Sunday, December 14, 2014

Memories near the holidays, my dad and "Squirrel Brains"!

Found this old picture of the Messere's in front of old Tubbert's Restaurant
one the old North side of Syracuse. I am the little girl in the middle sitting down, 

my cousin Gerri on my left and my brother on the right!
Around the holidays people tend to talk about the, their family who are now gone.  Remembering their mom or dad with a bit of a tear here or sadness because they are gone there…not me, as many times as I think of my father it is not with sadness.  No I don’t tear up with remembrance,  I usually am breaking out in a laugh.  This Sunday morning while I cleaned the kitchen was no exception.

When dad retired he used to work with me helping with my little contracting company or helping me with the new house I bought to refurbish.

When I lived in Syracuse he used to come over early for coffee because he claimed we had the best water (Skaneateles water) and his Solvay well water was far too chlorinated to make a good cup.  Of course… we also had a Mr. Coffee and not mom’s boiled and perked until it was dead coffee.

One morning he showed up while I was making toast and the toaster kept popping up.  In truth it had been doing it for more than a week.  I would punch it down and it would pop back up.  Chris’ cousin Donna had given it to us used and we had worn it out I thought.  I asked my father if he could take a look at it. 

He drolly replied, “Have you ever cleaned it?”  I said. “What do you mean?”  He said,  “You know cleaned it?”  With that he turned it over and there on the bottom was a little door that once opened dropped a pack of bread crumbs onto the kitchen cabinet.  He then gave me his most dreaded statement … the worst criticism that I could ever hear from my father if I screwed up…”Squirrel brain!”  Yes “squirrel brain”….Ouch!

Well today I was making toast and the same thing kept happening... I put the toast down… it would pop up!  Eureka! I knew what to do… turn it upside down and open the little door and shake it clean… This was an easy solution. 


So I turned it over and at that same moment realized I had the fan on the counter on high to move the heat around the room from the wood stove.  Just as I shook the crumbs (tons of them) out…bam!  The air filled with crumbs that were sent over my entire clean kitchen… and so l started laughing and laughing.  If someone saw me they would for sure have thought I was daft.   But I was thinking about my dad.  I knew that somewhere.. up above…ole dad was saying…”Squirrel Brain!” Ouch!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Wine, December Birthdays, and Santa Lucia Day all rolled up in one!

December 13th was the birthday of my friend Chris and on this weekend we used to drive out to Swedish Hill Wineries to buy wine for Christmas presents and to enjoy a tradition that the owners celebrated with special treats and music…Santa Lucia Day!

Today the feast is celebrated on December 13th though it was originally celebrated on the darkest – shortest day of the year December 21.  In America we call her St. Lucy, though Santa Lucia day is celebrated in Italian, Germanic and Scandinavian countries like Sweden.


In Sweden custom has it that the eldest daughter gets up early and wearing a traditional dress of white with a red sash and a crown of leaves and berries that holds candles… wakes the family singing “Santa Lucia” and feeding them coffee and St. Lucia buns. The candles as a symbol of “light” why in some places it is called the Festival of Light!

Lucy the saint was born in 283 to rich parents, losing her father at an early age.  It is said she refused to marry giving herself to God becoming a “Virgin Saint” who has been regarded as doing many miracles. She is also the Patron Saint of Syracuse, Sicily, where the legend states that she ended a famine on her “feast day” when grain loaded ships sailed into Sicily’s Harbor.

Wonderful traditions and stories like these are what make this season special…not just Christmas with it commercialism…so I hope all families everywhere remember (or make) their own family traditions and pass them on to the young and to their friends. 

So tomorrow our little group of museum friends will be celebrating December Birthdays and Santa Lucia Day!

I myself wish Chris was still alive and we could continue in our little holiday “Tradition”, the wine was just a bonus!

Well sing Santa Lucia with Elvis...think Tradition!



Thursday, December 11, 2014

A Christmas story about a upstate NY Saint, Kateri...

I have been thinking about past Decembers and remembered this Christmas season story from 2013 that brought news of the canonization of an upstate New York woman known to many simply as “The Lilly of the Mohawk”, Kateri Teckawatha. 

Born at the Mohawk fortress of Ossernenon (New France) today’s Auriesville, New York, of a Mohawk Chief and a converted Algonquin mother, Kateri was our first Native American saint.


Kateri’s life was a life of turmoil losing her mother and father to a small pox epidemic at 4 yerars old, surviving the disease herself with a terribly pocked face and poor eyesight. She was taken in by her Uncle a Turtle Clan Chief who was not favorable to the Catholicism of her mother. The rosary that was the only thing she had of her mother’s was taken away from her. Ossernenon later burned and the grouped moved to today’s Fonda, across the Mohawk River.

Kateri never married and was not only ridiculed because of her holiness, but also because of her unwillingness to marry. She was baptised into the Catholic religion on Easter Sunday in 1676, taking the name Kateri, which is a Mohawk pronunciation of the French name Catherine. Fearing for her life because of her devout nature and resolve to remain a virgin, eventually taking a vow of “Chastity”, she was driven out of the Mohawk village and moved to the Native American Christian community of Kahnawake in Canada, where there is a shrine to her is today.

