Sunday, 28 February 2010

Saturday 27th February 2010 - A Chink in America's Armour

          I was talking to someone the other night about rugby.  I can't remember why, but he said he'd just seen "Invictus", at the local cinema.  So I decided I would go.  I think it's another one where there might be an Oscar at stake.  The local cinema has found a way of packing the customers in: it charges $3 to see slightly older films.
          The I had a strange experience on the way back.  The radio was playing a tune, I think it must be called "Big Locomotive Number 99", and it whisked me straight back to a night at the Rockbridge Mountain Music Festival, near Glasgow VA.  I think I last heard it in a jam session on the camp site in the dead of night, and I thought it might be the same group.  But it wasn't.  It was a really pleasant memory to recall.
          Later that night, I did a pub crawl, just to look longingly at the beer pumps.  A young lady came in, dressed in the uniform of the Chinese Army (sort-of, all khaki with red bits, and that funny hat).  She was looking for a party, and was directed downstairs.  We assumed it was a fancy-dress party, but then several other people turned up looking for the same party, and they were all dressed normally.  There was much hilarity at the bar wondering if maybe she dressed like that all the time.
          Some people were a bit disparaging about China.  Despite having only had soda water, I had some fun pointing out that not only does China make everything they buy here, it lends them most of the money to buy it.

Saturday, 27 February 2010

Friday 26th February 2010 - The Last Glasgow

          After a long and leisurely breakfast, it's off to the Thomasville Genealogical, History, and Fine Arts Library.  The very name is teeming with grown-up ladies, and I check one out as I come through the door.  Before I know where I am, there are so many old maps and books around me that I'm sneezing uncontrollably.
          The maps, from 1908 to 1995, all show Glasgow. 
          Where the western states were divided up by townships and ranges, Georgia, one of the original 13 colonies, appears to have been divided into Land (and Military) Districts, which, in turn, were divided into lots.  A settlement of Scots, Mc Millans, McIntoshes, McLeods and McKinnons, appear to have named this district Glasgow about 1826.  And created a village in it also called Glasgow.  That would put it pretty-well beyond doubt that it was named for Glasgow, Scotland.  It was a significant village for quite a long time, and even had a Post Office, but it now exists only as a church and cemetery.
          By the time of the, em, War between the States, Georgia, with a population of about one million, was 50% white, 50% slave.  Presumably because here in South-West Georgia they were so near the Gulf, they feared invasion, so there was a "Glasgow Independent Home Guard" for (to quote the Thomasville Southern Enterprise of July 1861) "Home protection, to quell any servile insurrection (nudge, nudge), or to subdue any invading foe": so not quite the Home Guard that Captain Mainwaring would have recognised, then.
          Later that night, daunted by the wonderful beer provision in the Texas Steakhouse, I opted for the the other salon on the corner.  This is called "Steel City", and is themed as a Pittsburgh bar ( that's a bit like having a Wolverhampton-themed pub in Britain).  It turns out to be an even greater Lenten test, since, among the thirteen draft beers they sell is, would you believe, London Pride.  They also sell a long list of bottled beers, which is really the only way to get 'real' beer in the US.  I get into a conversation with a man at the bar, and he insists on buying me my cola.  With things like cola, you only get to buy one, and they keep topping it up.
          The restrooms say "Yinz Galz" and Yinz Guyz" on the door.  Apparently there is a Pittsburgh dialect, which is epitomised by this "yinz" (or"yunz").  Like the Glaswegian "youse", it is the plural of "you".  The web sites which discuss Pittsburghese claim this is just like "y'all", which is used all across the south.  If that's true, then there seems to have been a remarkable development, since people say "y'all come back now" to me, making it singular, and thus reintroducing the confusion it was designed to remove.

Friday, 26 February 2010

Thursday 25th February 2010 - Glasgow-by-the-Sea

          After making myself a good breakfast, I instruct Dulcie to take me to Glasgow.  She only knows it by the GPS co-ordinates, so she drags me though a farmyard and up a dirt track.  When I get to the designated spot, there is a fine new summer house/hunting lodge by a lake, but nothing else.  And the road onwards looks like grass.  Since I don't have four-wheel drive, and no cellphone signal, I drag Dulcie back to the main road, ignoring her 'recalculating', and at the very next junction
(I know what you're thinking, I thought it myself: "No, don't go in there, that sign's a fake.  It's some deformed banjo player who wants to show you his organ.")  In I went.  It's another dirt road, with what can only be described as 'swamp' on either side.  The water seems to be at the same level as the road.  One more bucket of water and the road would be flooded.
          There is a church, and a cemetery.  But all the graves are less than 30 years old.  (There is one for a McMillan, born 1936, and given the first name "German".  Now what would be the purpose of that, do you suppose?)  I drive on gingerly and find one rather fine house.  The couple here belong to the family whose name appears on the next road, the one that led to the farmyard.  They're very welcoming, and about my age.  He tells me that it's a black church  He thinks there used to be a white church there as well, and a store, but he's remembering from 50 or 60 years ago.  There were lots of small farms, the sort "one man and a mule could manage, about 10 to 15 acres".  The hunting lodge and the farm I passed through are now a large plantation, the "Mayhaw Plantation", which bought up all the small farms and turned them into quail habitat, for hunting.  They have horses and don't want the road paved.  He thinks he might be the last man in Georgia to live on a dirt road.
          I go back round to the farmyard, which is the centre of the plantation, and find another local of my age, and he remembers much the same things.  He adds that there was a McMillan family, which sounds promising, but he says they were black.
           There is, apparently, a fine genealogical library at the county seat, Thomasville, which is only about 8 miles away.  But it's a lovely sunny day, and I'm only an hour from the coast.  Just in case the weather changes, I thought I'd take the rest of the day off and go to the seaside.  I look at the map, and find a place called Panacea.  Now who could resist that?  Perhaps, more appropriately, there is a place called Lanark beside it.
          And this is what it looked like
Eat your hearts out!

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Wednesday 24th February 2010 - South of the Deep South

          So it's off again; in rather wet weather.  Dulcie, to my surprise, takes me off the interstate at the first opportunity.  In fact, she dragged me past the place where the aged rockers were playing the other night: perhaps they caught her eye.
          Again, the 'emptiness' of the place catches my attention.  But, as usual, the scenery can't hold my attention: I've discovered that the engine management computer will display what it considers to be the instantaneous MPG, and, since I get to use the cruise control quite a bit, I'm happily distracted by its confessions of inadequacy.
          There is also the usual variety of place names: "Andalusia" and "McKenzie" on the same sign; Geneva and Elba; and the surprising "Ponce de Leon" (I just had to find out where this last one came from.  The, eh , 'Ponce', was a Spanish Explorer, first Governor of Puerta Rico, who, it is said, came to Florida to look for the fountain of youth.).  Just before PdeL, south of Samson, just before we left Alabama, I saw a small cotton field
          Then Dulcie drags me back onto I-10, where a big Mack (that's a truck) tries to run me off it.  With a bit better planning, I could have used US-90.  As we cross the Appalachicola River, it's now Georgia to the north, and a sign reminds me we're back in eastern Time.
          Then it's into Tallahassee, and Dulcie finds my hotel.  I chose it because it was cheap, but is has studio flats with whirlpool baths.
          Later that night, I find a drawback with the hotel: it's right across he road from a Texas steakhouse which not only has Sam Adams on draft, it also has the wonderful Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, and it serves them in Imperial pints: a Lenten test for me to pass.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Tuesday 23rd February 2010 - A Fond Farewell

