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Grove - it is by request only. In other words, we NEVER
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I always like to start the GroveZine with a few niceties, but all that I can muster at the moment is, HOLY COW IS IT HOT!!! It's a scorcher not only in Jefferson, but everywhere in the area. I know, because we took a week off for a research trip for a new book that I'm working on and headed up into the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas. We had hoped that it would be cooler there, but guess what - they were bathed in the same heat wave that Jefferson is.
The next book, if everything goes as planned, will be about the city of Eureka Springs, Arkansas. You may have read Natchez: The History and Mystery of the City on the Bluff, and hopefully you'll check out the upcoming book Jefferson: The History and Mystery of the City on the Bayou. Coming in 2011 will be Eureka Springs: The History and Mystery of the City of Healing Waters. We've already made one research trip there this year, and this past month we launched out on another... but wait until you hear about what happened to us.
Did you ever have one of those weeks when it seemed like everything was going terribly wrong? Well, that was our trip to Eureka. On the way up there we pulled into a McDonald's to stretch our legs and grab a soda. We'd had Tami's cell phone plugged into the car charger between the two front seats, and when I unclasped my seat belt, it caught the phone, and propelled it across the parking lot, smashing it into pieces. I thought, "Okay, what a terrible way to start a trip." I made a note to order a new phone when we returned, since I knew that Eureka didn't have an AT&T/Cingular store. I hoped that it would be a minor inconvenience at worst, although when doing research we often use our cell phones to keep in contact.
Continuing on, we stopped at a convenience store in Horatio, Arkansas to fill up the car with gas and make a bathroom stop. As I was leaning up against the car, watching the digits on the pump roll over as the gas poured in, I heard a voice from behind me. "Dude! Dude!" I turned around and there was a couple in a pickup truck with the window rolled down, and the gentleman was reaching out of the cab and offering what was clearly a marijuana cigarette. He said, "Hey dude, do you want to hit this?" Now, I like to think that I'm a logical guy. I stood there dumbfounded for a moment wondering why in the world anyone would try to entice a stranger to engage in an illegal activity on the main street of town in broad daylight. More than that, he was waving around a burning object where gas vapors were floating through the air. It was a completely befuddling situation on so many levels. Unable to find an answer, I finally just said, "No thanks, but my drug of choice is actually caffeine, or maybe an occasional Miller Lite." The guy shrugged, rolled up his window, and drove away. All I could think of was, "We're not in Kansas anymore, Toto..."
We then got to Eureka and checked into our hotel, the Basin Park. We usually stay at the Crescent, but thought that we'd try the Basin this time, just for something different. Both hotels have ghost stories associated with them, and we've had experiences in each hotel, so we thought that it would be fun. One thing to keep in mind, not only with those hotels, but in any 1800s hotel that you stay in around the country - in the old days, they didn't have bathrooms in every room - the facilities were generally at the end of the hall, and everyone shared them. Back in their history, when the hotels added individual bathrooms, they were done in whatever manner could be accomplished at the time - often making them clumsy and inconvenient. When we got to the Basin Park Hotel and opened the door to room 209, we went inside and saw that the toilet was wedged between the shower wall and the window, leaving only a few inches on either side. Not to be indelicate here, but using it was, well, awkward to say the least. You had to back into it, and then had no arm room on either side so you had to keep them stretched out in front of you. While we were out and about during the day, we took full advantage of bathrooms at any of the establishments where we happened to be, which made up for the claustrophobic conditions we had while in the hotel room.
Our research trip went along well from there for a day or so, until Thursday morning. Tami chairs the English Department at our local high school, and she'd been working on some back-to-school plans with the administration. She called the principal to touch base, and in the course of the conversation he laughed and said, well, so you were arrested for theft, huh? She didn't understand the joke, but played along and said, "Oh yes, that's why we fled to Arkansas." She didn't think anything about it, and didn't even mention it to me. At lunch we were dining on the Balcony Restaurant of the Basin Park Hotel, overlooking Spring Street, when my cell phone went off. It was Joe, the President of our local Lions Club where Tami and I are both members. He had us on speaker phone and we could hear all of the laughing in the room as Joe reported that Tami's name was in the newspaper in the arrest report section, for "theft of property," and had been released on $100,000 bond. When I realized that he wasn't kidding, I told Tami, and she was horrified. "How does that person spell her name?!?!?" she demanded. Joe told me that it was T-A-M-M-Y W-H-I-T-T-I-N-G-T-O-N. Of course, my wife's name is Tami Whitington. Both first and last names of the alleged thief were spelled differently. Tami then asked the woman's age, which they always print, and Joe told me that it was listed as 37. When I relayed that to Tami, I could see the wheels turning in her head. Clearly it wasn't her - and decorum as a gentleman prevents me from revealing my wife's age, but let's just say that she has a good few years on the "arrestee" in the paper. After a moment or two, though, she told me, "Tell Joe and the Lions Club that it really was me - I'm willing to take the hit for the crime if people will really believe that I'm 37!" That gave everyone a laugh back at the club meeting. They carried it further at the next meeting, when one of the Club Directors stood up to make a "special presentation" to one of our members. It turned out that Lion Wayman Moore presented Tami with a prisoner's uniform, to the laughter and applause of the entire club.
