My Mum was a GI Bride from Northern Ireland by Patty Koontz


I’m happy to have my dear friend Patty Koontz here to share the fascinating, romantic, and touching story of her Irish mother and American GI father. Portions of Patty’s post and the wonderful images are part of an oral history project at the Northern Ireland War Memorial in Belfast, Ireland. Called The War and Me, the project features a collection of stories about GI Brides and the American presence in Northern Ireland during the Second World War. As their website says, most GI Brides have now sadly passed away, so it is often their children who tell their stories. This is Patty’s.

Patty: My beloved Irish Mum, Evelyn Vance, married my father, Luther M. Taylor, an American Sergeant, during WWII. Evelyn was born January 20th, 1925 to her loving parents, Thomas Vance and Alice McMaster Vance, in a quaint home nestled in County Down, Northern Ireland. Little did they know, their daughter would endure a life of many challenges.  Her courage, strength, and the adventures she faced, changed not only her life, but those of many others for years to come.  Her story is her legacy.

My Mum was a beautiful lady, both inside and out. It made me smile how people always complimented her on her long, thick red hair. I can still hear her soft Irish brogue and see her brown eyes sparkle as she shared stories of her family and homeland. Her Grandfather, William McMaster, from Portrush, Ballymoney, was a fisherman who died at sea. Unfortunately, his body was never found, and his death had a huge impact on the entire family.  Mum’s grandmother was a dressmaker/seamstress to help support her children, although one child was sent to live with nearby relatives, during tough times.

Mum bore scars on the left side of her chin and neck from a childhood incident that left her trapped inside a fiery room. She rarely spoke of the accident and was self conscious about the scars. Her hero, her father Thomas, rescued her from the blaze and saved her life. After losing all her beautiful hair, she was forced to wear a cap to school. Kids teased her about her cap until one day someone pulled it off.  She ran home in tears, but again, her father came to her rescue. With her family’s encouragement, she returned to school.

From the stories she shared, I believe my Mum was a wee bit of a tomboy.  She inherited her love for the ocean, (and how to swim with dolphins), her love for horses, dogs, and storytelling from her beloved Father and five devoted uncles.

On January 22nd, 1942, (just two days after her 17th birthday), my Mum received her recruiting instructions to The Women’s British Army (WBA). She had enlisted in the ATS.  (The thought of her enlisting at that age is still hard for me to imagine). Even though her mother was not happy about this turn of events, Mum was determined to do her part to help the war effort.

She served from 1942 to 1946 as a cook and assisted in the infirmary, attaining the rank of first lieutenant. The toughest thing she said she had to do was walk through a closed building filled with teargas, without a mask. She told me they were required to do this in case they ever encountered this situation. She also spoke about nightly blackouts, bombings in Northern Ireland, and food and clothes rations. A dear friend of hers was shot and killed during this rough time. Her best friend, Mary Flynn, served with Mum. They remained close and kept in touch until my Mum passed.

I love the story of how my parents met. During the war, occasional dances were held for the enlisted men and women. Mum and her friend decided to attend one evening, at a nearby recreation center/hall in Belfast. Due to the blackouts at night, the hall was also quite dark, but they enjoyed the music and opportunity for the break. Mum remembers starting to dance with a British lieutenant, and halfway through the song, she felt her arm slightly lifted. When the dance was over, my five-foot two-inch Mum (in heels), was escorted off the floor by a handsome six-foot four-inch American Sergeant. My father. Daddy always said it was love at first sight when he spotted her.

A few days later, my father was introduced to my Grandparents, and her five protective uncles.They welcomed him into the family, and from my understanding, they knew right away this was the man Mum would marry one day. They included my father in family meals and outings and treated him as their own son. Mum gave Daddy the grand tour of the legendary Antrim Coast, they walked the beach on Port Stewart Strand, (where I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to visit myself). 

I get goosebumps remembering how I walked through the beautiful places where my parents walked, hand-in-hand.  

I believe my Daddy enjoyed visiting the Mourne Mountains, as he loved the mountains that reminded him of home. My father often spoke of the kindness and hospitality the Irish people always showed him.

My parents soon married, on April 6th, 1945 at Cregagh Methodist Church in Belfast. Mary Flynn, Mum’s best friend who later became a nun, was her Maid of Honor, and Charles Chapman was my Dad’s best man.  

I was told my parents walked beneath a row of raised, crossed swords, held by both British and American soldiers, forming a line facing each other.  

