Nick Russell

Jul 042020
 

Before I do anything else, let me wish our country a happy birthday. It seems like a bleak time in America right now, and it is, with all the political division, the racial strife, and a pandemic that is dividing us in so many ways. But there is something about this country that people need to remember. We are resilient. We will come back from this. Maybe not today or tomorrow or next month, but we will. I only hope that when we do, we come back smarter than we have been acting lately.

You can sure tell it is summer here in Florida. Every day is in the 90s, with humidity that melts you anytime you step out the door. Which means that, except for going out to the mailbox once a day, we don’t leave the house unless we absolutely have to. The summer storms are coming in every day, and a couple of days ago, we got a doozy of one, with rain and thunder and lightning. But since then, it’s been the norm for where we live, the storms come toward us and then separate going north and south and leaving us in a little slot that doesn’t get much.

I’ve been taking advantage of the extra time the weather and the pandemic have imposed on us to do a lot of writing on my new family historical saga. I nailed down another 5,200 words yesterday, which put me at a bit over 93,000 words total. I’m beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel on this one. I don’t know exactly how long it will be until I’m finished, but the end is in sight.

Speaking of books, how do you make an author’s day? In my book Big Lake Quarterback, I included my 17-year-old granddaughter Hailey Robinson, and her younger sister Destiny as characters. Yesterday, Hailey, who is reading the book, called me laughing out loud and telling me how funny it is and how much she loves it. She said the teenagers in the book are just like the kids she knows, and she feels like she’s right there with them. For a girl who really isn’t into books, I was thrilled when she said she loves it. That’s high praise and made this old man’s heart smile.

While I am writing, among everything else she does, Miss Terry is making sure we don’t go hungry. A while back, I wrote that I bought her a new Breville smart oven with an air fryer. Yesterday she tried the air fryer part of it for the first time, making chicken drummies. They were delicious.

She also made herself some fried green tomatoes. People seem to love them, but I am a carnivore and try to avid vegetables at all costs.

Today being the 4th of July, there are fireworks going off all around us, and I’m sure will be some idiots firing guns in the air, too. That always terrifies me because what goes up must come down. Many years ago, I had a friend who was left a quadriplegic because of a pistol that was fired in the air, and when the bullet came down, it hit him in the head. I’ve written before about how when I was a teenager we lived in an upstairs duplex, and my parents were standing on the front porch on New Year’s Eve when our drunken downstairs neighbor came out on his porch and cranked a round off from his pistol, not really realizing that there was a porch with people directly above him. The bullet missed my mother but drove a long splinter deep into her leg. I had seen my Dad angry a few times in my life, but I’d never seen him so enraged that he wanted to kill somebody. I really think he would have killed that man if other people had not intervened. As it was, the fool went to the hospital, and then to jail So have fun, but be careful, and please, keep your damn gun inside the house where it belongs. That’s where mine will be.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Big Lake, the first book in my Big Lake mystery series, which made the New York Times bestseller list and has 779 reviews on Amazon. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.

Thought For The Day – Everyone wants freedom, and many are willing to sacrifice someone else’s life for it.

Jul 032020
 

For as long as I can remember the media has been accused of being dishonest, corrupt, and no more than a purveyor of lies. Especially when they report a story that offends a reader’s political or religious leanings. But the reality is that most small town newspapers have always strived to serve their communities by reporting local news fairly and truthfully. But I will admit that at least once, I fudged a bit. But only as an act of kindness. Let me tell you about it.

In this story, the names have been changed to protect the guilty, even though I am sure most of them are long gone by now. And Miss Terry says I have to be careful to clean it up a bit, so I don’t offend any sensitive readers. Okay, I’ll do my best. But please remember that my best is none too good, so don’t try to bring out the worst in me.

When I ran my weekly newspaper in the White Mountains of Arizona, I would go to the different police departments every week and get the reports on their latest activity. One day when I went to the Show Low Police Department, among the reports of DUI arrests and traffic accidents, and people busted for shoplifting and such, the watch commander, who was a friend of mine, said, “Okay Nick, this one is going to challenge your journalistic abilities.”

