Two Gentlemen of Sonoma

A few weekends back we went to see the play Two Gentlemen of Sonoma (a “play” on Shakespeare’s Two Gentlemen of Verona). Our friends Neal and Maxene were both involved with the production (Neal played General Vallejo, the Duke character, and Maxene was the stage manager). The stage was set for Shakespeare at the Adobe, and it was a beautiful place, just east of Petaluma and set under Sonoma Mountain. We haven’t had a chance to tour it yet, so we were very excited to see the grounds.
The side of the Adobe building was positively beautiful, especially with the setting sun.

We went with our friends, Scott and Katy, and it was such a blast.

There are so many things to see and do here, we never have time to see it all. This gave us a chance to see a little bit of history while enjoying a hilarious piece of artistic expression. This version of Shakespeare’s play was adapted by Director Lucas McClure and it was absolutely wonderful. The show was to benefit the Petaluma Adobe State Historic Park. We will definitely keep this theatre group in mind for future outings!


Living In the Midst of a Utopian Community

My grandfather, Frank Carl Mesle was born in Buffalo, NY on March 18, 1884 and died in Sherrill, NY on August 24, 1964.  His parents left Germany three years before his birth.  His father, Franz Mesle, died when Frank was 9 years old.  His mother, Kate Kirsch Mesle raised 4 children alone.

He had only a limited education when, at age 13, in 1997, he was hired to be an errand boy by Oneida Community, Ltd.  It changed his life forever.  By age 16 he was a plant foreman.  In 1914, when the company moved its headquarters from Niagara Falls to Sherrill, NY, Frank was one of many employees making that move.  In 1915, my grandparents moved into their house, just up the hill from the plant, where they lived until their deaths.

Because our “cousins trip” to New York was focused on family history, Sherrill was one of our primary destinations.  All the cousins remember happy visits to Sherrill, wandering the streets in and around their home at 166 Willow.  We visited again in July, 2012.  The house looked the same as it looked  on my last visit 50 years ago.

Frank was a pioneer in electroplating processes that revolutionized the production (and quality) of silver-plating.  Ultimately, he rose to the position of Superintendent of the Plating Department.  He directed silver plating of artillery shells in World War I and the silver plating of aircraft bearings in World War II.  He served as Editor of The Monthly Review and in 1926 became President of the American Electroplaters’ Society.  He received the Society’s Founder’s Gold Medal in 1929, 1938, 1940 and 1943. He received the key to the city of Toronto, Canada, during an international conference of electroplaters.

For many years Oneida, Ltd. was a major producer of high quality silver plate flat ware.  Ultimately, it became unable to compete with foreign products. My grandfather had a significant role in the company’s successes and would have grieved the company’s losses.

The company was good to granddad and he was good for the company.  When Sherrill became a self-governing city in 1916, he was elected to Sherrill’s original governing Commission.  In 1917 he was elected a member of the Board of Education of Sherrill’s public schools.  He was President of the PTA, Superintendent of Schools, Counselor to Boy Scouts and a member of the Library Board.  He was a charter member of Sherrill’s chapter of the Masonic Order and an ordained minister.  He was recognized in the American Men of Science and Who’s Who in American.  He was given the key to the city of Toronto, Canada and was featured in the “Leader’s in the Industry” edition of the Journal of the American Electroplaters’ Society.  He never spoke of these accomplishments.

The above is really just statistical information about a man.  What matters more to me are the factors that shaped the family we are today.  My visit to Sherrill gave me some insight.  When we toured the Community’s Mansion House, the Curator of the Mansion House, described the values of the Oneida Community in words I remember vividly as the morality lessons and beliefs I learned as a childhood.   Granddad joined Oneida, Ltd. just 16 years after the end of the utopian experiment.  By then the radical ideas of the community were in the past. The commitment to working toward perfection on earth continued.  The company–and my granddad–tried to create an environment that provided a high quality of life for the Sherrill community.  If unable to achieve perfection, perhaps, however briefly, they created their own “Camelot”.

Oneida Ltd’s values, and my grandparents’ values, focused on religion, academic achievement, commitment to healthy living, love of music and the arts, hard work and the equality of the sexes. My grandparents’ early letters evidenced their belief in the equality of the sexes. Granddad’s commitment to education resulted in his educating himself as an adult so that he became widely recognized as a scientist and chemical engineer.

The utopian community emphasized that members of the community, and the company, should share the successes and failures of the community.  Oneida, Ltd. embraced this concept by insisting that top management share financial successes and hardships with laborers; taking pay cuts during economic downturns and receiving salary increases only when workers received them as well.  My father still advocates that during economic downturns companies should share available work so all employees will keep a portion of their income.

In supporting the community, Oneida, Ltd. contributed significant resources to develop a park, school, tennis courts, and recreational activities.  The company even created a “swimming hole” in the stream so kids would have a place to swim.  It is still there today, less than a block from our family home.

The values of the community formed the essential elements of my father’s and my grandparents lives.  They dedicated their lives to community, God, and family.  Granddad served on the boards that provided for Sherrill  what the Utopian community believed were essential prerequisites of a “perfect” life.  My grandmother, Mary Lewis Mesle, was also active in the community, was a prolific writer and correspondent and was, like her father before her, active in temperance organizations.  My dad shares all those goals and traits.

The Oneida Community’s utopian experiment ended just 16 years before my grandparents joined the company established by its former members.  As we drove through Sherrill I was overwhelmed with the understanding that the best values established by a utopian community in the mid-1800’s continue to influence the lives and personalities of the people of Sherrill and my own family.   I am grateful for it.

