A New Spider in the ‘Hood

October 13, 2018

Ten years ago a friend was redesigning her flower beds at the front of her house. She gave me the choice of taking any and all of assorted plants and bulbs.

Several of the bulbs I tucked at the base of several pine trees. Several years they put out some spindly growth that looked like daffodils, although they never bloomed.

One of the hurricane-damaged pines fell over on August 24, 2018.

Almost a month later I was returning home in the evening and noticed something glowing red in the near darkness.

I’d never seen this type of flower before. The internet tells me that it is a spider lily.

Over the course of several days, more bloomed.

I feel lucky to have these beauties. They need light in order to bloom, and when the pine tree fell over, the light was able to warm them enough to spring forth.

And who doesn’t love a good spider in the woods?


A Dying Cause: Part 2

October 6, 2018

A handsome black and white tuxedo cat would visit the Treehouse feeding station by the driveway. He was not there very often, and usually only in the evening or dark. Sometimes, when I drove in after work when the nights were longer and darkness was about, he would be in The Treehouse. He would not run away immediately, but he kept his distance between the two of us.

One random daytime, I saw him waiting to eat some canned food. Pop-up and Georgia ate their fill while he waited patiently. This made me wonder if he was also coming by in the daytime, and I wasn’t home to see him.

He was a solid-looking fellow. I supposed he was a male because of his beefy shoulders and head. A male adult cat’s hormones cause his body to change and become thicker in the upper body, making him stronger and more suitable for fighting and mating.


Last Sunday evening I arrived home after spending the day with Sugar. It was a pleasant late summer evening, and I sat at the picnic table after feeding the cats. Mr. Packett rambled over to me, and we sat there, enjoying the evening while darkness fell. There weren’t even many mosquitoes out, and the air temperature was mild.

As I got up to go in, I heard a cat meow from outside the gate near The Treehouse. I thought it was Pop-up because of the tiny little meow. He has a little voice, almost a whisper, as though he had never used his voice much and it didn’t develop properly.

I walked over to the gate to see what was the matter, and the cat spoke again from the undergrowth by the driveway.

It wasn’t Pop-up. It was the tuxedo, and the situation appeared like he had just arrived after everyone else had eaten. This was a perfect time to set the trap.

There’s always a trap by my front gate, and there is always cat food in the trunk of the car. There was also a towel hanging over the gate. These things aligned and conspired with the cat to create action on my part.

I set the trap and baited it with a whole can of Friskies and covered it all with the towel. I placed the trap at the side of the driveway with the open end pointing toward the cat. At this point it was fully dark, and my outdoor security lights were on. I went back into the yard and called Sugar on the cell phone to tell him the news.

The cat crept forward and inched into the trap. I waited for the trap door to spring closed. It did not.

I hadn’t used a trap in a long time. Maybe the trip mechanism was defective. Maybe the cat hadn’t stepped on the plate, and I realized that the towel wasn’t covering the trap completely to the ground on my side, and I could see him straddling the trip plate.

Sugar and I talked for 15 minutes while the cat continued to eat. I supposed as he got closer to finishing the can, he might be digging out the last morsel and might activate the trap door. Either that or he would back out and be gone.

Several of the other cats had gathered at a safe distance to watch the drama unfold. They got still and small. An odd quiet settled over the scene. Even Butter tucked himself into a pose instead of squawking about. Butter is usually the one that goes into the trap even though he doesn’t like canned food. He’s that guy who sees the warning signs and checks them out anyway. “Caution: hot surface” means that Butter needs to know how hot.

This was getting ridiculous. I decided that the cat would soon be on his way and then I’d check the trap mechanism. Suddenly Pop-up, tired of waiting for action, sprang up on the gate to see me. The commotion of the sound of the chain-link fence and me telling Pop-up to get down startled the tuxedo in the trap, and he turned to make his escape and the trap door slammed shut with a classic bang.

Sugar and I made a plan that he would take the cat the following day to the shelter to drop off to go to the spay-neuter clinic.

This was accomplished, and later in the day he got a call from the shelter that the clinic had tested Mr. Tuxedo for disease, and he was feline HIV positive.

