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Monday, August 24, 2009

A Funny Thing Happened in the Cemetary....

This is not usually the way most people start out a story. There usually aren't humorous things going on in cemetaries, admittedly. But then again, nobody has ever accused me of being unaware of the concept of "gallows humor". For a definition of gallows humor, click here. I don't know if this story really applies to the concept of gallows humor; probably not, but it was the first thing that popped into my head.

The other day, E and I were walking through a cemetary that is near our home. The Prairie Home Cemetary is quite large and the oldest cemetary in our town. I believe they started doing burials in it in the 1850s or 1860s or thereabouts. While it may seem strange to some people, both E and I actually enjoy walking through cemetaries and do so quite often. It is much like being in a park; it's usually very pretty and usually very quiet. I love to look at the older burials of course, and wonder at the stories of these people's lives. Sometimes I feel a sad sort of poignance about it, knowing that these folks buried over a hundred years ago no longer have people alive to remember them and all is left to show they were here at all is a worn stone marker with a few words and some dates. I feel somehow gratified to pause at their stones, read their names and acknowledge, if only for a minute, that they were here, even if no longer mourned. I am not naturally squeamish about death, as an abstract, which I suppose explains my enjoyment of hanging out in cemetaries.

It is not, and was not, very odd for a long time, to consider a cemetary as a public park of sorts. Folks in the Victorian Era often spent Sunday afternoons in cemetaries, looking at the monuments and even having picnics in them. The "garden cemetary", as they were then known, was just becoming the popular thing in that era. Before that, cemetaries were quagmires of filth and the stench of decay, often with multiple burials stacked upon one another in layers so that some bodies were only inches below the ground and cemetaries were avoided by everyone. They were feared to be pits of putrid disease, which in fact, they probably were. The new "garden cemetary" soon became all the rage and as there were few things such as public parks in those days, the cemetary soon became the place to be if you wanted to enjoy a little fresh air and sunshine or some quiet time to contemplate your thoughts.

But, I digress. Getting back to my story; E and I decided to take one of our evening walks to the cemetary, as we often like to do, seeing as the weather was very fine. It was about 6:30 in the evening on a Saturday night; not usually the time of day when you'd find many people in a cemetary. In fact, on all the times we have been there to go walking, we have never seen anyone else there at the same time we have been (unless they were on the very far side of the place; it is a very large cemetary and seems to go on for miles although I don't know it's exact acreage). On this evening, however, we saw several cars in our immediate view as we entered through a small side gate that we discovered and often use. One car passed us by at least twice and we did also see several people walking, as we were. We often stick to the older section where the older burials are, but we did eventually wander into another area that we had not previously been in before (very near the cremation gardens) and saw again, at least 2 cars that seemed to be "looping" through the cemetary. Both E and I commented on how odd it was that there were so many people about and we guessed that perhaps they might have been people who had attended a funeral there, though it seemed rather late in the day. As we paused to admire a particular crypt, one of the cars we had seen paused and a woman leaned out of the open window and said, "Did you find it?"
E and I both looked at one another for a moment in mutual confusion. My first thought was that there had been a funeral, or there was going to be one, and this woman seemed to think we were going to be attending the burial (even though we were both wearing shorts and t-shirts) and that she had mistaken us for mourners who were lost.
I missed part of what she said next, so complete was my confusion, but the gist of her next words regarded how they had been driving around for quite some time (there was a man in the car with her) and that "everyone" they had come upon said they were unable to find "it".
I soon learned what "it" was she was talking about and I had one of those moments where it would seem appropriate to smack a hand against your forehead and then say, "Duh!"

It seemed she had mistaken us for fans of Les Paul (1915-2009), who had died August 13 in New York and then "went home" to be buried in Prairie Home Cemetary( with great pomp and circumstance, I heard), since Waukesha was his hometown and place of birth. If you are not familiar with Les Paul, the musician, inventor and innovator, you can click here. The link is from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, to which he was inducted in 1988. Around here, he is often called "The Wizard of Waukesha", so-called because he was the inventor of the first solid-body electric guitar,known as the Gibson, and also the inventor of multi-track recording among other things.

Apparently, all the people we had been seeing in the cemetary were fans looking for the burial site to pay tribute to the "Wizard" and this woman had assumed that we were there for that reason as well. She must have noticed our evident confusion, so we quickly explained that we lived nearby and often walked in the cemetary and had clear forgotten about the famous person who had recently been buried there. At this point it was her turn to give us a rather strange look; I'm sure she probably did not know many people who walked in cemetaries as a recreational activity.
We told her that during our recent wanderings that evening we hadn't noticed any "fresh" burials, but admitted we hadn't really been looking either, but if we did find it and we saw her again, we'd certainly tell her.
As we walked away, E and I commented to each other on how strange a way to greet someone you came across in a cemetary with a cryptic "Did you find it?".
Then again, she might have found us just as strange, when we told her that we "come here all the time"!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Today's Spotlight On: Great Gizmos

This pottery-looking jar is a garlic pot. It was a Christmas gift, so I don't know where it came from, but it's very handy, especially if you have a lot of garlic around, which I normally do. Not for vampires, mind....I just like garlic. I usually get home-grown garlic from my father, who grows it in his garden. It keeps very well for a long time, if you store it correctly. Garlic does not need to be refrigerated, but it does need to be kept in a dark, dry place with some air flow, which is exactly what this garlic pot does. There are air holes to let air in, but it's dry and dark inside with the lid on. I keep it on my countertop and it looks very pretty as well as functional! Brilliance!!!!