We had a mobile home retirement community in town where a lot of people from the Phoenix area came to spend their summers to escape the desert heat. One of the residents of this community was a gentleman in his 80s, who I will simply call George. George had been engaged to a woman in her late 70s who also had mobile homes down in Phoenix and in Show Low, and the engagement had lasted for several years.

However, George, being a typical man with a typical man’s ego, kept putting the wedding off because age had caught up with him and he was impotent. That all changed when a certain little blue pill hit the market. George bought himself some and he was raring to go. And raring to get married, too, as a matter of fact.

Thrilled that the long delayed nuptials were finally going to happen, George’s betrothed, who we will call Jane, went down to Phoenix with a friend of hers to select her bridal trousseau.

While she was gone, George got to wondering if those little blue pills actually worked, so he called his neighbor, Sally, a 65 year old retired nurse who was the local hottie. Bear with me, folks, I’m trying to get this cleaned up as I tell it! He told Sally he had taken a pill and wondered if it worked. And being a good neighbor, Sally came over to give him a helping hand, if you will.

According to Sally’s statement in the police report, they began making out on the couch. When George became aroused, they retired to the bedroom, where they proceeded to do what people do in the bedroom. I burst out laughing when the watch commander read the part where Sally said, “He mounted me, gave a mighty thrust, and expired.” That’s right, George died in the act. Hey, there are worse ways to go! I like to think that when he got to the pearly gates, Saint Peter gave him a high five and said, “Good for you, George!”

The watch commander asked if I could please figure out some way to report the story without being indelicate. Me, indelicate? Are you kidding? Delicate is my middle name.

In the newspaper article about his death, I wrote that George had been experiencing some discomfort and called a neighbor over to assist him and that soon after she got there, he passed away. Well, it was kind of true.

Back in my office, I had to share the story with Melissa, who was the office manager and also one of my best friends. Melissa had come to work for me when she was a college intern and never left.

After the newspaper came out, Jane came to our office to purchase several copies of that edition to send to George’s family and to have as a remembrance. She was a delightful little old lady and obviously suffering from her loss. She told Melissa, “I wanted to marry that man for over ten years, but he wouldn’t do it because he didn’t feel he was a whole man. Like that mattered at our age. Then those pills came out, and he thought it was okay to finally get married. I guess we’ll never know if they worked or not.”

Melissa told me afterward that she had to pee at the time, and she was standing behind the counter with her legs crossed, trying not to laugh or wet herself while she attempted to comfort the grieving woman. When Jane left, Melissa made a mad dash through the newsroom to the ladies restroom, and when she came out she poked her head in my office door and said, “You don’t pay me enough for this crap!”

Be sure to enter out latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Big Lake, the first book in my Big Lake mystery series, which made the New York Times bestseller list and has 779 reviews on Amazon. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.

Thought For The Day – I was popular once, but then my therapist took all of my imaginary friends away.

A Poorly Planned Scam

 Posted by at 12:01 am  Nick's Blog
Jul 022020
 

We all know there is a scammer born every minute, and sometimes two or three, I think. And while some of them are quite clever, others are so poorly planned that it’s almost pathetic. The other day a friend contacted me asking how far we are from Port Orange, Florida, which is a suburb of Daytona Beach. I told her we were maybe 15 miles away and she asked if I was familiar with a certain automobile and RV dealership. I replied that I wasn’t, and when I tried to find them online, they were not listed.

Apparently she found an RV listed for sale online somewhere, supposedly at a dealership in Port Orange. She called to ask about it and said alarm bells immediately started going off because the man she spoke to, who had a very strong accent, wanted her to send them money before he would tell her much about it since he had several deals pending on the unit.

