In Which I Make A Promise

August 12, 2017

Only I didn’t know I was making a promise. 

This story involves my mother-in-law, an OCD little controller. Perhaps she was this way because her father was like that, and she learned those behaviors. Perhaps it was reinforced by her Swedish mother who was a perfectionist in word and deed, an immaculate housekeeper, and an educator. 

At any rate, it took years for her to calm down. This effect was made possible by cancer. She learned to accept things and move on, because sometimes things were bigger than the control we have over them. 

She could be an angry little woman when things didn’t go according to plan in those early years when I first knew her. I wasn’t part of her plan. Eventually she learned to accept me when she was presented with her first grandchild, a granddaughter. It seemed that I was able to achieve something she had never been able to do. 

That day came when the little granddaughter graduated from high school. 

See that black strap around my MIL’s neck? She carried a small spray water bottle in a holder that she wore everywhere she went. The radiation for her mouth and throat had destroyed her salivary glands, and she suffered from dry mouth. Enter the water bottle. 

On this day, while we were waiting in the auditorium for the graduation to start, my MIL considered that the next grandchild’s graduation would be about 17 years later in 2017. She said that she would be in a wheelchair because she would be 79, and I said that I would be using a walker, so I could manage somehow and push her in her wheelchair. 

But in 2006, that woman up and died. 

She and my FIL were out to dinner. They were in the bar having a drink while they waited for their table. He said, “We were sitting there having a drink, laughing like hell, and she fell off her stool.”  She had a massive stroke. She was flown to the medical university where they kept her on life support while preparations were made to harvest her organs. Heart, liver, kidneys, eyes, skin, and anything else that was needed. 


Rest well, Barbara. I’m thinking of you.

We’re Out Like A Scout

July 16, 2017

Someone had a simple idea. 

Someone (Sugar) thought maybe we should get kayaks and learn how to kayak. 

Sounds like a good plan, only we know nothing about the art of kayaking. So I messaged a friend who might possibly know something, because I had seen a photo on social media of her in a kayak. 

I messaged her to ask if she knew where we could look to buy kayaks besides WalMart. 

Oh, she knew. She knew A LOT.

She invited us to join her and her husband to go out in their kayaks at their river house. She knew when the tide would be right, and what kind of kayak we should use, and which landing we could put in, and what we should wear. 

So apparently this kayaking deal involves more than meets the eye. 

Sugar the Map Guy decided to take a look at different points of the river where we might put in. 

Which means a day trip. 

At Salzburg Landing, there’s a lazy section of river with a boat ramp. Off to the side, there’s a trail alongside the river. A tree along the embankment had toppled over years ago but continued to grow. 

On the other side were marsh grasses, and the leftover marsh reeds from last year’s Hurricane Matthew formed a line at the highest point of the tide. 

We’re facing south, and you can see some of the erosion from the ages. 

A big oak still clings to the top of the embankment. It’s a little past midday, and it is HOT OUT HERE. 

Now we’re at a section that might be called a Boneyard. There’s a beach on Edisto called Boneyard Beach, but it is much larger than this little mini-Boneyard. 

On the way back to the van, we catch this perfect moment. 

Another view of the trail back and the line of dead dry reeds to our left at the base of the embankment. The smaller line of reeds to our right is most probably from an ordinary high tide. 

The plan is to find out how far it is from Salzburg to the abandoned railroad trestle near Knowles Island. We found out that you can’t get there on a kayak unless you get out at the end of Boyd’s Creek and carry your kayak overland to get to the Broad River. 

I had read that a fishing pier had been built at the site of the old trestle, and that it was wheelchair friendly, and even though I am not wheelchair-dependent and I don’t fish, I had been wanting to check that out…

So it’s not like we can just fling a kayak into the water and paddle off as if you were on a lake or other still body of water. 

These are salt-water bodies of water that are dependent on the tide. Let’s imagine that you are a beginner (waves hand wildly in the air) and you put in at high tide as it turns, and get swept out to sea. 

