The Memory Lane I Didn’t Want to Remember 

While on this current trip I had planned to show my husband three towns in Kentucky that I remember living in as a kid. I have distinct vivid memories of quite a few “firsts” from these places and I wanted to share them with him. I wanted to show him the bridge and creek where I had my first kiss at age 13 and the school where I had my first taste of corporal punishment for fighting someone who smeared my Prater family name. I wanted to show him the house I lived in during my first tornado and the one I lived in when my brother and I built our first bike from scrap pieces. But unfortunately it didn’t happen.

I could feel the excitement build as I neared the exit to enter My Sterling. Almost as soon as I turned off the exit ramp my excitement began to change. Suddenly I was having flashes of other memories I had chosen to forget. I passed the shopping center where my mother was hired as a clown for a business grand opening. I rembered how I hated dressing as a clown because I felt embarrassed. A little further down I came to what used to be the middle school, now apartments. This was where I learned to sing ten little Indians in Spanish. But then suddenly I remembered how everyone used to make fun of me because of my clothes, my accent (I moved there from Detroit) and called me “Bradley smells badly”.

As I drove through town I passed a parking lot where I remembered my parents sitting outside a pawn shop discussing making a trip to Lexington to sell plasma to make some money. Then I traveled along the highway where I remembered walking with my dad collecting bottles, cans and black walnuts to sell.

Sadly I didn’t make it two miles outside of town before I turned the car around heading back to the interstate. 

I know that nearly everyone at some point in their lives has been the victim of bullying and the majority of the population grew up in poverty but it didn’t hit me until that trip down memory lane just how poor I really was as a kid.

With all of the struggles we went through, known or not, I have to say that I am glad that my parents stuck it out through the hard times and did the best the could for my brother and I. 

And We’re Off…

The house is all packed away in storage and we have taken off for six to eight weeks of camping and site seeing through the midwest and east coast with the final destination of Portland, Maine. With the exception of two places, where we go and what we see is all up in the air. We know what we’d like to see and where but accommodations are not reserved at this time.

First stop, O’Fallon, Illnois for one night then onward.

This Damn Travel Bug

Well folks, the travel bug has struck this house once again. But, this time it will be a little different from the way “normal” folks travel.

Since we were planning to move from our current location before October of this year, we have decided to completely move out of our house, put our important processions in storage, sell what is replaceable and buy a…. wait for it…. TENT!

This tent to be exact!

That’s right, I said tent. Our ultimate goal is to have a camper that we can eventually live in year round but we are having a really hard time finding one near us so we figure we will start with a tent and if we find a camper along the way, we will buy it then.

Anyway, we are planning to be on the road for six-eight weeks with a list of things we want to accomplish and do. Also while on this trip I will be doing genealogy research so that I can write about a few more ancestors.

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Losing Nunney Castle

Nunney Castle, located south of Bath in Nunney, Somerset, England, is a small French style castle surrounded by a deep moat that was built by John Delamare, a knight for King Edward of England in 1373. Nunney Castle is unique compared to other British castles with its strong French influence. The only other one like it can be found in Ireland.

Nunney Castle, Somerset (Department of the Environment official guidebook)

Nunney Castle consists of a rectangular Tower house with large drum towers at each corner built with beautiful ashlar masonry. Its cuspid tops and mullions finish off this early Perpendicular style. The building impressed the locals as nothing more than a fortified manor house because it lacked any battlements.

William John Prather, Esq. (1492-1547) and his son and heir, George Prather, Esq. (1510-1564) purchased Nunney Castle and the entire estate of John Delamare in a tax trade deal in about 1560 from their cousin, Sir William Paulett, Lord St John, who inherited it through marriage. After they purchased the vast estate consisting of 4,000 acres of meadowland, 300 acres of timber, 40 farms with dwellings and surfs, 30 farms with no dwellings, Mills, Dove Cotts, several wool washing and processing manors and a Tenament in Oxford, John’s younger son Richard Prater, Esq. (1540-1580) moved into Nunney Castle where he died in 1580.

