Monday, January 31, 2011

The Smell of Pansy

What do making dinner and a Guinea Pig named Pansy have in common?


I was rinsing off some celery stalks so Spud could chop them up for me before I added them to the dish I was making for dinner and as I held them over the sink and rinsed, the smell of the celery wafted up into my nostrils and with lightening speed, into my brain's Limbic System (the part of the brain related to smell and memories) and I immediately thought of Pansy. I have not thought of her in eons. To be honest, I had forgotten Pansy had ever crossed my life's path until the celery smell brought her crashing back to the forefront of my conscious mind.

(Dear family members, pardon me if I mis-remember the events, dates and times of Pansy's stay with us.)

Pansy came into my life, as well as those of my family members, through my little brother Michael. Michael's second-grade teacher asked if he would take Pansy, the school year was ending and Pansy needed a home.

Pansy was your average Guinea Pig, just under 2-3 pounds and 8-10 inches long. She was black and white and I imagine she resembled her ancestors who hailed from the Andes. Guinea Pigs have been domesticated in South America for hundreds of years. They were and are raised for food there (I wonder if they taste like chicken? Awww come on, you were thinking it too). 16th century European traders helped Guinea Pigs become the pets we know and love today. Queen Elizabeth the first had a pet Guinea Pig.

Pansy was sweet. I remember her distinctive whistle. She whistled over just about anything. She loved lettuce, carrots and celery (this is where the smell-memory enters the picture) but she particularly enjoyed eating the grass when we would let her outside. We would take her cage, remove the bottom, place her in the grass and put the bottom-less cage over her. When she finished the grass in that spot we would move her to a new one.

Pansy was part of our family for maybe about a year.

Of all the senses, smell is the strongest associated with memory. My sense of smell is particularly strong/sensitive (just ask anyone in my family). Does this trait make my memories stronger, more vivid? I don't know. I have never experienced someone else's smell-induced memories. I liken the question to one I have asked Yam and Spud in the past..."Am I a good Mom?", to which Yam answered, "I don't know, you're the only one I've ever had." Cheeky little monkey.

I have cooked with celery many times since knowing Pansy, I don't know why this time it triggered my memory of her, I just know it made me smile.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

You Know You're Getting Older When...

I received an AARP application in the mail.

AARP is for "old" people isn't it?

When The Colonel handed me my mail and I saw who it was from I immediately felt it was a mistake and was slightly offended by it. Surely I am too young for this. I am not even 50 yet (I still have eight months left of my 40's) and isn't it for those who are 55 and older (50 and older I would find out)?

I decided to open it up anyway and see what being nearly half a century old could be worth to me if I joined AARP.

If I join AARP for a one year membership it would cost me $16, and if I mail my membership in by March 9, 2011, as a thanks for me joining, AARP would send me a FREE handy Travel Bag.

My membership would also include the following benefits:

1) Discounts on insurance and travel.

2) A voice in Washington, D.C. that will represent me on issues like Social Security (yeah, like there will be any left by the time I am really old), Medicare and consumer safety.

3) Valuable information on living well.

4) AARP The Magazine and the AARP Bulletin.

5) Community Services like local chapters, driver safety courses (I know some Snowbirds who could use that now), and a nationwide volunteer network.

AARP had me at FREE handy Travel bag.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Breakfast With a President

The museum The Colonel and I are involved with hosted its 5th annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Breakfast on January 15th. This year's theme was "Finding the Common Ground".

The breakfast was once again held in the local middle school's cafeteria. The tables were decorated with blue, green and white tablecloths (there is a reason for this color combo).

This year, it was particularly important that the breakfast went smoothly and was a success because our keynote speaker was the President of Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU), Dr. Wilson Bradshaw. (FGCU's colors are Cobalt Blue and Emerald Green, our tablecloths were close enough.)

The museum staff has met with Dr. Bradshaw in the past. He has come to the museum and we have gone to the university in order to build a partnership. FGCU is in the county south of here and it has recently opened a satellite in this county. Dr. Bradshaw and his staff are interested in cultivating students from this county. FGCU's Community Outreach Director has joined the museum's board as of last year.

Dr. Bradshaw is very approachable and engaging. When I met him at the museum a couple years ago I told him that my daughter would be graduating from high school and was thinking of attending FGCU. I know that meeting played a part in Yam's acceptance at FGCU; I was later informed that she was brought up, by name, at the meeting for the selection of Freshmen for the 2009 Fall Semester.

I had spoken to Dr. Bradshaw when he and his wife arrived at the breakfast, saying I could not believe that my daughter is already a sophomore at FGCU and that time is passing quickly. He spoke of Yam being a sophomore at FGCU in his keynote speech. I was pleased to hear him mention her.

