By Eve W. Engle

The dogs rule in our house. They are fed first, allowed in our bed, have their own bed in the guest room and sneak up onto the sofas when we aren't looking. Maxie, short for Maximus, is a Golden Retriever/Great Pyrenes mix, Sammy is a Black Lab/Border Collie mix. His full name is Samuel L. Jackson after one of my favorite actors. Both were abused and rescued from their former owners. They get cookies every morning.

Monday, January 3, 2022

 One last post. My devoted Sam will cross over the Rainbow Bridge today to meet his brother Max. He is 14 years old this month. I needed to post this for closure. Max came to live with me at a time when I needed him badly. Sam came shortly after. That was October and December of 2008. Both had been neglected and abused. They helped heal one another's internal wounds better than I ever could have. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't miss Maxie. He was the gentlest of souls. But Sam was my black shadow. He followed me everywhere. If I moved, he would watch. If I left the room, he would follow.

Now it's time to say goodbye. The last year has been tough on him. My little Catahoula, Ada Mae, has been his companion, but she has also been his irritant. She will miss him almost as much as I will. Sammy will be in a better place, romping with Max. I choose to believe that. Someday I will have the courage to spread their ashes together.

Goodbye my protector. I love you with my whole heart.

There are no more cookies in the cookie jar.


Friday, April 17, 2020

Just to update since I left this blog to pursue other things. My mother and I are living in another home in a new town. Actually, it's a very old town. We moved from Windy Hill Farm last fall, to an even older home in historic Greensboro, Alabama. We call it "Camellia Cottage". I had just started working in the library here when the dreaded corona virus, COVID-19, changed everything. I am at home now, learning how to deal with technology in a whole new way. And I suck at it. But it will get better. But let me fill you in on the past 4 years!

After a time I decided to start quilting. When I was a young child my parents took me to Gees Bend, which is really Boykin, Alabama. The famous quilting bee was just taking off there, and we attended the ribbon cutting for the co-op. I knew that some day I too would be a quilter. That day arrived when I walked into a local fabric store. What I didn't know was that I would start a new career. From 2016 through 2019 I managed fabric stores focusing on cotton quilting fabrics. I also joined the local quilt guild and began creating a studio. It was a great way for me to express myself creatively, and to break from some of the stressful things in my life.

Through my work at the fabric store I met members of the Mystic Krewe of the Druids, a Mardi Gras krewe that supports our regional HIV/AIDS clinic. I started helping and am now a full-fledge member. We raise funds through an annual Bal Masque. I love it!

Now for the sad news. I lost my sweet, devoted, gentle boy Maxie on a beautiful sun filled day in May, 2018. I still can't talk about it. He suffered, and I have trouble accepting he is gone forever. There have been other great dogs in my life, but he was special. Sammy is still with me. He is an old man of 12 now. The next door neighbors have five Labs that roam free. Sam has become friends with them and seems happy. For now he is fine.

During the time of COVID-19 I have many things to be thankful for, especially my memories of two great dogs, Sam and Max. There are no better friend than a devoted dog, and I am blessed.

Our world is changing quickly in ways we can barely understand. I won't be posting here again. There is no one reading this blog anymore anyway. But, for a while, I found this "place" to be a  favorite location.


Monday, November 7, 2016

Inspiration revived

Life throws jagged poison tipped arrows at you once in a while. I've been through my share. In August of 2015 I found myself completely uprooted and without my own "space". I resigned from the job I had depended on for 16 years, the career choice of 34 years, paid off my car, sold almost everything I owned, and left the house I had paid mortgage payments on for 15 years to move across the state and in with my elderly mother. I had to reinvent myself as her caretaker and as someone without a steady income, and with no benefits.

Here we are a year later. I am richer in too many ways to count. I have reestablished relationships from high school, learned the topography of our family acreage, found a completely different career in a field I had never considered in my past, and acquired a Shih Tzu. My waistline is larger due to the rich array of country foods in my daily diet, but I am feeling prettier than I have in a long time. The stress of being in a place in your life where you know you have tarried too long can etch deep furrows in your self esteem. I have my moments, but I feel more content than I have in a long while.

Strangely enough, I find myself so busy that I don't miss the career I was devoutly devoted to for over three decades. Instead of manning a library desk, my Saturdays now revolve around an almost religious experience in football. Where I had been living had football too, but it was more reserved, and the team was not my own. Here I can whoop and holler for the boys in the "right" uniform, and not need to apologize for my outrageous behavior. I can get up and wander around in my pajamas on my family land and not worry that anyone other than a curious buzzard will see me. My dogs can freely explore smells that fill their souls with a natural wonder of the likes they have never experienced. And they can run . . . and run . . . and run. And best of all I can read anything I want, when I want, for as long as I want, wherever I want! (I have discovered that I really like paranormal romance novels. Giggles.)

