March 2009


29 Mar 2009 02:09 am

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These are the Jeffries women. These were the original steel magnolias. They were women of fortitude. They were from Tennessee by way of North Carolina and Virginia. Obedient Wright Jeffries is the lady sitting in the middle on the front row holding the Holy Bible in her hands. She was born in Overton County, Tennessee in 1817, the daughter of Joshua Foster Wright and Sarah Lamar. She married the Rev. James Jasper Jeffries. She is my 3rd great grandmother.

Her daughter, my 2nd great grandmother, is the second woman to the left on the top row and her name is Rachel Elizabeth Jeffries Ford. The other women were sisters to Rachel and daughters of Obedient, who was called “Middie.”

Forgive these women their severe, homely looks. There was little time for primping back in those days. These women were strong, resilient females who brought up their children in the ways of the Lord. When they moved from Tennessee to Arkansas they had no moving vans. They traveled in covered wagons if they were lucky. They had to dodge Indians and outlaws and wild animals and unpredictable weather on the way across.

There were no modern conveniences of any sort along the way back in those days…. no refrigerators or Holiday Inns. No cell phones, no telegraphs, no way of communicating to someone faraway instantaneously. There were few roads but there were worn pathways and passes through the mountains. If the babies were sick there were no Nannies to take over, the women had only each other to help if they were in a group of families. They typically moved in family groups, providing safety and comfort in numbers.

There were no welcome wagons waiting for them at their destinations. Early settlers may have gone ahead to provide simple settlements but usually these families moving to Northwest Arkansas found a hardscrabble existence awaiting them. Apple farming was king in the latter years but when most of my ancestors were settling in to the little towns and villages around Bentonville, Arkansas most families kept large gardens to provide for their families’ needs. They kept livestock for the same reason. Sam Walton’s ancestors had moved west to Oklahoma. He wouldn’t wake up the prettiest corner of Arkansas for a century.

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This is Oscar and Avis Wilhelmina Drew Mackey, my second great grandparents, who moved from a small town near Buffalo, New York to Kansas, then to Oklahoma and finally to Bentonville, Arkansas in the years after the Civil War. Oscar James Mackey served in the Union Army during the Civil War and before that in New York he worked as a farmer, a tanner, and a cigar maker. In Oklahoma Avis and Oscar were owners of the Mackey Brothers Ranch in Woodward County, OK. In Bentonville, Oscar and Avis were the owners of the Mackey Cider Company. Eventually their land fell into Sam Walton’s hands and became his private home.

These women carried on when their husbands served with the Confederate Armies in the Civil War and they knew hard times unlike any we know today. I mean hard times, Britney. Not bad hair days. Not one of those days when you wake up and you just want to call in sick and stay in bed. None of that. No sir. These were H A R D times with an emphasis on the R.

These women had to keep home and hearth going when the men were gone to war and they had to load a gun and stand down the outlaws who tried to rob them of the remaining money or food that was left after the many months and years the war had left them with nothing. So many in the hills of Northwest Arkansas had been affected by the Civil War, there were battles and skirmishes all around, the Battle of Elkhorn Tavern or as the Yankees called it The Battle of Pea Ridge was nearly in the back yard of many of my ancestors.

Bentonville suffered terribly from the ravages of the Civil War. Southern sympathizers killed a soldier left behind by retreating Union forces in 1862. When federal troops heard of the death, they returned the next day and burned 36 buildings.”

Think of the terror this brought to the families. Bentonville is still a small town. To burn 36 buildings even today would be a disastrous event.

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My great grandmother, Kathryn Ozy Ford Mackey, the granddaughter of Obedient told me a story when I was a little girl about her mother having to hide her injured confederate soldier father in a cave to keep him safe from the bushwackers. If there wasn’t the fear of Yankees there was the fear of Bushwackers or other outlaws making mischief or worse.

Sometime during her life, Obedient Wright Jefferies moved with her family to Arkansas and lived a long life, giving birth to sixteen children. She died January 22, 1894 in Cash Hollow, Arkansas.

Obedient and her daughters were the bearers of the family history and it was uniquely American. The legacy handed down to us from Obedient Wright Jeffries was not only written in the obituary in the newspaper, it was written on the hearts of her children and her grandchildren and especially on the heart of her precious granddaughter, Kate Ford Mackey. I was lucky to know my dear great grandmother for nineteen years and I benefitted from all the stories she told me of her life long ago.

