Luray Caverns in Virginia

Luray Caverns in Virginia
Luray Caverns in Virginia

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent

It is that time of year when I really want to read something scary!  I love Halloween, and Fall....  and I try to enjoy as much about the season as I can!

I wanted to find some reading material that seemed appropriate.  Luckily, I found a copy of Kathleen Kent's book, "The Heretic's Daughter", set during the witch trials in Salem!

One thing that popped out to me as I read a description of the book was that one of the book's main character's, convicted and executed Salem witch Martha Carrier, is an ancestor to the author!  That gives this book some significant cred up front.

The story is told from the perspective of Martha's daughter, Sarah, who is growing up in this well known New England area.  She and her family experience a good amount of rejection thanks to family health issues.  She is forced to stay with her aunt and uncle for some time as these issues occur.  She develops a strong bond with a cousin, and her relations and perceptions of each family member evolves as she is moved around.  She develops more of an understanding (and admiration) of her parents, while her psychological guard goes up concerning others.

While she is dealing with living a regular young girl's life, the witch hysteria becomes a major focus for the locals, as Sarah, her mother, and most of the rest of her family find themselves in jail, accused of being witches.

"The Heretic's Daughter" is a very well written book concerning this time and place in history.  MANY modern authors have tried to write about this... with mixed success.  Source material is scarce, and some authors have taken excessive creative liberties.

Kathleen Kent has not done that.  Sure, this is historic fiction, and she has written a story, but I believe she has stuck VERY closely to the known facts.  THIS is exactly what I think probably went down in Salem and the surrounding areas in 1692.  She is making some of this up..... but she has absolutely gotten the tone and the vibe right.

If you have read up on the events, you know that the convicted were likely the most dedicated Puritans of them all.  Even with threat of death, they refused to make a false admission to save their lives.  These were stubborn, disciplined people who would literally rather die than to renounce their status as a faithful believer. 

Again, the author really gets the FEEL of the time right.

The book has a good flow and I was able to read this one over a few days.  It is dark while still being true to the events and it gets my highest possible recommendation.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Godfather's Pizza- Madisonville, KY

I know....  what's so special about a chain pizza place in a mall?

Well, years ago, when me and my buddies first got our driver's licenses, we were itching to go to new places.  ANY place new.  Madisonville was less than an hour drive from us.  We had always heard of it, but never been there, so we went to Madisonville.

Madisonville was smaller than Owensboro, but it was still a city big enough to have stuff going on- including a nice mall.

Going to Madisonville...  and the Madisonville Mall was something fun and new to us.  It was different.

This little Godfather's Pizza has been a constant at the mall.... at least as long as I have been going there.  I like their pizza and breadsticks.  And there is something very cozy about the dine-in area here.

Its dim with glassless windows looking into the mall.  For some reason, I think all great pizza shops should be dim.  Especially a "Godfather's" pizza.  Dim is good for...  you know, secretive conversations.  Private business.  Dark pizza places make me think of pizza places in the 80s too. 

Even now, whenever I drive through or to Madisonville, I like going to Godfather's.

I like going here for nostalgia's sake... and because I like the food.

I stopped by the other day and I thought it was cool that they had the place all decorated up for Halloween.  Check out the photos.  They did a good job.







Monday, October 23, 2017

Wild Mountain Bakery and Cafe- Murray Kentucky

Wild Mountain Bakery and Café was a good stop for us on a recent trip through western Kentucky.

This is a nice place to enjoy a nice sandwich and coffee in this great college town.

We stopped by and had "Smoke Bomb" sandwiches which were perfect.

The sandwiches came with chips and this was just a nice, satisfying meal.

On the way out, we got a great blue berry muffin, and I got a pumpkin spice latte.  The latte (a large) was LESS THAN $4!  Take that, chain coffee shops!

Wild Mountain is a very DIY kind of place (they even roast their own coffee beans).  They are very local, and very into the whole fresh homemade thing.


