Check Out History Center Trees

Cape County History Center Xmas trees 11-14-2023

Don’t just stand outside looking through the window of the Cape County History Center at 102 South High Street, across from the old courthouse in Jackson. Open the door and see what Executive Director Carla Jordan ranks as one of the best of nearly a decade of Christmas tree collections.

When you step inside, pick up a printed guide to the History Center Nativity Walk 2023. I’m using the guide to describe the exhibits you’ll see. The beauty is in the detail, so I’ll concentrate on the stuff you’ll miss if you don’t look closely.

#1 Food Pantry Tree

01 Food Pantry Tree Cape County History Center 2023 Xmas trees 11-15-2023

The doves on this tree were created by our team.  You may select a dove to take home with you for $5 that goes to the Jackson Ministerial Alliance Food Pantry.

#2 Spider Tree

02 Spider Tree Cape County History Center 2023 Xmas trees 11-15-2023

This story has numerous versions in Germany and Ukraine.  Our tree tells of the Christ-Child’s Christmas Eve visit to a family’s home to leave blessings.  The family thoroughly cleaned their home to prepare for the visit.  The house spiders wished to see Baby Jesus, too, and scampered up the tree to get a good view, leaving their webs behind them on the tree.  Baby Jesus was delighted to see the spiders but did not want the family to find their cleaning efforts for naught.  Jesus touched the webs, turning them to silver and gold.

#3 I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

Cape County History Center Xmas trees 11-14-2023

This tree’s story is based on the 1863 poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.  He was distraught by the loss of his wife in a tragic fire, and his son joined the Union Army during the Civil War and was severely injured. 

Upon hearing the Christmas bells ringing on Christmas morning during this dark period, Longfellow found comfort in the bells, and wrote the famous poem, “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep…peace on Earth, and good will to men.” The poem was first published in Our Young Folks, a juvenile magazine in 1865, and is now a beloved Christmas carol.

#4 Chrismon – Symbols of Christ Tree

04 Chrismon Tree Cape County History Center 2023 Xmas trees 11-15-2023

A group of participants met each month for 11 months at our Research Annex with instructor, JoNell Cougill, and they created the ornaments for this tree.  Some of the symbols are ancient and some are modern.  The Chrismon tradition was renewed and preserved by Frances Spencer, and the women of the Ascension Lutheran Church in Danville, Virginia in 1957.

#5 Happy Birthday Jesus

05 Happy Birthday Jesus Cape County History Center 2023 Xmas trees 11-15-2023

This tree was designed, created, and installed by the PEO-DJ organization.

#6.  Topiary Trees with Nativity & Ornaments from the Holy Land

06 Holy Land Ornaments Cape County History Center Xmas trees 11-14-2023

This collection is a gift from the Kenneth White Collection. 

#7 Follow the Star

07 Follow the Star Tree Cape County History Center 2023 Xmas trees 11-15-2023

The star tree has been a part of our exhibit for eight years.  It is designed and created by the PEO-LA organization.

#8 Mary Tree

08 Mary Tree Cape County History Center 2023 Xmas trees 11-15-2023

The Mary tree is a little lesson in art history.  Early Egyptians loved bold blue and pulverized lapis lazuli stones to obtain the pigment for embellishments and art works.  For millennia, blue has been a costly hue—at times more prized than gold.  Marian blue is a color creating Mary’s elevation in the interpretation of historic art since the 5th century.  During the first few centuries after Christ, Mary was often depicted in a red gown or wrapped in a pink mantle.  Slowly, blue replaced the artist’s preferred color for Mary.

#9 Donkey Tree

09 Donkey Tree Cape County History Center 2023 Xmas trees 11-15-2023

Nearly always depicted as the transport animal for Mary to travel to Bethlehem.  The donkey has an important role multiple times in Christian art and literature.  We chose to place this dear donkey tree close to Mary.

#10 Joseph Tree

10 Joseph Tree Cape County History Center Xmas trees 11-14-2023

You will see the symbols of Joseph’s carpentry trade.  This tree has an authentic Jewish prayer shawl, a yarmulke, and a menorah.

#11 The Wise Men Tree

12 Wise Men Tree Cape County History Center 2023 Xmas trees 11-15-2023

This story tree tells of the Gentile visitors to the Nativity.  This tree represents that the Nativity story is for all people.  They followed the star.

