Katie & Briscoe

Katie & Briscoe

Monday, March 28, 2011

Kudzu

I'm starting this early, though I won't post it for a few days. I don't know what brought this to mind, beyond the fact that I was talking on my last post about my mother's hyacinths and the fact that everyone I know (translate: Southerners I grew up with) calls daffodils "buttercups" while everyone up here in Yankee land calls them Easter Lilies. I don't know if daffodils are actually buttercups, but I do know they are most definitely NOT Easter Lilies. (I've pointed this out to my poor, misinformed Yankee husband many times through the years.) Anyway, for some inexplicable reason, I find myself thinking about kudzu.


For the uninitiated and non-Southern out there, kudzu is a plant. No, it's more than a simple plant. "Plant" is far too innocent a word to describe this thing.
Kudzuworld.com describes it thus:

What is Kudzu?

Quick Facts

What is Kudzu you say? Its an amazing plant. So amazing that some say its an alien species. The Japanese love it, but it grows normal in Japan. In the American South it's a predator.
  • It grows more than 7 feet (more than 2 meters) meters a week. Almost nothing stops it.
  • It takes 10 to 15 years to control a Kudzu patch – even with chemicals. Effective herbicides (such as napalm and agent orange) often destroy the soil. Of 12 known herbicides, 10 have no effect, and 2 make it grow better.
  • Its covers more than 2.8 million square km of the American South. If it were not for winter, there would only be 40 American states. Patches often are 6+ miles (10+ kilometers) long.
  • Its even been called "The vegetable form of cancer".
 Here's a very helpful information sheet:

Gardening tips from down south - How to Grow Kudzu

by Tifton Merritt

Choosing a Plot

Kudzu can be grown almost anywhere, so site selection is not the problem it is with some other finicky plants like strawberries. Although kudzu will grow quite well on cement, for best result you should select an area having at least some dirt. To avoid possible lawsuits, it is advisable to plant well away from your neighbors house, unless, of course, you don't get along well with your neighbor anyway.

Preparing the Soil

Go out and stomp on the soil for a while just to get its attention and to prepare it for kudzu.

Deciding When to Plant

Kudzu should always be planted at night. If kudzu is planted during daylight hours, angry neighbors might see you and begin throwing rocks at you.

Selecting the Proper Fertilizer

The best fertilizer I have discovered for kudzu is 40 weight non-detergent motor oil. Kudzu actually doesn't need anything to help it grow, but the motor oil helps to prevent scraping the underside of the tender leaves when the kudzu starts its rapid growth. It also cuts down on the friction and lessens the danger of fire when the kudzu really starts to move. Change oil once every thousand feet or every two weeks which ever comes first.

Mulching the Plants

Contrary to what may be told by the Extension Service, kudzu can profit from a good mulch. I have found that a heavy mulch for the young plants produces a hardier crop. For best results, as soon as the young shoots begin to appear, cover kudzu with concrete blocks. Although this causes a temporary setback, your kudzu will accept this mulch as a challenge and will reward you with redoubled determination in the long run.

Organic or Chemical Gardening

Kudzu is ideal for either the organic gardener or for those who prefer to use chemicals to ward off garden pests. Kudzu is oblivious to both chemicals and pests. Therefore, you can grow organically and let the pests get out of the way of the kudzu as best they can, or you can spray any commercial poison directly on your crop. Your decision depends on how much you enjoy killing bugs. The kudzu will not mind either way.

Crop Rotation

Many gardeners are understandably concerned that growing the same crop year after year will deplete the soil. If you desire to change from kudzu to some other plant next year, now is the time to begin preparations. Right now, before the growing season has reached its peak, you should list your house and lot with a reputable real estate agent and begin making plans to move elsewhere. Your chances of selling will be better now than they will be later in the year, when it may be difficult for a prospective buyer to realize that underneath those lush green vines stands an adorable three-bedroom house.
More helpful advice:
How fast can you run?
"God may have thrown Adam and Eve out of Eden, but kudzu chased out
the Lord."

