Monday, March 18, 2019

Trapped in the Dungeon!

Although I haven't pursued the subject for several years, at one time I became slightly obsessed with genealogy and family history. I ferreted out each tidbit of information. Family members wearied of my questions.

Where did James and Ila meet?
When was Great-grandpa Miller born?
Why did they come to Kansas?

There is a wealth of information if one knows where to look. The Mormon church has exhaustive records. When I was researching, the nearest microfiche database was located at Wichita, Kansas. Now, all that data plus much more is available on the internet. and the social security death index are also valuable resources.

One of the things I learned about looking up ancestors who came from Europe is that families were clannish, people seldom strayed more than a few miles from the village where they were born, and they were exceedingly fond of a handful of names. The best place to research is in church baptism records in some parts of the world. I was perplexed by families who gave every boy child the same name.

I asked a helpful lady if she thought those parents kept losing their children to disease or malnutrition and simply gave the same moniker to successive sons.  She explained that the first name honored an ancestor, most likely the grandfather or a favorite uncle, while the second name often was the same as the father. The child was called by the third middle name.

So entries in the church record book might look like this:

Wilhelm Johan Friedrich Schwerdtfeger     b. 8 May 1724
Wilhelm Johan Phillipe Schwerdtfeger       b. 19 Aug 1726
Wilhelm Johan Ernst Schwerdtfeger           b. 21 Feb 1728

Before a bunch of cousins start tearing through their own records, I made up the names and dates off the top of my head. They are examples.

Marriage records, presuming they took place in the same church, lead back to the baptism records. That is one method of ensuring a researcher follows the correct family thread because Ernst Schwerdtfeger might have two or three cousins with the same name, but hopefully not the same birth date.

A cousin on my dad's side of the family delved into his roots. After spending a couple of years painstakingly gathering every shred of evidence, he had a book printed and passed it out to anyone who expressed an interest. Several months later he discovered he had wandered off on a tangent and included the wrong people, possibly not even relatives despite having the same last name, in a big chunk of 1700's history. Back he went to sifting through records and editing his genealogy book.

Old census records are another useful tool for the genealogist. Depending on how detailed the census taker was, one can learn exactly where Great-great-great-grandfather Toland lived, and how many cows, pigs, fruit trees and acres of land he owned. It is cause to jump for joy if the census taker wrote out the names of the family members instead of simply saying something like 4 sons and 3 daughters. Better yet, he may have included their ages.

Through word of mouth I learned that the Stafford County courthouse was the repository of many old census books which had survived since around 1880. I made an appointment by phone to look at them and showed up armed with a notebook and pencils. How I wish now that digital cameras or i-phones had been invented.

To get to the dungeon, the fond name the clerk gave to the record room, one enters the Register of Deeds office on the 2nd floor and descends a steep staircase into the heart of the courthouse. The windowless space must have been created as a tornado shelter, although no one confirmed that theory. I didn't raise a dust in the room, but it was untidy and musty smelling. Shelves took up the floor space leaving a cramped area for a table. Books with broken, peeling spines were haphazardly arranged and the one chair had seen better days.

Fortunately, most of the books I looked at were indexed and it didn't take long to find the information I had been searching for. Happy with the accomplishments of the morning, I gathered my notebook and purse and treaded warily back up to the door at the top of the stairs.

It was locked. From the other side. I rapped on the reinforced frosted glass but no one answered because the entire office had gone to lunch. I descended back into the dungeon and wondered how many minutes it was past noon. I tried to remember if I had told my husband exactly where I was going or if he even paid any attention. I indignantly wondered how the clerk could have forgotten about me and why she found if necessary to lock a door to nowhere when she left the office. I patted myself on the back for not drinking a pot of coffee that morning. I congratulated myself even more for not being a hysterical type.

I was even more thankful that it wasn't 5:00 p.m. Friday afternoon. Nevertheless, questions that didn't bear thinking about forced their way into my thoughts as I impatiently waited for the lunch hour to end. Questions like how long would it take for my husband to notice I hadn't returned. Would local police officers notice a vehicle with out-of-county tags parked at the curb after hours? Would the clerk suddenly think of me in the middle of the night? How long would it be before there was a bathroom emergency?

