Driving Around Looking at Big Things While Thinking About Spam


Graduate Thesis, in conjunction with the show "Domesticated", University of Kansas, April 2001

It seems like I've lived my life on Highway 50.

I grew up in a small town in central Missouri on Highway 50, went to college a little further west on Highway 50, got my first professional-type job still further west on Highway 50, and ended up in Lawrence, Kansas for my graduate studies, again not far from Highway 50. This physical roadway spans two decades of exploration and discovery for me, and serves as a starting point for my artistic explorations over the past two years.
I focused on a specific section of this roadway timeline, from the front of my grandparents' house. I portray memories of my grandparents' house through assembled vignettes, incorporating found objects, surface manipulation (graphically treated iconic surfaces), structure manipulation (deconstructed clothing), and time-based media. As the remembered era decayed, I found it necessary to reconcile remembered perceptions with actual events, altering the memories and transforming innocence into experience.
The source of my recreation was memory, but the narratives turn towards a more universal experience for those viewers who grew up in a similar time and in similar circumstances - a rural lower middle class nuclear family. The alterations to my memories have developed through a series of explorations, looking at the world around me and reexamining my upbringing in an expanded context. My personal quest for an expanded viewpoint often finds a vehicle in miniature quests, seeking out Americana through roadside attractions and World's Largest monuments.
The following is a transcript of one such journey through Kansas, starting out (as most of my explorations have in the past) on Highway 50. The journey lasted two days, circling from Lawrence through Hutchinson, to Dodge City, up north to Cawker City and returning to Lawrence. While visiting various sights, I became aware of the importance of the act of traveling to my current body of work. I considered family histories, memories triggered by visual, aural, and olfactory stimuli along the way, and how these snippetts combine in the assembled vignettes that I have chosen for a message vehicle. I wrote down my observations in a journal, as I do on many similar sojourns (1). I have a habit of writing while driving, but I did stop to write the longer passages and subreferences as they came up so as not to lose the path.

Hwy. 30 to 50 outside of Lawrence, Kansas

Starting out again on the same highway. Grandma and Grandpa always called the road I grew up on 50 Highway, flipping the normal wording. I suppose you'd call them hillbillies (2), but that's such a derogatory term and it more accurately describes the dialect. They both taught school - Grandpa taught for just a bit when he finished High School at a one room schoolhouse around Clarksburg, and Grandma taught as a profession. Mom did the same. In kindergarten that's what I said I'd be. I spent the rest of school and High School and undergrad trying to not do that. Then, after becoming an art prostitute (Graphic Designer) and not liking it much, I decided to go back for one more degree and teach on a college level.

I also spent that time trying to leave home and find myself, but 'home' keeps following me. Highway 50. It seems silly that a highway would be home, but it is. Highway 50 itself could be viewed as a marker or a constant or even a compass, a metaphor for me and my explorations. But it seems more like an extended umbilical cord that has turned sinister and noose-like.

It's the same with compass points: West = Good, East = Bad. A friend of mine once said that I'm a cowboy - in reference to one of my pick-up-and-go road trips that involve long distances, my truck, and finding big things. Kitsch (3) and Americana. I often think to myself "Go West young man...", reinforcing the West as Good (or, at the very least, better). It's the founding ideal of America itself. Putting aside the ethical debate, the pioneers had some sort of drive to push on. (Actually, I can't - in regards to ethical debates, there's a whole shameful history my family has participated in that I'm unsure as to how to deal with - Grandpa and Grandma both had a big prejudiced streak, still using the 'N' word, but I thought that's as far as it went. As it turns out, a big part of the Sappingtons I grew up with are active members in hate groups and 'reenactor' groups (4) whose goals are to preserve white power ideology.) West was not just the goal, but the whole struggle, the process, the trip. The adventure, based on a hope that there is a reward at the end. A willingness to risk all for an unsure future, doggedly pursued. Settling is a negative. We're not nearly so noble now - its been done before. That's why kids love outer space. Because it hasn't been explored yet - there's still the potential of a primary experience instead of our continual second-hand existence. So now these sojourns are just shallow pointless things that I do anyway. Art wise, it parallels the ideals of the Pathetic Aesthetic (5). It is pointless. It has all been done. So why do them anymore? Why want to visit a tourist trap or historical marker? They are signs or symbols, but have lost their signified.