How I wish there was a photo of that. Unfortunately, the only photo I have of their wedding is of their beautiful cake. The good luck symbol of the black cat inside the horseshoe hung beneath the cake on the left side of the table. 

I believe my parents wore their uniforms on their wedding day. A wedding dress was never spoken of.

After my father returned to the states, they corresponded in writing letters and by telegram until my Mum could obtain passage to come to the United States. With help, she obtained her immigration records and departed from Southampton, England on the ship named the USAT Saturnia, arriving in New York on June 1, 1946, over a year after their wedding.

She brought the handmade ship inside an old whiskey bottle, made by an elderly sea captain, that was given to her in memory of her grandfather who was lost at sea. My Mum said that she would never forget the first thing she spotted that welcomed her to the United States.The Statue of Liberty. That statue made a huge impression on Mum.

My handsome father, Luther M. Taylor, was born June 7th, 19221, son of Bertie M. and Ethel Taylor of Carroll County Maryland. After enlisting as a Private, in the US Army on July 3rd, 1942, he soon found himself traveling by ship, to report to Ebrington Barracks, located in Derry, Northern Ireland. My father earned the rank of Sergeant and also fought in the Battle of the Bulge, one of the largest battles the US Army ever fought. He fell in love with not only my mother, but her family, uncles, the Irish people and the beautiful green countryside. He was sent to Holland for a short time, where he became fascinated with their windmills.

In 1984, Daddy built a windmill in my family’s back yard with colorful tulips enveloping his creation. His work of art was photographed and featured in the Carroll County Times newspaper, and in later years featured in the local “back in history of our town” paper section. 

My father, a tall, quiet man, worked hard all his life. He was a stone mason by trade and loved surprising my Mum by making wooden furniture.  His last project is that of an eight-foot-tall grandfather clock made out of cherry wood; at the bottom of the base, he engraved my Mum’s name, Evelyn, into a hand-carved shamrock. My parents continued to attend and enjoy dances at the local VFW for many years until their health worsened. My Daddy never spoke of the war. His family said he had changed when he came back to the states. He was wounded during the war and carried shrapnel in parts of his body.

Mum said my Daddy had seen too much, which haunted him until he died. He named his first-born son, (my brother), Robert, after his best friend who was killed in the war. My father only spoke of my Mum’s family, the fun he had with her uncles, and of the sincerity and hospitality he was given. Unfortunately, my father never returned to Ireland, but enjoyed working at home and in his community. One item he brought back with him from the war was a painting which hung in our family basement. Mum told us it was given to my father as a gift from a prisoner of war, in exchange for cigarettes my Daddy had given the man. 

Daddy’s love for his wife and children were his life. Sadly, he died on November 18th, 1986 from “old wounds” from the war. My father was happy spending time with Mum’s family in Ireland, and I sometimes wonder how their lives would have been if my Daddy had decided to live there.

A year after the birth of her first child, Mum was proud to pass her test and receive her US citizen papers on November 25th, 1949. She stood in front of a judge at the Circuit Court here in Westminster, Carroll County Maryland. Below is a copy of the handwritten letter she read to witnesses after receiving her papers. I truly believe she learned more about the history of this country from doing her own research, than I actually did from school. Her words brought tears to my eyes as I read the following, I’d like to share a few of her sentences that touched my heart:

“Freedom and What it Means. What a wonderful word, Freedom, do you know what it means?  We here in America can’t possibly know its meaning. Just think of the men and woman, yes and even children, who risk their lives each day for one little glimpse of freedom. Something we all take for granted. We here in America are free to worship, have freedom of speech, and have the right to vote, for whom we want in office. Have you ever stopped to think of the men who died for this great country of ours, and also the men who risk their lives each day to keep us free. Let us use the privilege we’ve been blessed with and pray for peace and a better world to live in for all mankind. And remember our pledge, one nation, under God with Liberty and justice for all.” She also wrote a prayer below that for the ending.

Mum was a goodhearted person who did not have an easy life. She was only able to return to her beloved Ireland when her own Mother was sick and passed away. Mum was always homesick, (especially during the holidays), but refused to leave her children. She was thrilled when her sister Pat and niece Yvonne came to the states to visit several times. I remember how heartbroken she was when they left to head home, as she somehow knew this would be the last time she’d ever see her sister again. Mum always said she felt fortunate, as she had two countries to cherish. She carried the memories of her family and homeland in her heart until she passed from heart disease and kidney failure on November 28th, 1994. Her love of God, of her husband, her children and grandchildren are what kept my mother going.

