Sunday, June 3, 2018

In Search of Dewberry, Georgia

Even though we’ve been living in Northwestern Georgia for nearly a year, we’re still discovering communities only a short distance from our house. Part of the reason for that is that almost nothing is laid-out in the familiar grid pattern. Roads follow the direction dictated by the ubiquitous hills and mountains that dominate the area. Straight, flat roads are rare. Curving, up-and-down roads are the norm. It’s fun to drive on these roads. They are often narrow with trees on both sides and little traffic. It was on one such road one recent day when we came across the Dewberry/Park City Community Cemetery.

Having been involved in genealogy for over 25 years, cemeteries draw my attention like a magnet. Except for the sign this cemetery looks to be forgotten. From the road, portions of a grave marker and cross can be seen in the thick brush. Such finds are a genealogist’s dream or nightmare depending on your point of view. The people buried here are forgotten, as if they never existed. Die-hard genealogists often will scour abandoned cemeteries, recording whatever information is available on grave markers and posting it to various internet sites.

My curiosity got the best of me. It was mid-day, hot and muggy, and the brush was shoulder high, comprised mostly of thorny raspberry bushes (note to myself – go back in about two weeks). I found two grave markers, both members of a Buchanan family. Surprisingly, the deaths occurred 1981 and 1992. I expected the graves to be much older. I was not able to reach the cross. I’m sure there are more graves but a machete would be needed to find them.

I stumbled upon this scene not far from one of the graves. The doll is laying near to what appears to be a backpack. I don’t know what to make of it.

About a mile further down the road we came upon the Dewberry & Park City Community Playground. It’s a decent little park maintained by the residents, who seem to be very adamant about what goes on in their park.

Since that day I have been trying to learn something about the history of Dewberry and Park City but so far have found little information. They may be just census designated places that don’t now or never did exist as physical communities. But then where did the names come from? I'm going to keep looking.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Her name was Candy

We’ve been away from Peru for almost a year, yet I still have flashbacks that are so vivid that it seems like yesterday. I can clearly picture the combi station in Tucume, and us getting on the combi after visiting a pronoei in some desert village. During the ride back to our home in Chiclayo we would talk about the people and our thoughts, and what I should write about them on our webpage. Most times it took a few hours of wracking our brains to come up with what we wanted to say. Occasionally the post would write itself in my head on the combi. All I had to do was type it when we got back.

Yesterday while cutting the grass an idea for a short story popped into my head all by itself. And not just the idea…while I was mowing it was writing itself. I like to write. Most times when I have an idea it takes me a couple of days to finish it. Then I save it in a temporary file, and in a month or so delete it. The story that follows took about an hour to type. Like I said, it pretty much wrote itself. Some of it is fiction, some not. I’ll leave it to you to figure it out.

Her name was Candy…Candy Barr. That was probably her stage name. I never did know her real name. Doesn’t make any difference. A name is no big thing. You need a name to vote, get a driver’s license and receive social security payments. You need a name to put on your grave marker. It goes slightly above or below ‘The Lord is my Shepherd’, depending on your preference, or more likely the preference of whoever has the responsibility for putting you in the hole. You also need a name to make a medical appointment, though that’s not the first thing you need.  Let me shed some light on that.

Shortly after moving back to the states from Peru I called a medical clinic to set up an appointment to meet a doctor for a get-acquainted visit. Using my best friendly telephone voice I explained to the woman that we had just moved into the area and wanted to arrange for a family doctor. I was prepared to hear; welcome, how do you like the area, what brought you here, and thanks for calling our clinic. She didn’t say any of that. Instead she asked, “What insurance do you have?” I was speechless. In the old days I would have said flabbergasted. I’ll tell you straight; she flat-out pissed me off. I had visions of a sterile white office with white plastic furniture and white plastic peoplebots. After a moment I said, “That’s the first thing you say to me…what insurance do I have?” She replied matter of factly that the information was necessary to determine if the clinic would accept us as patients. I told her that while she was evaluating me I was also evaluating her clinic and decided it was not acceptable. I hung up. I wonder what old doc Curtain would have thought of today’s health industry. He’s the doc that brought me into this world. If one of us kids had a fever or some other problem that wouldn’t go away, a call to him would have him at our house day or night. In he would come with his black doctor bag and grandpa bedside manner. After he was finished I would hear my dad ask if it was okay to pay half now and the rest next week. We and the country were still recovering from the Great Depression. He never said no.