#12 Multitude of Angels

12 Multitude of Angels Tree Cape County History Center 2023 Xmas trees 11-15-2023

One of several “Multitude of Angels” Trees

#13 Sallie Ann Criddle Exhibit

13 Sallie Ann Criddle Cape County History Center 2023 Xmas trees 11-15-2023

The beautiful doll in this exhibit came home to Jackson after many years traveling the country with descendants of Sallie Ann Criddle.  Can you find these tiny treasures in Sallie’s exhibit or in her next-door playroom?  A tiny mouse, a tiny Santa, a Christmas postcard, a tiny letter, a tiny book…there are numerous treasures in this display.  Take a close look…

#14 Lace Angel Tree

14 Lace Angel Tree Cape County History Center 2023 Xmas trees 11-15-2023

These angels were created by the late Juanita M. Criddle Niswonger.  They fly above a Lori Mitchell Nativity.

#15 Miniature Nativity Scene Flat Case

15 Miniature Nativity Flat Case Cape County History Center 2023 Xmas trees 11-15-2023

This exhibit case features Nativity scenes from all over the world and other small collections.

#16. Another “Multitude of Angels” Trees

16 Multiple of Angels Tree Cape County History Center 2023 Xmas trees 11-15-2023

#17. Rosewood Square Grand Piano Nativity

17 Rosewood Square Piano Nativity Cape County History Center 2023 Xmas trees 11-15-2023

The large ceramic Nativity was created by Vicki Crites Lane, and she created both of the quilts hanging in this exhibit.  There is an incredible wreath quilt and one entitled, “Starry, Starry, Night.”

#18 White Feather Tree

18 White Feather Tree Cape County History Center 2023 Xmas trees 11-15-2023

Another pretty angel tree.

#19 Child-Like Angels Tree

19 Child-like Angels Tree Cape County History Center 2023 Xmas trees 11-15-2023

This tree is adorned with angels from the Bradford Collection.

#20. Shepherd, Sheep, with Messenger Angels

20 Shepherd Tree Cape County History Center 2023 Xmas trees 11-15-2023

This fun tree exhibits shepherds with their flock and the angels who foretold the story. 

#21. Drummer Boy Tree

21 Drummer Boy Tree Cape County History Center 2023 Xmas trees 11-15-2023

This tree has many styles of Drummers throughout history.  It was designed and installed by JoNell Cougill.

#22. Oh Holy Night Tree

22 Oh Holy Night Tree Cape County History Center 2023 Xmas trees 11-15-2023

This tree was designed to display a fifty-year collection of Nativity ornaments.  The nearby exhibit was designed by Wendy Hayes and Robyn Hosp, who created the background painting.

#23. Oxen Tree

23 Oxen Tree Cape County History Center 2023 Xmas trees 11-15-2023

Another tree designed by JoNell Cougill, representing the oxen.  Oxen are present in nearly every Nativity.  The oxen are a symbol of the 12 Tribes of Israel, depicted on the tree. The oxen also represent strength and power.  The yoke artifact was a gift from the Bob and Yvonne Keathley Collection.

#24. Straw Tree

24 Straw Tree Cape County History Center 2023 Xmas trees 11-15-2023

This tree represents the manger straw in the Nativity.

#25. Poinsettia Tree

25 Poinsettia Tree Cape County History Center 2023 Xmas trees 11-15-2023

This red and white tree has poinsettia blooms and cardinals.  The poinsettia blooms wild from Mexico to southern Guatemala on Pacific-facing slopes.  They were cultivated by the Aztecs for use in traditional medicine and for dye.  They are now popular during the Christmas season in the United States where approximately 70 million are sold in a six-week period.

In 16th century Mexico, a legend states that a little girl named, Pepita or Maria, was too poor to provide a gift for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus and was inspired by an angel to gather weeds from the roadside and place them in front of the church altar.  Crimson blossoms sprouted from the weeds and became poinsettias.  The 17th century Franciscan monks included poinsettias in their Christmas celebrations.  The star-shaped leaves are symbols of the Star of Bethlehem. Poinsettias were officially named and brought to the United States by Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first appointed U.S. ambassador to Mexico.

The cardinals on the tree are symbols for many of us on this team of “Messengers of Loved ones Passed.”


A Letter to Mother

Birthday Season Exemption

I’m getting a fileserver upgrade, so my computer will be dark for a few days, which would be a problem because Mother’s birthday will fall within that period. Fortunately, I can post this under the Birthday Season Exemption.

