Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Most of you will recognize immediately that this is not a post about a robbery or murder or kidnapping over here on Murdocksville Rd. near Pinehurst. It's the title of my one and only book, completed in the summer of 2007. Since then I've been able to share it with lots of family and friends, plus the final class of 3rd graders I taught. I've also read it to friends at church, and to last year's fourth graders at Farm Life School. Thanks to four very helpful teachers, I have the opportunity to read it to this year's fourth graders as well, breaking the reading into three weekly installments of about an hour each. I'll finish it on Friday, Oct. 10 and will be selling and autographing books at our school's Fall Festival from 5 to 8 on Oct. 17. Here's just a little background, but this won't be the last you'll hear about my book.

This is the homeplace the book is based on, built by my great-great grandfather, Jabez M. Loyd, or possibly even by his father before the Civil War. It has been saved from destruction and converted into a clubhouse by the Chateau Montaigne Apartments.
Here is my father, Marvin Loyd on the porch of his grandfather's homeplace, where his father also grew up. The historical plaque on the porch misspells Loyd (naturally) and is only partially accurate.
This chest and its contents are central to the mystery of the book. The story is based on the family story that family valuables were hidden or buried on the eve of General Sherman's invasion of Atlanta. Note the JML on the chest.
More mystery. I don't want to spoil the book, but let me know if you want to read it and don't already have a copy.
You can't see details on this map, but it shows DeKalb County, Georgia in Civil War days. Sherman's armies marched within a short distance of the Loyd Homeplace, as some were sent to destroy a railroad line from Stone Mountain to Decatur and the main army battled their way across nearby Peachtree Creek.
More about the book will follow as I continue sharing the tale at school.

Saturday, September 27, 2008


I've been tagged by Amanda. Here are the rules:

1. Post the rules on your blog
2. Write six random things about yourself
3. Tag six people at the end of your post
4. If you are tagged, just do it, and pass the tag along!

1. I've never had a broken bone, but have had stitches twice: my foot and my nose (oh yeah, there's a story).
2. I am or have been a collector of comic books, stamps, rocks, coins, salt & pepper shakers, baseball cards, books, and more.
3. I made $1.50 an hour in my first job (and "No," it wasn't in the Great Depression).
4. I have never owned a new car (most people already know that!).
5. I am left-handed, therefore right-brained. I think that allows me to play the piano "by ear" as I visualize my hands in the proper positions for what I hear.
6. I never give up on getting Jennifer and Amanda to read Gone With the Wind (I just happen to have a couple of copies in the garage. . .).

Now I'm supposed to tag people, but I know you guys are busy, so I'm making it voluntary. Also, not all of my friends blog, so feel free to send me an e-mail with six things about you if you care to participate. So Cindy, Debi, Pat L., Pam C. and anyone else who wants to play--TAG--you're IT!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

More Scenes from the New River Trail--Tuesday

Of all our trips to the New River this is the first time we've seen it filled to the brim. Absolutely beautiful.
We love this rock-hewn tunnel near Fries Junction. Imagine riding through it behind an old steam locomotive.
This farmyard caught our eyes as we biked toward Chestnut Yard, where trains were once repaired and serviced. It was the goats that caught Judy's eye and the woodpile that caught mine!
Near the end of our ride we backtracked a mile toward Galax to visit Chestnut Creek Falls.
Judy says "Hi."
More about the trip in the next post.

Tuesday: Biking the New River Trail

I know, I know. . . what could this shot of a scrumptious ice cream delight have to do with biking the New River Trail. Well, one has to keep up one's strength. Monday evening we had a coupon for free ice cream at The Hardware Company Restaurant in Hillsville. It exceeded our expectations!

Our tools of the trade--two vintage Motobecane racing bikes. Now we were ready for Tuesday's bike tour.
I have dozens of photos of our 13 mile bike ride. Choosing just a few for this blog was not easy. Here, Judy and I posed where Chesnut Creek merges with the New River at a place called Fries Junction. The old railroad line went through the mining and industrial town of Fries. Later, a line was extended from this point to Galax. When the railroad ended, the land was donated to the state of Virginia, who wisely invested in this multi-use trail which benefits so many.
Credit Judy with spotting this SIX FOOT black rat snake. You know they're my favorite serpent ("Hi" Debi!), but I've never seen one this long. A photo can't express its elegance. We were surprised to see any snake on a cool day like this.
This shot shows an island in the New River plus the bridge and trestle at Fries (pronounce freeze) Junction. Biking across the plank bridge makes an eerie sound.
More pictures coming up in the next post. Follow this link to find out much more about The New River Trail.