The staff was very friendly- we had a pleasant chat with a young Murray student from Louisiana who is studying equine management.  She chatted with us about travelling, while also telling us about the shop and it's offerings.

This little café just really hits all of the marks in making a perfect place for lunch or coffee.







Saturday, October 21, 2017

Land Between the Lakes- Kentucky and Tennessee

Probably every year or two, my dad and I make the short drive to Land Between the Lakes for a day trip.  He used to go to the area a lot to hunt and fish with his cousin.

My first trip to the area was probably in the early 80s.  My family went down for an over night trip.  I remember seeing all of the main things you would want to see at LBL.


My 5th grade class from Utica Elementary School went there for a weekend trip too, which was a lot of fun.

There used to be a cool observation area at the top of a silo.  I remember going there on those first couple of trips.  There was a wooden walkway leading to the top of the silo which was very cool.  Sadly, this is no longer accessible as people were setting things on fire, and tossing them down the silo.  Here is a little more about the silo.

On this trip, we mostly just drove around and took in the scenery.

One thing we always do while here is go to the Elk and Bison Prairie.

It's $5 a car to go in to the Prairie area.  Once inside, you drive slowly around a long road and look for elk and bison.

We did not see any elk on this day, though we did hear the elk bugle.  This mating call is actually kind of scary if you don't know what it is.

We made a lap around and did see a LOT of bison.  They were big and numerous!  They also seem very comfortable around vehicles.


At one point, they very slowly surrounded my car.  One literally put its head on the hood of my vehicle.  I really wasn't sure what to do about this....  so I just waited.

The bison's eyes looked heavy, and I thought for a moment that it was going to take a nap, using my car as a pillow (see third photo from bottom).  I did back up... a little, but there were bison behind me too.


This whole exchange lasted probably 45 minutes.  I felt excited about this bison and its friendly attitude towards us, but I also felt some concern, as I just bought this new car a few weeks ago.

Our friendly bison finally moved on... slowly.  I looked at my car later.  There were no dents or damage- just a furry dusty chin print and some bison slobber.






Thursday, October 19, 2017

Ole South Bar-B-Q Owensboro, KY

I swung by Owensboro the other day to visit family.  On the morning I left, everyone wanted to go to Ole South for their breakfast bar!

I hate to admit that this was my first visit here, but it was.  I haven't lived in Owensboro since the 90s..... and all of the stuff out on 54 is new and foreign to me.

For around $10 I had a great breakfast buffet and coffee.  Our waitress was on it and it was a clean, comfortable and pleasant environment.  I definitely want to go back for breakfast.... but I want to go back at a different time to so that I can try their mutton and burgoo.



Tuesday, October 17, 2017

"Johnny Green of the Orphan Brigade" by Johnny Green, edited by A.D. Kirwan

"Johnny Green of the Orphan Brigade: The Journal of a Confederate Soldier" was a very enjoyable book to read.  The copy I got was edited by A.D. Kirwin with a new forward by Kent Masterson Brown.

The Orphan Brigade was a group of recruits from Kentucky who fought for the Confederacy.  Johnny Green joins the Brigade, and ends up seeing a lot of action during the Civil War, participating in almost all of their battles.

Editor A.D. Kirwin points out that the "journal" is really more of a memoir, as Green seems to be constructing some of his story from memory.  There are things that Johnny mentions that he could not have known of at the time of the Civil War.  Still, at other times he appears to be discussing something as it happens.

It would be very possible (and enjoyable) to read the text of Green as it is.  He gives great accounts of his own personal injuries during the fighting.  He talks about what was going on, to him, during several of the well known battles.  That's what is so much fun about reading a first hand account like this.  The stories of the battles, in general, have been told over and over.  First hand accounts, from such a small perspective are exceptionally rare.  From Johnny Green, we get to hear from a real Confederate about his daily life.  We are able to enjoys stories about the scarcity of food and the resourcefulness of hungry soldiers.  We hear about soldiers dying, and soldiers getting injured....  we also hear about soldiers getting injured but being mistaken for dead.  Johnny tells us about trading with Union soldiers during truces.  He talks about gambling, and soldiers finding religion (and then temporarily giving up their gambling habits).