Grandma Morrison (as we called her) told me about what it was like to be a young woman growing up in the late 1890s. She and her fellow sisters and their mothers were no shrinking violets ordered around by men as sociologists and historians would have us think. They had just as much autonomy in the family unit as the men if not more. When my great grandfather, Frank O’Dell Mackey, Kate’s husband took a notion to move the family from Bentonville to British Columbia with his brother, Gilbert, she put a stop to that, saying, “I’m not taking my children up there.” They never did.

Obedient’s obituary was published in the paper, The Benton County Democrat. This was back when papers were vital to their communities and none of the publishers would ever think of taking a walk or a mule or a train to Washington D.C. with hat in hand to ask for a bailout.

On the evening of the 22nd day on Jan., 1894, a sainted mother in Israel, Mrs. Obedient Jeffries passed from sorrows and pain of this world to her reward in Heaven.

She had been confined to her bed ten weeks, but bore her afflictions with the fortitude and grace of a christian, patiently waiting the will of her Heavenly father, ever relying upon his blessed promises.

She was born in Overton Co., Tennessee, the daughter of Joshua Foster Wright and Sarah Lamar. She married James Jasper Jeffries of Overton Co., Tennessee. With a family of nine children they emigrated to this country after which seven more children were borne to them, making sixteen in all. Twelve of the 16 children, 44 grandchildren, 16 great-grandchildren, a brother with a host of other relatives and friends are left to mourn her demise.

All of her children except two are christians and one of the two promised to meet her in Heaven. May the other one be one in that happy union beyond the river.

Can a mother’s love be supplied? Can a mother’s place be filled? No; a thousand times no. And true to nature, her eight girls and four sons feel that both their morning and evening star has passed out with her precious life.

Heaven imprinted in a christian mother’s face something that draws the minds of her children to the sweet beyond, something that claimed indeed the divine love.
Deeply has the divine wooing been imprinted on the hearts of these children and friends, by her peaceful, quiet, Christian faith which always sustained and comforted her under the shadows as well as the sunshine of her life.

Though she is gone from them they know where to find her, and we would beg them “to weep not, to miss her from earth’s weary shore; earth has an angel less, Heaven one more.”

She had been a member of the Methodist church for a long, long time and enjoyed her relationship with the church militant, but today she is enjoying the association of the church triumphant.

Her home was always with her youngest daughter, Mrs. J.B. Ford, who with her husband and little daughter, Bessie, are left alone, sad and heart broken.

All during her sickness her sons and daughters, sons-in-law and daughters-in-law gave her all the care and attention that loving hands could give, thus fully demonstrating that she was a mother indeed.

May their lives be like hers, their change as peaceful.

A precious one from us is gone
A voice we loved is stilled
A place is vacant in her home
Which never can be filled.”
FANNIE RUTLEDGE, a friend

[Benton County Democrat 2/1/1894]

Obedient Wright was born in 1817, just 41 years after our nation declared its independence from Great Britain. She and other pioneer women like her settled our country with their husbands and families. These women were full-on helpmates; running the farms, keeping the stores, as well as instructing and caring for the children.

These women experienced natural childbirth at home, usually without the benefit of a family doctor. Obedient managed to do that sixteen times and successfully so.

People didn’t find that strange back then as they do today. When I imagine how much work that must have been for her it fills me with awe. She managed to make ends meet along with her husband and family. She didn’t turn to the government for help. That would have been seen as shameful back then as it should be seen today.

Women of fortitude lived during the century between our founding and our flourishing. They quietly provided the strong frameworks for those of us who still want to raise our families in the ways of the Lord and in freedom.

And yes, I left my lights on in memory of them.

23 Mar 2009 12:30 am

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You’d think we were living in pre-Revolutionary France these days, what with the utterings and declamations coming out of Congress to deflect the flack of their own making with the stimulus, tarp and AIG mess. It’s enough to depress any normally optimistic American.

Senator Charles Grassley’s emotional demand to the employees of AIG to either give back their bonuses, resign or commit suicide was an outrageous over the top leap into Robespierre territory.