What is Kudzu?
From "The American Heritage Dictionary":
Kudzu (kood'zoo) n. A vine, Pueraria lobata, native to Japan, having compound leaves and clusters of reddish purple flowers and grown for fodder and foliage.
Kudzu was brought to the US in 1876 during a exposition in Philadelphia for a Japanese garden exhibit. It hasn't stopped growing since.
Gardening Advice
Advice for the newcomer to kudzu gardening.
Planting
Throw the seeds and run. Very Fast.
Kudzu tends to not need anything to help it grow, but it is sometimes a good idea to shout
"Incoming!" before planting.
I know what you're thinking. (At least if you aren't actually from the South and don't have personal experience with this plant.) You're thinking that, it's just a plant. More than that, it's a pretty plant with lovely green leaves and beautiful purple blooms. How could anyone disparage it!

Don't let those deceptively pretty blooms fool you! As absurd or funny as the previous claims about kudzu are, they are far closer to the truth than you can imagine. For proof, I offer this:
Oh yes it does do that! EVERYTHING that doesn't move on practically a daily basis gets eaten by this stuff.

There are some out there who posit an interesting theory about how and why kudzu came to be a part of this nation's ecosystem. One theory is known as the Kudzu Conspiracy. It is far too detailed to reprint in its entirety here, but please read it and judge its merits for yourself.

Personally, I don't know that the conspiracy goes that far. I doubt the ability of any government to maintain something this insidious and conniving for so long. I do, however, have my own suspicions about the purpose of this vine. It's a theory that I have heard others mention, and one that I cannot help but lend at least some measure of credence to.

If you read the history of kudzu (The Amazing Story of Kudzu) you will see that it was first introduced to this country in Philadelphia in 1876. The place and timing are key! You'll note that the place was a city located NORTH of the famous Mason/Dixon Line, which anyone knows is the line of demarcation between the North (Yankees) and the South (Rebels). And the time was 1876, a mere 11 years after the end of the War of Northern Aggression. (The Civil War for you Yankees out there.)

There is a saying that was coined near the end of the war that goes like this: "The South's gonna rise again!" It's a bold threat that I believe the North just could not bear to ignore! So when kudzu was put on display at the Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876, they found their answer to keeping the South under control. A simple, innocent looking little plant!

Kudzu was introduced to unsuspecting Southerners as a lovely ornamental plant, or forage for farm animals, or the perfect solution to erosion control. And Southerners being the avid gardeners that they are, they cultivated it without a second thought. (Everyone knows no Southern woman can resist a pretty flowering plant. My own mother was known to dig up all kinds of flowers from around abandoned houses just because she couldn't bear the thought of them blooming where no one would be able to enjoy them.)

No Southerner could have known in those early days just what they were unleashing upon their beloved Dixie. By the time they figured it out and realized that they had been duped by the blasted Yankee carpetbaggers who'd sold them the evil green monster, it was too late to get it under control. Since then it has quite literally taken over the South. Southerners will never again be able to unite against the Yankee enemy because they must devote every moment of their spare time to defending their homes against the kudzu invasion.

You may be thinking that I'm just paranoid. But consider the fact that kudzu only grows in the South! No Northern city need fear its choking grip. No Yankee family will have to abandon their home and land to its incessant crawl. It is a weapon, I say, aimed at the South alone! This map proves my theory!
 Call me a conspiracy nut if you want, I think my point has been made.

American by birth, Southern by the grace of God. ;-)






(BTW, if anyone out there can't pick up that my "theory" is a joke, then you need to seek out psychiatric help immediately!)

Friday, March 25, 2011

Exhaustion...

Wow, I didn't know I could feel this tired. I swear it wasn't this bad during the chemo. Or maybe it was and I've just forgotten. You know, Chemo Brain and all. Then again, I guess it's possible, and probably more likely, that I'm just feeling the cumulative effects of the chemo and the radiation. Whatever the cause, I am flat out worn out ALL the time. Let me give you an example.

I went Wednesday to get my herceptin before my radiation. I also saw the oncologist before the herceptin. I was tired when I got there, but by the time it was all over and we got home, I was feeling dead on my feet. So I laid down and I didn't get up until the following day. I think it wound up being something like fourteen hours. Mark kept coming in to check on me, but all I wanted was to sleep. I didn't get up to eat or anything else other than a trip or two to the bathroom.