Mile marker 142. Why the hell am I mapping this?

I hope I didn't miss my turn.

I don't think people talk very much. I don't think I have much to refer to as far as good communication in a relationship. Edith would annoyingly yammer at Archie, typifying a housewife. The more Mom wanted to say something, the more silent she would become. I don't remember Grandma and Grandpa saying anything at all to each other. Things between them were settled. Subjects didn't need to be explored any further. My marriage ended because we didn't want to be roommates, sleeping in the same location but with nothing to say or communicate to each other. The line between compromise and complacency was too faint, not worth the effort of redefining our roles as husband and wife. I never felt uncomfortable at Grandma and Grandpa's house in reference to the absence of communication. (Was it just unnecessary? Was everything understood?) Sonja and I were the means of communication between them, as most children become in a family unit. But what happens when you don't want or have children, and you find yourself with nothing left to talk about? I never saw Grandma and Grandpa as a couple. They were a unit, and you always refer to both when asking to go to their house, but a couple?! Definitely not. And parents don't have sex, either.

Since Mom and Dad usually maintained separate houses (but not as a separation or divorce situation) they too, were a unit, not a couple. Sonja and I weren't communicatory go-betweens for them, though. As a result, my sister and I grew up not seeing relationship-type interactions or even recognizing the absence of that type of experience until later. You don't recognize an abnormality if you're unaware of the norm. (Where'd that norm come from, anyway? How far does the nuclear family have to go? Can it exist solely on paper and still count?) That may have been part of the household drive (internal or external?) to be perfect in every other possible way (To dream the impossible dream... nobility vs. martyr) no matter how hollow the result. No matter how kitsch the product became - no matter how valueless the prize. A simulacrum (6). Another pointless journey (or set of goals) that I find myself blindly pursuing.

Oops, in Newton - need to see where to go...

Sonja (my older sister by two years) found Grandpa's letters to Grandma from World War II. The stories my sister and I remember were about his buddies and packages from home, and what he missed about his fellow soldiers of the 355th infantry. None of us had ever seen the letters before, and they were such a different voice than what we expected from my Grandpa. They were warm and tender, defining the extent of his capacity to love and to cherish. The communication (7) I remember around them emanated from the television. Who changes the channel? Grandpa seemed more attached to it, but Grandma used it at the end of her life for background noise. Radios and murmurs, creating a crowd in the living room.

There was an absolutely gorgeous set of birds on the telephone lines in Ottawa - all six lines filled with the birds sitting closest together at the pole, thinning out towards the middle of the line making it drape over the intersection.

While I was in elementary school, McGirk's phone users were on a party line. I spent most of my time at Grandma and Grandpa's house in McGirk, Missouri. Grandma would pick up her receiver and reprimand Ruby Dahlstein (our second cousin, in Sonja's grade) for being on the phone too much. California, Missouri didn't have to dial seven digits until my last year in undergrad, and they currently regard touch tone phones as a luxury (which makes navigating a phone options menu almost impossible). Grandma used her original signal ring throughout her life. Originating from operators and crank phones, she used her signal as a special call that all of her children and grandchildren immediately recognize (2 blocks away in the car, honking as an announcement of her arrival, or to summon Sonja and me in from the woods for dinner). The Southern Baptist preacher who gave the sermon at her funeral tied it together best, so I'll just let him tell it (8).

Now where - the World's Largest Grain Elevator is here somewhere, butI think I'll move on. How 'bout Dodge City - or maybe... yeah, Dodge City.

Seems silly to be positively nostalgic for or about the 80s, but for some reason I associate 80s music with being in the car, visiting Dad wherever he was stationed that summer, and having a new life for a few months. (OK - I'll stop driving and write - I need coffee anyway and I'm in Hutchinson. The Cosmosphere is closed because I always seem to pass through in the dark, so I'm at an AMPRIDE in front of the attached restaurant named RESTAURANT). One of my students asked me what it was like to grow up in the 80s. I think the actual words were "I bet it was really cool being a teenager in the 80s." When ranting about the comment later, it was pointed out that most of my current students weren't born until 1980 or after. Well, to answer the question, it sucked. I was a loser geek with no ability to put on makeup or get my hair really high (frontal claw bangs and the sagging dog ear sides that take a long ritual of spray, brush, spray again). I didn't date because it was a small town and if you're labelled a 'freak' early on, you're socially doomed. But summers were great. No status quo, no paranoia about social cliques or standards, a new life each and every time. A new place with no history. Change. All the other parts I try not to think about.