At Kanawake she tended the sick and elderly where it was recorded that she practicing “mortification” to make her more holy. Kateri died age the young age of 24. It is at her death that it was recorded that her face immediately changed, all her disfiguration vanished and her face became white like marble. Her last recorded words were “Jesus I love You.” It is held by traditions that she healed many of the people who attended her funeral as well as it being recorded that she appeared after her death to people.

Today many have asked for her for intersession and she was made “venerable” in 1943, by Pope Pius the XII and on in 1980 by Pope John Paul II beautified her. This year on December 19, 2011, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints certified a second miracle through her intercession, which has led to the announcement that she will now become a Saint of the Roman Catholic Church.

Auriesville itself was named for the last person to leave the settlement, Auries, and today the site is open to the public to honor the Jesuits Saint Isaac Jogues, and his companions, Saint René Goupil and Saint Jean de Lalande, who were martyred by the Mohawk.

The Auriesville Shrine (Ossernenon) also honors Kateri with a special Chapel and with the story of the settlement and the saints in a museum on the grounds which overlooking the Mohawk River, The National Shire to this venerated Native American rest across the river at today’s Fonda.

Her tombstone testifies to the name she is often call “Lily of the Mohawk” it reads: “Kateri Tekakwitha – Ownkeonweke Katsitsiio Teonsitsianekaron – The fairest flower that ever bloomed among red men.”


Saturday, November 22, 2014

Another side to the Thanksgiving story, Natick, King Phillip's War and Remembrance!

The date of May 26, 1637, a mere 17 years after the settlement of Plymouth, the tensions between the Puritans and the Native Americans had become strained.  The very people who they stole the corn from on their landing and who showed them how to plant corn and other crops. as well as how to fish and hunt, were being exterminated by the English and Puritans who had now flocked to the shores of New England. 

The most militant of the Native tribes the Pequot has started warring against the white settlers who were pushing them off of their land.  So Militia and English troops set up and ambush on May 26, 1637.  The surrounded the Pequot settlement and using surprise burned the native fort to the ground.  The women, children, sick and elderly hid in their teepees and thus were burned alive.

Governor Bradford is quoted as saying: “It was a fearful sight to see them thus frying in the fire and the streams of blood quenching the same, and horrible was the stink there of: but the victory seemed a sweet sacrifice, and they gave the praise there of to God, who had wrought so wonderfully for them, thus to enclose their enemies in their hands and give them such a speedy victory!’

The history Channel named this as one of the 10 days that unexpectedly changed history, for the attitude of removal or cleansing would be our policy.  We regarded all those Native Americans who would not become civilized - near white as Devils who must be killed or driven out.

The Wampanoag’s and their famous Chief Massasoit, who were friends with Bradford and the Plymouth settlement, began to complain about the white settlers freely taking the crops and invading their land. In 1622 a militia Captain killed 8 friendly natives and impaled their sachem’s head on a pole in Plymouth.  Hostilities had begun and as the colony encroached more and more on their land, New England became a battleground.  The Wampanoag’s thought they could coexist with the whites but by the 1670’s Massasoit’s grandson Metacom, known to the English as King Phillip, began what would become known as King Phillip’s War.

Metacom noted that The Wampanoag “had bine the first in doing good to the English and the English the first in doing rong.”

Metacom claimed that phony contracts were used to take large tracts of land from Indians who had been made drunk.

When a praying Indian who helped set up the Praying Indian Village of Natick was found murdered, three of Metacom’s followers were accused, found guilty and executed.  King Philips war was on…settlements, major towns and villages were burned and sacked until finally on August 12, 1676 he was killed…thus ending the King Phillip’s War.

*It is noted that in Plymouth for that Thanksgiving they bought his head back and paraded it around town.  They Puritans thought it a sign from God of their righteous ownership of this new land...they the chosen people!


* Today Natick has a National Day of Mourning instead of Thanksgiving.  A monument was placed marking the genocide that took place at that time!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Eaton, Thanksgiving, Plymouth, genealogy of the Mayflower relatives!

We have been getting ready for our Colonial Holiday Celebration this wee k and I have been going through the genealogy of a number of the early settlers of the Town of Eaton and vicinity it is interesting to note how many of the early settlers could trace their bloodline back to members of the Mayflower.  Myles Standish III directly from Myles Standish is buried in the Eaton Cemetery.  Patience Kent, who married Bigelow Morse, was related to three of them: the John Howland, the John Bilington, and the Isaac Allerton.  Some like Hanna Hall Clark are related to the first elected official, Governor Bradford.

Bradford was a very interesting person who was born in Austerfield, England, and who faced many hardships in his early life including the death of his mother and father.  William Bradford, who as a boy walked to a separatist Church in Babworth, broke at an early age with the Church of England.  This break eventually led him to Holland and on the venture of his lifetime with his fellow Pilgrims, to the New World.

Once here in America, Bradford was elected to office as Governor, a post he held for 36 years, the first ten of which he received no compensation for.