The first time I saw Candy was in a Wisconsin Northwoods tavern during deer season. This would have been about 1962 or so. There were always a few tavern owners that hired strippers for the nine-day season to get as many hunters as possible into their bar at night. Lin, John and I were seated at a table not far from the make-shift stage where Candy was doing her routine accompanied by the stripper’s national anthem, “If you want it here it is, come and get it…” We were talking about the new rifle John had brought to camp. It was a Browning .30-06 BAR camelback model. I didn’t like it but wouldn’t say that to John, who had spent a bundle on his new pride and joy. Anyway, we suddenly heard Candy say in a loud voice, “It seems to me that the boys at that table (ours) might rather see a man up here taking off his clothes.” I just laughed and so did John, but Lin, never one to take an insult said, “Well, perhaps if you would come up with something more creative than the same old bumps and grinds we would show some interest.” Some guys at another table took exception to Lin’s comment. A big beefy guy shouted that Lin should apologize to the lady. The situation had all the makings of a brouhaha.

Fights were not uncommon during deer season in taverns in those days. Many bartenders had a bat behind the bar to try to keep order with. Often the cause was about shooting a doe. If I remember correctly a camp with a minimum of four hunters could apply for a permit to shoot a doe for the purpose of ‘camp meat.’ Old timers believed you were hurting the deer population by shooting does, despite what the young whippersnappers in the Conservation Department were saying. Our camp always got a permit. We always shot a doe. Venison is venison in my book.

Another fight-starter was different opinions about the best caliber for hunting. Shortly after the Korean War was over the military dumped a lot of .30 caliber carbines on the market. Most hunters thought the gun should be outlawed for hunting because it wasn’t powerful enough. I agreed with that. I didn’t like that rifle. To me a guy was better off with a Red Ryder BB gun. Sure, it was easy to carry, being short and light. Officers liked it. It was standard issue to all support units. Support units were ordinance companies, headquarters companies and all the other REMF’s (rear echelon mother f_ _ _ _ _ _). The rest of us carried the M1 Garand. That was a rifle. It weighed 9 ½ pounds, was 43 ½ inches long and .30-06 caliber. It took care of business. It was eventually replaced by the M14, the only differences being a built-in flash deflector, and magazine instead of clip fed. But you don’t care about that.

So Lin shouts back to Mr. ‘Boca Grande’ that he should keep his opinion to hisself. So the guy stands up, inhaling as much air into his lungs as possible to expand his chest and make himself look more threatening. You know, there ain’t much difference between us and male birds and animals. So Lin stands up, but he don’t have to inhale to look threatening. He stands 6’3”, weighs 235 and is built like a fire plug. The other guy can see that. What he can’t see is that Lin can hit with either hand harder than a mule kicks. He can lift the state of Rhode Island. And he loves to fight; something his mild-mannered parents could never understand.

As both guys start walking toward each other the guys at his table stand up. Me and John got no choice but to back Lin’s play and stand up, and I’m thinking here we go. The bartender starts yelling that everybody should relax, but it was Candy who defused the situation. She shouted out, “Boys, sit down! Ain’t nobody insulted no one!” That big voice coming out of that little bitty body took everyone by surprise. We all sat down, but not without making our most fierce expressions at each other. Candy resumed her routine, we applauded, pounded on the table and wolf-whistled, and everyone was happy.

Later, after the place had emptied out some and Candy had changed into regular clothing and had taken a seat at the bar I bought her a drink. I told her I was impressed with what she did and asked if she had experience with that sort of situation. I don’t remember what she said. The rest of the conversation was your normal small talk until she started telling about her personal life. She lived in Milwaukee, was divorced, and worked as a clerk in the jewelry section at Gimbels Department store. She said each deer season she worked a gig as a stripper, because it added something different and sort of exciting to what she said was a dull life. Before you know it I was telling her about myself, and it felt like we were becoming friends. Now don’t go reading anything into that. She was attractive but I was more interested in who she was than anything else.

