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Knocking on an Ancestors Door

In the mid-1990’s I happened to visit the homes of my 2nd great grandfather within a day of each other even though they were located on two different sides of America. 

Tuesday.  Copperopolis, Calaveras County, California. 

In the area on business, I stopped by Copperopolis to take photos of the tombstones of my 2nd great grandparents, David Lewis and Helen Farrar Drew.  Their home still existed along the highway through this wide spot in the road.

Looking east from the top of the cemetery hill, it was fairly easy to identify it based on photos of it from the early 1900’s. 

As you can see in the photo above, David had built a water tower on the side of their home.  It was filled with water fed from a windmill uphill from the home.  A pressurized water system in homes in that era was far and few between.  Grandpa’s innovative design put them ahead of almost everyone else in the area.

The home was owned by Helen’s father, Thomas Farrar, for a period of time.  He passed the title on to David and Helen a few years after they married.

Knocking on the front door, I was greeted by the current owner.  She wasn’t thrilled to see me.  I asked permission make a walking circuit around the home to get a feel for the setting and was given five minutes to make the loop and get off the property. 

I briefly touched the door frame for a second when saying “Thank You”.  Four minutes later, I had made a quick loop and exited the property through the stand of stag horn trees.  The water tower was gone but the home was largely intact in size and outward appearance.

The stag horn trees weren’t there in the 1905 photo above, but my quick glimpse inside over the owners shoulder, verified the seven foot high ceilings were still in place.

Wednesday.  Boston and then Plymouth, Massachusetts.

I had hopped from Sacramento to Salt Lake City and then to Boston.  A two hour drive took me to Plymouth where David Lewis Drew was born.  The morning was spent walking through the Burial Hill Cemetery finding and taking photos of the tombstones of dozens of my ancestors. 

Folks smiled and waved at my wife and I as we walked through town down to Plymouth Rock.  Visitors with ancestral quest crazed stares were common place there and besides, they were good for the local economy.

A stop at the library at the Mayflower Society was fruitful and then after doing the touristy things a few hundred yards down hill yet again, we wandered arm in arm through Brewster Gardens.   Following the stream uphill under the highway, we exited its course when we were adjacent to Pleasant Street. 

Within a few minutes we stood in front of the Drew home at 51 Pleasant Street.  It was built by my 4th great grandfather and had been home to four generations of the family.

On the 4th of July 1907, the home was decked out with an American Flag and other colorful decorations celebrating the holiday.  Family members sat on the front porch watching their neighbors return home from the celebratory activities downtown as seen in the above photo taken from the green across the street.

The power pole on the corner in front of the house was still there but now it also carried large telephone and cable television cables that almost acted as a flying curtain to block the view of the home.

Photoshop is a very useful tool when removing visual pollution from photos.

Knock, knock, knock on the front door.  No answer.  No sounds from inside.  Knock, knock again.  No one was home.  Reaching out, I touched the door frame here too.  Undoubtedly, the doors at both of the homes has been replaced in the last 100 years, but if the thickness of the paint covering them is any indication, the molding around them appeared to be original.

How many hours had it been between the time David touched the same molding when he left for California during the gold rush and his arrival in Jamestown in Calaveras County, California?  It was certainly a lot longer than the relatively short flight time in my pilgrimage. 

David never returned home to Plymouth.  I wonder if he knew that his goodbyes to his family would be his last vision of them?  His youngest brother eventually moved to California and stayed with him for a time but the smell and sights of Plymouth didn’t survive the journey.

Google Maps tells me that the two homes are 3074 miles apart and that I could drive from one to the other in 45 hours.  That means I’d average 68 miles per hour if the travel estimate is correct.  Most of my time would be spent on freeways with stops only dictated by the need to refuel, defuel and stand under a waterfall.

David’s journey wasn’t quite that easy.  Nor were the journeys of your ancestors.  It would be an enjoyable experience to walk with them as they told how their homes and cities looked in their day and then returning the favor by showing them the magic associated with technology in our day.

