Sunday, December 30, 2007

Visiting Adin's Farm By Sue Kinsella

I hadn’t thought about it before, so I was amazed when I realized that I knew someone who was a veteran of World War I. Well, we all did, those of us who had the good fortune to visit Adin’s farm in Center Lisle. What I understood was that he had gone into the army in 1917 and was sent to France. Mom says that’s what she had thought, too, but her research recently revealed that he went to England and was on a burial detail. Nevertheless, within six months of getting to Europe, he was felled not by a bullet or by mustard gas, but by the worldwide Spanish Flu pandemic and was sent home.

He never married, so he cared for his mother and lived the rest of his life in and within walking distance of the Baker family farmhouse where he was born. That’s where his big sister, Nancy Ethel, our Grandma Taylor, was born and grew up, as well, and their younger sisters Ruth and Lil.

When I knew Adin, he was retired from farming and living in the “new” house down the road from his birthplace, the one that Nancy and Diana refer to in their blog posts. He had built this new house from the planks cut from the trees he dragged out of the forest in his “spare time,” as Mom described in her story about Haying At Adin’s. She thinks he might have sent away for the blueprints from the Sears & Roebuck catalog.

Most of our time was spent in the front room that stretched across much of the front of the house. As you came in the front door, Adin’s big comfortable overstuffed chair was before you, between the big pot-bellied stove and the wall. To the left was a big window looking out on the front lawn and then a corner where a fainting couch stretched along the far wall. In most of my memories of Grandma Kate Baker, she’s sitting, resting on that daybed, wrapped up in a quilt.

Towards the back of the room, at the end of Grandma’s couch, was the dining table, ringed with chairs. Grandma Baker used to send me out to the front yard – really, a small pasture because periodically Adin let the cows into it “to cut the grass” – to pick dandelion greens to make into a salad. I remember that they were spicy and somewhat bitter, but putting salad dressing on them helped. Seems like sometimes she steamed them because I remember them being served warm.

Grandma Baker was blind by this time, but she must have had some “inner sight” because she pieced together quilts by feel and she cooked in the kitchen beyond this front room. She also read tea leaves. I remember her handing me a cup of tea after breakfast and asking me to drink it. Then she took it from me and looked into it carefully, noting the pattern of the tea leaves. I believe she told me that I would soon be taking a trip. And, you know, she was right, if you count driving home to Rochester as “a trip.”

As Tim noted in his blog post, a prominent feature of the front room was its “decoration” with what seemed like dozens of fly tapes – yellowish twists of sticky paper ribbons that trapped some of the zillions of flies that hung around . . . and then hung around stuck to the fly paper seemingly forever, as well. Out back off the kitchen, the grass grew to be several feet high. My main occupation when visiting Adin was pulling up lots of this grass and braiding it into long grass ropes that I strung like Christmas decorations all around the front room, competing with those fly tapes to add my idea of charm.

Upstairs in Adin’s house were bedrooms. Adin never finished the rooms upstairs, so the walls were brown wallboard with blotches of white polka dot paint stripes down them. There was no bathroom upstairs, so we used “vessels” when needed in the night. Usually, vessels were pots that were shoved under the bed, but I seem to remember vessels that were like giant vases lining the wall, almost like Egyptian statuary and nearly as tall as I was. That might not have been saying a lot, since I was a little kid. I just was glad that I wasn’t the one who had to bring the vessels down each morning to empty them and wash them out.

Adin’s room was downstairs, to the right of the front room but reached by a narrow hall behind it that led from the kitchen at the back of the house. Mom says that when neighbors who were hard on their luck came to Adin to ask for a loan, he would take them back to his room, strike the deal, then seal it with a shot of whiskey.

What did we do at Adin’s? He’d take us to visit the cows, if they didn’t come visit us in the front yard. He took us fishing. I remember using sticks with string attached and an open safety pin tied to the end. We did catch fish with that! Later, Mom said she learned that the fishing hole he took us to was a restricted state reservoir. But I think Adin figured he had as much right to it as anyone because he’d probably been there longer than the state had.

