Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Aunt Naomi's Blog

I've been forgetting to put the link to my Aunt Naomi's new blog on here for quite a while. It's also been added to the Friends and Family links on the right.

The Blog of Heff has once again failed to maintain any staying power, so it's been removed from the list. Some people just don't have what it takes to take on a long term project like this I guess. It's the same kind of people that let classic Mustangs rot in their basement.

Weekend Research

I spent most of Saturday and Sunday in Tuscaloosa County, Alabama doing some genealogy research and meeting long-lost family members. I drove down to Columbiana very late Friday night, stopping along the way in Cullman to have coffee and an omelet with my old friend David Chappell, who is moving to Arkansas sometime in the next few weeks. I didn't get to my brother's house until about 4am, so I slept a little late until around 10am.

After a quick shower, I drove to my uncle Eugene's house and picked him up and we headed for Tuscaloosa. Our first stop was Bucksville Cemetery, where we found the gravestone of my 2nd Great Grandmother Sarah Ann Hatcher nee Bircheat. This is an old cemetery for that area, and some of the tombstones are very intricate, especially for those who were members of the Woodmen of the World.

After we walked around this cemetery for a while, we headed down to the Brookwood exit and met up with my Second Cousin, Once Removed, Tommy Hatcher and his wife and daughter. I recently made contact with Tommy while I was doing some online family research. I called a number I found online for a Thomas Hatcher, and a black woman answered. I asked for Thomas Hatcher and she gave the phone to her husband. After a few minutes of discussion about former slaves from Dallas County, Alabama he told me that he gets phone calls for another Thomas Hatcher all the time, and he looked up the number in the phone book for me. My wife thinks I'm insane for just calling strangers out of the blue, but I've been doing it most of my life and very rarely get bad reactions from people once I explain why I'm calling.

So Tommy takes us to his nephews house, where we meet Tommy's mother, sister, nephew and his wife, niece, great niece, step-father and others. Eugene had met a couple of them many years ago, but it was nice to get acquainted with cousins that aren't very distant on the family tree. I pulled out the laptop and got all of their information entered, so I've filled in another branch of the Hatcher's now.

After feeding us burgers and hot dogs, Tommy led us around to about four cemeteries in Tuscaloosa County, showing us the graves of several of his family members. I had done some research beforehand, so I was able to show him a few graves in these cemeteries that he and his mother didn't know about. We finished the day around 7pm and I drove Eugene back to Westover. Then I visited my Aunt Patricia and stopped by Heff's for a bit then went back and crashed pretty early at my brother's house.

The next morning I woke up and drove back to Tuscaloosa County, this time to Hepzibah Baptist Church off Exit 100 on I20/59. My great-grandparents and one 2nd Great Grandmother are buried there along with lots of cousins. We used to go there quite often with my grandfather Luther Hatcher, and my uncle Eugene still goes every year. This was their homecoming weekend, and after the church service they had a incredible potluck dinner spread out.

My cousins Casey Wortham, Shawn Hatcher, Lisa Wills and her Brett and daughter Adelyn made it to the homecoming as well. My dad's first cousins Vernon and David Hatcher and their sister Betty were there also with their mother, and Vernon's daughter Vicky was there as well. Once again I pulled out the laptop and made everyone give me names and dates and locations to go into the genealogy files.

After that, Eugene, Shawn, Casey, and I drove down to Exit 97 and found the old Shamblin Cemetery. I'm likely related to everyone in this small cemetery, but I haven't made all of the connections yet. I do know I have 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Great Grandparents buried here. I had never been to the cemetery before, but Eugene and Shawn had at different times in the past. It's very well maintained and apparently some of the modern day Shamblins still own the property.

I called some random Shamblins in Tuscaloosa last night and ended up finding a cousin named Robert Shamblin who is a vet in Northport. He told me about a reunion that they're going to have there on June 10 for the Shamblin family, so it looks like I may be headed back down there with the laptop in tow. I also made contact via Robert with another cousin in Illinois that does a lot of genealogy research, so hopefully I'll be adding a lot more information to the family tree soon.

Left to Right: Shawn Hatcher, Alan Hatcher, Eugene Hatcher, Casey Wortham

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Pictures of the Boy

My wife recently updated Jackson's Blog with more pictures. I think this is my favorite. He's more fun to be around every day. He's starting to get a pretty good arm on him too. He throws a ball pretty hard, unlike his dad who never learned how to throw a ball.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Cave #18 - Camps Gulf Cave

It's been a while since I've been to a new cave. In fact it was back in December when I visited Big Bone Cave, which is Heff's favorite cave name of all time I believe. Joey called me earlier in the week and asked me if I wanted to go to Camps Gulf. I said yes of course, since this is a cave I've been wanting to visit for several years now.

Joey, Aimee, Joe, and Eve camped out at Rock Island State park the night before, and I met them there Saturday morning on May 12 around 9:30 am. We got everything loaded up and drove over to the cave, taking what seemed to be a "certuferous" route via Joey's fancy new talking GPS.