During my beloved Mum’s short life on this earth, her warm personality, compassion, and kindness touched the lives of many. She may be gone from this world, but her legacy and spirit lives on forever.

A final thought: Every year until my Mum died, we watched the famous Maureen O’Hara and John Wayne in one of our favorite movies, The Quiet Man. My parents enjoyed these actors, as did I. Knowing the lovely actress was born in Dublin, a little over four years earlier than Mum, I always imagined what a wonderful thing it would have been if they had met. I never did mention this to my Mum. I know it wasn’t meant to be, but I sometimes think, if only those four could have met, I’m sure they would have been great friends. Believing people would consider me foolish, I never voiced these thoughts, but the older I’ve become, the more I’ve found life’s too short not to share loving memories of my parents, which always help to brighten my day. I hope this brightens yours.

For Patty’s piece on her mother at the Northern Ireland War Memorial, visit their website at: http://www.niwarmemorial.org/

A talented storyteller, artist, and craftswoman, Patty inherited her love of all things Celtic from her beloved Mum.  For more on Patty, visit her Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Patty-Koontz/e/B01N7QZNGG

Her website at: https://pattykoontz.wordpress.com/

At Facebook

Thank you for stopping by. Please leave Patty a comment.

 

I Love the Dark Prince – It’s his Birthday!!!


Pink Fuzzy Slippers Authors

Today, May 29, 1630, Charles Stuart was born at Saint James Palace in London, United Kingdom.  His father was Charles I and his mother Henrietta Maria of France.  As their eldest surviving child, he was Prince of Wales and due to become King. He was a very large baby and due to his mother’s Medici blood very dark, causing him to be called the Black Boy as a child. He was also a taller man than most of that time. He was an intelligent and serious boy that his mother joked she sometimes felt he was far older and wiser than she. Below is Charles’ Coat of Arms as Prince of Wales.

Coat of Arms of the Stuart Princes of Wales (1610-1688).svgAs Prince of Wales, he was destined for the throne, but  forces were already in play that would delay that destiny for some time.

The court masques were the most splendid of the occasions on which Prince Charles…

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This May in the Shenandoah Valley


The sun was warm but the wind was chill.
You know how it is with an April (May) day.
~Robert Frost

(Image from a past spring of my Abraham Darby rose, and below of my Bathsheba climbing rose taken last spring. Both are from David Austin)

May is a  balmy, blissful, sometimes treacherous month.  This May has been stressful on various fronts. I sometimes feel as if I’m clinging to a wind-tossed bough. Why the heck did they rock that poor baby in the tree tops, anyway? Crazy nursery rhyme.

Cold winds blasted my darling buds and frost struck not once but three times, after early spring warmth had lured everything out. My roses suffered. I even had iris buds freeze for the first time and the peonies were knocked back or out. Asiatic lilies froze beneath their covers… Weather can be sinister, and yes, I take it personally.


Despite a perilous spring, abundant beauty cloaks our green valley and my beloved garden is rebounding–including the roses. I’ve mulched them with rich wormy compost, added organic rose fertilizer, and I’m using Garden Sentinel, a new biofungicide/bacteriacide spray from Gardens Alive, an organic company. Its based on a naturally occurring bacteria and is fighting the black spot that struck after frost damaged their leaves. I also use liquid kelp to give them a boost. If the Japanese beetles arrive again in a plague of Biblical proportions, there are organic products for that too. Mostly I do hand-to-hand combat.

On the family front, May hit hard when our oldest daughter Alison, in her late 30’s, was stricken with a blockage in her colon and underwent emergency surgery. She went from not feeling well to being in severe pain in a matter hours. Thank God she had a highly skilled surgeon who got her through the surgery and successfully removed the mass. However, pathology reports said the tumor was cancerous and it had spread to one of the several dozen lymph nodes the doctor also removed, so she will have to undergo chemotherapy this summer. He assures us that chemo has come a long way in recent years and he’s confident she will make a full recovery. We pray so with all our hearts. If you have an encouraging cancer survivor story to share please do. We’ve lost too many dear friends and family to this monster.

Of course, we’ve still got Covid to hide from. Virginia is among the worst states for it, but we have a new C-word to worry us. I’m thankful for modern medicine. This is scary.

I’m also open to good rose growing suggestions.

And God bless us everyone.