By then she knew it was some kind of scam, and when she said no, that wasn’t going to happen, a “manager” came on the line and offered to bring it to her anywhere in the country to look at, for a $500 totally refundable deposit. She lives in Colorado and asked, “you’re going to bring an RV all the way to Colorado, and if I don’t like it, you’ll give me back my money?” He replied yes, they would do that. All they needed was $500 earnest money and her personal info to run a credit check. Or, she could send them $500 to hold it and fly into Daytona Beach International Airport, where they would pick her up and take her to see the RV. When she wouldn’t buy into that, he offered to pay her round-trip plane fare, but he did need that $500 and her personal info. She laughed at him and then he told her to forget the $500, just give him her info to run a credit check.

She said that it was obviously a scam, but wondered if I knew anything about the dealership. She also sent me a picture of the motorhome in question. I had to laugh because in the background of the picture there was a high mountain. When I pointed it out to her she laughed and said she never even noticed that.

Just for giggles, she called the “dealership” back and asked them about that mountain, saying she didn’t know that there were mountains in Florida. The man replied, “Yes, that’s Mount Daytona, 5,670 feet, and again wanted her personal info. She hung up and blocked his phone number. But you know what, folks? There is probably some fool somewhere who will fall for that scam.

This may seem hard to believe, but things like this happen all the time. When Terry and I were shopping for a diesel pusher to replace our MCI bus conversion, we had a similar experience. We were in Kingman, Arizona, and saw a Newmar diesel pusher advertised in Las Vegas, a hundred miles away. I contacted the seller and he said it had belonged to his uncle, who had recently passed away, and he was selling it for his aunt. He wanted me to send him a couple of hundred bucks by Western Union to hold it, and I said no, we’d be there the next day to see it.

We drove up to Vegas and to the address he gave me, where a woman who said she was his wife wanted me to give her money and said she would call him and he would tell us where to meet him. I said no, and he asked us to meet him at a shopping mall. We got there and there was no RV, but he called and said a friend would stop by and get a deposit from us and we could follow him to look at it. Nope, not going to happen. But since we were in Vegas anyway and wanted to kill some time before the evening buffets opened, I let him call us two or three more times. Finally, he had a guy who could hardly speak English bring the RV to a store parking lot to look at. When we got there, he wanted $200 to let us inside, but we ignored him and went inside. It was a total wreck and there was an auto auction windshield sign laying on the dashboard identifying it as a salvage vehicle. Scammers all the way.

It’s Thursday, so it’s time for a new Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Big Lake, the first book in my Big Lake mystery series, which made the New York Times bestseller list and has 779 reviews on Amazon. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.

Thought For The Day – When you’re testing to see how deep the water is, never use both feet.

A Quick Stick

 Posted by at 12:34 am  Nick's Blog
Jul 012020
 

Yesterday we left the house to go to Daytona Beach for the first time in at least three months, if not longer. I had to go to the lab at the VA Medical Center to get some blood work before an upcoming telephone conference with my doctor. It was a nice day and I decided to take the Mustang. The more I drive that sporty little car, the more I like it.

Terry knew she couldn’t come in when we got to the VA, so I parked in the shade and left the engine and air conditioning (and the seat coolers) running, telling her I hoped it wouldn’t take too long. And it didn’t.

I had to stop at a check-in station outside, where they took my temperature, asked if I had any COVID-19 symptoms or been around anyone who did, or if I had been out of the country in the last 30 days. When I answered no to all of that, they sent me to another station just outside the door, where I was asked the same questions once more.

Then, when I got inside the building, someone else took my temperature, saying they did it again because it was around a hundred degrees outside, and they wanted to take it out of the direct sunlight. I asked why they didn’t just do that to everybody coming in and not bother doing it outside, and the young lady said if someone’s temperature was over 100 degrees, they would be turned away at the first station. I guess that makes sense. And of course, masks were mandatory

Clearing those hurdles, I went into the area where the lab is, pushed the little button to get my number to wait, and took two steps toward a chair, and they called me in. A quick stick, three or four vials of blood and a urine test later, and they sent me on my way. It took longer to get inside the building than it did to get the lab work done and get back out to the car.