To the Cabooses and Beyond

Grassy Creek Cabooses is one of our favorite places for a mountain getaway. Just off the Blue Ridge Parkway near Orchard Gap and Fancy Gap, the three cabooses are surprisingly roomy after the interiors were renovated. They have a queen-size bed and jacuzzi, heat and AC, since the weather can swing in a few hours in the mountains. Mostly, they provide peace and quiet in a gorgeous mountaintop setting.

We've stayed at the cabooses numerous times and have recommended them to friends and family. More often than not, this is where we launch into our bike trips on the New River Trail.
We usually drive up through Mount Airy, NC, but this time we went up through Stuart, VA. Following a family tradition, Judy and I picnicked in the Stuart town cemetery. It was a beautiful spot and the weather was superb. Stuart was named after the confederate cavalry general, J.E.B. Stuart.

Before we reached the Blue Ridge Parkway we came to Lovers Leap (no apostrophe--I checked). We viewed it from both a roadside pull-off and a nice picnic area a bit further up the road.
Monday evening we discovered the Upper Beaver Dam Creek Trail just outside Hillsville, VA and enjoyed a two-mile stroll before supper. We crossed 7 or 8 footbridges as we followed the meandering creek. The terrain was nice and level and wildflowers were plentiful.
In the next couple of posts I'll share more about our biking on Tuesday and our hiking and exploring on Wednesday.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

First Singalong of 2008-2009 ~ Thanks for the Invitation

Are you sure we can sing that at school?
Yeah, Mrs. Cameron said you were a little weird.
I was having fun until Mr. Loyd said we were practicing reading while we sing.
No, I don't know why they're called "keys."

Friday afternoon I was invited to Camp JC. That's Camp Jackson Cameron. Mr. David Jackson and Mrs. Pam Cameron had me come in for a singalong with their 2nd grade class, and what a blast we had! We sang The Cat Came Back, There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly, Boom Boom Ain't it Great to be Crazy, The Desperado, and a bunch of other favorite songs. Pam had prepped them on motions to Boom Boom and Desperado, and I was very impressed with the students's alertness and enthusiasm. This class is definitely the place to be (now that the Adventure Classroom has faded into the sunset). Actually, there is no monopoly on adventure in learning. Everybody ought to try it. These cool kids had a special group welcome as well as a special goodby. Teamwork and cameraderie were strongly evident.

After school I hung around during car-rider pickup and got to see a lot of very dear students and teachers. I saw all the fourth grade teachers and have finalized plans to share Mystery at the Loyd Homeplace with them the next three Fridays. I can't wait!

Friday, September 19, 2008

A Motley Crew of Loyds, Talberts, and Kirbys Help "ROCK THE PLAZA"

If you're not familiar with Rock the Plaza, Jennifer and Amanda have blogged about it previously and Judy and I finally made an appearance. It's in the courtyard one block off Broad Street in Southern Pines. The sign below gives the basic info.

Jennifer's firm (?), the Kirby Real Estate Group, helped sponsor this month's event.

Matt, Jennifer, and Stephen Kirby. Rock the Plaza has to be cool or they wouldn't sponsor it.

One reason Judy and I were looking forward to this evening is because we had already planned to sample Dog Nations now-famous hot dogs. We did, but I was pleased they had added burgers to their grill offerings. This was Judy's after one bite. Humongous! Mine was already devoured.

The courtyard. Surrounding shops were open late. Plenty of good food and live music.

The theme for the month was "Health and Safety." Kaleigh gets to meet McGruff, the Crime Dog.
Kaleigh and Trevor get fingerprinted by the Southern Pines police (NO, they didn't do anything wrong)!
The band, House Call, played hits from the fifties, sixties, and seventies. Every member of the group is a doctor, and they were very good.
I may get brave and post my video of them doing "Margaritaville." I say brave because uploading videos is a challenge for our computer. We'll see.
There won't be any more Rock the Plaza events this fall, but I bet they'll be back next spring, and I also bet many of you would enjoy the food, music, SALE PRICES, and socializing.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

More Charlotte's Web Memories

In education jargon combining art and literature is using multiple intelligences and integrating the curriculum. To students it was just pure fun. And I always enjoyed illustrating our favorite books and stories along with the students. These are from my archives (I almost always did sketches).
Templeton's horrible rotten egg fortuitously saves Charlotte from capture by Avery.
Lurvy, the Zuckerman's hired man, was the first to see the miraculous words in the web. All of Wilbur's barnyard friends are hopeful Charlotte's plan will work.
It's off to the fair. Templeton and Charlotte are stowaways in Wilbur's crate. While the geese talk it up, Avery tries to get his share of the attention.
At the fair, a rude pig named Uncle wins the blue ribbon, but an even better award awaits Wilbur. Charlotte saves Wilbur, and in return, he assures that her 514 babies will return to the barn cellar she loved so much. And Wilbur will never be without a friend.
Go ahead. Read it again!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

What Does "County Fair" Mean to You?

