Friday, May 7, 2021
Monday, May 3, 2021
Wednesday, April 21, 2021
Saturday, April 17, 2021
Wednesday, April 14, 2021
Meet Mr. Richard DeVoto, well-named assistant to Monsignor Harry L. Byrne who directed Father Dunne's Catholic home for orphan boys, founded by Father Peter J. Dunne, himself a former orphan, in St. Louis in 1906. Byrne directed too a summer camp for the boys, open from 1941 to about 1971.
The Divine property is near what's left of Father Dunne's camp. Mr. DeVoto shared memories of camp life from 1960 to 1964. DeVoto later did two tours in Vietnam and was employed by the Department of Natural Resources and the State Highway Patrol until retiring in 2014. "Lot of happy times here," he said about the camp, "lot of happy times." The videos were recorded in early autumn 2017.
Was there a school bus from St. Louis to the camp? Oh, no. Every year DeVoto drove a station wagon with seven campers at a time until all 40 were present.
"From breakfast til midnight" DeVoto was on call for his boss, who lived in a cottage on the grounds. Monsignor Byrne was "from money" and paid for camp fireworks on the Fourth of July, and for the boys' high-school graduation parties, and some of the boys' college tuitions, and "if something was for himself he always paid for it, always, out of his own pocket. In 1963 he had a 1956 Cadillac," DeVoto said, according to my notes. "He never mixed his money with anything. He was always giving me money -- twenties! Whoever back then had $20 bills?!" Monsignor kept a piano in his cottage's living room. "Everything was meticulous," DeVoto remembered. The back garden at the monsignor's cottage, walled with pink brick, overflowed with daylilies and petunias, Monsignor's favorite flowers. DeVoto was expected to serve cocktails to the monsignor and any adult guests at precisely 4:30 p.m., and dinner at 6:00.
Also on the scene were colorful characters such as the resident caretaker, Mr. Chilton, who "always did everything the hard way"-- like building a snowplow out of wood; a visiting priest from Kankakee constantly on the phone with his stockbroker; St. Louis Archbishop (later Cardinal) Joseph Ritter; and Brother Matthew from the nearby monastery at St. Joseph's Hill, an artist the monsignor commissioned to paint his portrait. In my early days in this area, I met Brother Matthew at St. Joseph's Hill and visited his hermitage -- filled to its ceiling with painted canvases.
Father Peter J. Dunne was born in 1870 and died in 1938; RKO Pictures made a movie about him, Fighting Father Dunne, starring Pat O'Brien, in 1948. Monsignor Harry L. Byrne directed Father Dunne's for 25 years, until 1969, and died in 2004 at age 95. Brother Matthew Gallagher died in 2007.
Tuesday, April 13, 2021
Did you want to see bluebells growing in their native sort-of-swampy habitat, during the peak of blooming? Me too. Today I took happy advantage of the creek-side path I personally cut through the woods in fall and winter. The farther I walked, the more bluebells (Mertensia virginica) there were, to the left, right, ahead, behind. Golly!
Monday, April 12, 2021
I've been patroling for a week the strip of land where I found eight morels on the property last year. Twice a day I looked. No dice. Yesterday, enjoying some spring sun, I found a game trail not too overgrown; while cutting brush this past winter I'd opened it up a bit. Brushed my way on in there with my folding stool and had a seat where I'd never sat before. This is a wooded clifftop area. And what to my wondering eyes should appear but this nice fat good-sized morel. Just one. Only one.
Normally you'll find morels in groups. Believe me, I looked for more; there were none. I figured this was a gift from the gods feeling sorry for me for looking so hard, walking up and down, finding zero all week. Here's a glamour shot. I sauteed and ate it within the hour.
Now stop scrolling and go out and hunt!