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I hope you occasionally stop and offer thanks for your family, especially extended family. Mike and I just returned from a long weekend in Springfield, Ill., for the Boarman reunion. Because of health issues, I had not been there for probably six or more years.
I know I have mentioned in this column and in my book, that in the early 1900s all my grandfather’s siblings went to Illinois for work. Times were hard in Kentucky. My grandfather spent a couple years there, but returned to his Kentucky roots, pining for the Kentucky hills and being tired of black mud and hard winters. That is why my family would spend many summer vacations in Illinois, specifically in the small town Pawnee, south of Springfield.
My mom had many cousins, even some double cousins as one of my grandmother’s sisters married one of my grandfather’s brothers. We stayed with Aunt Nora, for whom I’m named, and would visit all the different families in Pawnee and in Auburn and we even went to St. Louis to visit with one first cousin and her family. I have such fond memories of those trips, great food, great visiting around the dinner table and games in Aunt Nora’s big side yard.
As time has gone by, in my married life, we have continued to make trips to Illinois but not always for joyous occasions — the funerals of my mom’s first cousin, James Boarman, who was killed in a corn picker, her Uncle Carl, her first cousin Lorena and others.
The Boarman reunion has been a constant, the first weekend in August. One year, word got out that my sister, Carolyn, and I were coming and there was a big crowd of second cousins.
Last Sunday, there was a small crowd, but I had a wonderful time hearing stories from my cousins. The Boarmans are down to three first cousins, Carlton who lives in Springfield, Lawrence who lives in Pawnee and Virginia, who lives in St. Louis. Carlton took such good care of Mike and me even at his age of 88 and after losing his wife. We visited, looked at old pictures, went to church and then out to dinner together and he accompanied us to the reunion Sunday.
As usual, there was wonderful food, fried chicken and lots of desserts. There was one particular salad that was new to me and was made by my second cousin, Marge Damman of Hillsboro, Ill. I am including it today. It actually comes from Paula Deen’s website.
Following the reunion, one of my second cousins, Tom Boarman, son of Lawrence Boarman, took us on a tour of nearby farmland. At Boarman Farms Inc., he and his brothers, Mike and Steve, farm their own land and lease many acres. They are farming 5,000 acres, mostly growing corn. They were among the lucky ones, planting their corn on March 29. They are hoping to yield 130 bushels per acre. The amount of equipment was amazing — two large combines, five big tractors and even two semi trucks for hauling the corn from the many grain bins to market.
I thought Kentucky was dry until this past week, but the corn in southern Illinois looked as if it was ready to pick, but there were no ears. Sadly, some of that corn was a second or third planting. However, because of the early planting date, the Boarman farm will do pretty well, but not nearly as well as the last two years. We did see some soybeans in Indiana and Illinois that looked very pretty and healthy.
It is interesting that the second cousins all have heard stories about Kentucky. And from their grandparents, they have heard how difficult life was in the early 1900s and how they made their way, in wagons, I assume, to Illinois looking for work. The second cousins especially wanted to hear about the three-generation farm located on Vaillancourt Lane in the Harcourt area, which was the Boarman home place, and about St. Ignatius cemetery, where their great- and great-great-grandparents are buried.
If someone in your family plans a family reunion, go. Keep in touch with your older relatives. Talk to them about their past. You might even want to record their tales. I have a feeling when my mom’s two Boarman cousins are gone, we will lose a lot of knowledge about our ancestors.
2-15 ounce cans whole kernel corn, drained
2 c. grated cheddar cheese
1 c. mayonnaise
1 c. green pepper, chopped
½ c. red onion, chopped
1-10 ½ ounce bag Fritos chili cheese corn chips, coarsely crushed
Mix first five ingredients and chill. Stir in corn chips just before serving.
Nora’s Note: Marge said she used ½ chili cheese chips and ½ regular corn chips. It was delicious.
Nora Sweat, author of “Mama and Me” is a native of HardinCounty and a retired home economics/family and consumer science teacher. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org by mail at 408 W. Dixie Ave., Elizabethtown, KY 42701