It’s really getting hot out here on this metal pier, and we turn for home. 

Do we go out in little boats with friends? That is a story for another day. 

(We do!)

Of Cats and Raccoons

June 25, 2017


A while back, Sugar installed a feeding shelf for the two girl cats at work. We thought that it would make an excellent feeding station or perch or safe place for them. Mostly, we were worried that it was a long time from when I fed them on a Friday evening until I returned on a Monday morning, and we knew that ants would get in the food.

We had a plan to put yummy canned food on the shelf to lure them up and to show them that the shelf as a good thing. They refused.

Sugar had a further great plan with which I disagreed.

He went to PetSmart and bought a self-feeder. I use the very same feeding system at every cat station I’ve ever made, but these girls were different and difficult. I didn’t think they would get on the shelf and that the raccoons would drag the feeder off. If they won’t use the feeding shelf for canned food, they are just not going to use it for dry.

Sugar:  I got a feeder for the girls.

YoursTruly:  They’re not going to use it.

Sugar:  But I bought it for them.

YoursTruly:  Take it back.

Sugar:  But I made a special trip to PetSmart, and it cost $21.

YoursTruly:  They are not going to use it. Get your money back.

Sugar:  But I got the special smaller size to fit on the shelf. There was a larger one for only a few dollars more, but I got this one because it’s the right size, even though it cost $21, and I’m not planning another trip to PetSmart.

YoursTruly:  Then I’ll take it back. Do you have the receipt?

Sugar: I really want them to use it.

YoursTruly:  The raccoons dragged off the other bowls I put on the shelf, and they’ll drag the whole frickin’ feeder off into the canal.

Sugar:  (silence)

YoursTruly:  ALRIGHT! Give me the damn feeder.

I set up the precious little self-feeder on the shelf on a Friday evening. When I returned on Monday morning, the feeder was in two pieces off in the nearby canal in the woods.

The next week, Sugar removed the shelf, and I went back to feeding them in containers on the ground.

Then I tried feeding them extra heavily in the evening.  Keep in mind that I also feed them at breakfast and lunch.

Then one evening I fed the girls, and sat in the car while I checked my messages on the iPhone, skimmed over FaceBook, and glanced at the email. When I looked up, the girls were no longer at their bowl. They were lying in the grass in front of my car, lounging and looking at the woods.

I cannot win this game. I have been out-smarted.

Sugar Builds A Fence

June 19, 2017

Remember when his next-door neighbors burned the buffer zone along the common property line? And surprise! The buffer zone turned out to be his. 

I can’t forget it. So much weirdness involving that event. 

They started a fire and left it unattended. They left home completely. That fire was so close to jumping into the woods by the time Sugar discovered what was going on. The man next door had also been walking through the buffer zone and chopping at bushes and trees with a machete. He walked along Sugar’s driveway with a blower and cleared a path along at least 100 feet, intentionally making a fire break on property that wasn’t even his. Their first language is not English, but in what country is any of that behavior acceptable? 

Sometimes we turn things over and over in our heads trying to work out stuff just right. Sugar really didn’t want to build a privacy fence. But he wanted privacy. The kind of fence he was going to build would look like a wall, but he was only going to make it long enough to block his view of their house. He just didn’t want to look at their collection of junk any more. They are hoarders, of sorts, but also sloppy. An old motorboat that doesn’t work, a junked truck, a camper shell, children’s shoes, a half-built playhouse, discarded clothing, overflowing trashcans, plus other random items. 

It was a multi-purpose fence. You stay over there; I stay over here. I don’t look at your junk; you don’t look at mine. You don’t burn Sugar’s property; he won’t mutter crazytalk in your direction. 

During the planning and execution stages, Sugar took to quoting Robert Frost about fences and neighbors. 

Machete-wielding neighbor has hacked at Sugar’s trees and bushes.

This reminds me of a child tramping through the woods with a stick, striking out at anything and everything he encounters. 

Finally the fence is done. 

It’s about seven feet tall and sixty-four-ish feet long. 

