Wichita Falls, TX US Post Office and Federal Building

U S Post Office and Federal Building

On a recent unexpected trip to Wichita Falls, Texas, I found myself downtown at the post office mailing some letters for my sister.  Since I love a post office, I whipped out the iPhone to do my best to capture this 1932 post office designed by Voelcker & Dixon.  Voelcker & Dixon designed a number of courthouses and federal buildings in Texas after setting up their business.

The $750,000 building was approved (Abilene Reporter News, 5 Apr 1931, p. 15) under President Hoover’s building program that saw a number of federal buildings erected between 1931 and 1932, including Jackson’s former U S Post Office and Courthouse.



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The Amazing Transformation

New driveway section

Ta-da!  In a mere 2 days, with one piece of excavation machinery, two trucks with trailers, a concrete mixer, 9 workers, and $$$$ later, I will actually be able to drive up the driveway without inching over the giant abyss that had formed the center section for the past 14 years.

Yes, those are little cat feet…the official Lottabusha County Chronicles stamp of approval.

Posted in Country Philosophy, Mississippi, Mississippi Cats | Tagged | 5 Comments

Lottabusha County Cat Box


The crew showed up early yesterday morning to take out the tree, and late last evening to take out the concrete and roots.  Cats being curious creatures, they were intrigued by the idea of a new comfort station.

Cat box

It made good cat-oflage for the torties.

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The Perils of Lottabusha County


When I arrived home last week from my Texas trip, Randy advised me shortly before arrival: “You will not be able to get up the driveway.”  It did not look like this then; this is the new and improved driveway after son J rearranged the broken slabs and attempted to make it level enough that at least the truck would navigate the giant chasm that is now a section of the driveway.

You started it

This is what started it all…that gargantuan tree root.  First, it was a little crack…and then a bigger crack, and then a buckle…with a patch on it.  All of that happened before we landed on this little hill of horrors.

At some point in the early life of this little cottage on the hill, the concrete pad on what was at that time the carport was extended a little further down the hill.  But as fate would have it, they built the section from the curve down to this point without any rebar.  Yeah, we know–who needs rebar in a concrete driveway, right?  The section just below the dip was added later and is asphalt.  As the roots grew and the water ran under the concrete, that section sunk and the upper section rose up.  Remember folks, water damages concrete!  It has been on the to do list for a year now.

Last week, we had the water treatment system cleaned out…and this is the result of a loaded septic tank truck driving over a cracked pavement.  The priority list got revised.  It was great fun to back up the driveway to the crack in order to unload groceries after having been gone a week.  It was almost as much fun as getting stuck while trying to back down the hill earlier.  I love Lottabusha County….and the buzz of a chain saw.

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I’ve been on a blogging vacation.

Maman Tortie

Where have I been?  I’ve been to London to look at the Queen.  Okay, truth be told, I have been on my hillside, managing to not accomplish all of the things on my list to accomplish for the summer.  Life seems to get in the way of my planned life of late.  So, as always, I am regrouping and starting over, or as Willie says in his latest album, “delete and fast forward again.”

But after a productive return to work on Thursday, I have a sense of new beginnings, and moving toward focus–that thing where you do the next thing on the list while keeping the list dynamic and flexible.  Note to self: put self-care on that list.


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branches 2

Things have been extremely busy here these past few weeks.  I have accomplished a great deal in terms of work, research, and preparing for my role as President of the National Association of Social Workers, Mississippi chapter.  Yesterday was a crystalizing day for me, however.

I conducted a focus group with some students, another phase in a series of research I am working on with two of my colleagues.  My purpose in bringing that up is not to discuss the focus group, because that would be inappropriate due to the nature of the research, but to address how conducting that group helped me to regain my focus in a time that is fraught with change and overloaded with obligations at all levels.

There is something about listening to students that is always enlightening to me.  Listening to students gives me insight into how they are thinking and learning, and how we can revise curriculum and instruction to facilitate growth and professional development.  In an organization with finite limits on the amount of time I have to accomplish the requirements of my position, it is both exciting and frustrating to make new discoveries about what is needed.  On the one hand, it is exciting to have the insight and the understanding to move forward.  On the other, it is like “how will I ever get this all done?”

So where did focus come in?  Just the reminder to do what I tell students to do: use an orderly, logical process–a planned change process.  What is the next step?  Do it.

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What do 6 people standing at a bus stop mean? What to do when everything feels broken.