If you have spent many hours in the quest of your ancestors and have then followed their migratory paths in person, imagining them with you isn’t too difficult.  I’m sure I felt a second rush of excitement in addition to my own reaction as we approached 51 Pleasant Street. 

Knock, knock.  Was that an echo of the rap of my knuckles or was it another knock mirroring mine?  

Welcome home grandpa.  Has the place changed?

 

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1 June 2010 Posted by | Ancestors, Genealogy | , , | 1 Comment

Cemetery Stories

As a youth, my parents and I visited the graves of my fathers parents and grandparents to clear the weeds from them in the week before Memorial Day each year.  Buried in the same plot were my father’s two baby sisters, two uncles and an aunt.

cultivator The cemetery soil should best be described as a granite sandbar that existed in the ancient Lake Bonneville.  The mountain immediately to the north is solid granite and obviously the large granules of granite in cemetery hill came from that source.  They are interspersed with silt from the softer stone in the mountain to the east.

Clearing the weeds was not an easy task.  The soil was typically dry and about as hard as cement.

Dad pushed a hand garden cultivator and I wielded a garden hoe.  Even though the blades had been sharpened before we left home, within minutes they were dull.  Dad’s muscle negated the loss of the blade edge with ever increasing force and sweat.

Mom raked the weeds from the broken soil while I hurried ahead of him trying to break the soil enough for Dad to maintain the cutting momentum.

I wasn’t successful for very long.  Young arms swinging a hoe could not keep up with the two cultivator cutting blades below the surface of the soil for long.

Even though Dad would tell me to work faster, I secretly think he was happy for the short waiting breaks after the first half-hour of hard labor.

As soon as the top five inches of the soil was cut, he would take the rake from Mom and I’d use the old one with the short handle.  Soon the soil was weed free and raked into rectangular humps over the burial location of each person in the plot.

Mom always treated us to cold soda pop and store bought cookies when the job was done.  The treats were luxuries that were rarely found in our home during the rest of the year.

The cookies were great in their drizzled chocolate and nut chip covered glory.  They weren’t better than anything Mom cooked, because she was a terrific cook, but they tasted great.  They were store bought you see.

The best part of the evening was about to start….

Sitting in the shade on the short retaining wall around the plot, Dad would tell me stories about the lives of our ancestors who were buried around us until the evening shadows were long.  I’d heard them in the same setting all of my life, but as I grew older, I’d think to ask questions.  New insights, additional color and texture would emerge in the telling.  Sometimes this would lead to a new story that had slipped his mind previously.

I doubt that I would have heard all of them especially in depth if it weren’t for that setting.  When you sit by an ancestors tombstone and look down at the farms where they lived and are surrounded by the mountains that had such integral relationship in their lives and activities, a lifetime of memories surface with every glance at the scenery.

I’ve always been grateful for the story telling sessions and have passed the stories on to our children and grandchildren.

27 January 2010 Posted by | Ancestors, Cemetery | , , | Leave a comment

“Lost” Garden Varieties Grown By Ancestors

old_gardener_sm My maternal grandfather was the last living farmer by profession in my lineage.  We’ve ‘advanced’ since then and make our living using the technology of today.

My paternal grandmother was a farmer too, with 200 acres of fruit trees, hay and vegetables.  Cash was always a problem, but there was always food on the table, even if it was plain fare at times.

Of course my siblings and I have gardens and small orchards at our homes, but they are considerably smaller than the acres of ground that grandma and grandpa planted to feed and support their families.

Grandpa grew Utah celery, sugar beets and potatoes as cash crops.  Grandma grew varieties of apples, berries and other basic food varieties.

At our home, we grow apples, pears and have a raised box gardens.  The apples produce a far larger harvest than our family, kids and grandchildren can use, so we give the surplus to other families in our area who are in need, or love fresh fruit and are smart enough to bottle their own fruit each year.

Ancestors a generation or two farther back in time basically grew the same crops although they did grow a few varieties that we don’t see very often today.

Our Redwood City Seed Company catalog came last week.  I found some of the ‘lost’ varieties while perusing its pages.  We are going to plant some of them this year to enjoy and possibly add to our annual planting list.

