Showing posts with label Farming. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Farming. Show all posts

Sunday, February 2, 2014

52 Ancestors #4: Roy Watts

Happy Birthday to ancestor #4! When February 2nd rolls around, everyone wishes Roy a Happy Birthday, even though he passed in 2006. Roy Edmund Watts was my Grandfather, affectionately knows as "Pappa". He was born in 1915 in far western Tennessee or Kentucky. His parents were: James Thomas Watts (1891-1953) and Florence Warren (1898-1923). The ambiguity behind his birthplace is due to his many years in an orphanage as a youth. His mother died of tuberculosis in 1923, and since his father was slightly handicapped, the children were placed in an orphanage in Louisville. I wrote a little more about this problem with an earlier post: Hunting Wabbits...AKA Warrens. Anyway....Roy was married to Freida Laverne Beyersdoerfer and passed away in 2006 in Paris, KY. His obituary reads:

Roy Edmund Watts, 91, of Paris, formerly of Falmouth, died Tuesday at Bourbon Community Hospital, Paris. He was a dairy farmer, a former Pendleton County magistrate and a member of First Christian Church, Paris. He worked at Cincinnati Milling Machine Co. during World War II, was a former member of the Cincinnati Milk Sales Board and donated land that became part of Kincaid Lake State Park in Pendleton County. His wife, Freida Beyersdorefer Watts, died in 1997.

Since I already know much about him, I will relate one of his stories below:
"I was run over once by a wagon. I was about 5 or 6; in the mountains of Eastern [Western] Tennessee where we lived near my father's family. Well, it was our turn to go to town for groceries. Everything was grown right there on the farm and canned, so we didn't go for much, just large quantities of a few things to last for awhile; such as coffee, flour, and sugar - bought in big sacks.

It was just me and my dad in the big wagon with the two mules hooked up to the front. Diner was on the right side - she was a mare mule and meaner than a snake. I didn't like her. She looked like part zebra. On the left was Fox. He was a bear mule and black as midnight. But he was a good old fella, and my favorite.

On the way home, I was standing just behind the horses, behind the wagon gate. It was about as tall as my chest. Well, we hit a big rock or something and I flew out of that wagon and landed under it as it moved and the wheel ran right over my chest. My dad thought I was gone because he saw it happen and thought for sure I was dead. Well, all it did was break my ribs. To get me home, he stopped at a neighbor's house and borrowed a feather bed mattress and laid it in the back of the wagon, to let me lie on it all the way home."

We all miss him, but I have lots of stories and great memories of this wonderful man....here is one of my favorite pictures of the two of us together....both napping, after he had come in from the dairy and fell asleep playing with his brand new grand-daughter. Note the strong family resemblance (bald heads). I confess to always being one of his favorites - it must have been a result of this early bonding moment. :-)

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Tobacco Time

My parents have a beautiful view off of their deck in Scott County Kentucky. It overlooks several rolling hills of active fields and each year a different crop is planted. Over the years, we have watched the growth of soy beans, corn, hay, etc. But this year, for the first time, the farm owners decided to plant tobacco. Despite the controversy surrounding this staple of Kentucky farming, we enjoyed watching the different stages of development as the days of summer ticked by. At this point, the growth has slowed way down due to a lack of substantial rain in this part of the county. The plants appear to be stunted, and have started to bloom out way before the normal time. As my mother and I commented on its stunted growth and development, we realized that the farming traditions and experiences we had while growing up had indirectly taught us much about the tobacco growing process. Even though we were never farmers, we grew up visiting or living some of our lives on Kentucky farms. This meant helping to plant it, watching the little plants grow, watching the blooms appear at the top, watching the spray, followed by the turn of yellow leaves which marked the end of the summer season. As we looked at the leaves in her neighboring farm, we knew we were remembering loved ones in our past.
L-R: John, William (Bill) & Lawrence Beyersdoerfer

As it turns out, we also have several other tobacco farmers in our family tree. The family branches we were remembering came from the northern Kentucky region, on my Mother's side. Despite the steep rolling hills that presented severe challenges to farming anything, the farmers in this area embraced the tobacco crop. Within the Pendleton and Bracken Counties, we had family members in the Fliehmann(Fleeman), Beyersdoerfer, Cox and Watts branches that grew tobacco along with other crops. Ironically, we have several photographs from family or neighbor tobacco farmers posing with their crops proudly. Once my father married into the Watts family - a city boy from Cincinnati - his shutterbug tendencies went wild. The result was a wonderful treasure trove of photographs from the late 1960s - 70s that continues to enhance our family story. Regardless of which generation was being photographed, these farmers were very proud of their crops.

Of course, tobacco was not the only crop that provided sustainable income for these Kentucky farmers. With the German branches of our family near Foster Kentucky, their additional crops came in the forms of corn and grapevines. Bringing their Bavarian traditions to Kentucky in the mid-nineteenth centuries meant growing grapes and producing wine to sell in Covington. For our families in the Pendleton County area who were more from English/Irish ancestry, corn and dairy farming were their staples of choice. I hope to post more about the choices these farmers made as our family history collection has much to offer....but for now, tis the season of tobacco.....and despite any ill feelings toward this crop, for many it was just a way to survive. A way of life that is quickly fading.  