          Today is Historical Society day at the Library.  There are grown-up ladies as far as the eye can see.  I had promised their leader I would attend and lay hands upon them, let them touch my garments, that sort of thing.
          When the pleasantries are over, I let them run about for me, finding microfilm, setting up machines, leaning over me to point things out.  It all seems to be grown-up lady heaven.  It's nice to be useful.
          The rest of the day is rather serious and boring.  I'm moving on tomorrow, to, as it happens, the very last Glasgow, the one in Georgia near the Florida state line.  So there is all the packing up, route checking, locating the motel nests.
          Later that night, I find myself watching the local news.  The bingo issue has caught fire again.  I just knew, when I first saw it, that this story would run.  The Governor is up to something, and has bussed in hundreds of supporters for a rally at the Capital.  But the meeting is set-upon by mobs of enraged bingo players, mercilessly wielding their zimmer frames: it is clear that a lot of Bailey's has flowed down a lot of throats.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Monday 22nd February 2010 - Digging up Glasgows

          It's a lovely morning.  It must be well into the 60s. Coat off and airconditioning on,I decide that, even if the directions are 50 years old, it's worth a try to find the Glasgow graveyard.  I start by going much to far down the Mobile road.  I expect I would find lots of cemeteries in Mobile.  I remember from my student days that there was an awful lot of everything in Mobile.
          I stop and consult the cemetery directions and a road map, and make some guesses at what might be called what now.  And it kind-of works out.  I figure out where the instructions must be starting, and count the distances.  But it's clear the roads are not in the same place.  They may not even be the same roads.
          From where I end up, it's just possible that the place I'm being directed to, described as being "behind a house" is in fact behind the house of the Glasgow I met on the first day.  But, since it's pretty doubtful it's the right place, and since hardly anything was visible 50 years ago, I don't feel I can knock on the door and ask if they've got anybody buried in the back garden.
         But it's a lovely day, and I enjoyed a nice drive in the country.  There seems to be quite a lot of forestry just south of Greenville.  And, even on US 31, not much traffic at all.
          Then I succumb to the lure of the library, and wander back there for a rest.  I read a bit about the Civil War.  Did you know that of all the American soldiers killed in battle, from, and including, the War of Independence till now, more than half died in the Civil War.  On the Southern side, a quarter of all males between 20 and 40 died.  It must have been the first industrial-scale war.  It must mean to them what the First World War means to us.
          Later that night I decide I want to see "Avatar" before the Oscars are announced.  The cinema is just beyond the edge of town.  There is a large development block, with the motels, including mine, on the town side, and Walmart on another side, with a huge empty space in the middle.  The cinema, which, rather courageously, has called itself "The Edge", is on the far side.
          I drove into an empty parking lot.  I think I was the only customer (it is offering ten movies).  The two members of staff were most attentive.
          "Avatar" is very good.  Sort-of "Star Wars" meets "Lord of the Rings".  The story is the conquest of the American West.  The good guys are really, really good, and the bad guys are really, really bad.  I can't wait to see the 3-D IMAX version, which I should be able to do in two months.
          As I left, I was still the only car in the parking lot.  I thanked the staff and told them I wouldn't be needing them again tonight.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Sunday 21st February 2010 - Abstinence for Everybody

          It's difficult to be a full-scale roman emperor during lent, but I did manage the reading of several famous short stories in the bath.  The most entertaining was "Thrawn Janet" by Robert Louis Stevenson, because he's written it in dialect (Doric, I think), and it only makes sense if you read it out loud.  There is something very decadent about using endless supplies of someone else's hot water.
          I decided that, it being Sunday, when Butler county forbids the sale of alcohol, that if I didn't go out for lunch, I wouldn't get to speak to anyone at all for the whole day.  Eating out in America is fraught with risk for the dieter.  Just reading a menu here can make you fat.  Actually eating can make you, well, American.  I find a salad item which can be modified.  I issue complicated instructions about what must be left out altogether, and what can be delivered "on the side" for final checking, and manage to get a reasonable meal.
          Then a woman rushes in and gets them to change the TV Channel urgently.  Even although I was actually reading, my first instinct is to bristle at not being asked, but it turns out she wants to watch NASCAR, which I had forgotten was on, so that accounted for the rest of the afternoon.  She is rather surprised at their quaint licensing laws, but contents herself with lemonade.  I tell her that's got just as many calories as the booze, and she should try the local water (which, by the way, is so soft it's hard to get the soap off your hands).  But she is American, and can't imagine having something plain (here they make the lemonade for you, right in front of your eyes).

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Saturday 20th February 2010 - That's a Very Interesting Question

          It has been noted that all the land round this Glasgow appears to have changed hands between 1935 and 1997.  But if you think about it, it's not really surprising.  The first is at the end of the Great Depression, and the other is at the start of the madness which produced this latest recession.  And there was a lot of history in between, especially in this part of the world.
          I have never, during this trip, imagined myself as some academic historical researcher, not even at an amateur level.  This was, and is, a pleasure trip, the main pleasure being in discovery.  If I bring anything at all to the party, it's a modest gift for analysis.  There will be no careful uncovering of fact through painstaking research, more a jumping to conclusions.
          So, in that spirit, let's start by having a look at what most reasonably-educated people might know of both times.  In 1935, that great socialist creation, the Tennessee Valley Authority was two years old.  It had been brought into being to rescue Tennessee and Northern Alabama from a long period where the over-exploitation of the land was matched only by its under-husbandry.  It is easy to guess that things were even worse here in Lower Alabama.  It is easy to imagine that land-owners here had been waiting desparately for years, if not decades, to sell up and get out.  Inheriting land here must have been like acquiring the proverbial White Elephant, not to mention the poisoned history on its back
          Fast-forward to 1997, and we find ourselves in a world where, if the land itself was not valuable, betting on its value was valuable, and betting on the value of the betting slips was even more valuable.  Remember also the farmer I met in West Tennessee, outraged that one of his neighbours had bought the land because doing nothing with it earned him $50 an acre.
          Then there was the lady I met the other night whose husband was working nightshift in the Hyundai plant, who was proud to tell me that they had bought sixteen acres "and a pond".  So, in 2010, Alabamians work in car factories in order to buy land for recreational purposes.  That process must have been well under way fifteen years ago.
          You'll have gathered from all this that I didn't really do anything today.  I went down the library, and read a bit of history.  But I only got as far as the aftermath of the Civil War.  It was very depressing.
          But black and white seem to get on quite amicably now, although I'm sure it's not that simple.
          As a footnote,  the weather here is like a summer's day in Britain.  But it seems odd, because all the trees are bare.  Of course, I'm now much nearer the equator that I've ever been before.  In European terms, I'm now in Africa, if you see what I mean: somewhere about Marrakesh.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