Bradford wrote a number of books of poetry and books on Congregationalism: his most important work, however, was a volume called Of Plimouth Plantation (Which we will talk about at a later date.)

Since the Plymouth Colony had no Royal Patent, they adopted their own system of government, a system that was drawn from their needs and from their faith.  It is this system that was set forth in the Mayflower Compact.

From The Mayflower Quarterly, the American historian Samuel Eliot Morrison says. “In 1636 the Pilgrims even created a Bill of Rights of their own.”

The article, written by J. Allyn Bradford, shows that in the rules they set forth which included that no laws would be made or taxes laid without the consent of the citizens (called Freemen), a free election of Governor and Assistants, the right to an impartial and equal justice, nobody was to be punished except by the law of the Colony, as well as a trial by jury, only called if there were two witnesses to the crime and or sufficient circumstantial evidence.

Between Bradford’s and the Colony’s reforms was the separation of Church and State, something we still employ today.

The key word in our pursuit of the history of the Pilgrim’s is DEMOCRACY.  Democracy, is the basis for the
Pilgrim’s government, carried through both the church and the state.


     The church of the Pilgrim’s was based on a primitive church discussed in the Bible in the Book of Acts.  In our Colonial terms it was called Congregationalism, a subject that Governor William Bradford discussed in full in one of his writings late in life called A Dialogue Between the Older and Younger Men.

     The Pilgrims were actually pushed out of England because they believed that the King was not the head of the church, but that Jesus Christ was.  The church itself was democratic in all of its dealings, and it left marriage a civil, not spiritual, right.

     William Bradford must have been a shrewd and valued leader in all aspects of the unbelievable hardships faced by this group of religious rebels who crossed a raging sea and forged a home out of unfamiliar, hostile surroundings.  Bradford’s election 30 times to the post of Governor of the Plymouth (Plimouth) Colony certainly proves that.

Monday, November 3, 2014

For Pauline...Bullhead fishing...Bob Rollins...and the good times in Eaton..Think Spring!

My good fishing buddy Pauline Brown...miss her!
With all the snow that fell everywhere but here in Eaton. (Thank God) I thought about Spring and how I wished we were coming on to it instead of Winter.  I got and email today from someone from the area and this story popped into my head...so for Harold.

One year my good friend Pauline and I went up to Jack Ass and were frustrated at catch- ing no bullhead; as a matter of fact we had few bites. Pauline had talked to our neighbor Bob Rollins, and he said we should use crabs. Well, this particular night when we didn‟t even get one bite we were camping on the hill where Pauline had a trailer. The next morning over a cup of coffee she ordered me to town to find her daughter Judy in order to get her to get us some crabs (crayfish) to fish with that night.

So I drove back to town and got Judy, telling her of her mother‟s request. I had a pail and asked her if we needed cans or a net to catch the crabs with. Judy laughed at me with that city slicker type of laugh of hers and said, “You just reach down and grab them”. So, reinforced with that information, I followed her across the cow pasture behind the house to the place where she and her friend Cindy used to catch them. There were these “crabs”. I yelled, “You mean crayfish are your crabs?” She looked at me and said, “Yes, why?” “I eat these things, I do not fish with them!”

Judy reached down and tried to grab one, and it bit her. She dropped it and looked at me. After losing a bunch of them that way I took my baseball cap off, and we used that as a scoop! My poor hat! This ball cap was my prize possession since it was bought the day the Liverpool Library became the first library in the United States to bar- code, and it had a barcode on the front for Liverpool! It worked well, but unfortunately the hat never recovered!

That night I took the “crabs” up to Pauline, and we fished. While being novices at fishing with crabs, we did not know we were supposed to break the poor thing‟s legs or it would crawl under a rock. Well, to say the least, we were not successful, and that week I had to go out and buy hooks and sinkers to replace the ones that were under what must have been every rock in the Eatonbrook Reservoir in our casting area!
After some thought on this I wrote the poem “Crabbin‟ .
 page41image752 page41image912
Crabbin ’
(For the bullheads)

On a hot day in May,
Thought of going fishin’ at the end of the day. 
So I asked my neighbor what bait he’d use, 
If he were fishin’ in my shoes.
He said t’wer crabs they would bite best, 
Not knowing crabbin’ would be a test, 

With pail and helper I shuffled along, 
Across the cow pasture and further beyond.
Just as the creek went ‘round the bend,
They were spotted by my crabbin’ friend.


It seems in her youth she had caught them by hand, 
As they scooted backwards across the sand.
But now as adults we found it quite clear, 
‘Twas more than a hand that was needed here. 

So using my ball cap as a net,
Up to the crabs we slowly crept.

Two hours of crabbin’ and soaked to the skin, 
We made it back to my lawn again.


That evening, exhausted, I went to fish, 
Picturing them fried, lying on my dish.
But each time I threw a crab in the lake, 
A quick walk under a rock it would take.

Now with reticence I sit and think,
With not a fish to clean in my sink; 
‘Though they wiggle, and they do squirm, 
There’s nothing’ like fishin’ with a worm. 

A video of Jack Ass...