If you're an elementary school teacher or a child (or ever were!) "County Fair" might make you think of Charlotte's Web.

Once I started reading this great classic to my classes, it became a tradition right up to the end. This is a children's book adults can learn much from. And E. B. White has a lot to say about adults in it, too. From the viewpoint of Charlotte, humans are gullible. When Wilbur asks what that means, she responds, "Easy to fool." Wilbur agrees, "That's a mercy.
Both Dr. Dorian and Fern's father, Mr. Arable remark that "maybe children listen better than grown-ups." Charlotte knows her web-writing trick will be a successful because people will believe anything they read. And she describes how people spend all day going back and forth on the Queensborough Bridge for no apparent reason. In her opinion, they should try hanging head downward for a while and an idea might come to them.
In short, Charlotte's Web is an inspirational and timeless tale of unconditional friendship, loyalty, and self-sacrifice. Both the old and new movies are first-rate, but the BOOK is definitely worth re-reading!


Amanda knows what's on the Nature Trail!
The entrance is along the fence by the ballfield concession stand.
Jack, Will, and Tom are (is?) actually just one humongous poplar tree.
Jack-in-the-pulpit. You'd see these pitcher-shaped flowers in the spring, but now is the time to see the bright red clusters of berries all over the ground.
That's why the patches grow larger each year.
The famous "Big Rock." Technically, an extrusion of igneous rock in the central piedmont's McLendon Fault region (more than you wanted to know).
The Black Lagoon in Spring.

I'm still on a high from yesterday's "baby post", but today I want to get you thinking our Sandhills Farm Life Nature Trail. The trail was dedicated over 20 years ago now, and it has endured many changes from both nature and man. Timber has been cut, ancient trees have fallen in ice storms, the stream has seen its highs and lows. But it's still a wonderful resource for the school and community to see a wide of array of diverse ecosystems in a relatively small space. In a 25 minute walk you can see both pine forest and hardwood forest, stream, pond, and marsh. Expand that to an hour and you can learn about Jack, Will, and Tom, the Black Lagoon, St. John (the toilet tree), and the Graveyard of the Pines.

Yesterday I spent a few hours getting the trail in shape for individuals, families, or school classes to take to the woods with minimal fear of tripping over limbs (you still have to watch those roots!) or getting scratched up by smilax (catbrier). The only part I haven't cleared yet is the path to the pond (Black Lagoon) and I hope to accomplish that soon. The pictures above show a few highlights you might see.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


This post is a reward for those of you who faithfully read my blog (yeah, all five of you--ha,ha). Seriously, only a handful of you already know this. Drum roll, please. Trumpet fanfare, if you like. I'M GONNA BE A GRANDPA! And JUDY'S GONNA BE A GRANDMA! And it's all thanks to AMANDA and STEPHEN. Amanda has written extensively on her blog (click on the link) so I suggest those of you who want all the details read her detailed journal entries there.

Not only will this be the first grandchild for me and Judy, he or she will simultaneously make FOUR lucky folks Great Grandparents for the first time. Many future blogs will find a way to discuss the joys of babyhood and parenthood, and I will be sharing some cool ideas from a book called 125 Brain Games for Babies. And these aren't games that make learning into work (heaven forbid!). They're perfectly normal, intuitively sound activities that wise parents have been using successfully for generations.

Stay tuned!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

SCHOOL DAYS, SCHOOL DAYS ~ Ken goes back to dear old SFL

Friday I went back to school for the first time since school began on August 25. I saw a lot of dear friends among faculty and students. This new work of art greeted me in the office, which has had a total make-over since last year. The whole atmosphere is welcoming and inviting.

I couldn't miss the posters about the Fall Festival which adorned all walls, windows, and doorways. I plan to be involved in that grand annual event, autographing my "Loyd Homeplace" books and possibly running the Acey-Deucey Game as well.
The main reason I went to school today was because a generous donor gave me funds to make book donations in my own honor. I selected a commemorative collector's edition of all the Curious George books by H. A. Rey and a 30th anniversary edition of Shel Silverstein's Where the Sidewalk Ends. I presented the books to my much-loved fearless leader, Miss McNeill. I hope these books will help either parents or students pass the time pleasantly when they are waiting in the outer office area
After my visit to the office I headed toward the Nature Trail to evaluate what kind of work it requires after a summer of growth plus the recent brutal storms. As I passed near the tennis courts I found Mrs. Auman's and Ms. Fox's 4th graders playing and when I stepped in for a minute I got a huge group hug, and not just from the students I had taught before. It was really heart-warming. This posed photo is nothing like the bedlam that reigned moments before! Forgive me, teachers.
I found the Nature Trail a little overgrown with a lot of fallen limbs, but nothing extraordinary. I plan to get it ready for class walks within the next few days. Fall is almost upon us and that's the a great time to explore the trail.