Good-night, Mr. Tux. It shouldn’t have been your time to go.

Without A Breeze

October 1, 2018

Two years ago, Hurricane Matthew came to call. He caused one of my large pines to fracture near the base from wind stress.

Last year, during Hurricane Irma, the winds caused the pine to tip over until it was cradled by a water oak. The pine hovered there at a 45 degree angle, suspended over my chain link fence.

On the early morning of August 24, 2018, the ground shook at 4:15 when the pine toppled over. This detail will become more relevant in a future post about the reason I was awake to know the time.

Black cat provides local color

But for now, my poor sad pine fell over when the last wisp of the water oak branch gave way. Do you know about water oaks? They are known for having hollow cavities in the trunk, and branches that are easily broken.

There was no breath of air that caused the enormous water oak branch to break away. It was simply the time for one thing to tumble away, causing another thing to tumble.

So let’s take care of each other, shall we, until it’s our time to let go.

A Dying Cause

September 30, 2018

Sometimes people have cat problems, and they ask me for help.

Like a woman I worked with who had a cat that had gotten uncontrollable. She was afraid of him. She had gotten him and his brother as small kittens. On the day that they were to be neutered, she was able to crate the brother Tom, but Jerry saw what was going on and he ran. She was never able to catch him again.

Last year she asked me if I would take him. I told her that he would have to be fixed and that he would live outside with the colony. She wanted me to take him inside and hold him like a baby and tell him that I loved him. I told her that there are other cats who are free to come and go, and I don’t restrain any of them. Hold him like a baby? Nope.

Why do people want me to do things that they will not do themselves? I don’t have a magic wand. When she described the cat to me, he sounded wild and feral, and her description scared me. I said no.

Now Jerry had become a large adult cat, and was getting into neighborhood fights. His owner, my work friend, asked me for help. I suggested taking him to be fixed first and foremost.

She didn’t have a crate or a trap. She could not bear the thought of him going into a trap, but she thought her husband could get him into a crate. I loaned her a crate.

It took two days, but her husband got him into a crate.

I transferred him into a trap. He had to be at the Animal Shelter for drop off by 7:45 am or he would miss the transport to the spay/neuter clinic. The particular shelter was 45 minutes away, and then work was another 1/2 hour from there. I had arranged to be late for work, just to drop off this problem cat for someone else who couldn’t resolve the issue, and many times that is the way it is with people that need help. Someone else has to rearrange their life to help another in need.

I was afraid of being late, what with a wild cat in my car and not wanting to be stuck with him for an undetermined amount if time. I was easily 15 minutes early. The gates were open; the building was not. I put the trapped cat on the sidewalk by the door.

This shelter has free roaming cats that are soft ferals. Several went up to the trap to meet Jerry. He just gave me a bad look.

The shelter opened. The paperwork was filled out.

I got a called later that day that Jerry had tested positive for feline HIV. He was euthanized while still sedated for testing.

That evening I had to talk to my friend about feline HIV and that Jerry was deceased. She knew nothing about the disease. There is no vaccine, and it is transmitted through bite wounds like when a cat is fighting or mating.

Good-night, Jerry. You should have had a different ending.

Finding Walter Oliver

September 24, 2018

How do you find a man that doesn’t want to be found?

It’s not a quick solution to the problem. I’ve been looking for William Collins for almost 20 years. But wait? Wasn’t I looking for Walter Oliver?

It’s a long story.

It started for me in the last millennium when I met a man online who was looking for information about his grandmother’s family. I’ll call him Cousin Harry. His grandmother was Ivy Collins Coker. It appeared that she was the younger sister of my great-grandmother Henrietta Collins Webb.

Things seemed complicated, relationship-wise. Ivy was born after 1880, and her mother Ruth Gamble Collins was listed on the 1880 census as a widow. Further complications arose because Ivy had reported her father as a Deaderick Collins. Now, to be sure, Ruth and Deaderick were married, but he disappeared off the census after 1870. It didn’t look like he could be Ivy’s father.

