www.thegrove-jefferson.com                          February 2007                                      ISSN 1558-3252

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Hi everyone, and hello from The Grove! This has been a full month, so I have several things to report on, including Mardi Gras, and a visit from a couple of people who had a very interesting experience.

I occasionally include personal things in this section - a recipe, a movie recommendation, a book I liked, etc. I'm a little torn about writing about this thing, though, because while it may change some people's lives, others will find it downright silly. I'm talking about a metaphysical documentary called "The Secret" that a visitor to The Grove turned me onto. I watched it, and found it to be very intriguing. Enough so that I thought that I'd pass it on to you. You can watch the trailer for free at: http://www.thesecret.tv/ If that looks at all interesting, you can watch the entire show for $4.95 on the website (if you have high speed internet access), about the cost of a movie rental. Let me be clear that I'm not in any way, form or fashion affiliated with this, I just thought that it was cool and wanted to pass it on for you to take a look at.

Now then, since I went ahead and mentioned recipes a moment ago, I won't feel too bad about including an unusual one that someone gave me: Engagement Chicken. It's very simple, but very good. The legend behind this dish is that if you're a lady dating a gentleman, and you make this for him, he will very soon pop the big question. Personally, I just think that it's a delicious dinner, but who am I to argue with legend and lore... and who knows what romance it might spark in an already married couple!

Engagement Chicken

Ingredients:
1 whole chicken, about 3 pounds
2 medium lemons
1/2 cup lemon juice
kosher salt or sea salt (to taste)
ground black pepper (to taste)

Serves 2 people (of course!) * Move your oven rack to the upper third of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees. * Wash chicken inside and out with cold water, remove the giblets, then let the chicken drain, cavity down, in a colander until it reaches room temperature (about 15 minutes) Pat it dry with paper towels. * Pour lemon juice all over the chicken (inside and outside) season with salt and pepper. * Prick the whole lemons three times with a fork and place deep inside the cavity. (Tip: If the lemons are hard, roll them on the countertop with your palm to get the juices flowing.) * Place the chicken breast-side down on a rack in a roasting pan, lower heat to 350 and bake uncovered for 15 minutes. * Remove from oven and turn it breast-side up (use wooden spoons or some other implements to keep from burning your hands); return it to oven for 35 minutes more. * Test for doneness - a meat thermometer inserted in the thigh should read 180, or juices should run clear when the chicken is pricked with a fork. Continue baking if necessary. * Let chicken cool for a few minutes before carving. Serve with juices, and enjoy!

Will it get you engaged? I have no idea, but as good as it is, it certainly can't hurt!

February's over, and we made it through Mardi Gras! It was quite a celebration here in Jefferson - in fact, the Jimplecute (the local newspaper) reported that there were 35,000 people in town. Since our regular population is only 2,000, that's a lot of extra folks. Vince Vance and the Valiants were the headlining band for the weekend, and he was the marshal of the Krew of Hebe's Grand Parade. The parades are always an enigma to me; we were in the Doo-Dah parade on Friday night that opens the celebration, and we had a gross of beads to throw to the crowds (that's a dozen dozen). We had fun doing it, but at the Grand Parade the next day we were only spectators, and we were right there by the statue of Hebe, waving our arms at the floats and screaming, "Beads! Beads! Throw me something!" I think that I caught about a dozen beads in the course of things, but in retrospect, it would have been so much easier to save some from the night before... it just wouldn't have been as much fun!!! You really get caught up in the party.

