Thursday, August 31, 2006

Google's Classic Book Downloads

Some Interesting News...

Have you had a chance to check out Google's free book downloads? They are offering PDF files of many classic volumes. These are page images of antique books that are in the public domain, not just text files of their written content. It's the next best thing to holding the book in your own hands.

This Google feature should provide many hours of interesting browsing.

The Library of Congress American Memory website has some interesting and informative magazines, periodicals and books from America's past. I've always been amazed that in most cases, the libraries or universities that digitized them put a copyright on the page images that restricts anything but educational or personal use (example).

It doesn't seem right to me to claim copyright on something that's in the public domain. I'm glad that Google isn't putting restrictions on the use of their page images -- or at least I couldn't find any copyright restrictions in the information.

I'm also glad that the downloads are small enough that even an internet user with dial-up can enjoy some of the books.

Here's the Google Blog post about the new service, and here's an example of an antique book that's available for download -- Ella Lincoln: Or Western Prairie Life, An Autobiography.

To find public domain texts, go to the book search and choose to search in "Full Text". As you visit the various results, any that offer a "Download" are in the public domain.

Photoshopping Wrongs?

Some Interesting News...

CNet has posted a photo gallery titled "Photos: Pictures That Lie" that is interesting to look through. It shows some well-known photo alterations that have appeared in the news and others that I had not seen before. The gallery certainly illustrates that it's not necessarily paranoid to view media images with skepticism.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Starkweather Remembered

All In The Family... Another Trip Down Memory Lane... A Small Detour from the Cheerful Ramble

The launch of the Soviet Union's Sputnik satellites in late 1957 and the Starkweather murder spree of early 1958 are two of the first news events that I remember.

I remember feeling curious about the Sputniks and looking into the sky at night hoping to see them. My memories of the Starkweather murders are much more sinister.

Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate were a teenage couple from Lincoln, Nebraska, who killed eleven people in an evil spree of murder and robbery in January of 1958. I was 7 years old and a first grader then, living with my family on a ranch south of Johnstown in north-central Nebraska.

I remember my mother and father listening to the radio to hear the news about Starkweather and Fugate. I was worried that they might come to my house. I think I remember my father keeping a shotgun near at hand when he went to bed, but I don't know if that is true or if I was just hoping that he did.

I remember the obvious relief of my parents when Fugate and Starkweather were finally caught in Wyoming, and I too was thankful to know that they were no longer roaming around killing people.

Of course, I didn't realize all that was happening. Tonight, I read the story of Charles Starkweather in Court TV's Crime Library. This passage was particularly interesting to me, because it describes the news my parents were hearing on the radio. Nebraska was in a state of emergency after the murder of C. Laurer Ward, his wife Clara and their maid, Lillian Fencl (the eighth, ninth and tenth Starkweather killings).

Governor Anderson was notified immediately of the savage attack on his friend. Shortly afterwards, he called out the National Guard, "and they were soon cruising the streets with jeeps armed with mounted machine guns. Parents with guns drawn rushed to the schools and took their children home. The city was completely sealed off. A block by block search began. The FBI started an investigation. A thousand-dollar reward was offered by the mayor. Aircraft were sent up to help look for the Wards' black Packard." (Allen, William, Starkweather: The Story of a Mass Murderer. Houghton Mifflin Company, 1976.) Source

Because of Starkweather and Fugate, I became aware of the word "murder" (a word with an ugly sound and meaning,) and I learned about the electric chair. In my children's lives, I think the school shootings at Columbine and at Heath High School in nearby Paducah, Kentucky, were similar but infinitely more frightening events.

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Scenes of Late August

Life in Christian County, Kentucky...

Tobacco barn
Smoke in the barns
Languid in the warmth

Sycamore tree
Yellow in the cottonwood leaves
Red in the sassafras

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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

No More Slugs!

Life in Christian County, Kentucky... The Rural Life...

We've had a rainy summer here in Kentucky's Pennyrile. It hasn't been an extremely wet summer, but the rains have been regular. In fact, we had rain showers again today. Many years, we stop getting rain sometime in July and it's dry until sometime in late September or even October.

I'm glad that the farmers are harvesting a good corn crop and that they have a good crop of soybeans still growing, but I'm ready for dryer weather myself. For one thing, I'm tired of mowing the lawn. I started mowing regularly in early April, and it looks like I'll be mowing regularly through October.

I'm also afraid all this regular moisture might get the slugs started again. We used to have an unbelievable slug problem here, and I don't want a recurrence.

slugWhen we first moved out here, the slugs were everywhere, and there were lots of them. It was impossible to walk outside at night without stepping on them. One night I forgot and went outside barefoot. I felt a slug under one foot, recoiled in disgust, and stepped on another slug with my other foot.

These were not tiny creatures. Many of them were two inches in length, and some were three and even four inches long. In the garden, they wreaked havoc on the lettuce and other tender leaves and vegetables, and sometimes, I even found one inside the house, always in the catfood dish. Wherever they slithered, they left a shiny slime trail behind.

Some people said to shake salt on them to kill them, but after doing that I felt like a murderer. It seemed a horrible death, even for a slug. Yeast-water traps attracted them in the garden, but there was no end to the hordes. I've never wanted to use pesticides on the scale it would have taken to seriously decrease the population. We just accepted that the yard was full of slugs. I figured that all of Kentucky was like this.

Then we had a terribly hot, dry summer. The leaves turned brown on many trees before the first of August. Some trees even died from the drought, and we certainly didn't have to worry about lawn mowing. We were afraid that our well might go dry. Apparently the lack of moisture was hard on the slugs and they either died or weren't able to lay eggs because I haven't seen a slug in the yard since.

I think the reason the slugs got so overpopulated was that the farmland around us was in the CRP (Crop Reduction Program) for years. It was mowed once a year, and the hay was left lying on the ground. All that overgrown vegetation with the rotting underlayer of hay made a cool, damp habitat for slugs to breed and shelter in. I base this theory on something I read about slugs getting bad in fields that were no-till farmed for many years. Plowing the ground every five years or so is recommended to keep the slugs under control.

The land is now in active use, partly plowed and partly grazed, so we probably won't have another slug infestation even if the weather is wet for a year or two. At least I hope not!

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University of Kentucky fact sheet on slugs
CDC fact sheet about a parasitic disease you can get from raw slugs and snails

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Country Morning in Late August

Life in Christian County, Kentucky...

HorsesThe neighbor's horses (again.)

PastureCattle on the hill

FieldA field in CRP (Crop Reduction Program)

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Monday, August 28, 2006

The Neighbor's Horses

Life in Christian County, Kentucky...

Neighbor's horses

Have I ever mentioned the deal I have with the neighbor? He feeds and exercises the horses, provides a barn and pasture for them, keeps up the fences and assumes all other responsibilities of ownership -- and I admire them as I drive by. It works out nicely.

I wish the sky in this photo had a little color, but it was a gray day. A bit of light was shining across the pasture as some heavy dark clouds moved in from the west. After a few rain sprinkles, the clouds moved on and it was more humid than ever.

Firing the Tobacco

Life in Christian County, Kentucky... Life in The Upper South...

Christian County, KY, tobacco barn

Across Christian County, KY, and (I suppose) other parts of the South where dark tobacco is produced, the firing of the leaf has begun. ("Leaf" is sometimes used as a plural when talking about tobacco.)

