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On the last Friday in September, my cousin, Johnnie came up on the train and I met him so we could go to Lenoir, NC for the Fall Council Meeting for our Shawnee Nation.

I was actually a little nervous about finding things to talk about. There’s an age difference of about 25 years, he’s older. It’s funny that he’s my cousin. But his grandfather, Johnnie Franklin Kinsey and my grandmother, Elizabeth Francis Kinsey were siblings. He was born in 1892 and she was born in 1906 so he was having children while she was still in grade school. As a consequence, I have a bunch of cousins who are old enough to be my parents or even older.

I shouldn’t have worried about having things to talk about. We never stopped talking for 13 hours down to NC and 13 hours back on Saturday/Sunday. That’s a man to ride the river with! I thought I was well traveled. He was a bush pilot in Alaska, flying to islands most of us have never even heard of. He was a barnstormer and sky writer for Rosy O’Grady’s Flying Circus. He worked as a crop duster in every state in the lower 48. He still owns a small plane and still flies. Though now he’s retired and has become a farmer.

Johnnie was admitted into the Nation in the Spring. I took his application and spoke for him. This was to be his first Council meeting and we were taking along an application for his son Paul who is my age and a prison counselor. Stand’s Tall, the Nation’s Mother had been working on all the membership cards and came upon his name and thought it sounded like a Vegas Lounge act so the whole time we were there, she kept singing his name rather than saying it. "Johnnie Vin-cent". He took it in stride.

She’d also shown his photo around to the various older single women in the Nation. They all came up to me in a group and asked if he was single. I told them he was…sorta. His ex-wife lives with him for part of the year and she goes to Florida for the Winter. They all thought they could get rid of her if they needed to. It was hilarious how they were all fighting to sit next to him. I think he liked the attention. He said later he might write to one of them.

Council went well. It had been raining but we got a couple lodges up and the sun came out long enough for us to have a fire and hold our meeting outside.

The Council office is cozy but a little small for the group we had. We talked about fund raising and new land purchases to expand our own, what we were going to do to utilize what we already had. When we would hold the Moon feast and things like that. A simple pot luck feast came at the end. And then we took a group photo.

We had to drive all over hell and gone later to find gas since most of the towns around Lenoir were out of gas. We finally found one where we could get 10 gallons at $4 a gallon and that was it. It had long lines and when they were out, they said, that was it for them.

After Council, we went over to Okema and Buffalo Man’s house where I gifted Okema with a beaded rosette hung with a fossilized cave bear tooth and also the badger hide I’d traded sueg for. She was speechless. Johnnie had carved some howling wolf bookends for them as well and for that he got a big hug and a kiss. They gifted us with coffee mugs with Native quotes on them.

Then we spent some time at Stands Tall and Walks by Night’s home talking politics for the Nation and generally shooting the breeze. We left for home around 6 pm with the goal of at least getting to Knoxville, TN. As it turned out we lighted in Gatlinburg because we ran into a big storm in the mountains and I was getting blinded from the glare of blinking construction lights and headlights reflected off the water on the road.

We ate at Crackebarrel the next morning. Truth be told we ate at Carackerbarrel 4 times on the trip and Waffle House once. Hey, gotta have comfort food on the road! In Lake City, TN I saw a sign for Shady Grove Meadery and knew we had to stop. One of the owners was kind enough to open up an hour early for us. That’s some excellent mead there. We tried about 6 varieties and bought 4 bottles. We hung out for a bit just enjoying the mountain air out on their deck and looking at the gorgeous mountain views.

A few hours later we were in Louisville and decided to just go on across Indiana and back to Central, Illinois rather than heading back to Chicagoland and putting him on the train. We got home after dark and said our farewells. I took Monday off and helped my Dad around the farm. He and Mom were there visiting. We had to meet other cousins for lunch in Macomb and Johnnie rode along to retrieve his truck from the train station. Dad wanted to visit an old hardware store in the nearby village of Vermont, IL. Dad and I have a new project now. Refurbishing old coal oil stoves. My grandmother cooked on one of these until the day she died in 1993. We had bought her a new electric stove in 1979. She never turned it on. She put a table cloth over the top and used it as extra counter space for holding countless loaves of bread she made using a warming oven on her coal oil stove. Anyway, we found 6 of these in varying conditions on the back porch, basement and barn and have been storing them for years in a granary of the barn. We took the two best ones over to our recently restored English barn at my Aunt’s farm near Bowen, basically for show. Dad took these two home with him to use for demos on Boy Scout outings and I’ve got a 2 burner and a 3 burner to fix up over the winter. I plan to have mine ready to cook on by February. Good to have things to work on over the Winter.


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 23rd, 2008 10:45 pm (UTC)
Question: is coal oil an oil made from coal or is it a stove that can use both coal and oil?

Your gorgeous mountain views are making me antsy. I need hills again!
Oct. 24th, 2008 04:49 am (UTC)
Coal oil was a clear oil made from a specific type of coal called cannel coal, mineral oil and bituminous shale. It was heavier than kerosene and used from the 1850's to the mid 1900's for lamp oil and in these type of stoves. Then it became unavailable and people started using kerosene which is the the further refined form of coal oil.

Unfortunately, next time I see the hills all the really glorious color will be gone.

Oct. 24th, 2008 09:10 pm (UTC)
Was it cheaper than kerosene? I remember in the little house books they all had kerosene lamps that had salt in the bottom to keep it from exploding and little bits of red cloth to make it pretty.
Oct. 27th, 2008 12:32 pm (UTC)
I think it must have been cheaper. After awhile it became unavailable. I remember her oil delivery guy telling her she would have to switch over at some point.

Oct. 24th, 2008 02:12 am (UTC)
Amazing trip!
Oct. 24th, 2008 04:50 am (UTC)
With two more to follow soon I think.

( 6 comments — Leave a comment )


Wander aka StoneBear
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