Snakes Alive!

Horseshoe Lake 07-10-2013_4625I have a number of places I take visitors and friends for a ramble. A week or so ago, I took Friend Shari and her mother, LaFern, on a ride that paused at Horseshoe Lake near Olive Branch, Ill.

The little park and spillway at the south end of the lake is almost always pretty. Shari stopped to use the restroom – it’s an outhouse, but Friend Claire pronounced it acceptable on our visit last year. Shari also gave it a passing grade.

While she was otherwise occupied, LaFern and I checked out the spillway. I saw a huge fish chasing minnows as soon as I got there, but he disappeared, never to be seen again on this visit.

There were plenty of turtles, including a softshell with a neck a foot long who was snurfulling along the top of the water until he spotted us.

Snake

Snake Horseshoe Lake 07-10-2013_4616

This guy cruised by to the base of the spillway, then disappeared. His coloring and rounded head makes me believe he was harmless.

Moccasin, maybe?

Snake Horseshoe Lake 07-10-2013_4631I was less sure about this one. His body was thicker and his head was more triangular. I was ready to label him a water moccasin. Either way, I wasn’t about to dip my toe in the water.

I’m happier with turtles

Turtles Horseshoe Lake 07-10-2013_4636I was happier to see a batch of turtles looking like they were playing on a seesaw. I count at least five on this log. (You can click on the images to make them larger.)

Ernie Chiles and I rode our bikes around the lake in 2009.

 

Alan, Lisa and Reality

Thebes Mississippi River overlook 07-10-2013I was supposed to meet Friend Shari and her mother, LaFern for an afternoon ramble. The left rear tire was a little low, so I went down the hill to Plaza to have them check it out. I rolled forward slowly and nothing appeared to be sticking in it, and it would taken them an hour to get around to me, so I had them air it up and I went to pick up my passengers.

We were going to be driving around on some remote roads, so I stopped at an auto parts store and picked up a portable tire inflator “just in case.” My two passengers pronounced it “cute” and thought it would make a good Christmas stocking stuffer. (If you get one, credit – or blame – me.)

We paused at the Thebes Mississippi River overlook and admired Alan and / or Lisa’s pronouncement of devotion. You can decry graffiti on public property, but it had to have taken a long time to etch out “Alan Hearts Lisa Always” in the seat. It was at least 3/8″ deep and filled in with black.

There is always a cynic around

Thebes Mississippi River overlook 07-10-2013In different handwriting and with an indelible marker, the inevitable gonna-rain-on-your-parade cynic scrawled, “This Week!” above the “always.”

Debris from flood

Thebes Mississippi River overlook 07-10-2013We looked at debris, including a green buoy, deposited by the recent flood.

What are these?

Thebes Mississippi River overlook 07-10-2013

On the way to the car, we tried to identify these purple things. We weren’t sure if they were berries or grapes. They were intermingled with mulberries and poison ivy. Maybe somebody can tell us what we were looking at.

This is bad news

Thebes Mississippi River overlook 07-10-2013

When we got to the parking area, I noticed the tire was down about a third. I said we’d better go back to have it checked out. Just before we got to the bridge, I could tell the tire was almost flat by the way the rear end was acting squirrelly. Yep, it was nearly flat. I pulled out the “cute” inflator and let it pump away. The box said it should inflate a tire in five minutes, but that might be one that’s not leaking air. When it hit 32 psi and wouldn’t go any higher, we took off.

By the time I got to Plaza at William and Kingshighway, it was flat again.

The nice man who looked at it said I was lucky to have made it in at all. It had a big split on the inside of the tire. “And, by the way, did you know you had two wrong-sized tires on the rear of the car?”

Nope. But it turned out to have been two tires I had to buy at Sam’s in the middle of Nowhere, GA, when I had a blowout on a day when temperatures were just short of that of the surface of the sun. Since the second tire was getting close to the wear bars, I had them replace both of them. That should keep me safe from hydroplaning if I have to make a mad dash through a tropical storm or hurricane.

Did I mention I had calendars and books for sale? I ask because Wife Lila called yesterday to say that our 20-plus-year-old washer died on the same day she had her power steering dohickey replaced.

I felt like I had been swatted by the guy who added a dose of reality to Alan and Lisa’s message.

Picturesque Hamlet, Oriole

Oriole area 04-20-2011

John G. Putz rhapsodized about Oriole in the March 5, 1931, Missourian. The vocabulary and sentence structure would challenge today’s newspaper reader, but he paints an interesting picture of the “picturesque hamlet.” The Missourian’s story had some other information about the area if you are interested. Check out the front page for an account of the gas war that had regular at 14.5 cents and high test going for 17.5.

Perhaps the most poetic name of any town or village in Cape Girardeau County is that of the picturesque hamlet Oriole, which nestles among the rocky hills in the eastern part of this county. Along the banks of the headwaters of Indian Creek, on which Oriole is located, the bird whose name it bears nests in large numbers in swinging branches of the sycamores and elms overhanging the gravelly bed of the creeks.