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Summer Recipe - Ripe Peaches

Ok, so this is not a real recipe, but I just couldn't help myself. There are some food experiences that are infused with memories - via touch, taste and smell - so powerful, they transport you back in time. For me, ripe summer peaches are one of my special food memories. My Watts grandparents had a large dairy farm in Bourbon County Kentucky that was sprinkled with various home grown produce. They had a huge vegetable garden just behind their house, which brings back both wonderful and painful memories (those are way too many beans Mamma!), but surrounding the vegetable garden was a spattering of fruit trees/bushes. There was a small orchard diagonal to the garden, next to an old horse barn, that had cherry trees, blue berries and grape vines on the old wooden black fence. But nearer to the house was a very mature peach tree.

Peaches in Kentucky can be hit or miss. Sometimes the frost gets the blossoms just when they are getting ready to produce the fledgling peaches, or when they do make it, letting them ripen is also risky, since deer tend to love those ripe peaches as much as we do! During those rare summers when we happened to be visiting during a year when we hit the ripeness right on target, we were blessed with a wonderful treat!

So, what was the grand recipe?
  • Ripe peaches.
  • An old kitchen knife (crooked and worn well).
  • A small china bowl (cereal size works well) - with or without pattern - but chips on the sides might be a very important ingredient. Picture shows my bowl of choice - Pappa's favorite cereal bowl. 
  • Granulated sugar and a spoon (crooked/worn spoon is also a must, but sugar may be in a cup or bring out the trusty sugar bowl with chipped lid).
  • Lots of napkins to catch the juice!
Instructions: slice up that peach into nice bite-sized portions - leave the skin on! Pour some sugar into your bowl....then.....dip those peach slices into the sugar before placing them into your mouth. If outside, on a summer day, close your eyes and breathe in that hot summer air....and remember those sweet memories.
Come on! The summer is only half over! Go get some ripe peaches!
C

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Landscape Across Time

The one thing that brought me to genealogy as a passionate pursuit was the thought of restoring identities and communities back to our consciousness. Facts will only get us so far. A record or tombstone can give us a name, a place and a date. A photograph can give us a face or a space. Pieced together, all of these things form a skeleton without flesh. But what gives us the flesh for those bones? The things that form flesh are the serendipitous pieces of information that give us the living details. These living details can come from so many places. A memory, a story, a beloved object or heirloom. All of these non-facts, the ethereal parts of a person's life are what provides color, warm tones that bring that person's life back from obscurity.

The same can be said for communities. My mother grew up in the Pendleton County area of Kentucky. My grandparents moved away from that area when I was about a year old, so I have no memory of my life being fully connected as a livable space. But the roots attached there are still so complex and deep that it became an important part of my existence. My mother and grandparents raised me to appreciate and remember that my roots are from this place.

Ironically, because our roots in this one county span so many generations (late 18th century), my visualization and understanding of this community is unique. Above the town of Falmouth, literally, the steep rolling hills of the northern part of this county form a chain of farming families. Perhaps not all of the residents farm now, but the original farms are still pretty well spaced as they have been for many generations. When we drove the back country roads, my mother, and before her, my grandparents, and before them, my great grandmother, all made a point to demonstrate our deep roots here by pointing out places that used to be connected to our family - thus painting a picture of a farming community that does not respect the limits of time.

When they proceeded to point out a beloved neighbor's house, or the former farm of a ggg grandparent, or the church that they belonged to for years, they always told a small story to go with it. Each story connected a person or many people to this place, and added some flesh to the bones of the community skeleton. My mother is still here to tell the stories and each visit to that area, each drive down those roads is a pop quiz. Am I ready to pass on the information? Have I learned it well enough to recite some of the stories and point out the special family places? 

One thing I discovered is that after all of those years of sharing stories and places while we drive, I now have this marvelous image of the timeline of this community. My visualization of each place along the road shifts across generations and decades like shimmering colors of a waterfall. Around one corner I can see my ggg grandfather building a stone fence around his property. Around another, I can see my mother as a child, sitting on the steps of her school house, and still another, I can see my grandmother hanging clothes out on the line to dry. Even when houses or landmarks are no longer there, I can see them - and they are not black and white, they are full of marvelous color! Which means, for this one small community, the people who worked and worshiped and played and loved are not gone, I can see them every time I travel down those winding roads that overlook the hills. To be able to see time unfold in that manner is the wonderful gift given to the genealogist - because deep down, we never stop at facts - they are not what drives our research. We do not seek the dead - we seek the lives of the people who have simply moved on, yet whose lives gave us ours, and forever changed the future course of the next generations.

My apologies on the sappy level - but sometimes don't you just feel like waxing sappy about what we do?
We wouldn't do this if we didn't love it!

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