I didn’t get any writing done yesterday because by the time we got back from the VA, after stopping at the post office on the way to mail out our taxes, it was pretty late in the day. I had a ton of e-mail to answer, along with some Facebook questions to deal with, and that was about the only thing I accomplished.

Among the e-mails was one from Elizabeth Mackey, my book cover artist. Here is the cover for the first book in the Tinder Street series. What do you think of it? I like it a lot.

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us.

Thought For The Day – I hate when people accuse me of lollygagging when I’m quite clearly dilly-dallying.

Feeling Much Better

 Posted by at 12:45 am  Nick's Blog
Jun 302020
 

Thank you, everybody, who sent emails, texts, and Facebook messages expressing their concern after reading yesterday’s blog about me feeling so bad. Several people, including my daughter-in-law, who is a clinical director at a hospital in Birmingham, Alabama, were afraid I might be coming down with COVID-19. And I admit it crossed my mind, too. But we have been very careful about wearing masks and only leaving home to go anywhere if it was absolutely necessary.

As it turned out, it was what I suspected, just some kind of passing bug. I went to sleep Sunday night and slept for over 10 hours before waking up yesterday morning. When I finally did, I felt like a different person. All the aches and pains were gone, along with the nausea and everything else. So whatever it was, it kicked my butt left in a hurry, and that’s just fine with me.

Even though I got a late start after sleeping so much, I spent yesterday as I have most of the last month, working on my new book. I know, I’m in a rut. I only got about 2,500 more words added, but I also went back and polished some things in previous chapters. While I was doing that, Miss Terry was proofreading some of the chapters I had already printed out for her. When I finished writing for the day, I made the corrections she suggested.

It looks like there is going to be some more weaving in Terry’s future. She had a big box of yarn delivered the other day for some projects she’s been planning for quite some time now. I think if I would quit handing her all these chapters to proof, she might have time to actually get to work on it. I know, I’m selfish and demanding that way. She should have listened to her mother before getting involved with me. Or my first wife. Or my second wife. Or my secretary. Or… you get the idea.

I probably won’t get much writing done today if any. I have to go to the VA Medical Center in Daytona Beach for some lab work for an upcoming telephone conference with my doctor. I wish there was some way to just do the labs over the phone, too. It would sure make life easier. But I don’t know how they would get a needle all the way from there to here to draw the blood. And there’s no way I can fill that little bottle they want me to pee in at this distance. I’m lucky I can hit the toilet, and it’s much bigger and a lot closer.

I can’t remember the last time my Mustang was out of the garage, so if it looks like the rain will hold off until late afternoon like the weatherman says it will, I think we will take it. It going to be in the mid-90s with a heat index well over 100 degrees, and the cooled seats will feel good.

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us.

Thought For The Day – Fear not death for the sooner we die, the longer we shall be immortal. – Benjamin Franklin

Jun 292020
 

Yesterday was a productive day for me, in spite of feeling like I had been run over by a truck. I had trouble sleeping and only managed about three hours total the night before. I finally got up and left Terry sleeping and sat at my desk, making changes she had indicated in the chapters I had printed out for her in my new book.

With that done, I went and sat in my recliner for a while, hoping I might be able to sleep there, but it seemed like I was feeling worse by the minute. Then intense nausea hit me. I won’t go into all the details, but let’s just say I spent a lot of time on my knees worshiping the porcelain throne.

So much so that I woke Terry up, even though I was trying to be quiet. There are some things you just can’t do quietly. She made me some tea, which helped a bit, and though I was not the least bit hungry, I did eat an English muffin just to have something in my stomach.

I’m not sure what the problem was. It felt like every joint in my body ached, and somebody was having a bullfight inside my skull. The queasy feeling lasted all day and all evening in varying degrees. Terry took my temperature, and it was normal.

Several people asked if I thought I might be coming down with COVID-19, but I think it was just a case of the crud. We’ll see how today goes. I have to go to the VA medical center in Daytona Beach for some lab work today or tomorrow, and if I still feel this way then, I’ll ask for a swab test.