So, you'd think that all that sleep would leave me feeling fresh as a daisy, or at the very least feeling anything but tired. It didn't, however. Last night I expected to feel good enough to get some stuff done, like loading the dishwasher, maybe folding a few clothes, little things like that. Instead I found myself heading to bed around nine, I think it was. I didn't actually sleep much, but I just couldn't find the energy to get back up. I did manage to drag myself into the kitchen this morning to finally load the dishwasher and I fixed a quick breakfast for Mark and myself. By the time I'd finished my toast, though, I was ready to fall over. I left Mark watching TV and went back to bed. He joined me sometime later, though I don't remember it. He reads his Bible before going to sleep and I usually notice him turn on his light, but not today.

I was back up by ten and out of bed by ten-thirty so I could be ready to leave by eleven and in Madison for more radiation at eleven-thirty. Right now I'm seriously contemplating taking a nap.

My breast doesn't look much different after another week of treatments, but it feels different. I notice my clothes irritating it some, like the skin is slightly sunburned and anything even remotely rough hurts a little. And I'm starting to have trouble laying on that side because putting pressure on it hurts a little. And I still have fifteen treatments to go. Three more weeks. I go Monday to get a CT for them to map out precisely how they're going to do the final seven "boost" treatments.

I also got the results of my last MUGA scan from the oncologist when I saw him on Wednesday. The first one I had done before any of the chemo was a baseline scan and my heart was functioning at 61%, which sounds kinda off to me, but is actually above normal. (Anything over .5, or 50% is considered normal.) The second scan I had done three months later, after starting chemo, the function had dropped to 59%, still no cause for concern. This time it was down to 55% and he's starting to worry just a little. Well, worry is probably too strong a word. He wants to keep a close eye on it. He says we're going to do the next scan early, in just 2 months. If it's dropped again, then we'll decide what to do next. He said we might try stopping the herceptin for a while, then do another scan to see if the function improves. If it does, we'll start the herceptin back up. Or maybe we'll just drop it altogether. Either way, it's something we have to keep an eye on.

It kinda worried Mark, I know. He's taken to double checking that I'm not having any chest pains or anything, which I'm not. He's also posited the theory that my decreasing heart function might be adding to my fatigue, which makes sense to me, but we haven't run it past any of the doctors, yet.

I've also had a persistent cough for a while now, and that isn't helping me feel any better. I think it's due to my allergies. Though it's turned back off cold now, it was so warm there for several days that we were opening the windows and even sleeping with the bedroom window open a few nights. I was coughing before all this, but it seemed to get worse during the warm spell. I told the radiologist on Wednesday that I've been noticing increased allergy symptoms for a while now. They seem to be getting worse with each passing season. For a while there I wasn't having any issues at all. I'm thinking now, though, that I might wind up having to go back on the allergy injections. It's just one more thing to work out, though I'm waiting until the radiation is over because it's just too difficult to go to Madison in the morning, then turn around and head off to Florence on the same day. Frankly, I'm too tired to even think about it. I had to cancel my six month appointment with my allergist because of the radiation. I haven't rescheduled it, yet, but I need to.

Gosh, it seems like I am constantly making notes to myself these days about things I need to remember to do! At least I did manage to get our tax stuff to the accountant last week. Now, If I can just get through the next three weeks without falling flat on my face from fatigue, I'll be good!

The tech did tell me to expect it to take a couple of months after I finish the radiation before I started feeling more normal. Still, I'm looking forward to the end of this next three weeks because at least then I can start getting better each day instead of feeling worse. And I'm really, really hoping that it all winds up before I break out with blisters from the radiation. Just three more weeks. I can't wait.

