Jermyn Methodist Church windows

Jermyn Methodist Church windows

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Gift of Words

I opened my latest McMurry University alumni magazine last night, and started flipping through.  The words "Lila Senter" jumped off the page.  I was flooded with the memories of the summer I worked with Lila at Hospice of Abilene--while completing my second internship for my Masters in Social Work.  That experience at Hospice was one of the most significant of my life, and the early formative years in my career as a social worker.

Lila was involved with the volunteer program, and I would have occasion to make home visits with her over the course of the 3 months I spent completing my internship hours.  During the course of that summer, I would get to know a lot about the people who staffed the small office (Hospice was a relatively new concept at that time).  Lila, like the other social workers and nurses and chaplains who staffed the program--many of them volunteers--was kind, gracious, and caring, but also much fun to work with.  My grandfather was fatally injured during that summer internship, and I think that the experiences and caring to help me deal with my grief were instrumental in my personal and professional grief during that time of my life.

In addition to the many other experiences that I recall from that summer, I remember a new "fashion trend" that I adopted from Lila, and the head nurse, Libby.  At that point in my life, I had always worn high heels--we are talking the 3 inch high heel--it was just my preferred footwear--mostly closed toes/closed heel classic pumps, but 3 inch heels nonetheless.  One day at Hospice, and I knew that was not going to work, along with the short, straight skirts I preferred.  Much of the day took place standing at the side of a bed, or sitting on the side of a bed, needing to reach across, bend over, help someone walk or stand.

Lila and Libby both wore plain white Keds canvas tennis shoes--the old fashioned kind, with crew socks folded.  Sometimes the socks were white, but often, it was two pair of crews of different colors, and the tops scrunched instead of folded, with just a portion of the different color showing.  Skirts were long, flowing, allowing for graceful maneuvering while engaged in caregiving activity.  I adored them both, and how classic they looked each day.

While reading the article, Lila mentioned receiving a "word gift" from Professor Caroline Couch Blair--whom I also had for speech classes.  Professor Blair was amazing in front of the classroom, and the memory I have most strongly of her is one of her standing, teaching us to pivot while speaking.  The lesson must have stuck, I still pivot.  Of her gift from Professor Blair, Lila said,
I had always been enchanted with the magic of words and this was a unique and wondrous gift.
Lila has now presented her own gift of words, in a recently published book, appropriately called The Gift, and it contains a collection of word gifts from her to family over the years, and art and photography.  The sales of the book benefit Abilene Hope Haven, established 20 years ago and still in the business of helping end homelessness.  You can order a copy from the publisher link on Hope Haven website.  Perhaps you know someone who appreciates the gift of words, or just want to give a gift that passes on along with the present itself.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Going inside the Jermyn Methodist Church

 It is rare for me to go inside one of the many buildings that I photograph.  In fact, my first instinct was to photograph the church from the car, thanks to the two very large and barking dogs that came running up when I pulled to the side of the road after spotting this carpenter Gothic abandoned church on First Avenue and Wise Street.  However, a drive down the block and return and the dogs had gone home to nap in the pleasant sun of that afternoon.  Feeling emboldened by their non-attention while I was walking around the outside, I decided to just step up to the open door of the vestibule and take a quick peek inside...which turned into a full-fledged visit. 
 While shingles have fallen from the ceiling, there did not appear to be external roof damage, sparing the sanctuary from the ravages of rain.  In an instant, I was reminded of my first childhood church at Newcastle, and the wooden chancel rail that separated the worshipers from the choir and clergy.  I would kneel on that step in front of the rail for many an altar time or communion at our church in Seymour or Graham.
Entrance to the sanctuary was at two angles, due to the corner entry.  One set of doors opened toward the side of the sanctuary, creating a path toward the other part of the building and the choir loft, and one opened directly to the side aisle of the sanctuary and pews.
While the roof is still intact, the broken and missing panes in the windows have opened the building to birds, who have determined the backs of the pews are a fine roost.  I felt a sense of sadness, seeing streams of bird droppings where people once sat while contemplating their inner spiritual lives, the outer demonstration--or lack of--and planned and hoped and dreamed...and yes, some who impatiently waited for a final Amen and the end of a weekly ritual.
I tried to imagine having sat in that sanctuary in 1910--albeit in different seating.  The folding wooden attached chairs debuted as early as the 1890s, and came in a variety of simple styles, and some with decorative cast iron end pieces.
American Seating Company manufactured many of the ones sold in the US.  Had I thought to look, I could have searched for indication of the manufacturer.  Hind sight is rarely helpful, unless it is recalled in the next opportunity.  All too often, though, we forget the little details that later we wish we had thought to check.
A few of the windows remain intact, and evidenced a variety of color patterns.  Each window, viewed from varying vantages, cast different reflections and highlighted different focal points--a poignant reminder of life.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Jermyn Methodist Church

