Friday, November 7, 2008

Can You Believe the Beautiful Autumn We've Had?

Beautiful! This is the only word that even comes close.

So many photos, so little space!

Just one more...

Photographs from top to bottom:

(1) Chester (riding buddy) on Princess at Giant City State Park, October 31, 2008

(2) Little Grassy Lake from the Giant City side (boat ramp) - view 1

(3) Little Grassy Lake from the Giant City side (boat ramp) - view 2

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A Cherokee Burial

Once again I am in search of information concerning a Cherokee burial in Southern Illinois. This time I found a marker a little closer to home, near Dykersburg, IL. The name of the cemetery is the Neely-Tanner or Tanner Neely, located just to the southeast of the Indian Camp Church south of Dykersburg.

While horseback riding through some semi rugged undergrowth, with my riding buddy Chester who knew "about" where the
cemetery was located, I had to stop to use my handy dandy cell phone to get directions from a Tanner neighbor. With the good directions now in hand we found the old burial site with little trouble, other than the occasional low-hanging branch smacking me in the face. Whatever did we do without those cell phones?

There are several markers remaining, most of which are quite old and unreadable. There is one "new" marker in the cemetery, which of course caught my eye.

Mary "Polly" Keys - 1831 - 1903, Cherokee Indian

If anyone has any information about this woman, her family, or knows who placed this marker in the cemetery, please contact me with the information. I would like to know more and be able to pass along this story to the Trail of Tears Association.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Autumn Is Almost Here!

Once again my favorite season is almost here, AUTUMN! OCTOBER! October is Southern IL is a beautiful thing.
We have had some teaser weather as of late, lows in the 50's with highs only in the upper 60's or 70's. I couldn't
wait any longer to turn off the air conditioner and open the windows. Of course, just as soon as I did so the daily
highs jumped back up into the upper 80's, ALMOST 90˚, never fails.

Last weekend my husband and I joined some friends from northern IL for a little get-away to Starved Rock State Park
in Utica, IL. What an absolutely beautiful place! I would suggest to anyone wanting a little vacation time in a really pretty
location, with lots of hiking, fishing (if that's your thing), sight-seeing, etc., to drive the 305 miles (from Marion) to
enjoy this gem in Northern IL. There are numerous canyons, waterfalls and the Illinois River to enjoy. One can stay in the
Starved Rock Lodge or cabin or camp at a nearby campground.

St. Louis Canyon/Waterfall

We also visited the nearby town of Utica at least a couple of times. There are several places of interest including a
small museum, leather shop, gift shop with wine tasting available and a wonderful little restaurant called "The Blooming
Onion". A little further east, nearer to Ottowa is a Cajun restaurant (can't recall the name) that has excellent food and
a really fun atmosphere. All in all we had a really good time and I wouldn't mind returning sometime.

As I write this we are awaiting news of the landfall of hurricane Ike in Texas. Gas prices here in Southern IL have already
been affected, prices range from $3.99 to $4.85 per gallon... a little price gouging! Here's hoping and praying Galvaston
and Houston are not as hard hit as predicted.

Life goes on, so just remember to Live, Love and Laugh! Life is too short not to!

Thursday, August 14, 2008


Can you believe this weather? August in Southern IL is normally hot and humid and pretty much unbearable! Not this year, not so far. If only I could be sure this would last I would love to turn off the air conditioner and open the windows.

Our Sikeston Ride last week was really nice, not too hot and no thunderstorms while on the trail. We had a small group to start the ride due to some who just couldn't get off work to join us. By Saturday all the "regulars" joined in and we had a great day. One interesting thing that usually occurs on the third day, between Charleston and Sikeston, MO, is riding through areas that are operating air-born irrigation systems. This of course means flying, whirring streams of water shooting out over the side roads we travel to the rodeo grounds. On really hot days most of us look forward to this little cool-down. However, most of our horses exhibit extreme caution when approaching and entering said streams of water. Some of the 1000 lb. critters just plain do not want anything to do with the shower across their path. It can get very interesting, watching and waiting, trying to time your forward movement so as NOT to be sprayed. Very interesting.
We all made it, some had to turn their mounts around more than once to convince them they would be left behind if they did not go forward. Horses do NOT like being left behind! So all managed to move through the little water hazards and on to the rodeo.