More complications regarding this family group. There was a brother of Henrietta’s and Ivy’s named William. Cousin Harry had a story that William had gotten in some sort of trouble with “the law” in East Tennessee and left the area for good. This story was supported by the fact that Harry’s uncle Buster, who was born around 1920, remembered a childhood memory of meeting an Uncle Walter, and remembered hearing the adults whispering they thought it was safe and that no one would recognize or remember him. One family member called Uncle Walt by the name “Uncle Will”.

Prior to receiving this photo from Cousin Harry, I had received a parcel of old letters from Cousin Diana. One of the letters was written by Ruth’s brother Larkin Boling Gamble in Brownsville, Oregon, to his sister in Siloam Springs, Arkansas, most probably Martha “Mattie” Gamble Rhea. He mentions that their sister Ruth is dying and could Mattie send the news to Walter Oliver, and to ask Walter to write back. Larkin mentions all of Ruth’s children by name except for William, so my best guess is that William is Walter. What had William done that he left East Tennessee for good? Why did his family speak in code when referring to him?

I thought I’d never know.


Last year I subscribed to newspapers.com and GenealogyBank.

I find the following for Tuesday, April 21, 1891, Knoxville Daily Journal and Journal and Tribune. Volume VII, Issue 55, Page 5, from GenealogyBank.

The same paper on the following day…

Fast forward to May 18, 1908, the the Arkansas Democrat in newspapers.com.

From The Tennessean, Nay 20, 1908…

And the Daily Arkansas Gazette, May 20, 1908…

Then on August 28, 1908, in The Tennessean, we find this..

Then silence.


I got a message on facebook a few days ago from a woman is descended from Mattie Gamble Rhea. I asked her if she knew what happened to Will Collins. She hadn’t heard of him. So we chatted and developed a theory. If Larkin Boling Gamble thought his sister Mattie in Siloam Springs, Arkansas, could get in touch with Walter Oliver he must be nearby. I had found a reference to a Walter and Bertha Oliver in Siloam Springs some 20 years ago, and I had requested a death cert, but it could not be located. The theory was that if someone is in trouble, they will pack up and go to a safe place where they know someone and have access to resources and support.

I believed that our Will Collins is Walter Oliver. How to prove it?

I went to consult my friend ancestry.com.

I found a 1915 marriage record for Walter Oliver and Bertha Carney in Neosho, Missouri, just over the Arkansas line.

I found that Bertha’s sister was Gertrude Carney who married Clarence Arric. Clarence’s father was John Arric who was born in Blount County, Tennessee, whichbis where Walter/William’s mother Ruth Gamble Collins and all her siblings were born.

I found a findagrave memorial for him which showed that he and his wife Jane were buried in Davis Cemetery in Siloam.

I found a 1910 census that shows John and Jane are living in Benton County, Arkansas, with their children and Jane’s mother Susan J. Davis.

And who is Susan J. Davis? She is the oldest sister of Ruth Gamble Collins and Mattie Gamble Rhea. Her husband was Caleb Davis, and they are buried in Davis cemetery.

This is certainly a plot twist. Susan’s grandson Clarence married Gertrude Carney, and Susan’s sister Ruth’s son married Gertrude’s sister. I used to wonder if Walter had hidden his past from his wife. I think it is safe to say that she knew his background and why he was in hiding.

In 1929, Walter and Bertha Oliver visit her sister Mrs. Clarence Arric.

Bertha died in 1982. Walter was about 14 years older, and we think he died about 1945. I haven’t located their burial place, but Davis Cemetery seems like a good place to start.

Good night, family. You are a complicated bunch.

The Short Life of Wadie Lee Rawls

September 7, 2018

Wadie Lee was my father’s sister.

She died when Dad was five.

I found an obituary written by someone who appears to be her music teacher.

When Wadie Lee died of influenza in 1918, her mother  Tula was also sick in bed with the flu, and my dad, who was Wadie Lee’s younger brother, was ill with whooping cough. They were too ill to attend her funeral. The obit mentions the  her father John plus the oldest child Pauline who was born and died on June 6, 1904. There is also her brother James Leonard who was mentioned, although not called by name.