The Gothic Revival style Jermyn Methodist Church was built at the present site in 1910.  In 1968, it was awarded Texas Historic Landmark status.  First organized in 1909, the Jermyn Methodist Church was the first organized congregation in the area.  (Texas Historic Landmark plaque)
The church still held worship services as late as 1974, and held a monthly music "jamboree"--a family music event common in the region (Olney Enterprise, August 29, 1974, p. 3).  I don't recall attending one in Jermyn, although I remember going to them at other area locations, including the Newcastle High School auditorium, the Fort Belknap community building, and the Stovall Hot Wells outdoor pavilion.
The Gothic Revival style was popular in the late 1800s in the US, and due to plentiful lumber resources in most areas, and the lack of money for masonry construction, wood framed churches, called Carpenter Gothic, were frequently erected.  I located two churches in an identical style to the Jermyn church in other areas of the US.  The style remained popular for churches until the 1940s.
Common characteristics include board and batten siding, pointed arched windows, and towers.  In the case of the Jermyn church, the tower serves the purpose of the entrance vestibule and to house the bell.  Pointed arches adorn the stained glass windows.  Clapboard is under the asbestos shingles in this building.  Asbestos-cement shingles for siding were introduced in 1907, as a fire-resistant construction material, but the textured surface of the siding on the Jermyn example were not introduced until last 1930s.  Up until then, they were smooth.  The wavy bottom edge was available beginning in 1937. (Wilson, R. February 2008. Early 20th-century building materials: Siding and roofing. Facilities Tech Tips. United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service., p. 4-5.)
Tomorrow, I'll step inside, which provides an entirely different perspective of this rural Texas church.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

1936 Jermyn PWA School

 Jermyn is a small rural community in the northwest corner of Jack County, Texas.  It was founded in 1909
...on the western edge of Lost Valley, a 20-square-mile area of Jack site of the roundhouse, depot, and office building for the Gulf, Texas & Western Railroad.  It was named for J. J. Jermyn (1852-1928), line's president. (Texas State Historical Survey Committee, 1972)
The sale of the railroad in 1930, and the onset of the Great Depression contributed to its decline.  The Public Works Administration project orders were received in January 1936 to construct a new school building.  Contract was awarded to Gurley Construction Company in the amount of $46,073 ("Dormitory work to start January 24: Other PWA project orders received," January 17, 1936, p. 14, San Antonio Express).
 Supervised by PWA engineer W. J. Walker,
Ground was broken Thursday of this week for a $50,000 building project in Jermyn. This amount of PWA money is being spent in that place for the erection of a complete new school building. ("Work on 50 thousand dollar school building," February 7, 1936, p. 1, The Olney Enterprise)
 The school, or at least part of it, was still standing in 1972 when the state historic marker was erected, and was utilized as a civic center for the community.
Based on the freshness of the rubble and the ground around the school foundation, it seems possible that it has only recently been demolished.  Leaving the entrance arch seems to reflect some degree of sentimentality on the part of the community for the building and the role it served in the community.
Perhaps the larger slab on the corner was the base for the auditorium, whose seats lie in a pile at the back of the lot.


The Jermyn school eventually consolidated with nearby Bryson, which still operates a K-12 school.

Friday, November 28, 2014

"Quya: 'to celebrate Thanksgiving (of many people)'."

First, I acknowledge and give credit to Snow & Mist for the title and the information.  I have been following her blog and adventures for a while now and her Thanksgiving post just resonated with me, because I am a dog lover, and former owner of two Siberian Huskies--one of whom looked a lot like Quya--and I love words and language and the ways we make meaning of and from those words and languages.
 Mom has been on a roll lately of doing things for herself and we love that.  Because holidays remind her of family--her mother and daddy--she likes to immerse herself in ways she does not do at other times.  That's good with us--we take what we get.  Mother was always a wonderful cook, and her chocolate pie and coconut pie were amazing.  They still are.  Even though she cannot see well, and needed help to hear the recipe and measure, she made one of each, and made the dressing.  I pronounced her dressing the best ever in all the years she has been making it and I have been eating it.
 I am so thankful that Mom and Dad are still a part of my earthly life, and for my beautiful sister who gives so much to keep them in their own home even when it means she is often not in hers.
 I am so thankful for our steadfast sisters by another mother, Bert and Diane, who help out so Sis can do things with her children and grandchildren sometimes, and still know Mom and Dad have good care.  It is amazing the bond we feel with them, and how much a part of the family they have become.
 I am so thankful that my adorable niece (one of 4 adorable nieces on this side of my family) came down with her husband to stay over a few days.  I am so thankful for my steadfast husband, Rand, who juggles our Texas responsibilities with our parents as I do--as best we can, and who would help take care of Jennybelle without a smidgen of complaint.