In this photo, you can see a heap of sawdust and a pile of hardwood slabs (sides of logs, cut off to square them up for lumber). Sawdust and slabs are placed in trenches in the dirt floor of the barn and set afire. The air to the barn is restricted so that the fire smolders and creates a lot of smoke. The smoke rises through the leaf, coating and flavoring it.

Inside the barn, someone is getting the fire started. When it has started good, he'll close the doors and probably also prop them shut with several long 2x4's just to make sure they don't come open, let in too much air and burn down the barn.

I've always thought that all that smoke must be really bad for tobacco farmers. After a morning of tending barns, they reek of smoke and I'm sure they've breathed a lot of it.

UPDATE: For a view of a barn that's closed up and smoking, see Scenes of Late August.

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Sunday, August 27, 2006

My Coleman Forester Tent

My Various Hobbies...

Coleman Forrester TentSeveral years ago, I gave a winning eBay bid of about $100 for a new 9x13', 2-room, Coleman Forester tent. It's been a great tent. It's spacious , it has enough headroom that I can stand (always a handy feature in a tent) and it has never leaked even while tents around us became wading pools.

I am sad that two segments of the center tent pole have cracked. The pole has 9 segments, connected by shockcord, and it has to bend 180° in about 17 feet. The third segment on each end is damaged. Apparently, it endures more stress in that position. Two other segments are a bit bent, but not cracked.

Coleman Forester tent Tenting at Kentucky Lake, 2003
I've tried to find a replacement pole because the tent body is still in pretty good shape. I couldn't find any replacement parts on the Coleman website so I called the customer service line. After all, Coleman is famous for offering replacement parts for their products.

The Coleman CSR confirmed that they have no parts for the Forester. She gave me the specifications of the pole and the telephone number of a firm that makes custom tent poles. I've tried calling but my every attempt ends with the error message, "Your call cannot be completed as dialed."

I've continued searching the internet hoping to find a replacement pole but so far, I haven't found anything that will work. While googling around, I've come across other accounts of cracked poles for the Coleman Forester. Those stories weren't around when I did a lot of research before buying the tent. I guess their pole problems developed over time, just as mine did.

Coleman Forester TentFun in the Forester
at Cumberland Falls, 2006

Today, I took out the shockcord in the broken pole and rearranged the segments so that the damaged ones are in a place where they won't have to bend as much. Then I wrapped them very well in duct tape. I also reinforced the segments that have been moved to the location that caused the cracking.

I don't know how long the repair will last, but it should be good for a few more trips. Maybe the body of the tent will eventually develop a zipper problem or something so I won't feel bad about junking it.

This evening, I found a promising website for replacement tent poles and I sent an inquiry. I also learned this evening that there are inexpensive pole splints for repairing broken tent poles. I may order several of them for the unlikely circumstance that the duct tape doesn't hold. I find myself unwilling to invest much money now that I have done a redneck repair job that will probably last a while.

I'm just guessing, but I wonder if problems with the center pole might be the reason that Coleman no longer has this particular tent. Next time I buy a tent, it won't have a pole that has to bend completely double like this one does. I might as well say that I won't buy a dome style tent because I think the 180° bend is the basis of their poling system.

I'm not complaining about the tent. Over the last four summers, I've used it quite a lot, and Keely has borrowed it several times for SCA as well. It's seen a lot of set-ups. We've definitely had $100 of use and enjoyment from it. Just a night or two spent in the tent instead of a motel made up the price. All in all, it's been a great tent, and if I didn't love it so much, I wouldn't be trying to fix it.

Coleman Forester TentThe Forester at the Niobrara River, 2004

Coleman Forester TentThe Forester at an SCA event, 2006

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Just everyone is doing torture in a tent -- An amusing read about the joys of pitching a tent.

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Saturday, August 26, 2006

A Bit of Willa Cather that I Soaked Up

Not Easily Classified...

Yesterday evening, as I waited in the stadium parking lot for Isaac to get out of the football game, I read "Flavia and Her Artists", the first story in a book I've recently acquired: Collected Stories by Willa Cather.

The story is about taking people seriously, people who take themselves seriously, people who take themselves too seriously and genuine vs. artificial people. There are other themes too, such as artist vs. non-artist and intellectual vs. non-intellectual.

Flavia is a rich and pampered woman who is obsessed with surrounding herself with "the best" people. She has worked hard through the years of her marriage to assemble a group of well-known personalities who live as guests in her home. She appreciates them as trophies. She is a shallow thinker herself, but she attempts to soak up the intellect of her artists and project it as her own.

Finally, one of the artists cruelly exposes her superficiality, and while her guests take a malicious pleasure in it, it is soon clear that they have been exposed as well. Flavia's husband seems to perceive and yet to completely overlook her pathetic phoniness for no apparent reason except that probably he loves her.

I suppose one moral of the story is that when you get too serious about pretending to be something you're not, you're likely to be found out, and that can be hurtful to everyone who is connected to you and really can make your whole world just fall apart.

It must have been a good story because my thoughts have returned to it repeatedly today when I've had time to think. Life has been proceding at breakneck pace and while there has been the odd spare moment, I haven't been able to collect my wits enough to write anything in the blog. Now I finally have time to write but I am too sleepy to think, so all I have to offer is what I soaked up from Willa Cather.

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Friday, August 25, 2006

Swamp Milkweed

More About Trees and Plants...

I was driving down the highway by my neighbor's field yesterday afternoon, and I was surprised to see that a large portion of it was pink, apparently with flowers. I thought maybe she had seeded red clover in the field -- just a wild guess. I stopped this morning and found that hundreds of swamp milkweed plants have burst into bloom.

The field is busy with bees and butterflies who are enjoying the fragrant blossoms. If you've never smelled a milkweed blossom, take time to do so sometime. They have a lovely fragrance.

There are many members of the milkweed family, and several of the varieties in Kentucky have pinkish blooms. We also have the red-blooming Asclepias tuberosa or butterfly weed, but I have never seen it in the abundance of the swamp milkweed here.

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Thursday, August 24, 2006

Good News

All In The Family... Blogs and Blogging...

Three good reasons to say a prayer of thanksgiving:

  • Dennis arrived home on the evening of Tuesday, August 22 -- a couple of days early! I had about four hours warning before I had to leave for the airport. I didn't have the house as well-cleaned as I had planned, and the yard still isn't completely mowed, but guess what?-- life goes on. I'm thankful he's home safe and sound. So far, he has ate and slept a lot, and he looks like he needs it.
  • KennethF, photoblogger and friend to this blog, is home from surgery and so far, doing well. In an e-mail this evening, he says that he is enjoying the feeling of pain leaving his body. He has an incision on his neck that is glued (not sewed) shut, and he now has three fused vertebrae, but he doesn't have to wear a neck brace, and he may be able to drive a little within a week. I am really thankful that he's doing all right.
  • Keely's 21st birthday is Monday, August 28. When she was a baby, I didn't think I would ever be able to quit smoking. I felt sure that I would die a horrible death of lung cancer before she ever grew up. One day, I fixed a little package and labeled it, "For Keely when she is 21," because I didn't think I'd live to see the day. I did finally quit smoking (twice) and I'm grateful that I'm still here . We're going to open that little package when she comes on Saturday for birthday dinner and cake. I know it has a silver dollar in it and a little note from me, but I don't remember what else.