What felt last year like stinging arrows launched by the likes of little nasties in children's nightmares has evolved into cupid's arrows into my senior adult heart. I am happy! Maybe not blissfully, but nevertheless, happy.

Reinventing one's self is good for the soul. I am writing again. Daily life brings inspiration where just a year ago my life felt devoid of it. I had to force myself to write anything. But this fall I am working on my novel and getting serious about finishing several other ideas.

Inspiration may take a while, but circumstances can change and make all the difference.

Never give up seeking inspiration, nor believing in yourself.

Next time I feel the stings of nasty little arrows, I am grabbing a handful and throwing them back!

Monday, September 28, 2015

The Indiana Farm Boy at 100: life after conflict

In more ways than one this specific article picks up the theme of life after conflict. My last post was a while ago. It was my intention when I began to write about my dad on the "eve" of his one hundredth birthday that I would try to post at least two articles a week. Then reality intervened. First, my laptop began misbehaving . . . badly. It decided to take on a life of its own. Writing became an exercise in frustration to see if I could get an entire sentence typed before the cursor decided to move to a location of its choice, or to open new windows, close other windows, and dance around the screen like a whirling dervish. Aside from the insanity of the laptop, things changed with my job. A major position opened up that I just couldn't ignore. After several weeks of intense interviewing I faced a room full of interrogators via Skype. Nice interrogators, but I still felt like someone who was facing the Nuremberg trial lawyers. I made it to the semifinals, but then wasn't chosen as a finalist. Still, it was a great experience in professional interviewing, and I learned a lot. Then my middle son left for China, and my job took a turn I couldn't accept. I resigned when it became evident that I needed to make a major change in my life, and that I was truly needed at home. THE family home. Windy Hill. Where there was no computer that worked well enough for me to do my work. So I took off for Best Buy with my mother to purchase a computer for the two of us to use. We bought a new desktop computer, and I delivered my old laptop to the "Geek Squad". After a week of messing around and trying to get things to work, the outcome has been another new computer to replace the first new computer, which was broken, a working (but not great) laptop with a mouse now attached to confuse the track pad into behaving, and no ethernet, so I am still using the public library's WiFi. Thank God for public libraries! But I have plenty of time to write since I have no job. I am not retired, just repositioned. That is my life after conflict.

Which brings me back on track, and to this article. Life after a major conflict can be confusing, a little frightening, and very frustrating. But it can also open the door for new opportunity. After WW2 began my dad had a job with Lockheed, but when the war ended he was left like everyone else, wondering what was to come next? Time to examine his options. Living in Los Angeles provided opportunities he wouldn't have had anywhere else. His degree was in studio art with a concentration in sculpture and ceramics. It was time for Frank to put his talent to more appropriate use. He opened Frank Engle Studios in L.A., and then eventually relocated to Evansville, Indiana to be closer to family. In the meantime though, his designs captured the attention of the prop departments at the major Hollywood studios, magazines such as "House Beautiful", and the marketing departments of major retailers such as Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman.

Frank Engle Studios produced decorative ceramics and was recognized for it's unique glazing as well as its designs. Many of the products were horses or animal pairs, but the factories produced everything from tiles to ashtrays (definitely a sign of those times) to wall sconces and flower vases. By 1949 everything business wise was going well, but then tragedy struck. Frank began to have health issues. He was diagnosed with lead poisoning. Eventually he ended up selling the factory and all his moulds and left Evansville to become a professor of art at the University of Alabama.

But the commissions kept coming. He produced the decorations for the new Shamrock Hotel, which opened in Houston, Texas in 1949. At the time it was the largest hotel in the United States and a major feather in Frank's cap. And there was also Ford Motor Company. The first revision of the Ford emblem after World War 2 was a big deal. Ford wanted something that reflected the new economic boom in America, intrinsically patriotic, and that reflected American strength. Frank created the red, white, and blue crest with chevrons and rampant lions. So life after the war was different, full of success and change, but not without conflict of its own.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

The Indiana Farm Boy at 100: WAR!

The United States was attacked by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. The Americans had entered World War 2! In anticipation of the unavoidable the United States had imposed the first peace time draft on September 16, 1940. Frank Engle's name was on the list. While he was traveling with his friends his draft notice was being prepared. It finally caught up with him.

It must have been a very emotional moment to read that letter at the end of such an incredible year of sightseeing and discovery. But Frank went to the nearest duty station to report and explain his situation. What must he have said? "I've just come from the most important experience of my 23 years sir. Sorry about being late." And the response he must have received? "Really? You think a year traveling around with two other guys looking at art was the most important experience you've ever had? YOU JUST WAIT!"

