My grandfather's grandfather, William Alexander Weems, brought his family to this area in 1892. He traded for an eighty acre farm on Keels Creek sight unseen after spending six years in northwestern Kansas. Before that the Weems family had been in the hills of eastern Tennessee for more than a hundred years.
Alex Weems had eleven children and was a Civil War veteran.
Many members of my family are buried at the Shady Grove Cemetary east of Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Since the Earl of Wemyss is theoretically a distant relative, I want to remind his family that if a burial place is needed, Shady Grove has plots available.
For those who want to make a financial contribution to the upkeep of the historic Shady Grove Cemetary:
The 12th Earl of Wemyss (pronounced Weems), one of Scotland's most distinguished conservationists, has died, aged 96. From all I have read about him, he was a unique, eccentric individual.
There is a chance of an ice storm in the next couple days, so we’ve been preparing. Likely, it won’t amount to much but you never know. Our little road is steep and almost a half mile long, all downhill (or uphill if you’re going out). More than once we’ve spent two weeks with our road ice covered, when the county roads have all been cleared. Before the Land Cruiser was running, that meant leaving a car on the county road and then hiking down into the hollow on foot. And that meant carrying groceries and, at one time, small children in and out. Now we keep a car at the top of the hill and drive the Land Cruiser up and down. It isn’t so bad, in fact it can be a bit of an adventure. As a good friend from the New York/Canada line once told me, she liked Ozark weather because it could be a challenge without being deadly (usually).
We had some excitement down in the hollow late last night. The dogs barked and carried on for over an hour – as usual, I assumed coyotes were yipping and howling. Finally, I decided to investigate in earnest. What I found was the skin, head and leg of a white-tailed deer that had been dragged into the yard. The smaller dogs were still barking as if possessed, but Chandler, the bullmastiff, was way down the hollow, up a bit on the hillside, acting as if he was in a serious disagreement with someone.
Having seen the doe, my imagination showed Chandler standing over a pile of guts and organs where the deer had been field dressed, fending off some hungry coyotes. I went down the hollow with a flashlight past the barn, by the big rocks, and down the old wagon road. The smaller dogs stayed near me, occasionally running off into the brush or woods. Chandler had become quiet and I couldn’t locate him. At one point, all of us sensing something in the trees, two of the small dogs raced off into the woods only to come racing back as if chased by something to stand behind me afraid. Coyote(s)? I couldn’t catch whatever it was in the beam of the flashlight.
After a cell phone call from a worried spouse, I headed back home to find Chandler with the deer skin and parts. Usually not defensive, he wouldn’t let the other dogs near the skin, chasing them off with a ferocity unlike him. He certainly was jazzed up.
Couldn’t determine how the deer was killed, whether by gunshot or arrow, but I believe it is still deer season for archery. Either way, it appeared from the location of Chandler’s barking that the doe may have been poached. The smaller dogs continued to bark for half the night.
These are two different types of trees. The smaller one on the left is an elm tree. The larger one on the right is a sycamore. They've grown together and appear to partially be using the same root system. Above ground, they encircle each other, growing into each other in a couple of spots. Curious.
Franklin Delano Wolfinbarger died November 6, 2008 at the age of 75.
Brother Erik (www.eeweems.com) looked at this odd formation from inside the big oak tree, and recognized a face.
In September, the remnants of Hurricane Ike knocked over the giant oak that stood sentry at the entrance to the hollow. Inside the destroyed tree was this odd formation.
The first frost occurred this morning in the hollow. Later than some years, but earlier than some, too.
The other day we happened upon a tarantula being pecked at by a crow in the county road at the entrance to the hollow. Our vehicle scared off the crow and the tarantula remained in the middle of the road. You know it is autumn when tarantulas start moving around.
The old grey donkey, Eeyore stood by himself in a thistly corner of the Forest, his front feet well apart, his head on one side, and thought about things. Sometimes he thought sadly to himself, "Why?" and sometimes he thought, "Wherefore?" and sometimes he thought, "Inasmuch as which?" and sometimes he didn't quite know what he was thinking about.
A. A. Milne
From book Winnie the Pooh
The remnants of Hurricane Ike breezed through the Ozarks the early morning hours of Sunday, September 14, 2008. One of the casualties was a giant oak that stood sentry at the entrance to the hollow. The photograph does not do justice to the size of this tree – needs a person by it to give some perspective. A man I know who is 76 years old remembers in about 1938 having to wait on someone and he said he sat under this tree for a long time. He said it was a big tree in 1938.
