Monthly Archives: January 2020

January 31st/20 Correspondences

What is it with this notice that appears when I try to log in, covering the ‘enter’ bar, saying it is not secure? Clickbait? I can barely edge my arrow into the blue to get a hand and open. Grrr. Clickbait, viruses, who knows.

Letters! Handwritten!







Just heard from an old friend (by email), Michael Brown, who writes that he and his wife Eva are having their 50th anniversary this year! Half a century has slipped by me! Yikes.

Also from my friend in Australia, the wonderful Daphne Murray, who is in her mid-nineties and whose letters I value greatly, one of the best correspondents I have ever had. She is bright and funny and extremely well-read, thanks to a classic education in England. She was a Land Girl during WW2 —young women of the cities who volunteered to go out to English farms to work, making up for all the men being drafted by the military. She was assigned to one of the royal tenant farms and met the young Princess Elizabeth, and stayed in contact, met the Queen Elizabeth several times in later years, invited to dinner, QE remembered her from the farm. She married an Australian who later become governor of New South Wales, traveled the world.

December 30th

“Years ago I read Thomas Hardy’s The Mayor of Castlebridge, it was a paperback. I have a set of old authors and they are all covered in the same cloth — red…(but) I had already devoured it. I love his work…Have you read his works? I am trying to get the bookshop here to get Middlemarch for me as I read it is a beautiful story…

“As to reading Dickens again was it Dotheboys headmaster who had a great jar of pickles? ‘Boys need pickles’ he said. So do old ladies as I have just had a plate of Christmas ham and some of my home-made pickles. A bit of vinegar does you good.”

“I was friendly with one of the boys who flew the planes to Germany. Walking back to the dairy one day I saw a plane over my head wobbling about and I thought it would crash, it was only just off the runway, but it righted itself and flew off. At the weekend I saw Mike and he said, ‘Did you see me on Thursday? I waggled my wings.’  The most romantic thing that ever happened to me!”

(Recent fires) “The terrible fires continue and we have months of hot weather to go. the Gov. are paying volunteers to be firemen, all are exhausted. Because of the lack of rain everything is tinder dry and of course the old gum trees and Eucalyptus are full of oil, and they just explode into fireballs. So many are homeless, it is not a happy Xmas. …We are not in a timber area and there sure is no grass to burn.”

“I often think of things to tel you and then I forget. I am usually awake about 3 a.m. to dawn —then I sleep some more. …All part of aging. My friend Helen gets up and does the ironing if she can’t sleep. I’d rather cut my throat.”

I have urged her (and her daughter Paula) to write all this down to be kept for the family, and she says she is, but i needs a concerted effort and Paula is a nurse, working hard, and taking down memoirs by tape or hand is a very demanding job, but I keep all her letters and if the family there wants them I will have them all for them.

And so in the picture that wall looks awful but it is glossy white paint that I slapped on, trying to cover some marks, and it shows up dark, eww, got to fix that.

Trip to Baltimore ABA Winter Institute was fun, Jen and I went on a long walking tour of Baltimore, visited the USS Constellation, the waterfront, the Flag House where Mrs. Pickersgill and helpers sewed the Star-Spangled Banner, it was actually bigger than their house! Jen was quite intrepid with her tour map, we had a great time. Jen is much fun, good company, truly a friend.

Signed books for two hours for lines of people carrying their ARE’s, got back exhausted and a bit shaky as always, took time to calm down, get my head straight, rode with Evelyn, her horse Anna is recovering from sarcoma in the ear, it looks good, healing, Jackson was a dream as always.












Book Review, Guerillas in Missouri Jan 9/20







On Amazon there are a great many books (non-fiction) on the guerillas in Missouri during the Civil War, and almost all of them have to do with the guerillas/bushwhackers in Central Missouri; Quantrell, Frank and Jesse James, Bloody Bill Anderson and others.  Blood in the Ozarks by Clint Lacy is a much-needed look at the war in southeastern Missouri. In that area things were quite different and this work makes things about as clear as they are going to get.

The geography was different, the terrain and the people and the circumstances were different and other than Jerry Ponder’s books this is one of the few or perhaps only book dealing with the war in the southeast.  I don’t have the reference here to hand but I believe it was the only part of Missouri held under martial law/reconstruction after the war was over. I think it was two years under martial law.

Other non-fiction studies; Gray Ghosts, Bushwhackers, Guerillas in Civil War Missouri and many others, almost all dealing with the better-documented activities of Confederate-sympathizing freelancers in Central Missouri.

The situation  in the Ozarks of the southeast can be simplified more easily than in other places; it was mainly Tim Reeves Fifteenth Missouri State Guard units against Union units, mainly Missouri Militia (Union) and the Twelfth Cavalry (Union). The rivalry and intense, personal animosity between Reeves and the men of the Missouri Twelfth Cavalry (Wilson and Leeper) turn the situation into a terrible years-long vendetta and Lacy documents this extremely well, including civilian deaths. It occasioned one of the most moving, despairing and yet well-written night-before-the-execution letters I have ever read, that of Asa Ladd.

During a reading and book-signing a woman came up to me and told me she was a descendant of Asa Ladd, that it was in her great-grandmother’s house they had found the letter.

This book sets out this rivalry and the tragic consequences, and it all took place in the most difficult terrain, far from the notice of “important” people or newspapers, played out, one could say, almost in darkness.

My mother’s people were from Central Missouri and we have stories passed down about the bushwhackers — Bloody Bill Anderson came close to killing a distant relative of mine but said relative (George Brownfield) escaped into the thickets surrounding the Pilot Grove post office, dodging Bloody Bill’s bullets. There was a lot at stake in Central Missouri — good farmland, harvests of cotton and hemp, the great commercial highway that the Missouri River had become, not to speak of the extremely rich bottomlands of that great river.

My father’s people came from southeastern Missouri, the Ozarks, which was not in any way a vital area for crops, conscripts, herds or war products. We have no stories, only a confused report that my great-great-grandfather was hung, no details. Leaving a wife and three children and a pregnant wife; Mahala Giles. His name was Marquis Lafayette Giles, justice of the peace, taught the common school in Carter County.

Often in war, I have heard, from the participants, that certain units will develop an intense rivalry and hatred for one another — this happened to my husband in Vietnam. He was with an ARVN unit, as an advisor, spoke Vietnamese and lived with these troops. They got it on with a certain unit of the Viet Cong, and the two units fought each other for years. In the course of which my husband was wounded, got himself repaired and went back to the fight.

Also a wonderful man, a world war 2 vet, Charles Meuth, told me years ago that his unit of the Texas National Guard (141st Regiment) developed the same personal and intense rivalry with a certain unit of the German SS tank command and pursued them all the way up the Italian Peninsula and finally into Germany, where the war ended and they surrendered. He even knew their names.

So this is the drama and ferocity outlined in Lacy’s book, very well documented, a fascinating story of conflict played out in a country of great beauty but thin soil, heavy swamps, thick forest that almost nobody wanted, except the people who lived there. Blood In the Ozarks by Clint Lacy.