February 19th 2010 - Never Take Advice from Children

          I wake up with a wonderful idea.  Since I'm interested in a store in 1866, and since they taxed and licenced just about everything, perhaps the old county tax records will show some payments.  So I dally with the Tax Assessor, who is beautifully grown-up, and she takes me downstairs.  Actually, she leaves me with a pile of ancient newspapers, while she goes off somewhere to look for the old records.
          The newspapers go back to at least the 1880s, but I can't bring myself to touch them.  Clearly they will crumble to bits.  The next person to look through them will be the last.  The Tax Assessor comes back and tells me there are too many things in front of the old records.  I offer to do some moving, but she says I can't go in there.  I wonder what was stacked in front of them: old Tax Assessors? old boyfriends?
          The doyen of the grown-up ladies calls me and we arrange to meet at the library.  This is a bit of a pity, because I had half-arranged to see the sheriff at the same time.   She produces some of the books they keep locked away (these genealogists seem to be real light-fingered).  They don't add very much, except to tell me where the Glasgows are buried.  It's not in a churchyard, it's behind someone's house.  The person who recorded it 50 years ago gives a laboured description of how to get there, and says that only two of the markers are still visible, so I reckon there's no point in trying to find it now.  Interestingly, one of the markers visible in 1960 was Sue Glasgow, the land-gathering widow.
          After which I rushed back to the courthouse, but the sheriff had gone.
          Later that night, I went to a bar recommended by some youngsters the previous night.  They had promised a good crowd, and country and western music.  When I got there, they wanted $3 at the door "for the band".  The bouncer couldn't give me change of ten, althought the bar was crowded, so I reckon it was a 'grown-up' tax.
          It turned out to be a DJ playing loud pop of that doggerel-poetry variety
You know
The kind
Where they talk too fast
And it's
Just as well
'Cos it all sounds daft.
(Yes, I know it doesn't rhyme or scan.  I was just trying to get into the spirit of it.)
          I escape as quickly as I can, without my $3.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Thursday 18th February 2010 - Another Town, Another Courthouse

          The morning newspaper startles me into wakefulness headlining an incredible statistic:"8 out of 10 Americans released from Haitian Jail".  Now I know the 8 out of 10 cat-owners prefer, what is it, kit-kat chocolate bars, but if the Haitians have been jailing hundreds of millions of Americans, no wonder there was an earthquake. 
          Today is courthouse day.  Dulcie, who seems to know a limitless number of things I'm not interested in, professes not to know where it is, but she can't look out for spires like I can.  It is a lovely sunny, springlike day.  I wonder if shirtsleeves will be OK.  A lady passes me in the parking lot:"bit nippy", she says by way of greeting.  I'm struck dumb (well, no, I'm making that up, but she obviously operates on a different scale to me).
          There is no plat map of Glasgow, which is no surprise, so after a bit of toing-and-froing between Tax and Probate, I have to settle down into trekking through deed books and all that terrible writing.
          Butler County had its courthouse fire in 1853, so that's when records start.  The place names book I found in the library tells me I want to start about 1866, so that's OK.  Roughly speaking, the story I pick up is that Captain John Glasgow, a planter in 1860, has married, had a son, and died by 1870.  His brother William has signed over all the property to him, and married.  John's widow then goes on a buying spree (that's a bit of an exaggeration), buying anything which joins with what she's got.  She gets mixed up with the Searcys, who are next door, sometimes buying jointly.  She is not listed (these indices are all transcriptions) as being in Butler County in 1870, but William and family is.  She dies in 1884, but John H Glasgow, who I presume is the son, is still dealing with the Searcys, and by 1890, in at least one deed, Searcy is described as being "of Glasgow, Butler County, Alabama".
         My new regime requires a break for fluid in the middle of the day.  I step across to the cafe.  I'm in a part of the world where if you look towards a crosswalk, every vehicle stops 10 yards short of it.  In the cafe I ask for tea and get a brown translucent plastic beaker full of iced liquid, which I assume is the mandatory water.  The shock of the first mouthful tells me it is sweet, mental analysis tells me it's cold tea.  So this is what people drink around here!  I point out, pathetically, that I'm a Brit, and expected it hot, without sugar.  They rummage about and find a teabag, and the coffee machine provides hot water.  It, kind-of, does.
         When I get back to the courthouse, a young man is talking to one of the clerks.  Every sentence, however short, ends with "Ma'am".  I've noticed when young people here talk to me, it's the same, with "Sir".  I guess they still do manners here.
          There is an interesting side issue here.  There are a number of black (the records all say "coloured") Glasgows around.  The only one I found still here is black.  He lives on what used to be the "Searcy" Road, and is now the Davenport Road.  He told me his daddy (or Grandaddy) was called Davenport.  One of the black Glasgows, Irvine, in 1888, married Leona Davenport.  I guess all that's connected.
          Later that night, no longer being reliant on Silver's discrete coughing, I drive downtown (a couple of miles) to visit the single bar in town.  It is almost empty, but the barmaid, probably because I asked for a soda, insists on 'carding' me.  I retaliate by showing her a European driver's licence.  My victory is short-lived: she can't find my date-of-birth, but neither can I.
          Back at my local, the joint was finally jumping, with a group of good ole boys getting seriously tanked-up, and a lady whose husband was on night shift.  She told me a lot about the Hyundai plant, where he works, and which employs about 3000 people directly, and Kia, just across the state line in Georgia, and Mercedes, up at Birmingham.  She was cooking nicely, but, unfortunately, when I carded her, she came up seriously short in the 'grown-up' department.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Wednesday 17th February 2010 - There Must be a Grown-up Somewhere

          The Library here seems to be totally devoid of grown-up ladies. In fact, when I find the "Genealogy room" it is devoid of anyone at all.  Apparently, they only work on Tuesday mornings, so I've just missed them.  I will just have to manage on my own.
          It doesn't look as though that's going to be too difficult.  There is a 1935 map of the county on the wall, with Glasgow prominently marked.  There is a 1997 Plat Directory (essentially a land ownership map) with Glasgow still prominently marked. 
          There's a newspaper cutting reporting a School picnic, datelined "Glasgow, August 31, 1897".  There is an obituary for a Captain John Glasgow, who was captain of the local company of the 13th Alabama Regiment.  He died at 39 after a "short illness" in 1867, not long after the war.  His "relict", as the paper puts it, died in 1884.
          There is a fascinating report in 1898 of a prisoner being escorted to Montgomery by Sheriff Shanks and Deputy John Glasgow for execution.  There was also going to be an appeal to the Supreme Court (presumably of Alabama) and the newspaper assured us that the execution wouldn't take place till afterwards.
          There is a 1905 advert for lumber and shingles, where customers are asked to phone George Searcy at Glasgow.  And there is a touching report in 1924 of the death of John Glasgow, having returned to his "ancestral home", now owned by George Searcy.
          The 1935 map has all the related land owned by the "Planters Mercantile Company".  This will, no doubt, be a 'sharecropping' company.  They fertilised and seeded the land, provisioned the farmer, and paid for the crop at the end of the season.  They were a kind-of bank.  If the crop went badly, the sharecropper would still be in debt.  In the end, the company would take the land.
          I can't find the most significant book on the county history, but, amazingly, an ole boy comes in and promptly trades me the phone number of the senior grown-up lady.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Tuesday 16th February 2010 - An Unexpected Sign