Morning in Downtown Hopkinsville

Life in Christian County, Kentucky...

Main Street between 7th and 9th

The old buildings of downtown Hopkinsville were looking good this August morning. Or maybe it was the sunshine of a cooler, less humid morning that looked good. I know it certainly felt good!

Many of the buildings along Main Street near the courthouse (above) are used as lawyers' offices. A few banks still have offices in the downtown area.

The Cherokee building (below, with red band at top) is some kind of professional office (I forget just what, might be accountants?) and the darker brick building beside it has been converted to apartments.

West 9th Street just above Little River

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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

A Critique of Bank Architecture

Life in Christian County, Kentucky... And What I Think About It...

Heritage Bank

We've banked with Heritage Bank (formerly Hopkinsville Federal Savings Bank) since we came to Hopkinsville. The bank seems to be doing well. After changing its name and going public with its stock, it has built two large new facilities.

I thought the massive two-story Heritage Bank on Fort Campbell Blvd. would be the main office for the next century, but they've recently built an even larger building (above) on Eagle Way Bypass. I drive by it every day enroute to Isaac's school, so the location is convenient for me, at least until Isaac graduates.

Keely and I stopped there on Tuesday morning. It was the second time I'd been in the building, and the first time for Keely.

As we walked across the parking lot to the front door, Keely commented that the building is intimidating. She looks at the formal facade and massive pillars with the eyes of a financially insecure college student. She's a little worried about money most of the time, and the bank doesn't look friendly to her. (Listen up, ye architects.)

We pulled open the slightly stubborn front doors (also not very welcoming) and went inside. The lobby is deep and the teller area is at the very back. We passed a greeter at a desk and a showcase area where two large motorcycles are parked.

At the back, a couple of curved counters serve the dual purpose of providing a writing surface and encouraging customers to get in line. The room felt more and more like a cave as we left natural light behind.

Keely and I decided that the ceiling is too low in the lobby. Given the scale of the building, the depth of the room, and the large items on display, the 8-foot (9 foot? 10 foot? whatever it is!) ceiling is not enough. The lobby would feel more open and the feng shui (flow of light, air, energy, and in this case, possibly money as well) would be much better if the ceiling were higher.

The ceiling has been faux-painted as a sky and the flooring is beige ceramic tiles. I wonder if the decorator hoped to visually raise the ceiling with the cloud scene, or perhaps put people in the mood for vacation with the sky-and-sand color scheme.

Faux painting is sometimes fun and witty, but I don't like this ceiling in this building. It seems silly and a bit schizo after the imposing formality of the building's exterior -- a real anti-climax.

The low ceilings in the lobby do made it possible to have a full second floor with nice views from some offices that most customers will never see.

Will we withdraw our money and take it to another bank because Keely and I don't like the new building? No, but our family was a building fund contributor through 15 years of mortgaged servitude (free at last!) so we're certainly entitled to our opinion.

Heritage Bank

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Urban Sprawl Continues

Life in Christian County, Kentucky...


I heard on the radio that Christian County, Kentucky is supposed to be one of the ten best places in the U.S. for growing corn. It's a shame that more and more of this county's best farmland is going under asphalt and concrete as Hopkinsville sprawls south toward Fort Campbell. I'm not against progress and new business. I just wish they'd redevelop some of the land we already have under concrete and asphalt.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Kenneth's Surgery

Blogs and Blogging...

KennethF, a blogger who has been a regular visitor here, is having surgery on Wednesday of this week. I don't know exactly what the surgery is for, but he recently posted here that he had not feeling well because of stenosis. A few days ago, he e-mailed that he hoped the surgery would relieve numbness in his hands. I invite everyone to remember Kenneth in thought and prayer for the next few days, and also to ask God's blessing on the surgeons and medical staff who will be caring for him. I hope we'll soon learn that he's doing fine and feeling a lot better.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Two Old Books: Surprisingly Biased

History and Old Stuff...

I have a bad habit of collecting old books, and I added two more volumes to our groaning, overloaded bookshelves on Friday afternoon. Isaac had taken a yen to read Animal Farm, so we went to The HUB (Hopkinsville Used Books) to buy him a copy. Just a quick trip, we said. Well, we were quick enough about it but I still walked out with two golden-oldies that I couldn't leave behind.

I spotted a National Geographic book from 1951, titled Everyday Life in Ancient Times. The book was in excellent condition, but it had been closed so long that the pages were almost stuck together. I fanned them a few times to loosen them up and saw dozens of colored pages (120 paintings by H.M. Herget, apparently one of his last works.)

By chance, I stopped on a page titled "An XIth Dynasty Carpenter's Shop". The text described the skillful methods used in Ancient Egypt to create beautiful durable wooden objects with the narrow pieces of lumber that their spindly local trees produced. On the facing page, a full-color illustration showed a crew of carpenters constructing a coffin with tools made of bronze, wood and stone. It was interesting.

I flipped the book over and saw that it was priced for $3. Need I say more? Of course I bought it. Maybe someday, I thought, when my (future) grandchildren are bored with grown-up talk, they'll find this book on Grandma's bookshelf and escape into another time and place. (You see how I rationalize.)

Grimm Bros
I decided the (future) grandchildren would also enjoy a 1917 edition of Grimm's Fairy Tales, a little worn, but still intact. The pages are yellowed but not brittle. It's full of wonderful pen-and-ink illustrations by Louis Rhead. The illustration for "The Bremen Town Musicians" appears at left.

The first story in the book is "Little Red Riding Hood" and many of the titles that follow are familiar from the days I spent with the Grimm Brothers in my own childhood.

Looking through the fairy tales later that evening, I found a title I didn't recognize: "The Jew in the Bush." It's an anti-semitic story about a simple country fellow who is granted special powers through three magic wishes. With them, he outwits a cheating, greedy Jew and sends him to the gallows.

In 1917, Harper & Brothers apparently had no qualms about providing that story to children to read. Fifteen years or so after World War II when I was a child reading Grimm fairy tales, that story may (should!) have been dropped from new editions. I don't think I had ever read the story until I acquired this book.

I also learned while writing this post that the Egyptian paintings of H.M. Herget for National Geographic have their own racial controversy. One internet polemicist states,

For decades, the National Geographic Magazine has played a key function in the misrepresentation of ancient Egyptian images. It started with a "so called" authoritative scholarly article issued in October 1941 which contained over 20 paintings by H. Herget, showing wild fantasy drawings of pale-skinned ancient Egyptians, and short Afrikans called "Deng" in Egyptian but "Pygmy" by modern Westerners, as an obscene caricature with a leash around the ankle, Black skin, ridiculously large red lips resembling an ape-like creature. The supporting text was prepared by William Hayes from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. This most vile and absurd anti-Black painting from that 1941 series shows that the editors of the National Geographic, which has set the standard and continues to be a leader in publicizing make-believe Caucasian images of ancient Egyptians, including modern day publishers who still use these images, are completely shameless in their racist representations of Black people. (Source)

The 1941 Egyptian series of paintings by Herget is included in Everyday Life in Ancient Times, the book I bought. In fact, the carpenter shop painting I mentioned above is part of the series. Whether or not the Egyptians were black in real life, it's true that the Egyptians in the paintings are shockingly white for people who lived in that climate.