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When Richard died he named his brother Anthony Prater, Gentleman, (1545-1593) as “Trustee” of the estate until Richards son and heir, George (1562-1621), was old enough to inherit the estate. Different Prater heirs lived in the castle until the English Civil War in 1645 when Col. Richard Prater (1590-1651) lost the castle in a battle that took place at Nunney. During the Civil War the castle was garrisoned for the King and had a large magazine of about 80 men to defend the castle. Fearing his castle would be destroyed, Col. Richard, a Royalist and an ordained Roman Catholic priest, surrendered and offered to switch sides. Fairfax, the commander of Cromwells forces, refused his offer and confiscated the castle and destroyed it, never to be lived in again. Richard and his family sought refuge in the All Saints’ Church in Nunney then eventually moved into the Court House next to the church where they remained until their deaths.

Prater Prather Prator Praytor in America 1620-1800: 1-5 generations

Richard died in 1651 and he lay next to his wife as Effigies in the All Saints’ Church in Nunney. The Praters who lived in and around Somerset and Wiltshire controlled the woolen industry by owning all of the major wool washing and processing centers and controlled major grazing for 1000’s of sheep. They were titled gentlemen, but not farmers.

Finally, it has been rumored that the soul of Col. Richard riding a big black stallion can be heard late into the evening trotting down the main street in Nunney. Louder and louder the horse gets closer with Col. Richard sitting upright and alert in full armor looking from side to side as if he is expecting someone or something to appear. It has been said that he always goes to the entrance of the castle but has never been seen coming out.

Murder, Mystery and Mayhem

The Meanest Son of a Bitch that Ever Lived!

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John Reece Prater (1889-1929) worked as a security guard for the railroad in Morgan
County, Kentucky. He was married to Edna Lee Bailey (1890-1964) and had seven children.

John Reece and Edna Lee
John Reece, Edna Lee in back. Osa, Nola and Delmer in front. Cir 1917

Tragically his only daughter died of whooping cough at just under two years of age in 1917. He was known to be a hardworking man who took care of his family. On the afternoon of January 27, 1929 a gunshot echoed through a railroad tunnel and on
down the line. Minutes later two other railroad workers arrived at a well-established camp site to find John Reese laying in the dirt near the fire pit heavily bleeding from a gaping wound on the side of his head. Lying on the ground next to him was his own revolver. The two railroad workers picked John Reese up and carried him up the tracks to his father’s house so the doctor could be summoned to help.

Praters in America 1620-1800

John Reese was placed on the kitchen table of his parents’ house and the doctor arrived
quickly with his bag of medical tools hoping to work a miracle. By this time word had spread all through the community and a crowd was beginning to form wanting to know what was going on, and how John Reese was doing. The doctor worked tirelessly -trying to remove the bullet that was lodged deep in John Reese’s brain. With no hope of saving him, the doctor gave up his efforts.

Almost immediately worry and concern changed to anger and the gathering mob wanted to know who did this and where to find him, or her. One of the neighbors offered to get his blood hounds and track the killers scent. John Reese’s father, James, agreed and immediately began assembling a search party to find out who killed his beloved son. James ran back into his house with two of his other sons, Stanley and Arby, to grab their shotguns.

Once the search party was assembled they headed straight to the campsite that John Reese used every time he worked the line guarding the tunnel from train robbers. There were no signs of a struggle and nothing was disturbed. His campfire was still burning with a coffee pot sitting on a rock next to the coals. Almost immediately the blood hounds picked up a scent and shot off through the woods. The search party followed as quickly and close as possible. After a few zigs and zags through the woods the dogs turned heading up into a hollar. Immediately James ordered the dogs to be called off. Not understanding why James wanted them to stop the neighbor began to protest that the dogs were heading straight to the killer to let them go. James ordered him once again to call off the dogs, or he was going to shoot them dead.

The neighbor complied and restrained his dogs but was still dumbfounded as to why James wanted to stop the search. James explained to him that where the dogs were heading was to a woman and her children and he did not need to see anything more and turned around and walked back down to the tracks then home to prepare for the funeral. Where the dogs were heading was to John Reese’s own house where his wife Edna and their six sons, ages 19, 17, 9, 8, 5 and newborn lived.

Prater Coat of Arms Mouse Pad

By the time of the funeral two days later, rumors had spread all across the county about who killed John Reese. There were many theories; train robbers, another employee, his wife or one of his own sons. It really could have been anyone. In fact, just days before his death a sign was placed in his yard warning him to treat his family better or he was going to be killed.