          I have to have a bit of a late start to catch up on things, but by the afternoon I'm ready to visit Glasgow and look for a few signs.  But I'm out of luck.  Not only are there no Glasgow signs, there aren't any signs for anywhere.  Altogether a bit like wartime.  If it wasn't for Dulcie, I'd be seriously worried.
          But it's a lovely warm day.  I even have the aircon on for the first time.  So I wander about taking a look at the place.  And suddenly I strike gold!
I just have to go in and ask.  Yes, he knows this place is called Glasgow, but he doesn't think it's anything to do with him.  Oh, come on, how can that be?  What about your ancestors?  (He's black, by the way, and this is southern Alabama, so the question is actually a bit implausible, unless ... )  No, he built this place about fifteen years ago.  But his daddy and grandaddy lived about a mile up the road.
          So it's not gold, after all.  I will still have to force myself into the company of grown-up ladies for a few days.
          Later that night, I skip out for a bit of Mardi Gras.  The bar is filled by a sales team.  Their leader is hitting on the manager.  Well, to be honest, he's trying to sell her something.  The youngest member of the team starts to make contact with the barmaid.  They have some music in common.  The barmaid turns out to be a student nurse, originally from Connecticut.  The leader seems to take exception to not being the centre of attention.  He decides it's time to go.  The middle team member says gee, you can turn on a dime.  But he insists.  We're on Atlanta time, I have to call the wife, have to check my emails.  I think he's just peeved, but maybe he thinks he's protecting his boys.
          And then there was just me and the student nurse.  And, it being Butler County, no draft beer.  So, despite her being, as Alexander McCall-Smith puts it, "traditionally built", the Mardi turns out to be quite Maigre.  Oh well, best not overdo it when there's no hair of the dog available till Easter.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Monday 15th February 2010 - Culture in the Deep South

          I got away to a quite early start.  It's a beautiful sunny day all the way down I-65.  When I remember to look around, the scenery really is quite distinctive, but somehow my mind always wanders off somewhere else: the linemen lopping trees, the truck numberplates, the price of gas at each junction.  I think I'm truly not interested in scenery.
          Anyway, Greenville, the seat of Butler County, where I'm headed now, is about 50 miles south of Montgomery.  It's, I suppose, a biggish small town, with about 7000 inhabitants.  When I get there, there are still a couple of surviving snowmen on front lawns.   But there are no cheap local motels, so I have to tout about and bargain with the chains.  I manage not too badly, mainly by persuading one that I'm working in the courthouse, which is kind-of true.
          When I get settled in and go for a look about, I find a renovated art-deco movie theatre from the thirties in the middle of town.  Tonight, for one night only, a touring theatre company is offering "Cabaret".  How could I resist that.  This is not the place for theatre criticism, but it was a talented production with a good small orchestra, in a fine theatre.  Not what one expects in rural southern Alabama.  When I said, later, where I'd been, they all said "Oh, you've been to the Broadway show".  There was a bus and a truck parked out the back of the theatre.  Apparently they've just done Birmingham and Montgomery, and after here, they're off to Mobile.  I wonder how much these touring players and musicians enjoy themselves.
          Later that night, I discovered a new beer, Leinenkugel, from Chippewa Falls in Wisconsin.  They claim to have been in business since 1867.  Wisconsin is a long way away, but they also have the splendid Shiner, from Texas.  Unfortunately, this is another county with funny laws: the sale of draft beer is prohibited.
          A young woman came in talking loudly on her cellphone.  The hairs on the back of my neck told me I wasn't going to like her.  She flopped down at the bar, and stretched her feet out on the bar stool next to me.  Fortunately, I hadn't had quite enough beer.  Then she spent the the next twenty minutes huffing and puffing at the phone, and complaining to any and all passing ears that her expletive-deleted husband had refused to come home for the weekend.  I'm afraid I was on his side.  I could tell I was not the only one.

Sunday 14th February 2010 - Marathons, Roman Emperors, and Texas

          This is President's Day Weekend.  It used to be Washington's Birthday, but now it includes them all.  I can't quite find out if Monday is a holiday.  It seems to be for some.  But some schools are cancelling it to catch up on the days missed because of snow.
          Birmingham has a marathon today.  Where I go for breakfast is one of the gathering points for spectators.  This, no doubt, explains the black-tight convention last week.  They do two laps, so it incorporates a half-marathon effortlessly.  I wonder how many participants have an agonising 13th mile, wondering which event they are going to turn out to be in.
          Having enjoyed the circus provided for my breakfast pleasure, I head back for serious roman emperor time.  I settle back in my hot tub with the paper.  This is a census year here.  No doubt I will be compelled to play the tiniest part in it.  I can't really complain.  The US census is responsible for my entire career: the machines invented by Herman Hollerith to count the 1890 census created a set of companies which, in 1924, merged into IBM, which, forty years later, provided me with my first training in programming.
          There are already projections about what the census will show.  The newspaper has a long piece on population movements between the states.  This affects the number of seats they have in congress.  Alabama is going to hold its own, but the losers are going to be the North-East and the industrial Mid-West.  The winners are the desert South-West and the sunshine South-East.  But it looks like the big winner is going to be Texas.
          One of my favourite Country and Western songs is "When I die I want to go to Texas" which I just love for its breathtaking arrogance.  And my favourite film, "The Outlaw Josey Wales" is a (fairly faithful) adaptation of a book entitled "Gone to Texas".
          "Gone to Texas" was written by a man called Forrest Carter, who wrote an even better book.  [Perhaps, before you read on, you should read this wonderful book, which is quite short, especially if you enjoy what is now called 'creative non-fiction'.]   The book is called "The Education of Little Tree".  It caused quite a stir when it was published in paperback about six years after Carter's death in 1979.
          It was (apparently) written as a memoir of a small boy brought up by his part-Scottish, part-Cherokee grandfather.  Its success was due to the stir it created in what I will vulgarly call the 'ethnic industry' (I nearly, after so many years among the London Polyocracy, found myself saying "Effnick").  They should have been better educated.  Carter took his first name from a Confederate general, Nathan Bedford Forrest, the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.
          It actually topped the New York Times non-fiction best seller's list in 1991.  Then the venial press teased out the truth: it had been written by Hitler while on a Summer holiday in the Carolina Mountains.  No, I made that up: it had been written by - I can hardly bear to tell you this - it had been written by the - you're not going to believe this - [Did you stop and read the book before you got to here?] - it was written by the man credited with giving George Wallace his famous catch phrase "segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever", the creator of a paramilitary splinter group of the KKK.
          Imagine you're in the Louvre.  Imagine there is a picture beside the Mona Lisa, showing the same enigmatic smile.  Imagine being enchanted by it.  Imagine asking the curator who painted this wonderful picture.  Imagine he points you at the little plaque beside it, which says "Eva Braun, by A Hitler".  Is it still enchanting?  Are you horrified it could be juxtaposed with the Mona Lisa?
          You're getting some idea of the what happened in America twenty years ago.  The New York Times moved it to the 'fiction' list.  We view the fiction-nonfiction divide rather differently now.  I am compelled to say it was a good book, before the controversy and therefore still is.
          Later that night, it was All-Star Basketball in the Dallas Cowboys' stadium, which is one of the engineering wonders of the world.  Apparently there were 108,000 spectators, indoors.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Saturday 13th February 2010 - Quiet Day, Noisy Night