Continuing our explorations of the aforementioned hollow, we ran across several other interesting places besides just the tunnel. First, we found a large spring coming out from under a bluff. Second, after following an old road through pretty, mature woods we came to the small lake pictured.
Sometimes I go and visit other local hollows. This particular hollow I visited was interesting for several reasons, one of which is that it has a tunnel. The size of the tunnel in this photograph is deceptive - the tunnel was once wide enough to drive a car through. Though some of it has collapsed, it is still a sight to behold - and a surprise to run across.
Don’t eat these! It could prove fatal. An interesting note is that the Declaration of Independence was written in an ink made out of poke berry juice.
This is a photograph of Frost either relaxing or being silly. He died two years ago today around 9 PM. Frost was eleven when he died which is nearly ancient for such a big dog. Giant breeds often die young. Frost weighed about 160 pounds and stood pretty tall.
I wasn't with him when he died - I'd gone in the house for a little while. After being inside for a short time, my four-year old son turned to me and said, "I think Frost is dead now." I went outside and he was. As noted previously, a fairy ring popped up right outside our door after he died.
In a story of mine there is a dog named Chief who is obviously based on Frost. Read the story and you'll get a flavor for the intense personality of our good friend Frost.
This fairy arc popped up in the last couple of days near our house in the hollow. While not a full fairy circle, it has significance to some. Fairy circles and arcs have various meanings depending on location, but generally indicate a door into a mystical world or a place where fairies or witches have danced.
We had a full fairy circle once a couple years ago right after my best friend Frost (the Anatolian Shepherd) died. Not that I am superstitious, but that fairy circle held a lot of meaning for me. Well, perhaps I am superstitious.
I’m almost at a standstill on my first novel, The Pleasure of Displacement (working title). It is an 80,000 word mystery set in my beloved Ozarks. I know it needs work, but I’m to the point I need someone to point out the problems to me. I’m working my way through it again, tweaking this and that, changing the occasional paragraph. But, like I said, I need help (and not just in grammar).
Right now the manuscript is being read by my former English teacher, Kathy Remenar, and I’m nervous about what she might have to say. She helped develop my love of writing twenty odd years ago and is a talented writer herself. I feel like I wrote better back then but after my recent health problems, I found myself with time to actually write. It was like starting over. I always thought that if I wrote a novel the writing would be easy and the story would be the hard part. Turned out the opposite – since I had to relearn writing, the story was the much easier part.
The reader that has made me the most nervous was Mary Pat Boian. Many know her as the publisher of Boian Books (www.boianbooks.com) and a better writer than I will ever be. Outside of my family, she and Lori Davis have turned out to be the biggest supporters of my writing. I’ve known Lori since high school and she also cuts hair (www.eurekaspringssalon.com). Wife Diane has helped all around and Erik Weems, my brother and the graphic artist (www.eeweems.com), has helped with the manuscript and designed a working cover for my book that can be seen on my website. And, of course, my nephew Brandon educated me on 9mm handguns.
Today I learned that Jen Forbus will read my manuscript. As you may know, she is a book reviewer extraordinaire on goodreads.com (http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/582249) and has a great book blog (http://www.jensbookthoughts.blogspot.com/). She is an increasingly influential person in the book world of many and I’m honored and very nervous at the thought of her reading my stuff.
My second book, a sequel, is 20,000 words so far and is going well. If anything, this story is faster paced and tighter written than the first and is a lot of fun to work on.
Opha Price died August 12, 2008 at the age of 86. One of eight children born to Arlie and Mary Lula Cordell Wolfinbarger, she attended school at Concord School and had two sons, David and Russell. Aunt Opha was buried today at the Shady Grove Cemetary. She was one of my wife's favorite Sunday School teacher's years ago. She was my grandmother's older sister and a wonderful, sweet lady. I once gave her a kitten.
Photographs of the Weems family Land Cruiser here:
It gets us around on these steep hillsides and crossing the creek - put chains on it in the winter and it feels like it will go anywhere.
Jen Forbus' Book Thoughts here:
She influences what I read - she introduced me to Robert Crais' books, among others. And I won Lisa Unger's book Sliver of Truth in a contest she had. Jen’s book reviews are some of the best I have read.