Turns out that John Reese was a very abusive man to his children, and his wife. On one
occasion John Reese had his oldest son tied to a tree in his yard and was using a bull whip to give him a set number of lashes as punishment. Edna begged and begged John Reese to stop before he killed her son. John Reese told her that the only way he was going to stop was if she took the rest of his lashes, to which she agreed. John Reese cut his son down then tied his wife to the tree and finished the punishment across her back.

On the day of the funeral Edna gathered her sons and headed to her in-laws’ house. Upon
arrival, she was immediately shunned and denied entry into the funeral. Instead she returned home, packed some of her belongings and went home to her parents in Greenup. Edna and the children stayed gone for a few years. There were several theories about who killed him and quit a few clues that made them very convincing.

Theory #1
Whomever placed the sign in the yard warning John Reese to start treating his family
better killed him. But, John Reese was shot point blank with his own weapon. Not many
strangers could get close enough to him to take his own gun and shoot him.

Theory #2
One of Edna’s brothers could have shot him in retaliation for the years of abuse she and
her children suffered. But once again, it was unlikely that any of them could get close enough to get his gun without a struggle.

Theory #3
One of John Reese’s two oldest sons shot him. They suffered just as much as their mother
did at his hands and they would have been able to get close enough to get his own gun away from him and shoot him in the head.

Theory #4
Edna shot John Reese. She definitely could have gotten close enough to him to take his
revolver from the holster and shoot him in the head as payback for all the years of abuse she and her children suffered at his hands. However, Edna had given birth to her youngest son just 13 days before John Reese was killed. It would have been unlikely that she could shoot him then take off running through the woods up into the hollar and make it home, change clothes and not have some kind of major abdominal pain or bleeding herself.

Although there were several plausible theories John Reese’s death was never officially
solved. But retribution was made. By 1935, Edna and her children had moved back to Morgan County. On July 4, 1935 John Reese’s brothers Stanley and Arby were celebrating the holiday with John Reese’s second oldest son, Delmer (1912-1935). Early the next morning someone passing by a pond noticed a body floating near the shore line and pulled it out. It was Delmer. When asked if either Stanley or Arby had anything to do with Delmer drowning Arby walked away never to say another word about it. Stanley answered, “I can’t say I did, and I can’t say I didn’t”.

His death is officially listed as an accidental drowning but that’s not the consensus within
the families to this day.

A Word About Hostels

Another alternative way to save money when traveling through Europe is to stay in a hostel. Sure we have all seen the horror flicks and heard the stories floating around pop culture but trust me, the many hostels I have stayed at are NOTHING like what you watch in the make believe world of movies.

In 2016 when I made my first trip to Europe I was determined to get the full European experience when it came to lodging. I especially wanted the quaint English cottage behind the white picket fence covered in vines or moss but chances are, since I was not going to be driving, that was not going to happen for me. Plus, since I was going to be on a very tight budget luxury hotels offering turn-down service and my very own English butler were definitely out as well. So, instead I settled for staying in hostels, then rented a room in a house from a private citizen when I placed an ad on a Yahoo Forum looking for accommodations recommendations.

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First and foremost they are definitely a money saver. I literally rented a bed in a 12 person coed dorm room for $9 a night at Paddy’s Palace in Dublin. With this rate I had access to a fully stocked kitchen to store and cook my own food. They provided what we in America call a Continental Breakfast for free; I had access to laundry; storage lockers; the TV room and even free WiFi. As an extra bonus for me, if I booked and stayed for two nights, I received a free bus tour of Wicklow and Kilkenny. I literally felt like with the savings I had they were paying me to stay with them.

Now, I’m sure you are asking “what’s the catch?” and “if it’s so cheap why isn’t everyone staying in hostels?” Well I will tell you. One catch is that the time of year you make your visit will play a small part in the nightly rates. Taking a trip during the off season not only ensures less crowds but cheaper rates. I took my first trip for a month starting January 20th.

