie I watched (all the way through0 on the iPad was Pride and Prejudice. Loved it! I won't watch a movie all the way through if I'm not enjoying it.

U. Think of your oldest friend. If you met them now do you think you would still become friends?
Which oldest friend? From childhood? We lost touch long ago. From college? A former roommate of mine and I don't see each other very often, but we can still pick up the conversation where it last left off.

V. Paris, London and New York… which one would you live in, which would you visit for a day, which would you visit for a fortnight?
Wouldn't live in any of them! I wouldn't live in any big city again. I like living in a rural area with a small town or two not far away. Visiting London would be interesting, since a lot of my ancestors came from England. The only one I've visited is New York City.

W. Do you usually sleep with your closet door open or closed?
Closed. I have a very inquisitive kitty that will climb the clothes to see what's on the top shelf.

X. Have you ever broken a bone? If so, how did it happen?
I flipped off a runaway horse in 1977 and compressed a couple of vertebrae. A few years later, I broke my hand when I hit ice while shoveling snow. And I've had a toe broken by a horse who stood on it.

Y. How do you like your eggs?
Scrambled. That's how I fix them every morning. I also like my eggs fresh from the farm. See my previous post.

Z. What was your last argument about and who with?
I don't remember. While I might have disagreements, I rarely argue. It isn't worth the trouble.

Friday, January 23, 2015


I'm no fan of grocery store eggs. They look exactly alike and are thin and runny. I won't even speculate on the factory-farm chickens that produce these inferior eggs. Instead, I buy locally produced eggs that look like this:

Or this:

They're not all the same color or size, though many of them are very large. Instead of pale yellow, the yolks are a rich orange.

These eggs taste wonderful.

To get these eggs, we drive about three miles from home to a farm where the chickens live. It's a self-serve operation. A cooler by the back door contains eggs that were gathered that morning. We return any empty egg cartons we have, select however many dozen eggs we want, and drop the money in a cup. Usually a cat—or even a herd of cats—watches us.

After getting our eggs, we drive out past the henhouses. One flock is turned out during the day.

There's another coop to the left along the driveway. Usually those hens stay in the a, but sometimes they're out, too. Sometimes we have to stop for a chicken to cross the driveway. A few times, we've had to wait for the cat herd to cross the driveway.

So—this is where we get our eggs. After eating these eggs, I don't think I could go back to eating store eggs on a regular basis. 


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Search and Research

Warning: More genealogy that is probably only interesting to me.

Lately I've become interested in family genealogy—especially on my Smith side. I've long wondered from whom I descend. For the past few months, I've been doing a lot of searching and have already posted some things I've learned about my Martin great-grandmother ("Martin Mystery" and "Martin Mystery II") and my recent discovery of my Hancock ancestors who lived right in the neighborhood ("Lewis and Celia Hancock").

But, while scouring family trees on, I've run into some glitches. The Hancock side has provided a lot of mysteries. It was easy to find that Lewis Hancock descended from John D. Hancock who descended from Benjamin Hancock, but further back gets a little fuzzy.

Apparently I—and a gazillion other Virginians—descend from William Hancock, born 1580 in Devonshire, England. Unfortunately, he had the misfortune to be massacred at Berkley Hundred in Jamestown on March 22, 1622. However, back in England he left three sons—Augustine (b. abt. 1605), Simon (b. abt.1612), and William (b. abt. 1615)— who eventually came to Virginia when they came of age. So now we have a William II (who died in 1693 in Surry County, VA, where a bunch of Hancocks ended up).

But—some websites say that this son William died at Bacon's Rebellion, which was in 1676. A William Hancock is on the list of participants, but it doesn't say what happened to him. On some sites, another William Hancock, born in 1640, is identified as being the one in Bacon's Rebellion. This site identifies him as the son of William II. But other sites say that William III was the son of Simon. Confused yet? So am I.

At any rate, the Bacon's Rebellion William only had one son, John, who was born around 1670 and had eight children, though some sites give his birth as later—like this tree I grabbed off the Internet which has John being born three years after Bacon's Rebellion where his father supposedly died.