Postmaster Witter named town

Oriole area 04-20-2011Erastus Witter, teacher, naturalist and philosopher, who was the first postmaster in Oriole, in casting about for a name, chose the name suggested by the graceful denizens of the trees, the orioles, and the postoffice department adopted that name for the office. Up until that time, the place was known as Lanesville, so called after John Lane, a Methodist minister, who had established a trading post or store on the high ridge a mile to the southeast from the present site of Oriole. This store was purchased by Erastus Witter, who later sold it to J. Benton Comer and moved to Seattle, Washington. Comer moved the post office to the present home of J.A. Armstrong, a short distance southeast from the site of Oriole, and the original building forms part of the present mercantile establishment of L. McLain, after several additions had been constructed. The original building was erected about 40 years ago, and housed the postoffice under various postmasters, until the office was discontinued with at the advent of the rural routes.

LaFern Stiver grew up here

McLain homeOriginally all the land within a wide area, several hundred acres, was owned by the Williams family, the original and first settler by that name, Charles Williams, coming from Virgina about the year 1796. He was the son of Col. Charles Williams, under George Washington, the inspector of arms at Harpers Ferry. The graves of Charles Williams, his consort and several other members of the family are located about 300 yards east of Oriole. George Williams, son of Charles Williams, became his successor as owner of most of the homestead and headright. H.H.M. Williams, son of George, became one of Jackson’s leading merchants, and for years conducted a general store on the corner of Main and South High Streets, where the Jackson Mercantile Company’s store is now located. Sam D. Williams, son of H.H.M. Williams, has a fine farm a few miles southwest of Jackson, and some of his seven sons have families of their own, their children now constituting the seventh generation of the Williams family in this county.

Baptists and sawmills

Oriole area 04-20-2011About 25 years ago a small congregation of Baptists concluded to erect a church near the Williams burial grounds, and the members of the Williams family contributed liberally towards the building fund. The church has fallen into decay, however, and is rarely opened for meetings.

A short distance northward from Oriole, down the creek, a large sawmill was formerly located, employing a number of men. The commissary was in charge of Sam Howard, who was widely known as a whittler, skilled with the knife, and could shape remarkable things from wood, such as wreaths, chains, fans and the like. One of his masterpieces, a wreath, carved from butternut wood, consisting of 126 pieces, all dovetailed and mortised together without the use of a nail, tack, bolt or screw, is in possession of a collector of curios in Jackson now.

Gibraltar of golden yellow ochre

Oriole area 04-20-2011Aside from the historic nimbus that surrounds Oriole like an aureola, the place has an indescribable air of pastoral peace and the added charm of picturesque topography. Between the two branches of Indian Creek headwaters juts out a miniature Gibraltar, the precipitous sides of which are composed of a golden yellow ochre, while the less steep hillsides are crisscrossed by the feet of domestic animals. All the “hog-back” ridges still bear the remnants of a once dense forest. In the deep recesses from which in flood-time emerge turbulent cataracts, formed by the water rushing down the steep sides of the gulches, comes the echoing repetition of every loud word spoken or song wafted into the air, while from the wood-crested ridges comes a baffling, sweet melody, floating on the current of the far wind.

In the west descends the golden sun to rest, while the land is sinking into the calm which evening ever brings to these hills. The oriole sends out it evening farewell song, and up McLain’s Hollow, down toward McLain’s Chapel or up toward the fern-covered saw-tooth ridge to the east, clatters the motor disturbing the spirit of the times long ago that hovers over the peaceful valley and its congenial inhabitants

 

Iona Cemetery

Iona Cemetery 04-20-2011

Old tombstones are generally the most interesting, but here’s a contemporary one in the Iona Cemetery that was worth a second look. James R. Peters was born in 1946, and he ordered his tombstone well in advance of its need. He died in 2010, so the font is slightly different.

It reads:

I WARNED YOU THIS WOULD HAPPEN

TOO MUCH INFO. HE HAS READ

TOO MUCH INFO. IN HIS HEAD

TO MUCH INFO. – NOW HE’S DEAD

Peters was an author

Iona Cemetery 04-20-2011

Peters wrote under the pen names George L. Bond and George Gray. Someone who actually knew the man described him as a bit of an odd duck, but I can’t find my notes. Maybe they’ll chime in.

You pretty much have to know what you’re looking for to find the cemetery. It’s up a steep gravel lane on the north side of  Route V outside Oriole. (If you have to ask where Oriole is, you’ll probably NEVER find the cemetery.)

John McLard served in War of 1812

Iona Cemetery 04-20-2011

Some of the graves date back to the mid-1800s. John McLard, it is noted, served in the War of 1812.

Tornado scrambled stones

Iona Cemetery 04-20-2011

LaFern Stiver, who was guiding me around the Oriole – Indian Creek area, said an isolated tornado touched down on the hilltop cemetery in June of 2003, knocking over tombstones and carrying some away. A Missourian story said that it may never be possible to place all the stones in their proper places because the cemetery was never plotted.

Nearly 200 internments

Iona Cemetery 04-20-2011The Missourian reported the Iona Cemetery Association had compiled a list of 120 internments in 1984, and said only a few people have been buried there since. The FindaGrave website, on the other hand, lists 198 names.

Martha “Marty” Humes Manes on that site has done an excellent job of documenting many of the people interned there.