In spite of that, I still managed to knock out another 4,200 words in my new family saga book. I am at 84K words now and still loving it as much as I did after I wrote the first chapter.

And I’m afraid that’s all I have for you today. It’s past midnight, and I need to get some rest.

Congratulations Sue Pace, winner of our drawing for an audiobook of Fight For the Kingdom by Victoria Schwimley. It’s the story of two boys who go on a camping trip and find themselves on a magical adventure in another land. This is one your grandkids will love. We had 33 entries this time around. Stay tuned, a new contest starts soon.

Thought For The Day – If my grandfather were alive today, he’d be trapped in a box underground. Horrible to think about, really.

Arrows Across America

 Posted by at 12:35 am  Nick's Blog
Jun 282020
 

Imagine that you’re exploring America on a two lane road out in the middle of nowhere when your dog lets you know he needs a potty break. There’s not much traffic and you spot a wide pullout where you can safely park, so you get off the road and let your four-legged buddy out to do his business while you stretch your legs. Fido is off in the bushes when you hear him barking and you wander over to see if he’s spotted a jackrabbit, but instead, you find a giant concrete arrow, some seventy feet long. That could sure get your imagination off and running!

What have you found? Evidence of a race of giants that once roamed the land? Proof that extraterrestrials do exist and have visited Earth? No, the explanation is rather simple, but it’s still a fascinating story. You have stumbled upon a reminder of the Transcontinental Air Mail Route.

Long before the internet, before cell phones and texts and instant messaging, people actually wrote letters on pieces of paper, stuck them in a mailbox, and sent them on their way. Depending on where you mailed it from and where it was headed, that letter might make its way to the recipient in a day, or a week, or even longer. The country was still young and we had not yet conquered vast distances at the speed of light.

If your letter was addressed to a friend in the same city or a nearby community, it wasn’t too complicated. But what if that friend was all the way across the country? Depending on when in history you lived, the mail might be carried on a stagecoach, or a train, or even the hard riding Pony Express. But the times, they were a-changing.

On August 20, 1920, 60 years after the Pony Express shut down, the United States inaugurated its first coast-to-coast airmail delivery route. And just as the Pony Express riders had been fearless young men who braved the harsh landscape, bandits, and marauding Indians, the first mail pilots were bold men who took to the air in open cockpit airplanes and little in the way of navigational equipment.

In those days, the few aviation charts that existed were often unreliable, and pilots found their way across the country by following a compass and landmarks on the ground. Flying in inclement weather or at night was difficult, if not impossible.

To help speed mail delivery, the Postal Service created a series of beacons that extended from New York to San Francisco. This would become the world’s first ground-based civilian navigation system.

Every ten miles or so there was a 50 foot steel tower with an illuminated rotating beacon and a giant concrete arrow painted yellow pointing the way. The arrows could be seen from high in the air, some say as high as ten miles, though I don’t know if those early airplanes were capable of flying at that altitude. Think of it as the proverbial Yellow Brick Road, but with no Wizard of Oz at the end.

The system worked well for about twenty years, then advances in technology replaced it with more modern aircraft that navigated with radio beacons and radar. The steel towers were torn down and their material used for other purposes in World War II, and the old system was all but forgotten.

But even today, many of the old concrete arrows still exist and can be found in fields across the country, a reminder of a different place and time, and a breed of pilots who literally flew by the seat of their pants to get the mail there on time.

Today is your last chance to enter our Free Drawing for an audiobook of Fight For the Kingdom by Victoria Schwimley. It’s the story of two boys who go on a camping trip and find themselves on a magical adventure in another land. This is one your grandkids will love. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing, please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.

Thought For The Day – If you are sitting in public and a stranger sits down next to you, stare straight ahead and say, “It’s done and the mess is cleaned up. Did you bring the money?”

Jun 272020
 

Note: since we can’t travel right now but I miss the open road, here is a repost of a blog from the summer of 2014.

