Culture Family

The Dish Towels

My interest began a few weeks ago, when in a thrift store, I came across the first of my small collection. Since then, in promising venues, I’ve prowled about diligently, and now have a nice stack. My collection of vintage dish towels not only pleases me aesthetically, but has prompted my consideration of the persons who owned these towels before I did. At length, I’ve considered their mindset, their work ethic, their values, and most of all the use of their time. I’ve thought long of their lives and of the culture that seems to have placed a sizable value on such a mundane item as a dish towel. Yet, I note these to be cherished pieces, even to the embroidered scenes and the knit or tatted edges–of fineness and care…and time.

What gives with this? How did people have time and energy to sit down and decorate dish towels? How? And why would they do so? Now, I’m not sure how old these pieces are, but I recall when I was a child that it was not unusual to have embroidered dish towels and embroidered pillow cases, and that my mom starched our pillowcases, that we hung them outside on a line to dry, and that after they were dry and we gathered them from the line, we sprinkled the pieces, let them set awhile and then ironed them crisply.

I cherish these dish towels I’ve collected, and while I was home in Crestline last week, I carefully laundered and ironed them. They are old–some have stains–and I was afraid to be too aggressive with them, but they’re beautiful and they renewed questions, and spoke lessons to me. Why do we rush about so? How is it that we have automatic washing machines, dishwashers, microwaves, garbage disposals, trash compactors, fancy coffee pots, and dependable automobiles, yet have so little time? How is it that should someone (such as I) suggest we “admire dish towels,” we probably shake our heads in disbelief, and politely consider such a person quite out of touch with reality. For we have work to do, places to go, appointments to keep, phone calls to make, emails to read, iPhones to cradle, Droids to cuddle, and Macs to tend.

But what of those other generations? What of those who worked long in the fields, who at dawn roused to morning chores, who plowed with horses and ancient John Deeres? yet in the evening sat on porches, listening to scratchy radio broadcasts, and who waited for the air to cool so they could sleep? What of the wives who tended gardens and cooked large meals on simple stoves, who scrubbed bare floors with brush and rag? and yet who embroidered dish towels and sat about at friendly gossip with a neighbor the next farm over? What of those in cities who rode street cars to  factories? yet of an evening sat in groups on apartment steps and watched over youngsters and their innocent games?

I’m really not here today in hopes of changing anyone. I make little progress in altering my own lifestyle, for even as I craft and publish such a piece as this, I use my delightful MacBook, and the internet, and electricity, and every modern way. So how could I even think of changing you? Not happening. I am extending a little challenge, though. I wish you would take a minute to look at the images of my dish towels…and to think. Think about your life and your busyness and your values. Think about your children and your family and your friends. Think about money and “things.” Consider porches and apartment steps and vacant lot ball games and casual strolls.

My vintage dish towels are stacked on an old tray in my Crestline kitchen, and come Fall, when I’ll probably be home for good, I will use them. Should you come to visit I’ll let you pick one to help me dry the dishes. We’ll talk and laugh in the ancient way of women who, in a kitchen or on a porch or on the steps wisely pause to speak of children and cooking and pain and joy…

America Life Photography

The Intrique of Photography

My interest in photography began in grade school when in my 5th grade class we made a camera–a camera of the pinhole variety. I don’t recall that we each had a copy of the photographs we made, but well do I remember the square, black box that was indeed a camera, into which we placed a strip of film, and then, amazingly to me, we produced photographic images.

Possibly I have mentioned before, how, looking back on my childhood years, I perceive the grade schools in Springfield, Mo. to have been exceptional ones. Most people don’t consider Missouri to be a “cutting-edge” state, but during my years at Bailey Elementary School I was introduced to a wide range of experiences. I was taught to operate a jigsaw, and from my faltering, but successful efforts, created a small what-not-shelf. I learned to “throw” pottery, and recall vividly going to one of the colleges to have my piece fired. It was a square vessel of sorts, and when it was returned to me after its time in the furnace, it was quite a different color than when I had presented it. We attended operettas–also at one of the colleges, and within our own school we had an orchestra, in which I played the violin. On Saturdays we went to Pipkin Junior High School and played in a combined grade school orchestra, where our seating on wide, high risers excited me. Our orchestra director’s name was Mr. Blumenthal. Once he took my violin to demonstrate a technique, and I felt pleased he had chosen my instrument, even though he remarked that it felt sweaty! (Guess I was tensed up from such elevated learning!)