I thought I'd stop in Pratt to take a nap and eat at Donald's Serva-teria Smorgasbord, but it is only 9 pm, (too early to stop), and Donald's is closed. They have the best sign in the world, and I don't see how anyone could resist eating there at least once on a southern Kansas journey. I was thinking about writing a story starting with breakfast at the Serva-teria, populated with farmers, crusty waitresses, and bacon, featuring a lone traveller armed with maps and an uncanny instinct for locating the bizarre. But, I'm going on through Greensburg (World's Largest Hand Dug Well and Meteorite) to see a fence I saw on Rare Visions and Roadside Revelations. (Vol. I)

I was worried about my truck - things were smelling like burning pee, but it turns out that's just the air here.

Between Mullinville and Dodge City, KS

I thought the sun came up at 6am, but I suppose I'm wrong. I've passed through Greensburg three times, and am now watching the moon go down. It's huge and orange and looks like it is deflating rather than setting - it shifts and squishes like a slow computer trying to refresh its screen...

So far, Dodge City is a bunch of cow lots. It's just like the little town in New Mexico we used to pass through to get to Clovis where Dad was stationed in 1982 or 1983. The smell was awful when it rained.

When I finally took a nap, I hid among diesels in a parking lot, not far from the railroad tracks. I enjoyed the smells - the burned eraser smell of my coat collar, a cherry turnover smell from the sleeping bag, all reminding me of Grandmas guest bedroom. So strongly that I could feel it. And it seemed like my eyes were open - the feeling of holding your eyelid muscles in the closed position wasn't there. I heard so much more than I normally do. Sleeping a half a block from the railroad tracks, I remember the chest-shaking rumble so well from the living room in McGirk when I couldn't sleep and would stay up all night watching the trains rumble through the front yard. I miss hearing things at night - traffic, trains pulling, clocks ticking. I think those things are drowned out by breathing noises when someone else is in the bed. The touch of chenille bedspreads - I could feel it on my cheek.

In Warrensburg, I lived in the worst apartments imaginable - Estes - one block off the tracks. I like the memory of that place - the oddity, the maze like quality, the circus tent hallway, the Hotwheel conducive floors, the train sounds. While there, I cried a lot because of the roaches. I'd never been around roaches before (mice an Albuquerque, frogs in Clovis, ants in California) and in this apartment, if you didn't make your bed every morning there would be baby roaches in the folds of the sheets by nightfall.

It was condemned while I lived there, but that's not the point. Grandma visited once, since it was my first apartment, and immediately started worrying. She often said of Uncle Richard "I wish he's move back here and run barefoot in the woods where he's supposed to be" even though he'd left the area in the 70s. I know she felt the same way towards me, hoping I'd come back to California and work in the grocery store (9) again. This apartment was just a phase. It didn't help that the day Grandma visited, there was this weird red drag mark all the way up the entrance stairway, disappearing up the second stairway. As if someone had a severed leg and just let it bump and spurt all the way up to their apartment.

The building was on Grover Street, but Grandma swore up and down that I couldn't possibly live there. She went to Warrensburg for her degree in education in the 40s, and she lived on Grover Street, too. She knew for a fact that there was no such building there. When she came up and saw that there really was a building and I did live where I said I did, she remembered that she had lived one block north.

Grandma and Nadine (Grandma's cousin) went through the program at Warrensburg when it was Missouri Teachers College (10). Grandma and Nadine would work for a year, then take classes over the summer, living in an attic on Grover Street. She'd tell a story every once and a while about one grand evening out:

Through the summer term, they'd eat cheese sandwiches as a cheap staple. Towards the end of the summer, they had saved enough money to go out for dinner. Their group of college friends got together and went to the fanciest place in Sedelia (Home of the World Famous Guber Burger, Wheel Inn Drive Inn). When they got there, Grandma and Nadine had to order the cheapest thing on the menu, which turned out to be the cheese sandwich.