Meet Butter Girl.........I bought her last year at Bed, Bath & Beyond. At last, I thought, an easy way to dispense butter for corn on the cob without making a total mess!! So, here she is, with her smiling face and head attached. Pull off the top of her head, and lo and behold! Butter!

The butter is loaded from the bottom (1/2 a stick of butter fits inside) and as more butter is needed, just a small push of this plunger thingy makes more butter come out the top. Ingenious!

How did I ever survive without the miracle of Butter Girl? Surely she jests, you might think to yourself, but I assure you, I am not. Isn't she just darling? (There is, as a matter of fact, a Butter Boy also, for those more inclined to a masculine butter dispenser. He is blue, naturally.) How can you not like her? She's pink. She has bangs and a bow and an apron!!!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

A Different Shade

No, I'm not saying that white is a different shade, I mean literally a roller shade! Who knew they could be so pretty?? I meant to post this awhile back, but forgot. The previous owners of our house had a sad and pathetic attraction to cheap horizontal blinds; the kind that are made of some kind of thin aluminum, painted some color and get so dusty you want to just rip them off the window and throw them away. Well, at least, that's my feeling towards those kind of blinds. Of course, they had some cheapie white ones on the window in our bathroom, which I ripped down right away. Since the glass in the window is frosted, you might wonder what's the need for curtains or blinds at all? Well, I hate to see a naked window. It just affronts my sense of right in the world.
I added a nice, crisp white valance with a textured pattern that almost exactly matches the white Crate & Barrel shower curtain. But something was still missing.
Then I came across fabric roller shades at Country Curtains. I loved this white cutwork lace shade which I have nicely pictured here. It comes in ecru also. You can set them up with the cord or without.

I even bought this cute silver pineapple shade pull. Techincally, I don't need a shade pull, since I set mine up to use the pull cord to raise and lower, but I liked the addition of the shade pull. A pineapple is a traditional symbol of hospitality.

Bookworm's Corner

I tried to think of something really clever to call my posts about books, but I decided simplicity was best. I was often accused of being a "bookworm" in my youth, since I spent very much of my time reading even when I was young and that has not changed. I am a voracious reader and will devour any book in short order. I say "accused", because I often had the impression that those who labeled me as such, did so as if it were something bad. I shake my head in consternation now. Foolish, foolish people to think that a child who reads, and reads willingly and loves it, should be scolded!

I mostly get my reading fix nowadays from visiting the local library. It's only a block from my house and the books are free. If there's a book I want to read and it's been checked out, I simply put it on hold via the library's computer and they email me when it comes back in. I can wait for the book. Patience is a virtue.

Recently, I checked out these 3 books. My love for classic literature had left me astonished that I had never read Henry James' Turn of the Screw, which has long been regarded one of his best works, and a thrilling ghost story to boot. I had heard of it often referred to in other works, but had not read it. I am about halfway through it; it is not a long story. So far, it has struck me as eerie and the famous ambiguity of the story has already taken hold of me. The other book, Washington Square, I had read before, but it was quite a while ago. A delightful book, thought-provoking and a bit tragic, the characters and the wit therein I had always occasion to enjoy. Henry James has been a favorite author of mine since I was in my twenties and I have read some of his other books, including Portrait of a Lady and The Wings of the Dove. I find Henry James' old fashioned, elegant prose delightful and exactly to my taste.

The third book, Columbine, by Dave Cullen, I had read about in Newsweek some time ago. This book was rather difficult to get at the library. I had to put it on hold after two months of never finding a single copy checked in. I had heard things over the years since that tragedy, that almost everything the media had reported at the time it happened was false, crude assumptions and speculation. I remember all the contradictory stories that came out later, even years later. I had always been curious about the true story and the facts about the case that had been so muddled by media and gossip. Newsweek had promised that this book was told in a clear-eyed, unflinching and completely accurate fashion and represented years of exhaustive research. I enjoyed the book very much and came away with, for the first time, an understanding of what had happened there and the twisted, angry and erratic pair that were the cause of it. I highly recoomend this book. I could hardly put it down!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Today's Spotlight On: 29 Year Old Cold Case Solved!