Thursday was raining, and cold at 50 degrees.  I reached the bus stop just in time to see the driver lurch off after discharging a passenger, even though I was but 2 steps from the curb.  The wind was also blowing, so standing at an angle with umbrella tilted, I waited for the next bus.  Shortly, a group of young women crossed the street to stand at the stop, and a few minutes later, another joined us.  Finally, after what seemed an eternity in the cold and wet, the bus appeared at the top of the hill…slowed down…and then kept right on going.  We all stood with our mouths agape, and I impulsively shouted toward the disappearing tail lights, “What do 6 people standing at a bus stop mean?”

Generally, the buses run every 5 minutes or so, but perhaps the rain had slowed them, or someone had not shown up to work–which is the usual reason for delays as there are fewer buses on that route than normal.  By the time the next bus came, we were a soggy cold mess, and the gay chatter had long stopped.  We boarded, and all sat in silence, grateful for at least not having to stand in the wind and rain any longer.  My feet were wet, my shoes and pants drenched, and I just felt weary.


There has been a lot of that lately–everything feeling broken.  Things just do not seem to work in a helpful way these days.  I have half-heartedly begun a post a few times, but cannot move past the headline and the sense of not having a story to tell.  That is not to say it is all gloom and doom, because it is not.  There are moments of pleasure and joy, and a reminder that we have the capacity to grow and move forward.  It is oddly ironic that when I reach those spurts of insight and begin to act on cultivation of change that something seems to upend another relationship.  Triangulation in the system–it might not be fatal, but it is always disconcerting and increases the burden.  Like trying to walk in a broken shoe, it shifts our rhythm and lessens movement.


This morning I was reading about an upcoming workshop for teachers at Tougaloo College.  The purpose is to help teachers in Mississippi learn to develop lesson plans to teach about the Civil Rights Movement, using the SNCC Digital Gateway.  While perusing the website, I found a digitized copy of The Student Voice, volume 1, number 1, June 1960.  It included this:

To Win Racial Justice

  1.  Use active non-violent resistance to evil.
  2. Never seek to defeat or humiliate your opponent, but to win his friendship and understanding.
  3. The non-violent resister seeks to defeat the forces of evil, not the persons who happen to be doing evil.
  4. Avoid external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. (Hating the opponent)
  5. Accept suffering without retaliation.
  6. Have confidence that the universe is on the side of justice.
  7. Recognize that the center of non-violence is the love of God operating in the human heart.  Martin Luther King

While reading the news this morning, I kept returning to the second item in the list: win his friendship and understanding.  We as a people, whether at a local level or global level, seem unable to seek to understand each other.  Perhaps we never have been able to do so.  While change may happen on an individual level of transformation,

Transformation of large numbers of individuals does not result in the transformation of communities.  If we continue to invest in individuals as the primary target of change, we will spend our primary energy on this and never fully invest in communities.  In this way, individual transformation comes at the cost of community. (Block, 2008, p. 5, as cited in Soska & Feikema, 2013, p. 518)

Harry Specht described that phenomenon in 1994:  “We will never solve the structural problems of society in the Church of the Individual Repair.”  As I concluded the final class of the semester Thursday afternoon, we discussed the essentials functions of community:

  • Affirms and reproduces meaning
  • Constructs substantive reality
  • Develops morality
  • Fosters communicative action
  • Generates the public sphere  (Weil, Reisch, & Ohmer, 2013, The Handbook of Community Practice)

We generated a discussion of those functions, addressing what can happen when the meaning reproduced or affirmed is not one that is beneficial and nurturing to us as humans.  What happens when the substantive reality constructed is toxic?

I believe that is what Block meant when he said individual transformation comes at the cost of community transformation, and what Specht meant when he said structural problems cannot be solved at the individual level.  It does not mean King’s admonition that we should seek to understand and develop relationship is not relevant, as that “fosters communicative action” so desperately needed amongst us right now.  The creation of a nurturing and sustainable environment is essential in building healthy communities and families, and, it is essential for all of us, not just some of us.

Mission: to develop sustainable life enhancing systems.  (Nancy Mary, 2008)

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Rio, go rest high on that mountain

Tea time with my boy

I have struggled with how to write this post for 2 weeks.  I retired Rio’s gravatar on April 7.  This morning, I resurrected it.  Not seeing him did not lessen the grief, nor does seeing him make it harder.  I think it was more a symbolic tribute for me to retire his gravatar, and just as symbolic to determine to bring it back to his place as the face of Suzassippi.