Gosh, I just thought these were nice old books to put on the shelf. I had no idea that their suitability would ever be questioned -- but honestly, I'd buy them again. Their viewpoint is representative of their era and that's another interesting thing about their content. I'll have to explain the bias to the grandkids, but it doesn't make the books worthless.

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Saturday, August 19, 2006

Dust-covered Stash Fetches a Fortune

Some Interesting News

Holy windfall, Batman!
Pack rat's dust-covered stash fetches a fortune at auction
The Globe and Mail () by Ingrid Peritz
August 19, 2006

MONTREAL -- Tom Crippen knew he faced a daunting task after the death of his father, an inveterate pack rat who never threw anything out. It wasn't just the stockpiles of old opera programs, paper clips, Christmas cards, baseball caps, paperbacks or souvenir coffee mugs.

Mainly, it was the awesome collection of 11,000 comics that had colonized the family garage and basement.

Read more: Pack rat's dust-covered stash fetches a fortune at auction

Nothing like this is ever going to happen to me, but it's really fun to read about someone inheriting or finding something that's worth a fortune. I have saved a few things for the kids that I think might turn out to be collectible someday, like their dozens of little blue plastic Smurfs and their dozens and dozens of Little Golden Books. I doubt if they'll be worth millions, though.

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Friday, August 18, 2006

Famous Americans of 1890-1910

Names of the last two centuries

For a few years, I had a website with around 200 pages in it. It's not currently online, but it still resides on my computer. One section in the website is about the years 1890-1910, and this is a list I compiled for it. It's much too long for a blog post, but I promise not to post this sort of thing often.

For people my age, I think the list demonstrates that, for us, 1900 and even the end of the 1800's were not so long ago. My great-grandparents might have read about many of these people in newspapers. The children and young folks of that time were important people, middle-aged and older, by the time I came along in 1951.

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What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset. -- Last words of Crowfoot, 1890

Famous Americans Who Died Between 1890 and 1900

Name (Remembered As) Born-Died

  • Crowfoot (Blackfoot warrior and orator) 1821-1890
  • Sitting Bull (Prairie Sioux Indian chief) c. 1831-1890
  • P. T. Barnum (showman) 1810-1891
  • Herman Melville (novelist) 1819-1891
  • John Greenleaf Whittier (poet) 1807-1892
  • Walt Whitman (poet) 1819-1892
  • Oliver Wendell Holmes (poet) 1809-1894
  • Frederick Douglass (abolitionist) 1807-1895
  • Eugene Field (poet) 1850-1895
  • Charles Anderson Dana (editor) 1819-1897
  • Horatio Alger (author) 1834-1899
  • Harriet Beecher Stowe (novelist) 1811-1896

Famous Americans Who Were Living At The Year 1900

Age in 1900 -- Name -- Remembered As

  • 80 -- Fanny J. Crosby -- Hymn writer
  • 80 -- Julia Ward Howe -- Poet and reformer
  • 80 -- Susan B. Anthony -- Woman suffragist
  • 80 -- Florence Nightingale -- Nurse
  • 79 -- Clara Barton -- Founder of American Red Cross
  • 79 -- Mary Baker Eddy -- Founder of Christian Science Church
  • 78 -- Red Cloud -- Ogalala Sioux chieftain
  • 77 -- Harriet Tubman -- Abolitionist
  • 71 -- Geronimo -- Apache chieftain

  • 66 -- James McNeill Whistler -- Painter and etcher
  • 65 -- Andrew Carnegie -- Industrialist
  • 65 -- Mark Twain -- Author
  • 64 -- Winslow Homer -- Painter
  • 63 -- Grover Cleveland -- U.S. President
  • 62 -- John Muir -- Naturalist
  • 60 -- Chief Joseph -- Chieftain and warrior

  • 57 -- Henry James -- Author
  • 56 -- Mary Cassat -- Painter
  • 54 -- George Westinghouse -- Inventor
  • 54 -- ``Buffalo Bill'' Cody -- Scout
  • 53 -- Alexander Graham Bell -- Inventor
  • 53 -- Thomas A. Edison -- Inventor
  • 51 -- Luther Burbank -- Horticulturalist
  • 51 -- James Whitcomb Riley -- Poet
  • 50 -- Samuel Gompers -- Labor Leader
  • 50 -- Henry Cabot Lodge -- Legislator

  • 46 -- George Eastman -- Inventor
  • 45 -- Eugene Victor Debs -- Socialist leader
  • 44 -- James B. Duke -- Industrialist
  • 44 -- Booker T. Washington -- Educator
  • 43 -- Clarence Darrow -- Lawyer
  • 42 -- Theodore Roosevelt -- U.S. President
  • 41 -- John Dewey -- Philosopher and educator
  • 40 -- Jane Addams -- Social worker
  • 40 -- William Jennings Bryan -- Orator and politician
  • 40 -- Grandma Moses -- Painter
  • 40 -- Annie Oakley -- Markswoman
  • 40 -- John J. Pershing -- General

  • 38 -- O. Henry -- Story Writer
  • 37 -- Black Elk -- Ogala Sioux Holy Man
  • 37 -- William Randolph Hearst -- Publisher
  • 37 -- Henry Ford -- Industrialist
  • 37 -- Billy Sunday -- Evangelist
  • 36 -- Albert Steiglitz -- Photographer
  • 33 -- Laura Ingalls Wilder -- Writer
  • 33 -- Wilbur Wright -- Inventor
  • 32 -- William Allen White -- Journalist
  • 31 -- Edgar Lee Masters -- Poet
  • 31 -- Booth Tarkington -- Novelist
  • 31 -- Frank Lloyd Wright -- Architect

  • 29 -- Theodore Dreiser -- Writer
  • 29 -- Orville Wright -- Inventor
  • 26 -- Robert Frost -- Poet
  • 26 -- Herbert Hoover -- U.S. President
  • 26 -- Harry Houdini -- Magician
  • 26 -- Robert W. Service -- Poet and novelist
  • 26 -- Gertrude Stein -- Author
  • 25 -- Edgar Rice Burroughs -- Novelist
  • 24 -- Sherwood Anderson -- Novelist and story writer
  • 24 -- Willa Cather -- Novelist
  • 24 -- Frank E. Gannett -- Editor and publisher
  • 22 -- George M. Cohan -- Actor and dramatist
  • 22 -- Carl Sandburg -- Poet and biographer
  • 21 -- Ethel Barrymore -- Actress
  • 21 -- Albert Einstein -- Physicist
  • 21 -- Will Rogers -- Humorist
  • 20 -- Douglas MacArthur -- Five-star general
  • 20 -- George C. Marshall -- Marshall
  • 20 -- Stephen Crane -- Novelist and poet
  • 20 -- W. C. Fields -- Comedian