I also spoke with Mrs. Bradshaw. She is very friendly and easy to talk to. After the breakfast, I gave her the beautiful, floral centerpiece from the head table and she told me that she would have to put it somewhere out of the cat's reach like she does the Christmas decorations. Been there, done that and have the T-shirt!

The museum hosted roughly 275 people at this year's breakfast.

Everyone (those who ate) had to go through the food line to get their breakfast of fried eggs, bacon, sausage, grits and a biscuit, muffin or croissant. There were also coffee, tea, juice or milk to drink. Going through the line brought back memories of my school days (and Adam Sandler's "Lunch Lady Land" song).

Dr. Bradshaw gave his keynote speech once everyone had eaten.

In keeping with the breakfast's theme of "Finding the Common Ground", Dr. Bradshaw spoke of education being the foundation for finding or achieving the common ground between all people. You would expect that from a university president wouldn't you? I do agree with Dr. Bradshaw though.

It was a successful breakfast and we at the museum are pleased to have it behind us. Now starts the planning for next year's breakfast.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Laying Down History, Brick By Brick

In 1885 a Unionist Kentucky Lawyer, Colonel Isaac Trabue, purchased hundreds of waterfront acres in southwest Florida to promote the coming of the Southern Florida Railway. He platted a town there and called it Trabue after himself.

The town is no longer named Trabue but one of its streets bears his name in his honor.

Trabue Avenue is located in the historic district of town and is a bricked avenue. The bricks still bear the fingerprint marks where the laborers grabbed them from their molds while still wet nearly a century ago.

The bricked streets and avenues of this town could have been things of the past were it not for Brigadier General Rufus Lazzell and "Lazzell's Raiders".

In 1985 Lazzell and his "Raiders" stormed City Hall asking that the brick roads in town be saved and not be replaced by asphalt when repairs were made (City Hall said asphalt was a cheaper way to resurface after a repair). Lazzell and the "Raiders" volunteered to pick up the bricks, clean them and stack them before the repair and relay them after the repair. City Hall agreed. The City Council eventually passed a resolution to save all bricked streets.

Since then, 14 blocks of brick streets have been torn out and replaced. The last time was 8 years ago until Saturday, January the 8th.

The Colonel and I were there to help relay the bricks as well as a few dozen others, including General Lazzell.

I handled a couple dozen bricks between my camera shots. Soon the street's workspace became too crowded with volunteers, so I stepped away and concentrated on my picture taking. The Colonel continued working.

Volunteer workers knelt upon the bricks that they had already laid as they placed the next row onto the sandy base of Trabue Avenue. After a couple of rows had been added to the avenue a landscape timber would be placed against the bricks and a man with a sledge hammer would hit the timber to knock the bricks into a straighter and tighter pattern.

There were other volunteer workers who were sweeping sand into the cracks between the bricks.

While The Colonel and I were there helping, about 40 feet of bricks were laid with plenty more to go.

A couple of ladies who lived on Trabue Avenue set up an awning in their driveway and had fruit, pastries, orange juice and water available for the volunteers. They were also going to have hot dogs for everyone when lunchtime rolled around (The Colonel and I left before lunchtime).

The Colonel and other volunteers continued working...

and I continued taking more pictures. I took a picture of this pretty house on Trabue Avenue.

The elderly couple who owned the house were watching the brick laying volunteers from the sidewalk and came up to me as I was standing there photographing their house. We started talking and they told me that their house was one of the original railroad workers' cottages from the late 1800's. There were two others still on Trabue Avenue. They invited me in to take a tour of the little house. It was small but quaint. They told me that I could come back for a visit and coffee any time.

The Colonel and I enjoy living in our little town. We like the slower pace, the small town feel and taking part in community events such as the rebricking of Trabue Avenue. It is nice to know that years down the road (no pun intended) when we drive down or walk along Trabue Avenue, we can say we helped rebrick it way back when.

Although we may not be able to see our fingerprint marks on the bricks, like those left by workers almost a hundred years ago, we know they are there.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

New Year's Day With Major Dade

Two centuries ago all of Florida was a wilderness. It was home to a few white settlers, a few thousand Seminole Indians (The Seminoles began as groups of different Native Americans, mostly Creeks from Georgia and Alabama, who settled in Florida in the early 18th century. The word Seminole is a corruption of the Spanish word Cimarron, which means "runaway" or "wild one" which the Spanish gave the local Indians when Florida was under Spanish rule) and escaped slaves who were given refuge by the Seminoles. Some of the Indians and escaped slaves married and became families, thus creating a group of people known as Black Seminoles.

The slave catchers came into Spanish owned Florida in 1818, and Andrew Jackson (who would later become the seventh U.S. president) and the Regular Army, under orders to subdue the Seminoles, invaded Florida as well and attacked a Negro fort and later Indian villages. This began the First Seminole War.