          The sun came out, and, again like Tam O'Shanter's moment, in a trice, the snow was gone: from everywhere, even the well-drained shadows; there was a heavy shower under every tree.
          Because my motel appears to have no interest in fixing the WiFi link, I get to spend the day in this wonderful library.  I don't really have any hares left to chase about this Glasgow, so I devote a peaceful afternoon to some story research (that really means wandering through the Web, seeing what inspiration it brings).  So nothing repeatable here happened at all.  Although, going home, there were a few snowmen surviving by the roadside, looking quite inexplicable.
          Later that night, the rejuvenated Meryl Streep is back, fawning over me.  I allow my imagination to run riot.  It's a good job we can't see inside each other's heads, isn't it?  On the outside, we pass the odd, polite pleasantry, but inside, passions seeth unfettered: she seeks diversion on the lemon -squeezing gym.
          The local joke here is that, not only has Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama frozen over, since the Saints won the Superbowl, it's clear Hell has also frozen over. 
          Strange silences fall from time-to-time in the bar, and I realise that, behind me, they're watching the Luge at the Winter Olympics.  This is a restricted sport, open only to certified lunatics of the first rank.  They stick a large thumb tack up their bottom, and launch themselves down an ice gutter at a hundred miles an hour.  Not all of them survive the experience, which is why there are these breathless silences, like heavyweight boxing or NASCAR racing.  I expect the event organisers are pleased with the audience attraction ratings.
          Towards the end of the evening, I get into an argument with a young(ish) man about the merits (or otherwise) of Joyces' "Ulysses" (the more prejudiced among you should remember where I am).  He has the advantage of me, since he has (or claims to have) read the damned thing.  But I manage a points victory by asserting that I have tried to read it more times than he has.  I make a particularly adventurous point about, this being Alabama, Joyce may have particular attractions to inbred mutants, and ask him if he plays the banjo.  He is generous, and allows age to triumph over knowledge.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Friday 12th February 2010 - You Call this Snow?

           We'd been promised snow overnight, but by breakfast there was none.  This is more like the weather forecasts I'm used to, where the infamous butterfly wing in Venezuela moves the weather where it will.  Anyway, by 9.30, it had started to snow lightly.  The roads were too warm for it to lie, but it got a little heavier and went on for some hours.
           The Library decided to close at one o'clock, grown-up ladies running about like Chicken Licken, as thought the sky was falling on them (which, I suppose, in a way, they thought it was).  Of course, there are no stacks of road salt here, why would there be, and no equipment to spread it anyway.  So everyone just has to go home and have fun.
           From the sports news later, it does seem as though there is more snow here than there at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver.  By teatime, it is settled where the ground is well-drained, and looking quite picturesque.
I couldn't resist that particular scene, since it seemed to embody the attitude of most Alabamians.  The sign is one of those freeway signs (you can just see the freeway exit signs in the trees) and is a medical organisation touting for addict business.
          Later that night, a barmaid, apropos of, it seemed, nothing at all, suddenly said, very loudly, "Me! I just want to go to bed".  Now when a barmaid says that, you've just got to misunderstand it, haven't you?  And the entire bar duly obliged.  She retired, hurriedly, perhaps not to bed, but certainly in some confusion.
          I'm off south on Monday morning, so I indulged in some emotional farewells with the weekday crowd.  It was probably a combination of the strength of feeling and the strength of the beer.  We managed to stop short of "Auld Lang Syne" and "Will Ye No Come Back Again".
          Then it was carefully up the hill, since the roads are now frozen, and the snow is too deep on the verges, and, of course, it being America, there are no sidewalks.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Thursday 11th February 2010 - What's in a Name?

          Silver's livery stable called to ask me to check in and renew the monthly contract.  When I get to their local branch, the staff don't quite know what to do, so the manager has to be summoned.  She looks at the contract, and asks me what's going on.  She thinks I've got a real good deal: the way she says it, I can tell she means it.  It reminds me of what a good deal I got in return for puting Rozzie down.
          Since I have to go to the library for contact with the virtual world, I have a scan round the Tutwiler Southern Heritage collection for bits of inspiration.  My eyes light on a book about prohibition movements in Alabama at the turn of the (20th) century.  And I think I might discover something about that mysterious phrase in Adamsville's local history book, the "Whiskey Gangs".
          I think they must have been the "grassroots" of the liquor distributors and the politicians they owned.  It was really about who could issue licences.  "Local Option" was the liquor lobby's aim, since cities could (can) always be counted on to vote for boozing.  The prohibitionists were out in a great alphabet soup of acronyms, including, of course, them women.  The compromise position (the real pro oily politicians) was "Dispensaries", which was code for state monopoly (and therefore control), of liquor sales.  You can see, and sympathise with, the inevitability of Prohibition only a decade later.
          Later that night, I got into an argument about how you divide up the Irish.  The likes of me do it on the basis of nominal, elected  religion.  She thought there were "black" and "red" Irish.  Now I knew of "red" and "green" IRA.  She thought catholics were "red" because she was a catholic, and had red hair (you can never tell what colour ladies hair really is, can you? Not unless you get really friendly, and the conversation was not heading in that direction).  Anyway, as it turned out, her parents had named her after a tree.  She said they claimed to have chosen between Karen and Stacey and: and they chose Myrtle.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Wednesday 10th February 2010 - Patchy Information

          Today's quest is to get my Police shoulder patch.  But first, I have to get to the library to check my email.  Actually, I just like sitting in this library, so I don't need much of an excuse.
          Then it's off up 78 to Adamsville, to check who has jurisdiction in Glasgow.  City Hall is sure it's not them.  Yes, they know where I'm talking about, that road is, the rest isn't, must be Graysville.  Graysville City Hall is sure it isn't them.  Maybe it's neither, maybe it's just county.  Anyway, says Graysville, we don't have a police department anymore, we're under the county sheriff now.
          This is bad news.  This is Jefferson County, and I already have one (or is it two?) Jefferson County Sheriff's patch from another state.  So I decide I will check with the Adamsville Police Department before I go back to see the sheriff in Birmingham.
          And they are sure.  Yes, it's them.  They want to see my passport, which is as it should be, but then they're pleased to oblige.  The patch is rather grand, and has a representation of the American flag and eagle on it.  It also has a sticker on the back saying it was made in China.  One of the delights of America is that, really, nothing is sacred.
          Later that night, on the WiFi crawl, I get caught up in some news stories.  The Birmingham Post is exhorting its readers to support the removal of sales tax from groceries.  They quote some interesting statistics, demonstrating the regressive nature of consumption taxes: the bottom 20% of earners earn, on average, $10,000 per year, and pay 10% of it in tax.  The top 1% earn (if that's the right word) on average $1.2 million, and pay 4% of it in tax.
          But the bingo plot is also thickening, and delivers up an interesting twist: the owner of the biggest casino is a MacGregor (not a Magruder, a MacGregor).  And it's not really the social activity I'm familiar with at all.  It's an electronic version, played on machines rather like fruit machines, allegedly networked.  So it's just an old person's version of texting, with virtual, rather than real company.  And they are all scrapping over the right to tax it.
          Speaking of virtual company, Google, on which I am much dependent for storage and backup of my material, and this blog, and my email, has offered me its new social networking system, Buzz.  I guess it's like Facebook, etc.  It certainly has one characteristic in common with Facebook: I gave it a try, but I couldn't figure out what I was supposed to do.  Anyway, I hear they're going out of fashion.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Tuesday 9th February 2010 - The Magruder of MacGregor