We wonder what message this sends to the neighbor children. 

We also wonder what kind of message the children receive from seeing their parents leave an unattended fire to burn their neighbor’s property. 

At any rate, it is done. 

Mending Wall

Robert Frost, 1874 – 1963
 Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,

That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,

And spills the upper boulders in the sun;

And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.

The work of hunters is another thing:

I have come after them and made repair

Where they have left not one stone on a stone,

But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,

To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,

No one has seen them made or heard them made,

But at spring mending-time we find them there.

I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;

And on a day we meet to walk the line

And set the wall between us once again.

We keep the wall between us as we go.

To each the boulders that have fallen to each.

And some are loaves and some so nearly balls

We have to use a spell to make them balance:

‘Stay where you are until our backs are turned!’

We wear our fingers rough with handling them.

Oh, just another kind of outdoor game,

One on a side. It comes to little more:

There where it is we do not need the wall:

He is all pine and I am apple orchard.

My apple trees will never get across

And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.

He only says, ‘Good fences make good neighbors.’

Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder

If I could put a notion in his head:

‘Why do they make good neighbors? Isn’t it

Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.

Before I built a wall I’d ask to know

What I was walling in or walling out,

And to whom I was like to give offense.

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,

That wants it down.’ I could say ‘Elves’ to him,

But it’s not elves exactly, and I’d rather

He said it for himself. I see him there

Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top

In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.

He moves in darkness as it seems to me,

Not of woods only and the shade of trees.

He will not go behind his father’s saying,

And he likes having thought of it so well

He says again, ‘Good fences make good neighbors.’

The Butter in the Treehouse

June 18, 2017

The Alt-Reunion

June 18, 2017

Sugar and I didn’t go to the annual reunion. 

It’s complicated. 

There was a misunderstanding at last year’s reunion, in which someone thought that I had taken a brick from a wall in a historic cemetery that was being refurbished, and that I had sent it to a descendant in California. 

I didn’t do that. The brick was from a rubbish pile off in the bamboo undergrowth at another location, not a cemetery, an hour and a half away from the cemetery. 

Then there was when I called another descendant, at the request of the film crew who was filming for 23andMe, to find out who could grant access to the cemetery and if the crew could get permission to film there. 

The person I contacted gave me the phone numbers that the crew needed, but told me that this idea of filming in a historic cemetery was a bad idea, and that she was against it. And she wanted to know when was the last time I had been there. 

Seriously? Because I had been there at the cemetery during the reunion when everyone else had been there, and never since then. Plus the property owners allowed the filming to happen the following day. And nobody took a brick. 

Then the capper was when I was reading on the SC Dept. of History and Archives website about a certain historical house, and I saw a reference was made to Sugar’s Uncle Edward’s book “Saga of the South”. 

Because we knew that Uncle Edward had never had an association with that particular house, we were curious as to the historian had linked the two together, so I emailed the historian. 

I have been following the story of the Lawton-Seabrook Cemetery on Edisto, and how it has been nominated for the National Register.
While looking at the SC Archives and History website today, I noticed that one of your references for John Lawton is a book “Saga of the South”, by Edward Percival Lawton. The author is the uncle of Leslie Lawton Bateson, and Leslie thought it curious that his uncle would have mentioned John Lawton of Jericho Plantation in a book that only dealt with Edward’s direct lines. 

When he checked his copy, he cannot locate a reference to John Lawton on page 97 or in the index. Perhaps this was an error on your part?

He did not appreciate being questioned. 

I am in receipt of your email from yesterday. 

To be clear, the question you have raised refers to the already finalized and listed nomination of the John Lawton House in Estill, SC, which I authored nine years ago. It is unrelated to the currently pending nomination of the Lawton-Seabrook Cemetery.