When you’re rolling down the highway headed to your next RV adventure, did you ever wonder for a moment about the interesting places you may be passing by that you will never know existed?

We love getting off the interstates to find those hidden gems on the back roads and in the small towns of America just waiting to be discovered. Stories of tragedy and triumph, history and mystery that are greater than any fiction author could ever dream up. I wrote about many of them in my two books, Highway History And Back Road Mystery and Highway History And Back Road Mystery II, but I barely scratched the surface of what there is out there just waiting for you or me to take a detour off the highway to discover.

Highway History Cover

Highway History II cover

We found just such a story in the charming small town of Lebanon, Ohio, where the handsome Golden Lamb Inn has been serving the traveling public since 1803, the oldest inn still in operation as a hotel in Ohio. Over the years the historic inn has hosted ten U.S. presidents: John Quincy Adams, Van Buren, both Benjamin and William Henry Harrison, Grant, McKinley, Hayes, Garfield, Taft, and Harding. Other notables who have stayed at the inn include: Daniel Webster, Henry Clay, Harriett Beecher Stowe, Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, and James Whitcomb Riley, to name just a few.

Golden Lamb hotel

Few pioneers could read or write, so many business owners gave their enterprises names that could be easily identified by a drawing on the sign, such as the Red Dog, Dancing Mule, or Golden Lamb.

The original inn was a two story building located where the lobby of today’s brick building, erected in 1815, is currently located. As the business grew, a third story was added in 1844. When it was announced that the railroad was going to be passing through town in 1878, a fourth story was added to accommodate the workers who would be laying the tracks.

It’s not surprising that a building that old would have a ghost story or two attached to it, and the Golden Lamb is no exception. Among the specters supposedly seen are the ghosts of Ohio Supreme Court Justice Charles R. Sherman, the father of Civil War General William T. Sherman, who died while visiting the inn; and a little girl named Eliza, who was the daughter of statesman Henry Clay. She became ill while her family was passing through the area and they took a room at the inn, where she died soon after. Those are just two of many stories of hauntings at the Golden Lamb. 

The Golden Inn has three special museum viewing rooms on its fourth floor that are set aside to remember the past. Sarah’s room, on the fourth floor, is a re-creation of a little girl’s bedroom. It was named in honor of Sarah Stubbs, the niece of inn manager Isaac Stubbs Jr. Sarah lived her life in the inn and some say her ghost was among those that have never left.

The Shaker Good Room is a re-creation of a typical Shaker keeping room and pantry reminiscent of Union Village, a Shaker settlement just four miles from Lebanon. Pegboards along the wall of the Shaker Retiring Room show the practical use of space in a Shaker home and the simpler lifestyle of those who followed the Shaker religion.

The next time you’re in south central Ohio, get off Interstate 71 and spend some time in Lebanon, where interesting stores and shops, and the historic Golden Lamb Inn, await you.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Fight For the Kingdom by Victoria Schwimley. It’s the story of two boys who go on a camping trip and find themselves on a magical adventure in another land. This is one your grandkids will love. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing, please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.

Jun 262020
 

On a visit to the City Museum in Frankfort, Kentucky, I discovered a story that some might consider macabre but to me was just sad. It is the story of forgotten lives and forgotten people.

In 2002, workers were leveling land in downtown Frankfort near the former state capitol building when they discovered human bones. Construction work was stopped while a team of investigators with the Kentucky Archaeological Survey excavated the site. By the time they were finished, they had found the remains of 242 people.

Since no headstones or grave markers were found, there was a lot of speculation as to their origins. Some believed they were inmates from the old state prison, which once stood nearby. Other theories were that they were people who had died in one of the cholera epidemics that had hit the city in the early 19th century or internees at a workhouse for debtors.

Researchers determined that the site was actually the long-forgotten Old Frankfort Cemetery, one of Frankfort’s earliest community graveyards. For almost 50 years, from the early to mid-1800s, the cemetery served working class people before commercial and residential development eventually covered it and the old burying ground faded from memory.