We did not ride in the grand entry this year. My riding buddy had had enough by the time we made it to the rodeo grounds so we unsaddled, fed and watered our "girls" and went for a shower and dinner. This is one of the most wonderful showers I ever enjoy. Even though we drive home the first two evenings, after our days ride (it's a three day ride, total), shower, eat dinner and sleep in our own beds, taking that shower at the end of the last day is like icing on the cake. We have to pay to shower at a local campground, $4 each, but I would happily pay much more! After cleaning up we go to dinner at a near by BBQ joint. Every year we jokingly talk about standing in line to eat at Lambert's but so far we never have.

After dinner we return to the horses and the rodeo grounds to meet the others from our ride for a little get-together, before splitting up to go to the rodeo. We won't see most of the folks again for a year and they are a good group of riders. It is fun to actually sit in the stands and watch the grand entry, instead of riding it. I usually have a little pang of "oh, I should have been on my horse in the entry", but then I remember I'm clean and don't smell like a horse for the first time in three days and I sort of like that, for the time being. This year's rodeo was better than some of the near past. We enjoyed it but we were ready to head home as soon as the rodeo itself was over. I'm sure the entertainment was great but after a long day in the saddle and a drive of one and a half hours home, let's just say it's much better that we miss the entertainment.

Today is my youngest granddaughter's birthday and I won't get to see her. I hate that! This is her father's week to have her with him so we'll just have to wait. Happy Birthday Emma! WE LOVE YOU!!! Eight years ago I was constantly checking in with my daughter while on the Sikeston Ride. We made it through the ride, barely, before I got the call that I needed to take my daughter to the hospital. Things got a little scary but all ended well with the birth of our little "Cherokee-Mick", blond hair, BIG blue eyes and all. It's funny how genetics work. I do believe she is the first, and only blond in our family!

And with that, I again have to say, Life's short, so...

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Moving Right Along...

I'm home from the 9 Day "Encampment" (trail ride) and the weather is typical Southern IL HOT and HUMID. We had a couple of high weather alerts during the 9 Day, about 4 inches of rain and plenty of mud. My friend and riding buddy, Chester, and I took a new (to us) trail off the top of One Horse Gap this year, one that I hope NEVER to see or experience again!

Many riders also participated in the St. Jude's Charity Ride from the 9 Day camp to New Hope Hill camp, an annual ride. We had a very good time even though it was very warm and humid that day and the horses had to battle flies even through the layer of fly spray applied to them before leaving camp. At New Hope Hill we were treated to BBQ, chips and drinks as well as ice cream and air conditioning. Door prizes were awarded to all who made the donation to ride. This ride is always a good one, regardless of the heat, and seems to be enjoyed by all who participate.

While I was at the 9 Day my Nephew, Todd, was in South Dakota dancing his first (time to dance) Sundance. I really wish I could have been there with/for him but my previous commitment just didn't allow for that this year. I spoke with Todd yesterday for the first time since he completed the dance and all is well and he is very excited about all that he had the opportunity to experience while in SD. He and our Sundance Chief, Bear, are now on their way home and I can't wait to sit down with Todd to hear about all he has learned and the interesting people he met and talked with while at Crow Dog's Paradise.

Chester and I leave this week for the Sikeston Ride and it looks like the weather might improve about the day we begin. The whole ride and the Rodeo itself would be so much more enjoyable if the extremely hot temperatures would subside for just a few days. We've ridden this ride when it was very hot, not so hot and somewhere in between. I'm praying this year will be gentle and all will be comfortable, horses and humans, and we all arrive at the rodeo grounds safe and happy.

That's all till next time, remember to "LIVE, LOVE and LAUGH" because life's too short not to!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

AHHH! Sweet Summer Time!

I can't believe how fast the summer is flying by!  It has been a strange summer, weather-wise.
First we had all that rain, rain and more rain; storms and more rain.  June was much cooler than normal and so far July has been rather pleasant.  