Raised_bed_garden_sm From my Calaveras County California grandparents garden: Miner’s Lettuce.  One-foot tall California native succulent whose leaves are used in salads.  Great grandpa was a gold rush miner and enjoyed eating the fresh ingredient of these leaves during that period and later in life.

From my New Zealand ancestors garden:  New Zealand Spinach.  Introduced in N.Z. by Europeans in 1770, the leaves of the plant are eaten like spinach.  The catalog says the taste is mild and full of flavor.

From my father: Horseradish: My father always made his own horseradish sauce.  it wasn’t the watered down, tamed stuff you buy at stores today.  It had BITE.  In fact, I remember getting an instant bloody nose when I curiously took a deep whiff of a newly opened bottle when I was a wee young man.  Even Kerr jar lids and rings were corroded by this rattle snake venom, but Dad loved it.  I learned to just wave my knife over an opened jar a few times and spread the smell on my roast beef as a kid.  My taste buds have largely died off as I’ve aged, so I like the store bought stuff today.  I don’t think I could take the horseradish that Dad ate though – not even the variety that he diluted with ground turnips.  I guess I never grew up to be the man he was.  Maybe this year.

From my paternal ancestors:  I don’t know which ones but my father told my stories of them loving the large varieties of Lima Beans.  He loved them.  I like them.  My wife hates them.  We are going to grow a few bushes of the Incan Giant White Lima Beans this year.  1” long in the pod.  2” long when cooked.

Of course, we’ll continue to grow many heirloom varieties of vegetables and fruits this year and save the seeds for next years crop.  Hybrid varieties don’t produce fruit well in future generations of their seeds, so growing varieties from proven heirloom seeds is just smart planning.  We might as well live in the ‘prepared’ mode rather than having to learn it in an emergency and not having the skills and the right seeds.  The seeds harvested from last years plants will be used this year and the new varieties will be added to the annual seed storage rotation cache if we like them.

cherry_tomato_smWe won’t grow parsnips this year.  I’m the only one who likes them.  We won’t grow watercress either, with no running water to support these wonderful peppery plants.  We’ve substituted nasturtium leaves for water cress in our salads, but they don’t make a good sandwich like the cress does.

Five gallon buckets with the bottom knocked out will be home to some of the vining tomatoes. They’ll be full of compost, nested in 12” of garden soil and placed adjacent to tall trellises to support the 6 –12 ft high vines.  If you don’t have a garden, everyone can grow cherry tomatoes at home using pots.

Today, our gardens are relatively easy to grow compared to those of our ancestors.  We have to rediscover some of the varieties and methods they used but the effort is well worth it.  Nothing tastes as good as produce that you’ve grown yourself, even if it was grown in a flower pot on the porch.

Spring will be here before we know it.  If you haven’t ordered your seed catalogs yet, do it now.  When they arrive, you’ll find yourself reading them and envisioning warm weather and vine ripened tomatoes.  The cold and white outside will vanish from view for a few minutes.

Here are a few catalogs that include heirloom varieties:

The Redwood Seed Company  http://www.ecoseeds.com

Johnny’s Selected Seeds  http://www.johnnyseeds.com

Heirloom Seeds  http://www.heirloomseeds.com

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds  http://rareseeds.com

Amishland Heirloom Seeds  http://www.amishlandseeds.com

Territorial Seeds  http://www.territorialseed.com

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11 January 2010 Posted by | Ancestors | , | 2 Comments

History of the Dutch Oven

I’ve always enjoyed eating superior food cooked in a Dutch Oven.  My father used it as his only cooking pot whenever he was outdoors and frequently at home.  I used to almost pray that mom would be gone for an evening so he could cook ‘trail fare’ for dinner.

Dutch Oven Don’t get me wrong.  Mom was an excellent cook and loved preparing meals for the family, but Dad – well, Dad cooked ‘Man’ food in the Dutch oven or cast iron pans.  Even today, the whiff of cooking onions or garlic immediately restores a scene in my mind of a six-year-old young man, salivating at the smells and staring into the steaming contents of a Dutch oven.