Though none of the remains have been identified, investigators were able to learn a lot about them from the skeletal remains themselves, as well as personal items found in the graves.

Most of the remains showed evidence of a hard life of labor and toil. While some were Caucasian, most were of African American descent and no doubt some were slaves. But there is evidence that they were loved and those who laid them to rest attempted to do so with compassion and respect.

The wooden coffins holding the remains had long since disintegrated, but items found in the graves tell us quite a bit about the people buried in the old cemetery. Fourteen of them were buried wearing a ring on one of their fingers, and a pair of eyeglasses was found on the skeleton of a man. Their placement suggests they were in a vest pocket when he was buried.

Many buttons made from porcelain, bone, or shell were found in the graves, which would have been from shirts, dresses, and undergarments. Plain metal buttons found in the graves were used on the waist and fly of breeches.

Some remains had been wrapped in burial shrouds, and researchers found numerous pins used to hold the shrouds closed.

Five skeletons were found with coins or lead disks in the eye sockets. They may have been placed there to keep the eyelids closed, or possibly in observance of an old custom that called for burying a person with coins to pay the ferryman who would transport their souls to the afterlife.

One woman’s grave held buttons, a necklace, and a single rimfire cartridge, though researchers have not found an explanation for why the bullet was placed in her grave.

Though the wooden coffins were long gone, shards of wood and other items tell something about them and the status of the people they once held. Coffin handles and other hardware found in some graves indicate more expensive burials, as do brass tacks used to secure fabric linings to the inside of the coffins.

Using plaster casts of their skulls, forensic artists have been able to produce the likenesses of some of the people found in the old cemetery.

This gentleman of African descent was over 50 years old when he died, and his bones indicate he led a life of very hard physical labor. He suffered from malnutrition throughout much of his life. As a child, he experienced a number of childhood illnesses and as an adult, he suffered from rickets, which is linked to Vitamin D deficiency. His bones show evidence of arthritis, and he had collapsed disks in his spine. These and other physical indicators show his work may have involved loading heavy bales of hemp and other cargo onto riverboats. Damage to his knee and hip joints would have made walking painful. The style of pins from his burial shroud suggests he died sometime after 1835.

He was buried on top of the grave of this woman, who researchers say died in her early thirties. Her skeleton indicates that she was 5 feet 3 inches tall and weighed 125 pounds, and was of West African heritage. The forensic artist depicted her with braided hair, which was a common hairstyle for women of African descent. Though she had a few cavities, her teeth were in reasonably good condition. Scientists found evidence of extensive arthritis in her back, indicating that she worked at hard physical tasks throughout her life. The style of pin used on her burial shroud indicates she died sometime before 1835. It is believed that the man later buried with her may have been her father or her husband.

Bone measurements led scientists to believe that this infant was a girl of African descent. She measured 30 inches long and weighed just over 18 pounds when she died, probably before age two. The style of pins and the use of late-cut machine-made nails in her rectangular wooden coffin show she died after 1835.

In 2006, after researchers were finished with the remains, they were all reinterred, with respect, in Leslie Morris Park on Fort Hill, overlooking Frankfort.

A marker at the site reads: “Here lie the remains of 250 citizens of Frankfort disinterred from a forgotten 19th century cemetery at the base of Fort Hill in 2002. Reinterred here in 2006.”

Hopefully, the people from the lost graves of Frankfort will rest here peacefully for eternity.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Fight For the Kingdom by Victoria Schwimley. It’s the story of two boys who go on a camping trip and find themselves on a magical adventure in another land. This is one your grandkids will love. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing, please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.


Thought For The Day – Sometimes sitting quietly with a true friend is all the therapy you need.

Eat The Damn Donut!

 Posted by at 1:07 am  Nick's Blog
Jun 252020
 

I got an e-mail the other day from a long time reader who just needed to vent. She is 55 years old and has been diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer. The doctors have told her that it has metastasized and the outcome is not going to be good. With Terry having survived stage IV cervical cancer, I know just how devastating news like that is, both to the patient and to their families.