 

Out My Kitchen Window


How fair is a garden amid the trials and passions of existence. ~Benjamin Disraeli

Spring arrived in the Shenandoah Valley with balmy mildness in mid March and carried into early April. Glory days. Roses and other beloved perennials responded to the unseasonable warmth by leafing out–too soon. Raw wind blasted the vulnerable plants as I battled to cover them with blankets. Tender leaves suffered from hard frost. Sigh. On the brighter side, early vegetables escaped and the roses, delphinium, foxglove…are growing out.

Image of the hills and mountains behind our farm taken from the kitchen window on April 27th.

Virginia is headed into the third month of the quarantine, so heaven knows I’ve had ample time for garden projects. I’ve expanded my memorial garden and enclosed the addition with a low stone wall and wiggly Piggly fence, laboring over them for days. The whimsical fence is made from lengths of wood, including the special sticks Dad had saved to carve into canes, far more than he completed. I incorporated a few he’d worked on.

Other wood I gleaned from our farm, my folk’s place, and daughter Alison’s field above the creek, plus I repurposed objects and old metal. Everything is carefully chosen. Dad would heartily approve as he believed in recycling and making things yourself from materials at hand. I’ve also gathered worms and composted manure from the farm and added wheel barrow loads to my garden and beds.

(Wiggly Piggly garden fence with water feature made from an old metal tub. I added the solar fountain. Bunny statue below by my stone wall. Only the bunny wasn’t repurposed, and is from Wayfair.com  And yes, I own stock in the company. 🙂

Garden savvy folk probably know this, but seeds from online catalogues are selling out like mad. I’m a seed addict and have a large box filled with packs. Even so, I need to restock a few varieties and was challenged this morning in my efforts. Like many others, it seems, I’m choosing heirloom kinds that produce savable seed. These are especially sought after. I’m also avoiding local nurseries this year and starting many vegetables, herbs, and flowers on my sunspace.  So far, they’re sprouting well.

Image below of my spinach patch we’ve harvested from for weeks. I sowed the seed last fall and covered the patch over the winter, added compost when I uncovered it. The spinach has thrived, as has the asparagus pictured below. It’s been here decades. And seedlings on the sunporch below that.

In these uncertain times, people are putting in gardens more than ever. If you have any interest, best hop to it and get your seeds while there are any left. The garden world, like many others, has run mad. Seed and plant companies are sending out emails saying they’ve never seen anything like the deluge they’ve come under. Some have had to shut down, others are sold out and or experiencing shipping delays. Oddly enough, you’re more likely to find a rose bush for sale online than beet seeds. Who the heck knew this was coming?

Not me.

The last of my tulips. These beauties are in a sheltered spot and have bloomed for weeks. My new favorites.

Onward ho and good luck with all your gardening endeavors. I’m in hustle mode before the heat settles in, planting and mulching like crazy.

Oh, and baby chicks are sold out. Backyard chickens have taken off.  I’m toying with getting an incubator and eggs, or ducklings…

Daffodil Season


I love spring anywhere, but if I could choose I would always greet it in a garden. ~Ruth Stout

Daffodils are such happy flowers. I can’t imagine anyone not liking them. They’re easy to grow and mix in beautifully with crocus, hyacinths, and other early blooms. Daffodils have always been on the farm. My mother-in-law had them, and the families who lived here before her. I’ve divided old clumps, spread them around, and planted new varieties over the years. The waving yellow and white blooms are a spirit lifting sight. When I’m outside working among the flowers, I feel more peaceful and not as freaked out about the pandemic. Like countless others, I’m at home for the duration and especially grateful for the garden. Having an early spring in the valley is a boon. I wish I could share the beauty with everyone. This is the best I can do.

Spring forever appears
the soothing music part
of lyrics unspoken.
It thaws the frozen fears,
mends the wounded heart
that Winter has broken.
~Aarno Davidson

The first day of spring is one thing, and the first spring day is another. The difference between them is sometimes as great as a month. ~Henry Van Dyke

The sun has come out… and the air is vivid with spring light. ~Byron Caldwell Smith, letter to Kate Stephens

A little madness in the Spring
Is wholesome even for the King.
~Emily Dickinson

Winter sprouts springtime wings and flies off into the budding year. ~Terri Guillemets

Daffodils, so bright and yellow,
Hyacinths of varied hues,
As they nod their heads, in gladness,
Telling us they bring good news…
~Gertrude Tooley Buckingham, “Springtime” (1940s)

I sure hope spring brings good news to us all

Meanwhile, Back on the Farm


When you’re up before dawn googling ‘What does the queen have for breakfast?’ it’s fair to say you’re a royal junkie.