This morning, I went into the attic and dug out my notes on the John Lawton House nomination. I’m sure you’ve noticed that the footnote in question is a “for further information” footnote with multiple sources contained in it, rather than a footnote verifying a specific claim in the main text of the nomination document. In reviewing my notes from the Edward P. Lawton source, Saga of the South, it appears that I was particularly drawn to these lines: “The village itself [Lawtonville] was virtually killed when, in 1891, the southbound railroad, now the Seaboard Air Line, was put through two miles to the east of Lawtonville. Most of the villagers then moved to a new location near the station, which was named Estill in honor of Colonel H. H. Estill of Savannah, the railway’s president.”

As it turns out, this material does appear on page 97 of the source in question. As it also turns out, John Lawton was one of the Lawtonville villagers who “moved to a new location near the station” with the construction of his new house in town. This initiative is described at great length in the preceding paragraph of the nomination, while the “more on John Lawton, Sr.” reference in the footnote was to the context provided in Edward P. Lawton’s book for why John Lawton, Sr., would have moved there. And as the very next sentence in the nomination text further explains, Lawton “maintained intimate business ties with local railroad authorities, who were often his competitors.” One might nitpick that this reference to the material on p. 97 of Saga of the South is better placed under footnote 3–something I thought about at the time–but I made a conscious choice to list it under footnote 4, along with the other “for more information” sources.

So, to answer your question, no, this was not an error on my part. The reference was intentional and correct, since John Lawton, Sr., was among the folks to whom Edward P. Lawton was referring when he wrote those sentences on page 97. Clearly, both you and Leslie Lawton Bateson were not aware that Edward Percival Lawton’s book contained material that was about more folks than just “Edward’s direct lines” and the people listed in the index. I hope our correspondence helps you both see that broader picture. 


Now, something that not many people know about me is that I was exposed to carbon-monoxide poisoning in the workplace about 20 years ago from a faulty gas water-heater. 

Part of my reply to the historian:

About twenty years ago, I was exposed to carbon-monoxide poisoning in the workplace from a faulty gas water heater. This was not discovered until it had been going on for several months. The levels were very low, imperceptible at first until the gas leak became evident. As a result, my reasoning, retention, and memory skills were affected. It is harder for me to learn new things because of the memory loss. It is harder for me to understand someone else’s train of thought. 
So I ask questions in an effort to understand, not to challenge. 


I felt humiliated after that exchange. Then a friend reminded me that there is a learning technique called the Socratic method that involves asking questions. 

I was so relieved. I am not a weirdo. I ask questions all the time for knowledge and affirmation and understanding, and frankly, it challenges people unintentionally. So I try to be quiet, but it does help me to write it out. I have already written it out in my brain multiple times before I put fingers to keyboard. 


So, the reunion. It seemed like I had ruffled too many feathers. Some people had said that I wasn’t even blood. How then do you explain how spouses and fiancés and adopted children could be allowed, and I couldn’t? I don’t have anything to prove, so if it upsets people that I am there, then I just won’t go. Problem solved. 

However, there were going to be people at the reunion that we wanted to see. Enter the Alt-Reunion. 

YoursTruly, Sugar, and Sugar’s cousin Elisabeth

So the photo above is complicated. That’s Boyce on the left. He’s my cousin on his mother’s side, and Sugar’s cousin on his father’s side. 

More complications. Boyce; Rebeccah, who is related to no one in the photo, but is related to a Lawton cousin Lynda, but only related on their Moseley side, not the Lawton side at all; YoursTruly, Sugar, and Elisabeth. 

One saga closes, another saga opens. 

Treehouse Update

May 29, 2017

Yeah. They refuse to use. 

I’ve never met a cat, much less two, that refused to jump up to a shelf to get canned food…

These girls are a challenge. 

Another Treehouse

May 21, 2017

Sugar decided to make another cat perch for the cats that live in the woods next to where I work. 

I’ve been approached two times in the past week by interested people who have seen the cats hanging around in the morning waiting to be fed. No one had a problem with it, and they were surprised that I had trapped them for spaying and vaccinations. Apparently ordinary people don’t realize that other ordinary people can be agents for change. 

Like Sugar is an agent for change. 

