Castles

To Go Where Ones Have Gone Before

We have all heard William Shatner in Star Trek say, “To boldly go where no one has gone before.”  It’s catchy and it makes you want to join the exploration.  But you know what?  You don’t have to go into the future to explore.  It is all around us.  If we occasionally take time to explore our past, I think it can make us better people.   

When I drive by a dilapidated farmhouse out in the country or an abandoned factory in a city, I have the urge to explore them.  Most of the time I do not stop; no trespassing signs, safety concerns, and besides, I’m usually driving purposely towards my destination.  I’m a reflective person.  I like spending a few moments walking in the presence of where others went before.  The few times I have stopped have always been rewarding.

                I believe the word castle creates more imaginative thoughts in most people’s minds than almost any other word I can think of.  The word castle just immediately transports you to a different time.  A land far away: a time of adventure.  Just think how many movies show us the mysterious castles situated high on a hilltop.  Even the sounds of castles conjure up thoughts.  The huge gates being opened with the horses galloping over the bridge spanning the moat.  The blacksmith banging on steel.  The pigeons seeking shelter in the tall towers.  Not to mention all the battle scenes with arrows flying, battering rams, swords, arrows, and hot oil. 

                Farmhouses can do the same for me.  I guess this goes back to my very early years as a child visiting my grandparent’s farm.  They had an 800 acre spread in the central Texas hill country that is hilly, covered with an abundance of oak trees and lots of wildlife, notably deer.  The spring brings the wildflowers and beautiful bluebonnets.  I remember Grandpa milking the cow as he would sometimes squirt the milk at me, and then giggle.  Most mornings Grandma, who we called Mama Sue, would go into the chicken coup, shoo away the hens, and collect the eggs. 

She cooked on an old big black stove.  Everything seemed greasy to me and Grandpa would sip his hot black coffee out of the saucer.  The milk was thick, warm, and had some sort of scum on the top that I did not like.  Being from the city, I was used to cold milk from a bottle, not fresh milk poured from the can that Grandpa had just collected.  She would sometimes get a coat hanger, grab a chicken and cut off his head.  Fried chicken is what we ate in those days.

I really liked riding on the tractor with Grandpa, or in the back of his pickup when he made the rounds to feed the cattle.  I enjoyed messing around in the barn playing hide and seek among the stacked hay bales with my brothers and cousins.  I recall watching a sow with her piglets, a big Billy goat roaming around the barnyard, petting a gentle milk cow, and watching the peacocks fluff up their feathers.  I learned to shoot guns at an early age as we occasionally we would go to the dump with 22 rifles.

My grandparents lived on that farm all of their adult lives before they eventually retired to live in town.  They raised their five kids there, of whom my mom was the middle child.  That was a way of life I will never know.  I think I might have liked it, but of course I will never know the amount of work involved. 

I remember as a second grader working on a craft project where we had to cut out material and paste on an 8 by 12 piece of cardboard to tell what we would like to be when we grew up.  I had Mom help me cut out a red shirt from some old cloth, and from the blue cloth some pants.  I told her I wanted to be a farmer like Grandpa.  She had a quiet, almost sad look on her face.  Years later Mom told me just how much work is involved on a farm.

The next day in class some of the girls had all white dresses on their cardboard because they wanted to be nurses.  I understood that, but some of the guys had all blue uniforms because they wanted to be policeman, or all red uniforms for those wanting to be a fireman, and that I did not understand.  I just thought they would all like to be farmers like their grandparents.  I assumed they all had grandparents from the farm like me.  Funny how we get some thought patterns in our thinking without realizing it can be way off. 

The old farmhouse that I visited in the 1950’s had wood burning stoves, creaky wooden floors and smelled old to me, but I liked it.  When my uncle built a new house on the same spot, the old farmhouse was moved to become a barn, next to the old barn.  Over fifty years later I recall peeking into the old farmhouse that was now storing grain.  There was the bedroom where I had slept, and the den where we warmed ourselves by the fire.  Times past, times long ago, where others had gone before.  Where aunts and uncles had been born and raised.  Where horses, cows, donkeys, sheep and goats had roamed about.  A way of life that most Americans in centuries past lived, yet alien too many of us now. 

I think Mama Sue and Grandpa represented millions in that they were hard working, God fearing, decent people that helped to continue nourishing the sound foundation our country was built on.  Their way of still fascinates me in a lot of ways.  I also felt a lot of love from all my grandparents, all born right about 1900. My grandparent’s generation, those that were adults in the early 20th century, were inspirational to me in many ways.  You don’t have to be an archeologist like Indiana Jones visiting exotic far away places in the quest to explore.  You may not find an ancient artifact worth millions like they do in the movies, which as you know, you are not allowed to keep, but your exploration brings a different kind of treasure.   A treasure you can keep in your heart.  “To go where ones have gone before,” renews my dedication to try and pass the same blessings I received from past generations on to my kids and future generations.  By the way, I have an old oil lamp on my bookcase that came from the junkyard of my grandparent’s farm.  It looks old but may only be 50 or 60 years old.  Not much of an antique, much less an artifact, and it may actually be just trash, but it is treasure to me.  It brings back a treasure trove of wonderful memories.         