And speaking of a party, the food was just as incredible as I'd hoped. Remember me bragging about all the "food on a stick"? Well, we were there with a group of friends, and between us all, we had: sausage on a stick, chicken on a stick, CAJUN chicken on a stick, shrimp on a stick, corn dogs, foot long corn dogs, and several more gourmet items that escape me at the moment. I'm sure that they were all fat-free, healthy, and nutritious (yeah, right). The infamous "Deep Fried Twinkie on a stick" was there this year as well, but there was a new item... one that I'm not sure that I should admit to eating... one that can't possibly have an ounce of nutritional value... but I ate a couple of them anyway: batter-dipped, deep-fried, Oreo cookies. Actually, they were delicious. in the deep-frying process, the cookie and middle became very soft and warm, so it was almost like eating a fancy pastry. The capper to the weekend was the fact that one vendor had set up a kettle popcorn booth - I love popcorn anyway, but kettle corn is especially good. I have a regular check-up with my doctor in a couple of months, so needless to say, I'm already fasting to get rid of some of the bad things I put in my body that weekend! (Doc Gail, if you're reading this, I'm only kidding - while everyone else was eating all the junk, I was muching raw broccoli and carrots. Trust me.)

Let me just close out this topic by saying that a wonderful time was had by all at this year's Mardi Gras!

There are lots of other events coming up here in town, so be sure to check out the Chamber of Commerce website for a schedule and info.

We had another landmark event here in Jefferson last week - the groundbreaking for the new McDonald's. Personally, I'm looking forward to it. A Big Mac and fries will never replace my favorite dish at Lamache's Italian Restaurant (which is Chicken Diablo, by the way), but it will be a welcome option for breakfast, lunch or dinner occasionally.

Ah, time for a few ghost stories. To be honest, things have been rather quite for me in the last month (I'm still recovering from the embarrassing "footsteps" episode that I wrote about last month). Tami's had a couple of interesting things happen, though, as did a visitor to The Grove.

The first story this month concerns the table in the dining room. If you've been on the tour, or read about The Grove at all, you probably already know that the dining room set belonged to the Young family that bought the house in 1885. It's a very plain table and chairs, since the Youngs were a working-class family, but because it belonged to them it's priceless to us. I was in the stairwell talking to Tami one afternoon, who had just walked into the game room (the original master bedroom of the house). As she stepped in front of me, I saw her glance up toward the dining room, then look quickly back for a double take. She then looked at me with a puzzled expression, and walked up front. I followed her to see what was happening, and she had stopped at one of the end-chairs at the table. She looked at me and said, "A second ago, someone was sitting right here. At first glance I thought that we'd left a coat hanging on the back of the chair, but then I saw that there was actually a man sitting there." She went on to say that she'd looked over to me, and when she looked back again, there was no one there. When she told me what happened, we went up front to the table, but there didn't seem to be anyone but us there. Still, that kind of thing happens all the time at The Grove. You never know when you're going to look up and see someone who isn't there a moment later.

The next thing that I wanted to tell you isn't a ghost story, but is about something creepy that happened to me. It's interesting being the guy in town that everyone knows that writes about ghosts. We'd been out to eat with some friends, when they suggested taking a ride out to a cemetery that had been featured on the very first Jefferson Ghost Walk (although it was a "ghost drive", I think, since they went all over the county). So on a dark, overcast Saturday night in Jefferson, with the full moon only a dim, ghostly disk in the night sky, we walked out into the tiny graveyard out in the middle of nowhere. At that point and I swear that I'm giving an accurate play-by-play here there was a long, lonely, howl of a wolf in the distance.

I couldn't help but laugh; after all, I've seen a hundred horror movies, and half of them started out exactly like that night. Tami quickly pointed out that we don't have wolves in Marion County, we have coyotes. Still, it sounded like a wolf to me. As we walked further into the graveyard in the moonlight, the wolf-like howl continued to sound through the darkness, and it just got creepier.

Finally, we were all disturbed enough that we started to head back to the car... except for Tami. She wanted to keep looking around in the cemetery. With the howling in the background, though, I told her that if I was attacked by werewolves, and was converted, she was going to be my first victim. Maybe that worked, or maybe it was just the forlorn howling in the night, but she quickly joined us, and we got the heck out of there. I do want to go back, but in the daytime. Ghosts don't scare me in the least but wild predators, well, that's a different story.