On a side note, I've been so happy to see the first blooms of spring. We've got bunches of daffodils (Buttercups to us Southerners) blooming all over the place around here. I really wish I could get out there and cut some to put in a vase, but as much as I'd like to, I just can't seem to drag myself down the driveway to do it. For some inexplicable reason, my forsythia has chosen not to bloom this year. Well, it has one lonely little yellow flower, but that's it. I do have some hyacinths blooming, though. And everyone else's forsythias are blooming like mad, along with the Jane magnolias and Bradford pears. Mark bought a bunch of bulbs the other day at the store, though we haven't gotten them planted, yet. He really likes dahlias. I like anything that blooms. It's really going to drive me nuts if I'm too fatigued this year to get out there and take pictures of all the flowers! Just in case, here are just a couple of my favorite shots from previous springs.
 A lovely, bright yellow buttercup!
 It's kinda hard to see here, but I love the way the petals of this narcissus are actually iridescent.
My forsythia when it actually does bloom for me.
 I have always loved hyacinths. My mother grew them at the corner of our house and to this day, their sweet smell reminds me of her.
 A curved row of buttercups that sits behind one of the beehives.
This is one of my favorite shots. I was aiming at the narcissus in the center of the shot, but realized later that it looks like my little cow is sniffing one of the others. Mark's parents gave me the cow one year for Christmas. I kept it in the house for years, not wanting to see it get worn by the elements. 

I'm pushing spring a little this year, tired of the gray of winter, I guess. I use shots like these, and countless others to brighten up my computer. They're my wallpaper on my home screen and they rotate every few hours so I don't get tired of looking at the same one all the time. They're on my iPad, too. And my cell phone, come to think of it. Makes me smile every time I see the lovely colors and flowers. It also reminds me of just how awesome God is. He didn't have to make flowers. I suppose He made them for His own enjoyment, but I also suppose He knew we'd love them, too. No matter how tired I feel, seeing the flowers always makes me smile and perks me up just a bit. Isn't He great!

They're talking actual accumulating snow on Sunday! Yikes!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Signs of Radiation Exposure...

Well, I'm into my third week of radiation treatments. As I was laying there today listening to the machine buzzing while it zapped me, I couldn't help thinking about Japan and it's nuclear situation. If the worst were to happen (and I know we are all praying that it WON'T!) the kind of radiation that would be spewed into the atmosphere is actually the same thing that has been used to treat cancer, though not in my case. I find that fact amazing. Like chemotherapy, radiation treatment is so counter intuitive. The very form of radiation, cesium-137 that is released during a nuclear meltdown, the thing that has contaminated everything surrounding Chernobyl and that led to who knows how many deaths and illnesses after that catastrophe, is deliberately aimed at cancer patients in an effort to rid them of the mutated cells that could kill them. Yet exposure to cesium-137 causes cancer. Does anyone else have trouble wrapping their brain around the logic? LOL

Anyway, on Mondays they take a couple of x-rays along with my treatment to make sure their targeting is still good. Conveniently, the same machine that treats me takes the x-rays. Isn't that handy?! I also had my third MUGA scan yesterday. That's where they inject me with even more radiation, wait half an hour, then put me in yet another machine that takes a series of images of my heart. I'll have one of these done every three months or so to make sure the Herceptin I get every three weeks isn't damaging my heart. I haven't gotten the results of this test, yet. I don't know if they'll call me or just wait for me to see the doctor next week.

On Tuesdays, I see my radiation oncologist after my treatments. Our first two visits during my first two weeks were only a couple of minutes long. She's an awesome doctor, and I love how thorough she is. During my first two weeks she just wanted to make sure I didn't have any other questions or concerns. I didn't. I did have something to discuss with her today, though.

I actually noticed last week sometime that there were some differences in my breast, mostly in the coloring. On Sunday I noticed that there was a red area on my chest in the upper left quadrant of my right breast. Meaning I had a red spot just to the right of the center of my chest. The skin on my right breast looked a little red, too. Then it seemed to look normal later so I decided that maybe I had just squished it while sleeping. LOL I didn't bring it up when I got my treatment yesterday because I knew I'd be seeing the doctor today. Plus, I knew it was just the beginning of my body reacting to the treatments. Anyway, I showed it to her today and she agreed that it was the start. She sent me home with some tubes of an ointment to use on the red spots. I'll just use more of it when more areas get red. She told me the redness on my chest is typical and that a lot of women get a rash there.

So I'm starting to react to the treatments. I was really hoping it wouldn't start until the fourth week so that it would be less likely to have time to get particularly uncomfortable. Right now it doesn't really hurt, though my chest does itch a little sometimes, which is how I noticed it in the first place over the weekend. Amusingly, my boob feels kinda hot sometimes, especially after treatment. This is such a strange thing. It's really weird to have one breast feel like it's running a fever while everything else feels normal. Like I said, it isn't painful, yet, so that's a huge plus.