The Beautiful Bridges of Midland, MI

I just returned home from a long weekend visit in Midland, MI where my Dad and Auntie Carol grew up. I’m still going through pictures of their childhood homes, grade schools, and local hangouts, but in the meantime, I was really impressed by all the beautiful sites Midland, MI has to offer. In particular, I was fascinated by its beautiful bridges.

This is the tri-bridge, or “Tridge” in downtown Midland. It has three bridges that meet in the middle over the water where two rivers merge into one.

This next bridge is part of Dow Garden, where visitors can see the Dow family property. The estate is comprised of Herbert and Grace Dow’s home, which was completed in 1915, the home of their son, architect Alden Dow, and surrounded by a huge garden designed by Herbet.

Okay, so this bridge is actually in Bay City along the shore of Lake Huron. We saw it when we took the short (15 min) drive over to see the Lake, and the Harley shop of course!

There were many beautiful sites, and I will share them all with you soon!

Rejoice! The Mesle Family Welcomes Nora Parker Mesle

Welcome to the family, Nora Parker Mesle (Parker).  This is another exciting day for the family.  Parker entered the world early last night. Weighing in at a healthy 7 lb 12 ounces she is already surrounded by the love of her mom and dad, Abbey and Mark, and her paternal grandparents, Bob and Barb.  I can only assume Abbey’s parents are there as well, full of joy and excitement with the rest of us.

News is a little sketchy.  Parker was born in Chicago.  Bob and Barb had a long drive from Lamoni, Iowa to be there for her birth.  The word we have is that Parker and Abbey are healthy and the family is exhausted.

We are excited about the arrival of this youngest Mesle.  Surprised, no.  Delighted, yes.  We all knew Mark and Abbey were full of life and hopes for the future when we saw this great smooch in pictures from their wedding on the beach of Belize.

Dear Parker, you are one lucky young lady.  Your mom is a warrior princess and your dad is the kindest person in the world.  There are so many great stories you will hear as you grow up.  You will be loved and nurtured by your wonderful parents, grandparents and all your family.  I guarantee your cousins, and all of us, are eager to meet you.

Mark, Abbey, and Parker, we love you all!!

No Trespassing


It is raining.  The weather is cooling down.  Since Meg and Jake are visiting next weekend,  I want to rejuvenate the yard by giving it a little color.  Casey and I stopped at Farrand’s Nursery in Independence to find mums, my favorite fall flower.  Because of the weeks of extremely hot weather, i was told the mums aren’t ready to bloom, and I was encouraged to return in a couple of weeks to pick my favorite colors.

Disappointed it would be too late for Meg’s visit, and with no particular schedule, I decided to give myself a treat by driving home through rural Independence.  I took back roads with which I was not familiar just for a bit of adventure. The “no trespassing” sign caught my attention first.  Then I saw this dilapidated old stone house on the side of the road.  Fortunately, my Nikon was in the  back seat. It seemed to be the type of scene which would be most satisfactory in black and white.

Drought and our Corn Crop

Surely just about everyone is tired of reports about the drought throughout much of the U.S.  As the political campaign heats up, news of the drought slows down.  Politics are exciting.  The drought is not.  None of us will be without food this winter because of the loss of corn, soy beans or other agricultural products.  After all, our grocery stores and neighborhood markets have plenty of fresh, nearly-perfect corn for our summer picnics and barbecues.  Right?

I have been reading about the drought for some time, and have watched as the bushes, trees and grass in our neighborhood have gone dormant, or simply died.  When Terry and I were at  the car wash–of all places–we entered into a conversation with a crop insurance adjuster who gave us a real life view of what this all means.  He explained he was getting his car washed because he is working 15 to 18 hour days driving from farm to farm to identify the percentage of the corn crop already lost to the drought. He estimates that in his territory (the exact perimeters of which are unknown to me) farmers have lost an average of 75 % of their corn crop.  He worries the soy bean crop is next.  While his statistics are not unknown to others, it presented me with a testimonial that is far more compelling because it is based on this gentleman’s real life experience.

In addition to describing the statistics, he described that the farmers are plowing their crops under or harvesting their corn and soy bean crops as hay.  When we drove to the Ozarks Friday, proof of his observations concerning the plight of the farmers was all around us.  Fields of corn were brown, from Kansas City to Bagnell Dam.  All along our route, fields have been plowed under, leaving only strips of corn a couple of yards wide.  This is consistent with his explanation that farmers with crop insurance are required to preserve sufficient patches or strips of corn and soy beans to allow crop adjusters to evaluate the farmers’ losses?  It is a tragedy to behold.

In addition to the huge toll on the farmers, as a result of skyrocketing grain prices, livestock sales are at an all time level.  Some cattle ranchers are selling off their herds because they can’t afford to buy adequate corn to feed their cattle. As a result, meat will also become more expensive.

While some farmers on the coasts have bumper crops of corn, they may be the only beneficiaries of the drought.  Consumers throughout the country face significantly higher prices at the grocery store for all corn-based product, soy products and beef.

Those most seriously impacted by this drought are likely to be those in the poorest nations that are often the same nations that  constantly face famine or near famine.  While there are areas of the world where harvests are bountiful, overall, there will likely be significant reductions in food aid.  Record high prices for corn and other products as well as a lack surplus crops for export will hamper the efforts of government and charitable organizations that traditionally help those worldwide who face the greatest need.

The tragedy associated with this drought only begins to be felt here in the midwest in August. The long-term repercussions may be far more dramatic here and worldwide.


The opinions in this post are not the opinions of our families, our friends or our employers

Sonoma Mountain Sunset

Just east of our house is Sonoma Mountain. While I tend to prefer the west side of town, this is definitely one of the benefits of living on the edge of the east side. I loved the character of this particular tree, and it made for a beautiful setting and stunning sunset view.