Thursday, March 23, 2017

It is said...

It is said that a person is remembered as long as someone remembers their name.

I give my Daddy, Wayne Rhodes Shields, My Grandfather, James Roscoe Shields, my GG Grandfather, George W. (Wayne?) Shields, and my GGG Grandfather James Shields.

There were, of necessity, 4 women involved, in order of appearance: Virginia Lancaster Shields. Wayne's wife and my mother, Mabel Rhodes Shields, Roscoe's wife, Maude Ames Shields, George's  wife and Mariah (Maria?) Van Steenbergen, James Shields wife. James was an Irish immigrant.

I find that in less than a hundred years, my grandfather, grandmother and greats George and Maude on my Daddy's side have been remember by one cousin Sandra, keeper of the records, it seems. She has the pictures, the stories, birth,death and cemetery records. She did not, nor did I know of James Shields, born in 1828 in Ireland, and immigrating to the U.S. circa 1836-.

I never knew or cared about my Daddy's people. They were from way up on the Great Lakes, Erie, Pa. to be exact. You can see Canada from Cousin Sandy's back deck. Summer up there consists of Fourth of July and two weeks of poor sledding.

After my dad Wayne Rhodes Shields died, there was little or no communication between the Northern Shields and the Southern Shields. That side of the family sorta' disappeared until I made contact with Cousin Sandy. My sister Sally and Sandra had been communicating for years.

Wayne Rhodes Shields
Patrick Rhodes Shields
I do remember Sandy sent me a packet of information on the Rhodes side. It went on about Cecil Rhodes of Rhodesia, Rhode Island being named for a Rhodes, etc. I didn't pay much attention. Then my Mama started talking about Rio Rhodes, her favorite of Wayne's people.

Rio Rhodes married Carrie Culbertson and they had Mabel, who married Roscoe. Carrie died when Mabel was about three, and Mabel was went to be raised by her maternal Grandmother. Mabel and Rio were never close, and there is evidence that Mabel never acknowledge Rio as her father, as the only father she knew was her maternal grandmothers husband.

James Roscoe Shields
Charlotte Shields, his daughter
mother of Cousin Sandy
Dogs in many of the Shields pictures
Carrie Culbertson,
Rio's wife
mother of Mabel Rhodes Shields, Roscoe's wife
Carrie looks a lot like my daughter, Allison

Janice and I go to WV in the summer to peddle pottery and play music with my WV buddies. August is when the two weeks of summer in Erie, Pa. officially begins.  It's the Big Hog of 100+ in Georgia It's good time to leave the cat in charge of the farm.

Sandy and I sat down the first day of our visit to book after book of documents her people had saved. There were pictures of real people, stories of men who help Commodore Perry build the ship Niagara, that ran the British out of the Great Lakes. Suddenly these people had faces, stories and personalities. I was hooked.

I knew my son Britt's, father in law did  genealogy research on the Shields. He found James Shields, the Irish immigrant. Even Sandy didn't have that piece of information. James Shields married a  pretty little Dutch girl,  a Mariah Van Steenbergen, and left Binghamton, NY. They ended up near Erie, Pa. That's as far a the trail leads, to this point. James magically disappears after the 1860 U.S.Census, leaving Mariah head of household in 1870 and no death certificate in Pa. to be found. Ah, the skeleton in the closet.

George Shields, James' son,  married a Maude Ames, and had 5 daughters. His only son was James Roscoe Shields, my grandfather.  Roscoe hired on with the Erie Railroad in 1906 and passed his steam test, becoming and engineer in 1912.  Roscoe was stationed in Meadville, Pa. His run was from Youngstown, Pa to Salamanca NY. 

Sandy wrote last week saying that a brass plaque would be installed in his honor if we could find his railroad records. Thanks to the miracle of the internet and researchers, I found J Roscoe Shields, his employment dates, payroll number, and all his certificates. He, indeed, deserves to be on a brass plaque. Roscoe died when I was 1 year old. I would have liked to have known all of them, grandfathers and grandmothers alike.

Now I have to get back across the big pond to see where James Shields came from. Maybe a couple pints of Guinness will make that task easier.

I leave this open to Sandra for correction and additional info.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

I Do Love Spring, Mostly

When I was a youngun, Spring was the harbinger of summer vacation. It meant that school was fixin' to get ready to be finished just here in a day or two. It also meant the suspense of finding out if you had been  "passed on". I would look at Laura Alice or Carolyn, and wonder how it would feel to KNOW you were going to pass the 6th grade.

The first hint of Spring would be you didn't feel the sting of frosty wind as you stood at your post by the bike rack from 7:30 to 8:00 each morning. I was charged with making sure the bike riders put their bikes in the rack, and nobody messed with the Cushman Eagle, and Vespa motor scooters. Bike riders were bad to hide their bikes in the privet bushes so as to make a quiet get away at lunch hour.

 I was tapped to be on the School Boy Patrol, the official CIA of every school in America, I was charged with ratting on my peers in hopes of getting a trip to Washington DC.

I began to deal with peers on a one to one basis without adult intervention.  The art of deals, favors, and retribution were all part of the learning experience. A Snickers bar isn't a bribe; it's deal making.  He takes his bike to lunch, I get a candy bar. I don't tell on you and vice versa. If  you get caught off school grounds you face the music. If you rat on you, I get an ass whuppin from a "jury" of my peers. Fair enough. What starts at the bike rack stays at the bike rack. Snicker bars are good. So is not eating at the school cafeteria.

The second signs of Spring were the Crocus and Daffodils. The arrival of  Robins broke the monotony of constant blah blah blah of  Miss Lucky babbling about whatever. Robin visited the school grounds looking for worms or the discarded peanut butter sandwiches, or jelly biscuits in the "brown bag".

Miss Lucy Clarke's D's and F's were worrisome, but the Spring sun made my life brighter and warmer. I began to take the occasional book home. I figured this would counteract parental suspicions that my school work was secondary. I remained tight lipped under questioning.

I began to follow my sister's lead; I went to my room "to study" after supper.  My newly acquired Sears "Airline" electric guitar was very quiet with no amplifier. Mel Bay's Beginner Guitar Book was vastly more fascinating than Tressler's English textbook.

Finally, first "warm" morning in March when a light flannel shirt sufficed! The sun was up as I walked to my post at the bike rack each day. Forsythia, Flowering Quince and Bradford Pear made the world seem brighter and righter.

School was worrisome. My  grades were now C's and D's with no F's. It was announced were were to be subjected to Achievement Tests. These would be used to help determine pass/fail of the 6th grade. Three sharp #2 pencils and the willingness to put black dots on small circles followed by vague questions with 3 chances for a right answer was my introduction to gambling. I suppose I won.

I remember stepping off  Mr. Smith's school bus for the final time on Friday before Memorial Day Weekend. I had a report card stamped PROMOTED. It was proof I was a genius, and a better guitar player. I would see my peers next fall in a new room with a new teacher.

Spring had banished Old Man Winter and the 6th grade forever, except in memory.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016


The causes of most things, good and bad, in this world are we humans. There is a case made for Divine Intervention.

 To this New World they came. They left hearth and home, friends and relatives. Some sought to escape centuries of European wars, and the great plagues. Others left for religious freedom. Many in Ireland were starving because of potato famine. All came for a chance of a new start in a new land.

 The journey was unpleasant to all. They sailed in overcrowded ships, ate poor food, breathed bad air, and disease was ever present. Worse was the apprehension of the unknown after the weathered the storms of the 90 day crossing of the North Atlantic.

 The cities into which the laden ship disgorged their cargo were rough and rowdy places. Most immigrants were simple country people and these cities was not an option. Many establish themselves in smaller villages. Even in these villages they found dissatisfaction. It seemed what they sacrificed so much to leave was simply reproduced in this land. The old prejudices, casts, and suspicions followed men across the sea.

Salvation was at hand to some. There were big men with stories of lands to the west; fertile land, ruled only by wild beasts and wild men. The more determined packed their meager belongings and went in search of what they hoped to be true freedom. Bands of hardy souls left the last vestiges of civilization to follow the shallow rivers upward into the mountains in the distance.

They did not travel alone, for they were watched by those who had lived in these mountains.

A group of four families, 17 in number, found a small fertile valley typical in the Southern Appalachians. There were rolling waves of low, flat topped mountains running north to south from New York to Georgia. The flanks of these ancient mountains were eroded by water into forested coves that ran gently into larger valleys between the mountains. These coves were fertile and protected from harsh weather. 

These new settlement had brought with them a yoke of oxen. Huge beasts they were, docile, strong and capable of most tasks put to them. Together and separately, these oxen plowed, dragged logs from the forests, pulled stumps and sleds of huge rocks pried from the fields. They were well cared for, and truly the life blood of this budding settlement.

The natives viewed the oxen with wonderment. One man could encourage them to do great things, yet small children rode their backs with no fear. Many an evening was spent recounting tales of these oxen, and their deeds.  

There was one in the native village who heard stories of these marvelous creatures. He decided to see for himself. A young boy of ten years slipped away from his village before first light on a cold December morn. He took with him journey food of dried meat and cakes of acorn bread. He dressed in his best and warmest garments. Tough moccasins rubbed with bear grease and stuffed with dry grass donned his feet. Around his neck hung a small gift for the beasts; a carved soapstone figure. It personified how the beast must look from the descriptions of those who had seen them.

His journeys took him eastward from the village as the sky lightened. Mid morning, he turned north, following landmarks of those describing the location of the small settlement. At noon he ascended to the top a low flat topped mountain and turned eastward again. Along the mountain flanks, coves fell to the long valleys to the north and south. It was at the end of one of these southern facing coves he saw the smoke of the settler’s fires.

He watched the small enclave of log structures and sheds from a rock overhang halfway down the mountain. Just before dark, two boy of his age, led the oxen from the stable to water. He gasped at there size, color and huge horns. He determined to present his gift to the red beast.

The moon rose as he slipped over the log walls of the stable. The oxen paid him no attention. The red one had horns as wide as the boy was tall! The stable was warm, though you could see your breath. He crept nearer, remembering that children could safely ride the oxen. The red one turned and lowered his head to sniffed the boy hand, rubbing the curly hair between its horns against it. The boy scratched  huge head, and slipped the carving from around his neck and over the great horn.

The visitor was found by the young boys doing chores the next morning. He was not nearly as surprised as they. Startled, they ran back to the cabin, and breathlessly told their parents of a dark-skinned young boy in the stable with the oxen. The father took down the long rifle, and told his wife to bar the doors. He oldest boy accompanied his father.

Dark, calm eyes gazed at the man and his rifle, He smiled, turned and stroked the shaggy head of the red ox and said "Otahla". He sat down in the straw never taking his eye from the red ox. Minutes later the entire settlement was murmuring around the barn. Men looked grimly at one another.

If there was surprise in the small stable, there was pandemonium in the native village. A boy was missing. Had he been taken by a bear or wolf? No one had seen him all the day before, not even his playmates. His family was distraught, the elders puzzled, the warriors uneasy and the chief suspicious.

 The small settlement posted lookouts. Work in the village was suspended. Children were kept close by wary mothers. What was meaning of the stone carving hung around the horn of the red ox. The boy was pleasant and respectful. He accepted food but from only the boy who had discovered him. What, they wondered, was the meaning of this new dilemma.

After some deliberation, the native village mounted a search party. A small party of men, including the father of the boy, an elder, and the best tracker left the village in a light snow. They had an idea of where they might find the boy.

It was December, and in the center of the rude cabins, a spruce grew. They children had decorated it with small bits of bright cloth, and shards of painted pottery they found around the big spring. At the top of the tree was a star, one of the few things brought from across the sea. It reminded them of a home, hearth and loved ones they would never see again.

On the second day of the boy's appearance was Christmas Eve. Traditionally, a large brush fire was built. The families gathered around as the huge yellow full moon rose over the mountain. Prayers of thanks was given for past and future blessings. They began to sing the old carols, as they had at home. The boy in the stable of the oxen had never heard such, and crept toward the fire, staying just in the shadows.    

The singing carried on the cold night air. It was heard by those in search of a boy. The native group walked cautiously toward the group of unsuspecting caroler. They appeared, ghost like, in the circle of light given by the fire. The singing stopped. The native boy retreated to the stable. He had seen his father. 

No one on either side spoke. One native man pointed to a boy, the one who was assigned the care and feeding of the oxen. He spoke. No one understood him. Again he spoke. This time the boy seemed to know exactly what this man wanted. Calmly, walked toward the stable. Inside, he clamored up the pen and onto the back of the  red ox. He beckoned the native boy to join him.

Into a circle of firelight came two small boys atop the red ox. The natives stepped back in awe. The boys slipped off the beast and stood together in front of him. The ox dropped his head and rubbed against native boy, almost knocking him down. He laughed. “Otalah”, he said, looking toward his father. He turned to scratch the huge beast between the horn, looked up at his father, laughing again.

The tension faded. The native boy took the small carved figure from the horn of the ox, walked to the decorated tree and hung it on a snow crusted bough.  He turned and walked to the side of his new friend, took his hand, and led him toward his father. A smile overcame the father's stern face. “Otalah” he said, pointing to the beast. The fair skinned boy nodded and took the man’s other hand, and together the two boys led him to meet Otalah, the great red ox.

 After some time, the native guests gathered up the found boy. The father spoke words that could have only been “thank you”. They smiled, and walked away into the cold, their footsteps crunching snow.

On that mid winter’s eve, a native boy found what he sought. A father had found what he had lost. A light skinned people from far away had made contact with there neighbors. No longer would they be isolated from one another.

Somewhere, on midwinter’s eve, a small soapstone carving of Otalah, the great red ox, is taken from a safe place and hung on the cool green bough of an evergreen tree, as it was all those years ago. 

Sunday, December 4, 2016

The news of my demise has been greatly exaggerated...

No...I am not dead, or even bad sick.

A lot has happened since I last wrote you, dear reader, but I can't really remember a whole bunch of it. I have and excuse...I'm 75 now.

Mama is fine, had another birthday since I last wrote...98 and counting. she doesn't remember a lot from today, but she's hell on the years before 90. She does "pretty well for a woman who's soon to be a hundred!"

Janice Faye is fine, keeping me in line. Making beautiful pottery and good food. I'm doing just fine on the old chuck line.

Brother Bob is having another mid life adjustment at 71. Pulling out of his sea side digs in ST Simons Island. He done built him a house on Lake Rabun, Ga., and back to selling high dollar houses to high rollers. He's still got the pool and spa business, North Ga. Pecan, several rental properties. He has emailed  Donald Trump to bring back Reaganomics, for some reason. He's doing much better than he was when Reagan was in the Penn House.

 My sister Sally is doing well. Goes to bulb shows in Holland, Buffalo round ups in Wyoming, and has a job as a master gardener for folks that can't...but can afford one.

Last years garlic crop was alright...too many small bulbs, but they'll eat, too. Better than the Chinese junk, (no the boat). I've got some great garlic left, for those who are garlic deprived...Christmas is coming on and there will be a few social function that would benefit from garlic breath.

The new crop is in the ground...12 rows of 2250 plants each. Thanks to Coralee Hardman and her patient, nimble fingers...and my darling daughter and friends for help. My old knees and back will still do it, but I'd been New Years getting it all planted.

I'm beginning to feel like old Squire Hines in WV. He always said if he could plant a row of corn he'd live another year...I'd plow him a plot every year...he was still alive and well when I left WV.

Hmm. Just a row of garlic. Immortality on bad knees? I don't know...well, maybe I could still play mandolin.

It didn't rain a lot this fall...none, in fact...43 days with VERY little rain. Too dry to plow, breath, swim or do much else. Nice beautiful 70 degree days, 50 degree nights until this last week or so. The rains have come, cold weather will follow. The wood pile will begin to to do something about that this week.

 Life gets tedjous, don't it.

Allegheny Echoes was good. Long as they aske me to come, I'll go...nothing like WV in the summer.  I taught backup guitar instead of beginning mandolin. Always a bunch of fun. There are some incredible people to mess with in West Virginia. Most of them agree that summer time is the ONLY time to really enjoy the place. Can't see it in the winter for the road closings, snow drifts, snow days, and minus 0 temps. Really wonder why they don't have a population explosion every year about August, Sept, Oct., if you know what I mean.

There were some elections this year that worked out well for some in this far. We'll see how the world feels in the next year or so.

My good friend and mentor potter Jerry Brown got called to the Pottery Shop in the sky. Bet he misses old Blue, but I imagine the Lord may have a few good mules up there to mix mud for him.

Spent some time with old friend and banjo picker Diana Runyon at the beautiful old house in Mt Lake Park, Md. this summer. Ready to go spend some time with her in Fl sometime this winter.  She was the banjo player in the old Hooker Holler Symphony.She's converting well from melodic bluegrass banjo to old-time claw hammer style. Good enough to talk me out of my 100 year old English banjo that was begging to be played. Lord knows  I can't play it... foolish pride thinking I could!

Tractor's running good, a great place to learn words to songs and remember old hope is to write a novel on the tractor...and not ever have to write a word of it.

Well, that's all the social media I have time cute pictures of grand kids and cats. No beautiful sunset pictures from Belize. Ain't no Pat Shields loves Cheese Whiz on Zesty Crackers in this profile.

Just the facts, folks. News from Strugglesville. Glad to be back in the land of the living.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Well, That Wasn't Easy

About a year ago I received word from my benevolent Blogs sponsor, Google, that "suspicious activity" had been detected on my blog platform. 

I was locked out of my blog for lack of the expertise to convince them I was incapable of using the change password info they posted to resolve my plight. I thought I was doing my best to follow directions, but my brain doesn't work like Google's. 

I've been vindicated! Google has FINALLY accepted, after many tries, my password. We, dear reader, are back in business.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Everything Follows the Head

When I was a young sprout, I loved to dive. I learned to do a flip off the board in some State Park in North Carolina on a family vacation at about 8 years old. I was hooked. If I could determine the water was deep enough to dive, jump, or flip, I'd go over the side. Bridges over lakes, cliffs, diving platform were the best!

I didn't know it at the time, but the physics of flipping is written in stone...your body follows your head. I got cocky enough following my head to burst a few ear drums on a full twisting one and a half off the low board.

I was a swimmer on the UGA Swim Team. I've got the year book to prove it. When the other team didn't have a third diver, coach knew I could fall off the board and get a third for the team. A better showing than I usually got for swimming. Painful as hell off the 3 meter board, at times. Nice in the air, terrible entries.

Here lately, that same axiom, "everything follow the head"  has begun to run more of my life than I like. My head is telling me I don't need to be on that ladder with a blower, cleaning off the roof. It tells me that digging ditches is for younger backs. It'll stop me in the middle of the garden and tell me to go lay in the grass and look at the sky...this has never happened to me.

I spent most of my life not listening to my head. My Indian name is probably He Who Will Not Listen. Against better judgement, I usually followed the path less traveled or rewarding. I would start out with the best intentions, only to find myself wandering off somewhere to see what was over the next hill. Shoot, I could have been a hundredaire by now, if I'd played the game even badly!

What is it about the aging process that begins to wean you off the "work ethic". I don't have time to listen to my head tell me I need to slow down; that I should be smelling the flowers, instead of planting 'em. Hog wash! I'll tell you when it's time to smell 'em. I am having serious consultations with myself and seem to be following my head, and not my nose.

Makes one feel guilty as hell. My head is telling me my body doesn't need to take care of all 15 acres, just let nature take care of the rest...she's gonna' win in the end. That ain't what Pat and John Deere think.

My head counters with, "Aw Pat, just go have fun, play another tune, don't worry, be happy".

Maybe I start listening. Just out of three weeks of physical therapy. Sore back.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

                                Bucket List?

I suppose I’m just not up on the latest. I’ve just figured out what a bucket list is. It’s stuff you want to do before you “kick the bucket”. I started "kicking the bucket" 74 years ago. Didn't have a list at all. Social media is great, ain't it.

I suppose the closer one gets to the obvious, the more one begins realizes ones choices are more limited that they were a twenty.  One begins to narrow down the “have to’s” and “want to’s“.

I think the  "Want to’s” is what a Bucket list all about.

I really didn’t know what I wanted to do. I knew my brain had it’s own plans, maybe. It just kept leading me on down the primrose path, letting life, biology and rambling just happen

When I was in my early teens, my brain decided to “learn” me music. I learned guitar, not from Elvis, but from the older folks in the family and neighborhood. They taught me more than guitar. They said, " go to school, don't be like us".

That was not on my bucket list, but I did, with difficulty.

My Uncle Red told me when I failed out of Sewanee “You didn’t let your schooling interfere with your education.” 

Hell, I didn’t want to go to Sewanee in the first place. 

I graduated from college. My brain went to sleep for the next ten years. I taught school, was a Park manager,  shot line and grade for a concrete company, landscaped, worked cattle ranches, carpentered, and few other misguided endeavors.

One day, my not so silent partner, the brain, said, “ Move to West Virginia.”  I did. I was certainly taken aback when I crossed the line into Appalachia. Fascinating and scary at the same time.

I gave the straight and narrow one more chance. I applied for a job with the Appalachian Regional Commission, and after a few interviews…I REALLY saw the light. It was not for me. 

I went back to West Virginia and began my real education. I was free at last to do whatever the hell I wanted without interference.

I learned independence. It's not easy reinventing one's self. I began to realize there were things I wanted to do that I needed to do now, while I had the physicality to do them.

I know what a bucket list is now.

I wanted to walk the Grand Canyon, all the way down and back. I did it a couple times, once with my nephews.

I wanted to go to Australia. I went twice.

I wanted to go to Ireland. I went three times.

That’s all the international traveling I wanted to do.

I suppose you think I’m writing this post humorously. No, my traveling itches have been scratched. I’m happy on the farm.

Things I would have liked to do include walking on the Great Wall of China, seeing a caribou migration and owning a 1940 Ford coupe, and spending more time with the older musicians who gave me the "gift". Who knows what the future will bring.

I’ve learned the stuff of life: One first crawls, then walks and runs. When then ramble around for a while. Finally, we begin to run less, have more aches and pains. We begin to find contentment on the porch swing, sharing it with a partner, the cat, and an instrument of choice.

Bucket list complete? Not by a long shot. My brain will drag me somewhere, “whar I like it, or whar I don’t, as they say in the mountains.

Tell you the truth, life is a bucket list...planned or not.