The following year Spain sold Florida to the United States. More white settlers came and so did more escaped slaves. The white settlers wanted the land the Indians and blacks lived on. When the Seminoles and blacks began to resist, the white settlers called on the U.S. government for help. Soldiers came and built forts. They also told the Seminoles they must leave Florida, it was no longer their home.

Fort Brooke (today's Tampa) was one of the forts built. Tensions were extremely high in Florida years later when Major Dade and 108 men marched out of Ft. Brooke in late December of 1835. They were marching 100 miles north to help reinforce Ft. King (present day Ocala).

Dade and his men were marching with a single cannon. They were wary of a possible attack, and by December 28th they had emerged from the thick swamps along their route and were marching through fairly open pine lands.

The day was very cold and the men were wearing heavy coats over their weapons. Major Dade and an advance guard were slightly ahead of the main column and the soldiers had no scouts out on their flanks.

The men felt more relaxed now that they had emerged from the thickets and swamps.

"Have a good heart; our difficulties and dangers are over now," said Major Dade to his men.

He then promised them a three day Christmas rest when they reached Fort King, as suddenly a shot rang out.

Unknown to Dade and his men, they had been watched for days since they left Fort Brooke and were now walking into an ambush laid by around 200 Seminole warriors led by leaders Micanopy, Jumper and Alligator.

"We had been preparing for this more than a year," said Alligator.

Following the single shot, the Seminoles opened fire from the cover of palmetto and high grass.

Major Dade, his horse and roughly half of the column went down in the first volley. Fifteen rounds were fired by the Seminoles before the soldiers ever saw a warrior.

The Warriors swarmed forward but were driven back by cannon fire.This caused a pause in the battle and the soldiers were able to regroup.

With the break in the fighting, the soldiers took advantage of the time by felling trees and building a triangular breastwork of logs. It was only about three logs high when the Seminoles began their attack again.

Archaeologists later found piles of flattened rifle balls at the site of the log breastworks on the grounds of the Dade Battlefield Historic State Park in Bushnell, Florida.

The battle continued.

When the smoke cleared, virtually all the soldiers were dead. Dade, his officers and 103 soldiers were killed.

Four soldiers, all badly wounded, survived the attack. Two of the survivors made their way back to Fort Brooke and arrived to tell of the battle and another reached the fort before dying. The last survivor was killed by Indians before he made it to Ft. Brooke. Dade's interpreter, Louis Pacheco was either captured by or voluntarily left with the Seminoles.

The attack and destruction of Dade's command is what sparked the Second Seminole War. It was the longest and costliest Indian War in U.S. history. The war would last seven years, claim thousands of lives, cost thirty million dollars and force the removal of virtually all Seminoles to Oklahoma.

On the first day of 2011, The Colonel, Yam, Spud and I watched the 31st reenactment of Dade's Battle. The reenactment was held on the grounds of the Dade Battlefield Historic State Park in Bushnell, Florida.

This reenactment was held on the 175th anniversary of the Second Seminole War (there would be one more) and on the site where the battle was fought almost two hundred years ago.

We met up with one of Yam's college friends and her mother who live in Bushnell. We all agreed that this was an impressive reenactment. We had front row seats, sitting on the grass, behind the yellow rope that separated the viewers from the reenactors. We felt like we were in the middle of the action and that we were actually taken back in time and space 175 years.

Before the battle reenactment and before we met up with Yam's friend and her mother, we walked the grounds. We saw the soldiers' and Seminoles' camps.

We also saw the descendants of Black Seminoles.

This breastwork reconstruction below is built upon the site of the original breastwork that Dade's soldiers built in 1835. This is where the flattened rifle balls were found.

Our trip to Bushnell was two-fold; one of business and pleasure. The museum we volunteer for will be doing an exhibit on the Seminole Wars next season which will highlight Black Seminoles. This trip gave us information and plenty of photos we can use for the exhibit plus, the whole family loves experiencing historical reenactments like this one that bring history to life.

There are a few more Seminole War reenactments around Florida in the next couple of months...we'll be attending those too (minus Yam, she'll be back at college).

When we first arrived at the Dade Battlefield Historic State Park, I took some pictures of the reenactors. One reenactor was dressed as a Seminole warrior (before I took his picture I informed him that my camera would not steal his soul) and after I took his picture I thanked him and said goodbye. He told me the Seminole people do not have a word for goodbye and that the word goodbye suggests that the person you say it to is going to die and you will never see them again.

So, with this knowledge in hand and with the power of Google, I leave you, my readers, with this saying in the Seminole language...

"Enka, Ce'hecares!"

Translation: "OK, I will see you again!"

Saturday, January 1, 2011