Tuesday, October 11, 2011

It's the Fair y'all

This weekend we had one of our hard core NY friends in for the weekend. Agenda: Texas State Fair and tickets to the OU-Texas game (Boomer Sooner!), then back to our house for grilling and hot tub. Why was this a big deal? Our buddy is born and raised Long Island and lives in Albany; He is a Jets fan; College football in the northeast is nothing, and I mean nothing, compared to Big 12 or SEC football; the “fair” in upstate NY is more like a sad little carnival; he has never had a corn dog; and he has never been this far west let alone been to the state of Texas.
His impressions? All favorable. Could not believe the spectacle that was the fair, all the people, the rides the beer and the fried foods. He had a corn dog (loved it), fried ding dong, fried snickers, fried butter, fried chicken skin (I know, totes gross right?) fried pumpkin pie and something else fried I have forgotten. Of the game- impressed and shocked. Said he had never been to a football game in his life (season Jets ticket holder) that could even come close in energy and fandom. And also shocked at all the college girls running around in skimpy dress with their hooters out. He has declared that his daughter will never attend UT or OU based on this. He witnessed Bevo shredding and a good Texas beat down courtesy of the Crimson and Cream (55-17). Only negative– strangers talking to him without any prompting. Well, that’s just a New York thing that takes getting used to. His comment about the people in his branch office he worked in Friday “everyone was all in my business.” Yep, that’s just the way it is (this from the person who will tell you pretty much anything as long as he knows you).
Being from the northeast where real estate is at a premium, houses are usually older and smaller and he was beside himself over the house. Let me tell you, by Texas standards it is not even close to being big, but it’s bigger than where we were and its way bigger than anything he has ever seen a la the northeast. I think we have a closet that is about as big as a bedroom back east. Let’s just say he was a fan. He ate his chili rubbed steak and had seconds of spicy tomato cheese grits. No, there are no grits to speak of in the Northeast and if there are, chances are you do not want them.
He was ready to get back home on Sunday and I suspect he will bore his wife to tears with retellings of the game and the fair. So bear with him Mrs. P. He had quite an epiphany.

when i figure out how to add pictures I will.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

John Henry Neal, Jr. by Ken Neal

John Henry Neal, Jr. (1847-1912)

by Ken Neal

Magazine Mountain – West Central Arkansas

The view from the mountain top is spectacular, overlooking deep valleys and streams. Foggy mornings make the higher points stand out.

While there is a high point known as Magazine Mountain, the entire area of west-central Arkansas is mountainous. Mountainous as mountains are known in the Ozarks. However, a spot less than 2,800 feet above sea level is generally described as a hill and “hill country” pretty well describes the area encompassing the counties of Logan, Yell, Perry, Conway, Garland and Hot Spring.

Timber is mostly hardwood and scrub oak underbrush, with southern pin in spots. Largely sandstone, topsoil suitable for farming is the exception. The area has a wide variety of wild life and even today, with roads and highways crossing the area, it is wild country.

In 1880 Magazine Mountain was wild and remote. Travel by horseback or wagon pulled by mules and oxen was slow and at the very least uncomfortable.

John Henry Neal, Sr. arrived in Arkansas in the early 1800’s and by 1850 census records indicate a John Henry Neal living in Montgomery County, Arkansas. John in 35, his wife Mary is 30. Elisa is 13, Alfred is 12, James is 8, Matilda is 4, John is 3 and Sally is 5 months old.

The 1860 census has no mention of John Henry Neal and his family, however, Civil War records indicate John Henry Neal, Jr. enlisting in the Union Army on November 21, 1864 in Lewisburg, Arkansas and became a member of the Union calvary. He is described as 5’4, hazel eyes, light hair and fair complexion. He is listed as being born in Hot Springs County, Arkansas and works as a farmer.

The earliest records indicate that he was born in 1847, so he is likely fudging his age to gain entry into the army or Union recruiters have rounded him up to “volunteer”. Exploits of the Union cavalry in Arkansas claim that the state was so rough that the shoes of horses and mules were regularly worn off.

In 1870 census, John Henry Neal, Jr. is found living in Plant Township, Pulaski County, Arkansas. He is listed as John Henry Neal, 23, wife Elizabeth, 21, and with a child named Jamie (age uncertain).

By 1880, John Henry Neal, Jr. is in Washington Township, Conway County, Arkansas. He is now 33 years old and his wife is Melissa Ussery who is 23 years old. Elizabeth is presumed dead, although records showing this are not available. Two children are listed on the 1880 census entry as well, Joe T., age 11 and Alfred, age 4. Joe T. is likely Elizabeth’s child referenced in the 1870 census as “Jamie”.

Melissa died on September 18, 1880 while giving birth to Radford Andrew Neal. It is believed that he was Melissa’s only child and family stories indicate that Radford did not have any full brothers.

In 1900, John Henry Neal, Jr. is living in Mountain Township, Garland County, Arkansas. John Henry is approximately 50 years old, his new wife is Sarah Margaret, age 47, and nine children are listed ranging in age from 19 to 4 years old.

Family stories indicate that John Henry proposed to Sarah Margaret Bland by riding his mule up to Sarah’s house (she was recently widowed) and calling her outside. “Sarah, would you like to get married?” Drying her hands on her apron she replied that she “allowed” that she would.

“Well, get your bonnet then.” Sarah went back in the house took off her apron, put on her bonnet and then climbed onto the back of the mule with John Henry to go get married.

In 1910, John Henry Neal, Jr. is living with his daughter Stella in southern Oklahoma. He is 63 years old. Radford is living nearby and is 29 years old. He is married to Mary Elizabeth, age 23, and they have two children, Addie Pamela, age 5 and James Henry, age 4.

Radford prided himself in being an expert with horses and mules, especially mules, however it is likely that John Henry was the original expert. Radford also played the fiddle and Ulster Scots (which the Neals probably were) are known for playing jigs and reels on the fiddle, unlike some Scots who played bagpipes. It is likely that John Henry also taught Radford to fiddle.

John Henry Neal dies in 1912, age 65 near the small town of Stidham, Oklahoma. He is buried in Lenna Cemetary and his gravesite is marked by a white tombstone issued for U.S. veterans. That same year, Radford and Mary have a son Rufus Leslie Neal, a.k.a. Fred R. Neal.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Testing, testing, 1-2 1-2

Hey! This is a test of our new blog. It's the bloggiest blog ever!

P.S. John Neal has just declared he does not like black and white pictures. He likes color.