From GenealogyBank: Dresden Enterprise and Sharon Tribune, Friday, December 13, 918, Dresden, Tennessee, Vol: 36, Page: 9.

Death of Sweet Girl.


Wadie Lee, daughter of Tula and John Rawls, was born Dec. 16, 1906; died Dec. 6, 1918; aged ten years and 12 days. She was a victim of that dread disease, influenza and was sick only a few days, but those few days were days of great suffering.

Wadie Lee was a bright, cheerful girl, full of promise for a useful life and it seems so hard to give her up, even for a little while, but the loving parents are reconciled that God’s will be done. The mother was in bed with flu, and little baby brother, Roy Clayton, had whooping cough and could not attend the funeral services at Wesley’s Chapel. She was a good, sweet, innocent child and we feel sure that she is at rest for she talked of dying and said she was not afraid to go.

I had known her scarcely a year, yet I loved her dearly. For the last three months she had come to my home every other day for a music lesson, and took the greatest delight in her music. But, dear girl, we will practice together no more on earth, but I believe that some day we shall meet together in a  better world, where we will enjoy the sweetest music and where no note of discord will be heard.

The members of her Sunday school class arranged a lovely floral wreath. Wadie will be greatly missed in Sunday school and the junior missionary society, for she attended both as regularly as she could.

She leaves a father, mother, two little brothers and a host of relatives and sorrowing friends–while she has gone to join her older sister, Pauline.

May the God of heaven sanctify this sudden death to the everlasting good and happiness of all who knew and loved her.

Written by a true friend.

There’s a discrepancy in the obit about her age. It says she was born Dec. 16, 1906, and died Dec. 6, 1918, and was ten years and 12 days. The calendar math doesn’t add up to that age. Another confusion is that her gravestone says she died on Dec. 7, 1918. I think perhaps that the obit writer was greatly overcome with grief, and so got the age wrong. It also appears that the matching gravestones for Pauline, Wadie Lee, and Dorthy Sue were ordered and installed at the same time, and that time had dimmed the recollection of the exact death date.

Sleep well, cheerful angel. We’re thinking of you.

A Historical Medical Mystery

September 6, 2018

I was poking around GenealogyBank and found 2 articles that mentioned an illness that my father had in 1921. He would have been seven years old.

From the Dresden Enterprise and Sharon Tribune, Friday, June 10, 1921:

From the same paper a week later:

Now, Dad had a sister that was born in January of 1922 and lived for one day.

I suppose that Grandma could have been pregnant with Dorthy Sue during the summer of 1921.

Since Dad couldn’t swallow for almost a week, I wonder if he had diphtheria. And Grandma? Did she have the same illness that Dad had?

So many questions, and no one to ask.

A Sugar-y Birthday

August 23, 2018

A few weeks ago, Sugar and I were out and about in Beaufort, looking for lunch. We stopped in to check the menu at The Hearth, a restaurant with a wood-fired pizza oven. The folks we were with didn’t want to eat pizza, and we ambled on.

Sugar had a birthday coming up, and he agreed that we should go back to The Hearth, but this time to stay and lunch.

Spoiler alert. The Hearth is in Agnes and Daniel Mann’s house, more historically known as the Saltus-Habersham house.

We sat in view of the pizza oven, which was centrally located.

Behind the oven is an amazing wall.

Enormously large windows let in the light.

The Belk chain added an extension to the original Mann house, back in the day when it was a department store.

Lunch for Sugar was an eggplant Parmesan sandwich with a side salad of arugula, and for me, a chicken Parmesan with a side of pesto pasta.

Yes, that is a beer and a glass of wine.

The food was good, and the restaurant was creative.

The tables were made of reclaimed wood from Hurricane Matthew.

The walls were also faced with reclaimed wood.

The bar was reclaimed, and the foot rails were former railroad tracks.

Our friendly bartender said that his mother worked in this very spot when it was the Belk store.

You can see the original brick and stucco in the above photo.