A.D. Kirwin (an interesting character himself) does a great job of giving intros to each section/battle, helping with some of the historical accounts of what Johnny is going through at that moment.  He also gives side note throughout the book.  If Johnny mentions a fellow soldier, Kirwin gives us the brief historical facts about that person.  He also confirms (or corrects) Johnny accounts as needed.

I have to give a lot of credit to Kirwin AND Brown for their helpful contributions to the book.  Both obviously care a lot about the source material, and Johnny Green's story.  Kirwin's notes are very helpful to the reader.  Kent Masterson Brown's 20 page forward also gives some more detail about Johnny's story, and the Orphan Brigade.  In fact, I enjoyed rereading his contribution after reading the main text.  That really helped with understanding the entire story.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Taps and Free Battlefield Guide Tour

I mentioned earlier that the very friendly people at the Shriver House suggested that we go by the cemetery at 6pm for a free one hour Licensed Battlefield Guide tour... so we did!

I did not catch the name of the great guide we had, but he was very informative.  He talked about the battle, and about how the National Cemetery was set up.  He told us that a photo was discovered of Abe in the Cemetery.  The photo was discovered 40 or so years ago, and using angles and all that, they were able to determine that Lincoln gave his famous Gettysburg address NOT where the monument is now, but probably about 140 feet away.... and he would have actually been standing in the Evergreen Cemetery.

The guide hung out after his tour and answered questions.  I mentioned before that on our visit to town in 2015 we hired a guide for a tour, so a FREE one with a guide is kind of a big deal!  It was very generous of him to donate his time to this.  I did see someone in the group offer a tip, which this guide declined.

Right after our tour, a fellow came out and played Taps at 7pm.  This was part of the park's, "100 Night of Taps" series.  A different bugler plays Taps each night at 7 for 100 nights.

The gentleman who played Taps the night we were there was from Arkansas.  He was presented with a special challenge coin after playing.

AND trust me....  hearing Taps in the Gettysburg National Cemetery was moving.  If you didn't have goose bumps, hair standing up, and a tear in your eye at this special moment....  well, there is something wrong with ya.




Saturday, October 14, 2017

"This is holy ground: A history of the Gettysburg Battlefield" by Barbara L. Platt

"This is holy ground:  A history of the Gettysburg Battlefield" by Barabara L. Platt was a very interesting book to read while on our trip to Gettysburg!  This is one of the rarer books about the town that DOES NOT really involve the actual battle.

I had been looking for a book more about the development of the National Park, and the preservation of the area for some time, and I just happened upon this nice little read at a Half Price Books!

Anyway, the book gets into the details of the Battlefield right after the famous conflict.  A lot happens early on with the very quick establishment of the Gettysburg National Cemetery.  Associations pop up concerning preserving the area. There is some forward thought about the significance of the properties.

Platt covers a lot of very local issues concerning the land.  Of course, there are parties that really want to keep everything pristine, and VERY 1863ish.  There are others, mainly local business owners, who aren't as excited about keeping things that way.  Many people express concerns on both sides, including a favorite of this blogger, William Frassanito!

The book mentions several attractions placed on the land, that eventually go away (or are demolished) including a scrap yard, and observation towers.

I did not know about some of the controversy surrounding a tower that came down in 2000, or the concerns relating to the earlier building housing the Cyclorama. 

Platt's book is an interesting study in the history and preservation of one of the most important battlefields on American soil.  All sorts of issues come up.

It did come out in the early 00s though....  So I would be interested in reading an updated version, as a decade or so has passed by........