I have been blessed beyond measure all of my life, in all things, even those that seem hard and relentlessly difficult.  My difficulties pale in comparison with most of the rest of the people of the world.  I am so thankful for all those people who have gone before me, with me, and will after me, who desire the world to be a better place, a safer place, a fairer place, and even whilst knowing that will not happen, continue to act as if it is possible.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Rio and I are cleaning out his barn

 I was too busy to get to Rio's barn yesterday, so this morning, it was on my priority "to do" list.  Last night I mentioned I had to get up early today and Dad wanted to know why.  I said I was going to muck out Rio's hay barn.  Dad responded, "You don't have to do that.  He will just fill it up again."  I said I knew, but I liked doing it--"it makes me happy."  He smiled and said, "Then it doesn't take very much to make you happy if shoveling horse s*** will do it."  I had to smile then.

It's true most of the time: it doesn't take much to make me happy.  Oh, don't misunderstand--I can get my unders in a wad with the best of them, but generally, it is for a good reason.  It's one thing to complain about things that don't matter, but quite another to be angry over injustice--at least in my book.
After I fed Rio this morning, and heard his welcoming nicker and his eyes were not looking so sad, I put on my working pants and headed out to the barn with my shovel and rake and a bucket.  Rio looked up from his spot under the trees and walked back toward the barn to check out what I was doing.
I walked out to meet him, having earlier placed treats in my pocket, and he nuzzled a carrot cube from my hand.  He stood beside me, looking at the spot where Jenny had laid down and died.  Yesterday, it was the perfect little imprint of her body, the outline of head, ears, tail, all clearly impressed in the soft ground and grass.  I had thought I wanted to make a picture of it--I'm not sure why.
Today, it does not resemble little Jenny at all, just looks like any other spot in the pasture.  I thought how that is so much like life in many ways.  We try to cling to things that connect us to important people, events, things...and then sometimes, they disappear anyway.  I have been experiencing that a lot lately it seems, and it is a reminder of the importance of not getting attached to things that are fleeting.  I don't think that means not being attached in the sense of caring, but that we should not be so dependent upon maintaining the connection that we lose sight of connection in the grander scheme of things.

I was right about one thing, though, and that is Rio was less sad and bereft while I was out working in the corral and pasture today.  I ended up spending the entire day out there, and indeed, I was happy all day long.  Rand said, "Turns out horse poop is an antidepressant."  Rio stood behind me watching, and when I refilled his hay manger after finishing cleaning, he stood with his head in the hay storage barn, munching on a little bit that dropped off the pitchfork.  I asked him to move over and let me get back in with the pitchfork to put it away.  He looked at me for a minute, chewing thoughtfully...and then stepped aside.  I love that horse.
 After I had done all that work on the barn, and clearing the trails I walk down to get to the hay barn, I figured I might as well clean out the water trough.  Turns out that little spigot on the bottom that was supposed to make it easy to empty...won't open.  I think there must be a little tool needed, something similar to an Allen wrench, and I will see if I can locate one.  I flipped it closed with a screwdriver when we filled it, but it would not open that way today, and Sis said she had not been able to get it open either, so she had done the same thing I was doing--using a plastic jug to empty it one gallon at a time.  Once it is down to a couple of inches, you can tip the trough and rinse it and drain the rest of the water before re-filling.

As always, Rio said thank you for the fresh water.  He came up just after I finished and when I was putting out a little of the hay I had cleaned up from the barn floor to help soak up the water and mud just in front of the trough.  He said he didn't care about no stinkin' mud hole, he just wanted a drink.

Another great lesson in the important priorities in life: clean drinking water, regular feeding, and stand next to me while I walk my path.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Saying goodbye to Jennybelle

 Rio's crying.  When my sister texted this morning to see what time we would arrive this afternoon, she said she needed help...little Jenny died.  She had gone to get the trailer when we got here.  I walked out to the pasture and saw Rio standing out under a tree, so I knew that was where Jenny was.  They think she was hit by lightening during the storm yesterday, but no one knows for sure.  When she did not come up to eat breakfast this morning, Sis went to look for her.
Rio stood silent guard while we loaded her to take her to my sister's land and her final resting place under a stand of trees.  I swear, he was crying.  He seems lost, bereft.  I understand.  I was attached to Jenny, and it was not expected at all--I thought I would feed her supper tonight and she would bray softly while Rio nickered, and that by the end of the week, she would be eating out of my hand again.

Rio stands under the tree where Jenny lay down for the last time here, sniffs the ground, and then walks back up to the barn.  I petted him, his winter coat silky and soft, stroked his face and neck.  In the morning, I'll go work a while in the pasture, cleaning out his hay barn and the water trough, just to be near him and hope he does not feel as alone as he might otherwise.  Perhaps, I won't feel as alone either.
Rest, sweet Jennybelle.  Thank you for the company you gave Rio and for being his faithful companion.  One more path on the uncharted terrain, but thank you for walking it with us.