Epic Blur

Before this begins to look like an abandoned website, I should explain what’s been going on, or hasn’t been going on.  It’s complicated.

As I bedded down on Sunday night of Memorial Day weekend, after returning from my trip to the Lovewell family reunion in Republic, Kansas, the thought kept running through my mind that “Republic” was an anagram for something appropriate, and there would be no sleeping until I had figured out what it was.  Yeah, I know it sounds silly, but it happens to me now and then.  After mentally sorting through letters for a moment I realized that the second word had to be “blur.”  Subtracting the letters in “blur” from “Republic,” I was left with “epic.”  “Yes, that’s about right - an epic blur,” I sighed, before closing my eyes and drifting off to dreamland.

I had planned on driving north on Saturday, until nasty weather became an obstacle, with heavy rain, high winds, hail and tornadoes all cueing up between me and Wichita.  So, I slipped out of bed at 3:00 o’clock Sunday morning, crammed everything I thought I could possibly need into my little blue Focus, and hit the road at 4:00.  Two hours before dawn is a chancy time to be heading into the Flint Hills, as numerous blood-streaked stretches of asphalt reminded me, although I saw only one living deer, posing timidly at the edge of the road, waiting for an opportunity to bound across.  Nothing darted out in front of me, except for two coyotes who cleared the roadway with several seconds to spare.  In addition to a couple of stops for coffee, I pulled into at the Walmart in Concordia to pick up a hefty three-prong extension cord, knowing how unlikely it would be  to find one lying around in the church basement at Republic.  It was a good call, although I should have spent the extra five dollars for the 20-foot model.

Surprised to find so many paved streets in a town of fewer than 120 people, I made only a few zigs and zags before finding the United Methodist Church, which turned out to be an excellent choice for the reunion.   I parked and began carting equipment into the basement, hoping to get things set up before guests began filtering in.  As a TV creative services director, putting together video presentations is one of my regular duties.  However, while I generally create the slides and run the show, someone else assembles and tears down the eight-foot screen, which is something on the order of a particularly cumbersome erector set, and another person delivers the message, while I keep the slides and video effects appearing at appropriate times.  For this occasion I had to serve as headliner, projectionist, and roadie.  

I was delighted to note the arrival of Rhoda Lovewell, whose presence made it a bona fide reunion, and I finally got to shake hands with Phil Thornton, who has contributed over a dozen photos and documents to this site over the past few years.  Phil had brought along a colorized enlargement of a view of the old village of Lovewell, taken from a promotional postcard created in the early decades of the 20th century.  After seeing the picture a day or two earlier, longtime area resident A. J. Whitney gave it a thumbs-up, certifying it as a realistic depiction of the village she remembers.  

The potluck lunch was delicious; there were new people to meet, old acquaintances to renew, and stories to share.  It was great to see Verle Smith again, a great-grandson of Thomas and Adaline Smith, whom I first met at a family reunion four years ago.  Verle proudly recalled being hoisted onto the lap of Simpson Grant Lovewell in the 1940’s.  He also reported visiting Fort Hays and leafing through a logbook where he spotted Thomas Lovewell’s name among the arrivals.  Doris Hammer, who did much of the planning for this year’s reunion, displayed an oil painting that was an unmistakable likeness of the gentleman who was the town’s founder and the common ancestor of most of the attendees.  

Delayed by bad weather, I had once again missed out on the first day’s activities, including a tour of area cemeteries and other landmarks, and the laying of memorial flowers at the graves of relatives.  After lunch I took the stage and narrated a slideshow of maps and historical photographs, enjoying a lively Q&A  afterward.  Instead of simply giving an overview of Thomas Lovewell’s life and the founding of White Rock and Lovewell, I called attention to recent discoveries, especially contributions to family history made by Dave Lovewell and Norm Stofer, who both passed away last fall.   The best I can say for my illustrated talk is that things never went completely off the rails, or if they did,  operating on very little sleep and with a nagging pain in my arm, I was much too preoccupied to notice. 

Before going any further, I should mention what had happened to me a few days earlier.

On Friday, while testing the presentation on a video projector at work, I felt a strange sensation in my left arm, a sudden weakness from the shoulder on down, followed by a tingling sensation.  Gradually, I became aware that my fingertips were going numb.  I’m not a doctor, nor have I ever played one on TV, but having seen almost every season of House, M.D., I knew enough to be mildly concerned, so I dug around in a medical kit for a bottle of low-dose aspirin tablets, and swallowed a few.  

Later that evening, I was relieved to find that sensation had returned to all of my fingers.  The tingling and numbness in my arm had also subsided, although in their place was a dull ache, punctuated now and again by moments of searing pain.  An Internet search informed me that I might have suffered a pinched nerve.  Since that explanation sounded fairly harmless, it was the one I preferred.  Not for another ten days did it finally occur to me that I have shingles, the ailment which may have a funny name, but is no fun at all.  Only in the last couple of days has the appearance of a telltale rash confirmed the diagnosis.  However, if you’re going to suffer an outbreak of shingles, I can wholeheartedly recommend the underside of the left forearm as the spot for it.  I shouldn't complain, even though I just did.

After neglecting the website for a couple of weeks while putting together the Keynote presentation for the Lovewell reunion, I’m afraid I’ve wasted another two weeks pursuing a truly bad idea.  Suspecting that my performance at the reunion had been rather disjointed and rambling, I tried to turn the slideshow into a coherent Youtube video with music and narration, before discarding the idea this morning.  A disjointed and rambling live presentation was turning into an incoherent video that tried to cover too much ground too quickly.  That’s not so say that bits of the reunion show won’t turn up, spread out over a few brief video clips - but I have discovered that half an hour is not nearly long enough to do justice to the life and times of Thomas Lovewell - even in outline.

As she had two years ago, Patricia Lange stopped me as I was getting ready to head out, and asked if I thought there were still more discoveries waiting out there.  Considering the fact that most of the stuff in my latest presentation has come to light since the last reunion, the answer should have been obvious.  For one thing, there’s that logbook at Fort Hay that needs looking into.

© Dale Switzer 2016  dale@lovewellhistory.com