My summer generally consists of three main stages:  mid June is Sundance which is something I plan for all year and actually spend nine to ten days camping and dancing.  After Sundance is completed for the current year I begin to plan and prepare for the 9 Day Encampment, previously known by all as the 9 Day Ride.  Again I physically spend about nine days camping and riding in the Shawnee Forest near Golconda, IL.  Just a few days after the 9 Day is over it is time to saddle up and begin the "Sikeston Ride".  This is a three day event that begins (on horseback) at the Williamson County Fairgrounds in Marion, IL and ends at the Sikeston JC Bootheel Rodeo.

Last year was so HOT and DRY that some of these events were not as enjoyable as they have been/will be this year.  We had beautiful weather for Sundance, warm breezy days and very cool evenings.  I have been attending Sundance for eleven years and began dancing seven years ago and this was the best, as far as the weather goes, ever.  We had a somewhat smaller group this year and not quite as many supporters but all in all is was a very powerful dance.  One that will always be special for me because my nephew was able to attend for the first time ever.  For many years I have hoped and prayed he would someday be there and this was the year.  

Life is good.  Prayers are heard and answered.  Sometimes the world around us gets really crazy and if we allow these crazy times to affect us in a negative way, life might not be so good. Life is good.  Stay positive, look for the good in all people and situations.  Do not dwell on the negative and if necessary, distance yourself from those who do.  Life is what we choose to make it.  Life is good.

I recently cleaned up my tipi and now it feels like home again.  I keep a tarp on the floor because of all the rain, it's easier to soak up the puddles than wade through the mud.  We removed the tarp, hosed it off and then applied some lime to the areas beneath the tarp that were extremely squishy.  I put a fan in the tipi (I ran an extension cord from the nearest source)
for three days to help dry out the floor then put the tarp back in place.  My firepit is one that I can carry in or out and sets on stepping stones on top of the tarp.  I usually try to build at least a small fire in the pit every day or two to help keep the wood bees at bay as they can reek havoc on my lodge poles.  It's nice to have everything back in place and the tipi ready to use.

Hopefully sometime in the very near future there will be a sweat lodge next to the tipi. We wanted to build one last fall but the weather was so dry that the willows would have been almost impossible to peel! So, check back often and maybe I'll be able to post a photo of the new lodge.

That's all till next time.  Have a wonderful, safe summer and always remember to

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


I'm not quite sure where to begin.  It has been too long since my last post, not
that I haven't considered a line or two now and then.  

On March 31, 2008, I lost my only sibling.  My brother Neil was found face
down on the floor of his apartment about two hours after his son and a friend
left him.  When my nephew left at about 9:30 p.m., Neil was fine.  Sometime 
between 11:30 and midnight the police called my nephew to tell him that
Neil had been found dead.

Neil's death is still under investigation.

It took some time to "deal" with this loss, we're still dealing with it
but the hurt is not as raw as it was a month ago.

My husband and I have been doing some revamping in the house.  So
far we have new flooring on the main level, the kitchen, living room,
bedroom and master bath.  I finally have the flooring I have always
wanted!  The old house is looking better, fresher and that old carpet
is out of my life!

On May 6, about 4:00 a.m., my beautiful mare Lady gave birth to a 
healthy black and white horse colt.  I have yet to fill out the registration 
papers but his name will be Tawodi's Spotted Alen Joe, or "AJ" for short.
He is wonderful!  I began working with him the day he was born and he 
pretty much thinks he's a big puppy.  He has this cute little red halter that
I have had on him several times, red is his color.  I just may have to keep
this one!

On April 19, (jumping around a bit) several of my Sundance family and friends
came to Southern IL to help set up a tipi in my back yard.  It took some
doing thanks to the rain and mud, but we got it up.  We had ceremony in the
tipi that evening and now I look forward to some of my Sundance family who will
return in a week or so to spend some time doing lodge and staying in the tipi
in preparation for Dance.

The Peace and Dignity Journeys will soon begin.  the Trail of Tears portion of the run will
begin in Red Clay, TN June 3.  I can't physically take part in this years run due to Sundance
but I hope that someday I will be able to run at least through KY, IL and MO.  The Peace and Dignity Journey will take place again in another four years...

I'm sure there is a lot more to be said but I believe it will have to wait for another post.