These past 4 years, caring for Rio has been a profound joy, interspersed with episodes of sadness, like the past 4 years in general.  Rio maintained his grace in the face of profound change.  Dad is maintaining his grace in the face of profound change.  Sis maintains her grace in the face of profound change.  Mom always called me her changeling baby–the one the fairies leave when they steal your real baby.  (Yes, who knew that fairies went around stealing babies?)  I am reminded this moment of Anna Blake’s poem:

If this outlandish prairie, sun-burned and wind-scraped can show up every morning with a torrid definition of what an “earth-tone” looks like,

then claim this life deliberately with garish celebration; be no less than sunrise.


Posted in Country Philosophy, Texas | 9 Comments

Shutting down the windmill


In what has become the new normal, I headed to Texas last week instead of to Biloxi–the carefully laid plans of the past year out the window.  J decided to go with me to help, and while it is rather unlike his nature, the help he provided was greatly welcomed by the household and the neighbors.  For several years, the windmill has squeaked.  It was not all that loud at first–just the kind of gentle creaking one used to living in the country grew up with.  Key point: one used to living in the country.  In an area where “city water” was nonexistent for many years, a functioning windmill was necessary.  Every day after school, my brother and I had to go shut down the windmill (with the brake, attached to the rudder) and remove the worn graphite packing string from the sucker rod, and replace it with new string.  The graphite string acted as a seal around the sucker rod and the valve, preventing water spillage.

Windmill and chickens 2

The windmill has not been necessary for many years in terms of pumping water.  The rods to the well were disconnected, but Dad enjoyed seeing the windmill turn–a scene that is comforting and pleasing to watch.  There is a long story involving that building visible behind the windmill, but keep in mind, the windmill and this pasture land has been here far longer than the business that decided to set up shop in the midst of rural pasture land where cattle, goats, and horses grazed.DSC_0015

In November, I told Sis we had to do something about the windmill squeak, which was noticeably louder–reaching the point of becoming downright annoying.  If you were in the house as they always were, it was not audible.  Out in the pasture or the barn, or doing the painting and repair chores that always fell to me (Sis and I have different skill sets!), it was obviously a nuisance.  The second evening we were there, I went out to feed and J asked “What is that god-awful sound?” Oh, that would be the windmill.

Spring is the windy season in northwest Texas, and it was flag-straight-out wind all week, thus, a never-ending screech.  Tuesday night was the mother of all storms, and for the first time, I could hear the windmill in the front bedroom.  I began looking up windmill repair.  There are certainly enough farmers and ranchers in the area who continue to utilize windmills to pump water for stock that I thought someone surely must be in the business.  They probably exist, but for obvious reasons, do not seem to be listed on the Internet.  Later that morning, I remarked to J that I was trying to find someone to fix the windmill and laughingly said I’d told his dad I needed to get this taken care of before he decided to climb up that tower.  “Too late–I already did it last night.”  In the storm?  In the dark?  “I have a flashlight.”


The short lateral bars on the tower leg next to the flag are used to climb up to the platform (long gone) in order to service the windmill.  He had determined the motor, gearbox, and remnants of the brake were all missing or broken, but he had a plan.  It involved physics, and when I expressed concerns, he assured me “Mom, I know not to put my hands or any other body parts into a moving wheel with blades.”  I booted up and we headed over to the corner of the pasture with a lasso, metal hook attached to cables, and bungee cord (I insisted on a safety harness of some type).

The Plan. Securely knot lasso to base of tower, wrap lasso around and through tower, climb up to mid-tower, secure self with bungee cord in the event of loss of footage, wait for the wind to die down and the wheel to stop turning, toss hooks attached to cable secured to lasso through center of wheel and wait for wind to turn the wheel until the hook/cable caught and wound up the rope enough to stop the wheel from turning. Sounds simple right?