Secondly, the environment in a hostel is not for everyone. If you like it a little more quiet and your own private space then it might not work for you. There are plenty of people who take advantage of the “chill out rooms” who are for the most part friendly. Many times I was invited to join someone at a party or just to be part of a group of travelers talking about our experiences. When it came time for bed never once did I feel uncomfortable or threatened sleeping next to my coed strangers. Quiet times were quiet and most everyone was mindful if coming in drunk at 3AM. If I had to complain about one thing during any of my hostel stays around Europe it would be the noise on the streets from traffic and passersby.

If you are traveling with a small child, or as a family, a hostel stay may be for you as well. They only catch to this is that not all hostels are “kid friendly”. Be sure to check their policies online when booking, it will state if children are allowed or not. If they are allowed they will only be able to stay with their family in a private room. How this works is like this. Say there are three of you traveling, you, your spouse and a child age four. You can rent a private room in the hostel or you will have to pay for however many beds there are in your room. So if you only need three beds and the hostel has a four bed room available, you are paying for the fourth bed to ensure no stranger is placed in your room with you. We had to do this on our most recent trip to Europe when we took our toddler granddaughter along.

I personally like the value of staying in a hostel especially when I know for a fact that I am not there for anything other than sleeping and maybe eating if I need to cook myself something. Otherwise, I will be out and about seeing the sites and rarely in the hostel anyway.

The down side of staying in a hostel is that there is a possibility that you will have to climb to the top of a three or four bed bunk in an already over crowded room. Yeah, I had this experience as well and let me tell you, it sucked! But, I was at the end of my trip and was heading back to the States the next morning so I climbed up and went to sleep. At least it had a private bathroom in the dorm. But now that I know what this particular hostel offers you can bet I’ll never be staying with them again.

 

 

Budget Travel Tip to Save on Food Costs

On our recent trip to Europe we knew ahead of time that our two biggest expenses were going to be lodging and food throughout the five countries we were planning to visit. Since we were planning to be gone for six weeks it would be an enormous expense to feed three off us three times a day. So with some advanced planning we decided that we were absolutely not going to be eating out every night.

Instead we decided to take advantage of the dining and kitchen areas at the hostels or hotels we were going to be staying in when we did not stay in an apartment. Also when we booked all of our lodging we found out where a supermarket or grocery store was close by. It saved us a ton of money to buy a few days worth of groceries and cook meals, even preparing snacks ahead of time for our sight-seeing or hiking trips.

Disappointed at the Tower of London

During our trip around Europe in March 2017 we made the same stop that millions of tourists make each year, the Tower of London. Before going I had a plan of the spots I wanted to stand, Ann Boleyn’s execution spot (the Scaffold Site), and the things that I wanted to see, the Bloody Tower and the Ravens.

Unfortunately the day we chose to go, it rained. Now I know that the weather being crappy has nothing to do with my disappointment at the Tower of London, and trust me, the weather had nothing to do with it. However, there were plenty of other issues we had that day that led to our disappointment.

To start with the Tower of London is not very friendly for those who are disabled. If you want to see the tower from the outside, walking around the grounds it’s fine, but you will definitely not be seeing the Bloody Tower, the White Tower or even walk along the walled perimeter. There are many steps to climb to see either of those and there is no handicap access.

We began our tour walking through the Main Entrance then made our way to the Medieval Palace beginning our tour with St Thomas’s Tower. This tower was built by King Edward I between 1275 and 1279.  We then proceeded into King Edward I’s, Edward the Longshanks, bedchamber. Then we walked through the Palace past Edward’s oratory, up a turret to the Wall Walk to walk the perimeter. Along the way we climbed many very thin steep steps along narrow walkways.

We walked along the wall to the East Wall Walk entrance and made our way down to the White Tower. Unfortunately in order to see the exhibits in the White Tower you must be able to climb 236 steps. One of our party is disabled and was not able to do so, so none of us seen it.

From the White Tower we decided to see the Crown Jewels in the Jewel House. The line to get into the exhibit was long and it took us about 30 minutes to get into the Jewel House. However while we waited we did get to see some guards changing outside the exhibit. Once inside, we meandered around a maze of darkness from room to room for an additional 30 minutes till we actually made it to the Crown Jewels. Although they are beautiful and expensive, the room is so dimly lit that we nearly missed them.