 

 

Alpine Village

    

  I have a picture, an oil painting, hanging in my bedroom that I look at every day.  It was given to me by a very special person, my Aunt Bea.  My mom was an artist and quite good so I was around paintings all of my life.  My mom hung paintings just about every wall in the homes she has lived in.  As a matter of fact it was because of her artwork that I came to have this particular picture.

            The scene on the painting depicts a village on a quiet body of water surrounded by mountains.  The mountains are good size and the small town has a church with a pronounced steeple.  It looks like a European village so I guess it is in the Alpines.  It is one of those scenes that captures my imagination, and does so over and over. 

            As a child when I had books read to me it was often the pictures that captured my imagination more than the words.  I wish it were the other way but perhaps I am a visual learner.  I recall as a young child picking up a book on Mother Goose rhymes and staring at the cover for a long time which had a picture of a boot that looked like a house with a bunch of kids living in it.  I fantasized about what it would be like to live in that house while looking out of this or that particular window.  I don’t recall many of the rhymes, just that I liked looking at the big boot house.  It is the same with castles.  Even today a castle with all of its towers and turrets intrigues me.  Castle pictures immediately transform me to another place in time.

            My Aunt Bea had this painting in her living room for many years.  I visit her about once a year and often commented how much I liked the painting.  As the decades passed she shared with me that my mom had given the painting to her when I was a child.  My family had lived in Germany a couple of years when I was in grade school in the early 1960’s.  It was at that time my mom began her art career.  She took lessons from a number of people for many years one of whom I believe Aunt Bea conveyed to me was the artist of this specific painting.  So it seems the artist did this work while we were indeed living in Europe.  I still do not know if he is famous or not; I doubt it, I just know I like the painting. 

            First of all, I like the serenity of the village.  It looks quiet.  I could envision myself on the lake in a little row boat fishing.  I am not a fisherman but if I lived in that village I would be willing to give it a try.  I could also imagine myself sitting by the marge of the lake skipping rocks.  I learned the word marge a few months ago, it means the edge of, so I thought I would show off by trying to use it in context.

 I fantasize I can hear the church bells chiming.  I can even smell the farmer cleaning the manure out of his barn.  I can see myself ice skating on the frozen winter lake, as if I would know how to do that.  What about hiking to the top of the mountain?  And most of all, where would I want to live in this secluded chalet?  There are all kinds of little houses with their little windows here and there.  My imagination convinces me these dwellings each have their share of nooks and crannies. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As my aunt Bea got into her 80’s she wanted to make sure I would have this painting in the event of her death, so she gave it to me.  It probably has very little value monetarily, but it will be one that I will treasure.  I not only like looking at it but it will also always remind me of my aunt Bea and her love for me.  It’s my own personal art treasure.

Haunted Castle

 

Reichenstein Castle on the Rhine River in Germany

    Dungeons, huge stairways, secret passages and lookout towers are all intriguing to me.  I lived in Germany between the ages of eight to ten and I found it absolutely fascinating.  It was in many ways the best years of my life.  I have three brothers and between us there were plenty of friends to do things with.  We had an abundance of streams and woods to scout out including several dark and dank caves.  We snuck into some abandoned houses that proved to be an adventure but I have to admit I was scared of going into the caves.  I was always afraid I was going to fall down some hole inside the cave.  I now realize the caves were probably carved out in World War II to store munitions and were probably not very safe to explore.  My favorite excursions were with the cub scouts.  It was great fun when the scout master would take us on journeys to explore castes in the area.

inside a haunted castle

  Needless to say they made quite an impression on me.  I also think they are part of the imaginative experience for all of us.  I wanted a “haunted castle” to be on the game board of Treasure Trove

   

  In the late 1950’s and early 1960’s we had a TV show that aired at 10:30 P.M. on Friday nights called “Project Terror.”  It seemed late at night to me back in those days.  Basically reruns of Class B old black and white science fiction movies such as giant ants.  Of course we also had the even older 1930’s movies about Dracula, Frankenstein and the Werewolf.  I enjoyed them at the time but have not much cared for the plethora of remakes that have followed in the last four decades.  Unfortunately, movies now have less of the black and white shadows for one’s imagination but more of the blood and gore.  I quit doing horror movies back in the 1970’s but occasionally watch an old black and white classic horror film.

haunted castle on game board of TreasureTrove

     A search for treasure often leads one through abandoned dwellings, creaking stairs, groaning doors, and forbearing closets.  Where better to find these than in an old castle.  For my game board on Treasure Trove I obviously wanted to place “Haunted Castle,” in the middle of Europe right where Germany is. 

My research came up with some interesting castles:

1. Dracula’s Castle:  Bran Castle in Transylvania, Romania, is over seven hundred years old and is now a tourist destination.

2. Frankenstein Castle:  Near Darmstadt, Germany, it was built in 1250 and can be visited today but had very little influence on young Mary Shelley’s writing of the novel Frankenstein published in 1818.

3.  Reichenstein Castle:  On the Rhine river in Germany.  A very old castle with many an interesting story.

           The follwoing situation card is one 72 cards included within play of the game: 

                

Originally, rhinestones were rock crystals gathered from the Rhine River.  Rhinestones today refer to imitations of diamonds made from quartz, glass, or acrylic.

To learn more about the game go to www.TreasureTrovegame.com