  • 19 -- Cecil B. De Mille -- Film Director
  • 19 -- Edgar A. Guest -- Poet
  • 18 -- John Barrymore -- Actor
  • 18 -- Sam Rayburn -- Legislator
  • 18 -- Robert H. Goddard -- Father of modern rocketry
  • 18 -- Samuel Goldwyn -- Movie producer
  • 18 -- Franklin D. Roosevelt -- U.S. President
  • 17 -- Eubie Blake -- Pianist
  • 17 -- Lon Chaney -- Actor
  • 17 -- Douglas Fairbanks -- Actor
  • 17 -- Rube Goldberg -- Cartoonist
  • 17 -- John Maynard Keynes -- Economist
  • 16 -- Jack London -- Novelist
  • 16 -- Eleanor Roosevelt -- Reformer and humanitarian
  • 16 -- Harry S. Truman -- U.S. President
  • 15 -- Sinclair Lewis -- Novelist
  • 15 -- Chester William Nimitz -- Naval officer
  • 15 -- Ezra Pound -- Poet
  • 14 -- Al Jolson -- Actor and singer
  • 13 -- ``Fatty'' Arbuckle -- Actor and director
  • 13 -- Georgia O'Keeffe -- Painter
  • 12 -- Irving Berlin -- Songwriter
  • 12 -- Richard Byrd -- Polar explorer
  • 12 -- Dale Carnegie -- Author
  • 12 -- John Foster Dulles -- Statesman
  • 12 -- Joseph P. Kennedy -- Financier
  • 12 -- Bela Lugosi -- Actor
  • 12 -- Eugene O'Neill -- Writer
  • 11 -- Conrad Aiken -- Poet
  • 11 -- Charlie Chaplin -- Actor
  • 11 -- H. L. Hunt -- Industrialist
  • 11 -- Walter Lippmann -- Columnist
  • 10 -- Dwight D. Eisenhower -- U.S. President and general
  • 10 -- Rose Kennedy -- Mother of statesmen
  • 10 -- Edward V. Rickinbacker -- Aviator

  • 9 -- Pearl S. Buck -- Novelist
  • 9 -- Katherine Anne Porter -- Author
  • 8 -- J. Paul Getty -- Oil Executive
  • 8 -- Oliver Hardy -- Comedian
  • 8 -- Cole Porter -- Songwriter
  • 8 -- Eddie Cantor -- Actor
  • 8 -- Mae West -- Actress
  • 8 -- Wendell Lewis Wilkie -- Lawyer
  • 7 -- Omar Bradley -- General
  • 7 -- Jimmie Durante -- Comedian
  • 7 -- Dorothy Parker -- Author
  • 6 -- Jack Benny -- Actor and comedian
  • 6 -- E. E. Cummings -- Poet
  • 6 -- Martha Graham -- Choreographer
  • 6 -- Norman Rockwell -- Painter and Illustrator
  • 5 -- Richard Buckminster Fuller -- Architect and educator
  • 5 -- J. Edgar Hoover -- FBI Director
  • 5 -- Groucho Marx -- Comedian
  • 5 -- George Raft -- Actor
  • 4 -- F. Scott Fitzgerald -- Novelist
  • 4 -- Ira Gershwin -- Lyricist
  • 4 -- Lillian Gish -- Actress
  • 4 -- Buster Keaton -- Comedian
  • 4 -- Ethel Waters -- Entertainer
  • 3 -- Lucius D. Clay -- Banker and general
  • 3 -- Walter Winchell -- Columnist
  • 2 -- Bud Abbott -- Comedian
  • 2 -- Stephen Vincent Benèt -- Poet and storywriter
  • 2 -- Amelia Earhart -- Aviator
  • 2 -- George Gershwin -- Composer
  • 2 -- Charles W. Mayo -- Surgeon
  • 2 -- Norman Vincent Peale -- Clergyman
  • 2 -- Randolph Scott -- Actor
  • 1 -- Fred Astaire -- Dancer and actor
  • 1 -- Humphrey Bogart -- Actor
  • 1 -- James Cagney -- Actor
  • 1 -- Hoagie Carmichael -- Songwriter
  • 1 -- Bruce Catton -- Historian
  • 1 -- Hart Crane -- Poet
  • 1 -- Duke Ellington -- Jazz musician
  • 1 -- Ernest Hemmingway -- Novelist
  • 1 -- William C. Menninger -- Psychologist

Famous Americans Who Were Born Between 1900 and 1910

Name (Remembered As) Year Born

  • Louis Armstrong (musician) 1900
  • Adlai Stevenson (statesman) 1900
  • Chester Gould (cartoonist) 1900
  • Gary Cooper (actor) 1901
  • George Gallup (poll taker) 1901
  • Margaret Mead (anthropologist) 1901
  • Richard J. Daley (mayor of Chicago) 1902
  • Langston Hughes (poet) 1902
  • Charles A. Lindbergh (aviator) 1902
  • Ogden Nash (poet) 1902
  • Tallulah Bankhead (actress) 1903
  • George Orwell (novelist) 1903
  • Benjamin Spock (author and pediatrician) 1903
  • Bing Crosby (singer actor) 1904
  • Count Basie (bandleader) 1904
  • Lillian Hellman (playwright)1905
  • Howard Hughes (industrialist and film producer) 1905
  • Ayn Rand (novelist) 1905
  • Josephine Baker (dancer) 1906
  • Margaret Bourke-White (photographer) 1906
  • John Carradine (actor) 1906
  • Anne Morrow Lindbergh(writer and aviation pioneer) 1906
  • Milton Caniff (cartoonist) 1907
  • Rachel Carson (biologist and author) 1907
  • John Wayne (actor) 1907
  • Lou Costello (actor) 1908
  • Bette Davis (actress) 1908
  • John Kenneth Galbraith (economist) 1908
  • Al Capp (cartoonist) 1909
  • 'Herblock' Herbert Block (political cartoonist) 1909
  • Eudora Welty(writer) 1909
  • Barry Goldwater (legislator) 1909


Another Barn

Life in Christian County, Kentucky... The Rural Life...

Barn full of straw

This barn is located on the Little River Church Road in eastern Christian County, Kentucky. Some farmer has a nice stash of straw in it. He (or she) will probably sell or use some of it for animal bedding, particularly for horses, during the winter. Lowes was selling straw for $3 a bale this spring, so the farmer surely has $1000 or more of straw here even if he (or she) doesn't sell quite that high. It's hard to estimate how many bales might be in the barn!

Actually, I think it's highly likely that the farmer is a "he", but just this once, I'm giving any lady farmers in the county their due.

Tobacco Harvest Underway

Life in Christian County, Kentucky...

TobaccoBurley tobacco ready for harvest

Tobacco harvest has begun in southern Kentucky. The burley tobacco plants above are in a field where cutting has begun. This will probably be their last day in the field. They're about 5 feet tall, and no space remains between them in the rows.

Cutting the tobacco plants is a laborious job, made more so by the heat and humidity of August. The plants are cut individually with large knives. If workers get too much tobacco sap on their skin, a dangerous nicotine overdose is possible. Despite the heat, many wear long pants and long-sleeve shirts for protection but sap-saturated clothing can make them sick too!

Tobacco harvestThe plants in the photo at left have been cut and a stick has been placed with each stack of plants. The next step is to hang the tobacco plants on the sticks. Next, the tobacco-laden sticks will be loaded onto trailers (photo below) and hauled to a barn. In the barn, the sticks will be laid across horizontal beams ("tiers") that allow the entire interior to be filled with hanging tobacco.