The exterior looks much the same when it was an art gallery, except they have a water bowl outside for dog tourists.

Did you remember that Agnes and Daniel Mann’s daughter married Thomas Bateson in Savannah? She lived with her family in this house until the federal forces occupied Beaufort, and they refugeed to Savannah.

From across the street, you can see that I scored a parking place right in front.

The restaurant occupies the left side of the first floor. A shop occupies the right side. We went in there, too, but not to shop, only to wander and take photos and touch old bricks. The clerk never noticed we were there; she was too interested in looking at her phone.

A lovely day. Thanks, friends, for sharing it with us.

The Boxer: Final Chapter

August 14, 2018

After a few days at the shelter, Mr. Boxer was adopted!

He has dog friends, and human friends, as his companions.

His name is now Kane. Will we ever know what his previous name was? I know that it doesn’t matter, not really, but I’m always curious to know what makes a person give a name to a dog and then proceed to neglect said dog? What kinds of things are going on in their lives that makes this happen?

Kane has made a trip to the veterinarian, because the aircraft wire that he was tied out with had become tangled and wrapped around his throat, and had worn an abrasion that was hidden by his collar. The abrasion will heal, but will leave a scar. You might not want to look at the next photo provided by his new mom.

I am so grateful to her, and all the people in the chain of events that made his life one of hope, not hell.

In the Clearing Stands a Boxer

August 2, 2018

I live in the woods on an acre and a half. The eastern third of my property is fenced with 5′ high chain link. The fence gives me a sense of security and satisfaction.

There was a house built on a neighboring property about 10 years ago, and the people that built the house cut down most of their trees. When the housing market tanked some years back, the people put the house up for rent and moved back to Florida. I have never met any of the renters. It doesn’t seem that anyone stays there for a long time.

Sometimes the house through the woods is listed for sale. I’ve seen a For Sale sign appear and disappear over the years. If I wanted to know badly enough that the house had been sold, I probably could figure it out from the online property records. But I’m busy minding my own business and working and taking care of animals.

Last spring, something changed at the next property. I could hear a dog barking late at night. It sounded like an older dog perhaps, a soft continuous woof that went on for hours. One day I went to the back of my property which looked into the side of the neighbor’s property, thinking that I would see an old dog in a pen or tied to a porch post. I saw nothing out of the ordinary. No dog. Nothing.

The barking continued. It didn’t bother me, but this phantom dog had something to say.

One day the barking stopped.


A month ago, I was headed to the car for work one early morning a few days before the Fourth of July. There was a dog at my gate, and he skittered away into the tree line.

I called to him. He was unsure.

“Come on, Bubby, come on out. I have canned food for you.”

I put a can of food into a Pyrex dish. He didn’t eat immediately. Was he waiting for permission to eat or was he not hungry?

He held a pretty sit for me, then he settled in to eat an entire can.

I noticed he wasn’t neutered, and I could see his ribs. He wasn’t wearing a collar so he probably wasn’t microchipped.

Now comes the great dilemma. Debate, debate, debate in my own head.

If I take him to the shelter this early in the day, I have to put him in the overnight lost and found enclosure. What if there was already another dog left there? I won’t have time to take him back home, and the shelter won’t open to the public until 10. What if I put him in my fence? He had already met Mr. Packett through the chainlink, and they seemed compatible, but what if his owner drove around looking for him and saw him in my fence? What if he let Mr. Packett out? Plus, I remembered that it was a Monday and the shelter was closed to the public.

I went to work. I put his photos on my Facebook page, asking if anyone knew where this dog belonged. I contacted the shelter who had no report of a missing boxer. I contacted the chairman of the board of the shelter, and she said to call animal control. But what if he wasn’t standing by my gate when animal control went out? Plus it was approaching the Fourth, the holiday when most dogs go missing because of fireworks, and I’m thinking the shelter would be full.

He was there for three straight mornings, and I decided if he were there on my next day off, he was going to the shelter.

On Saturday he was not there. I went outside to feed the cats, and I heard a noise through the woods to the property next door. I heard crying.