My family, for better or worse, is made up of packrats who saved stuff that would be considered inconsequential to most folks. While going through an envelope of greeting, birthday, sympathy and get-well cards, I ran across this snippet of a letter I had written to Mother from Ohio University, probably in 1967.

I’m glad she saved it (and that I found it)

I don’t know what triggered me to write it, but I’m glad I did. I didn’t do that enough to people who are important to me.

Maybe I was trying to recover for letting Mother’s Day slip past me the first year at OU. Trust me, that never happened again.

Flies in the Window

When I was working at The Gastonia Gazette in North Carolina, I was a member of the rescue squad.

One of the dreaded calls was “Welfare check: neighbor reports flies on the window next door.” Too often, that meant someone was dead. Long, liquefied dead.

That was brought to mind when my Cape kitchen was suddenly full of houseflies the first time the weather turned cold. I found this sticky thing got rid of most of them in a few days before my neighbors dialed 9-1-1.

My days on the squad

I don’t want to exaggerate my contribution to the Gastonia Rescue and First Aid Squad, which was made up of volunteers, many of whom were “lintheads” who were looked down upon by the community’s movers and shakers – until they had a heart attack or piled up their car.

I got on because John Stepp, a Gastonia fire captain, and captain of the rescue squad, saw that I had PR value. He gave me permission to buy an ancient two-way radio to put in my car so I could know what they were working. They went on enough “good” calls that pictures of them made the paper almost every week.

Even though I had taken basic first aid training, my utility and level of expertise soon became clear. Because I was roaming all over the area, I was often first on the scene. I would radio in a situation report, then provide aid and comfort to the injured by hollering, “I hear ’em comin.’ I hear ’em comin.'”

John was a rough-and-tumble firefighter who was a natural leader of men. He was also like a second father to me.

Capt. Stepp explained Southern life to me

The crew was a United Way agency, so we had to appear before a board of suits to get our budget approved. Red King, a textile worker, was treasurer, if I remember correctly. I had been elected secretary, so the two of us, along with Stepp had to appear before the board.

The UW group asked poor Red all kinds of detailed questions that were designed to get him flustered – “Why do you need a telephone in the dormitory area?” for example.

Finally, I had enough. I told the suits that Red wasn’t the guy you would want doing your income taxes, but he’s definitely the one you wanted next to you if you suddenly clutched your chest and collapsed of a heart attack.

I turned to Stepp and suggested that our group go out into the hall for a conference.

“Let’s walk”

Gaston Life Saving Crew sign 08-09-2012

I told my fellow crewmen that we were the most popular agency under the UW umbrella. We could go alone, and probably make more money than what UW would give us.

Stepp calmed me down. “You don’t understand how things work down here. Those guys jerk us around to show who runs this county. They’re going to give us everything we ask for, like always. If we pull out, it’s going to hurt a lot of agencies that don’t have the public support we do. We’re going to go back in, let them strut and bluster, then they’ll approve our budget request.”

It happened just like he predicted, but I never supported United Way again.

They trusted me with a dead man

When things were slow at  the paper, I’d hang around the crew hall answering the phones and playing dispatcher.

An unknown emergency at a construction site north of town came in, and two rigs went to check it out. I volunteered to stick around. I called the office and had Kermit Hull, another photographer, drift that way in case it turned out to be something newsworthy.

As soon as the crew arrived, they told me to jump in the rescue truck that had all the heavy equipment in it and come fast because a trench had collapsed, burying several men.

This was my first Code 3 (lights and siren) run. When I got about a quarter mile from the scene, I hit a traffic backup. Driving on the wrong side of the road was a new – and scary – experience for me. Fortunately, an 18-wheeler in the oncoming lane flashed his lights to let me know he was going to hold back the traffic.

As soon as I rolled up, they told me to hop in the back of an ambulance to feed oxygen to the first man they had recovered. In retrospect, I realize they had already determined that the man was dead, and there wasn’t much I could do to make his condition worse.

I was given the Goodbye to a Yankee Award

Ken Steinhoff Sparkplug Award 12-1972

At the end of the year, after I had given notice to The Gazette that I was headed to The Palm Beach Post, the rescue squad held its annual banquet with lots of good-humored banter, and awards given to members for outstanding performance.

Much to my surprise, I was called forward to receive The Sparkplug Award, for my efforts at the trench cave-in.

I turned to Lila, who had only heard snatches of my exploits that day, and said, “They didn’t give me that for my heroics, it was their way of saying, ‘Thank goodness, we’re going to have one less Yankee in town.'”