Twice I climbed the steps hoping it was 1:00 p.m. It was about five minutes after before I was released. The clerk didn't apologize for locking me in. "Oh, I forgot you were down there," she said.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Watering the Cattle

With such frigid temperatures during February, my ranching friends can relate to this tale. 
My dad rented a winter wheat pasture where he grazed his calves. The location included a large, shallow pond at one end where the cattle drank. Cattle don't lick ice. I'm not saying they won't lick some moisture up, but they cannot obtain their daily needs from ice. In the summer the average beef, depending on its' size, the ambient temperature and a variety of other variables, requires around 27 gallons per day. They don't drink that much in the winter, but they must have water. Therefore, when the temperature dropped and a thick layer of ice formed, dad put on his galoshes, tromped a half mile out to the pond with his ax and chopped ice a couple of times a day.  

A big storm blew in, and Dad was unable to tend to the herd. By the time he made it to the pasture carrying his ax, the cattle were eager for a drink. He walked out on the ice, and they came running. The entire herd ran to him. I don't remember how many head he had in that pasture, but at least 50. 

Forty or fifty 600 pound calves joined dad on the frozen pond. Cracking and popping sounds filled the air, but as he watched in horror, the entire slab of ice sank into the frigid water below.  He had no idea of the depth of the pond. He tried walking on water as bone-chilling liquid rapidly topped his galoshes and filled his boots. 

Frantic questions raced through his mind. Could he get out of the pond swimming in frigid water with all the calves? How long would it be before someone wondered where he was? What would his family do without him? Cattle surrounded him, many with their heads down slurping water. Relief filled his heart as the plate of ice settled, leaving him standing in knee deep water. 

Now to create a path through the contentedly drinking herd. He swatted cattle out of the way with his hat and gingerly waded to higher ground. From there, he squished to the road and got in his pickup, wondering if he'd ever be able to feel his toes again. 

He never had to break the ice for that particular group of cattle again. They learned to break ice under their combined weight.

Monday, March 4, 2019

I've been on a diet. In the past I haven't had much luck. It wasn't that I didn't lose weight. The problem was that nothing tasted good when Pepsi and corn chips were screaming my name. When I caved in to the cravings, the weight came back with a vengeance. I didn't follow any health gurus on that diet. I just avoided carbs. In fact I was sort of scared of food. Much later, after the twenty or thirty pounds I had lost plus another five reappeared as fast as it went away, I read that the real reason people on low carb diets lose so much weight is that they are dehydrated. They didn't lose fat, they lost fluids. Therefore the rapid re-gaining of weight.

That was before I heard of the Atkins Diet, or Whole 30, or the Paleo caveman diet, or the Keto diet.

I've graduated from an unacceptable pant size to an embarrassing one. My joke that I'm not overweight, I'm undertall just doesn't work.  "Ewe's not fat, ewe's fluffy" is even worse.  Just FYI: a ewe (pronounced you) is a female sheep.  

Now I'm trying a diet again. One where I keep track of what I eat and don't feel starved. I don't know what kind of success I'll have. It's hard to tell what websites are helpful and which are bogus. I've read daunting articles about physiological reasons why women over 60 can't lose weight. I'm confused about insulin resistance, leptins, inulin, ketones, and a host of other bodily functions I didn't know existed.

Overall, I'm a healthy person. I'm not diabetic or lactose intolerant. I don't have a problem with gluten. I have simply eaten my way into a woeful state. I will find out in time whether it is reversible.

One of the problems I've run into is not knowing the nutritional breakdown of recipes since I've also decided to avoid restaurants and cook at home. I've downloaded several recipe books with tasty looking concoctions, but the fats, carbs and proteins aren't provided. Bummer.

You can find anything on the internet. Right?  Well, here is a simple to use Recipe Calorie and Nutrition Calculator that analyses your favorite dishes. The percent of daily values apparently are obtained from government guidelines. Those on a Keto diet will ignore those recommendations.

There is a small commitment of time to input the recipe. After learning the order the program likes, it can be done very quickly.