Do you see anything else confusing about that tree? The birth dates of Benjamin's parents, maybe? It's a bit had to believe that William was sixteen and Elizabeth was fourteen when their son was born. Since John Hancock (1670-1732) had sons named William and Benjamin, I'm thinking that the two brothers somehow got onto different lines in the above chart. But I could be wrong.

Since the Hancock family had to get to Franklin County, I keep looking for westward movement as I check family trees. Lewis came from Fluvanna/Albemarle, his father John D. was in Albemarle, so that movement makes sense.

I've also been wondering about the Haynes line that ties into my English line. This tree for Dinah Haynes on another line in my family is even stranger than the Hancock tree above. Do you see the problem?

If this tree is to be believed, Dinah Haynes' mother Mary Smith was also her father's mother. But wait—the dates are different for the two Mary Smiths even though they have the same parents. So, is it possible that Guy Smith and his wife (Miss Perrin/Grace Perrin) had two Mary Smiths, born 31 years apart?  And that Guy fathered the 1670 Mary when he was five years old!? (If so, he must have been quite a guy.) And—even stranger—"Miss Perrin" (born 1685) gave birth to Mary fifteen years before she herself was born??!! My mind boggles.

I'm pretty sure that Dinah's father was indeed Henry Haynes, because he mentions his daughter Dinah and her son Henry in his will (he died in Henry County the year before Franklin county was formed):

Item, I give to my daughter DINAH ENGLISH my Negro Boy named Barnaby during her life and after her decease to my Grandson HENRY ENGLISH forever and also my using Skillett to her forever.

Though Henry was born in King and Queen County, he moved westward and southward, acquiring and then selling land in Spotsylvania and acquiring a patent for 400 acres in Orange County in 1739. In 1753, he moved closer:

1753 Pittsylvania County, Virginia, Henry Haynes acquired 400 acres beginning at the mouth of Bull Run Creek, thence down Blackwater River. Also 400 acres in the fork of said Bull Run Creek. Also 1753 Henry Haynes acquired 300 acres beginning at Robert Walton's upper line on Bull Run, thence up both sides of said Run, also 400 acres beginning at Randolph's lower lines on Staunton River, then down to Smith's Mountain. 

Part of Pittsylvania County eventually became part of Franklin County. (Franklin County  was formed from parts of Henry and Bedford Counties in 1785, a year after Henry's death.) Some of his land is now under Smith Mountain Lake. Some of it was owned by my Smith ancestors in the late 1700s. And I now own land on the upper part Bull Run Creek that once ran into the Blackwater River but now runs into Smith Mountain Lake.

So, I think Henry is my ancestor. But I wonder about ones before him—I'm not so sure the ones on the above tree are correct.

I also wonder whatever became of the "using skillet" he left Dinah. I wonder if one of her descendants is still using it.

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Monday, January 12, 2015

Rocking Chair Cats

When it's cold outside, certain cats like to lounge in front of the door to the deck. Below, George and Dylan try to soak up a bit of sun.

George really likes lounging under the old rocking chair.

Tanner figures that what's good enough for George is good enough for Tanner, too. 

It can get a little crowded under there.

Sometimes it helps to stretch.

And that's that.


Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Martin Mystery II

In an attempt to find the identity of my great-great grandmother Elizabeth S. Webb—the mother of Mariah Martin—I joined (They were running a special on membership!) I discovered that what I suspected—that her first name did start with an S and that it was Sarah—was true. gave me access to a lot of family trees, some of which did erroneously have second wife Elizabeth Wade as the mother of the last six of John Reid Martin's six children (while listing her as dying in 1850, before these kids were born). But—many did indeed have Sarah Elizabeth Webb as their mother. And most of those provided a lengthy pedigree for her. (I quickly learned to check the trees that had documented sources.)

Here's one (of several) that shows her paternal ancestors . . .