Not only am I captivated by the current royals, but also the legion who have gone before them. I’ve long been absorbed in British, as well as American history. My genetic heritage. Past tragedies affect me, like Anne Boleyn’s cruel fate, and the fickleness (to put it mildly) of Henry the VIII.

As to the question of whether or not old King Henry should be exhumed, I can see the validity in that. Tests could determine if he had a rare genetic disorder and related mental illness, and help to explain why he became an evil tyrant.

(Queen Anne and King Henry pictured)

Understandably, Queen Elizabeth disagrees. I suppose she feels he should rest in whatever peace he’s got, and if you allow one ancestor to be dug up, where does it end?

Like the eager hordes, I’ve been following the drama of ‘Meghxit’. Mostly, I’m concerned for the survival of the monarchy and poor Queen Elizabeth, who has nobly endured a great many trials.

I don’t have an inside track on what Harry and Meghan have endured, but I embrace the adage: ‘With great power comes great responsibility’ (Spiderman).

My mom always says, “You do what you have to do.” And I have the overwhelming knowledge of ‘The Greatest Generation’ who did what they had to do and saved the world from Hitler.

How do you tell your grandmother, the queen, who has denied herself and placed duty first since childhood, that you’re done? And how do you transition from being an adored prince to whatever it is Harry has become? If he changes his mind, will he return to his former life?

We remember his great uncle, King Edward VIII, who abdicated his throne for the woman he loved. Uncle Dickie led a lonely life in exile, even with Wallis Simpson by his side. Harry’s situation is very different from Edward’s, but there are similarities. Edward was a very popular king, and the people hated to see him go. Harry is a highly valued, sorely missed prince. The royals follow a strict set of rules which you cannot break and still uphold your place. You cannot have it both ways. Either you’re in or you’re out.

I’ve read many articles ranging from angry Brits who want Harry to pull his socks up and get on with it, to those who strongly sympathize with the couple. As the months pass, will throngs still follow their every move when they’re apart from what it means to be a royal?
***Shakes head, sad sigh.

Poor William and Kate are rushed off their feet with all the added duties. Little Prince George and Princess Charlotte may have to bustle off from nursery school to make appearances The corgis could assume new roles. When the queen said she was too old to get another corgi pup, it pained me. I think she should. She has adequate staff to assist with training and care for the dog(s) that outlive her. And if anyone needs a puppy about now, it’s her.

Meanwhile, back on the farm, I’m battling this year’s respiratory thing–with the welcome help of an antibiotic–and striving to finish the paranormal time travel mystery romance I’ve been at work on for two years. Everything from grief over my dad, to illness, to life happens has slowed me down, but I’m finally making headway. This may be my best book ever. I’m not sure how to entitle it. Technically, this is number four in my Ladies in Time series. But these stories do not need to be read in order. The theme is the main thing. This book could stand alone but it loosely ties into the one before it. I will be quite sad if it flops because of the faulty thinking that books need to be read in order. Any ideas?

Somewhere My Lady: Book One, Ladies in Time

Lorna Randolph is hired for the summer at Harrison Hall in Virginia, where Revolutionary-War reenactors provide guided tours of the elegant old home. She doesn’t expect to receive a note and a kiss from a handsome young man who then vanishes into mist.

Harrison Hall itself has plans for Lorna – and for Hart Harrison, her momentary suitor and its 18th century heir. Past and present are bound by pledges of love, and modern science melds with old skills and history as Harrison Hall takes Lorna and Hart through time in a race to solve a mystery and save Hart’s life before the Midsummer Ball.

For more on my work, please visit my Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Beth-Trissel/e/B002BLLAJ6

My Fascination With Old Homes and the First Thanksgiving


As many of you know, I’m mad about old homes and often feature them in my books. My latest time travel romance series, Ladies in Time, is all about cool old homes. Maybe living in antiquated houses most of my life has influenced me. The farm house my husband and I live in now was built just after the Civil War, probably because its predecessor was burned, but that’s another story. History fascinates me, and Colonial America has a powerful draw. Virginia is great state to immerse myself in that era, among others. The Civil War…

(Berkeley)

Years ago, while doing research for Traitor’s Legacy, the sequel to colonial American historical romance novel Enemy of the King, the idea came to me for ghostly time travel romance, Somewhere My Love. In addition to touring colonial Williamsburg, mom and I visited some of the lovely James River Plantations. Two of these stately homes, Berkeley and Shirley, inspired the house in Somewhere My Love, Foxleigh. Berkeley, originally called Berkeley Hundred and named after one of its founders, has a wealth of history behind it. As we toured the grounds, a strong sense of the past flowed over me, carrying me back.