We got to the cave about 11am, and met a couple of cavers from the Dogwood City Grotto who had just come back down from the cave. They were going to hike some more in the park that day then head to Nashville since they had tickets for the Opry that night. After a brief chat we got all of our gear loaded up and started up the road towards the cave.

Until recently, you could drive up the road almost to the cave, but now a gate has been installed right at what is now the parking area. This has caused a lot of discussion among the cavers in the TAG area, with many seeming to be upset about this. The walk to the cave from the gate is 3/4 of a mile according to my trusty Omron pedometer, and it's completely flat until you get right up to the cave entrance. I'd have to say that if this hike causes you much trouble, you really have no business going into a cave in the first place.

After the quick hike, we got to the cave entrance. This entrance is really pretty. It's set in a bowl, the back of which is a bluff about 100 feet tall or so. The entrance passage goes almost straight in for several hundred feet, and you can see the light from the entrance for quite a ways back into the cave.

Every cave has a theme. The theme for Camps Gulf is big rooms and breakdown. At the end of the short walk down the entrance passage, you hit the first and worst pile of breakdown. Imagine if you will a large, domed room, about the size of the Nashville Arena. Now fill it up about halfway with a large pile of rocks, so that the pile is pressing against the sides. So to get into the first big room, you have to climb up this nearly vertical pile of rocks, squeezing through several tight areas.

I like to call some of these tight squeezes "cheese graters" since that's what my body looks like I've been through afterwards. The picture below is me emerging from a particularly difficult "L" shaped squeeze where I'm sure I left several layers of skin behind. Note that these are tight squeezes for me, who weighs 275 lbs. The skinny people on the trip went right through them.

There are also some climb-ups in this area that I was a little uncomfortable with. The hand and footholds weren't all that great, plus it's wet and muddy. The drop would have been less than 10 feet, but it wouldn't have been good to slip.

Eventually we made it up to the top and I had my first good look at a really large room in a cave. It's definitely impressive, and makes for some great echoes as well. We spent some time whooping and hollering to test it out, then started down the breakdown towards the register.

To get some scale perspective, imagine ants crawling down a 4 or 5 foot high pile of gravel, then scale the ants up to human size. I could be completely wrong on the size of the gravel pile, but it's a mongo pile of rocks, trust me. We eventually found the register, and took a break while a few people filled it out, then headed for the second room, with Joey in the lead.

After some path finding by our fearless leader, we made it into the second room, which is more impressive than the first. It's roughly the same size, but the dome is much more obvious, and there's not as much breakdown in it. At one end of this room, there is a large mostly flat area of dirt, and a stream runs down into a small lake. We stopped here for an extended break, resting on the soft dirt, but we found we were being swarmed by gnats. They were completely white, and really seemed to like the light from my Apex headlamp. They would gather so thick around it that it was hard to see more than a foot or so.

The rest of the group decided to push on to the third room, but I was approaching my limits at this point so I decided to stay behind in the 2nd room and rest and explore a bit. I went down to the water and found even more gnats, and collected a few in a ziplock bag to look at later. After a long rest by the water, I poked around the breakdown pile for a while, and then headed back up the passage to the first room and planted myself on a rock until the others got back.

They soon rejoined me, and we headed out. We got turned around a bit on the way out, and my legs were just about shot from the breakdown climbing, so it was slow going. That first breakdown climb on the way into the cave is also tricky on the way out, since the lack of good hand holds in a few places are perhaps even scarier on the way down than on the way up. We took it slow and careful though, and made it out of the cave around 3:30 pm.

On the hike back to the cars, we saw a small non-poisonous snake and then ran into a couple of cavers from Michigan named Jason and Tammy. They're students at MSU and were down in the area for the week to do some caving. They told us that the trunk was open on a blue Honda back in the parking area. Oops. Guess I didn't notice that. Fortunately, everything was still in the trunk when we got back.

We drove back to the campground and I left for Nashville. I could tell my legs were going to be sore, and my quads still ache right now on Monday afternoon, so it was definitely a great trip. Remember, if you don't feel like you were in a train wreck the next day, the cave wasn't hard enough. Heh.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Blogging in May

Sorry for the lack of updates. There's just really not been too much interesting stuff going on lately. Mostly I just work, go home, play with Jack, feed Jack, bathe Jack, and put Jack to sleep. Then I relax for a few hours and go to bed myself.

I'm maintaining my weight around 275 right now. A bout with a stomach virus last week pushed me down to 271 for a day or two. That sure wasn't fun. At one point all four of us in the house were sick. Thank goodness we have 3 bathrooms and one in diapers.

I'm going caving tomorrow, so I'll have a good trip report out of that I hope. We're going to explore Camps Gulf Cave, and this will be my first trip to this classic TAG cave.