          I've been enjoying this splendid library for some time without realising that just round the corner from where I'm sitting is a painting of the man himself
He appears to have got to this neighbourhod in the 1880s as a young engineer with the Georgia Pacific Railroad.  And he made good: really, really good.  He ran mines (like the Murray Mine at Blossburg, near where Glasgow got laid out), built coke ovens, and ended up selling his Tutwiler Coke and Iron Company for a million or so.
          The M in his name stood for Magruder, as you can see from the picture.  Back then, the Magruders thought they were Macgregors in disguise.  In 1916, E M was a Deputy Chief of the Clan Gregor Society in America.  He wrote a piece for their newsletter, saying how wonderful his mother-in-law was (not typically Scottish, that!).  She appears to have been a Magruder too, on her mothers side, tracing back to an original Maryland immigrant.
          Their feeling that they were MacGregors revolves round the outlawing of the MacGregors, which they thought produced some name changes.  Nearly everyone in the 1916 list of American Clan Gregor members is actually a Magruder, except for their honorary chief, the MacGregor of MacGregor, who was back in Scotland.  Well, it being 1916, he was actually in France.  I wonder if he came back: these Americans were quite generous in sending funds to look after wounded MacGregors.
          Later that night, on the WiFi crawl, I met a man from Chicago.  He was on his way to Florida, but had stopped near Memphis, Tennessee because of the snow.  (We're not getting snow here, so I think I might just be far enough south.)  He had a lot of dealings with what used to be a big Scottish bank, working in international real estate.  We agreed that when the history of this receding recession comes to be written, at least one Scottish bank will have had a lot to answer for.  So, having solved the problems of the world, and admired many of the local beers,  we toddled happily home, forgetting only the prime purpose of our outing, which was to upload some photos.

Monday 8th February 2010 - Photo Addendum

Here is the photo that should have appeared yesterday.  The magic word appears on the second last line of the first block.  You also have an opportunity to see the handwriting skills of someone who earned their living copying things in 1894. ]
[You do know you can click on these photos and that will take you to a site where you can enlarge them and scan about the details, don't you?]

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Monday 8th February 2010 - With a Little Help

          My trip to the Art Gallery has borne some surprising fruit.  One of the people who took me commented (you probably saw it) that I might have misunderstood the ownership note on the Glasgow map.  They say that the Tutwilers were (are?) among the gentry round here, so they might have been the owners of Glasgow.
          So it's off to the courthouse for another look.  And closer inspection shows that the surveyor was called TH Tutwiler, and the "property of" says EM Tutwiler.  So I go chasing EM through the deeds, and strike gold in no time at all.  The first deed I look at has EM selling a lot to one Nash Jones, describing it as being in the "Town of Glasgow".  The neigbourhood is full of people called Glasgow, and this Tutwiler decides to call his town Glasgow.  Why would he do that?
          This first lot was sold on the 27th April 1893.  Interestingly, the Adamsville map was entered into the record on the 11th May 1893, and the Glasgow on on the 18th May, so they were running neck-and-neck.  No doubt Adamsville won out because of where the railroad went.  Tutwiler laid out a subdivision in Adamsville the previous October, and called it Glencoe, so he must have had some Scottish connection, even if it was only a marketting ploy.  (By the way, the Adams who laid out Adamsville was called William Minus Adams, a name I've never encountered before.  Oh, and he couldn't write.)
          [I would show you a picture of the deed, but my cables are in all the wrong places.  This lack of WiFi is going to cause me problems.  I now have a set of pictures which exist only in the camera.  If I don't get to load then up to the Google server soon, something will go wrong.]
          Later that night, I'm out on my WiFi crawl, with Silver watching over me.  In Ruby Tuesday's, the boys at the bar want to talk politics, but can't.  I sense that it's because they know they can't use certain words: the language they learned at school is simply no longer used.  So they settle into sports, and the general conclusion of the evening is that we would all do what Tiger Woods did, if we got the chance.  Actually, they didn't say "chance", they said "good fortune".  But I'm sure they only said it at all because there were no girls there.
          I finish the WiFi crawl within walking distance of the motel, so I can abandon Silver if necessary.  I have no sooner settled into my favourite beer when a grown-up lady policeman parks herself beside me and tells me walking is the only acceptable option: so much for Silver's discrete coughs.  She is part of "Animal Welfare", which I think, in the old days, would have been called the "Dog Catcher".  I examine her,em,  shoulder patch closely, and notice it has the letters "RWH" written very small at the bottom.  Sadly, she doesn't know what it means, but she phones a friend.  "Return with Honour", she says.  They've reduced their motto to an acronym.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Sunday 7th February 2010 - Who Dat?

          I start my Sunday morning looking for breakfast with WiFi.  The pancake place is the best I can do, but it only has WiFi from Starbuck's next door (see, it is that kind of neighbourhood), and it just seems to be a gateway for other US broadband providers, so I need a logon, which I don't have.  So it's going to have to be the library after all.
          After my ablutions, and, I confess, a wistful passing look at the local bar, I'm off down town to their magnificent library.  There's a good crowd waiting for it to open.  They mostly look, I have to say, like they are in it for the warmth.  All over the "mid-Atlantic east coast" they are opening shelters for people caught in the winter storms who have lost power.  I wonder if it has ever occurred to them to open the libraries, give people something to do.
          The WiFi is free and effective.  I get to do my research, and send off the promised material.  And I get the blog up-to-date.
          Later that night, it's the Superbowl.  For someone like me, who's not to keen on the sport, the adverts during the TV presentation are aa big thing.  The news reports have been trailering them for weeks now.  My winner was one of the Kia (Korean cars?) ads with Bret Favre (Minnesota Vikings elderly quarterback) winning the 2020 Superbowl (when he will be 152 years old) and confessing that he's going to retire because he's older than the coach.  The were, of course, trying to highlight the longevity of their vehicles.
          The New Oreans Saints won.  They were generally reckoned, all week, to be the underdogs, so I was rooting for them.  New Orleans parties every night (they say), so they will have to "superparty" for a while.  The Saints have never been to to the Superbowl before (known, disparagingly as the "Aints").  Apparently the city, which has suffered much recently, is much cheered.  They deserve a little bit.  So we can all shout "Who dat", which is their cry, for a day, and think of their irrelevant good fortune.
          "Who dat?" was a minstrel show catch phrase which encouraged a repeat response from the audience.  Some black musicians later used it to invoke a simple riff from their audience.  It gained common currency among American troops in the Second World War.  Then it gradually got adopted by the fans of the Saints, as a long chant "Who dat? Who dat? Who dat say dey gunna beat dem Saints?"   Now it is, apparently, to New Orleans, what "Show me" is to Missouri.
          [I'm doing this in a bar (Ruby Tuesday's - remember the Rolling Stones?).  Silver is working up to his second discreet cough]