Anyway, this morning I was intrigued when I came across this article about photography without a camera, a method called Photograms. The piece also included information about pinhole cameras.

puja photogram leaves

(images via: Puja)

Photograms are, quite simply, photographs made without a camera.  Items are placed on photo-sensitive paper and the whole setup is exposed to light.  After processing, the exposed areas will be dark and the areas covered by the items will appear as negative spaces.  The method is popularly associated with the artist Man Ray, who called his images rayographs.

The entire article is here.

When I saw these pictures this morning, I recalled that the  last time I was home in Crestline I became intrigued with an old bottle, and the shadows it produced. To guage the play of light on my subject, for an hour or so, I carried around that bottle and my camera.


Three steps lead up from our living room to a landing that opens to our bedroom; the landing is made of stone. As I looked that way, I spied this intriguing shadow laid over the stone.

dsc_0031One of the upstairs game room windows provided this shot.

dsc_0033And on the square, oak game table, this one.

Long years removed from my days at Bailey Elementary, I yet retain a sense of wonder at the play of light and shadow on film. Even more remarkable is that the pictures you see here were created sans film. A series of digits produced these images. Amazes me.

Books/Library California Children Home Lake Havasu Life Photography Uncategorized

Some Books I Know

That I can recall, the first episode of my life concerning books is when I was three years old, and I suspect I wouldn’t remember that except for the dead horse that lay near the gate. It was gray. We had gone to visit friends who lived in the country around Springfield, and the sight of that huge animal must have shocked me, so that it forms my earliest memory. (I was surprised to read somewhere a few days ago that a gentleman has faint memories of his birth, and when I mentioned that fact to Andrew he spoke of knowing someone who has a similar memory…an interesting topic for another time.)

Anyway, there was the amazing dead horse near the gate of our friend’s home, and later in the day, I crawled under their front porch–a high porch–and there I found an old book. I hauled it out, and of our hosts who were sitting with my parents on the porch, I asked if I could have the book. My dad protested, and there followed the first course in social graces that I can recall, “Shirley, you don’t ask people to give you things.”

I couldn’t read at three, I know that, but what has developed into an enthusiasm and attachment to the printed page must have begun early in my life…and continues…and around me at all times are lots of books. Usually books bring me pleasure, but through the years they have also been sources of grief, such as times when I turned them in late at the library and must pay a fine.

“Once, I lost a book and was scared of the library for a while, that is, until I got the money together to pay for the mysteriously vanished tome. I don’t know if I thought the librarian would send a policeman to my door or that someone would snatch me off the bus one Saturday in order to extract the price of that book. What a relief when I had paid the debt and again could stride up the central steps and check out more books.” From my book, Road Tales.

My favorite childhood book was The Boxcar Children, and I cannot tell you how many times I read that account of a family of orphans who settled into a boxcar to live. The illustrations were vivid black and white cuts, but I suspect I would have seen them had there been no pictures, for in my mind, they were alive. I walked with them as they prowled about a dump to get dishes and pots and pans, and as sickness befell them. Many years ago, when we were still pastoring in Rialto, I found and bought an old copy of that book, but alas, I took it to our school there, and somehow it never returned home. That saddens me, for I wish I had that copy back.

My second favorite was actually a group of books, biographies of great Americans: scientists, inventors, social workers. I have three old ones at home in Crestline, and one day I will take a picture and show them to you. I loved those books, and as I write here I remember learning of Jane Addams through that series. I even recall the opening pages that told of her being a small girl sweeping the porch and the wind kept blowing leaves to the spot she had cleared. You may know she formed the Hull House in Chicago.