Still, I wonder who all in town won't have noticed the spelling or age, and think that for some reason Tami was arrested. In a little town, gossip reigns supreme. Maybe I'll just enjoy the dangerous idea of being married to a perceived fugitive!!!
Getting back to the trip, though, we completed all the research that we'd set out to do, and finally returned home to The Grove. I sat down at my desk and started going through the hundreds of emails that had accumulated, and found a distinct pattern to several of them. The header said, "Receipt for your payment to iTunes Store." Since I hadn't been near a computer, and haven't bought anything from iTunes in several years, I thought that this was very strange. Getting further into it, I discovered that iTunes was withdrawing money from my PayPal account, which was siphoning money from our checking account, to the tune of about a thousand bucks. Some hacker was stealing our money!!! In a panic, I called the PayPal customer service number, and got a very calm gentleman who said that he was taking care of everything as we spoke. He canceled any further apple.com charges, and then filed refund notices on our behalf, and said that we'd have the money back in our account within 10 days. The crisis over, it was a very strange ending to a very strange week. What's the moral to the story? I guess that it's to pay attention to where you're charging your cell phone, change your online passwords regularly, and have a good sense of humor when it comes to toilets in hotels from the 1800s and alleged thiefs whose names are pronounced the same as yours. Or maybe it simply boils down to this: just roll with the punches...
As we head into fall, the next big event in Jefferson is the Boo Benefit on October 8, 9 & 10, and is a huge motorcycle rally here in town. It features a Biker Ball, Poker Run, Street Dance, concerts and much more. Austin street will be blocked off from one end to the other, providing rows and rows of parking for thousands of bikes. Even the most casual motorcycle enthusiast will be in awe of some of the beautiful machinery in town for the weekend. It's an amazing event, but rooms go quickly, so book well in advance if you plan on spending the night! For more information on the Boo Benefit, click here for their website: www.boobenefit.org
And speaking of traveling, some of our trips this summer have brought me to a true realization in my life. I never would have guessed it... I couldn't have ever anticipated it... but it seems that I'm becoming - dare I say it aloud? - a soap snob. Yep, I guess that it's best to admit it and get on with my life. It all started on a research trip to Eureka Springs a few months ago, where we stayed at the notoriously haunted hotel "The Crescent." While our trip was unfortunately devoid of any supernatural activity, they had a wonderful little custom bath soap that we used while we were there. When we got back home to our regular soap (a good, name-brand that we've used for years), I was a little disappointed. A month later we took a weekend trip to see our favorite band, Cross Canadian Ragweed, play a concert near Brenham, Texas. We spent two nights at the Ant Street Inn there, and I noticed how great their face soap was - a small glycerin bar that had a great aroma and lather, and really left your face feeling cleansed. When they brought us a fresh bar the 2nd day, I ended up taking it home, along with what was left of the first bar. I found it to be far superior to the facial cleanser that we were using at home (am I sounding crazy at this point, or is it just me?). Anyway, on our last trip to Eureka that I mentioned above, we stayed at the Basin Park Hotel downtown where ghost stories abound. Once again, we had soap that had been customized for the hotel that was citrusy and refreshing to use. I was so carried away - and I hate to admit this - but I grabbed two extra bars as we passed the maid's cart one day just to bring home. I didn't feel too guilty, though, because we did tip the maid every morning. In addition, though, I purchased several bars of handmade soap at a couple of different shops, and I've really been enjoying them. I believe that I'm becoming dangerously close to trying my hand at soapmaking. I'm starting to think that life's way too short to just settle for what I can find at the grocery store, when I enjoy some of these specialty soaps so much more. Call me crazy, but in the little research that I've done, this is something that has really caught my interest. Stay tuned for more on this new psychosis of mine!
Okay, enough with weird travel experiences and the wonders of handmade soap - let's get to the good stuff... a few ghost stories for you! And this issue is about the Doors... no, no, no, not Jim Morrison, Ray Manzarek, Robby Krieger, and John Densmore (although I'm really impressed with anyone who had that thought). Instead, it's about the doors of The Grove. You know, it is a common occurrence to find a door that was open to now be closed or vice versa. That happened with an outside door when we first bought the house back in 2002, and we had a very stern talk with the place. We informed the house that while we didn't mind whatever might go on inside, we did not want outside doors opened up which might allow our basset hounds to wander out. We explained to the house that the dogs were like our kids, and we couldn't imagine losing them. Since then, I have to say that with whatever might be happening inside, we don't have a problem with the outside doors. In fact, just the opposite happened once. I'd gone outside, and with my arms full, I hadn't managed to close the side door well enough and so the dogs nosed it open. At that time we had a screen door on it as well - an old one that was there when we got the house, that never quite fit the door frame right. The dogs could easily nose it open, and did so whenever we opened the side door to take them for a walk. When I went back up to the house on that day, the side door was standing wide open, but both dogs were sitting calmly there looking out of the screen, as if it had somehow been locked, or was being held closed. Both Lilly and Delaney were youngsters at that time, and liked nothing more than to bolt outside - yet on that day, it was if something had prevented it. Could it be coincidence? Of course it could - still, I gave the house a hearty "thank you" when I got inside and closed and locked the side door.