As always, Remember to 


Saturday, March 15, 2008

Peace and Dignity Journeys 2008

Click on images to enlarge

I THINK Spring is here at last!!!
With Spring comes the reawakening of Mother Earth.  Green leaves and grass.
Dogwood and redbud blooms, tulip trees and flowering almond trees will once again
strut their stuff.  Baby birds and many other babies in the fields and forests.  
What a wonderful time this is.

This Spring is also time to plan for the Peace and Dignity Journeys 2008.  I personally
will be making plans and preparations for the Trail of Tears portion of the Peace and Dignity
Journey.  This past week we had two visitors from Arizona in Southern IL to see and help
lay the ground work for this years run.  Sue Senn, Cherokee, and Gustavo Gutierrez, Opata,
both of Arizona, traveled with me to (first) Cape Girardeau, MO to meet with Peace and Dignity Cherokee coordinators in that area.  Sue and Gustavo remained in MO overnight for another meeting, after visiting the Trail of Tears State Park.  

Wednesday morning I met Sue and Gustavo at the Jonesboro, IL Sundance Grounds.  While there we had a brief ceremony honoring the Sundance and Duke Big Feather Schallmo.  After a much needed stop in Jonesboro for breakfast, the three of us continued on through Anna, Vienna and Grantsburg in route to the Crabb-Abbott Farm, owned by Joe Crabb.  The Crabb-Abbott Farm was recently designated as a Historical Site in connection with the Trail of Tears. A portion of the farmland was actually a part of the Trail of Tears, the forced removal of the Cherokee from their homeland in the east to land beyond the Mississippi River, ultimately, Oklahoma.  Mr. Crabb talked with us and has agreed to allow some of the runners from the Peace and Dignity Journeys 2008 to visit this sacred site while in Southern IL this summer.

Thursday morning we got an early start on our way back through Vienna to Dixon Springs Park.  This is one of the areas the runners plan to camp while traveling the Trail of Tears this summer.  Both Sue and Gustavo agreed that the park was beautiful and would be a perfect rest stop for the men and women on this journey.  After leaving Dixon Springs we crossed IL Rt. 146 to Brownfield Road, traveling to the Trail of Tears Cemetery.  This cemetery has been marked as the resting place of many Cherokee who perished during the march.  As it turned out we spent quite a while at the cemetery, reading markers and saying prayers for all those who rest there.  

Our next stop was the Golconda Dairy Bar for a bite to eat for lunch and time to make a call to Momfeather Erickson at the Mantle Rock Welcome Center in Marion, KY.  Momfeather was wise and suggested that I should be sure the Cave-In-Rock Ferry was running before driving to the ramp.  I hadn't considered that the high water might be too high for the ferry to operate!  I made calls but could not get the information I needed, so we made a quick stop at a convenience/gas station just before the turn that will either take you to Cave-In-Rock or IL Rt.1.  Thank goodness for the friendly and informative local gentlemen who were a wealth of information!  "You'll have to take Rt.1, the ferry is closed."

The ferry would have been so much closer!  I'm not sure but I believe the Rt.1, Shawneetown bridge route, from Hardin County, is about 50 (+) miles out of the way.  It seemed more like a 100 miles farther, we made it in time however.  Momfeather met us downtown at the storefront/barbershop welcome center which is directly across from the courthouse.  Marion,KY is a beautiful small town with many warm, friendly people and the Mantle Rock
folks are at the top of that list.  We were taken to the Mantle Rock Center where we met with Momfeather, Stella and Momfeather's daughter Tina.  I felt as though I had known these women all my life and I know Sue and Gustavo felt likewise.  I so appreciate their warmth and hospitality and hope to visit there again very soon.

I had to leave by 2:30 in order to make the drive back to Marion, IL in time to get my work taken care of for the day.  Leaving Sue and Gustavo in the caring hands of the "Ladies of Mantle Rock" was more difficult than I had anticipated.  I have enjoyed our time together and have learned much about not only my own Cherokee people and their plight, but also that of many other indigenous nations throughout this hemisphere.  I am grateful for the three days I spent with my friends from Arizona.  God willing Sue and I will see each other this summer at Sundance and I look forward to that.  I hope I have the opportunity to once again see and speak with Gustavo, the kind, caring, soft-spoken wise man who was a stranger when he arrived at my house on Monday evening.  By Thursday, he was family.