I don't know if I mentioned this before, but along with the skin reaction/rash and the fatigue that comes with radiation treatment, there is also a list of things NOT to do. One is not to use any lotion or perfume on the area being treated. That's not so difficult. But I also can't use deodorant under the arm on the side of the breast being treated. This is just annoying! To be precise, I am allowed to use unscented aerosol spray, which isn't actually a deodorant, but an antiperspirant. On the day I went looking for it, which I was advised could be found at a pharmacy, Mark and I were at Wal-Mart and I decided to look there. No such luck in the women's section. But Mark found a can in the men's. So I now hose my right armpit down with men's aerosol antiperspirant every day. It's a sport formula. Yeah, like I need that. I contemplated looking for something made for a woman, but I was too tired that day to bother going anywhere else once Mark found this one. So it's what I'm using. I don't like it. I miss my Secret! (Strong enough for a man, but made for a woman!) LOL I am grateful, however, that this isn't all taking place in the height of summer. It should all be over and I should be free to return to my regular stuff long before that sets in. Thank You, Lord!

There are just so many things that go along with this whole journey. Like the chemo and radiation, some of them are too insane to even bother trying to make too much sense of. Oh, I understand how the chemo and radiation work. I did plenty of research into both of them. When you get right down to it, they do make sense. But there's still something way beyond ironic about pumping yourself full of poison and bombarding yourself with radiation in an effort to kill off mutant cells that can, in turn, be triggered by the very things you're trying to kill them with. And then there's the joy of being bald. Honestly, I didn't mind the baldness near as much as this process of watching my hair grow back. It's just ugly right now. It points in all kinds of crazy directions. The short stuff over my ears never wants to just lay down, it prefers to poke out over the tops of my ears, making me look like some little old man with ear "tufts." And I swear I have even fewer eyelashes and eye brows now than I did when I finished chemo! Let's not even talk about the other places where I don't have any hair. Yet, somehow, there is still hair growing on the fronts of my legs. What is THAT all about?!

The list of absurdities associated with cancer treatment just goes on and on. I choose to laugh at pretty much all of it. What's the point in being upset? It won't change a thing, except to make me and anyone around me miserable. I've seen cancer patients who were very bitter and angry. I don't understand the point of that. It sure doesn't help them any. Besides which, I know God's ultimately in control of it all. It'll work out however He thinks best. Whatever comes, I'll go along with that knowledge and cross each new bridge when I come to it, all the while knowing He's right there with me each and every step of the way.

I just thought of something. You know how they refer to radioactive items as being "hot?" Well I've got a hot boob! Maybe it's radioactive! (I'm tired. You'll have to overlook the goofiness of my sense of humor. Mark sometimes just smiles and nods his head and I know he isn't laughing with me at those times!)

Okay, I'm done, at least for now. I'm off to the kitchen to find something to snack on. Though I doubt anyone needs a reminder, please keep the people of Japan in your prayers. I cannot even imagine the scope of the devastation they are facing right now. And the nuclear situation on top of what's already happened isn't making it any easier for them. And pray for all those who are there to help search for survivors and victims, too. They've come from all over the world to help and what they're doing is no easy task. Then hug your spouses and kids and any other family and friends you can get your hands on and take a minute to thank God for all the blessings in your life. You know there are lots of them that we all take for granted every day.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Rain, Rain, Go Away...

Just to get this out of the way... I've finished my second week of radiation. I think I'm starting to notice some changes in the targeted breast, but nothing really uncomfortable so far. Did I mention that my Dr. told me that the breast that gets bombarded with radiation would wind up firmer than the other one? Just what I need. Lopsided breasts. LOL So I've got another couple of weeks of full time treatments to go, plus however many "boost" treatments she decides to give me. Almost half-way there!

I travel to Madison every single week day to get my treatments, so I've been watching the Ohio river as it has risen beyond its banks. This is hardly the worst flood the Ohio has ever seen. It was several feet higher than it is now back in 1997. I live just a few miles outside of Vevay, IN, but I couldn't get to town without going up and over the ridges. The state highway that follows the river was underwater in several places then. Here are a couple of pics I took of the highway back in 1997.
This was to the east of us.