For some reason, there are passion flower vines climbing all over the place this year. The vines have tendrils for gripping and can grow 25 feet long. The fruit (sometimes called wild apricot) will soon be ripe. I have heard that the juice is good squeezed in lemonade. Some people eat the fruit and make jelly from it.
One of the simple pleasures of living in the hollow is that one can go out the door and be in the woods almost immediately. Recently, a group of us hiked in the woods at dusk – listening and watching for wildlife. Some of the most intriguing inhabitants of the hollow made their presence known. We were deep in the woods when a single coyote howled a distance away. A girl with us howled and yipped and barked in response. Suddenly, two different groups of coyotes broke out with their high-pitched, eerie chorus – apparently responding to the girl's attempt at humor. While the coyotes were the most dramatic wildlife we heard, we also saw interesting wildlife. Mushrooms are almost always present during the warm months in the hollow. From morels to fairy circles, we see many shapes and varieties of mushrooms. One could dedicate a lifetime to studying them.
Many of the Mimosa trees in the hollow have died in the last two years. There are just a few mature ones left along our road (young ones still sprout everywhere like weeds - which is what some people call these trees). Mimosas (or Silk trees) are native to China, Iran, and other parts of Asia.
The 1971 Landcruiser we use in the hollow had four Dunlop tires on it when it was purchased used 30 years ago. Over the years they have worn out one by one. Last night the final Dunlop tire went flat and is not fixable. The next tire will probably not last 30 years.
This is a small snake that was in our yard under some twigs and wet leaves. It was about 18 inches long and I never did determine what it was. We see snakes fairly often in the hollow - mostly copperheads (have seen dozens), but also ringnecks, speckled kingsnakes, and black snakes.
There is a pair of black snakes that live in the attic of our little shop building. Sometimes they can be seen stretching their long bodies from an opening in the roof of the shop, reaching for a tree to use to climb down to the ground. One of the black snakes is about six feet long and the other about four feet long.
This photograph by Mary Weems was taken in the hollow. Not sure what kind of owl it is, but there is evidence of at least four types of owls in the hollow. We have heard the distinctive calls of three types of owls - the great horned owl (or hoot owl), the screech owl, and the barred owl. I also once saw a white-faced barn owl, in of all places, the barn. We have seen large owls flying that are either great horned owls or barred owls - the two largest species of owls found in this area. There are other owls around but I'm not able to recognize their calls with any confidence.
Yesterday, I was at our neighbor’s and a deer came down the road and crossed into the yard. The deer stopped when it saw our smaller dog, Lewie, and the two stared at each other for a long moment. Then sensing the deer’s presence, Noodles, the dachshund went on the attack with Lewie close behind. The two canines ran at the deer barking, but the deer didn’t run - it lowered its head and ran at the dogs. Bewildered by this odd turn of events, the two dogs stopped until Chandler the bullmastiff came running from another direction and chased away the deer.
Attached is a photograph of the deer chaser himself, Chandler.
It's the time of the year for terrapins (or three-toed box turtles) to be active. This one was found crawling along our driveway. Interesting to note that three-toed box turtles often have four toes. A scientific study of box turtles in Missouri utilized Laborador retrievers to locate turtles buried in the leaves. Over 3,000 box turtles were collected this way.
The bottom shell (or plastron) of this box turtle had evidently been severly cracked, but grew back together. Box turtles are pretty tough - they have been known to live 70 years.
This morning at two a.m., the dogs started barking to beat the band (as my grandpa used to say.) This is not an unusual occurrence – except they carried on a long time. I finally got up and found a flashlight that worked and went outside. Our two dogs and the neighbor’s dog were all climbing on top of the woodpile, trying to dig out the sticks of firewood. I investigated and could hear growling deep down in the woodpile. At first I thought it might be a cat, but with further investigation was able to spot the creature through spaces in the wood. All I could see at first was that it had a white face and black eyes. When I saw its pointy face I knew right off it was an opossum. I finally returned to bed, knowing if I dug it out the dogs would kill it. Soon after, the dogs gave up on it and went back to bed themselves.
A good website to keep track of what you are reading is www.goodreads.com. I use it to track down good books to read. If you are ever curious what I am reading, go to:
Choose the "my books" tab up above and it will give you a list of what I have read in the past year.
This egg was brought in by one of the dogs yesterday. It must be a wild turkey egg - not sure what else it could be.