He brought two different boards to choose from. 

Next he checked the brackets that he mounted directly onto the tree trunks. 

He screwed the bigger board to the brackets, and, quick as you please, he’s done. 

Little Miss Sassy Pants and her sister stayed well away. The sister is so far away that I couldn’t get a clear photo, even with the zoom lens. 

The platform is big enough for an ant deterrent system, which consists of a large shallow bowl of water with a smaller bowl of food set into it. The water creates a barrier that the ants can’t cross. 

We’ll see tomorrow if the system worked. 

In Cucumber Glory

May 15, 2017

About 3 weeks ago, Sugar and I were invited to a picnic lunch with a group of FriendsNotFriends. One we had met once and had actual conversation, one we had met on a tour, and the rest were social media friends and their friends. 

All these folks were in a social media history group. One of these people is a published author. The picnic was to be held at the author’s place on a barrier island. 

Y’all already know that Sugar considered not going before he considered going. Being a recluse involves a lot of planning and worry, especially if there are people involved because the situation might get too people-y. Plus there was that Meeting A Famous Author thing. 

I think the last time I was at a picnic was when I was a child, otherwise known as A Very Long Time Ago. We weren’t sure how this modern-day picnic would play out. 

Would it be outside?

Or on a screened porch? 

Will it involve sitting on the ground? 

Do we take our own drinks? Utensils?

Do we take food just for us or for everyone?

Clearly, our picnicking social skills are lacking.

Sugar thought we should take cucumber sandwiches. Do you know how hard it is to find good cucumbers in season in early May?


We found some small pickling cucumbers that were prepacked. They appeared to be from Mexico, and why wouldn’t they be?

Through careful planning and another desperate circling of one of the only two grocery stores in our little town, Sugar chose a loaf of some kind of wheat bread that wasn’t super wheaty. I offered another kind of bread that was sprinkled with seeds and toppings, but he said no. That was not how his mother would have done it. 

Now, Sugar and his mother had a strained relationship like many, many of us. Sometimes, the strain comes from generations of issues, and sometimes it is created in just our own life. It’s a complicated thing. 

Sometimes we make cucumber sandwiches. 

Sugar said we had to cut the crusts off of the bread before we make the sandwiches, because that is how his mother did it. And we had to spread the mayonnaise on two slices of bread, layer the cucumbers on the first slice, lightly sprinkle some salt, and place the top slice of bread, then cut on a diagonal. I told him he wasn’t supposed to eat salt and these sandwiches might kill him. He said that was okay. 

We made ten sandwiches which turned into twenty when we cut them on the diagonal. They fit perfectly into those plastic Gladware containers. 

And off we rode in Ole Yeller with our sandwiches, some donuts from the bakery, and a jug of sweet tea. 

We had an address that I plugged into the map app on the iPhone. Lots of times the GPS is off, but this time it was perfect. Everyone else had gathered in the living room of the cottage, and we offered our cucumber sandwiches on the table which was covered with all manner of good things, like pimiento cheese, and chicken, and pasta salad, and hoecakes, and meatballs. I’m probably forgetting something. 

Then the hostess spotted our cucumber sandwiches. She stood by the table and took a bite of one. She held it aloft and said, “Who brought these?”

Sugar spoke up and claimed our ownership. That’s right, the famous recluse engaged in conversation with someone he hadn’t known 15 minutes before. 

After lunch, we all walked down to the water, which meant walking across some fields by some ponds to Alligator Creek. There is a dock, but no alligators, and a little summerhouse with a screened porch. 

We sat on the dock, and posed for a photo. It’s not every day that you can bask in cucumber glory. 

Afterwards we took a tour of the garden, and Sugar scored some bunching onions. 

As we said our goodbyes, Sugar offered the remaining cucumber sandwiches to our hostess. She accepted every last one. 

When we drove off, our new friends waved goodbye, and our hostess waved while enjoying a cucumber sandwich. 

And that? Is a Very Good Day. 