From the Crown Jewels we headed to the Scaffold Site. I wanted to stand on the spot where so many had taken their last breath. From the Scaffold Site we once again climbed a set of narrow steep stairs to view the Bloody Tower. The disappointment for this exhibit came when we entered a room that had two wall boards with the tale of the Two Princes who were murdered in the tower by their uncle King Richard III. We felt that these two boards did not do the story or their memory justice.20170312_142431

Next we exited the Bloody Tower and made our way to the Torture at the Tower Exhibit where we found several devices that were used in medieval torture. This exhibit was interesting but unfortunately it was in a small room that had people crammed in like cattle in a pen. On more than one occasion I was literally shoved as people made their way past me out the door.

We finally decided to end our day at the Tower of London by making a stop by Traitor’s Gate, the Coins and Kings exhibit and to see the Ravens. Our granddaughter enjoyed to Coins and Kings exhibit and the Ravens were no where to be found.

During our trip to London we found many things we did not care for, and plenty that we absolutely loved, but our trip to the Tower of London was definitely NOT on our “loved” list.

Traveling With Young Children

I am the mother of four children, the oldest is 30 and the youngest is 22, and I still hear to this day how one of their friends will often ask if they regretted all the traveling and moving around they did as kids. Thankfully none of them do and I often hear from each of them how thankful they are that we did that. Here’s why.

I have always been a nomad, felt like I belonged someplace else and have always had the desire to see and experience new places. Not the usual tourist traps that millions of people flock to every year, but to the places off the beaten path. I want to know the life and history about a place. I want to feel the blood pumping through its veins, its life force. I want to know why the place came into existence and why it’s still around today.

When my children were younger we took them everywhere with us. Not once did we ever go on vacation or a trip without them. Before any of them had turned eighteen they had been back and forth across the country, and many places in between, probably a hundred times.

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We didn’t have a lot of money back then, and still don’t, but we always made it fun and interesting for them. Hiking is always free and we did a lot of that through many National Parks and Forests. And sleeping in a tent or the back of our suburban in a free city park because we couldn’t afford a hotel room for six was just camping to them, and boy did they love to go camping.

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Juarez, Mexico October 2006

Each of them has their own distinct memories of places they have been to and the things they have seen. Some were to young to even remember camping at Gettysburg or going to work with mom and dad when they worked as security guards at Disney World but they all know that while most children were reading about our historical places in history books, they were visiting them.

Of course we haven’t visited them all, but we have been to quite a few. There’s still time to fill in the gaps now with our grandchildren in tow!

20170315_205527-COLLAGE
Us in Europe with our granddaughter Ukiah – 2017

How We Traveled From Central Kansas to Europe and Back for FREE!

There’s a little known privilege available to active duty and retired military personnel that allows them to travel around the world virtually free. This perk is called Space Available, or Space-A, travel.

Since November 2016 I had been watching the flight schedules from several bases near us, my husband, granddaughter and I, to get an idea of some “regularity” in order for us to plan our trip. Other than us needing to be in London on March 6th to meet my brother who was joining us for his 10 day vacation we were very flexible on when and where we wanted to go.

Through the Eyes of a Traveler

I found that the base closest to us, McConnell AFB in Wichita at two hours away, has a pretty regular flight to RAF Mildenhall  in Suffolk, England weekly so we decided that we were going there first. Next we needed to decide when to go. Well, as I said before other than March 6th, we could go anytime. We were already going to Ireland and Scotland while with my brother so we decided we would try to catch the first flight available after February 15th and try to get to Germany or Italy.

Suddenly on February 7th there were two new flights added to the schedule, one leaving  the next morning and one for Friday, February 9th. For the most part we were already packed with each of us carrying our own backpack for what we planned to be six weeks of travel. So with passports in hand we loaded up the truck and headed to Wichita on Friday for the 4PM roll call. After a four hour wait after checking in we finally boarded the KC-135 bound for England.

When it was time to come home we once again made our way back to RAF Mildenhall to catch a flight back to anywhere in the states. We waited nearly a week before there was a flight heading  home. Unfortunately for us that flight was full so we caught the next flight out heading close to home, Fairchild AFB in Spokane, Washington. once in Washington, we shared a rental car with two other retirees who were heading back to McConnell AFB and drove home.

By using this perk  we literally traveled round trip to Europe for FREE! Saving us nearly $4,000.00.

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