Coon Dog Graveyard, Alabama

I’m moving this from my bike blog and updating it.

Coon Dog Cemetery 10-10-2008 

I like back roads

You never know what you’re going to find. When the boys were little, we took the less-traveled roads from West Palm Beach, FL, back home to Cape Girardeau, MO. Our path took us near Tuscambia, AL, where we stopped to visit Helen Keller’s home.

We probably had a tour book something like this one that led us from there to the Key Underwood Coon Dog Memorial Graveyard.

Finding it is an adventure

It’s seven miles west of Tuscambia on U.S. 72. Turn left  (south) on Alabama 247, go 12 miles, turn right and follow the signs.

Trust me, anytime directions say “follow the signs” something is gonna get interesting.

We were pulling a small utility trailer

We were in a small Mazda 626 with two adults and two squirmy – “He’s Looking At Me” – kids and pulling a small utility trailer behind us when we made the turn onto a narrow gravel road. It was getting late in the afternoon and the road seemed to go along forever.

We’ve got company

Coon Dog Cemetery 10-10-2008

I looked in the rearview mirror and saw a cloud of dust about a tenth of a mile behind us. I didn’t hear Dueling Banjos, which made me feel better, but figured I’d keep an eye on the mirror just in case.

We finally saw the sign and made the turn into the cemetery.

The dust cloud disappeared

While the wife and kids piled out of the car, I noted that the following cloud of dust was gone, but that the car hadn’t passed us. Oh, well, he may have pulled off.

Coon Dog Cemetery 10-10-2008

The kids amused themselves by wandering around collecting chiggers and reading the stones.

Troop, owned by Key Underwood, was the first dog buried in the graveyard. On Labor Day, 1937, after being hunting companions for 15 years, it was reported that Underwood wrapped Troop in a cotton pick sack, buried him three feet down and marked the grave with a stone from an old chimney.

Visitors appear

About 30 minutes after we had gotten there, a car pulled in and a couple got out and walked up to us.

“We saw you pulling that trailer behind you and thought you might be conducting a burial, so we wanted to give you a little privacy,” the man said, respectfully.

We thanked them for their consideration and assured them that all of the folks who had arrived at the graveyard would be leaving with us.

Grave markers are unique

Coon Dog Cemetery 10-10-2008

Some grave markers are commercial versions with professional sandblasted lettering like you’d find in a human cemetery, but most of them are homemade and reflect the personality of the dog and his / her owner.

Some are carved out of wood and are rotting away. Others are simply names gouged into cement or stone.

Bear was memorialized with a welding bead spelling out his name and dates on a rusting piece of sheet metal.

Nearly 200 dogs buried there

Coon Dog Cemetery 10-10-2008

Underwood told a reporter that he had no intention of establishing a coon dog cemetery. “I merely wanted to do something special for a special coon dog.”

There are standards and rules

The hunter told columnist Rheta Grimsley Johnson in 1985 that a woman from California wrote him wanting to know why he didn’t allow other kinds of dogs to be buried in the Coon Dog Cemetery.

“You must not know much about coon hunters and their dogs, if you think we would contaminate this burial place with poodles and lap dogs,” he retorted.

Stipulations, even

Coon Dog Cemetery 10-10-2008

“We have stipulations on this thing,” William O. Bolton, the secretary/treasure of the Tennessee Valley Coon Hunters Association, and caretaker of the Coon Dog Cemetery was quoted on the organization’s web page. “A dog can’t run no deer, possum — nothing like that. He’s got to be a straight coon dog, and he’s got to be full hound. Couldn’t be a mixed up breed dog, a house dog.”

It’s a beautiful and peaceful place

Coon Dog Cemetery 10-10-2008

The cemetery is very well taken care of. We were a little disappointed to see that almost every grave was decorated with plastic flowers that looked out of character for the place. We assumed that they had probably been placed there as part of the annual Labor Day celebration since we visited in October and they looked fresh.

The celebration runs from 1 to 4 P.M. and includes music, dancing, food and a liar’s contest. Official Coon Dog T-shirts and camouflage caps are available.

The gravel road has been paved these days. If you are interested in going there, drop me a comment and I’ll give you the GPS waypoint for the place. I’ve seen at least three different locations shown for it on different maps.

Bug spray is advisable (mosquitoes were heavy late in the afternoon) and keep an eye out for ticks.

Be considerate

Oh, and if you see a car pulling a trailer turn in, give them a few minutes of privacy.

It’s the custom.