Friday, October 13, 2017

Jennie Wade House- Gettysburg Pennsylvania

A great guide named Leon gave us a really nice tour of the Jennie Wade House.  I almost don't want to tell the story again (it's probably the most well known story associated with Gettysburg).  Anyway, Jennie was baking break for the Union soldiers coming through town at her sister's house.  She was shot and killed by a bullet that went through two doors before reaching her.  She is the only civilian that was killed during the three days of fighting at Gettysburg.
 
Her sister's home is now known as the Jennie Wade House, and it is a very famous place to visit while in Gettysburg.  They have tours, and a nice gift shop.
 
The exact area where she was baking is on the tour.....  You can literally look, and stand where it happened.
 
I was VERY moved to see the two bullet holes through the doors leading to the kitchen area.  You can see one bullet hole looking through the other one (see photo).
 
AND, there is something very sweet and humble about the fact that she was making bread to help the soldiers when all of this happened.
 
There is actually much more to the story (and the home).  There is a romance and lost letter.  There is a baby born in the house.  An Artillery shell penetrates the home....
 
Towards the end of our tour, we saw a display case containing a floorboard from the site where Jennie fell. 
 
This was a great house tour, and Jennie Wade's story is one of the more interesting (and tragic) ones relating to civilian life during the battle.












Thursday, October 12, 2017

Gallery 30 in Gettysburg Pennsylvania

I wanted to give a very quick mention to Gallery 30 in Gettysburg.

My wife loves this place, and it was the place she really wanted to make it to again when we planned our latest trip to Gettysburg.  She loves Gallery 30.

They sell a lot of unique jewelry and local art items.  They are big into gourdes, paintings, and photos.  Everything they sell is appealing and quality.  All of their items are nice and nothing appears sloppily made or amateurish. 

My wife spent a lot of time here while I checked out some of the nearby relic shops, and book stores.  It is right off of the diamond in the main area of Gettysburg.


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Civil War Tails at the Homestead Diorama Museum, Gettysburg, PA.

I heard about Civil War Tails through Roadside America, and not through my usual Civil War channels......

AND that is kind of the thing about Civil War Tails in Gettysburg.  MOST of the traditional attractions in Gettysburg don't make the list on a website like roadsideamerica.com.  Civil War Tails may.... or may not make the list of usual attractions relating to the battle in town.  It straddles a fine line.

So...  twin sisters Rebecca and Ruth Brown enjoy making Civil War dioramas.......  using CATS instead of humans.  They have done a lot of them.  I think I heard that they have done over 8,000 cat soldiers.  Think about that for a minute.

AND, they have set them up showing accurate scenes from the Civil War.  Well, accurate except for the fact that cats have replaced people.


Admission is a very affordable $6.50 to check out this new folk art must see.

We walked in and were pretty impressed with the set up.  Small signs have been made to explain each of the dioramas.

As I looked at the first layout, I observed Confederate and Union soldiers.  I asked the co-creator where were the orange tabbies while all of this was going on?  She politely laughed, but I get the feeling that they have heard every imaginable joke about cats and the Civil War.

We ended up spending a bit of time here, as the small figures in the 1860s scenes are very interesting.... and different.  Plus, having one of the artists present to show us around, and tell us about the process was a huge bonus.


Before leaving, we checked out some of the merchandise for sale here.  Small domed cat soldiers, hand made by the Brown sisters, are available for as low as $5 each!  For $10, you can get a Civil War Cat kissing his cat wife.  I mentioned that I felt these little works of art were a total bargain at that price.  I was told that the sisters want to keep the prices  reasonable so that the kids that come through can afford one.


I really like what Rebecca and Ruth are doing here.  PLUS, their museum IS inside of the Homestead, which is part of the old Orphanage, linked to the Humiston photo.  I really appreciate the privilege of being able to walk into the old historic buildings linked to the battle (and the events right afterwards).  Getting to walk inside of this historic building is just an added bonus.