The magnificent terraced boxwood gardens and lawn extend a quarter-mile from the front door to the James River. The mansion itself wasn’t built until 1726, but the plantation’s history reaches much farther back into America‘s roots. I didn’t realize this, but Berkeley was the actual site of the first Thanksgiving in America on Dec. 4, 1619.

(Breadseed Poppy– seed from Monticello)

 (Williamsburg)

 (Foxglove–historic herb/flower)

On December 4,1619, 38 English settlers arrived at Berkeley Hundred about 8,000 acres on the north bank of the James River near Herring Creek in an area then known as Charles Cittie. It was about 20 miles upstream from Jamestown, where the first permanent settlement of the Colony of Virginia was established on May 14, 1607. The group’s charter required that the day of arrival be observed yearly as a day of thanksgiving to God. On that first day, Captain John Woodleaf held the service of thanksgiving.

In 1622 nine of the settlers at Berkeley Hundred were killed in a Native American uprising, as well as a third of the entire population of the Virginia Colony. The Berkeley Hundred site and other outlying locations were abandoned as the colonists withdrew to Jamestown and other more secure points. After several years, the site became Berkeley Plantation and was long the traditional home of the Harrison family, one of the First Families of Virginia. 

(Reenactors)

Benjamin Harrison, son of the builder of Berkeley and the plantation’s second owner, was a signer of the Declaration of Independence and three-time Governor of Virginia. William Henry Harrison, Benjamin‘s third son, born at Berkeley, nicknamed Tippecanoe for his fame as an Indian fighter, later became the ninth President of the United States, in 1841. His grandson, Benjamin Harrison, was the 23rd President.

Many famous founding fathers and mothers were guests at this gracious estate. For more on Berkeley Plantation and a fascinating glimpse into early America visit: http://www.berkeleyplantation.com/ 

If you have the opportunity to visit in person, by all means go.

(Chipmunk on pumpkin by my mother)

For more on my work please visit my Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Beth-Trissel/e/B002BLLAJ6/

October On Our Farm in the Shenandoah Valley


Misty mountains, autumn leaves, and garden tidying…now and forever more I will associate the pungent minty scent of catnip with my fall garden. I’m in cleanup mode, pulling weeds, grass, catnip seedlings, and struggling to root out large mounds of the fragrant herb.

(Catnip growing in with tansy in the garden)

It’s not that I dislike this old-time plant, not in the least. But several years ago, daughter Elise planted four clumps at either end of the vegetable plot to act as beneficial companions and attract pollinators, which catnip does well. Butterflies favor the blossoms and potato bugs can’t sniff out their desired food when potato leaves intermingle with catnip. Since then, hundreds of their offspring have graced every corner of the garden. Flower beds also play host. I’m fond of this potent plant so leave seedlings here and there, and on it goes. Catnip will inherit the earth, as will mint, comfrey, dill…but I love them all. And, of course, cats are mad for it.

We haven’t had hard frost yet, but soon will. As I work outside, I pause to gaze over the meadow and hills rising beyond our farm and admire the changing leaves. Yesterday’s overcast sky only muted the beauty–which I don’t mind–and the mist made the mountains appear even more mysterious. While walking the dogs into the field I call the back forty, I summon halts to savor the beauty. The dogs stand, nose to the breeze tossing my hair, and sniff appreciatively. Country scents of cows and new mown grass float around us. Barnyard geese honk, birds call, and cows let me know they see us. Pockets of mist hovered between the hills this morning, the subdued bronze and orange in the trees showing through in places. When the sun comes out, these autumn hues will shine. The woods above our meadow are called ‘Burnt Woods’ by locals because of their flaming color in the sun. Glorious.

(Maples in our meadow)

(Sugar maple at our pond)

(Hills and the neighbor’s farm behind our pond. See the Old Order Mennonite Church?)

(Misty mountains in the distance seen on my walk with the dogs)

Meadowlarks still trill from the tall grass, reminding me of spring, while wild geese fly in V’s overhead. I’ve left tangles of asters, bittersweet, and clematis in places in hopes of attracting the wrens who visited our feeder last year. They like a bit of untidiness, as do other birds.