And I, too, remember shooting the rifle that Diana and Tim mention. What I specifically remember was that Adin told me, before I shot it, that the barrel was bent or something like that, so that I couldn’t use the sight on it to pinpoint my aim. He recommended that I look down the barrel and then aim for a spot several feet lower than what I wanted to hit, so that I’d have a chance at accuracy. That didn’t seem logical to me so I ignored his advice. And that is why I, too, could not hit the broad side of the barn.

A visit to Adin’s always included a visit to Aunt Lil’s store. She was Adin’s and Grandma Taylor’s “little sister.” I remember coming in the back door and tramping down the old wooden plank floor between aisles so crammed with stuff that it’s a wonder anyone found anything there. It seems we were looking for mayonnaise but we were as likely to find car sparkplugs as food. And there, in a little cubbyhole, was Aunt Lil sitting on a wooden stool at the cash register. I can hear her still, lacing her conversation with, “Don’tcha know,” just like Grandma did.

And we would go to the old farmhouse, where now Wendell and Joyce lived and worked the family farm. I remember sleeping over with our second cousins, Kathryn, Helen, Dawn, Anne and Rhoda, and giggling under the bedcovers while our mothers, all first cousins, caught up on all the family gossip.

During the days, Dad and Adin would take us kids around out in the pastures and to see the cows while Mom spent the visit gabbing with Grandma Baker. Besides being blind, Grandma was also deaf, so it was a very loud visit. I was often looking for things to do because there weren’t things to “play” with at Adin’s. I didn’t realize at the time how precious the memories of that place and time would become to me.

One winter day years later, just before I turned 13, Mom told me that Adin had been found lying on his front room floor, dead. The fire had burned out in the stove and it was cold. Piecing together the clues, Mom thinks this shy man who never married had died on Valentine’s Day. His niece Phyllis’s son, Wendell, found him two days later.

Mom and Aunt Esther took Julie and me to his funeral. I remember noticing that someone had placed a sprig of pine in his hand, to represent his love of the land. After reading Mom’s and Uncle Harold’s story about Haying, I now understand why.

Pictures: Grandma Kate and Adin, Center Lisle in July of 1955, Center Lisle in July of 1957 (hoping Ma can tell us more about this update on the house!), Adin, Dan Kinsella and Sue Kinsella, and the last picture is of Aunt Lil and Grandma Taylor.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

And More

More Pictures from Sunday

Pictures from the Day of Aunt Barb's Funeral

The Sunday of Aunt Barb's funeral was rainy, windy, grey and cold in Waterloo. Although our mapquest directions were wrong, we could tell where we were supposed to be: cars up and down the street as we found Mull's Funeral Home.

Inside, the rooms of the older home, now funeral home, were packed with people. Aunt Barb's casket was beautiful, with displays of flowers carefully laid on top of it. A Nora Roberts book was there, to be put in with her, and four stained glass angels (her girls) also would be placed inside, so that her girls would be with her forever.

Aunt Barb herself looked very much like the Aunt Barb that I remembered from years ago.

The Hawkes, the Lochners, the Kinsellas, the Maneys, and other cousins and friends and neighbors were there in force.

The service was short, with the minister leading us all in prayers and reading the 23rd Psalm and a passage from John 14. The minister then reminded us all of favorite stories from Barb's life. She encouraged us to share our memories of Aunt Barb; it is this that keeps her alive.

Jim Kinsella spoke about how Aunt Barb was like a mother to him. Yes, she yelled at him (like a mother), but she also gave him a small item to take with him to college so that he would always remember her. He ended by giving back the whale and placing it in her coffin so that he could know where to find her when the time was right. By the time Jim sat down, all eyes were misty, if not running over.

After the service, we all drove to the Sportsman Club where a fantastic dinner appeared out of nowhere. It was great to get a chance to eat and talk with so many of our cousins, and of course, wonderful to see Uncle Harold, Kathy, Annie, Mary and Judy.

THANK YOU, Chuck Lochner for these pictures. If anyone has more, please email them to me.

Do click on the word 'comments' at the end of this post to be taken to a separate page where you can write down what you remember about Aunt Barb, or more of what Sunday was like for you. When the comments page comes up, write your comment with your name and then, probably the easiest is to click on 'anonymous' and then, click on 'post'.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Aunt Barb Taylor

Always helping, always laughing with a joke, a great cook, with great hugs.