Wow - looked up and I'm in Lacrosse...

... home of the Barbed Wire Museum, Big Ball of Barbed Wire, and Post Rock Museum. Of course, it's closed (just like last time - out of season) but the ball is outside. Its not really all that impressive, but I do want to see the barbed wire museum someday.
Looking for the fence in Mullinville last night, it was dark and I wasn't sure if I could locate it. Passing through town (West), a crazy mass of silhouettes appeared. I'd found the fence. But it wasn't a single row of figures, it was a dense mass that slowly thinned out over a quarter of a mile of roadside. I had to wait for daylight to take slides, so I drove back to Greensburg (of the aforementioned Largest Hand Dug Well and Meteorite) to sleep in the Conoco parking lot with the big trucks, saw a shooting star (not destined to be a World's Largest Meteorite, but it got to the atmosphere at least) on the way, slept for three hours, drove back through Pratt (Donald's Servateria), stopped again for four hours of sleep, woke up, drove back through Pratt, Greenville, Mullinville (still not light enough to photograph), and on to Dodge. I got coffee in Dodge, drove back to Mullinville, and the lighting was perfect by the time I got back to the fence. There was no direct sunlight, but an all-over illumination that occurs just before the sun breaks the horizon. It produced a candy striped sky, with colors starting in blues and purples and soft transitions, brightening to include yellows and oranges, separating into stripes. It made a good photo opportunity, but I froze my fingers. It was about 14 or 20 degrees outside and I forgot my gloves.

Now it's 9:33 and I'm trying to decide if I want a shot of the Big Ball or not...

I just remembered how I made myself fall asleep the second time last night. I was thinking about how Grandpa used to move through the house. He stood on my hair once while feeding the fireplace. He didn't sit in comfy chairs. He preferred sitting at one dining room chair while leaning on the back of a second dining room chair, boots off, table to his right, blue and chrome ashtray at the ready. That's the position I remember most vividly. The other picture I have is riding with him in the big ol' Chevy Silverado, grey with an MFA (Missouri Farmers Association) logo on the side, propane tanks, vinyl seats, dusty, dirt and muck and yellow paper. Anything that entered the truck automatically yellowed and antiqued. I loved the smell. It was a warm comfort smell. I pieced it together later: cigarette ashes, old mouldering whiskey, and the sweat smell that only alcoholics exude. It didn't have any negative connotations to me at the time - it was just Grandpa's truck smell.

Later, Grandpa would get the Silverado stuck in the mud at the Lower Place (Spring Lake to other McGirkians, now a Century Farm), overheat the motor until the engine caught fire, and fall out of the driver's side, getting stuck himself. He was too drunk to get out on his own power. Grandma got worried after a couple of hours when he didn't show up at the post office for his usual gossip round with LaVerne (beehives still exist, and she's why I hate mint ice cream) so Grandma found him and had Lawrence Paul (11) pull him out.

When I went to the Lower Place to see the truck, the glass from the windshield had melted into taffy strands that draped over what was left of the steering column. There was a rim and a couple of steel belts in the shape of a tire behind the cab. The rubber disintegrated into a pile of silt.

Cawker City, KS. Home of the World's Largest Ball of Twine

In a conversation with Uncle Glenn, I came up with an observation directly resulting from primary experience reasoning. He was talking about a documentary examining the effects of high power lines on a small farming community. The residents were politically active and empowered, conducting experiments and collecting data, hiring analysts, making charts, all of which failed to prove their hypothesis (even though you can make statistics say whatever you want them to say - pro or con, it's all in the skew). Their goal was to prove the damaging effects of high power lines on living things in the area. One piece of evidence was the difference in growth rates and densities of flora in the area spanned by the lines, but the tests still weren't providing proof. I thought about fence rows and clothes lines and other suspended linear elements and said "Well, that's where the birds sit. Of course its going to be greener and more diverse." That was the only thing I've reasonably deduced from my own observations - everything else I have read somewhere or seen on TV.

Alton, KS. Birthplace of Russell Stover.

I wonder about the descriptor "Birthplace" as opposed to "Home". How many little towns out there claim the birthplace of people, but were never able to supply the "Home"? And how many famous people had to move on and make their 'home' somewhere else, but are held captive by the roadsigns announcing their birthplace?