Just writing about it caused the flashback memory and like any good Pavlonian dog, my mouth is watering yet again.

Today, when my family and I cook using our Dutch ovens, we frequently hear the same refrain:

“Delicious!”  “Devine!”  “Oh My Gosh!”

How did my ancestors stay so thin with food this good?  Tracing the cooking preferences of my male ancestors for four generations, I’ve found that they were all Dutch oven masters.  My early pioneer ancestors designated the Dutch oven as their only cooking pot when crossing the American plains.  They never lost their love of them.

When I visited Grandpa as a youngster, he would roast potatoes in a fire when time was of the essence, but when we wanted to enjoy a good meal, his Dutch ovens were the tool used to create the feast.

Of course our family has continued the tradition.  It wasn’t hard to convince our wives that cooking with the ovens was ‘Man Territory’.

The Dutch Oven: Utah’s Official State Cooking Pot

The IDOS (International Dutch Oven Society) wrote about the history of the Dutch oven in Utah years ago:

In 1997, the Utah State Legislature approved House Bill HB203, designating the Dutch Oven as the State Cooking Pot. The following information was generously sent to the Utah State Library by the International Dutch Oven Society located in Logan, Utah. Utah is not only the headquarters of the Society but the site of World Championship Dutch Oven Cookoff which is a major event of the Festival of the American West. (Held on 2 August in Logan, Utah this year.)

When the early pioneers came to Utah they used a number of things such as lumbering prairie schooners, teams of massive oxen, mossy wooden water barrels, and heavy dresses which almost dragged on the ground. For most of us, such common pioneer artifacts are difficult to relate to or use in our lives today. However, there is one very popular pioneer indispensable which thousands of Utah families are using in their everyday activities. It not only looks the same but is still made basically the same way–the tried and true Dutch oven.

Explorers like Jim Bridger and Peter Skene Ogden used the kettle versions on the trail but appreciated the standard three-legged, flat top with a rim version together with its “lite” breads, tasty fruit cobblers and delicious stews when they wintered in. Mount Dutch Ovensain men who rendezvoused in Cache Valley in the 1820’s used them and Osborne Russell in his Journal of a Trapper writes about how much they appreciated having some greasy, grizzly bear meat to cook because the cast-iron pots needed re-seasoning after boiling roots for meals the previous eleven days.

Pioneer trains gearing up near Independence, Missouri were given a list of essentials with the Dutch oven at the top of the list, the people-powered handcart companies chose to include the heavy pots for their long pull to Utah and the miners digging in the canyons around Bingham, Price and Cedar City counted the black pots almost as essential as their picks.

It’s been asked why Dutch ovens are used by more Utah families than other states and perhaps it’s because for Utahans, families have a special significance and particularly their pioneer forbearers. It’s a unique and generational bonding experience for families to gather around a campfire after a meal from the same kind of Dutch ovens and tell the stories about and history of their pioneer ancestors.”

If you, no, when you decide to acquire your own ovens, buy the best.  Stick with Lodge ovens and ONLY use Kingsford charcoal.  Be sure to avoid any charcoal that his any fuel infused in the briquettes.

The formula to create a 350 F oven temperature is simple.  If you have a 12” oven, put the number of briquettes equal to the size of the oven minus two under it and plus two on the top.   So, for a 12” oven, 10 briquettes would be under and 14 on top for most meals.  If you are cooking bread and cookies, you’ll want to move one or two of the briquettes to the top from the bottom.

Never clean your Dutch oven with soap.  Heat them in hot water and wipe them clean.  Eventually, a highly prized black patina will develop that is better than Teflon and won’t cause any chemical health problems.   Remember that the pores of the metal open up a little when the oven is hot and washing it with soap will not only ruin the black patina but the soap will be trapped in the pores as the metal cools and contracts.  Your next meal will taste a lot better without the flavor of Dawn detergent.

Be sure to wipe your oven very dry after every use.  You may want to coat the surfaces with a light spray of Pam after it is cleaned.  Our family lives in a low humidity environment and we don’t have to worry about rust on our ovens when we store them properly.  Consider the humidity factor in your own storage plan.