Making Movie Magic

May 6, 2017

It’s all about DNA and 23andMe. 

Sugar’s cousin Jordan has a fascinating story about how hIs family connects with Sugar’s family. Their most recent common ancestors are Joseph and Sarah Robert Lawton. 

Another of Jordan’s cousins is Tom. 23andMe wanted to make a short documentary about the link between these two fellows. 

Filming was going to be done on Edisto Island, Robertville, and Tom’s family place near the headwaters of the Coosawhatchie. (Remember? It’s pronounced COO-sah-HATCH-ee.)

The film producers did some telephone interviews with myself, Jordan, Tom, and some more of Jordan’s cousins, namely Boyce and Ashby. It was decided that they might need a guide for some of the locations around Robertville (waves hand wildly in the air). Plus Tom invited us to his family’s place to visit while the filming was being done there. 

The morning of the filming was at Edisto, the first known location of the Lawton family in America, before it was America. William Lawton died in 1757. 

The afternoon was a meeting at the meeting house of Black Swamp Baptist. 

Jeremy the director, Sugar, Tom, and Jordan. Sugar is pointing to the graveyard where the Lawton plot is located.

We did not know that they had already filmed for approximately 4 hours in a cemetery on Edisto. I had a list of places that seemed important, and they chose to film at the home site of Black Swamp Plantation. Or rather, what remained of it, since the house was burned by Sherman’s troops in 1865. 

Sugar went on home because he is a recluse, and this is too people-y for him. 

The arrival at the farm gate…

More of the entourage arrives…

We climbed over the gate. Locals driving by slowed down to see what was going on. 

Checking out the setting…

Here’s one of my favorite shots of Tom and Jordan in the afternoon light at the steps. 

I had warned them that there are fire ants living around the steps and that you wouldn’t know you were in them until you were in them. 

I wandered off into the bamboo to visit the rubbish pile of old bricks and debris. 

When I walked out of the bamboo, I saw a scene taking place at the farm gate. 

The gentleman leaning on the gate is the caretaker, and he stopped to make sure that no one was metal detecting. He unlocked the gate so we didn’t have to climb over. He told the crew to be careful and have a good time. 

Lighting is so important in photography. I took a photo of Tom and Jordan during a break, and the light was in my eyes. I didn’t know that Tom was taking a photo of the crew until later when I zoomed in on the image. 

Then even later, Tom posted a photo of the group, and there I am taking a photo of him and Jordan. See the difference in the lighting? So amazing. 

I don’t know who took this photo, but I’m standing at the farm gate with some of the crew. I enhanced the photo for your viewing pleasure. 

At the end of the day’s filming, the sun was dropping behind the trees and making the most perfect silhouettes on the backdrop of the steps. 

Ignore my finger blocking part of your vision. I have no skills at this point of the day. 


The next morning, I told Sugar we were leaving in 30 minutes to go to Tom’s family place about 45 minutes away to meet up with Tom, Jordan, and the crew. Because he is recluse-y, he had decided that he wouldn’t go, but because I posed the situation in a statement, not a question, he got in the car. 

The crew was setting up in the house for the interview sessions, and we got in a quick tour of the house before the set was closed. 

We rounded a corner, and stopped in shock because we didn’t expect to see this guy here. 

It’s Alexander James Lawton, the 2nd great-grandfather of Sugar. This oil hung in Sugar’s grandmother’s house in Savannah for about 50 years, and Sugar had always wondered what happened to it. 

The set was closed while Jordan was interviewed, and Tom took us on a tour of the area. 

Baby alligator out Tom’s car window…

The headwaters of the Coosawhatchie Swamp…

Hanging out over a waterway…

Mr. Turtle…

At one remote area, we saw a swallowtail kite. Only Sugar knew for sure that it was what it was, and later he produced his bird book with proof. “Uncommon and local. Most often seen soaring low over swampy woods…” Exactly this. 

We circled our way back to the house, and chatted a bit, and said our goodbyes. 

Because we have cats, and yarns, and other dead people to tend to.