This was to our west. There was no way to go but up!















I've seen the Ohio spread itself pretty far, so I know what's happening now isn't all that bad. Since I'm seeing it every single day, though, it's easy to notice just how far it's rising and how fast. Yesterday I stopped and took a couple of pictures. Today I took several more. Here they are.
This "road" goes out to the treeline you see in the distance. There are several trailers out there which are used for summer camping. The river is usually on the far side of the trees. Out in the water to the right of the road is a speed limit sign saying "10 MPH." I find that oddly funny.
The river is much closer to the road here than in the shot above, but the road is also at a considerably higher elevation. The water depth at the treeline is several feet.
Some time last week, as Mark and I were passing this old barge I joked that if the water got much higher, it would float away. It is normally sitting on dry ground on a massive trailer. I honestly don't know if it is even capable of floating any longer. It's been sitting there for years. And even if its hull is still water tight, I don't know if it could float with that trailer attached to its bottom. A few more feet of water and we just might find out if she's still river worthy!
This is the river at Madison, IN. That's the Milton/Madison bridge in the distance. Ground has already been broken for its replacement. The bridge opened in 1929 and is now considered "functionally obsolete." There was a great deal of discussion about how to replace the bridge, as it is the only way across the river for 26 miles upstream and 46 miles going down stream. They had talked of using a temporary ferry service while the new bridge was under construction, but common sense prevailed. A ferry would be impossible to use in waters this high and with the amount of debris that's in the river. Plus, it couldn't possibly accommodate the necessary traffic. So they decided to leave the old bridge in place while it's replacement is constructed immediately to its downriver side. Once the new bridge is up and in use, the old bridge will be removed. The construction is supposed to be finished in September of 2012. If you're interested, here's the site for the new bridge. It offers info, a pair of live web cams, and a nifty animation and video of the project.
A massive tree trunk bobbing in the swift-moving water. It was just one of many that I could see. There is undoubtedly more junk below the surface of the water. It's dangerous to be in the water at times like this.
A view upstream from the deck of the Milton/Madison Bridge.

I said I had noticed how quickly the water was rising. Day before yesterday we were watching the news and they said the river level had climbed 2 feet in 8-9 hours. That is a LOT of water! I don't think it's climbing quite that quickly now, but it did jump a foot or so in a 24 hour period and I have the pictures to prove it.

On the way home yesterday, I stopped down at the Paul W. Ogle Riverfront Park here in Vevay. This is the site of many events in Vevay. The first that comes to mind is the Swiss Wine Festival that happens here every August. There are other things that happen there, too. Like antique tractor shows, and car shows. The American Cancer Society's annual Relay of Life takes place at the park. It has a playground for children, basketball courts, baseball fields, as well as restrooms, a small grandstand area, and a large boat ramp. All of it is currently under water. Above are a few shots I took of a little car on a giant spring at the edge of the playground, one of the benches that overlooks it, and the swings. Here they are today, 24 hours later:

The car is almost completely submerged. You can just see it peeking out of the top of the water's surface in the third shot. As you can see, I couldn't even get as close to them today as I could yesterday. And they say the water isn't done rising yet. The latest predictions say it will crest at 51.7 feet around noon on Monday. As of 3:00 PM today, it was measuring at 50 feet. If you'd like to track the river's levels and NOAA's predictions for it, you can do so here.

So, now you've seen what the Ohio is doing currently. As much water as it is, as much water as there was in 1997 when the river crested at 60.7 feet, it's nothing compared to what the river has done in the past. Around here, all floods are compared to the Great Flood of 1937. Just as an FYI, the river crested at 76.1 feet in 1937. All my river depths are as reported at Markland.