Then there were the Democrats, outdoing each other in their outrageousness. Senator Chris Dodd, who at first denied slipping in AIG bonus protections in the stimulus bill to CNN a few days later confessed that yes, he did do it because the Treasury made him do it.

Rep. Barney Frank simply shrugged his shoulders when he was told about the death threats made against the AIG executives by Edward Liddy.

Edward Liddy read this threat, after which Frank smirked, “I am not persuaded:”

All of the people should be executed with piano wire around their neck.

From The Corner we learn this:

The Obama administration will call for increased oversight of executive pay at all banks, Wall Street firms and possibly other companies as part of a sweeping plan to overhaul financial regulation,” according to government officials who spoke to the New York Times (emphasis added).

We were told that the change Obama would bring to America and the world would lower the level of the oceans, make our enemies like us better and usher in a world of happy hopefulness. Less beheadings. More hope. Something like that. Never knew exactly what really. But things are definitely a little shaky now. Even Obama’s picks in the NCAA Basketball Tournament haven’t done so well. John McCain’s creamed him.

Senator Judd Gregg warned this weekend that Barack Obama’s budget will drive the United States into bankruptcy. Powerline has the details of the earmarks in the Democrats’ recent omnibus appropriation bill. Prepare to be enraged if you go over to see it. Talk about bread and circuses.

And then there was Obama’s despicable joke about The Special Olympics. In his heart the man revealed himself to be crass, tacky and mean. Now I know why Michelle Obama thought America was downright mean. She’s hung around with Barack and people like him most of her life. Now that she’s getting out more and visiting military folks (a cynical choice one might suppose) she will find a kinder, giving, and more loving America that will embrace her for her efforts.

But what about the employees and executives of AIG who are now finding themselves targeted by the Congress, the media and many of the American people? There are some crazies out there who are making threats and some who are now being “organized” to take a bus trip to see where they live.

Pillars of the community are now pariahs fearing for their safety in a ritzy area of Connecticut home to many executives at American International Group Inc., hit with a backlash over bonuses it paid to top brass even as it accepted federal bailout money.

A group of community organizers connected to Acorn are out to terrorize the families of the AIG executives. A bus tour was organized this weekend by the Connecticut Working Families Party to pay a visit to the doorsteps of these executives’ homes and of course, they are claiming that this isn’t a threat to these families.

If these are the tactics those who are close to the Obama administration will use when his poll numbers are still relatively high what will happen when his polls drop lower?

The Obama administration’s appallingly lackluster first two months and the mishandling of the U.S. economy by Geithner and Obama should cause them second thoughts about casting blame on others and especially on the previous administration. When compared to President Bush, Obama is beginning to pale in many areas. Competence comes to mind. Communication, unbelievably is another area where Obama is falling short.

In short, from the White House spokesman on up in the administration, straight talk is hard to find. One begins to wonder what our allies are thinking about the many blunders coming out of the White House as well. One wonders why Obama doesn’t know the meaning of the term, “Man up.”

Favras, Thomas de Mahay, Marquis de (1744-1790)

The Marquis de Favras was caught by the radicals of the French Revolution as he plotted to help Louis XVI escape. Convicted of treason after a two month trial, he was handed his official death sentence by the court clerk as he was led to the scaffold. He looked at the sentence and said, “I see that you have made three spelling mistakes.”

A tough man, that Favras, who wouldn’t crack even when handed his death sentence.

Obama can’t even crack a joke without blowing it.

14 Mar 2009 01:38 pm

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We almost lost the yellow house with the bad perspective a week ago last Thursday.

I was out, and had an art substitute who was teaching for me in the “new” artroom which is inside the school. The elementary school has been undergoing a big renovation in the past two years. Many new classrooms, new offices and a lovely new cafeteria with a large stage have been added. The old auditorium has been divided into two parts and I have the largest part and the music teacher will have the part with the stage.

The reason why I was not at school a week ago last Thursday is because my daughter-in-law and son were experiencing the birth of their first daughter, (and my husband and my first granddaughter) Marlee Michelle, who weighed in at 8lbs, 1oz.

It was a joyful and most wonderful day.