A few weeks ago I saw in a thrift store a sign that read: All Books 10 cents each. My heart thumped, my hands were eager, but my mind put the skids on my plans to fill a basket: Remember, you live in a motor home. Okay, okay, I snarled at the sensible section of my brain, and came home with just a small stack.

Some years back, I made an attempt at counting the books in our home, and came up with a number around 3000. We probably don’t have that many now, for I’ve earnestly tried to downsize lots of things. When we first moved into our Rialto home, we had beautiful library shelves built in what was designed to be the living room, but which we called the “piano room,” for in there we had a grand piano, a couch, a desk, and hundreds of books. When Jerry retired from pastoring, we put our things in storage for four years and traveled extensively in our motor home. After that, we purchased our Crestline home, which didn’t have enough shelves for our books, but we’ve installed shelves since then. From the time we took our things from storage, I’ve been culling our books, but I must confess there are still boxes of them in the basement.

Why then did I come from the thrift store with these?

America Art/Architecture Children Culture Family Friends Home Life Photography Uncategorized Writing

School Supplies

In Springfield, Mo. where I grew up, our school started in September, right after Labor Day, if I recall correctly, and since our family never had an abundance of money, I suspect it was probably not August when we bought our school supplies, but more likely, it was the days just before the opening bell that we went to the store to buy these treasured items. That jaunt was one of the highlights of my year, for I loved school and everything that went with it, and I recall my delight when I became the owner of such precious items. It’s probably accurate to say a kind of euphoria overtook me at these times.

A couple of days ago when I went into our new Super WalMart here in Lake Havasu and passed through the school section, I spied a Pink Pearl eraser tucked in the company of scissors and paper clips and glue. I stopped, fingered the eraser package, and my thoughts flared and carried me to those long-gone days when, with my mother, I stood by such shelves, and made my selections. Pink Pearl was my brand. I bought one on Monday–actually two–for that’s how they were packaged.

Clearly, I think of Big Indian Chief tablets, and though I don’t recall seeing any in stores in recent years, I do find they are still manufactured, at least in limited form. Covers of dark red with an Indian chief in full dress feathers protected the wide-ruled sheets beneath. They weren’t of the spiral ring style, but were glued at the top with a black band. There was a line to write the name of the owner of this fine pad of paper. Maybe I bought other tablets, but I don’t remember any of those, just red Big Chiefs.

School supplies have a unique scent, especially school paste, which emits a savor of peppermint–and to tell the truth–a taste of peppermint. I know, for in our school, we all occasionally took a nip of the white, smooth stuff. Distinctly adding to the school aroma is that of a newly opened box of crayons, pristine and unbroken, their sharp points a flare of blended colors. So careful would we be of our new crayons, and what a sad moment when the first one broke, or became so worn down, we had to peel away the paper covering, and finally they weren’t even kept in their own container, but were dumped helterskelter in the pencil box.

I racked around in my brain this morning, trying to remember my  pencil boxes, but I just couldn’t bring up any images. I bobbed around on the internet, looking at pencil box images, and despite my extended surfing, I did not find a pencil box that seemed familiar.

Until…I recalled cigar boxes. Now, I’m not at all sure where I would have come to possess a cigar box, for neither my dad, and certainly not my mother, smoked cigars, but that’s what I used to store my school supplies; cigar boxes.

I realize now that I love cigar boxes–love the way they look, and the slightly wicked aroma that accompanies them, and the fact that for all my years in elementary school, I stored my school supplies in a cigar box. It’s strange, I have no recollection of how I came to possess such an item…and how about the other kids who also used cigar boxes?  Where did we get them? Maybe we went to the drug store or the grocery store and asked if we could have the empties. I don’t remember.

Once I visited in the home of my friend Barbra Day; she opened a drawer, and several pencils were there.

“Whose pencils are those?” I recall asking her.

Nonchalantly, she replied. “Oh, anybody who wants them.”

I was impressed with that, for in our home, there weren’t pens or pencils just laying around, or a supply stash somewhere. We had our own items, carefully tucked away in our boxes.