Here are just a few references to help you imagine just how deep the water was during the '37 flood.
This building is located in Milton, KY, just across the river from Madison. If you look closely, you can see some wave-shaped indicators painted on the side of the building. Here's a closer view:
There are four marks. The lowest marks the 1997 flood. The next one up is from 1945. Then comes the 1964 flood. And finally, near the building's roof, is the mark indicating the water level during the flood of 1937. If these aren't enough, then take a look at what Vevay has to offer.
This is another shot of the Paul Ogle Riverfront Park in Vevay. The playground is just off to the left. The road I'm standing on normally goes straight ahead, dropping off considerably at the distant treeline to the boat ramp below. If you look closely you can see some towers just left of center of the photo. They are actually a trio of large pipes that mark the water level of the 1937 flood. The top of the pipes is how high the water was at its crest in 1937. Every time I look at them, I am just amazed that it could have gotten that high. Here's a closeup shot of the pipes from yesterday:
As you can see, we haven't actually hit flood stage at 51 feet, yet. It looks like we'll go just beyond it.

They say the 1937 flood could never be repeated. They say that the dams that have been built along the river since then would stop it. But I read a report earlier today that pointed out that at some point, the water levels get so high that all the gates are open and when that happens, there's nothing else they can do. Frankly, I find it amazing that anyone would be foolish enough to suggest that anything man-made can control God's great creation. The river floods, then recedes, then floods again. With just the right weather conditions, there's no reason to believe that the river couldn't reach such depths once again. I pray it never does. Back in 1997 practically the entire town of Falmouth, KY was swept away. It's been rebuilt, of course, but if the '97 flood could do that, then a repeat of the '37 flood would be downright devastating. There are a lot more people living along the Ohio these days. Lord help us all if the waters ever get that high again.

If anyone is interested, there are a couple of articles I came across that appeared in the "RoundAbout" guide in the past that talk about the 1937 flood. You can find the first one here, and the second one here.

And now, a quick note about the earthquakes and tsunami that have struck Japan. Mark caught it on the news this morning and mused that it seems as if there are no "small" earthquakes anymore. They're all high up on the Richter scale. I was talking with a lady in the waiting room at my radiologist's, and she said that upon hearing the news she wondered if the world was coming to an end. She was joking, but I can't bring myself to laugh. The number of natural disasters just seems to be growing by leaps and bounds. Maybe it only seems that way because we have virtually instant media coverage of every single event that happens pretty much anywhere in the world. But I have to wonder if maybe God isn't trying to tell us all something. Something like, "Watch Out! Be Ready!"

Please pray for those effected by the earthquakes and the tsunamis. Almost the entire town of Kesennuma, home to 74,000 people is either burning or submerged. And then there is the possible leak of radiation from one of their nuclear plants. The Japanese media is reporting that they're already estimating the death toll to reach more than 1000 people. There are dark, hard days ahead for the Japanese people. Lift them up to God and while you're at it, give Him thanks for the safety of yourself and your loved ones.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Memories...

(Imagine Elvis singing...) iq Memories... pressed between the pages of my mind... iq

Okay, so Mark and I went up to Scottsburg, IN the other day on a whim. I'd had my radiation and we decided to run up there to have a quick look around. We were actually looking for a used car dealership that used to have a branch in Madison a few years ago. It's called Jeffrey's Auto. It's a Christian dealership and we bought our truck from them back when they were in Madison. Here's what they say about themselves on their website:
We are a Christian, family-owned business. We have owned and operated our car lot in Scottsburg for over 25 years. We place a high value on our reputation and our name. We try very hard to please you, our customer, by providing you an automobile at a very affordable price. We appreciate your inquiry, and we will go out of our way to serve you. Thank you and may our Lord bless you.
 This is their logo:
I mention this because while Mark and I greatly respect and appreciate the fact that they are Christians and don't hesitate to advertise it, the finger pointing up has always struck us as kind of funny. Every time one of us mentions Jeffrey's, the other will point up and say, "One Way." As funny as we find it though, we did have a good experience with them, so we decided to head up to Scottsburg to see what they had on the lot.

We aren't really full out shopping for a new car, but we are browsing at this point. And by new, I mean something newer than what we currently own, not necessarily something that just rolled off the factory line.

Anyway, we didn't find anything, so we drove on through town just to look around, then stopped to get some gas because it was cheaper there than in Madison. After that we headed back through town on our way home. And I've said all this just to get to this point. There's a train track that runs through the heart of town. Sure enough, just as Mark and I neared it, the lights started flashing and the arms came down. We could hear the train whistle blowing as it approached.