However, if you were late reporting for draft duty (with a legitimate excuse) then your orders had to be reissued. So Frank was told to go back to his hotel and wait for new orders. He promptly went looking for a job and landed one with the Burbank California facility for Lockheed Aircraft Corporation. Since he had an extensive background in art Frank was put to work in a hanger where they drew aircraft to scale from engineering designs. Lofting (drawing) the plans to scale on the floor of the hanger was standard procedure back in those days. Frank loftted bomber designs to scale and then the pattern department would step in and cut out the parts to begin construction. When his second draft notice arrived Frank's job was essential to the war effort and he was "frozen" in his position. The War Department couldn't touch him. He belonged to Lockheed. By the end of the war he was in charge of their Experimental Pattern Department.

By the time he was drafted a third time toward the end of the war he was pushing 30 and considered too old anyway. In the meantime Frank must have found the work during the war years at Lockheed exciting and stimulating.

The Lockheed Corporation's Burbank facility was believed to be in grave danger of possible attack by the Japanese.  A secret plan called "Operation Camouflage" was set in motion. Huge canvases were stretched across the roofs of all the buildings. Fake rubber cars and buildings were installed. Workers would leave on their breaks and go "home" to pull laundry off of lines and to do other chores which made it look like they were actually in a suburb to any aircraft flying overhead.

In 1943 the development of a new jet fighter began at the Burbank facility. The Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star was completed and became the first jet fighter to score a kill for the United States. You have to wonder if Frank lofted these plans.

One aspect of living in the Los Angeles/Burbank California area was an almost daily encounter with celebrities. Seeing movie stars and entertainers, directors and producers, writers and artists was common. Frank encountered many while he was there. His opinion of Burt Lancaster was in direct contrast to his opinion of Andy Divine (he thought Lancaster was one of the finest examples of a male physique he had ever encountered, while he found Devine repulsive, smelly, and obese). It was a thrilling time in his life.

He remained in California for a while after the war ended. After leaving Lockheed he opened his own ceramics studio and produced decorative ceramics. Many were bought for movie props. He married. He took commissions. But the war was over, and it was time to go home to Indiana.

Zebras, Frank Engle Studios

The Indiana Farm Boy at 100: The Art Student

The John Herron Art Institute was established in 1902. Eventually renamed the Herron School of Art, by 1967 it was absorbed into Indiana University. But in 1935 Frank Engle was a poor boy with no source of tuition funding. A supporting teacher from Anderson High School understood how talented her student was, and encouraged him to apply to art school. She helped him put together a portfolio to show the faculty at Herron. They were impressed and he was accepted into the sculpture program.

Frank worked hard, really hard. But just because he was able to get into college didn't mean he had the money to survive. He nearly starved to death. Walking the trolley lines in Indianapolis where Herron was located, he would search for lost coins in hopes of finding enough for at least a  cup of coffee. He managed to get through this tough period. Under the tutelage of renowned sculptor David Kresz Rubins, he produced some of his best work while he was a student there. He did so well he won the prestigious Mary Milliken Award his senior year.

The Milliken Award was established in 1928 by William Milliken in honor of his wife. It is still being awarded to outstanding students in any medium. When Frank won the award in 1940 he hoped to use it to tour the best art museums and to study in Europe. But the Nazi's had other plans. Already in Poland, they invaded France in May of 1940 which made it impossible for him to tour Europe. That June, along with other two other award recipients, Loren Fisher and Floyd Hopper, Frank begin a trek of 18,000 miles. The three men toured the art centers along the East Coast, Canada, and Pacific Coast to California, and then down into Mexico instead. The men built a small caravan camper from scraps which they pulled behind Fisher's brand new car and traveled together studying ceramics, sculpture, painting, and other mediums by artists in North America. But all good things must come to an end. And did it ever when Japanese "zeros" attacked the American bases in Hawaii. Frank was no longer a student under the protection of a college. He was a man, and there was a war on.