The pencils we used gave a strong scent of cedar when we sharpened them at school, and if our lead broke while we were at home, we used a kitchen knife to fashion a point. Often my pencil eraser would wear out before the pencil was used up, and the metal ring that clasped the eraser would dig into the paper where I was attempting to annihilate my errors.

Watercolor sets were furnished by the school, and when they handed to each of us a metal pan with pats of color, and sheets of paper, and little brushes, we budding artists (and non-artists, such as I) enthusiastically began our work. On very special occasions would the teachers bring out the easels, pots of poster paint and big floppy brushes to accommodate our artistic bent. I remember yet how fine it was to dip my brush into a jar of brilliant paint, and blaze it over the eager white paper.

Impossible for me to explain is my fascination with Dorothy Lynch’s (whom I don’t recall seeing since 6th grade in Bailey School) notebook paper. I probably have never mentioned this to a soul until this moment, for it can’t be explained, but there was something about her paper that I liked. It had a certain “tooth,” I guess one would say. It was a little rough–not like newsprint–but not slick like ordinary notebook paper. Strange memory.

There is much to be said for Big Box Stores and WalMart and KMart and Target where one can buy bundles of Bic pens and cartons of yellow pencils and bags of assorted-color plastic paper clips and made in China pencil boxes. There is much to be said for affording the finest watermarked paper and Montblanc pens, and Fahrney Pelikan pens which can be purchased at a discount rate of $1,418.00. There is certainly much to be said for being able to easily buy school supplies for one’s children.

But there also is much to recommend striving, and for the cherishing of materials which is brought about by the understanding of their limited supply.

America Children Culture Death Family Flowers/Gardening Food Goodness of man Home Lake Havasu Life love My Family My Home Pentecostal Photography Social The World Travel

My Brother, Junior–Part 2

Junior’s Curls, originally uploaded by Shirley Buxton.

Even though he is incredibly sweet, Junior would probably bop me if he knew I was posting a picture of his curly hair, but he’s not close at the moment and you must hear about this part of him.

On Saturday morning Jerry drove to the hotel to get Junior, while I started breakfast. It’s beautiful now in Lake Havasu, so we elected to eat outside. We splurged with an All-American luxury breakfast of bacon, eggs, biscuits and gravy, butter, cane syrup from Lambert’s in Missouri and sugar-free apricot preserves. (Not sure how those preserves fit in there unless it was to push down any stray guilt that might have threatened a kick-round.)

The picnic table in our tiny yard sits near this grapefruit tree that is in full blossom. Its perfume is so strong, that when yet six or eight feet from it, the scent of sweet citrus pervades the air. It was a beautiful morning and we lingered long over the meal…

We talked for hours, of our childhood, our adult lives, our children and grandchildren, our joys and our sorrows. A few months ago, Junior lost his beloved wife of 42 years, but of that I will tell later. We pressed him, so he spoke of his job in Chile, and his life there, of his condo that has three bedrooms, and of the fact that we should come visit, and where we would go and what we would do. We compared memories, we laughed…and touched each other’s arm…and silently cried…at least one of us did.

“Mother doted on you, Junior. Both Mom and Dad adored you.” A shy, knowing smile flickered over his face.

The hair. There were three of us children in that stage of the Farrell Forrest family–I was the eldest, my sister Donna was two years younger than I, then came Junior, the baby. Both Donna and I had straight, stringy hair that our mother either braided or occasionally coaxed into curls with rag rollers. Junior’s head was a fairy-land of golden curls, and he was so beautiful and Mother was so proud of him that she did not cut his hair. Finally–I think he was around two years old–my dad set his foot down. “I’m tired of people calling this youngster a girl. We’re getting his hair cut.” I remember the flat box that contained his golden cut-off curls, and we used to take it out and admire that magnificent hair.


“Yes, Shirley.”

“Do you remember the time when you were in the back seat with Donna and I and you wanted to get up front?”

“No, but I’ve heard about it several times.”