Hanging the tobacco in the barns is a rather dangerous procedure. The sticks are heavy and unwieldy with the plants hanging from them. They are handed up by workers from one tier to the next as the barn is filled from the top down. I know of one fellow who fell from the top tier and was terribly injured. To make matters worse, the barn was off the main road in a remote field so that it was difficult to even get an ambulance in.

Much of the field labor nowadays is provided by migrant workers, mostly Mexicans. They arrive in early summer to help with the daily hand-tending of the fields, and they stay through the harvest. A few workers may remain until the leaves are stripped from the plants in November or December.

Tobacco has been grown in Christian County for a long time, and it's an important part of the local economy and tradition. Growing a tobacco crop requires a thorough knowledge of the plant and a lot of hard work. A skillful farmer is rightfully proud of a fine crop. It's sad that the end products of tobacco are addictive and harmful.

Tobacco harvest

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Worth Reading

Blogs and Blogging...

Darren Rowse of Pro-Blogger has been running a "group writing project" with "Lists" as the topic. The due date has gone by now, and the complete list of 301 reader submissions has been compiled. If you have a few minutes, I'm sure you can find an interesting list or two to browse.

Seth Godet has some good pointers for interview questions based on interview how-to's by ESPN's John Sawatsky. Seth also provides a link to an American Journalism article about John Sawatsky that is an interesting, though long read. If you ever have reason to interview anyone, either formally or informally, some useful principles are mentioned here.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Rue Royale

History and Old Stuff...

Rue Royale

I found this photograph tucked into an old book. The words "Rue Royale" are printed on the back of the photo. It looks like a photo purchased at a souvenir shop, rather than an amateur snapshot.

A little research turned up some paintings of the Rue Royale in Paris by Edouard Leon Cortès, and they do seem to show the same street and buildings as the photograph.

I have to rely on my best guess here. Since I have never visited France, I can't say that this is definitely a photograph of the Rue Royale, a famous street of Paris. But I think it is.

-- -- -- -- -- --

Related post:
Found Inside Old Books

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Barn on Edward Mills Road

Life in Christian County, Kentucky...


Old barns are commonplace in the rural landscape of Kentucky. This one sits near a house, and someone has been keeping the grass mowed around it.

If they don't repair the north-facing hole in the side of the barn, incoming rain and snow will weaken and eventually ruin the structural members on that end. It looks like the hole might have been a doorway and now the door has fallen off.

At ground level, big doors open several passages into the barn. The builder may have parked his wagon, his automobile, or his tractor inside. Perhaps there are a few stanchions where the cows were milked and some stalls where the workhorses were kept.

Maybe the barn still holds relics from the day when it was an essential farm building -- old harnesses hanging like skeletons on the wall or a rusty two-bottom plow sunk into the dirt floor and splattered with bird manure.


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Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Self-Publishing: Lulu and More

Some Interesting News...

The writers of two blogs I read have recently published books with Lulu.

Prairie Mary (Mary Scriver of Montana) has published Twelve Blackfeet Stories. More information is available on her blog.

Leonard Sadorf and Larry Widen have published Lar and Len: A Long Strange Trip, and you can read more about the book at Western Blues.

Both these books are available for download or for purchase in book form.

It's amazing. A couple weeks ago, I'd never even heard of Lulu Publishing, and now I have personal knowledge of people who've published Lulu books.

I corresponded a little with Mary about her book. She says that Lulu is one of the more reputable self-publishing companies.

Another interesting site, allows bloggers to publish their blogs in book form. The site suggests that a blog book is "great as a gift, an archive, or even to sell to your readers!" I came across this just today. Obviously, I'm not exactly on the cutting edge of self-publishing.

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Blogger in Beta

Blogs and Blogging...

Blogger has come out with a new beta. You can only use it now if you start a new blog, but in the future (hopefully) it will be available to all Blogger users. Those of us who continue slogging along in our old blogs will see a message on the Blogger dashboard when we have the option of switching over.

One nice change is that it will be possible to set up categories.

Take the Blogger tour here: Blogger Buzz: Blogger in beta

There is a message on my Blogger start page that I can switch over to Blogger Beta if I want to. It is tempting, but a couple of things have made me hesitate. If I switch, I can't switch back if I don't like it. Also, there's this:

Users who have not switched to Blogger in beta will not be able to login to comment on blogs that have been switched. Commenting using the "anonymous" or "other" options will still work.
If I switched and you hadn't, you'd have to post here as "Anonymous" or "Other" even if you are a registered Blogger user.

On the other hand, here's more info from another page that makes it sound like I might as well make the change.
When you see the invitation to create a Google Account and join Blogger in beta, you're welcome to postpone it and switch later at a more convenient time. If you do this, your old Blogger login will continue to work as before. However, after a couple of months we will begin requiring you to switch in order to access your Blogger account.
The Google Account is just your Gmail if you have one, and if you don't want to get a Gmail address, apparently you can register the e-mail address of your choice.

Seen at Lowes

Life in Christian County, Kentucky... The Rural Life...


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Debugging the Blog -- Blarg!

Blogs and Blogging...

Thanks, Collagemama, for letting me know that the blog was looking strange. I hadn't noticed it because it didn't show up on Firefox which is my browser of choice. However, in Internet Explorer, the left margin of the posts was definitely messed up.

Take my advice, folks. If this ever happens to you, view individually each post that appears on the main page of your blog and determine if one of them looks wrong and all the rest are perfectly normal. Had I done that first, I could have realized that the very top post on the page was causing the problem.

But of course I didn't try a logical process of elimination. Instead, I started looking at the template. I found a small error there which I fixed, and I guess that made me think that the rest of the problem was in the template too. I searched until my eyes crossed.

I even ran the template through an HTML validator. It found over 100 errors, most of which are caused by scripts and by Blogger symbols for the different elements of the blog. It was not very helpful, considering the amount of time I wasted trying to figure it out.

Finally, I tried what I suggested above, I looked at each post individually -- and found the one problem post right away. Now I know -- DIV tags, used by Blogger for centering, confuse Internet Explorer when they occur within BLOCKQUOTE tags.

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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Winds of Change

All In The Family...

"Now in this middle part of my life, I've got to tell you, winds come, storms blow, and I have problems, but I feel pretty rock solid".
(Thomas Wilson)

My family is approaching a period of transition. On August 24, Dennis (my husband) will arrive home from Iraq and on August 28, his retirement from the Army-Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) will be official. He has been in Kuwait and Iraq for a total of 3 years in the last 3-1/2 years (not counting R&R time.)

I'll be very thankful to have him home safe and sound! Fortunately, his work as a Department of Defense employee has been in military facilities (not out on patrols), but he has made many trips on convoys and there is always the possibility of hostile attack or some terrible accident -- even in camp. I've prayed for his safety every day.

Along with the relief of having him home, I'm feeling a little anxious. Isaac and I will be adapting to a father and husband at home full time after a long absence. Dennis will be adapting to life at home with his family instead of life in a combat zone -- as well as retirement and probably a different job eventually. No doubt we'll all need to make some adjustments and concessions as we enter the next phase of our lives.

Since our income is going to drop off sharply and we'll have two children in college starting next year. I need to go to back to work soon, if not immediately. I have applied for several jobs, and hopefully I might get one of them.

