A Tribute to Mr. Ira Lee Taylor

When I started writing a local history column for Harrisburg Horizons newspaper in 2006, I visited 88-year-old Mr. Ira Lee Taylor. Mr. Taylor lived in Harrisburg his entire life and had an incredible memory. He had been my mail carrier all my growing-up years and I was in school with his daughter. Aside from that, I never really knew him. I expected to visit him once and get the answers to my questions about Harrisburg in the early 20th century. I found Mr. Taylor to be so knowledgeable and eager to talk that I went back to see him numerous times over the next eight years. His memory and eagerness to share stories enabled me to write more newspaper articles — and write with more detail — than I would have otherwise been able to write.

I not only learned a lot about the Harrisburg of Mr. Taylor’s youth, but I heard his personal recollections of the D-Day invasion of Normandy and subsequent battles in the European Theatre of World War II. He recalled the sights, sounds, and smells of war. As a former North Carolina State University student of forestry, he remembered how heartbreaking it had been to see the Hurtgen Forest ravaged by artillery. When he delivered mail to our house all those years, I had no idea about his war experience. Hearing this elderly veteran talk about the war gave me a whole new appreciation for the sacrifices “the greatest generation” made.

The last times I visited Mr. Taylor were at a nursing home. It was sad to see him in a wheelchair in his room instead of in his comfortable living room in his home on Stallings Road. The lives of the residents of several blocks of Stallings Road have been disrupted by construction associated with the high-speed rail. I am glad Mr. Taylor did not have to witness what the government is doing to the neighborhood in which he lived his entire life.

Mr. Taylor died last Wednesday, just 13 days shy of his 96th birthday. Sadly for me, I did not hear about his death until this evening after his funeral had been held. I regret that I did not get to pay my last respects to this gentleman who helped me in my writing and added so much local interest to the last eight years.

Ending a chapter

I’m ending a chapter in my writing life this week. On Christmas Eve, I received an e-mail informing me that as of December 30, 2012, Harrisburg Horizons weekly newspaper will cease publication. I have written a local history column for the paper every other week since its second issue in May of 2006. I have learned far more about the history of Cabarrus County’s Township #1 than I could have anticipated when I set out on this journey. I enjoyed doing most of the research and loved doing the writing. The little bit of income this freelancing job gave me was icing on the cake.

It is time to start a new chapter, or perhaps return to an unfinished chapter as a writer. The manuscript for The Spanish Coin, my first attempt at writing an historical novel, has been on the back burner far too long. It is time to look at it with fresh eyes and get it published. It is time to look at other avenues of writing and see where that road takes me.

As I count down to my birthday in January… one of those dreaded birthdays that ends in a “0,” it seems fitting to take stock of what I have and have not accomplished and step into the next chapter of my life with boldness and enthusiasm!

Getting back to research

For those of you who follow my local history column in Harrisburg Horizons newspaper every other week, my article was omitted last Sunday. It should be in the paper on October 7.

I neglected research for my local history column for a few weeks while I spent time making items to sell on Saturday, October 6 at the Harvest Fest at Harrisburg United Methodist Church. This is my first craft fair, so I’m eager to see how it goes. Variety is the spice of life, so I have enjoyed this recent diversion.

Monday will find me concentrating on my local history research and putting my fingers to the keyboard. Reading microfilmed records is tedious but full of surprises. I must psyche myself up to do more of that this winter.

Writing the newspaper column since May of 2006 has been a blessing to me, and I’m thrilled when people tell me how much they enjoy and look forward to my articles. I have enjoyed writing my “Did You Know?” column more than any other job I’ve ever had.

I plan to start blogging a couple of times a week to let you know what I’m working on and what I’m reading. Stay tuned.

Learning to Quilt, too?

Learning to play the mountain dulcimer at the age 57 apparently wasn’t enough of a challenge for me. Or perhaps I’m having a midlife crisis. For whatever reason, this seemed like the right time in my life to do some of the things I’ve always wanted to do.

My new endeavor is quilting. I’ve joined a small quilters group in my community.  We meet monthly. Individually and collectively they have welcomed me with open arms and much encouragement.

I literally had to blow the dust off the old Singer sewing machine. It’s one of those old “thread-it-yourself” models from the 1960s. It took a while for the machine and me to get reacquainted. Thread tension is still a bit of an issue, but I’m confident that the end result will be something of which I can be proud.  Project #1:  a sample quilt made up of a dozen 12-inch square blocks, each block a different quilt pattern.

With Block #1: Roman Square successfully completed, this week I will tackle Block #2: Log Cabin. It is fun to see the various fabrics I purchased for my quilt coming together in blocks. I had not sewn since the early 1980s and had forgotten how exciting it can be to shop for fabrics.

My assignment before the February quilting group’s (Friendship Quilters) meeting is to sew sash pieces of fabric between quilt blocks sewn earlier by other members of the group. With some luck, this piece will turn out to be a table runner to be sold at our sponsoring church’s fall bazaar. Imagine something I helped sew being sold at a bazaar!

My blog continues to be all over the map when it comes to topics. It started out to be a way for me to put out the word about my writing. Life is too short and precious to be lived enjoying only one thing, though. I continue to write a local history column for Harrisburg (NC) Horizons newspaper every other week, but playing the mountain dulcimer and sewing also beg for my time and attention. It is said that a writer writes because he or she has to. I feel the same way about playing the dulcimer. If a day passes and I don’t play this beautiful Appalachian mountain instrument, I feel cheated and my day is incomplete. I play for my own enjoyment. It is one of the most relaxing hobbies I’ve ever had.

I wish for you the same desire to learn new things. Writing, music, and sewing continue to bring new friends and pleasures into my life.

What have you always wanted to do that you have never pursued?

Too much of a good thing

Our drought and heatwave broke around midnight last night.  After 18 consecutive days of 90 degrees or higher, it was in the pleasant 80s today.

With no rain in weeks, everything in the garden that the deer hadn’t eaten was burned up.  This is the first total garden failure I’ve had.  We caught up on rain today, though.  We had 2.25 inches between 12:15 and 3:00 a.m. and another 2.5 inches between 2:00 and 2:45 p.m. this afternoon.

I got the 2,500-word 1849 meteorite article drafted for The Old Farmer’s Almanac, but I need to do some editing before I pitch the idea to the almanac.

Tonight I proofread and submitted my seven-part “Did You Know?” newspaper series to the editor of Harrisburg Horizons weekly newspaper. 

I didn’t finish reading The Testament, by John Grisham for the Rocky River Readers Book Club, but I went to the discussion on Monday night. I want to finish it, even though I know the ending. I hate to leave a book unfinished.

I’m reading Life of Pi by Yann Martel for the Bookends Book Club.  I’m also reading Words That Hurt, Words That Heal:  How to Choose Words Wisely and Well, by Rabbi Joseph Telushkin.