…Funeral Trains, Facebook and Ferguson

FueneralTrain

I’m sitting in the heart of Ferguson Missouri.

I’m sitting in the heart of Ferguson Missouri, listening to Greg Brown sing, “The Train Carrying Jimmie Rodgers Home”.

I’m sitting in the heart of Ferguson Missouri contemplating exactly what type of curmudgeon I will become.

Our family moved to Ferguson in 1984. I was 30 years old and had the idea I wanted an old house. We purchased a small Victorian home built in 1890, it had three bedrooms, one and a half baths with an enormous formal dining room. We scraped, we sanded, we painted, we sawed and we hammered. We built a treehouse, created a perennial garden with antique roses. We also got involved in the community. Commissions, boards and local politics.

The Smith family (not their real name) lived next door to us. The Smith family were African-American. It was a non issue, we were a diverse community, that’s a big part of the beauty of Ferguson. Our oldest daughter when she became old enough to realize there were differences in race assigned flavors to people, not color. The Smiths were chocolate, we were peach (let’s be honest, who wants to be vanilla?)

Only one full bath was not enough for our growing family, all girls by the way, so in 1992 we bought a larger house in Ferguson. It was also built in 1890. We started the process of scraping, sanding, painting, sawing and hammering all over again.

We watched as the downtown area of Ferguson gained new life; new and refurbished restaurants, bakeries, bicycle shop, loft apartments and even a wine bar. Some of those businesses were owned by chocolate people, some by peach people and some by caramel people.

I watched last night as some of those businesses were damaged, destroyed and burned.

On the scale of world tragedies, this was not even a blip … logically I know that, but dammit, it’s my town!

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote, “What seems to us more important, more painful, and more unendurable is really not what is more important, more painful and more unendurable, but merely that which is closer to home. Everything distant which for all its moans and muffled cries, its ruined lives and millions of victims, that does not threaten to come rolling up to our threshold today, we consider endurable and of tolerable dimensions.”

I am proud of my town. I am proud of how we have grown as a diverse community. I am proud that we have people of all flavors living, working, dining and worshipping together.

I am bewildered by the hate that has been thrust on our sleepy little diverse town. I am bewildered that under the guise of furor over racial injustices, many of the businesses targeted were minority owned.


I am unlikely to become the type of curmudgeon who shakes my cane at children and yelling, “get off my lawn.” That’s not my nature, nor do I care that much about my lawn. If I can keep my weeds mowed to a reasonable height, that’s good enough for me.

I’m more likely to become the type of curmudgeon who longs for simpler and slower times. I’m hardly a Luddite. I love my iDevices. I got most of my news last night from Facebook and Twitter, but I’m not sure we are better for having instant and most times semi-accurate news and opinions thrust on us constantly.

When my house was built if you wanted to have a conversation with a neighbor, it meant talking face-to-face. It meant reading someones expressions and body language. It meant being able to shake their hand or give a pat on the back. It meant give and take because we were neighbors.

When the shooting death of Michael Brown first happened, I naïvely thought that at the least maybe some good conversation would come from that tragedy.

No one seemed to be talking last night.


Ferguson still has it’s original train depot. It now serves as a small museum and frozen custard shop. During it’s heyday it served primarily as a commuter station, carrying the residents of Ferguson back and forth from St. Louis to work or attend the theatre.

I doubt that any famous funeral trains ever stopped in Ferguson. Certainly not Abraham Lincoln’s or even Jimmie Rodger’s. I’m not sure if we ever had any funeral trains.

But one left the old Ferguson depot last night, it carried my innocence.

… Crazy Jazz Musicians up in the Trees

Everything but hurricanes, typhoons or gentle ocean breezes, that pretty much sums up the weather here in the Midwest. We get to enjoy the full breadth of everything Mother Nature can throw our way across the complete range of the four seasons.

Four seasons… and three out of four are pretty darn sweet.

Winter sucks ice balls!

I could go on and on about winter’s, so cold it hurts, sloppy, sliding, fall on your butt, then freeze it off, kind of weather but that’s not really the point of this blog post. This is to celebrate those crazy jazz musicians that live up in the trees for those wonderful three out of four seasons.

We live in an old neighborhood, our house was built in 1890. To say we have plenty of trees would be a big understatement. Those trees provide shelter for the wonderful critters that provide us with a nighttime serenade from spring through fall. I like to think of them as eccentric jazz musicians.

CricketCrickets

The crickets are the rhythm section, they lay down the beat for everyone else to follow. Crickets are so dependable in their rhythm that you can use their chirps to calculate the temperature. To convert cricket chirps to degrees Fahrenheit, count the number of chirps in 14 seconds, then add 40 to get the temperature. Example: 30 chirps + 40 = 70 degrees Fahrenheit. OK, that’s way too much math for this blogger. (Did you know there are three kinds of bloggers in the world, those who understand math and those who don’t?)

TreeFrogTree Frogs

Tree frogs are the bass players in this jazz quartet. Though not near as deep sounding as their bullfrog cousins, the tree frogs add a wonderful layer of rich undertones to the treetop symphony. They take their work seriously, bobbing their heads as they thump out the chords of their modal jazz interpretations.

KatydidKatydids

A contradiction in their existence, katydids are both shy and bold at the same time. Shy because they clothe themselves to mimic the leaves they inhabit and eat, but bold in their rhythms. Katydids put down some serious beats, drowning out the crickets and demanding, hey don’t look at me but listen to my tunes.

CicadaCicadas

These guys are my favorites. Googly eyed with thick lenses and bright-colored jackets, they are the true bebop specialists of this critter jazz ensemble. They don’t care about the rhythms that anyone else is laying down. When they are ready, they just let loose and give it  everything they have across as many octaves as they can cover.

Now truth be told, the rhythms that we enjoy from these crazy treetop musicians are not for our benefit. Like most young men that pick up a guitar, trumpet or upright bass, the music is great, but attracting a good-looking member of the opposite sex is an expected benefit, and that’s OK.

Winter is coming here in the Midwest, the leaves are dropping along with the temperatures and the band is starting to fall silent. Before long the spectrum of colors we have enjoyed during the previous three seasons will be reduced to shades of grey and brown. But the music will have done its magic. The musicians that have laid down the best beats will have also laid down with their cricket, tree frog, katydid and cicada groupies, ensuring that next spring a new generation of crazy treetop musicians will once again provide us with a wonderful nighttime symphony.

— BeachBumPoppy