Gustavo and Sue traveled on through KY to TN after we parted.  There is to be a meeting at Indian Mound, TN this evening.  Tomorrow the two of them will return to their homes and continue to plan for Peace and Dignity Journeys 2008.  Anyone in the Southern IL area who would like to support Peace and Dignity in some way or anyone who wishes to run along as PDJ 2008 passes through your community, please leave a comment to this post, including a way that I can get in touch with you and I will attempt to answer any questions you may have
concerning the run.

"Live, Love and Laugh!"

Sunday, March 9, 2008


Please, PLEASE tell me winter is finished!  

I love one (that's ONE) really nice, peaceful snowfall 
during the winter months.  I'm not at all crazy about 
ice and this multiple WINTER STORM WARNING
stuff simply stinks!  My mood and my skin really need 
to see spring.

AAAAAAHHHHHHH SPRING!  Green leaves and beautiful 
fragrant blooms.  Singing frogs and pools and puddles filled 
with tadpoles, baby birds, mushrooms.  Newborn foals!  Yes, 
we are expecting a new foal this spring and I can't wait to 
once again have a beautiful little spotted (it better be spotted) 
baby in the pasture.

One thing is absolutely certain, after a winter like this everyone 
should enjoy spring even more than usual!  I know I will.

So we'll hope spring is here at last, if it's still waiting around the 
corner just remember:


Sunday, February 17, 2008

Let There Be LIGHT! And HEAT! And HOT Showers!!!

First of all, I would like to say a BIG THANK YOU to Southeastern Illinois Electric for getting our electricity back up and running.  WOW!  Was it COLD in my house without power!  I have always been perfectly happy with an "all electric" home, until experiencing 74.5 hours, in mid-February, without heat. 

I don't really consider myself a wimp, or a "girly" girl, actually I know I'm a bit of a "tom-boy" .  After all I spend nine days living in a tent with no running water or electricity at Sundance each summer.  Then I spend another nine days, the end of July, riding horses and sleeping in the non electrified dressing room of my horse trailer.  I always manage just fine during these times.  However doing without heat in mid-February is a completely different situation!

I can pretty much say, with complete confidence, that next winter we will have not only a power generator but a gas fireplace as well!  Live and learn.  Regardless, I am so, so happy to have heat again!  It's nice to also have television, internet and hot water.

We are so spoiled!

Oh well!  Live, Love and Laugh!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


It's MISERABLE at my house!

As of right now we have been without (WITHOUT!) power for 31.5 hours. My house is almost as cold inside as the temperature outside. Did I mention our house is all electric?

So, how am I posting this on the computer without electricity? I braved the frozen, ice covered roads from my house to my daughters place, which is about 22 miles from me.
I made the drive just fine and her house is WARM!!! I'm getting to drink fresh, HOT, coffee! I'm going to take a nice HOT shower!!! Then I will have to return home to the frozen tundra of the Roberts' Ranch!

Many of our neighbors are also without power and I hope and pray they either have someplace warm to visit or the funds available to rent a room. The weather man says we may get more cold winter stuff this weekend, I hope he is wrong.

So I'll remind all of you, as I try to remind myself, to "LIVE, LOVE and LAUGH"!

Friday, February 8, 2008

Winter Wonderland

I have come to the conclusion that I, as I get older, should take up residence in a state with a much warmer year round climate. Still I have to admit that there is something so beautiful and peaceful about newly fallen snow. It's just that darn cold wind that makes my bones hurt!

I even like to go out and "play" in the snow with my dogs and, if they are out of school, my grandkids. Providing I can get on enough warm clothes and still move, I even like to go for a short horseback ride in the snow. I am however learning that it is just easier and much more comfortable to just bundle up and take a quick trip around the yard to snap a picture or two, then hurry back inside to a nice warm cup of green tea.

And then, there is Spot! Spot never seems to get cold when it comes to playing in the snow. When I decide I've had enough fun in the frigid air and re-enter the warmth of my house, closing the door in his face, Spot sits at the patio door, tilts his head to one side and stares at me through the glass. I imagine he will weigh 75 pounds by spring due to all the chew bones that head tilt earns him! He is just so darn cute!