This week, I'm trying to whip the house, yard, shed, and all the paperwork into shape, and next week if I'm still unemployed, I will kill the fatted calf and prepare the feast for Dennis' arrival on Thursday.

And if I've started a new job by then and I just barely get off work in time to run to the airport -- well, we'll stop at Cracker Barrel on the way home and buy him his favorite -- a gravy-smothered country-fried steak.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Getting A Job

Blogs and Blogging...

Guy Kawasaki has a great article on his blog today about getting a job. To be specific, it's about getting a job in Silicon Valley, but many of the principles are valid for any job interview. It's well worth a read, and there are quality suggestions and observations in the comments section as well.

Everything You Wanted to Know About Getting a Job in Silicon Valley But Didn't Know Who to Ask

Or Would You Rather Be a Mule?

Life in Christian County, Kentucky... The Rural Life...

Would you like to swing on a star,
Carry moonbeams home in a jar,
And be better off than you are,
Or would you rather be a mule?

A mule is an animal with long funny ears;
He kicks up at anything he hears.
His back is brawny but his brain is weak;
He's just plain stupid with a stubborn streak,
And by the way if you hate to go to school,
You may grow up to be a mule...

(As sung by Bing Crosby)

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Sand Adders: Hognose Snakes?

Native snake of the Nebraska Sandhills

When I was a child on the ranch in the Sandhills, the three snakes we saw most often were garter snakes, bull snakes, and sand adders.

In the previous sentence, I linked the words "bull snakes" and "garter snakes" to photographs, but I didn't link "sand adder" because I've never been completely sure what sand adders are!

Toad Eaters

Apparently, "sand adder" is a local name for the snake. A Google search for "'sand adder' Nebraska" has only one result -- Shirley Baker Jipp's mention of the sand adder in the online sample chapter from her book, Sand Beneath My Shoes. "Occasionally a saucy, brown sand-adder, gliding through the sandy path, startled us."

After reading about and looking at snakes on the internet this evening, I suspect that the sand adder was a hognose snake. The size, coloration and markings of the hognose are compatible with the sand adder.

I found several types of hognose snakes mentioned as residents of Nebraska -- plains hognose, western hognose, and eastern hognose. They are all fairly similar in appearance, and apparently all of them like sandy areas.

One other reason that I believe the sand adder was a hognose snake is that hognoses eat amphibians, especially toads. I remember several times finding a sand adder in the process of consuming some poor toad.

My mother was always very fond of the toads in her garden, and she once killed a sand adder with her hoe because he was eating one of them. I don't know what happened to the toad. I hope he survived!

Hognoses have an upturned upper lip which is the surefire identifying characteristic of this snake. I never looked closely enough at a sand adder's mouth to know if its upper lip was curled or not.

Dangerous As They Look?

Many Sandhill folk believed that sand adders were poisonous snakes, or at least had heard that they were poisonous and weren't taking any chances to disprove the rumor. As children, we certainly believed they were poisonous, and a few years ago, I mentioned sand adders to my Sandhills friend, Sammie, and she too had grown up thinking they were poisonous.

Despite our fear of the sand adder, I've never seen it listed as one of Nebraska's poisonous snakes. But after researching them this evening, I understand why sand adders (which were probably hognoses) were widely rumored to be poisonous.

The Fort Riley (KS) Army website notes, "These snakes have an interesting defense mechanism. When threatened, they will first hiss loudly and flatten their hood similar to a cobra. If that doesn't work, they will then regurgitate food, roll over and play dead."

The Audubon Magazine gives more detail:
It is probably no coincidence that the eastern hognose sometimes resembles the timber rattlesnake, while the western hognose appears to be modeled after the prairie rattlesnake.

Also known as "puff adders" and "blow vipers," hognose snakes respond to perceived threats by coiling and rattling their tails against leaves or grass, puffing up their bodies and flattening their necks, hissing and striking (though almost never biting).

If this fails, they roll on their backs and feign death, sometimes emitting drops of blood from gaping mouths and cloacae. Turn a "dead" hognose on its stomach and it will roll over on its back again.

The nonvenomous hognose lacks fangs, but it has enlarged rear teeth, perhaps designed to puncture toads that have inflated themselves as a means of defense.

I never threatened a sand adder, so it never had to go into the radical Phase 2 behavior with me. Phase 1 was enough to send me speeding away. comments that the easiest way to distinguish between the eastern hognose and a cottonmouth moccasin is the hognose's upturned lip. Apparently they look a lot alike, otherwise.

The University of Nebraska's website, "Poisonous Snakes in Nebraska," urges caution of snakes with a triangular head that is larger than the neck, then comments, "However, several other snakes, including garter snakes, hognose snakes, and bullsnakes may also display this characteristic, especially when alarmed."

Reasonable Caution

All in all, it's not surprising if Sandhill folks thought the sand adder (hognose?) might be poisonous. Our parents and grandparents wisely passed on to us a message of caution that they had heard in their own childhood days about this little snake.

I was an adult before I had a flash of insight one day and realized that the name of the snake was "sand adder" not "san-dadder" as I had always heard, pronounced and visualized the word. Now it seems I must admit that they weren't even poisonous. Somehow, I'm a bit disappointed.


Western hognose snake
Photographer: LA Dawson
Animal courtesey of Austin Reptile Service

England's ancient Domesday Book goes high-tech

History and Old Stuff... Some Interesting News...

The Associated Press by Jill Lawless
Centre Daily Times, August 13, 2006

LONDON -- The Middle Ages met the Internet age last week when the Domesday Book -- a survey of England conducted almost 1,000 years ago -- went online.

The book, a record of the people and lands ruled by William the Conqueror, is the oldest record held by Britain's National Archives and one of the country's most valuable documents. Now anyone with an Internet connection can -- for a fee -- download copies of handwritten records that provide a picture of life in the 11th century.

Read more: England's ancient Domesday Book goes high-tech

I am so glad I live in the age of the internet. I often think how much my mother would have enjoyed it.

Saturday, August 12, 2006


All In The Family... Another Trip Down Memory Lane... Life in The Nebraska Sandhills...

It's school-supply season, and I notice that the needs of young students haven't changed much. The basics are still paper, pencils, crayons, scissors, glue and Kleenex.

And then there's essential school luggage -- backpacks and lunchboxes.

I didn't need a backpack when I was in grade school because we didn't take schoolwork home with us. In a one-room school with students of various ages, our teacher had a lot of classes to work into each day. She gave us plenty of assignments to keep us busy while she was teaching other classes, but we had plenty of school time to get them done.

LunchboxOf course I had a lunchbox -- a round-top metal box that swung open from the middle. The top half held a Thermos, and the bottom had plenty of room for a sandwich, fruit, and cookies.

When we arrived at school, we set our lunchboxes under the bench next to the door. We hung our coats on hooks above the bench, and we sat on the bench to take off our rubber overshoes.

In warm weather, our mothers packed peanut butter sandwiches for us because they didn't spoil, but in winter, they often sent meat sandwiches wrapped in aluminum foil. The floor was cool enough where our lunchboxes were kept that the sandwiches didn't spoil in the few hours before lunchtime.

On winter mornings, we laid our foil sandwich packets on top of the old fuel-oil heater at 11:30 to warm them. If the heater was running a lot, our sandwiches were well-toasted by 12:00.