We’ve found that with a little thought, anything we can cook in our home ovens can be cooked in our Dutch Ovens.  And the taste?  Well, there aren’t many leftovers to put in the refrigerator.

Here are a few basic ‘good eatin’ recipes that we enjoy.  Sorry, the top award winners aren’t in this group.  They are guarded by lock and key and my poor memory of where the key is kept.

DUTCH OVEN POTATOES

6 large potatoes

5 carrots

2 medium-sized onions

1 lb. mild cheddar cheese

1 can cream of mushroom soup

salt and pepper

Peel and slice potatoes and carrots, 1/4 in. thick. Slice onion rings 1/4 inch thick, cut into fourths. Place potatoes, carrots and onions into 12-inch Dutch oven with 1/8 inch oil on bottom. Salt and pepper to taste. Cook 40 minutes, stirring frequently. Add soup and stir thoroughly. Cook for 10 minutes. Add grated cheese over top of potatoes. Cover to melt cheese. Serve.

BARBECUED SPARE RIBS

4-6 slabs spare ribs

Brown ribs in Dutch oven. Mix sauce ingredients together. Warm to dissolve brown sugar and spices. Cover ribs with sauce. Cook for 90 minutes.

Sauce:

1 medium onion

3/4 cup ketchup

1/4 cup water

1 tsp. salt

1/4 cup vinegar

2 tsp. mustard (wet)

1 tsp. paprika

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1 tsp. chili powder

1/4 – 1/2 tsp. red cayenne pepper

CHICKEN STIR FRY

4 chicken breasts cut into bite-size pieces

broccoli, carrots, celery, mushrooms, green onions, pea pods

1 can water chestnuts (drained)

Cook vegetables in a little oil until tender. Add water chestnuts.

Add 2 cups chicken broth. Bring to boil and cook 3-5 minutes.

Thicken with 1/4 cup soy sauce mixed with 3 tbls. corn starch.

SWEET AND SOUR PORK OR CHICKEN

1 lb. chicken breasts or lean pork

1 egg yolk

1 tbls. corn starch

1 tbls. water

flour

Cut meat into bite-sized pieces. Mix together egg, salt, cornstarch and water. Add meat and let stand 10 minutes. Remove meat pieces, dip into flour, deep fry several minutes in hot oil until lightly browned. Remove from oil and drain on paper towels. Continue cooking meat pieces until all are browned. Wipe out Dutch oven.

Vegetables:

1 large carrot, sliced

1 green pepper, cut into chunks

1/2 onion, cut into large pieces

1-8 oz. can pineapple chunks (drain, save juice)

Sauce:

pineapple juice plus water to equal 1 cup

1/2 cup ketchup

1/4 cup vinegar

1/2 cup sugar

3 tbls. corn starch

Mix together and set aside.

Into clean Dutch oven, heat 1 tbls. oil. Add onion, carrots and peppers. Stir fry until vegetables are tender. Push vegetables firm center, add sauce. When mixture boils, add meat. Mix all together. Cook 3-5 minutes. If too thick, add a little water. If not thick enough, mix a little cornstarch with water making a thickening. Add until desired thickness is achieved.

2 November 2009 Posted by | Ancestors | , , , | Leave a comment

The Indefatigable Thomas Ashton

Ashton Thomas portrait Born in Parr, Prescot, Lincolnshire in 1813, Thomas Ashton was the only son of Joseph and Catherine Cawley Ashton.  Joseph was a silver smith by trade and Thomas picked up the thrill of working with his hands and mind at a young age.

He married Mary Howard in 1836 and the couple quickly had two children.  In 1840, Thomas and Mary heard the message of Mormon missionaries and were baptized into that faith in 1840.  On the 8th of November 1841, the couple boarded a ship at Liverpool and migrated to America to join up with other members of the church.