But she didn’t e-mail me to talk about cancer. She wrote to say that we all have a bucket list, and some of us have been fortunate to check off many of the items from that list. Others never get around to doing much at all. She said she fit into that latter category. There are a lot of things that she always wanted to do but they never happened for different reasons. She said she has always wanted to learn to ride a motorcycle, but when she was growing up she was told that girls don’t do that. And then she became a wife and a mother and it wasn’t something she felt she could do. She dreamed of going back to college, and she told herself that someday when the kids were out of the house she was going to do that. But things always got in the way and it was put on to the back burner and eventually forgotten. The biggest item on her bucket list, the thing she wanted to do more than anything else, was to go skydiving. But it had always been the same story – “You’re a wife and a mother, you can’t take chances with your life, you need to concentrate on doing serious things.”

Now that she knows she doesn’t have a lot of time left, she has decided that she wants to make that jump just once while she still can. But her husband, her two daughters, and her mother are all absolutely opposed to her doing so. They’re telling her that she could get hurt. She could even die. Her response is, “I’m going to die anyway, and I would much rather do it jumping out of an airplane than I would lying in a hospital bed with tubes sticking out of my body.” She told her family that she was going to do it no matter how they felt about it.

She said she wasn’t asking for advice, she just needed to rant a little bit. I replied that even though she had not asked for my advice, I was going to give it to her, and it was worth exactly what she paid for it. I said if I was in her position, I would not hesitate to do that tandem jump with the instructor that she has wanted to do for so long. Yes, people do die in parachuting accidents. People also die in traffic accidents and boating accidents and home accidents. And a lot of people die of cancer.

Statistically speaking, the odds are that she won’t get hurt or killed and that she will have a memory to enjoy in the time she has left. But if the worst happened, at least she would leave this world with a big smile on her face.

I think I’ve shared with you before that my father loved to read. From the time I was a little boy, he read me stories about Moby Dick and the Drums Along the Mohawk and Treasure Island. But his favorite books were always about Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. My Dad always said that someday he was going to take a month off and rent a houseboat and float down the Mississippi River.

But that never happened. Raising kids and working and doing everything else required of a family man always got in the way. Dad died of cancer, and on his deathbed, I asked him what his one regret was. He said that the one thing he wished he could turn back time and do was take those 30 days and float down the Mississippi. In 74 years on this earth, he never found the time. We don’t regret the things we do nearly as much as we regret the things we never got around to doing.

I was also reminded of another friend who had cancer. Her diagnosis wasn’t nearly as bad, but it was not a minor issue, either. This is someone who always watched her weight, cared about her appearance, and stayed away from junk food, sodas, or anything that wasn’t heart and body healthy.

She said that after her first radiation treatment, she and her grandmother passed a Dunkin’ Donuts on the way home, and she mentioned that it had been so many years since she had a doughnut, and every time she drove by that place she was tempted to go in and get one. Then she thought about how many miles she would have to walk on the treadmill just wear off those extra calories, and she never did.

Grandma, who was driving, made a U-turn and pulled into the parking lot to Dunkin’ Donuts. My friend asked her what they were doing, and Grandma said, “I’ll be 80 next month. I have survived wars, and the polio epidemic, and tornadoes, and a house fire, and one thing I know is that no matter what you do, no matter how careful you are, sooner or later, something is going to take you out of this life. Six people are going to carry your casket, so it doesn’t matter if you have an extra pound or two on you. Eat the damn donut!”

How about you? Is there something you have always wanted to do but you keep putting it off because it’s not practical, or there’s not enough time, or whatever your excuse is? Throw those excuses out the window. Eat the damn donut. Jump out of the airplane. Live while you can. Because we all come with an expiration date, and none of us know when it is.

It’s Thursday, so it’s time for a new Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Fight For the Kingdom by Victoria Schwimley. It’s the story of two boys who go on a camping trip and find themselves on a magical adventure in another land. This is one your grandkids will love. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing, please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.

Thought For The Day – We must accept the end of something to begin something new.