I reminded him of that time when the Prince was told to ride in the back seat with commoners, Shirley and Donna. He kept whinning to ride in the front, and finally, Mother said, “Oh, come on up here.”

From the front seat, Junior turned to smirk at his sisters. “Ha, ha. Told you I’d get my way.”

Big mistake. “Young man, you get in that back seat right now,” my dad ordered. And sadly, the not quite perfect angel snuggled down with his mortal sisters.

On Saturday evening in Lake Havasu, we took the boat across the lake and had dinner on the California side. We ate slowly, ordered dessert and coffee and talked. We spoke of errors in parenting and changes we would make if we were to do it all over, of generational advances and of societal challenges. We spoke of my sister, Donna, who was incredibly beautiful and distinctly talented, but who throughout her years railed against life and what she perceived as its unfairness, and who finally died of brain cancer…alone.

We talked of losing our mother when Junior was seven and Donna was ten, and I was twelve, and would that have made a difference in anything.

“You know, Shirley,” Junior said at one point. “I don’t want to be unhappy. I don’t want to think of the sad and negative things around me. I choose to remember the good things in my life.”

“I could live in a garden, Shirley but I don’t have time much anymore. Rose had flowers, but I like growing vegetables.

“We sold our house in the city, and bought this place in the country. No close neighbors.”

We talked of Daddy’s being impetuous, and often coming home from work and saying to Mother. “Get things packed. We’re going to Portageville.” My mother’s folks lived there and we children would dance around in glee, while my patient, godly mother would gather our things, and soon we would be off to Southeast Missouri. We spoke of going often to the zoo in Springfield, and Junior remembers once climbing out on top of the bear cage, and Mother screaming and crying.

“I was just looking down at the bear,” Junior told me, then asked if I remembered that. Strange thing is I do not. Perhaps I wasn’t there, or it was so traumatic, I have blocked it from my memory.

On Sunday morning, Junior attended church with us. Afterwards, on our way to dinner, he said, “Jerry, you still have it. Haven’t lost a thing.”

To me, “Shirley, that’s the first time I’ve been in a Pentecostal church in 40 years.

On Monday morning, Jerry and I drove Junior to the airport in Las Vegas. There can be no lingering at the curb in airports anymore, so quickly Junior and I embraced and spoke our final words. Jerry had helped set the luggage down from the car. Junior turned, expertly pulled out the handles, clipped one suitcase to the other, and walked away.






Children Culture Humor Life Music My Family My Home Photography Weather/Nature

Of Peach Trees, Treehouses and Violin Practice

My childhood was spent in Springfield, Mo. which is situated in the heart of the Ozark mountains. Consequently, trees played a large part in my life, and to this moment, I think with intense fondness of wooded picnic areas, of acres of black walnut groves, and of picking hickory nuts from thick forest floors. I recall climbing high into trees and of once building a tree house in our yard. Well, actually, it consisted of a few boards, hammered into place, but it functioned as a lounge-about-spot for my siblings, cousins and friends. Once either my sister Donna or my brother Junior got stuck in the high tree near the back of our yard, and was afraid to come down. I can’t remember which one of them it was, but it worried me, and I recall Mama standing at the base of the tree urging him/her down.

Closer to our house we had a peach tree. I was learning to play the violin, and I think my parents were not terribly fond of hearing me practice which no doubt led to my clear memory of my propping music in the forked branch of the peach tree, and of practicing the violin as I stood in the side yard. That must have been a sight and there’s no telling what the neighbors said. I don’t believe they thought I was a budding virtuoso, for I have no recollection of anyone standing around to gather in the magnificent stringed tones!

Earlier today I found pictures of remarkable treehouses, have posted some of them and urge you to click the link that will show you the others.
Creative and Unique Spherical Tree House Design

From weburbanists: 10 Tree Houses

Those are fabulous treehouses, but there is nothing quite like a couple of boards nailed high in a tree supporting a gaggle of giggling girls (with a boy or two thrown in). For a tender vignette, tuck in a peach tree music stand with a pigtailed girl pulling the bow across rosined violin strings.


My devotional blog is here.