Sunday, 7 February 2010

Saturday 6th February 2010 - Barmen Never Understand My Dreams

          As a result of my expeditions last night, I now have a good place for breakfast.  It has an extensive and varied menu, bt everything comes with a pile of pancakes.  I sat facing the window, and a constant stream of ladies in black tights came jogging by.  It was so continuous at one point, I thought it might be the floor show, but I think it was just that kind of neighbourhood.
          When my laptop got stolen in Philly, it wasn't much of a problem.  I had been quite rigorous in uploading all my material every night to a Google server.  So there was no way I could lose anything.
          During breakfast, I got a call asking for some notes on some of my researches.  I happily agreed, and understood there was a quite tight deadline.  "Oh, yes, I can manage that".  I had no sooner settled down to the task than the Motel network went down.  So I was cut off from all my papers.  Usually, this just involves rebooting the main router, but, of course, on this occasion, it was a more serious problem.  By the time I had extracted a bit of honesty from the support line, it was really too late to go anywhere else.
          I had noted that the wonderful library downtown opened on Sunday for a few hours (you don't see that very often) so I thought I might just mosey down there, take in some of the scenery, and still be able to deliver on time.  If that doesn't work, I'm in a nest of motels, and it's usually possible to stop in a parking lot and pick up an unsecured signal.
          Later that night, my favourite barman let me down.  It being his night off, he had thoughtfully conjured up Meryl Streep to look after me.  But he had either not listened to, or was unable to believe the "grown-up" bit, because she had been spectacularly rejuvenated.  She was also obsessed with squeezing lemons.  Whenever she had nothing else to do, she took to the lemon-squeezing machine like she was in the gym.
          The Good People of Birmingham (which is a brewery) like to describe their beer as "hopshine", hoping to lend an air of historical illegality to it.
          There is clearly something going on about bingo in Birmingham.  There are court orders flying about, halls are shutting, and at least one sheriff is saying he will prevent state troopers from raiding halls in his county (sounds "wild west", doesn't it?).  It will turn out, no doubt, to be about tax revenues.  Which is, of course, making the natives restless.  The Birmingham News has the "Poarch Band of Creek Indians", in the shape of the CEO of PCI (I wonder what that might stand for?) Gaming, telling us what their plans are.

Friday 5th February 2010 - A Flock of Wild Geese

          I like to do a bit of reading at breakfast. I think an American breakfast beats everything, and I treat it as my main meal of the day. So I like it to take quite a while.
          The old boys like to talk a lot, and share their war stories. It's all quite lively and comfortable. Suddenly I realise it's all gone a bit quiet. There is the ubiquitous TV in the room, running silently on subtitles (or 'closed captioning' as they like to call it here). There is a ladies program, discussing breast enhancement. There was a lot of furtive watching going on. Of course, I ignored it completely, but, if you're interested, they concluded that it was best to be happy with what you've got. If they'd worked that out at the beginning, it would have saved a lot of embarrassment, certainly in the diner I was in.
          I was in the courthouse for another day of deed -searching. These Glasgows obviously had a lot of land to buy and sell, but none of it was in the place I was looking for. There was the passing interest of discovering who was related to whom, and who could write, and who could not. The man who came to be an early mayor of Adamsville, and came to be remembered in local histories as the sainted local doctor, had several brothers who couldn't write.
          But, eventually, I concluded that I was chasing wild geese.
          So it was back to the library, to see if I could find the censuses for the period, and find any interesting names living where I wanted to look. But the censuses were computerized, and the library had elected to make them searchable by genealogists, people looking for names and ancestors. What I wanted to do was look at the documents and see if any place names popped up, or any interesting names in those places. After much trial and tribulation, of the kind only computer programs can provide, I found a way of twisting it's tail, so I could look at what I wanted. But I still couldn't find anything before my eyes had to rest again.
          On the way out of town, there was an accident on the freeway, so a five-minute journey took an hour.
          Later that night, I had no sooner go my mouth round a Sweetwater 420 than I was dragged off to an art gallery open evening on the other side of town. Some of the art was quite good, and I thought it would please them if I let them know my verdict. There were also some blues players, who, apparently, had never played together before, and they too were good.
          The beer, however, did not come anywhere near the Sweetwater standard. The only good thing to be said of it was that it was free at the point of use. That, of course, is no small thing.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Thursday 4th February 2010 - Another Day in Court

          Today is courthouse day.  I am well prepared: I know Birmingham is a big city, so I expect the artillery will want to look up my bottom.  I even leave my trusty Swiss Army knife in the care of Silver.  When I get in, the records are well hidden away, but I manage to worm my way in and get some free advice from the goodly supply of grown-up ladies.
          They have those rather frightening shelving systems where, although there are lots of shelves, there is only one corridor in between them, and you have to roll them along till the corridor is beside the shelf you want.  I'm pretty sure someone will jam me inside them and I'll never be seen again.  I comfort myself with the thought that I will haunt the grown-up ladies mercilessly.
          The map book contains a couple of "Glasgow Additions" to Adamsville, which is what I thought I wanted, but they are much too recent.  In fact, Glasgow comes up as though it's not part of anywhere else at all.
Unfortunately, nobody lays claim to the land to which the map refers (the "property of" refers, I think, to the map).
          There will no doubt be many deeds which refer to this map, but it does not refer to any of them.  I guess that the sellers in such deeds will be Glasgows.  The index to the deed books is computerised, so I spend the afternoon looking at computer copies of old indices.  It's not very good, but I've done this before with microfilm, and this is much better.  After a few hours, I have a good list of deed references to chase, and can hardly see.
          It simply amazes me that something as important as copying land records could be done by people who wrote so badly.  You'd think good handwriting ('copperplate') would be the basic job qualification, but it wasn't.  Perhaps beggars couldn't be choosers.
           Later that night, we are in the midst of the next winter storm.  The weather forecasters have been predicting snow on the Atlantic coast as bad as I experienced in Delaware just before Christmas.  But here it's just very heavy rain, and not even very cold.  I think I will test out my new winter hat, which is in the care of Silver.  But by the time I have walked the few steps across the parking lot, I realise that I will get very wet indeed if I walk.  So Silver has to hover in the background once again, coughing discreetly when required.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Wednesday 3rd February 2010 - Birmingham City Library

          Silver whisks me downtown for breakfast beside the City Library.  The breakfast is nothing to write home about, but it contains a ladleful of the mandatory 'grits', which is like semolina, only, em, grittier.  The library, on the other hand, is quite something, and has a skybridge over to the Southern History Research Center, which is a substantial building in its own right.
          The grown-up ladies here show just the sense of decorum you would expect in such a building.  But books and newspaper clippings appear in short order.  There is very little reference to Glasgow, but the references to Glasgow Hollow and Glasgow Hill suggest they were "coloured" parts of town.
          I get seriously diverted into the arrrival of black miners in the area, and the strikes and strife that ran from 1894 to 1908.  The Mineworkers Union seemed to be quite integrated, but, in the end, that was more of a hindrance than a help.  In 1908, they ambushed a train, killing several "scabs" ("blackleg" didn't quite work here) in what was described at the time as the biggest battle since the Civil War (or "War Between the States" as they are inclined to call it here).
          Some of the old township grid maps show Glasgow
but the maps of the original patents haven't uncovered any patentees for that bit.  Some Glasgows held patents a short way away.  It's a relief to be back in settler country, where the land is described with reference to a fixed grid of Townships and Ranges.  When I get to find land deeds, it will be possible to work out where they are.
          Later that night, my favourite bar introduces me to Georgia.  They now have a draft beer called "Sweetwater 420".  It's from Atlanta, and among the best I've tasted.  They also produce a brown ale, which, appropriately, they call "Sweet Georgia".  I didn't try it, but the label actually claims that it's as smooth as a Bill Clinton apology.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Tuesday 2nd February 2010 - A Sunny Day in Glasgow

