Getting here from there

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum, is first published in the United States on this day in 1900.
Poster advertising The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, issued by the George M. Hill Company, 1900

If you want to understand today, you have to search yesterday.

Pearl S. Buck

Last week I stood at the graves of my grandparents, Reese and Sena Pyrtle Russell. Also there are my Uncle Buddy (Robert) and a cousin, an RH-negative factor baby who lived only hours after her birth.

I did not know my grandfather. I used his WWI diary as the basis for my stage play: Clean Dry Socks: Diary of a Doughboy. As far as I know, this diary was never found until after his death in 1948. And most of the family did not know about it until after my grandmother died in 1961.

I have vague memories of my grandmother. I was only three when she passed. I remember her baking gingerbread. And I have a visual image of driving away from the hospital where she was taken in the later stages if dementia.

I stood their graves and said “thank you.” And the word I thought of was “legacy.”

The Write Side Shop

Because I was in far Southwest Virginia for work I had, as I mentioned yesterday, a lot of drive time. And because I visited Martin’s Station which was the fort settlers would pass through just before heading through the Cumberland Gap, I thought a lot about the people who traveled that road.

My ancestors didn’t make it to Cumberland Gap. They chose instead to settle in Grayson and Tazewell Counties along with many of their other Scots-Irish brethren.

My father’s side made it to neighboring Bland and Giles Counties.

I’ve spent some time doing research, and I want to spent more time. During the first of the lockdown, I took advantage of a 90 day free trial from and built a substantial family tree.

But the free trial ended and other projects were calling. So it sits there for when I have, no, for when I make the time to continue the research.

I finished the weekend visiting my Mother. Before I left my hometown, I visited my father’s grave, along with my stepfather, and my paternal grandparents. Because this is where I grew up, and because most of my dad’s siblings are buried on the same hillside, I’ve been here much more often.

I’m not sure what I’m going to do with all of this information, or all of these feelings. I have multiple project ideas.

I also have many, many things to get to before I can get to those projects.

But last week’s trip was a little different. Or maybe this has been growing for a while.

Along with those feelings came a new appreciation for the people who have gone before, the people of the mountains, and a new appreciations for the mountains they traveled through and settled in.

I will never know all of the stories that happened over the centuries to get to the place where my grandparents, and later my parents, met and had their families.

Did they wonder about the legacy they would leave? Or was life such a challenge that they merely fought to survive, or to hope to build a better life.

There is much pondering going on here. Much to think about.

Sing it Karen…


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1911 – Maureen O’Sullivan, Irish-American actress (d. 1998)
1936 – Dennis Hopper, American actor and director (d. 2010)
1955 – Bill Paxton, American actor and director (d. 2017)
1956 – Sugar Ray Leonard, American boxer


The Lord will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.

Psalm 121:7–8

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