You may have heard me tell the story in the past about one of the early experiences that I had at The Grove. We were starting to move into the house, and had stacked a pile of boxes in the corner of the kitchen. I decided to move them out onto the side gallery - which was converted into a hallway in the 1930s - where they'd be out of the way. The door between the kitchen and the gallery was on an automatic closer, so I'd have to open the door every time to carry a box out. I quickly fell into a routine: pick up a box in the kitchen, balance it while I opened the door, and then carry it out into the hallway to add to the stack. I'd then push the door open and go back into the kitchen, pick up another box, and the process would repeat. About halfway through the stack I put a box down in the hallway, and then pushed the door into the kitchen, but it wouldn't budge. I tried another time or two, but it wasn't moving. I then realized that the deadboat had been thrown - from inside the kitchen. I had to walk down the hall, through the den, and back around to find that indeed the deadbolt had indeed been turned and locked. As I unlocked it to continue moving the boxes, I turned around and told the house, "Why would you lock me out? Can't you see that I'm working here?" It was just one of those cases where our ghosts seemed to have a mischievous sense of humor.
And that humorous side to them shows up occasionally - like the time that I went out of the front door at 2:00 pm on a Saturday for the tour. I talked to our guests for a few minutes outside, gave a little history and half a ghost story, and then when I grabbed the doorknob and turned to lead everyone inside to the parlor, the door was locked. The deadbolt on the front door can only be locked or unlocked with a key on either side, and if the bolt happens to be thrown with the door open, there is no way to close it. Bottom line - the deadbolt had to be manually thrown from the inside once the door was closed. I knocked on the door to try to get Tami's attention, but finally had to walk all the way around the house and go in from the back. Tami was in the kitchen and asked why I was there, and I told her that the front door had locked itself. After trudging through the house, I got back to the parlor, turned the key in the deadbolt, and let everyone in. While I was aggravated that I had to make the long walk, everyone got a laugh out of it, which the spirits of The Grove probably enjoyed.
This month, however, we've had a couple of new door issues. The first came one evening as we were going to bed. Tami turned in for the evening, and I was in the office taking care of a few final things. When I came to bed, she asked what I'd been doing with the door, and I told her that I'd been back in the office and hadn't been near the bedroom. She said that as she was lying there, the door pulled halfway closed, and then opened completely up again. She attributed it to the fact that I was coming to bed and had decided to shut it, but then changed my mind. It puzzled here when I didn't immediately get into bed, though, which is why she questioned me when I finally did come in. We're still not sure what that was about, other than the fact that the door was moving with no one around.
The final door story that I have to tell is a bit dramatic, and even more puzzling. Getting ready for a tour one Sunday morning, I was straightening up in the den, and closed the French door that leads into the hallway. It swings open toward the television in the room, and then closes to the right against the other French door (in the photo, it swings to the right). As I closed it, a bottom pane smashed - but flew out in the direction that I was closing it. This shocked me - it was completely contradictory to the laws of physics. I was swinging the door to the right, the pane burst, and flew out to the right. If I'd hit something the pane would have gone backwards, but instead, it was if someone had tapped it in the same direction that I was closing the door. I'd like to think that I have a logical mind, and I even have a degree from the Texas A&M college of engineering, but I couldn't explain the physics of how a window pane could smash in the direction that I was closing the door, when there was nothing but air there. Just another Grove event, I guess, but I complained for quite some time since I had to replace the window pane. If it had some significance I'd understand, but to shatter it just for the heck of doing so made me angry - I tell you, living at The Grove isn't scary, but it can be really, really annoying!!!
Well, I didn't start out to make this the "door" issue, but it just turned out that way, and I enjoyed sharing some of the stories. I received a couple of great emails to share, but with the permission of the senders, I'll just save them for the August GroveZine. As we make our way through at least one more month of the sweltering heat, I'll say goodbye for now and wish you all a great ending to the summer. I really appreciate you taking the time out of your busy schedule to read the GroveZine, and I hope that it might give you a smile, a few ghostly things to think about, and this month, a reminder to change your online passwords. Talk to you next month!
By the way, The Grove is listed on Tripadvisor.com. If you've taken The Grove tour, and you have a few spare moments, we'd really, really (did I say really?) appreciate you visiting TripAdvisor.com's site for The Grove, and leaving a review of your experience. You can go to TripAdvisor.com and search for "The Grove Jefferson TX," or go to The Grove's website www.thegrove-jefferson.com and scroll down to find the Trip Advisor logo-link, or simply click on the TripAdvisor logo right here in the GroveZine to take you to the page. I know that it takes a couple of minutes, but we'd sincerely appreciate it.
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