This week the snow is all gone, we even had thunderstorms earlier this week. It's difficult to adjust to the weather since it's colder than a brass monkey one day and the next the temperature is in the 50's! It's a little strange when you are ducking for cover in early February because the tornado sirens are sounding. If the weather is so unstable in February, what is March going to bring? Snow? Thunderstorms and high winds? Gentle rain???

Oh! I AM so looking forward to SPRING!

Sunday, February 3, 2008


Can furry little critters really forecast the weather?

Let's see.

When it's going to rain, my knees and hands hurt and if it's really going to be a major storm system my head threatens to
explode. When the barometer drops, the horses and cattle lay down. If the wind is out of the west and it is blowing cold or rain or snow, my girls (horses) will have their rumps pointed in that direction. When the weatherman says we're going to have two or more inches of snow, the local Kroger parking lot is completely full and you can't get your cart through the aisles.

All indicators of the weather?

Now I am pretty certain all animals who live above ground are directly affected by the weather, hot or cold, and all the changes
it can bring. But seriously, can a furry little fella who burrows underground for a long winters nap, be awakened by some big burly, parka wearing guy, yanked out of his warm, comfy winters nest and expected to know how many more weeks of winter we will have? And just because they are going to have six more weeks in PA, does that naturally mean we will have the same here in SOUTHERN IL???

I think they need to leave poor little Pux_______ (can't possibly spell his name) Phil alone and just wait a few weeks to see what Mother Nature has in store. I mean does it really matter what the large rodent thinks? And who speaks groundhog, after all?
I think I would rather just wait, take one winter day at a time, and not have to think about six more weeks of cold.

Just my opinion, and just another reason to ALWAYS REMEMBER to


Saturday, January 26, 2008

Peace and Dignity Journeys 2008/Trail of Tears

Every four years something very important takes place throughout North, Central and South America. I'm not speaking of Leap Year, I'm talking about the Peace and Dignity Journeys. This endeavor began back in 1992 and continues every four years with the cooperation, love and fortitude of many, many people throughout the north and south. This journey is about honoring the People, land and places important to all People of the Americas.

There are different branches or "routes" that will take place but the one that will be "close to home" here in Southern IL, is the Trail of Tears route. Runners will come from NC/TN through KY and into Southern IL on the ferry at Cave In Rock, after spending a couple of nights at Mantle Rock in Marion, KY. The route will follow IL Route #146 through Hardin, Pope , Johnson and Union Counties where the participants will spend a few days in the Anna Jonesboro area at the Two Feathers Sundance encampment. When the Sundance is over the runners will proceed on to MO and continue on to Tahlequah, OK.

As the coordinator for the area from Mantle Rock to Anna-Jonesboro, I hope to get many local people interested in the Peace and Dignity Journeys 2008. I have included a link to the PDJ website for general information (see column to right>>>). Anyone who would like to contact me for more information specifically about the Trail of Tears Route, please leave a comment here or send an email to :

Sunday, January 6, 2008


Well, it's 2008. Another Christmas has come and gone, another New Year is here.

What can I say...
The candidates (presidential) are on a roll and I'm already sick of all of them.
My husband has been right here, with me 24/7 for two (+) months. I am not
looking forward to retirement. I certainly hope and pray this new year will have
a lot more to offer in the way of work for hubby.
I am looking forward to spring time when we should have a new foal, that will
be exciting! Of course I look forward to spring for many reasons, warmth, new
growth, horseback riding and lots of green, green, green!

What can I say?
I can say that tomorrow is a new day in this NEW YEAR and I'll be happy to see
that NEW DAY. I am happy, and thankful for each new day I'm blessed with.

And so I once again remind all of you, as well as myself, to LIVE, LOVE and LAUGH.
As much and as often as you possibly can.

My Cherokee Grandmother

My Cherokee Grandmother
Selva COX/Opal Nokomis SMITH Nolen

Enjoying the Ride

Enjoying the Ride
October 31, 2008

Daddy Cat, Jr.

Daddy Cat, Jr.
"You're blocking my light!"


Chester & Princess Out For a Ride