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I am Sandra - faithful steward. listener. shepherd. dream believer. hard worker. collects brass bells, boots. Jesus follower. contented. star gazer. homemaker. farmer. prayer warrior. country woman. reader. traveler. writer. homebody. living life large.

Monday, August 25, 2008

VA Bowen's, Gillespie's and WV Hamrick's

We had a lovely Saturday, full of family, deep roots, good food and great fellowship. Dave's Mother is a Bowen by birth and of the Rees Tate Bowen line. Her Grandmother was a Gillespie and married her first cousin, a Bowen, so bears the blood of both old families. The Bowen's came out of Wales where, curiously enough, my paternal Grandfather Bennetts' people originated. As I'm typing this, the thought occurs to me...wonder if Dave's family and my family were on the same boat that left Wales and landed in Fredericksburg, VA in 1654? I'll have to put that on my to-do list for checking.

The ceremony specifically honored the Bowen and Gillespie Patriots who fought for freedom from the tyranny of King George. There were around 100 people, perhaps more, attending the ceremony and came from all over the USA. Heather, from the United Kingdom, was visiting my mother-in-law's cousins' widow, a Bowen, and found it all as interesting, I dare say, as did I if from a vastly difference perspective. We're but a blip in England's long history and upstarts to boot. It takes persons of enormous courage, fortitude and who have little to lose but much to gain to do what those first settler's accomplished.

I'm sure there were murders and killings on all sides...settler's and those who were living here when the settler's arrived, just as I'm sure there were friends and inter-marrying among the white's, blacks and American Natives. It's been said history was, and is, written by the winner's but, even so, there's enough truth left so one can ferret out a story.

The Boy Scouts lead the ceremony with the raising of the US flag while we all said the Pledge of Allegiance.

This post is about honoring our past by living our future in the here and now. It's about watching the Boy Scouts raise and salute the American flag while the rest of us say the Pledge of Allegiance. It's about honoring those men, and women, who left the old country to forge a new one while claiming their place in history.

Mrs. Peggy Marrs leads the group...but for the life of me, I simply cannot remember the correct title of what we were saying. I won't try and muddle through; I'll try and find the program I gave my mother-in-law knowing full well it would, in all probability, vanish into thin air. Peggy is a member of the Maiden Springs DAR, a group I've been invited to join once I complete my gathering of Hamrick information for the application.

Rees Tate Bowen, VII, speaking as the first Rees Tate Bowen, tells the story of coming to this new country, living first in, what is now, Rockbridge and Augusta counties, then traveling to where the homeplace now stands in the Cove, Tazewell County, VA.

This young man is holding the rifle that fired the first shot at the October 7, 1780 Battle of King's Mountain. He hurried away before giving his name but is certainly one of the Bowen, or perhaps, Gillespie line.

I love my country and am unashamed to shed a tear when the flag goes up or by, hand clasped over my heart, whispering the Pledge, singing the anthem or giving thanks for those who have gone before. I fear for America as much as I love America. While it's true we're a great melting pot, it's also true we're becoming diluted. We're becoming less America and more a fraction of a whole; the whole is becoming less and I believe that's not a good thing. We're losing our identity as "Americans" and taking on the nomenclature of Anglo Americans, Irish Americans, African Americans, etc.

Doug Wilder, former and first black Governor of VA and now Mayor of Richmond once said, "I'm not an African-American. I AM AN AMERICAN!" I agree. I am an American and while honoring my Welsh, Irish, English, German and American Native heritage, I remain, first and foremost...AN AMERICAN.

There's a statue at the Charleston, WV state capitol building of Rimfire Hamrick. He stands there as an example of the men, and I believe women, who founded not only West VA but this country. Men who walked the walk more than talking the talk; men of action, pioneers and strangers in a strange land. Men who left their mark on history by going to war to defend this new land, to protect home and family and, by leaving their mark on history, marked the hearts of kith and kin to follow. Rimfire is a distant relative on my Daddy's Mothers' side; she was a Hamrick who married a Bennett and representative of the type of woman that help define the frontier by keeping the hearth flames burning.

It's a proud heritage and culture, that of Appalachia and America. Where we, the Hamrick's, Bennett's, Bowen's and Gillespie's ended up is very similar to where we started. The mountains are soft yet rugged, the people are rugged yet soft and we tend to take care of our own.

So, if I have to be labeled, let it not be as an Anglo American, Irish American, Welsh American, etc. Let it be as an Appalachian American. In other American American.

Blessings ~ family ~ Patriot's ~ Appalachia ~ DAR ~ AMERICA! ~

Sunday, August 24, 2008


One of three wagons of beautiful alfalfa hay.


The wonderful lads and gents who put up my hay...THANKS!

Once again, we've been blessed beyond our deserving. As you may recall, last year we had a severe drought, ran out of hay and had to buy hay out of North Dakota. It was expensive and, while good hay, not as good as what we are, usually, able to harvest. Just a few days ago, our hay was cut, kicked and then tethered prior to being baled into "square" hay bales. It's always called square hay even though it's rectangular in shape.

At day's end, dead dark really, we had 350 PLUS bales of hay! Thank You, God! It's all in our barn where it will cure and be ready to feed out this winter. The horses are given free choice round bale hay because it's not as rich as our square bale alfalfa. As horse people know, the feed has to be carefully regulated in order to prevent what is, essentially, colic in horses. It's much worse than in humans and can, if not caught in time and treated, cause death. A very painful death for the animal and horrible to helplessly watch. Far better to step in and end the suffering.

These photos were taken on baling day and reminded me of Stonehenge, only to my mind, much better. They represent fodder for my sheep and horses, nutrition for the living when the snowballs my Aunt Rena used to say.