Three more children were born to the couple in Iowa.  Unfortunately, the family was driven from location to location by murderous mobs along the other church members.  They eventually moved to Nauvoo, Illinois where they established a comfortable home for their family.  Once again, the mobs began to attack.  They were forced to leave Missouri after Missouri governor Lilburn Boggs issued his infamous Missouri Executive Order 44, or the ‘extermination order’ of all members of the Mormon faith.

After years of enduring privations and stress from their attacks, Mary to become so ill that sThomas Ashton Obituaryhe died in August 1849.  Thomas was left alone to raise five children while trying to yet again build a home, make a living and provide service to his church.

Calling on his metal and woodworking skills, he helped craft the famous old ‘blunderbuss’ cannon out of an old steamboat funnel during these years.  It made a great noise but wasn’t used to kill the mobsters.

Once again, the Mormons were forced out of their homes by mobs, fleeing across the frozen Mississippi River during the winter of 1846-47.  They settled in Winter Quarters, Nebraska in tents, wagons and sod homes.

The strain on the people and Thomas’ family was terrible.  Fortunately, he met and married the twenty-one-year old Sarah Elenor Mills there in September 1849.  His children again had a mother.  On August 1850, Sarah delivered a son to the Ashton family, but once again the privations of their situation was felt.  Three days later, Sarah passed away, leaving Thomas alone with six children, one of which was a three-day-old baby.

The family struggled to stay alive that fall and winter, enduring conditions that can hardly be imagined today in most areas of the world.  Fortunately, they met Araminta Lawrence, a twenty-year-old lady who was born in Canada.  On 17 February 1851, the couple married and Araminta became the ‘instant’ mother to  five children.  Thomas hadn’t been able to raise the baby in the months after the death of Sarah and he had been given to another family to raise.

In early 1851, the family left Winter Quarters with the Morris Phelps company using handcarts to carry their meager possessions.  When possible, the children rode on the cart and on occasion Araminta was able to get a brief respite from walking, but Thomas walked the entire distance from Winter Quarters to Salt Lake Valley.

Arminta Lawrence AshtonThomas eventually made a home for his family in Lehi, Utah after working in Salt Lake and Weber valleys for several years.  Another eleven children were born into the family by 1875.

Araminta was a tremendous woman and admiration for her love, tenacity and homemaking skills are still celebrated by her descendants.

Thomas served on the Lehi City Council twice, first from 1854 though 1866 and later from 1877 through 1878.  He was the water master in the city from 1861 though 1871.  Along with running a farm, he was also a carpenter, building engineer and stone mason.

Utilizing his skills to work stone, he helped build both the Nauvoo and Salt Lake Temples.

Araminta passed away on 10 Jun 1891, worn out after 59 years of life as a heroic frontier wife and mother.  Thomas’ life was filled with family, service and enjoyment when he passed away at age 89 on 22 January 1903.   He and Araminta are buried in the Lehi City cemetery.

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15 August 2009 Posted by | Ancestors, Genealogy | , , | Leave a comment

Dowsing For Graves And Other Wives Tales

If you are like me, there are graves of your extended family that have either lost their grave markers or were never marked for a variety of reasons.

In my family, three of my great aunts and uncles died as youngsters and were buried on the family farm in Fort Canyon, above Alpine, Utah.  I made a post about them called “Little Ones Lost” earlier this year.

Today, I found an article titled, “Old ways help women find old graves” that describes the efforts of Cate Culver, who is using dowsing rods to find old unmarked graves around the Pioneer Cemetery in San Andreas, California.

dowsing As expected, scientists say that dowsing doesn’t work and that her efforts are a waste of time.  Unfortunately, the soil in that area is less ‘soil’ than rock and has a fairly high copper and other mineral content.  The article notes that ground penetrating radar won’t work in the area due to the terrain and of course, officials aren’t going to grant permission to open the suspected locations for ‘no’ reason other than to prove that the dowser can find old graves.

Long ago, I was surprised when I was first told that dowsing didn’t work and that it couldn’t be proven.  I’d grown up watching people dowse for water, power and other buried lines with great success.  In fact, when I was told that dowsing was bunk, I had actually dowsed for a long lost water line that was leaking the weekend before.  Running water could be heard in a pipe that entered the basement of our home but wasn’t attached to anything inside.