A couple nights later we were back at the bar. So far, except for the camp deer none of us had shot a buck, and with only one day remaining the odds of getting a deer were slim. So we talked about what we would do different next year. Later, Candy and I talked a bit but I guess we had said all there was to say previously. As we parted she said, “See ya next year” and I said, “Let me know where you’ll be working”, each of us knowing that we had not exchanged contact information so that couldn’t happen.

A few years later I was at Milwaukee’s Southgate Mall when I heard someone behind me shout out, “Hey!” I turned around and there was Candy. With her was a boy of about 10 years. She had forgotten my name, and I thought it would be prudent not to call her Candy in front of the boy. She asked how I was doing, and volunteered that she was happily married to a great guy, was still at Gimbels, and had "stopped making trips up north.” I told her I wouldn’t have seen her anyway because the guys in our camp had sort of drifted apart two years ago.

It sounded like Candy was happy with her life. I was glad for her. We said our goodbyes. I never saw her again.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Is this Really Georgia??

I did the research. I looked at all the factors you would normally look at when contemplating a move to a different region of the country (in our case, a different country). I looked at taxes, cost-of-living, population, entertainment opportunities, geography, crime rate, ease of access to hospitals, airports and other major cities, and climate. All of the information we gathered kept pointing to the Chattanooga area. Climate was a biggie for us. Having lived in the heat of Northern Peru for the last ten years, we did not want to return to Wisconsin or any other cold weather state.

Using Google Map I ‘walked’ the streets in December. People were walking downtown in light jackets. Others were in shorts and t-shirts. Weather averages for January in Chattanooga are 49 high and 24 low. I’m thinking that’s perfect…we’ve got it made.

Do you know what the temperature is forecasted to be tonight? Nine. That’s right…nine. All day the radio has been announcing school and business closings for tomorrow. That’s not what we signed up for. Granted, in Wisconsin, Minnesota, etc. where we don’t start paying attention until it gets to -20 or so, nine would be nothing. But we didn’t anticipate having to buy snow parkas, wool hats and gloves. Georgia doesn’t show that in their tourist promotional advertising. They show southern belles in peach colored dresses strolling on a promenade.

City planners…in fact the entire metro area was not designed with temperatures of nine in mind. Earlier this month we had another cold front move through. A water main froze and broke in downtown Chattanooga. Television broadcasters kept advising people to let their faucets run slightly to prevent freezing. I didn’t pay attention to that, regarding it as being overly cautious. As I recall it was only going to get down to 16. The plumber bill was $95.00. Houses are not insulated to deal with a temperature of nine. And based on my experience neither are many of the small businesses. Oh well, I’ll probably be complaining when it’s in the upper 90s as I did last July.

And speaking of complaining, as long as I’m on a rant, let me comment about driving. The salesman who sold us our car said, “Let me caution you. Tennesseans are terrible drivers”. Those were his words, not mine. Was he ever right! In 60 years of driving my rule of thumb has been speed limit +5, unless I’m in a school or construction zone. It has been my observation that the standard practice here is speed limit minus 5 to 15. And there seems to be an obligation to constantly vary the speed. I have seen bumper stickers here that say, “The closer you get the slower I drive”. It is difficult for me to imagine how one could drive slower without stopping. 

I am not talking about an occasional driver. I am flat-out saying that it is the majority. I saw this same thing in New England in states like New Hampshire and Vermont. Maybe the cause is all the hills in those states and here in Tennessee and Georgia. Whatever it is, it sure is annoying. I would love to see some of these folks drive through Chicago during rush hour. They would probably get so rattled they would never drive again.

Okay…no more ranting. Despite the unplanned for cold and puzzling driving, we’re very happy with our choice. The greater Chattanooga area has a lot going for it and is a good place to live.