Below: Frank as a student at Herron School of Art, c. 1939

Monday, July 6, 2015

The Indiana Farm Boy at 100 - Brotherly Love and the Black Sheep of the Family

My dad had three brothers, two older and one younger, Norman, Lee, and Morris. Norman, the eldest, was born on April 13, 1912 in Illinois. He completed the 8th grade and went on to a career in sales, marriage and raising a family (two sons and two daughters) in Alexandria, Indiana. He reached about 5' 9", which made his the second tallest of the boys. He passed away May of 1987 at age 75. Walter Lee Jr. was born June 12, 1914 in Indiana. Like his namesake, he was tall (6') and lanky. He was only 18 when he died of "Lockjaw" (Tetanus) in 1932 after a cut he had became infected. There is no record of his last year of formal schooling, but he didn't finish high school. Morris E. was born April 10, 1918 in Indiana. He made it through his first year of high school (9th grade), married and had two sons and a daughter. The shortest at about 5' 6", Morris passed away in 2010, at age 92. My dad was number three, between Lee and Morris. At his tallest he was about 5'7". Since their mom only reached 4'11" at her tallest it was no wonder Norman, Morris, and my dad never shopped in the "big and tall" stores.

Considering the lack of means and the family educational history, it is amazing to think that my dad not only finished high school but was able to find a way into college and eventually make a career as a university professor, even being honored for his distinguished career. No one else had a talent quite like his. His mom, Nina, was a seamstress. His dad had a varied career from sharecropper to machinist. But Frank was able to put his talent and intellect to good use, and the artist was born.

Before that though, there was a family of four tough boys keeping in trouble as the mood hit them. When one messed up they were all punished by their "Pop" who spared the rod and used the palm of his hand to set them all straight if  any one of them went down the wrong path or smarted off. He would line them up and whack them all in one fell swoop. He was a hard father, but he loved his boys. One Christmas during the depression he spent time whittling a ball and bat for them. That Christmas Day he took all four boys down to the yard of the local two room school in Marion, Indiana, so they could take a swing at their new ball. Pop stood in as pitcher and sent the three smaller boys to man the field letting Lee take the first "crack" at the wooden ball. Knowing the length of Lee's extended arm, Pop instructed the three other boys to be ready for a long ball. Lee got the feel of the bat in his hands and finally indicated he was ready. Pop sent one ball flying toward Lee who promptly whacked it so hard it made the sound of a "banger"on the 4th of July! The ball arced up, up, up and flew over the school house yard and began it's descent just as it reached the outside comfort privy. At the moment it was perfectly centered over the privy the ball dropped through the roof, and disappeared down the hole!

One time the boys were sharing the back of an old nag in a pasture. Morris had to wait his turn, being the "baby" and the smallest (his nickname was "Speck"). Finally he mounted the old horse and readied himself for a trot. What he got was a full out run, straight toward the only standing tree in the entire field. He hung on for dear life as the maniacal horse sped forward. The horse stopped just short of whacking himself senseless, but that didn't stop Morris' momentum. He flew over the top of the suddenly stationary horse and whacked the trunk of the tree with his own head. The truth was, the horse had been docile and good tempered until Morris got on his back. That was when he felt the unexpected and uncomfortable encounter with the palm of one of the brother's hands on his nether region.

Another time the boys attempted to assist their pop with a bull. The bull needed help (I have no idea why) getting properly situated to do his "business". One of the boys was selected to hold the cow steady while the others helped at the other end. Unfortunately there was a miscalculation and the brother at the front end got a face full of, shall we say, "goo". There was no calf conceived that day.

My dad adored Lee. He was amazed at how Lee was at one with nature. For some divine reason Lee could settle among the creatures of the wild and they were not afraid of him. Squirrels, birds, and other animals would approach him. When he died my dad was only 15. They must have known it was imminent. Tetanus is a nasty disease when untreated. Back in 1932 there wasn't much they could do to ease his suffering. Someone came to Anderson High School and pulled my dad from his class that fateful day. He ran the many blocks home but it was too late by the time he arrived. Lee was gone. My dad believed Lee was special. That he wasn't meant to be a mere mortal. He once told me he had no idea what would have happened to Lee if he had lived since he probably would have ended up in a factory, or working the fields. As it was, his death left a hole in the family, and in my dad's heart. And probably was the main catalyst for his finishing high school and continuing his education at a university.

Shortly before my dad passed away my cousins brought their dad, my Uncle Morris, to visit. It was bittersweet for both. It was the last time the two old men would ever see one another. They both knew it. We all knew it. But there they sat, side by side, sharing a few words, but mostly just sitting and sharing the moment, reflecting on their long and separate lives. Four brothers, down to two, who had started their lives at the beginning of a century and were ending them at the beginning of the next. They had seen hardship, death, and war. But they had also witnessed the introduction of radio, talking movies, television, microwaves, passenger airplanes, moon landings, and computers. And they had shared experiences that they didn't need to talk about, and that we will never know about.

Four brothers, down to three, then two, then one. And now they live on in our memories and imaginations.
Top photo left to right: Lee, two unknown cousins, Frank, another unknown cousin, Morris, and Norman. Bottom photo left to right: Lee, Mom, Frank, Pop, Morris, and Norman.