I remember all of the holidays spent at their home. While we were busy playing in the play house out back or down by the creek in the woods, Aunt Barb was making the feast that we were about to eat.

After stepping over numerous little cats to get to their doorway, Aunt Barb always greeted me a huge hug.

I will miss you so much!

Monday, December 17, 2007

A Tale of Two Log Cabins

Diana writes: "I came across this picture that folks might find interesting.

Standing in front the the 'log cabin' that my brother Jim Taylor and his friend Bob Bragen were building for fun is me (on the left) Arnon, Maria, Grandma Taylor and the little kid in front not paying attention is Carol Ann. The cabin was in the woods across the street from the house in Warners and up a hill. It was a hike - I don't think the cabin got any taller than it was - and I know they never put on a roof. I'm not sure if they ran out of steam, lost interest, couldn't figure out how to do a roof or got too interested in other things - but it sure kept them busy for a long time. This picture was hanging in the hallway of the Taylor house in MN and when I saw it I couldn't remember when I had stood in front of this and when it was taken - until my mom pointed out that the person I was looking at was HER and not me and that I was the kid with the hair and the funny pants! Just goes to show you how much like our parents some of us are."

The other log cabin was built at Otty Lake by Tom Kinsella. Boasting a marble floor filled with marble rocks swiped from the nearby marble mine, and a door and roof, it had at one point a cot and several of us spent overnights in it. In this picture are Jim, Chris, builder Tom, and our faithful dog, Corky.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Clothes Chute at 2846 By Tom Kinsella

--Editor's Note: Anyone else have favorite rooms/spots in their homes, current or past?

Christine and I got talking about clothes chutes the other day. She didn’t have one in her house while growing up. I told her I remember visiting friends’ houses where their clothes chutes ended at the basement ceiling. They just placed baskets on the floor to catch the falling clothes. I used to think those chutes very strange (although they were probably a smart innovation (cheaper and effective).

Talk of chutes got me thinking about the clothes chute at 2846. It certainly was a focal point of fun. Tim remembers hiding in it and eating his “stolen” frozen pies. What a hiding spot for such nefarious nibbling. If Mom ever did come down stairs while he was in there he was trapped, and it was very likely, if she did come down, that she was thinking about the laundry. Did you ever get caught, Tim?

I remember playing hide and seek and hiding in the clothes chute in the basement. It was a pretty easy hiding spot to find, though. I remember improving it by hiding under lots of dirty laundry still in the chute (must have been quite small). I also think I remember trying to shinny up the chute from the basement. If I did try this, I never got too far.

On the second floor the chute was also lots of fun. There was a small space in the ceiling of the chute that allowed you to get your hand above the chute. Pat, Beth, and I made a ghost detector once: a toilet paper roll with saran wrap held on each end with rubber bands; if you looked through the roll (which had magic writing on it I think), and also through Winky’s ears, and also through a key hole (all at the same time), you could see ghosts. Not sure that we ever managed to get the proper items lined up for a ghost viewing, but I remember that we kept the ghost detector hidden in the space above the ceiling of the clothes chute. It might still be there.
I also remember being told to stand in the kitchen with the clothes chute door open and to watch. Dan or Tim would be upstairs throwing stuff down, and I’d watch it come down. I also remember being the one doing the throwing for younger kids. Finally, I remember how much fun it was to slam the clothes chute doors. Mom wanted them closed, but not slammed. Well, she sometimes got the first, but seldom the last.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Thanksgiving 2007 at Diana Taylor McCarty's

Here is a picture of this Thanks-giving at my house. Seated in Front is Maria Taylor, from the left my Son Michael and his wife Jennifer - My oldest son, Jonathan's girlfriend Ashley then Jonathan and seated next to my mom is my daugher Kristen.

Hope the holiday season find you all healthy and happy. Holidays are always so bittersweet as we remember with fondness those that are not with us in person but only in spirit.

P.S. As you can see I did respond to Judy's question ( about what is a tiebar) - darn her for reminding her of our ages!