          It's Groundhog Day today.  What it comes down to is it's a sensible day to start Spring (or, for my Australian viewers, Autumn).  The 21st of June is the Solstice, the day the Sun stops coming north, and starts going south again: it's sometimes called Midsummer's Day.  So Summer would start about six or seven weeks before that, which would, in turn, be the end of Spring (or, as I said, maybe Autumn).  So Spring would start thirteen weeks before that, which is now.  It's all based on Pagan feast days.
          Anyway, the Americans have come up with this rather quaint forecasting custom which involves what the groundhog does today.  If it wakes up from hibernation, comes out of its hole, and sees its shadow, it goes back in and sleeps for another six weeks. If, on the other hand, it doesn't, it doesn't.  Or, to put it another way, if you have to decide, without the aid of a groundhog: if it's sunny today, it's not going to get warm for six weeks.  If it's not, it is.  Of course, it's a very unreliable guide, but a good bit of fun.
          It being sunny today (nudge, nudge), I head off for a first look at Glasgow, Jefferson County, Alabama.  It is a small collection of houses, most not in the best of condition, a few actually derelect and abandoned.  Even the cemetery is not in the condition I have come to expect of America.  The church claims to be in Mount Olive.  There is a faded sign advertising "Glassgow (sic) Hill Octoberfest".
          But it has the classic American appearance of having been "laid out": The roads are in a grid, and some are still called "Ist Ave" and "1st Street".
          When I cruise through Adamsville, on the other side of US 78, my eagle eye spots a library.  It is suitably staffed with grown-up ladies, who not only scramble to attention, they get on the phone and scramble an auxiliary squadron as well.  The library is suddenly full.  Documents are being thrust at me from all sides.
          It turns out that Adamsville was incorporated in 1901, and almost immediately fell into the hands of "the whiskey gangs" (whatever that might be).  By 1914, the Mayor was demanding that it be unincorporated.  And that Mayor was called Robert S Glasgow.  It was incorporated once again in 1953, and the first mayor, would you believe, was Robert S Glasgow Jr.  Somewhere or other, I saw the someone had bought some building lots from the elder Glasgow, so I'm going to hazard a guess he laid out a bit of town and it got called the "Glasgow Addition".
          So I now have a thesis to test when I go to the courthouse tomorrow.
          Later that night, I thought I would eat me some spare ribs.  But I couldn't.  First, they were too cold.  Then, when I could actually try them, they appeared to have been left out for some days to dry out thoroughly.  "Sorry", said the barman, "I'll take care of that".  And he did: it was simply excised from the bill.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Monday 1st February 2010 - Sweet Home Alabama

           It's a beautiful day, and I'm off south on 55 to Lynchburg, where the Jack Daniels Factory is, and which, therefore, indirectly produces the flavour for a lot of Scotch.  Then It's down 50 to Fayetteville, and straight south on 231 to Alabama.  And, almost immediately, this strange thing happens, where the majority of license plates change to Alabama.  Here they like to adorn their license plates with song titles, and, for the last couple of years, they have used a 1970s song, "Sweet Home Alabama".
           As we reach Huntsville, a huge Saturn 5 Rocket rears up in front of us.  Huntsville is the home of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, and boasts what looks like, in passing, a spectacular space museum.  As we pass, there is a shuttle, although I couldn't read its name, and quite a few other rockets standing about.  Then Dulcie steers us onto the interstate system, and, since it's such a beautiful day, I let her have her way.
          Southern Tenessee and Northern Alabama are not exactly flat, but they are certainly 'lowlands'.  On the other side of Huntsville, We get our first glimpse of the Tennessee River.  Having turned it into a hydro-electric resource, it's really a series of long thin lakes here.
          The snow, even on the north side of gravel mounds, has vanished, if it was ever here.  When we get to Birmingham, the temperature has climbed to nearly 60 (15).  We're now on the same latitude as Casablanca, so let's hope we've finally left the snow behind.
          Later that night, I find a bar in walking distance which carries a fine selection of local brews on draft.  Americans insist on calling these "Micro-brews" to distinguish them from the megalithic InBev, which owns most of the standard "domestic" brews.  But few of them are small in any sense Brits would understand.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Sunday 31st JAnuary 2010 - An Explosive Joke

          I gave in and settled for a MacBigBreakfast.  It was good enough.
          But the ablutions were not.  There was insufficient hot water to fill the bath, and an American bath at that.  So Sunday did not get off to a good start.  Although the almost cold shower afterwards was quite bracing.
          The roads looked OK, but the pedestrian route looked quite challenging.  It would likely be just too much on the way back; especially if my consumption was unconstrained.  I decided Silver had to be pressed into service in the role of minder.
          I had hardly settled in when a man came  in, sat beside me, and ordered a Glenlivet on ice, with a slice of lime.  The barman remarked on the presence of a Scotsman.  I pointed out that taste was an aesthetic matter, not admitting of general rules.  The man said he usually drank it straight, but he was on an errand, and this concoction slowed him down.  He had a Scottish name, and confessed, rather wistfully, that he had never been to Scotland.
          Someone across the bar recommended Irish whiskey.  This turned out to be a surprisingly generous recommendation, since he had worked for Dell here until they upped stakes and went to Ireland, for the tax breaks and the cheaper labour. 
          He was now a maker of automatic weapons.  I didn't quite know what to make of that.  I guess governments will always buy them from somebody.  He walked with the aid of a crutch, and had one foot wrapped up in one of those ski-boot-like things they use now instead of plaster.  I tried to resist, but it was Sunday lunch in the bar, so I just had to ask him if he'd shot himself in the foot.  He took it in good part.  In fact, he'd driven his car into a tree, so he was lucky to be there at all. 
          I was holding forth about what a fun place Nashville was, when a young lady said she knew a bar in Nashville where they sold a terrific cocktail called an 'Irish Car Bomb".  I told her I thought we were all against terrorism now, and that was an unkind thing to bring up when there was a Brit present. 
          She didn't quite understand.  So I produced one of my 'Tam O'Shanter' moments.  You may recall that, much the worse for the drink, Tam is spying on the warlocks and witches dancing in Alloway kirkyard, and is so excited by one of the dancers in a short dress, he cries out "... 'Weel done, Cutty Sark', And, in a moment, all was dark."  I said to the young lady that calling it an Irish Car Bomb was a bit like calling it a "nine-eleven".  The bar went very quiet.
          I was thinking of elaborating the tale, Tam O'Shanter fashion, to have Silver getting his tail shot off by an irate crippled gunsmith as we fled the parking lot, pursued by angry natives, but they took it in good part, and were most hospitable.  I expect, though, they'll remember what at least one Brit thought of making jokes about Irish Car Bombs.