August 28, 2014

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D-U-H! What Were You Thinking?

Greetings from the Ridge.
Lillian Ferguson was a flibberjibbet. No other word for it. When I was a young girl growing up on the Ridge, Lillian provided hours of pleasure and amusement for the neighborhood by simply being herself.  She was the most innocently audacious woman I’d ever met and she reached the zenith of her idiocy when she’d hang her underwear on the clothesline.

Copperheads, the draft, corn whiskey, murder

Following Abraham Lincoln’s election and the subsequent secession of 11 states, there sprang an eclectic amalgam of big city bosses, laborers, immigrant groups, farmers, and others who opposed war. Their slogan, “The Constitution as it is, and the Union as it was,” supported the restoration of the pre-secession balance between the industrial North and the agrarian South.
These anti-war agitators became known as “Copperheads.” Most likely this label originated with an incident that occurred soon after Lincoln’s inauguration. In a post office near the Capitol a box broke open. Inside were two snakes. On April 10, 1861, the New York Times frantically reported Southerners had sent copperhead snakes as “weapons of war.” The story quickly spread across the country amid speculation the box had been sent to the White House in an attempt to assassinate Lincoln.
Seven days later, the Chicago Tribune calmly explained the box actually contained benign scarlet snakes, which are native to the Southern states. The newspaper speculated the box had been addressed to the Smithsonian Institution. Nonetheless, by the summer of 1861, Northern newspapers and Unionists used “Copperhead” to identify anyone who opposed the war or sympathized with the South.

Virginia’s perfect day spawns an ugly storm

It had been the perfect Indian Summer, and the 11th day of the 11th month of the 11th year promised to be the best day of the entire season.
In Virginia, the optimism ushered in by dawn began to change as the warmth of morning gave way to intense afternoon heat accompanied by an exceptionally strong southerly wind. Concern only grew when the wind abruptly stopped.
The eerie silence caused women to leave their kitchens and men to put aside their tools so they could look toward the heavens. The sky was blue, but the heat was oppressive. Instinctively, they knew something was wrong, very wrong.
Small groups gathered at the city’s two railroad depots, hoping the telegraph would bring some news about the strange weather. Nothing.

There’s magic in the number ‘ten’

Greetings from the Ridge.
I got snookered in. Seems like I always do. The article in the magazine was entitled, “The Top Ten Reasons for Visiting a Health Spa.” I have absolutely no desire to go a spa myself nor do I see any chance of me getting the urge in the near future, but I read the list. My curiosity had nothing to do with shape of my thighs or my hip tone, but it was a list and God knows we’re all suckers for lists.

Herb: the thorn in Freida’s side

Greetings from the Ridge.
Some women marry partners. I married Herb. I said, “Herbie, I think this calls for a celebration!”
“Of what?”
“Thirty years! This makes thirty years for the Coonridge Digest!”
“I agree. The Black Plague only lasted four and didn’t do near as much damage.”
“The Great Chicago Fire only went for three days.”

1883 tornado leaves death, destruction in its wake

May 18, 1883, had turned into a day of horror as evidenced by this account in the Jacksonville Journal of May 20:
“No one reading these hastily written lines can conceive, or form but little idea of the desolate and heart-sickening sight that is presented to all who visit the scenes in and about Liter (now called Literberry). Men, women and children standing about, their homes all gone, carried away by the stormy elements, nothing left but the clothing on their backs.

Hurray for the Heroes of Winter!

Greetings from the Ridge.
I’m sure you’ve been there. You sit in the store’s parking lot, the temperature hovering somewhere between chilling and killing as you try to summon up the courage to get out of the car and make a break for the automatic doors. You gauge the distance and wonder if you can dash all the way to the store without breathing, knowing that the first gasp of artic chill will stab your lungs like a blast of killer popsicle. Then you see him hurry by.
Most stores hire a young man to retrieve the orphaned carts from the lot’s frozen surface. He’ll gather up an aluminum train of about forty rickety-wheeled carts then push them back into the store where you’ll hope they thaw out enough to grab. Here I sit worrying about simply walking into the store while this kid is spending eight hours on the set of Dr. Zhivago for my convenience. He’s my winter hero.

A devastating tornado strikes Cass County in 1883

Though numerous tornadoes visited the land we call Cass County over the centuries, the county’s first verified tornado struck in May of 1845 (like many historical events, the exact date is up for debate).
It was born in Morgan County, where it destroyed a number of barns and fences. Moving into Cass County, the twister smashed a few houses and leveled  the Walnut Grove School near Princeton. Though the storm did considerable property damage, there was no loss of life.

Here we go again

By David V. Miller
For the Star-Gazette
For those of you wondering if winter is ever going to end……well… not any time soon. Going around Beardstown just three days after Ground Hog’s Day, I myself, was tempted to make a trip to Pennsylvania, to put a hit on that subterranean guinea pig!

Pioneers discover Illinois is tornado country

Few things in nature are more terrifying or sudden, and none more violent than a tornado.
A tornado, which is part of a thunderstorm, consists of a dark funnel-shaped cloud in which rotating winds can reach speeds in excess of 300 mph. About half of all tornadoes are classed as F1 on the Fujita scale with wind speeds of 73 to 112 mph. By comparison, an F5 tornado has wind speeds of 261 to 318 mph.
The first recorded tornado in Illinois history occurred on a Sunday, June 5, 1805, racing through what would later become known as Tornado Alley.