Grandma would swear up and down that you could 'read' the contents of a cordial by the chocolate swirl on top. She'd tell us which one was which, pushing her finger into the top of each one to show us she was right. She was diabetic and wasn't supposed to eat many sweets, so she'd just "cheat a little bit" by eating half and putting half back. She'd do that to a whole box. She was usually wrong about the filling. It always reminded me of the situation joke with a bowl of peanuts on an old lady's coffee table... (12)

She also believed that zucchini, in small bits, could carry the effect of whatever fleshy fruit you were making into jam. It picks up the flavor of the fruit while retaining it's own texture, thereby extending the recipe with a kind of filler. Jello will extend the jelly part of preserves without diluting it. Extrapolation: What about faking the effect of preserves with Jello and zucchini only? No real fruit at all. As Sweet 'N Low is to Sugar, Grandma's Zucchini Jello Preserves is to even the worst store-bought preserves. She truly believed in the effectiveness of her experiment, giving small jars of Near Preserves to family members for Christmas. And I thought I was being facetious by giving out pickled eggs (13).

Grandma liked butter and pork fat. She'd tell us "That's where the flavor hides" and she'd sneak her fork over to your plate, snagging the jelled flesh. When she was in the hospital, her arteries showed up on the scan like mini sausage casings completely stuffed.

Back home, in Lawrence, Kansas

These trips take me home. 'Home' doesn't mean the ending point, and it certainly doesn't keep a stable mailing address. 'Home' is in the sparks of memory that take me back to a strong past, remembering strong people who were dealing with uncertainty and fear while sheltering their offspring and their offsprings' offspring from the uncertainty of the world.

My work parallels the journey, exploring and solidifying transient moments so I can see what has happened and how memories change. The journey parallels Highway 50 and the path I've taken from self-discovery to definition, redefinition to rediscovery. I serve as a mediator between my path, my journey, my work and the viewer. Hopefully the viewer will feel at home, too.



Footnotes and Works Cited




1. Kitsch - Kitsch refers to the LOW-ART artifacts of everyday life. It encompasses lamps in the shape of the Eiffel Tower, paintings of Elvis Presley on velvet, and lurid illustrations on the covers of romance novels. The term comes from the German verb verkitschen (to make cheap). Kitsch is a by-product of the industrial age's astonishing capacity for mass production and its creation of disposable income. The critic Clement Greenberg characterized kitsch as "rear-guard" art - in opposition to AVANT-GARDE art. Kitsch, he observed (in "Avant-Garde and Kitsch," published in Partisan Review in fall 1939), 'operated by formulas... It is vicarious experience and faked sensation. It changes according to style, but remains always the same. Kitsch is the epitome of all that is spurious in the life of our time." He defined kitsch broadly to include jazz, advertising, commercial illustration - all of which are generally regarded now as POPULAR CULTURE rather than kitsch. Although Greenberg's definition of kitsch is overly expansive, his analysis of how it operates remains apt. Today kitsch is most often used to denigrate objects considered to be in bad taste. Attitudes toward kitsch became more complicated with the advent of POP ART in the early 1960s. What had been dismissed as vulgar was now championed by individuals who were fully aware of the reviled status of the "low-art" objects of their affections. This ironic attitude toward kitsch came to be known as "camp," following the publication of the essay "Notes on 'Camp'" by the cultural commentator Susan Sontag in Partisan Review in fall 1964. Obscuring the distinctions between low and HIGH ART was key to the repudiation of MODERNISM and the emergence of POSTMODERNISM. (Atkins, p. 109)

2. Sojourn - To dwell in a place as a temporary resident or as a stranger. A temporary stay. (Webster's)

3. Pathetic Art ...Pathetic Art is not a STYLE but the embodiment of an attitude that rejects the model of the MODERNIST artist's quest for the heroic sublime. Self-depreciating and emotionally cool, pathetic artworks reject the familiar notion of art as a quest or journey in favor of settling in the psychic terrain of failure and ineptitude. In 3-dimensional works this attitude is often expressed through the use of cheap materials or shoddy craftsmanship; in 2-dimensional works it tends to be embodied in a preference for cartoonlike drawings over the more status-laden format of paint on canvas. Examples include Cary S. Leibowitz's "loser" line of mugs and T-shirts; Candy Noland's Chicken in a Basket (1989), a shopping basket filled with a flag, a rubber chicken, and beer cans. ...Mike Kelley manages to straddle the divide usually separating these two approaches through his use of pathetic FOUND OBJECTS (often children's soiled stuffed animals) to create sometimes unnerving works about the reality of children's lives and childhood sexuality. (Atkins, p. 140)