(Fall asters and last of the dahlias above)

(late ground rose)

(Pocket of flowers)

I’ve been on a bulb planting craze lately, hiding them like Easter eggs to discover in the raw winds of March and balmier days of April and May. These early flowers elicit such joy, how can I resist adding more? I also sprinkled hardy annual flower seeds around for spring color like larkspur, violas, wall flowers, poppies, and sweet alyssum. Spinach is seeded for early greens. By late winter, we’re starving for them. This is when the new leaves of dandelions are appreciated for cooked greens.

Hubby Dennis’s mother made a wonderful creamy dressing to pour over dandelion greens with bacon and hard boiled eggs. That stuff made anything good. I found her recipe in an old cook book. I could post it for you in spring. She also used it on watercress. One unfortunate spring, the whole Trissel family, apart from baby Dennis, contracted typhoid fever from consuming contaminated water cress. Seems a man who lived above the spring where the cress grew was a typhoid Mary type of carrier with a leaky outhouse. Who knew? All of the family survived because new medicines were available by the early fifties.

Back to the garden. This garden was my mother-in-law’s before I became its caretaker. The first years that Mom Trissel and Dennis’s father lived at the farm they had no indoor plumbing and only one electric outlet. She boiled up her wash in an outdoor kettle. And this old farmhouse was built soon after the Civil War. But that’s another story. There are many tales to tell from this beautiful valley.(Our land leading to another farm and the hills seen on our dog walk)

(Gorgeous trees at the church up the road from our farm)

‘Autumn burned brightly, a running flame through the mountains, a torch flung to the trees.’ ~Faith Baldwin, American Family

Paranormal Account From The Shenandoah Valley


ghostly imageIt’s getting to be the time of year to share some chilling accounts. This is a repost for those who missed the original–taken from ‘Shenandoah Voices by late Valley Author/Historian John Heatwole. Our family knew John and thought a lot of him, an amazingly knowledgeable and talented man. He collected some fascinating and hair-raising accounts from his interviews with locals.

Dark Being:

“Between Dayton and Bridgewater (not far from where I live) around Christmas 1901 there were reports of a dark being standing by the road in the dead of night. Apparently, it threatened no one, but it was not considered human, and for a few weeks there was a general uneasiness in that part of Rockingham County. (The not human part would get my attention).

In Harrisonburg one night, a stranger stopped by C. L. Jordan’s livery stable on German Street and requested to be driven out to Bridgewater. Mr. Jordan harnessed a team and carriage and asked Follinsbe Welcher to accompany them, so he’d have a companion on the return trip.

Dark ForestThe three men drove along quietly for some time. They passed Dayton and were on the upgrade toward Herrings Hill when they beheld the dark form that had terrified the countryside by its mere silent presence. It stood close by the road, featureless. Mr. Jordan was a brave soul, and he sprang from the carriage to investigate. He grabbed the creature, but was overpowered by an unnatural strength and could do no more than call for help. Mr. Welcher rushed to his aid, only to find his added strength to be insufficient in contending with this entity. The unequal contest lasted for several minutes, and the two liverymen were left sprawled on the ground. The creature, the dark, unyielding form, had melted away into the night.”~

What was it and where did it go? Nobody seems to know, but I’m creeped out and hope it stays gone. I don’t want to see the dark being while driving by that spot at night.

***John Heatwole’s books can be found at Amazon.

“Who You Gonna Call?”


While recovering from health issues, I’ve watched a lot of shows on YouTube–too many. But I’ve learned more about Near Death Experiences, Miracles, Big Foot, and various Paranormal Occurrences. One of the shows I got sucked into is A Haunting, a tad over the top–to put it mildly–but interesting.

A particularly unsettling episode is the first one they opened with–Hell House. They hit the ground running!

Plot summary: ‘Three ghosts and one demon harass the terrified Beckwith family when they move into a 19th century Connecticut house.’

Question: I’m puzzled as to why it took the mother (who seemed to call the shots) so long to seek help with their violently dark demonic home? However, I’ve wondered that about the people in every episode I’ve seen. A single night of terror would have me calling in a priest/spiritual person(s), and paranormal experts, plus loudly singing hymns and praying…pouring salt around each room, cleansing with sage…if I’m still in the house. Doubtful. ‘Here’s my number, dudes. Give me a call when you have the place habitable.’