. . . and one (of several) that shows her maternal ancestors, but this one leaves out one of her children:

Sarah Elizabeth, born January 12, 1822, was the oldest child of Theodorick F. Webb (1799-1880), a primitive Baptist minister (like Sarah Elizabeth's husband!) and successful farmer.  (Theodorick's name is sometimes spelled Theodrick or Theoderick in some trees.)   His first wife was Nancy Tate Greer Calloway (1810-1860), who descended from two early prominent families of Franklin County—the Greers and the Calloways. They were married on January 17, 1821. 

How Sarah Elizabeth got her name isn't much of a mystery. The practice in those days was to name a child—especially the eldest—after grandparents or other close relatives: she was named Sarah for her paternal grandmother Sarah Huff (and maternal great-grandmother Sarah Tate) and Elizabeth for her maternal grandmother Elizabeth Greer (and paternal great-grandmother Elizabeth Webb). Given the traditions of the times, how could she be named anything else but Sarah Elizabeth? (And she, of course, named her first-born daughter Nancy after her mother and great-grandmother.)

Theodorick and Nancy had a large family. Sarah Elizabeth's siblings were Emily 1821-24), Tazewell Armistead (1824-after 1880), Henry Callaway (1828-after 1890), Mary Catherine (1832-?) Theodrick F. (1835-1918), Bird Langhorn (1837-1918), Ursula 1840-?), Serena (1842-?), James Thomas (1844-after 1880), Ramsey (1848-after 1900), and Daniel (1850).  She no doubt helped her mother with child care until her sister Mary was older.

Apparently in September 1838, when she was sixteen, her family went on a wagon train to Monroe County, Missouri. They were listed the Jackson township 1840 and 1850 census, but—and here's the mysterious part—they were back in Franklin County for the 1850 census. Theodorick had two land patents in 1841 and 1851.

Patentee Name   Given Name   Issue   Land Offi Doc.   Accession/

WEBB            Burd S      11/10/1841Palmyra  21478  MO2380__.465
WEBB            Burd S      11/10/1841Palmyra  21479  MO2380__.466
WEBB            Robert J    3/10/1843 Palmyra  21751  MO2390__.298
WEBB            Robert J    3/10/1843 Palmyra  21752  MO2390__.299
WEBB            Robert J    3/10/1843 Palmyra  21783  MO2390__.330
WEBB            Robert      9/10/1844 Palmyra  22523  MO2410__.109
WEBB            Theoderick F11/10/1841Palmyra  21478  MO2380__.465
WEBB            Theodorick F12/1/1851 Palmyra  25861  MO2470__.392
WEBB            William B   8/2/1852  Palmyra  27032  MO2490__.498

Ah, here's how he could be on two census listings: the 1850 Franklin County census took many months. Theoderick's family weren't counted until late December 1850. Notice that Sarah Elizabeth isn't among the group because she would had married John Reid Martin on April 1, 1850. (But another mystery—how did she get back to Franklin County from Missouri so fast?)

34  2022 2011 Webb    Theoderich      50   M   Clergyman  1,500
35  2022 2011 Webb    Nancy           40   F
36  2022 2011 Webb     Tazwell        25   M
37  2022 2011 Webb     Henry          22   M
38  2022 2011 Webb      Mary C.        18   F
39  2022 2011 Webb      Theoderich     15   M
40  2022 2011 Webb      Benjamine F.   13   M
41  2022 2011 Webb      Ursula         10   F
42  2022 2011 Webb      Serena         8    F
1   2022 2011 Webb      James T.       6    M
2    2022 2011 Webb       Rumsey         6    M

Since Theodorick Webb owned property in Franklin County, would he have left his plantation unattended while he was in Missouri? Or did he travel back and forth? Another mystery, perhaps.

This excerpt from Talk About Trouble: A New Deal Portrait of Virginians in the Great Depression, in which Theodorick's granddaughter Nancy was interviewed by Gertrude Blair in 1939, shows that he was a big plantation owner:

Another section from the chapter that shows the family's influence in the county:

But—another mystery: Sarah Elizabeth was 28 when she married, which put her well into the old maid status. Why had she not already married? Could it be that traveling to Missouri and back with the family didn't leave much opportunity for courtship? Or was she really needed to help with the large family until her younger sister Mary came of age? At any rate, she was no doubt just what John Reid Martin was looking for.