Curiosity got the better of me one Friday evening, so I pulled out the dowsing rods, marked the location of the pipe on the lawn and started digging with a shovel.  The location was about 100 feet away from the city water line feeding our home.

While dowsing, I had flagged a couple of 90 degree turns in the route of the line.

A few hours later, my wife was less than happy to find about forty feet of five foot deep trench winding its way through our north lawn.

Yes, the water line was exactly where I’d marked it and at the depth the rods had indicated.  No surprises.  The trench was so long because I had to follow the line to find the leak and then to clear enough length of pipe so that it could be lifted, cut, spliced and tested for new leaks.

As it turned out, the water originated three hundred feet south in the basement of the neighbors home.  They had owned our home before building their new home.  The water lines to the chicken coops that used to be on the back properties had originally fed from our home.  When they built the new house, they simply capped the water line in the basement of the old house and fed it from the new house.  Finally, decades later, the old water line deteriorated and began to leak.

Being on the end of the shovel doing the digging, I’d long ago decided that the dowsing rods had better work or you were only involved in a less than satisfying way to exercise.

We often used dowsing rods to find buried power lines when I worked for the power company.  The younger generation had to use the expensive tools that semi-find electrical fields, but the old hands just grabbed a pair of iron tie wires, bent one end of each long enough to use as a handle and marked the line.  No big deal.  Fast, accurate and easy.  And because the fellows were doing the digging by hand, the marks had to be accurate due to the seemingly never ending layers of river rock or they’d never use their dowsing sticks a second time.  Inevitably, the dowsing marks were always more accurate than those created the using multi-thousand dollar buried line identification equipment.

I’ve continued to use dowsing rods to find the dozen or so telephone drop lines that cross our orchard when I’ve installed fence posts, sprinkling systems and other buried features in our landscaping.  Thus far, they’ve always provided 100% accuracy.  I guess that I need to read the scientific reasons why the rods don’t work but really don’t want to.  If I do, I may believe the scientific reasons and then the rods won’t work any longer.  After all, scientists are rarely wrong.  Right?

Over the years, I’ve chatted with folks from all over the world who have dowsed to find water and other buried features for all of their lives with great success.  They grew up using them and apparently, none of them had been taught that stringtheorydowsing doesn’t work either.

My ancestors dowsed.  Their ancestors dowsed.  Maybe you have to have a naive faith that dowsing works for it to work for you.  Maybe it is tied to string theory or quantum mechanics.  Maybe you have to acknowledge that the laws of the universe are a lot stranger and more elastic than all of us whiz kids realize.

Maybe the old healing and ‘wives tales’ medical remedies that my mother, grandmothers and great grandmother taught and practiced don’t work either.  I guess you’d have to convince the almost invisible scars on my body that the old remedies didn’t work though.  While in that discussion, maybe you could tell the adjacent scars from wounds that were ‘healed’ by doctors that they shouldn’t be so big and ugly because they were treated by highly educated men who convinced me that my ancestors old remedies didn’t work.   But that topic is a whole other discussion.

I wonder how many of the old remedies and ‘ways’ have been relegated to the pit by us as we’ve become more ‘educated’ over the generations?

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m absolutely delighted to be living when so many medical, technological and other advances have been made to make our lives so much physically better than those of our ancestors, but I wonder what we’ve lost in the process of worshiping our scientific ‘Gods’.

What commonly practiced old ‘Ways’ and ‘Remedies’ in your ancestral history have been lost?  Post a note and let us know.

Don’t necessarily expect us to believe them though.  Maybe you can ascribe our unbelief to our being taught that they don’t work and hence our faith in them being literal is missing.

Remember, my dowsing rods ’don’t work’ either and most readers will probably assign me to the group of ‘characters’ of a past age.  That’s ok.  We’re relatively happy in our ignorance….. and, before you ask, no, I don’t dowse for water or power or telephone lines for anyone else.  Who’d believe that it worked in today’s world anyway?

5 June 2009 Posted by | Ancestors | , , , , | 4 Comments