Getting back to stories about The Grove, we had another subtle occurrence one evening toward the end of the month. We were sitting in the den, and Tami mentioned that she was surprised that so little had happened over the past few days - things had really been very calm. The dogs were asleep in their beanbags, the lights were off throughout the house, and everything was very still. When it was bedtime, we went through our normal rituals: Tami was laying out her clothes for in the morning and getting her lesson plans ready, and I was organizing the things that I had to do the next day. Everything was normal, and we ended the evening with a few minutes of television. Finally heading to the bedroom, we got quite a surprise - two peacock feathers from an arrangement in the side hallway had been taken out of the wicker vase, and were now crossed in an "X" on the floor. We looked at each other and laughed - so much for nothing happening lately! The odd thing is that the wicker basket holding the feathers is very deep, so there's no way that they could simply fallen out, not to mention their interesting arrangement in the middle of the hall. We have no idea which of the Grove spirits might have given us this mischievous little sign, but we got a kick out of it!

Finally, I want to relay a story from a friend-of-The-Grove named Michelle. She and a business partner were coming through Jefferson around the end of January and called to see about a tour, but unfortunately we couldn't do it since we weren't going to be home. She asked if they could stop by just to look around, and I'll let her tell her own story from there...

"We drove by your house and had a wonderful experience. My business partner is very sensitive to energy, and immediately walked to the edge of your driveway and said he felt something. He asked me to take some pictures. I started shooting, but got nothing at that time. We stayed for a while and just soaked in the air, but then we heard something in the property across the street. It sounded like someone was walking with a crunching of twigs, not an animal, but a definite person walking through. Then I heard what sounded like two exhalations. I asked Bob if he heard the same thing and he said he heard someone walking. It was so real that I said there must be a person over there. He walked all around the property, but found nothing. I started taking pictures of that area and got nothing so we returned to looking around The Grove. I was telling him how beautiful your place is in the spring. Then again we heard the walking across the street in the wooded area and it sounded again so clear that we thought someone was there. He returned once again to find no one at all. We again turned our interest to your house, and I felt a stillness come over me and a presence so strong that I knew someone was there. I felt it all around me and even in me. I was standing to the right of your driveway and then moved to the edge as this is where I felt it was. I did not say anything to Bob as I was just taking it all in and started snapping pictures again. When I was taking pictures, Bob was behind me and decided to take a few with his picture phone. I heard him say, 'oh my God!' behind me. I said, 'what is it?', and he said his phone just expanded with a whiteness as he took the picture of me taking my own pictures. He tried to explain that his phone almost shook with a brightness. We then heard the noise across the street again, but did not go back as we were fascinated by what was happening. I then decided after all of these things that some energy was present. I think that what we experienced was an apparition coming to fruition. I only wish we would have stayed a bit longer to see who it was. This was a wonderful experience and if we had done the tour with you we probably would have missed this amazing experience and not have captured the photo, so thank you for not being available. It felt like it was meant to be experienced."

Thanks, Michelle, for letting me share your experience with the GroveZine readers. I've never had any experiences across the street, but if you look, you'll notice that the native pecan trees over there are part of the same "grove" that surrounds this house... I wonder if that means anything?

If you enjoy true ghost stories about haunted places, you may want to check out a new book that I contributed to named "Ghostly Tales From America's Jails." It has stories of haunted jails around the country, many that you can visit, and even sleep in (yep, there's a haunted jail that's been turned into a B&B). I wrote two chapters in the book, and many of my friends are in there as well including well-known ghost hunters like Troy Taylor, Olyve Abbot, and Joan Upton Hall (who edited the book). For more info, go to:

http://www.thegrove-jefferson.com/jails/

- it's a great book for anyone interested in the paranormal.

I can also recommend "HealthBoogie.com", a great source for health information... especially for those of us who are growing older, but not up!

If you missed any issues of the GroveZine, you can find them at: www.thegrove-jefferson.com/ezine/archive

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