To get the full background of this story, click here. The reason for my interest in this particular case is because it occurred in my hometown, less than a mile from my parent's home, in 1980 when I was ten years old.
The events of that late summer I have never forgotten and over the 29 years that has ensued, there were times when I thought about it from time to time. Something would remind me of it, and I would recall it vividly and would always wonder; who had done his crime? Where was this person now? And most of all, would any of us ever find out what happened to these two young people?
I cannot help but feel a great deal of sympathy to the families of the two young people who were murdered, because I can't imagine how painful it must be to not know, to wonder.....when even I, a complete stranger who didn't even personally know them, still remember it so much. How much more agonizing it must be to those who loved them.
Even at 10 years old, I could not escape the knowledge of what had happened then. It had occurred so close to my home, in a place that was so familiar to me, and very close to the elementary school where just two months earlier I had finished the fourth grade. There was no way that you could not know about it. It was everywhere; in the news, the TV, on the lips of everyone. The police cars all over the town and air searches by helicopters could not be ignored as they passed over our house. Some of the murdered girls' clothing was found along the highway that passed in front of our house. Nobody could talk about anything else.
Jefferson County then was very rural; and in a way it still is, although it is much more populated now and there are less dairy farms and more houses than there was in my youth. Concord was, and still is, an unincorporated little blurb in the road. It consisted of, in short; one street, a town hall, a bar, a church, and an elementary school. A few houses along Concord Center Road terminated at the Concord House and adjacent campgrounds, past which there was nothing else but woods and farm fields. The Concord House was a former slaughterhouse, turned into a large, rustic dance hall. My parents' home was only a mile from it. I attended many dances at the Concord House myself when I was older, and perhaps a half a dozen wedding receptions as well. What had happened there was never far from anyone's mind when we would go there. I never liked to go out into the vast, dark and mostly un-lighted parking lot by myself. I don't think most of us liked to do so, and parents were always sure to warn us about the dangers of it.

"Don't go out into the parking lot by yourselves and even if you are with someone, be careful. You all know what happened out there to those other kids." was what they would say to us in cautionary tones. At age 14, and attending one of the frequent Snowmobile Club dances, myself and a friend would warily venture outside occasionally so we could talk to boys un-observed by adults. We never strayed too far from the lighted area by the numerous doors both in front and on the sides of the large building. When I was there for wedding receptions even years later, if I had to run out to my car for any reason, I still loathed to go alone, even as an adult.
When the two young people were found to be missing, the largest manhunt in the county failed to find them. Everyone feared the worst, especially when weeks went by and nothing was found. It wasn't until almost 3 months later their remains were found, at the edge of some woods and a cornfield on Hustisford Road. I remembered feeling a nasty shock about that, and an eerie chill. I had started the fifth grade that September and rode a school bus to Watertown every day. Our school bus always took Hustisford Road and we passed by that cornfield and woods every day. I remember gazing out the bus windows at those same fields as we passed; never suspecting that the murdered teens were lying there, undiscovered, for another month. There are houses there now. I don't live in the area anymore and have little occasion to pass by Hustisford Road, but whenever I have, I always remember that's where they found them and I always wonder if the people who built their house there know about it. It seems a morbid thought, but one I cannot help but remember. Like I have said; it was something that I never forgot and I know I was not the only one either. In these small rural towns, you don't expect things like that to happen and when it does, I think it's such a shock to the system that it can never lose it's vividness for those who lived there, even 29 years later.
I recall that the TV show Unsolved Mysteries featured the case sometime in the late 80s, early 90s. I believe I was out of high school or almost out of high school, and I remember watching it on TV and that my boyfriend's mother taped the segment on her VCR. We all wondered if any new information that could solve the case would come of it, but apparently, if it did generate any leads, I never heard about them. Again, there was almost as much discussion of the murders in town after the TV airing as when it had happened. Most people had felt at the time, and still felt 9 years later, that the murderer was not a local, long-term resident and that he (it was always assumed it was a man, perhaps more than one man) had probably left the area soon after. Even though this was the thought, nobody could be sure, of course, which is why people always were on their guard at the Concord House, and other places like it, even though it was highly unlikely the perpretrator would strike again at the exact same place. "But", as we often remarked to each other, "you never know and it doesn't hurt to be careful".
Ironically, perhaps, I had just mentioned the case to E only a few weeks ago. An acquaintance had mentioned to E that he knew the current owners of a place called the Concord House in Jefferson County, and he thought that he might be able to set up a show there for E's band, even if it was quite some distance from the Milwaukee area and their usual gig locations. E said he was very familiar with the place and had heard of it, through me, of course. The Concord House still has wedding receptions, dances and bands play there, of course. When E mentioned this to me, I exclaimed in surprise. I asked him if I had ever told him about the murders there.
It had become the stuff of grotesque and dark urban legend in the last 29 years, even though we all knew it was a true legend. He said he had recalled me mentioning it once when we drove past it after a visit to my mother's house (she still lives in Concord), but apparently I had never given him the full account of it. After I had done so, I said aloud for the hundreth time, "I wonder if they will ever solve that case!"

New Pictures from Stoneship Eden Show July 25

The band had a really great show on July 25! The crowd was so into them, it was great to see. The band was practically mobbed! Here are a few pictures:

And a good picture of E at the show the previous week on July 18: