I live in the fastest growing county in Kentucky. It seems that everywhere I go I come face-to-face with this reality: farmland bulldozed for a new subdivision, woodlands daylighted without a thought of what has been sacrificed, trees pushed into hulking piles of smoking debris, traffic and impatient drivers clogging the roadways, new interstate exits and newly built intersections designed to handle today’s volume of cars. New schools, new businesses, and a new bypass to get around it all. And let’s not forget a controversial dump still accepting garbage way beyond its approved capacity.
This morning, however, we took a road trip a few miles southwest to Woodford County, where the tiny town of Midway is trying desperately to manage its own growth. It has been called “Kentucky’s Mayberry,” and as little as ten years ago it was a quaint little hamlet of historic homes and a bustling main street that attracted visitors to its special collection of unique restaurants and art shops. In recent years, however, industry has come to the area near the interstate, along with fast food franchises and convenience stores. It’s a disheartening trend that I expect is nearly inescapable for every community that had been temporarily left behind by the ravages of what many call progress.
But just off Midway’s historic downtown Railroad Street, the town has established the remarkable Walter Bradley Park, named for a town native and World War II Army veteran who, in 1977, became the first African American on the Midway City Council. He served the community in that capacity for 24 years. I had been on the periphery of this 28-acre park many times for events, mostly races where I was more focused on making it to the start line on time and finding the finish line while still breathing. This morning we could wander the grounds and its four miles of walking trails at our leisure.
Unlike many city parks, this is not simply a mowed area with a few signs and perhaps a walking path. Some visionary arborists and gardeners have created a verdant sanctuary that delights all the senses. On an unusually cool summer morning, the butterfly gardens were bursting with color. A wide variety of native trees—some old, many recently planted—welcomed us, already offering shade and guaranteeing a cool summer retreat in the years to come. Gravel paths wend among the gardens, around Sara Porter’s Seed Farm shed, across wooden footbridges, past an old spring, circling near horses grazing in the nearby meadows, and winding up to the public pavilions behind the elementary school.
As I stepped into the long arbor facing one of the many wildflower gardens, I felt as if I had stepped back into another century. Time slowed. Natural beauty again felt revered. I could imagine spending a full afternoon seated on the benches watching the birds and butterflies while engaged in idle conversation. Would I be twirling a parasol?
The good people of Midway have always seemed to understand the importance of their community’s history and have managed to preserve its rare qualities. This battle will intensify over the next few years. But they have committed to nurturing an oasis in their midst. Bravo. Central Kentuckians now have yet one more reason to visit.
I suppose it should be comforting that it was a small group of friends much younger than I who shared their common insight.
“Words are hard,” they had all agreed, laughing, as one of them couldn’t find the word she was searching for as they congregated for breakfast after a morning walk.
When they told me this story a little later, standing in front of my table at the Lexington Farmers Market where I had three books displayed that co-opted tens of thousands of those sometimes intractable words, I smiled knowingly and looked at my friends a little closer.
One is a visual artist and professor. Although words are not her preferred medium of expression, I am certain she is articulate and profound during classroom discussions about creating and interpreting art. One is an engineer with a natural talent for managing people, who solves complex problems and coaxes her colleagues in the direction she needs them to go. One is a teacher who compassionately interacts with teenagers from widely diverse cultures, students whose first language is rarely English.
In their professions, words are their currency. All are expert communicators. They are quite comfortable expressing themselves. I imagine they rarely think about how fluidly the words come…until a cantankerous one goes missing.
These days, I seem to have a particular problem recalling proper nouns: names and places, titles and characters, famous people and family members and longtime acquaintances. Shortly after my conversation with these three remarkable women, a former boss of mine—someone I reported to for four years—stopped by my table and chatted for several minutes. A week later I finally remembered her first name. I still haven’t come up with her last.
(If you detect this happening when you next encounter me, please don’t think that means I don’t cherish our relationship. It just seems that my brain has made room for the mountains of new trivia necessary to navigate the modern world by archiving information I would choose to keep close at hand. Too bad my rather headstrong cognitive processes don’t consult me before making these sometimes critical decisions. On the other hand, as I glance around my cluttered office, perhaps that’s for the best.)
I also recognize that words’ elusiveness is part of their charm. Ask any writer. Words can indeed be hard. Hard to come by. Hard to conjure. Hard to differentiate. Hard to define. Hard to know. Hard to let go. Hard to lasso for a specific need. If words were easy, we wouldn’t take so much pleasure in wrestling them into cohesive, lyrical patterns.
Words can also be hard to hear, if we’re not inclined toward the truth, or if we’re feeling unusually burdened. And they can simply be hard, if their intent is to bruise.
Sometimes I seem to have too many words. I can’t get to my computer or to a pad of paper fast enough to capture my thoughts. In those instances, I’m typically just letting off steam about some issue that has me riled up. Or perhaps I’m sorting through an emotion that blindsided me. Occasionally I feel I’ve distilled some human experience in a way that may be worth sharing.
Sometimes I say too much when I should have kept my mouth shut. Knowing when to use your words can be hard, too.
Those of us who love words, who ache for more time to immerse ourselves in the carefully chosen words of others, who can disappear into a world fabricated by a word artist—we’re the lucky ones. Words are our friends. We’ll put up with a little petulance now and then, even as we sense their smirks as they refuse to come out of hiding.
David Hoefer of Louisville, Ky., the co-editor of The Last Resort, bids a fond farewell to the Brood X cicadas. If you would like to submit a post to Clearing the Fog, please contact us here.
The cicada bloom is finally starting to wind down in my neck of the woods (which is the Louisville Highlands). It is increasingly possible to hold an intelligible conversation with another human outside the house and to travel the sidewalks without the regular crunch of dead or dying bugs underfoot.
That said, I had a final cicada experience that might be worth relating. I’m currently taking an online birding course through the Cornell Lab of Ornithology (an organization whose praises I’ve sung previously on this blog). One of the exercises, called “sit-spotting,” involves sitting outdoors for 15 minutes, observing the immediate surroundings, and making note in a field journal of all that which most impinges on the five senses. In a Kentucky suburban environment, that ought to mean birds, squirrels, chipmunks, bees, cats, breezes, floral scents, etc. I did this a couple of weeks back, when the cicadas were still hot and heavy. Not wise. My entries read something like:
I’ll give the cicadas this: every 17 years they put on what is truly a command performance. I guess part of the diversity of nature that we always go on about, is that sometimes there is very little diversity at all.
I’ve never liked Father’s Day. My father died unexpectedly when I was seven, and I’ve felt cheated ever since. I could happily wipe that holiday off my calendar.
This year, however, marking Father’s Day is putting a smile on my face. Recently, my cousin Bob Goodlett had some iconic family video digitized to share with relatives near and far. Today, I’m sharing my Father’s Day joy with you.
It turns out that my Uncle Leonard Fallis, husband of my dad’s older sister, Virginia, had an 8mm movie camera as early as the 1940s. I don’t recall ever having seen the following clip before Bob shared it with us last month. But there’s my father, before the war and all the horror he witnessed, strutting around his family’s property in Lawrenceburg, Ky., in his University of Kentucky ROTC uniform, being silly, mugging for the camera, while his faithful dog, Mike, gambols at his feet.
The youngster at the beginning of the clip is my dad’s nephew Robert Dudley “Sandy” Goodlett, who died April 26, 2021. Readers of The Last Resort may remember references to “Sweetpea” visiting the boys’ camp. At the end of the clip, you’ll see my dad’s nephew Davy Fallis, aka “Sluggo,” who died March 7, 2018. One of the letters that Pud wrote to Davy and his parents while at basic training in Texas is included in Appendix A of The Last Resort.
During a Goodlett family reunion in 1984, I remember being emotionally walloped when one of the Fallises played some of their archival movie footage that, at the time, I had no idea existed. By that summer, my dad had been gone 17 years. Suddenly, on a small screen in a northern Kentucky hotel gathering space, there he was in an intimate, playful moment with my mother, shortly before they were married. I gasped, and then I sobbed. If they played more old footage of either of my parents that evening, I missed it. (That’s Davy Fallis again, chaperoning the scene.)
In the following clip, that footage is preceded by images shot on their wedding day, December 27, 1947. Lawrenceburg natives may recognize several in the wedding party: Lin Morgan Mountjoy, Bobby Cole, George McWilliams Sr., George McWilliams Jr., Vincent Goodlett, Ann McWilliams, Mary Jane Ripy, Ann Dowling, and Madison Bowmer (of Louisville).
In this era of cell phones and selfies and images and video shared instantly with the world, it may be hard to imagine what it means to me to have this rare video of my dad. I have only a few memories of him from my childhood. So seeing him move—his mannerisms and his interactions with others—makes him real. It confirms what others have told me in recent years about his sense of humor and how much fun he was to be around. And, of course, it confirms all that I missed by losing him at such a young age.
I am deeply grateful to Vince Fallis for preserving the original 8mm reels for more than 70 years and to Bob for making the video more widely available.
This Father’s Day, I am thinking about playful Pud, and I am having a good day.
The only other video of Pud that I’m aware of was shared with me by Bob Cole, Bobby Cole’s son. Appropriately, my dad is fishing. You can watch it here.
As I started working on Next Train Out, I knew that racial conflict had to be a theme of the novel. It seemed clear to me that the trajectory of Lyons Board’s life had to be predicated in part on his role, as an eight-year-old boy, in having a Black man lynched in his hometown, Paris, Ky., in 1901.
As I researched the various cities and towns where my grandfather eventually lived, I found plenty of instances of racial unrest in their histories: mob violence, riots, lynchings, the obliteration of sections of towns where Blacks lived and prospered. Soon I began to better grasp the bigger picture, that the whole country was awash in deadly racial conflict just after World War I, when Black soldiers returned home expecting opportunities and respect in return for serving their country in the trenches in Europe.
Instead, they found resentment and violence stoked by the belief among some white citizens that these returning veterans threatened their jobs and their status in the community. I learned about the Red Summer of 1919, which made me realize how widespread these race problems were. These confrontations were not isolated to the Deep South. They erupted in our nation’s capital, in Chicago, in New York and Omaha—in at least 60 locations from Arizona to Connecticut.
How this anger and suspicion manifested itself in towns like Corbin, Ky., and Springfield, Ohio, are part of Lyons’ story.
As we all now know, an area referred to as Black Wall Street in Tulsa, Okla., waited until 1921 for its turn at center stage. On June 1, after 16 hours of horror, more than a thousand homes and scores of businesses had been incinerated. Somewhere between 100 and 300 people had been murdered. Thousands of Black survivors were then corralled into a detention camp of sorts and assigned forced labor cleaning up the mess the violent white mob had created.
Before June 2020, when President Trump landed in Tulsa for a campaign rally originally scheduled to take place on Juneteenth, few Americans knew the lurid history of Black Wall Street. The facts had been suppressed, kept out of classrooms, out of the news, out of polite conversation. Black families in Tulsa passed down stories of violence and terror and escape—or stories of family members never seen again, their fates unknown. Few public officials dared recognize what had happened to all those people and their livelihoods and their property and their wealth.
This year, on its 100th anniversary, the entire nation has been awakened to Tulsa’s tragic history. LeBron James produced a documentary—one of many. Tom Hanks wrote an op-ed. HBO made its Watchmen series accessible to more viewers. News forums of all types reported on the anniversary. Survivors of the massacre—all more than 100 years old--testified before Congress and met with President Biden. Under the leadership of Tulsa’s young white Republican mayor, G. T. Bynum, archaeologists have resumed the search for mass graves that had finally begun last summer.
How a community like Tulsa now, finally, begins to reckon with its history is significant for all of us. We as a nation, as a collection of human beings, must break the silence we have permitted ourselves for generations and acknowledge how gravely we have wronged indigenous peoples, Blacks, and other minorities. How we blithely destroyed their culture, their history, their identities, and their lives.
Acknowledging the truth is a start. Reporting historical facts is essential. Engaging in respectful, compassionate, and sensible discussion can prompt healing. Some communities—and even the U.S. Congress—are now beginning to discuss what reparations might look like. Other communities first need to simply acknowledge both the shame and the pain that have churned for decades among their citizens.
When I first met with Jim Bannister, the great-nephew of the man lynched because of an alleged incident with my great-grandmother, he made it clear that it was the silence that weighed most heavily on him. He had tried to learn more about the lynching of George Carter, but no one would talk about it. His elders wouldn’t talk about it. The Black community wouldn’t talk about it. Fear and shame and ongoing oppression had kept everyone close-mouthed for generations.
The emotional damage accrued. The human damage. The not knowing. The not understanding.
With her book In the Courthouse’s Shadow, Tessa Bishop Hoggard provided the key that Jim needed to open the door to his family’s history. She pulled his story out of the shadows. Jim has told me repeatedly that he feels an extra spring in his step now that he knows the facts. He has found a peace that had eluded him all of his eighty years.
In her interview with Tom Martin on WEKU’s Eastern Standard program this week, Tessa said, “As we peer into our history, hate crimes were a common daily occurrence….Accountability and consequences were absent. There was only silence. This silence is a form of complicity….Today is the time for acknowledgment and healing. Let the healing begin.”
(Listen to the 10-minute interview.)
We have to acknowledge our difficult history. We have to face what happened. And then we have to consider the steps, both small and large, that we can take to heal the wounds that will only continue to fester if we stubbornly ignore them.
This year, on the morning of Juneteenth (Saturday, June 19), I’ll have copies of Tessa’s book and my novel available for sale at the Lexington Farmers Market at Tandy Centennial Park and Pavilion in downtown Lexington, Ky. In August 2020, the citizens of Lexington agreed to rename Cheapside Park, the city’s nineteenth-century slave auction block and one of the largest slave markets in the South, the Henry A. Tandy Centennial Park, honoring the freed slave who did masonry work for many of Lexington’s landmarks, including laying the brick for the nearby historic Fayette County courthouse, built in 1899.
One of the organizers of the “Take Back Cheapside” campaign, DeBraun Thomas, said at the time: “Henry A. Tandy Centennial Park is one of the first of many steps towards healing and reconciliation.”
Fittingly, I’ll be at the Farmers Market as part of the Carnegie Center’s Homegrown Authors program. Tandy had a hand in the construction of Lexington’s beautiful neoclassical Carnegie Library on West Second Street in 1906, now the home of the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning.
If you’re in Lexington that morning, stop by and we can continue this conversation.
David Hoefer of Louisville, Ky., the co-editor of The Last Resort, examines our latest plague. If you would like to submit a post to Clearing the Fog, please contact us here.
They’re here. In fact, they’re everywhere—gazillions of them. They’ve come up from holes in the ground, where they spent 17 years sucking nutrients from plant roots in the dark, biding their time until nature called them to invasion.
With their cellophane wings and bulbous red eyes they look like something out of an Old Testament plague or maybe next-of-kin to the “Bug-eyed Monsters” (BEMs) that infested the covers of science-fiction pulp magazines from mid-20th century America.
And the racket—an incessant loud thrumming from high in the air, as though alien spacecraft were massing behind tree cover or Saruman the White was working up his war engines, as described by Tolkien in The Lord of the Rings. Reportedly, that racket can raise noise levels in neighborhoods up to 100 decibels.
What am I going on about? Why the 2021 vintage of Brood X cicadas, of course.
You likely know the story by now. Brood X is number ten of 15 groups of periodical cicadas resident in eastern North America. It consists of three species and is the largest and most widespread of its kind. Brood X nymphs tunnel up from their underground lairs every 17 years, once soil temperatures reach 64 degrees Fahrenheit. They shed their exoskeletons, briefly taking on a final adult form. What follows is a furious few weeks of them discharging their Darwinian duty—flying, mating, laying eggs in the trees, and dying. And, yes, all that noisemaking—the male’s monochromatic version of a mating song. Brood X cicadas are estimated to emerge in the trillions, and species survival depends on it, because these defenseless insects make easy prey for a variety of birds and other hungry creatures (including my dog, who wolfs them down like a human chomping on potato chips—a protein supplement, I suppose).
In the meantime, cicadas are as common as hydrogen, and getting into everything. You name it and they‘re on it—clothing, hair, cars, furniture, rugs, sidewalks, houses, and every other manifestation of human culture. Their weird insect noises and alien ugliness make them unwanted guests, but the fact is, unlike last year’s virus, they’re perfectly harmless. Brood X cicadas may be the ultimate proving ground for the philosophical notion of “live and let live.”
Kentucky is not actually at the epicenter of Brood X, but the bugs are certainly present and accounted for in the Bluegrass State (including in great numbers in my treelined yard). Entomologists see this North American version of a locust visitation in effect until mid-July, when the survivors will begin a new 17-year cycle of root-sucking and apocalyptic emergence and transformation. The best we can do for now is batten down the hatches and learn to live with one of nature’s stranger life utterances.
If you’re inclined toward more active observation, I can suggest an interesting application that is downloadable to iPhone and Android devices. Developed by an academic at Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati and called Cicada Safari, it enables Joe and Josephine Test-tube to take on a citizen-scientist role during the Brood X interval by documenting local cicada activity with photographs and videos and posting them to an ever-growing database curated by the application’s sponsors. I’ve enjoyed running around my neighborhood looking for interesting shots, once I got over my initial repulsion.
Just remember: the cicadas probably find us at least as hideous to contemplate.
There is no mention of cicadas in The Last Resort, which makes me think that John Goodlett didn’t observe them in the Lawrenceburg environs during 1942-43. Brood X outbreaks would have occurred in 1936 and 1953, outside of the journal’s timespan. But there are other broods on different schedules, waiting for long periods to climb into the light and then share the world with us, if only briefly.
Philip Cullen was irrepressible.
If he wasn’t racing, he was volunteering at a race. Or officiating. If he wasn’t focusing on triathlons, he was fooling around with trail running or Ride & Tie events—at least until an unfamiliar horse got the better of him last spring. So Maureen gave him his own horse when he retired this past fall so they could trail ride together.
At triathlons, he usually attached a stuffed animal to the front of his bicycle just to give all the serious racers around him a laugh. He was good, and I imagine the sight of Philip passing with a stuffed tiger on his bike gave his competition motivation to pass him later. He didn’t care. He trained with discipline and he wanted to race well for the Irish National Team, but the focus was always on fun.
What surprised me most about Philip was the volunteering he did. He always volunteered to work the polls on voting day. He volunteered at every area triathlon he did not participate in. He helped coordinate training tris. He led the Tri Club. In just the last six months, I know that he volunteered to get jabbed in the J&J COVID vaccine trial back in November; volunteered to help with traffic and statistics at COVID testing sites; volunteered with the Red Cross assessing flood damage to homes in Eastern Kentucky this spring; and volunteered at the Big Turtle race in Morehead, Ky., in April, where he had planned to complete a 50K trail run before those niggling chest pains caught his attention and finally sent him to the doctor the day before.
And, of course, it was only recently that Philip stopped working. He used to come out to our place after work, swim a mile and a half, have a beer, and then participate in a conference call with colleagues in the Philippines on my back patio before heading home. That’s when he didn’t have to be in China or Cebu handling business.
Evenings when work wasn’t pressing, he might have a couple of beers and then start storytelling in his fading Irish brogue. I used to worry that his long stories might disturb the neighbors. But I expect they were laughing along with us.
Philip had tales of killer kites in India or the heat in Singapore. His years at the rival engineering school in Louisville. His frequent trips back to Ireland and the family he discovered there.
And we cannot forget his devotion to his family. He usually called me when he was on I-64 heading to Louisville to see his dad (and his mum before she died in 2018) or on I-75 to Ohio to see Maureen’s family. He was always there for them, whether helping address health issues or celebrating holidays or simply offering a helping hand.
In short, his heart was bigger than most. It gleefully carried a bigger load than most. It worked at a superhuman pace for sixty full years. No wonder it needed a rest.
Philip, you got more out of life than most of us ever dream of. You brought laughter and encouragement to the rest of us. You overcame injuries that might have beaten down a mere mortal. But nothing stopped you. You went full bore all the time.
The lucky among us only get nine lives. You used up every last one of them.
Rest in peace, my friend.
I tend to ignore Mother’s Day. My mother has been gone 30 years. My mother-in-law has been gone just shy of 10. I’m not a mother. For me, Mother’s Day has become a nearly guaranteed quiet day with no obligations, because everyone else is engaged with family and special tributes to the mothers in their lives. And I have come to enjoy it for just that reason.
This morning, however, historian Heather Cox Richardson, in her Letters from an American, wrote:
“Those of us who are truly lucky have more than one mother. They are the cool aunts, the elderly ladies, the family friends, even the mentors who whip us into shape.”
I, too, had “mothers” other than the one who birthed me. I considered my Aunt Charleen my second mother. My mother’s cousin, Ann McWilliams, always included us in family gatherings during the holidays and made us feel special. When I was in college, one of my piano teachers, Mimi McClellan, invited me to stay in her home one summer while I worked nearby. Each of these women, and many others, offered different perspectives on how to live life, how to embrace family, and what is truly important. I don’t remember having conversations about any of these things. I just watched them. And I pocketed the treasures offered by their examples.
All of these ladies are now gone, too. I have to look to my own generation—or the ones that have followed—for role models. I imagine I can still learn a thing or two from my friends and my neighbors and my relatives who demonstrate compassion and generosity and the sort of joie de vivre that makes life worth living. I’m still trying to learn patience and acceptance and forgiveness—traits critical for all mothers, and the very traits I lack, probably in part because I never took on a maternal role. From the time my mother pulled me onto her lap when I was an out-of-control five-year-old and said, somewhat sarcastically, "I hope you have six just like you," I knew I never wanted to be a mother. And I never had any ambivalence about that.
In her letter, Richardson claimed she “had at least eight mothers.” She goes on to describe one, Sally Adams Bascom Augenstern, a strong-willed widow who had lived near Richardson in her youth. Being the eldest of six siblings, Augenstern had already done her share of child-rearing by the time she was an adult. Said Richardson, “I've never met a woman more determined never to be a mother, but I'm pretty sure that plan was one of the few things at which she failed.”
Today, for all you mothers who wittingly—or unwittingly—took on that important job, thank you. Those of us who lacked the courage are grateful for the burdens you bore with such grace. We are still watching, and we are still learning.
Only two children appear in The Last Resort, my dad’s 1943 Salt River journal: Sweetpea and Sluggo. The affectionate nicknames Pud had for his first two nephews tell you everything.
In March 2018, I memorialized Sluggo, aka Dave Fallis, the elder son of my dad’s sister Virginia Fallis, when he died after a long illness. Today, I honor Sweetpea, aka Robert Dudley “Sandy” Goodlett, the first son of my dad’s brother Billy Goodlett, who died unexpectedly Monday after a brief illness.
When David Hoefer, the co-editor of The Last Resort, suggested that we annotate many of the personal and historical references in the journal to provide a more fulsome picture of Pud’s world, I knew we had some work to do. David researched most of the historical and technical details. I started digging up information about Pud’s family circumstances and his Lawrenceburg friends.
The first person I called was Sandy. He was the Goodlett family historian, and he had sustained ties to Lawrenceburg longer than the rest of us. David and I met with Sandy in his office in the building I still think of as the old post office, and we peppered him with questions. He was able to answer most of them, and I think he reveled in being a critical informant for our project.
Soon I realized I wanted to make a trip to the Atlanta area to talk to a couple of the “boys” who used to join my dad at his Salt River camp: my cousin John Allen Moore and Lawrenceburg native Bill “Rinky” Routt. Sandy said, “Let’s go.” We picked a date and Sandy drove me and our cousin Bob Goodlett to Atlanta and back. During that trip, we were also fortunate to spend some time with John Allen’s younger brother, Joe Moore, and with Lawrenceburg natives Eugene Waterfill and Mary Dowling Byrne.
It was a magical trip. And Sandy made it happen. Today, of all my dad's family and friends we visited, only Joe Moore survives.
Sandy was always unselfish with his time and his wisdom. If I planned a family gathering, I knew he’d be there. In his van, we discovered we could talk for eight straight hours and still learn something new.
When Sandy died, I lost not only a beloved cousin and my go-to guy for all Goodlett family questions. I lost one more connection to the father I never really knew.
I’ve laughed this week with some family about Sandy’s rare equanimity and quietude in times of crisis and distress. That is not a typical Goodlett trait. Most of us are hard-headed and opinionated and high-tempered. We are intense and hard driving. Sandy kept his intelligence and his passion quietly under wraps. And when he offered us a glimpse, it was usually accompanied by that inimitable grin.
If we want to honor Sandy, we should all strive to approach life’s vicissitudes with his calmness and acceptance. We should strive to be as kind and caring as he was. And we should strive to love our family half as much as he did.
Read Sandy's obituary.
Bob Patrick, of Berea, Ky., a retired attorney of unquestionable probity, reveals a little skulduggery that shaped his family history. If you would like to submit a post to Clearing the Fog, please contact us here.
My father grew up in far northwest Iowa, where the family had moved after the Civil War. Apparently Indiana was simply too crowded. During the Depression, my Dad and his older brother would hunt rabbits and other game for food.
My grandfather was a bookkeeper in a local business and about the time my Dad started high school, my grandfather was arrested for embezzlement. I'm not certain of the amount, but it earned my grandfather several years in the Iowa Penitentiary in Ft. Madison.
So the entire family—my grandmother, three sons, and one daughter—moved to Ft. Madison, in the southeastern corner of the state. My grandfather, in addition to his peculiar accounting skills, had experience in farming. He became a trustee, taking care of chickens and living on the prison farm, making family visits easier. It was during this period that my father met my mother, both attending the Ft. Madison High School.
My father and his older brother went on to the University of Iowa in Iowa City, ultimately to dental school and medical school, respectively. When my grandfather was released from prison, he and the rest of his family also moved to Iowa City, where my grandfather took a job at a local savings and loan.
During my uncle's final year in medical school, my grandfather was caught stealing money from the savings and loan where he was employed. The bank president said he would not press charges if: (a) my grandfather left the state, and (b) the money was repaid. My uncle had just gotten a position with a medical practice in Taft, Calif., and my grandfather and grandmother joined him there. At the beginning of WW II, Taft, a desert community, was about as barren as northwest Iowa, so there was a fit. My Dad and his brother were able to repay the money.
Almost 30 years later, I married the granddaughter of the president of that savings and loan. He and his wife were at several Christmas dinners I attended at my wife's parents. No one but he and I knew of this connection.
To read about the family skulduggery that prompted this post, click here.