Promesa Peru 2017 Financial Report

During the year 2017 Promesa Peru took part in nine activities. They were:

Month            Activity                                                                       Expense  

April             Los Bances pronoei                                                     $507.87

May              Carrizo Bajo pronoei                                                     538.14

May              Huaca Quemada pronoei                                              532.48

May              El Carrizo  pronoei                                                         61.12

June              La Carpa Casinelli pronoei                                          393.29

June              Magali training                                                               38.17

June              Huaca de Toro pronoei                                               490.00

July               Paredones San Juan                                                     920.00

November    El Cerezo pronoei                                                         788.65

December    Caspe pronoei*                                                                29.26

                                                           Total expenses                      $4,369.73

* - The Caspe pronoei is in the Monsefu District. There are 60 families living in Caspe, and only 9 students in the pronoei. The money donated by Promesa Peru contributed to the village's chocolatada, and also served to close our books in preparation for discontinuing our activities.


Source                                                                                                Amount

Public donations                                                                             $4005.70

Other donations                                                                                    00.00

                                                           Beginning balance                    364.03

                                                           Total funds available            $4,369.73

                                                           Total expenses                        4,369.73

                                                            Ending balance                      $00.00


It is with a twinge of sadness that we publish this final financial report. Both Maribel and me miss our Promesa Peru activity much more than we anticipated. We wish we could have found a way to keep it operating. Our thanks to everyone who contributed over the years to the success of Promesa Peru.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Mystical Medicines

Sometime around July of this year, shortly after we moved to Rossville from Chiclayo, Peru I damaged my right knee. I can’t associate it with any specific event. It just, one day started hurting. I ignored it for several weeks, until the pain became more frequent and severe. When it became obvious it wasn’t going to improve, I did one of my least favorite things to do; made a doctor appointment. The diagnosis is a partially torn meniscus. The course of treatment is leg exercises, ibuprofen and to stay off of it as much as possible.

During that doctor visit I wondered out loud what the diagnosis and treatment would have been in Chiclayo. I’m positive that one of the medicines would have been a salve or ointment of some sort, either a commercial product or a homemade concoction. Chiclayonos are big on ointments for whatever ails you. I mentioned several other examples of Peruvian health care practices that the doctor had probably not come across in medical school. For chronic pain that is not responding to usual remedies, one might contract with a bruja (male witch) to make a house call. Often as part of the treatment the bruja will place a live cuy (guinea pig) on the affected location, and let it run in the area, which somehow transfers the cause of the pain to the cuy. The bruja usually eats the cuy in imitation of his Incan ancestors, who ate tons of the little buggers. All such treatments are taken seriously by the population. If a treatment doesn’t work it is because something else is interfering.

When the doctor laughed I surprisingly found myself feeling defensive. That’s when I told him about what I call the yellow rock. It’s actually a hard cylinder of sulphur. It is sold as a pain reliever in pharmacies and many corner grocery stores. My first experience with it was during my initial visit to Chiclayo, when I developed a severe headache. I suggested to Maribel that we walk to a pharmacy for aspirin when instead she produced the yellow rock from a kitchen drawer. When she began rubbing the rock on my temple I immediately heard a crackling sound, like paper being crushed. Within minutes the headache was gone.

I am a skeptic. My mantra is, “Show me proof”. My conclusion about the rock and headache was that it was simply coincidence. The second time that exact scenario happened several week later, I again said coincidence, but this time not so loud.

I mentioned earlier that Chiclayonos have a penchant for ointments as a medical treatment. As I think about it, that is no different than the dozens of ointments sold in the ‘health stores’ all over the USA. And to my knowledge 99% of all of their products carry the mandatory disclaimer that essentially says…’this product has not been government evaluated and has not been proven to cure anything or have any healthful affects at all’. So basically they are no more legitimate than the sulphur cylinder of the guinea-pig-on-the-back treatments.

Whenever I get involved in a discussion about health supplements, the ‘believers’ usually end up saying, “Well, there may be no scientific proof, but I know my body and these supplements work”. Given that line of thinking, isn’t it just as valid for a Chiclayono to say that they know their bodies and the guinea pig treatment works? Or for me to say that the sulphur cylinder works?