The smallest spring in this end of the hollow comes out of a triangular cave opening only about six inches high. While the three other springs roared after the recent heavy rainfalls, this quiet little spring only flowed a little bit heavier. It produces enough water to keep the moss around it green and the sapling above it growing.
And, of course, the redbuds are now in bloom. The flowers are not actually red - as can be seen in this photograph, but a purplish. These trees can reach a height of 50 feet, but rarely do. Also called a Judas Tree in some places. There are several dozen in the hollow.
Here is a colony of may-apples (also called mandrakes) near the creek. I have been told that they are a good indicator that the soil is ideal for morel mushrooms. I have yet to find the two growing together, though.
These are some Morel Mushrooms found in the hollow about an hour ago.
Tonight a single whip-poor-will was heard in the hollow. Several of these birds return annually from their winter homes along the Gulf Coast and southward to the hollow for the warmer months.
I was once attacked by a whip-poor-will along a lonely country road late at night after my pickup broke down. It beat me on the head and face with its wings and body again and again, until I ran away. Then it returned to its loud, rhythmic calls. What was that about, I wonder?
This is the view from one of the highest spots on the rim of the hollow, looking east (away from the hollow).
We lost a tree I was fond of today – it fell, its roots snapping and the tree body unable to keep its balance in the wet, muddy ground. An elegant mimosa tree, its many large limbs twisted and turned around each other making beautiful patterns. It produced quite a bit of shade and was once planned as the future home of a tree house. Amazing how small it looks in the photographs, when really it was a large, full tree. For the last few years I had noticed slugs on it at night – I wonder if they had something to do with its death.
Our springs flow was even heavier today than earlier in the month.
Every year the first tree to bloom in the hollow is a sarvis growing on the eastern rim hillside. Here it is on March 26th. The redbuds can't be far behind.
There are four springs in this end of the hollow. The largest marks the beginning of the creek that drains the surrounding hillsides. After a heavy rainfall, this normally placid spring becomes white and roaring. This photograph shows the spring coming down the hillside after such a rain. This March has been a very wet month causing flooding, mayhem, and death in the Ozarks.
This evening at dusk I noticed a single bat flitting around the hollow's sky. Hopefully, as in years past, more and more bats will appear as Spring progresses.
Here in the hollow our annual outbreak of ladybugs started at the end of February. Here is a picture of just a few of them on a window. Sometimes they swarm in the hundreds, covering the ceiling or light fixtures in a mass of moving red. I have been told that these are not our native ladybugs, but imported insects brought in to eat something or another.
This morning, with snow on the ground, the poor, shivering tree frogs were still singing their joyous chorus.
When we first lived in the hollow there would be at night on the southern hillside a loud shrieking sound. It could also be described as a high-pitched scream. We talked to various people trying to determine what could be making this unworldly sound. There were different opinions on the subject. Some said it might be a bobcat, or a fox, or even a mountain lion. We also thought it might be a strange shrieking bird or even a deranged human, walking through our woods at night. Our dogs at the time would bark at it, but not investigate. This indicated to me that they didn’t consider it much of a threat. Whether this was because of the distance or because of what it was, I do not know. Or could it have been something they feared? If so, it would have been the first thing our big Anatolian Shepherd feared in his life. He was a guarding machine. So, all these years later we still have not determined what it was.
Today is a beautiful, sunny winter’s day. While taking a short hike, I spied the shiny shell of an armadillo in the upper part of the blackberry field. I walked up that way to observe it, when unluckily for the armadillo our little spaniel-looking dog, Lewie (for CS Lewis), saw it also. As soon as the armadillo heard the bark, it ran zig-zag towards the woods. The bark also alerted our bullmastiff, Chandler (for Raymond Chandler), who ran at an impressive rate of speed up the field and grabbed it by the tail. It dangled for a long moment, its claws reaching for purchase. Either Chandler got scratched or he was trying for a better grip, I couldn’t tell which, when the armadillo fell to the ground on the edge of the woods. Immediately, it went down a hole in the ground. It must have been trying for home when it was caught.
In the past nine years, we had never seen a robin in the hollow. Hard to believe, I know, considering everything else we have viewed. Now in the middle of winter, we have had several move in and it seems they have always been here.
Our small hollow is located in Winona Township in the Ozark hills of north Arkansas.