While we think of Autumn as a time of harvest, it's really summer's end that brings in the produce and bounty. Our apple trees, Granny Smith and Wolf River, are both laden with apples to be eaten in hand or dried for dried apple pies this winter. There are blackberries and cherries in the freezer that will make delicious cobblers, two kinds of pickles - bread and butter and lime and a few quarts of peaches and many pints of peach topping. I'll need to can some tomatoes, that is if we can stop from eating them as fried green tomatoes. We enjoy fried green tomatoes and I do them up right, even if I do have to say so myself.

Harvest is good and continues to be good, perhaps a portent of a hard and snowy winter. Bumblebees are making their nests in the ground, the nut trees are heavy with nuts, fruit trees are groaning with their offerings...all things point to a harsh winter.

I hope we get lots of snow because we need the slow, deep moisture only a deep snow can provide. The water table is still down and many springs are still dry. People can gripe all they want to about food and food prices but it's lack of water that will take us more quickly than lack of food. Remember the old saying...three minutes without air, three days without water and three weeks without food? That says it all.

Blessings ~ hay! and lots of it ~ rain, which we need ~ pure air ~ clean water ~ good health ~ and knitting in hand ~

Monday, August 11, 2008

Travel and heart-break

In Gori, Georgia the flag is viewed from the Stalin Museum

Georgia wants to become an EU and NATO member; Russia doesn't approve.

A rooftop view of Tiblisi, the capital of Georgia.

The first time I ever needed a passport, in 2004, I traveled to the great country of Russia. It was, and remains, an incredible life-changing experience. My horizons were broadened, my view enlarged, my heart expanded and my world, quite simply, turned upside down.

My family traveled a lot when we were growing up. Daddy had a truck, I believe a Chevy, loaded with a truck camper and every summer the five of us, parents and three children, would crowd together and see the USA. Daddy got two weeks vacation from, then VEPCO, now Dominion Resources, the electric company, and we saw an amazing amount of our great land. One of my favorite trips was Out West. We went to the Badlands, Wall Drug Store, Corn Palace, Mt. Rushmore, Yellowstone, Old Faithful and I can't remember what else. I remember a helicopter ride over Mt. Rushmore and huge bears in Yellowstone. We needed a JFK fifty cent piece to take a shower in Yellowstone and, just about the best, standing Directly Over the Top of Old Faithful just waiting for it to spurt. Of course, we'd always move away in order not to be burned by the steam but it was amazing, just standing and looking down into the hole that was Old Faithful. Now days, Old Faithful is roped off and people have to view it from a distance; not quite the same experience but I suppose it helps keep accidents down and the gene pool safe.

Mom prepared delicious meals on the camper stove and she and Daddy taught us how to read a map, how to read the sky, how to travel by both sun and stars. Those family trips prepared me by making me flexible, independent and willing to take risks so when the opportunity came to lecture and teach in Russia, I was more than ready.

Sudhakar Jamkhandi, a professor at Bluefield State College and Director of the Center for International Understanding, CIU, invited me to lecture and teach on Agri-tourism, Rural Tourism Development and Increasing Small Farm Income. Essentially, what I do at Thistle Cove Farm and what I taught at Concord University. Dave traveled with me and that turned into a blessing in disguise as we spent the first week, the two of us, separated from our group. We had a Russian interpreter but, deviating from plan, I lectured and taught alone. It was a great experience and I still maintain contact with some of the dear, wonderful people I met on that trip. I did, and do, love Russia and her people. They opened their hearts to me and I to them; they made me a better person and, hopefully, I helped some of them as well. One day, God willing, I'd love to return and visit with some old friends and make some new friends.

Flash forward to 2007 when Dave and I visited Armenia and Georgia and, again, met many wonderful people who opened their hearts and homes to us. As before, this trip was arranged through the CIU and it was an experience a tour group could never have provided.

All that to say, the business of war between Russia and Georgia is breaking my heart. Dave and I were all over Georgia and in Gori and shared a day and meals with many residents. Now the MSNBC photos of Gori show a city under siege while the countryside is being run over by tanks and soldiers and the country is being cut in half by Russian military. Russian troops are moving toward Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, where we spent many wonderful and pleasant days and God alone knows what will happen.

We know nothing of the people with whom we shared meals with or spoke of ways to enrich our lives and future. We know nothing of the vineyards we visited or the women who served us a delicious meal to celebrate the vineyard. That evening, while seated in a foyer, waiting for the rest of our group to arrive, I drew a small bottle of hand lotion from my purse. As I poured a small amount into my palm, I looked up and noticed a woman watching me. I motioned to pour some into her hand and she nodded “yes” but her companion was shy and nodded “no”. She smelled the lotion, massaged it into her hands and eagerly smiled her approval. I tightened the bottle cap and put it into her hands, a small gift from one woman to another. Her smile broadened and she kissed me on the cheek as thanks.

What of her, Russia? What of that woman with such a gracious heart who made me feel welcome in her country even though neither of us spoke the other’s language? She is…was?…a mother, Russia. Is she alive or has she been bombed into eternity?

It’s true I know almost nothing of politics but I do know Russia, you’re a big country and Georgia is a small country. Russia, you’re too big to be this small; it’s unbecoming and beneath you to be such a bully. It is incumbent upon the strong to take care of the weak; to feed the hungry, to be a mother to the motherless, to care for those less fortunate…not to cause the hunger or to make orphans. I, and the world, expect more of you, Russia.

Russia, in 2004 you showed me your great heart, your great love of family and friends. Russia…where’s that great heart and love? Show us before my heart finishes breaking.

Blessings ~ God…in a world gone absolutely mad ~

~Anyone then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins." James 4:17
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