Okay, back to my knee. This week after examining my knee, the doctor concluded that the conservative treatment approach did not work. In two more weeks I will see an orthopedic surgeon in preparation for arthroscopic surgery. I really don’t like that but it sounds like there is no option. Well…maybe there is. Before I go under the knife I’m going to a pet store to buy a guinea pig. I’ll let it run around on my knee for a while. It can’t hurt, unless it bites me, and whether it works or not, we’ve got dinner.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

A Good Night for Gumbo

It’s cold in Rossville, Georgia. Well, I mean not Wisconsin cold, but 24 night and 42 day feels cold. Maybe those 10 years I spent in Chiclayo Peru has lowered my tolerance for cold.

And speaking of Peru, that’s where Maribel is now. She wanted to spend the holidays and her father’s birthday with her family. I wasn’t ready to return to Peru. Not enough time has elapsed. If I went back now it would feel as if I had never left. I wouldn’t appreciate it. It’s kind of an - absence makes the heart grow fonder, if that makes sense. So Maribel is in Peru with family and I’m alone. That’s not all bad.

I am in a situation where I can completely ignore Christmas. If Maribel were here I would have to deal with a tree, lights, decorations, cards and that interminable Christmas music. It is a scientifically proven fact that having to listen to ‘Have a Holly Jolly Christmas’ more than 30 times per day is the leading cause of tonsiloptis of the blow hole. And of course everyone knows that listening to Johnny Cash’s or Neil Diamond’s versions of ‘Little Drummer Boy’ results in instant insanity.

Another advantage is that I didn’t have to wait until midnight to eat Christmas dinner. That has been the tradition in Peru for years. Probably no one knows why anymore. Turkey is the traditional main course. The turkey is covered with a marinate that has also come down through the years. I am confounded as to why. To me that marinate ruins a perfectly good gobbler.

I didn’t have turkey for Christmas. I went to a local grocery store and cruised the aisles hoping that something would jump out at me. In the checkout line my basket contained a 4 ½ lb fresh chicken, a package of instant mashed potatoes and a can of cranberries. The woman in front of me had much more. She dropped some of it on the floor. As I was helping her pick it up she remarked that her family had insisted that she make her famous gumbo tonight to “take off the chill”. Now, I don’t know gumbo from shoe polish but to make conversation I remarked that it was indeed a good night for gumbo, and then as an afterthought jokingly asked, “Where did you say you live”?

That woman reacted to my comment as if it was the funniest thing she had ever heard. Then she used it as a segue to talk about her gumbo, in a volume intended to be heard by everyone in line. I was on my way out of the store when I heard a loud voice behind me say, “Now don’t you let me see you following me to my car, ha ha”! I replied without turning, “Then don’t look.” There was much laughter.

Happy Holidays to all!

Monday, November 13, 2017

A Disastrous Loss in Peru

The temple of Ventarron has been in existence for over 4,500 years. It was discovered about 15 years ago and has been actively excavated since that day. Two days ago the site was completely destroyed by fire including what is thought to be the oldest mural in the Americas. 

The fire was caused by employees of a sugar cane company who had set fire to nearby fields to burn sugar cane stubble. The fire quickly spread, engulfing the entire archaeological site. Everything was lost including records of the excavation which were kept on site. 

More than one-half million US dollars had been earmarked for the protection and excavation of Ventarron and the nearby archaeological site of Collud. It is unknown how much of that money was spent. There was no reported damage to Collud.

Maribel and I would often visit Ventarron to watch the progress of the excavation. We could reach the site from our home in just 20 minutes. 

This is the mural that was destroyed. It is thought to be more than 2000 years old. The colors were much more vivid than in this photo.

This photo shows an artist's rendition of what the temple looked like based on measurements taken by noted Peruvian archaeologist Walter Alva. 

Authorities in Lima have dispatched investigators to Ventarron to determine if the sugar company is responsible. The outcome of that investigation won't change anything. The remains of one of the oldest and grandest temples in the Americas is lost. What a shame.