Not so at my dear elementary school, which is the school that I went to as a child and the school I love and want to help. When I went to school there as a little girl there was no integration. The school was all white. There were no art, music or P.E. teachers. The classroom teachers taught everything. There was no air conditioning, we had windows around every room. We had prayer in school, a Jewish boy read the story of Luke when we performed the Christmas program. We were allowed to walk home for lunch and walk back to school afterwards. If we were in trouble with our teacher we were in trouble with our parents. My teachers encouraged me to write, draw, and create scenery for plays which we performed ofen. We ran track and were always the number one school in town for track meets.

The demographics at my old school have changed radically but the school is still beloved to me. The students are still the same at heart. They are like I was, with the same hopes and dreams and I am there to help them succeed at them. That is my personal goal for my school and so many of my fellow teachers feel the same way. I’ve heard my principal say often that our school has the hardest working teachers in our school district and I agree. I see them in action and I know that to be true. No one can count public education out when you walk through the school where I teach art.

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I taught in this sunny mobile art room for the last three years.

Our grand Open House is coming up soon and everyone has been scrambling to get moved into their new classrooms. The moment the classroom teacher moved out of her temporary digs which was the half of the old auditorium into her new classroom I asked the principal for permission to move into the school from my mobile classroom outside. It was a wonderful place to teach for three years but truth be told, much too small and always worrisome when the children needed to go to the bathroom. I had to stand at the door to watch them go into the school and send another child along with my key to get inside the door to the school and hope the child didn’t drop it along the way, especially in the bathroom.

But I had lots of art in the room and I hung the yellow house chalk drawing along one wall and had glorious art prints along all the other walls and I made art history bulletin boards featuring wonderful artists who helped to make our world a more creative place to live. All around the room were the names of the great artists that I wanted the students to remember done in good calligraphy.

I am a neat-freak so I always had things where I wanted and that worked out well in such a small room. I only had one small bookshelf so I had to keep my books moving on a revolving basis and when the principal gave me permission to start to move in the big auditorium half the first thing I took with me were my personal artbooks. (too bad I wasn’t able to move the bookshelf)

Since most of the first grade, second grade and kindergarten teachers were also moving their rooms with only the help of the two school custodians I knew I was more or less on my own so during every school break I was heading back and forth to the old room, grabbing art supplies and paper, some art prints and miscellaneous.

All that had been left in the old auditorium was a tiny old oak desk, five small rectangular tables, and chairs. I had talked the principal into giving me the old teacher mail boxes since we now had a new office and it included a new mail center so when he said yes, I could have it, I was elated. It works well as a place to keep all my classes work and has cabinets below I can use for storage which is a good thing, considering what happened on that fateful Thursday a week ago.

While I was out rejoicing over the birth of my granddaughter, a big truck pulled up behind the school, and stopped in front of my old art room. In to it walked a bunch of men who began to carry out my art cabinet, desk, file cabinet, (full of art history videos) and everything else in the room. Our school custodian saw what was happening and asked them if they had been in contact with the principal and the head man said no, but he had been ordered by the official in charge of buildings and grounds to get the mobile building ready to be moved away so the school would be ready for the Open House on March 15th.

Our custodian informed them that the teacher hadn’t completely moved out of the room and needed the items so they needed to stop and leave the room alone until it could be emptied. But they didn’t stop. The custodian started to move things that he knew I would need such as the rolling art text book cabinet out of the room. One of the fifth grade teachers also saw what was happening and organized her students to get in the room and save the art prints, the art supplies, the white board, the yellow house chalk drawing, The Mona Lisa wall hanging, and many other important art items. The students hand carried all of the art text books (2nd grade - 6th grade) from the old art mobile building into the new room.

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A lot of happy art happened in this room.

All this chaos was happening while the art substitute was teaching the students. She told the fifth graders where to put the saved items and luckily there was plenty of room for them at the end of the very large room. My computer was saved. That was a lucky thing as I had just recently gotten it and hadn’t even been able to install it yet. After five years as an art teacher I had been able to finally scrounge up a used computer and almost lost it.

The next morning, a Friday morning, as I was pulling into the parking lot, I noticed that the mobile building no longer had it’s steps. As I got out of the car and walked towards the school, I saw that the doors were open and the building looked empty. My heart started beating harder as I walked over to the building and looked inside. It was completely empty.

