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Turning Commonplace into Silver and Gold
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Music:  Ashokan Farewell

Whispers - Home
Friday's Journal
Old New Orleans
The photos on this page are from the beautiful country of Wales, however, the poetry
pays homage to my English ancestors, the Matthews and the Jacksons, and to the place
they once called home, the Ozark Mountains of Taney County, Missouri.  My paternal
grandfather was born in the Ozarks and, though his family moved away when he was
just a child, he always remembered the area and carried a love of the mountains in his
heart.  He once told me that, after all the years he'd been away, often, in his dreams at
night, he would still follow the mountain trails of his childhood.
I usually find myself doing pages devoted to my Scottish and Irish roots - I've always had
a pull in that direction - but, this page is in honor of my Mom's Welsh ancestors and as a
remembrance of my Grandpa Jackson's dreams of his childhood home.  -- Nancy
The poetry on this page was written by Mary Elizabeth Mahnkey.
Excerpted from a bio of Mrs. Mahnkey in
A History of Taney County, Missouri:
"The isolation and difficult demands of life in the hills have shaped Ozark culture, but, from
the perspective of the outsider, hill people are almost always depicted as uncultured and
unsophisticated.  It is for this reason that the people of the area treasured the writings of
Mary Elizabeth Mahnkey.  First in local papers and later for regional and national publications,
she wrote about Ozark life in a simple, honest voice, helping both the local people and the
nation appreciate the beauty of Ozark values and traditions.  Hers was the voice of a sensitive
and cultured woman.  Proud of her heritage, understanding of her neighbors, she presented a
picture of the Ozarks that showed the pride, the beauty, the caring and the work ethic of the
people.  Her mission seemed to be to 'transform commonplace things into silver and gold,' so
that her readers might see the beauty all around them."
I stick smart weed and beggar lice in with my bouquet
And then I just smile when friends begin to say,
"How beautiful, how delicate, what can these blossoms be?"
"Oh, yes," I say, "they are, but it takes one just like me
To show that even common things have beauty, charm and grace.
But...sometimes not until you see them in a crystal vase."
In winter, each stone, each stick,
Each flower, each leaf
Speaks to me of the old time grief.
But when I walk this way in spring,
They laugh, and I laugh,
They sing, and I sing.
A cabin in the Ozarks is the happiest place I know,
When the frogs begin to sing and the winds begin to blow...
When the dogwood trees are shining on the hils in robes of white,
Then my old reel gets to whining, for it's now the bluegill bite.
A cabin in the Ozarks in the summer's misty haze,
Is where I love to linger, dreaming through the quiet days.
This cabin in the Ozarks has a fireplace deep and wide,
A stewpot on the hearth, and my old dog by my side.
I can see a big wild turkey in a white oak on the hill,
Where the frosty ridge is sparkling in the moonlight, cold and still;
And I think I'll stop my wanderings, for this spot that I have found
In the blue-hazed Ozark mountains, is just right the whole year round.
Strangers have bought the VanZandt place, and I wonder if they know
Of a little plot upon the hill where sad white roses grow?
Will they see that way, that solemn way, that leads up to the hill,
Where the gate is closed in sorrow and everything is still?
The old Captain lies here sleeping in the fields he loved so well,
Where melodious tones still echo from his old farm dinner bell.
We have two darlings lying within this sacred sod...
Oh, remember, please, dear strangers, this acre belongs to God.
The visitor was a high-hat, pompous and stately.
In anguish, I twisted my apron strings,
(Wealth and dignity are fearsome things.)
Wondering what I should try to say
To this potentate who had come my way,
While twisting and folding my apron strings.
(Wealth and dignity are fearsome things.)
Then he stooped to caress my flowering moss,
He smiled at my rose on its cedar cross,
And I dropped my twisted apron strings...
For roses and gardens are kindred things.
One of the sounds we hear no more and never shall hear again,
Is the rhythmic ring and rattle of a swinging bridle chain,
A screaking saddle leather and a gruff old scolding voice,
As Doc Storms rode down the mountain - sounds that made our hearts rejoice.
For we knew that help was coming, in our hour of desperate fear -
How we strained our ears to listen, as those hoofbeats sounded near.
Entering in, so bluff and cheery, scolding Coalie to stay at the door -
But we were glad to see his old dog, lying by our hearth once more.
Leather saddle bags he cast down, warmed his hands before the fire,
Asked that someone take old Slocum, as the wind was getting higher,
And tie him somewhere in the stable, maybe near a little hay.
Then he donned his steel-rimmed glasses, and his eyes would never stray
From the white face on the pillow, gently touching wrist and brow,
And we felt our fears all vanish, Doc Storms was with us now.
(You have to look closely to see the thing I like most about the above picture.  Look
at the church's entranceway, there are 3 sheep paying a call, one has already
started to step inside the building...probably some of the vicar's most faithful visitors!)
Mary Elizabeth Mahnkey
The photos on this page are courtesy of  ChrisP;  PeteReed;  
DenniSchnapp;  lhourahane;  futureshape;  Nefyn;  
jamesmorton;  Squirmelia;  Clicks2006;  TheChauffeur;  
KTeam;  ollybenson;  heatheronhertravels;  Dom;