With three small children needing a mother and his second wife recently dead, John Reid Martin would have been desperate for a suitable wife. Sarah Elizabeth Webb came from a prominent family—Martin was likely to have known of her preacher father's reputation and possibly have been friends with him—and the old maid Sarah Elizabeth was experienced in the care of young children. 

Here's the 1850 Henry County census, noting that John and "Elizabeth" were married within the year. On the previous page, the parents' of his first wife Susan, Christopher and Nancy Wingfield, ages 63 and 57, are listed. On this page John's three children—Elizabeth (9), John (8), and Luther (4) are listed as are Susan's two younger siblings. 

Obviously, John Reid Martin took his bride home to live with his in-laws who had likely been looking after his children. But what became of his second wife, Elizabeth M. Wade, whom he married on July 2, 1849?

 That's still a mystery.


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Monday, January 05, 2015

Last Spam of 2014

This post is about email spam so it is, of course, really boring. I'll throw in a few pictures of my cat George to liven it up a bit.  George is kind of a managerial cat—always poking his nose into something—so I don't think he will mind.

Now for the spam: Back in mid-November 2014, I received this email from someone I didn't even know:

Since she gave the address of my "Frugal Living" blog—which is NOT my actual website—and she didn't greet me by name, I figured it was spam. Naturally, I didn't bother to reply. Neither did George, although  he was sleeping in a dangerous place.

But we were wrong. On Dec. 8, I received a follow-up:

Again, she gave the address of my "Frugal Living" blog. Nonetheless, I answered her with  this (note that I didn't address her by name either):


I don't update my frugal living blog much anymore because I don't get out to find bargains at local places the way I used to. And I haven't allowed guest bloggers in the past. How much do you pay for placing articles on a writer's personal blog? (I'm thinking I could let you have space on my blog—a max of 750 words for $25 and a max of 1500 words for $50.)

I read the two articles you referenced and found them horribly generic. No sense of the writer's personality at all! The first one had no pictures that illustrate the article and the second only had one generic picture plus a lame attempt at humor by implying the reader lounged on the sofa and watched mindless crap on TV.  Readers of a personal blog would certainly be turned off by those articles. I know I was.

However, I could use some info on how to build an inexpensive pasture fence that will contain a large mare who likes to lean on the fence (electric fence is not an option), how to build winter shelters for barn-cats or feral cats, the best way to treat a hoof abscess and how bandage a horse's foot, and similar rural-related articles. All submitted articles should include pictures of the writer's cats or horses. And all articles should mention local sources of materials (Franklin, Bedford, Roanoke, Pittsylvania County VA).

George and I thought that would be the end of it, but we were wrong. On the last Wednesday of 2014, I received this:

. . . to which I replied—including the copy of my above response—and adding this: 

Since then my prices have gone up.  It's now $50 for a max of 750 words and $75 for a max of 1500 words for articles for my blog. The articles must have a rural slant and refer to local sources of supplies.

And please—if you quote any statistics, cite your sources—which shouldn't be from the manufacturer whose product you're plugging in your article. The "Energy Efficiency" article was a pretty lame promo for Nest and only provided generic info. The "Beyond Windows" article might work for city dwellers who don't have pets, but my cats would be swinging on those drapery panels like nobody's business. My blog readers wouldn't identify at all.

Perhaps you should just drop me from your email list. I don't think we're on the same page. We're not even in the same book. And we're in different libraries. Well, you get my drift.

 But I'll bet she doesn't. Since there was a copyright notice on the bottom of her email, the company might think I'm violating some law or another. However, since I'm using jpegs of a portion of the email for educational purposes, George and I think I'm good to go.

Plus, I might even be helping them "expand their audience." Just not in the way they envisioned.

Meanwhile, if y'all want to buy space on my blog (note: my prices are rising so rapidly, I can't give you a quote at the moment) have your people contact my cat George and we'll see what we can work out.

But be warned that George isn't thinking outside the box lately.


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