As I walked into my art class inside the building I saw a pile of items inside the room. I sighed a breath of relief when I saw my big black art cabinet sitting in the middle of the room. I looked for my desk and file cabinet and book shelf and art cart and other items but they weren’t there. They had been carried off and stored in a warehouse. Will I get them back? I have been told that I will. I won’t hold my breath.

I returned to the pile and began sorting through. On the table at the end of the room was the Yellow House chalk drawing folded neatly (it’s just made from butcher paper) and it had no damage done to it. I found the Mona Lisa wall hanging and my computer later on that day on the stage in the music room.

I know I can count myself very fortunate to have finally found myself included (along with my fellow music teacher) in a school which honors its art and music. We have a place now, not in closets, not on carts but in rooms of our own. We are also blessed with a fifth grade teacher who has always honored our efforts at our school (along with many other teachers) and in my opinion she elevated her students and taught them what a good deed really is. They did a lot of hard work by saving all the Van Gogh, Monet, Rembrandt, and O’Keeffe prints (and many others) oil pastels, water colors, paper.

In a very small way the fifth grade students were re-enacting a race that took place during World War ll when the Nazis were destroying and stealing the great art in Europe. No, there were no stormtroopers rampaging through the parking lot at our school but the entire contents of the artroom would have been taken had the men not been stopped. At the very least, the students, their teacher and the custodian stopped a bureaucrat’s wasteful destruction.

The film about rescued art of WWII, The Rape of Europa, tells the story in documentary form about the heroic acts of individuals to save the art of our past, our art lineage, from defilement and destruction by the Nazis. I am going to try to find this film to view it. I hope it is being shown in high schools. For some reason, I am not extremely optimistic that it is, although it ought to be.

“The Rape of Europa” (based on the eponymous book by Lynn Nicholas) is a film that needs to be seen by every high school student, college student, history teacher, history buff, art teacher and museumgoer worldwide. It is not about the famous allegorical painting by Titian (1487-1576); it’s a riveting documentary about the theft, destruction and miraculous survival of many of Europe’s artistic and architectural treasures during World War II. “Europa,” by Richard Berge, Bonnie Cohen and Nicole Newham, elicits a visceral weeping for what could have become a total holocaust for Europe’s art and for its national treasures. The film details the race against the Nazi-programmed destruction and theft — mitigated by acts of heroism, sacrifice and determination — that underscores one of the film’s truisms:
“Art is what makes us human.”

04 Mar 2009 01:21 am

“He’ll only break your Heart.” What an apt title for this thoughtful summary of the past six weeks of madness of the Obama Administration.

Matthias Reynolds, like a kindly Dr. Marcus Welby, gently explains to those taken in by Barack Obama’s two year campaign of Hopenchange that this president is just not really into us, the America we’ve known for the past two hundred thirty years. Obama wants to construct a better, smarter, more socialistic Amerika, one which redistributes the wealth (as many of us warned he would) and is done with fighting the war on terror. We have no enemies, from without, according to Obama, our chief enemy is that big mouth entertainer Rush Limbaugh, who is telling the truth too loudly and too well, so must be stopped.

Matthias Reynolds writes:

Beyond the money issue, what about our personal safety? We are at war. The ghosts of three thousand murdered souls still roam the streets of Lower Manhattan and seven years later their dust is still kicked up by the late winter wind. They were annihilated by people who want us dead; but it seems that your beau feels that the war Islamic Fundamentalists have declared on our family, on our home, is not worthy of public recognition. Why else would his first speech to Congress not mention terrorism in a meaningful way? Why else would Janet Napalitano decline to mention terrorism in her first address to the House Homeland Security Committee? Wasn’t her department created to protect us in the wake of 9/11? Do they really think that choosing to ignore this problem will make it go away? Isn’t that the sort of thinking, or lack thereof, that has exacted such a heavy toll on the family?

So far, Obama’s had the help of a willing media to carry his water, although they’re sloshing it more clumsily across the airwaves with every passing day. It must be getting tedious to report the falling away of another Obama-ite as with Jim Cramer’s statement today that the Obama “agenda is destroying the life savings of millions of Americans.”

I never thought it would be merely six weeks before Americans would start looking back wistfully to the moral and sane days of the George W. Bush administration but it is already beginning to happen. In this post I predicted that it would happen within twenty months. How wrong I was. But perhaps not. This is just the beginning of the spiraling down of our country. How will it look twenty months from now?