I walked to the back of the property, and over my fence I saw this…

My friend was tied up in the muck. His bowls were turned over, except for one rain-water-filled bowl that he couldn’t reach. He couldn’t get to the shelter of his dog house.

His bed was half-buried in the dirt.

I took a bucket of water and a can of food to him. He was restrained by some ridiculous harness contraption, and his tie-out lead was hopelessly snarled at the tie-out post. No one was home.

I knew I could take him to the shelter, but I wasn’t ready to steal a neighbor’s dog since I could monitor his situation and give him some comfort.

The following morning he was not there. I headed to the front gate to feed the cats, and there he was waiting for me.

I called Sugar on the phone, opened the back door of the car, and the dog climbed in, easy as pie. We went to Sugar’s house to pick him up, and we three went to the shelter.

He was checked for a microchip, while everyone exclaimed how wonderful he was. There was no chip, and we left him in good hands. I supposed I’d never see him again.

No person had been at his house for approximately 2 days, and that Sunday evening I walked through the woods when I heard an engine start up, and saw a man mowing his yard on a riding mower, like business as usual. So his people had returned home after leaving him tied out during the afternoon storms, tied with a cable that had become shortened and tangled down to three feet, and an overturned water bucket.


Last week, I headed to the car about 6am to see if it would start properly, because the day before there seemed to be an issue. When I got out of the car, there was my friend, apparently having been reclaimed. He had been neutered, which told me that he had also gotten his shots and was microchipped and that his people had to pay an adoption fee to get him back. I gave him a can of food, and when I drove off an hour later, he was still at the gate, and ran after the car for a quarter mile.

When I got home that night, he wasn’t there. The next morning, I walked back through the woods, watching for snakes and spiderwebs, and saw this scene over the fence.

I went through my side gate, taking a can of food with me.

He was living in disgusting circumstances. They had put his food in a cardboard box, and flies were laying eggs in the debris.

He was wearing a collar that was snugged tightly to his throat, and the aircraft wire that he was tied to was wrapped around his throat. I got him loosened up and gave him a can of food.

Two days after that, his circumstances had not improved. The voices in my head were debating how this could play out. If I call animal control, then I’ve made an official report. The owners would probably be given a warning, and they might opt to relinquish him if they can’t or won’t do better. At any rate, I can’t steal him. I mean, I *could*, but I won’t.

Yesterday morning I checked on him. There was a car at the house, but the dog’s situation looked bad. I made a report to animal control. I reported how he showed up for 3 straight days, no collar, no one looking for him, I fed him, I took him to the shelter, he was reclaimed and tied up, he got away again, he was tied up again with a collar so tight that he could barely swallow, he had aircraft wire wrapped around his neck and in danger of strangling, or at the very least the line would cut into his skin, his water was overturned, his people would leave him for days at a time without attention and there were thunderstorms and he couldn’t get to his house because his tie-out had become shortened to 3 feet. The ACO told me that a dog had to have water and shelter at a minimum and that this county doesn’t have a law against tying a dog, BUT the dog has to have ACCESS to the house, and a dog can be tied out to a collar, but not tied out around their neck without a collar. She said that she would go out that day.

Last night I got home and he was gone. I walked over to check for sure. His collar was just lying on the ground. Had his owner gotten so angry that he took the dog off and dumped him? Had he killed him? But there was a full cardboard box of food. Why would you feed your dog and then get rid of him? Maybe animal control took him. Sugar thought they would give a warning first before taking him. I thought that they had already had a warning when they reclaimed him, and that my report would be strike two.

We thought we’d never know.

This evening, I saw this notice on Facebook.

When you zoom in on his photo, you can see where the wire was cutting into his neck.

Here’s how my voices guess this played out. The owner dumped some food into the cardboard box and went away. Animal Control went out and saw the conditions, the physical limitations of the situation, the poop on the ground, the tangled wire, the flies in the cheap dry food, the fact that his ribs were showing, and that his recent surgical site was exposed to the dirt, and said O No Not Today. Even though he had a clean bucket of water and food in his bowl and an inaccessible dog house? O No.

Not today.