4. Communicate - n - 1. To impart; convey; as, to communicate a disease. 2. To make known; as, to communicate a secret. v.-1. To partake of the Lord's Supper. 2. To hold or afford communication, to converse; also, to be connected; join; as, rooms that communicate. (Webster's)

5. Simulation ...A simulation is a replica, something false or counterfeit. The terms simulation and simulacrum are virtually synonyms in current art parlance. Although simulation can accurately be used to describe a forgery or the reenactment of a newsworthy event, in the art world it usually refers to the POSTMODERN outlook of Jean Baudrillard and other French thinkers whose beliefs became influential in the late 1970s. Baudrillard asserts that we can no longer distinguish reality from our image of it, that images have replaced what they once described. Or, in the SEMIOTIC language of "The Precession of Simulcra," published first in the September 1983 issue of Art & Text, "It is no longer a question of imitation, nor of reduplication... [But] of substituting signs of the real for the real itself." Responding to the new technology that facilitates the endless reproduction or cloning of information and images - television, facsimile machines, even genetic engineering - Baudrillard suggests that the notion of authenticity is essentially meaningless. His work poses the questions: What is an original? And where do public events leave off and the flow of images representing and interpreting them begin? Baudrillard's line of reasoning dovetailed with some artists' concerns about the meaning of originality at the end of the MODERN era, an epoch that had placed so high a premium on AVANT-GARDE originality. Artists such as Sarah Charlesworth, Clegg and Guttman, Peter Halley, Barbara Kruger, Sherrie Levine, Allan McCollum, and Richard Prince - and critics writing about them - often referred to Baudrillard's notion of the simalucrum. Many of these artists are associated with APPROPRIATION, and self-conscious use of images culled from art history or POPULAR CULTURE. During the mid-1980s the term simulationism was briefly popular. (Atkins, p. 169-170)

6. HILLBILLY A back-woodsman or mountaineer of the South. (Webster's)

7. From Thelma Sappington's memorial service, June 6, 2000. Rev. Frank Whitney, speaking. ...but I have to confess to you as odd as it sounds I do enjoy the times of the memorial services, the funerals. Because its there you get to listen to families talk about their loved ones. Talk about stories gone by, days gone by. And this was a delightful family that I got to share with. A family I didn't know, I only knew Thelma. But they shared a story that I hope I can weave in to a closing today. A story of days gone by when telephones managed to work with a ringer that you could spin, and party lines, and you had a ring. You remember those rings? Thelma's ring was one short and two longs. Is that correct? She taught her children that when it was time to go, she would pull up and honk the horn one short and two longs, here come the Sappington kids. There was a bell outside their home and she would ring the bell one short, and two longs. Here would come the Sappington kids. Anytime they hear a short and two longs, well, here comes the Sappington kids. In Thessalonians there's a passage of scripture written that says "I would not have you to be ignorant, brother, in concerning those which are asleep." And the writer of Thessalonians tell us that "those that are asleep in Christ are going to live at that day that he comes again in the Eastern sky." Now that Thelma will be a part of that great resurrection hope, I just wonder today, if when ol' Gabriel blows his trumpet, if it might not be one short, and two longs. And he'll gather in those Sappington kids.

8. Grandma said that the only time she ever gotten a 'D' was when Grandpa was courting her. We found that out when we were cleaning out the house in McGirk after Grandpa died.

9. A salesman goes door to door, selling his wares. After an afternoon of rejection, he knocks on the door an elderly lady, who hasn't had anyone to talk to since her children moved away and her husband died. She eagerly accepts the salesman into her home, and tells him to make himself at home. While pitching his amazing product, he snacks on a bowl of peanuts, obviously intended for guest consumption as they were on the coffee table nearby. At the end of his selling spiel, he realizes that he's eaten all of the old lady's peanuts. "I'm terribly sorry, ma'am. I've eaten all your peanuts." the man says. The lady replies "That's alright. I can't eat peanuts with these dentures, so I just suck off the chocolate ."