I immediately began to grin like a fool. See, where I grew up, trains are a big part of the scenery. There was a track a few dozen yards in front of my grandmother's house. Every time a train went by the entire house shook. The shaking was accompanied by constant tinkling as my grandmother's collection of salt shakers clinked against each other. I used to play on the tracks. (Yes, it was probably dangerous to some extent. But it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out a train is coming, especially when you're touching the rails.) There was a trestle just up the tracks a bit and we used to walk up to it and then climb down to play in the water. And I certainly flattened my share of pennies on those tracks through the years

Then there was my hometown of Corinth, MS. (Pronounced Carinth, like the car you drive.) Corinth was known as the crossroads because it was a fairly pivotal rail hub and the tracks literally crossed there.
This is one of the more popular pics of the old station and tracks. It's sold on postcards. There is no way to get around town without crossing the tracks at least once and more likely several times. As we sat there watching the train go by in Scottsburg, Mark and I talked about the trains from home.

There are a number of stories just in my life about various trains and crossings. I'm sure things have changed somewhat in the years since I left, but when I was young, more than a few of the crossings didn't actually have lights or crossbars. You just had to pull up and look both ways before crossing the tracks. One of these crossings was toward the outer edge of town and we used to cross it every time we were coming back home from visiting my grandmother. One day we were coming back into town and we were all tired. Dad was driving and as he approached the crossing he didn't even slow down. He just shot across it without looking. There was a train coming. And by coming I mean it was close enough to scare us all to death when we saw it looming over us. That became an oft repeated story over the years.

The best one, though, involved my mother and sister. They'd been shopping or something and were on their way back home. There was yet another crossing with no lights. My mother did slow down, but she told my sister to hang her head out the window to see if there was a train coming. She did and there was no train. There were, however, a series of mail boxes just on the other side of the tracks. To this day my sister still talks about Mom trying to knock her head off on those mailboxes.

We lived just outside the city limits and there was pretty much no way to get to our house without crossing tracks somewhere. The trains had this really annoying tendency to come to a dead stop on the tracks, blocking the roads. And these weren't short little trains. They were so long that even if you tried to turn around and approach from a different direction, you'd just encounter the same train blocking whatever road you tried to take. So we spent a lot of time sitting there waiting for the trains to finish whatever it was they were doing and get moving again. It was just a part of life in Corinth.

Mark and I laughed and reminisced about this as we watched that train go by in Scottsburg. I couldn't help but feel a little homesick. Trains always make me feel that way, mainly because I don't see all that many of them around here. There was even a track some distance from the house I grew up in. On still, quiet nights we could sometimes hear the whistles as the trains approached town. I love that sound. And I love the clickty-clack of the wheels as they move over the rails. I love the smell of the creosote on the ties as they bake in the sun. It all reminds me of my childhood and takes me back to simpler days.

Mark and I have often talked about moving south one day. I've told him that I don't think I'd want to go back to Corinth. Because it isn't the same town I knew as a child. It's grown tremendously. Everything is different. The church I attended has moved and rebuilt and is now more of a mega church than the tightly knit family it once was. My childhood home was sold years ago and the new owners did some construction so that it doesn't even look the same from the outside. While I wouldn't mind visiting, since I do still have dear friends there, I can't imagine living there. I think it would be more painful than comforting. So if we ever do decide to move south, it will be somewhere else, I think.

Still, I love the town of Corinth. Just thinking about all the wonderful  memories I have of it makes me smile. It's small, but has a lot to offer. There's a lot of simple beauty, especially downtown where the older houses are. And there's no way to even scratch the surface of the history contained in every nook and corner of town. I jokingly tell people that Northerners have no real appreciation of history. I can count on one hand the number of historical markers I've seen in my years living up here. The South is an utterly different story. There's a historical marker or commemorative plaque practically every five feet down there. Most relate to the Civil War, of course. Corinth played a pivotal role in the fight, so there are lots of markers in town. Plenty of cannons, too, all still pointed north. (That's a Southern thing. All Civil War cannons are pointed north no matter where they are.)

I miss a lot about Southern life. If you've never experienced it, you cannot understand how different it is. Things just move at a slower, more easy pace. And there are trains. What's not to love about that?