It was.  I gained a new revelation about indeed how smart my son is, and how competent he is.  When he began his ascent up the tower, a young woman with a small boy walked from the house across the road to the west and asked, “Are you greasing it or shutting it down?”  Shutting it down.  “Oh, thank you, thank you!”  She stood and watched and when we finished, I walked over to talk to her, and briefly explained about Dad’s failing health in the past three years, and that I had been unaware of how loud the windmill had become until this trip.  I said we were just aiming for a temporary fix until I could find someone to shut it down permanently.  She said her husband could do it, and the next day, over to the house he came.  Turns out, what he really wanted was to buy the windmill and move it to his property–just because he liked looking at it, too.  However, he was very gracious when I said I did not think we would sell it as long as dad is living.  I asked what he would charge to secure it permanently since eventually the rope would give out because of exposure to wind, sun, and rain.  He said nothing, and we walked to the shop to secure a length of chain and a link clip, and I told him when we got ready to sell the windmill, I would let him know.  Actually, I thought later that J had already done the hard work, and at that point, we could have secured it with the chain.

Windmill and Rio

I am sure the entire neighborhood all stopped to scratch their collective heads and ask, “Do you hear that?  I mean, do you not hear that?”





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Standard Life Building: The towering Art Deco of 1929


When I arrived at the historic King Edward Hotel (now known as the Hilton Garden Inn) last Tuesday afternoon, I opened the drapes to check my view, and spied the Standard Life building.  Little did I know at the time where that one photograph would take me, or that the last option I would choose to discover the answers to my confusion would be right back to Preservation in Mississippi‘s E. L. Malvaney.

I started with the newspaper archives, as is my habit these days, because it is just so fascinating to read about history from the perspective of what was just “news” at the time it was written.  The first thing I found was this:

A Century of Progress

A great many people of Jackson have not been financially able to go to Chicago to see the great world show.  The next best thing to seeing A Century of Progress would be to go to the office of the Highway Commission and see the great number of people they have employed.  We understand, when you see this show, if you visit it first in the day time and then visit the same place at night, you will see just as many people on the night shift as you saw on the day shift.

The only surprising thing about it will be that the Standard Life Building is strong enough to hold up as much weight as there is on that floor.

When you enter the building, you might think that Jim Farley had arrived. (The New Deal. Jackson, Mississippi. October 20, 1933, p. 3)

So, who was Jim Farley, and what did he have to do with the Standard Life Building?  I will get back to that later, because this is one of those convoluted trips through time.  Meanwhile, go back to 1929, and the only thing I can find searching Standard Life was that it was the first completed of three skyscraper projects in Jackson in 1929.  According to the Biloxi Daily Herald (Dec. 31, 1929, p. 8), the Standard Life building was open for occupancy, and had “set a world’s record pouring concrete” (Clarion-Ledger, Nov. 17, 1929, p. 32).

Next up, I headed to the MDAH Historic Resources Inventory, and hmmm…there is no Standard Life Building listed in the named list…that seems odd.  I put in a search for Standard Life and it took me to Plaza Building (Standard Life Building, Banker’s Trust Building), a 1929 Art Deco building on Congress Street that did not look like the Standard Life Building and listed the architect as N. W. Overstreet, when I knew it was supposed to be Claude H. Lindsley.  It was also listed as being remodeled 1981, when the Standard Life Building was remodeled in 2010 to convert it to apartments…back to the list.  That took me to Tower Building [Standard Life Building], 1929 Art Deco, and a photograph I recognized, with Claude H. Lindsley as the architect.  Now back to the newspapers, where Tower Building gets a lot of news.

Only now, it is Jackson’s newest Tower Building that breaks the world’s record for the fastest concrete work (Clarion-Ledger, Sept. 10, 1929, p. 10).  Huh?  Greenwood’s Commonwealth (Apr. 9 and 17, 1929) described the Tower Building as  22 stories of reinforced concrete and brick with terra cotta or stone trim, set-backs at 13th, 15th, and 17th floors, Gardner & Howe as structural engineers, and O. M. Grim Construction Company as builders.  Now I did what any self-respecting Mississippian who wanted to know something about an historic Mississippi building would do: I checked the Preservation in Mississippi blog.  Lesson learned: I should have started here.

The Tower Building was the name assigned by newspaper editors when the building did not yet have a name according to MIP‘s E. L. Malvaney (Newspaper Clippings: Jackson’s Art Deco Icon at the Beginning, August 1, 2012).  When the Standard Life Insurance Company relocated from the “new 12-story building” constructed by Plaza Investments into the Tower Building, they changed the name.   The first newspaper reference I find connecting the building with the Standard Life Insurance Company is in 1964 when the Clarion-Ledger noted the the home of the company as Mississippi’s tallest skyscraper and the photograph pictured the former Tower building.


Posted in Art Deco architecture, Historic Downtowns, Mississippi | Tagged , , | 8 Comments