10. LP history - Lawrence Paul Cook the original grew up with Grandma, Lawrence Paul Cook the Second was beat up and terrorized by mom, and Lawrence Paul Cook the Third was my playmate (punching bag). Differentiation between them in conversation was handled thusly: (eldest to youngest) Lawrence Senior, Lawrence Paul, and LP. I gave LP the nickname that is now his e-mail address - LPC3PO. He got married in Collinsvillle, Illinois, home of the World's Largest Bottle of Catsup.

11. At the 74th Annual Sappingtons of America family reunion, held in California, Missouri, I attended a Sunday dedication of a new headstone for an ancestral civil war soldier. On the way to the cemetery, I found out that we were to be honoring a confederate veteran, and the group heading the dedication ceremony was the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Usually after a dedication ceremony, the group of reenactors will stick around for recruiting, looking for anyone interested in "...perpetuating the ideals that motivated your Confederate ancestor." During the ceremony, the Pledge of Allegiance to the Stars and Stripes was followed directly by the Pledge of Allegiance to the rebel battle flag. The text was conveniently reproduced in the bulletin. You had the option of not pledging, but as I looked around me, not only did the majority of the crowd (my blood kin) join in, but they had no need of a printed reminder of the words. I edited together a video of the highlights of the reunion (Confederate dedication included) and sent it to my Aunt and Uncle in Fresno. They were surprised and shocked, and at the reunion the next year (when Uncle Richard brought back a biohazard bag from the emergency room with his fingernail in it for me, 'cause it was my fault he dropped the telephone pole on his hand, breaking his finger and popping off said fingernail) they had a new set of filters through which to observe the seemingly innocent interactions of our relatives. (SCV)

12. Cal's Thriftway - owner Cal Gerlack Cal owns everything in California now - grocery, liquor, laundromat, car wash, rental properties, even the California motel. I worked at the grocery store from 1989-1991, first as a checker, then in the deli. When I was a senior in High School, he built a huge motorized shopping cart (possibly a World's Largest) for annual parades. The cart comes complete with large groceries and a place to sit in the baby/purse/produce section, up near the handle. Being one of only two markets in town, family members would come in regularly and stop by to chat a bit. One day, Aunt Mildred, Uncle Edward, and Grandpa all came through the store at different times. I was in the deli at the time, and as I saw each one I'd ask how they were. They all answered (mind you, separate incidence and times, same day, same place) with one word each. Uncle Ed said "Old", Aunt Mildred said "Slow", and Grandpa said "Tired".

13. Cawker City's Twine-A-Thon : 3rd Saturday of August. There's a gift shop now at the World's Largest Ball of Twine, and according to the lady there Ripley's did try to buy the Cawker City ball for one of their museums, but the people of the town knew better. There's only so many ways a town in the middle of Kansas can manage to attract tourists. So the Ripley's people had to settle for the big faker plastic ball of string, currently residing in the Branson Ripley's Museum. She was glad to hear about the other ball in Darwin, Minnesota and didn't seem to hold any animosity.

14. Pink Pickled Eggs (Time Life Picture Cook Book)
6 eggs
1 cup canned beet juice
1 cup cider vinegar
1 garlic clove, crushed
1/2 bay leaf
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
1 tsp. salt
freshly ground black pepper
Hard cook eggs; plunge into cold water and shell immediately.
Put eggs in quart jar.
Combine remaining ingredients and pour over eggs.
Cover, cool and refrigerate overnight or at least 8 hours.

Works Cited

Atkins, Robert. ArtSpeak. 2nd ed. New York: Abbeville Press Publishers, 1997.

"Mapless in Missouri." Rare Visions and Roadside Revelations. Vol. II. With Randy Mason, Michael Murphy, and Don the Cameraman. PBS. KCPT, Kansas City, Missouri. 1996.

Moniteau County Historical Society. History of Moniteau County Missouri. Vol. II. Marceline, Missouri: Walsworth Publishing Company, Inc., 2000.

Sons of Confederate Veterans. About SCV. Columbia, Tennessee: 1995.

Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary. Cambridge, Mass: The Riverside Press, 1961.

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