What about you? Made of sterner stuff? Remember, we’re dealing with a demon.

Back to Hell House. The mom, Bonnie Beckwith, says: “I came into this house pretty much an atheist. And now I’ve seen the powers of God, I’ve seen the powers of the devil, right before my very eyes. And it’s made me a stronger person.”

That’s awesome. I’m guessing her initial lack of belief in anything delayed her pleas for assistance, but the happenings in that house are crazy scary. From the intro, the eldest of the two teenage daughters had a bad feeling and man, was she right. Soon after moving in, the Beckwith’s young son came under attack with bangs, rattling, darting black shadows, an unseen presence tearing off his blanket and calling his name… The freaked out boy woke up screaming every night. I can’t imagine the child still slept alone in his room. My kids would have bunked in with me and hubby, or the car, with the dogs.

The Beckwith’s younger teenage daughter was next, with the sensation of a fist coming through her mattress. Bonnie called a family meeting where each member shared their experiences and it became clear something was off, so she called Ed and Loraine Warren, famous for their research into the paranormal, the Amityville Horror, plus, plus. They advise the family to take pictures and collect more evidence. This will help the Warrens know what they are dealing with. I could make a wild guess, but it’s Thanksgiving and they shelve the ghostly situation for now (assuming you can).

When the kind grandmother visits for T-day she’s confronted by a trio of spirits in her bedroom which sends her scrambling for home. Poor woman. The Warrens return after the holiday with paranormal assistants. One alarmingly possessed psychic mindlessly scribbles a sinister ‘Get out!’ message.

Done. Send this to me via postcard.

At one point, the entire paranormal group appear possessed. Creepy. They learn an enraged demon controls the three normally mild spirits and is the source of the horror.

Would you believe it gets worse?

It occurs to Bonnie to research the home’s history and visit old graves to discover who once lived there. Time to call in a priest to cleanse the house. At first, it seems a success, until Bonnie becomes obsessed with drawing images and channels a female spirit. The house cleansing is not a done deal. Paranormal activity revs up and the family camp out together in one room. (That would have happened here after day one.) But books and other objects fly at the sleepers.

Enough already! Bonnie again summons the Warrens and recalls the priest, who is preparing himself spiritually for his next attempt. However, Christmas is upon them. Not a jolly one.

Lorraine Warren tells the family there’s no escape, they must stay and fight. Apparently, badness could follow them. I don’t know why obsessed ghosts would leave their home to go after them, but I guess the demon dude might. He’s easily entertained.

When that poor grandmother comes back to bring some holiday cheer, she’s instantly stricken by a high fever and irregular heartbeat. We next see her in a hospital bed with her rosary reciting her prayers backwards, and that’s not easy to do. Something’s amiss. Then the oldest daughter is in a car wreck while out running errands. This has got to stop, Bonnie insists, or something to that effect.

Agreed. Here’s where I invite the fire department to burn the house down, while taking up residence with the exorcist. Maybe the air force wants to use the place for target practice. Then we bring in buckets of holy water and douse the rubble while a choir sings sacred songs and…

Not to panic! The sorely tried priest returns, his mission clear, with a medium, to enact another cleansing. The tormented medium is again possessed, while heavily restrained, and the priest battles to banish the highly resistant demon. Success! Finally.

The family decide to call it and live there with the three milder spirits. They dwell together peacefully for several years, UNTIL excavators near the home inadvertently disturb an ancient Indian burial ground. Never a good idea. And we’re off to the races!

Now what? It doesn’t really say. I wasn’t that impressed with the Warrens. The priest and the medium were the ones who achieved success and may have had to return a third time. These events took place years ago, and I don’t know how the family fare. Unmolested, I hope. The children probably fled.

Back to me. I’ve written mystery romances with a ghost or two and strong historical/fantasy element. I’ve mixed spirits into my time travels…doing that in my WIP. If/when I get it finished, you can expect a super story, I add modestly.

For more on my ghostly tales, please visit my Amazon Author page and explore Somewhere My Love, Somewhere My Lady, The White Lady, Somewhere the Bells Ring and Traitor’s Curse. Except for Somewhere My Love, these books are published by the Wild Rose Press and also available at all major online booksellers. As ever, I need reviews. If interested please message me here or at bctrissel@yahoo.com

***It’s possible this old farmhouse is a bit haunted, but it’s a happy house, like a favorite blanket. The Shenandoah Valley has a high level of paranormal activity. I don’t think most ghosts are violent or dangerous.