When we got home from school, we were supposed to clean out our lunchboxes immediately. This was important because anything damp (like a half-eaten piece of fruit) would make the lunchbox rust, and food left in it smelled bad after a day or two.

LunchboxI remember owning several silver lunchboxes. The Horner girls, my perpetual schoolmates, had a black lunchbox that they shared. When my little sister started school, I think she had a square red-plaid box. If we still had our lunchboxes, they would still have a little value as vintage pieces, despite dents, rust, and scratches

If anyone in our school ever had a lunchbox with pictures on it, I have forgotten it. It must not have impressed me. I wish I had one of these lunchboxes now, though. Here are the values of the top ten collectible boxes (in 2005), and half a dozen of them are from the era of my schooldays:
  1. Superman (Universal, 1954 -- $13,500
  2. 240 Robert (Aladdin, 1978) -- $4,200
  3. Toppie Elephant (American Thermos, 1957) -- $3,200
  4. Underdog (Okay Industries, 1974 -- $2,500
  5. Dudley Do-Right (Universal, 1962) -- $2,200
  6. Jetsons Dome (Aladdin, 1963) -- $1,650
  7. Beatles (Aladdin, 1966) -- $1,600
  8. Bullwinkle & Rocky (Universal, 1962) -- $1,600
  9. Star Trek Dome (Aladdin, 1968) -- $1,450
  10. Knight in Armor (Univeral, 1959) -- $1,250
(For lunchboxes in absolutely perfect condition. According to Toys and Prices 2005. Source.)

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

I've tried to use the word "lunchbox" throughout this post, but I think we really said "lunchpail" or "lunchbucket". Our parents probably had real lunchpails when they were kids -- metal lard buckets with wire handles and big round lids.

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Thursday, August 10, 2006

Stadtprozelten on the Main

River town with a view


Here's a photo I came across today. The rooftops in the photo are in the little village of Stadtprozelten. It's in Germany on the Main (pronounced "mine") River about 40 miles southeast of Frankfurt as the crow flies.

I like all the different levels that can be seen in this photo. In fact, I like the photo so much that I once had it made into a large poster and I hung it in my kitchen for a while so I could enjoy it like a window that looked out onto the Main River of Bavaria.

I got out the German road atlas and checked the name of the town across the river. It is West Mondfeld. There is probably a ferry across the river somewhere near, but it's ten miles or more to the nearest bridge.

Stadtprozelten is built on a narrow strip of land between the Main River and a steep bluff. The highway that leads through the village can be glimpsed below the flower box on the balcony.

StairwayWe climbed an ancient stairway between two buildings (left) to reach a little lane on the side of the bluff from which I took the photo of the rooftops and river (above). There are some sheds and little barns on one side of the lane, maybe a few houses -- and on the other side are rooftops, sometimes close enough to touch. The lane is much too narrow for automobiles, but you could ride a bicycle on it if you didn't mind occasional stairs.

From the lane, there's a pathway that leads up the bluff to ruins of a big castle named Henneburg at the very top. Henneburg had an underground part that looked like a dungeon, as well as turrets. The ruins were impressive. The residents of the castle once controlled this part of the river, and if a boat wanted to pass, it had to pay a toll.

Many of the photos of Stadtprozelten on Flickr feature the Henneburg ruins. I had little two-year-old Keely with me when I visited there and I didn't climb any of the turrets with her, so I enjoyed the photos of the view from there.

My visit to Stadtprozelten is ancient history. I was there in 1987.

Ruins Revisited

Blogs and Blogging...

As I commented on another post to James, I've found several photos I wanted previously while looking for the one I want today.

Last April, I wrote about our visit to the Wildenburg castle ruins in the Odenwald forest of Bavaria in a post called "Adventure of the Castle Ruins." I found the photos today!

Even though the story's in the archives now, I did add the photos to it and I hope you'll go back and take a look.

Sunset Storm

Life in Christian County, Kentucky... The Rural Life...

Stormy skyJust before the rain

Fields of Tobacco

Life in Christian County, Kentucky... Life in The Upper South... More About Trees and Plants...

TobaccoBurley tobacco plants in mid-AugustTobaccoThese plants are about 4 feet tall.

The plants with yellow coloration (above photos) are burley tobacco. I am not sure what type of tobacco plants are in the photo below. Farmers grow a lot of dark tobacco here, but I wonder if this is another type because dark tobacco is usually a deeper green than these plants are. Nor do these plants exhibit the yellow splotchiness that's typical of burley tobacco.

These plants are over 5 feet tall.

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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Getting the Mail

Another Trip Down Memory Lane... Life in The Nebraska Sandhills... The Rural Life...

When I look back at my childhood, I realize that we led a quiet, isolated life. I suppose many Sandhills families of that day did. Our ranch was 28 miles south of Bassett, then four miles west, and finally about two miles south. The first 28 miles were on a state highway, the next five miles were county gravel roads, and the last mile or so was a ranch road.

By Sandhill standards, Duff Valley and the low-lying lands adjoining the Skull and Bloody creeks were well-populated. Our nearest neighbors on the county road were John Seier and his grown-up son and daughter who lived with him. Their house was about a mile and a half north of us. Our nearest neighbors over the hills by sandy ranch roads were Jay and Martha Hixson on the Ray Ranch about three miles south of us.

I attended Duff Valley District 4, a one-room country school with the neighbor kids. When I say "the neighbor kids", I really mean the Horner girls, Velda and Carolyn. A few other children came and went at school, but the Horner girls and I were together from first grade through eighth grade. Velda and I were in the same grade and Carolyn was one grade below us. Some years, we three and our little sisters were the only pupils in our school.

After the school year ended in mid-May, I rarely saw the Horner girls or any other children except at church on Sundays. Nor did we talk to each other on the telephone. Our parents didn't permit that. We shared a party line with twenty other families, and people did not appreciate the line being tied up by children giggling to each other.

Summer was the season for making hay and every ranch was busy with it. Sometimes when the hayfield was too wet to work, a neighbor on his way to check his pastures would stop to visit with my dad. A cattle-feed salesman might find his way to the ranch hoping to get an order. We made quick trips to town for machinery parts. My mother sometimes went to "Missionary Society" or the extension club meeting and took us girls along. But many days, we didn't see anyone except for our own family and the hired men we had living with us.

Television reception out south of Bassett wasn't very good so we didn't have a TV. I think the nearest stations were in Grand Island, North Platte, and Norfolk (some of Nebraska's larger towns, all distant from us).

My mother enjoyed the radio, particularly the news reports and her favorite preachers, and I understand now that they gave her something to think about while she was working. I still remember the stations that were her favorites: KRVN from Lexington, WNAX from Yankton, South Dakota, and KJLT from North Platte.

When the day's work was done and there was time to relax after supper, I think everyone in my family read. My dad's rocking chair sat next to a bookcase that was stacked with farming and cattle breed magazines, Popular Mechanics, all sorts of newspapers, and various manuals. My mother read books occasionally, but she was an avid daily consumer of the newspapers. We kids read the newspapers, the magazines, and every book we could get our hands on.

We always subscribed to the Omaha World Herald and a daily livestock journal from Omaha (now defunct and I can't recall its name), four or five weekly papers from local towns plus other regional papers like the Western Livestock Journal and Cappers Weekly. There was never a shortage of newsprint at our house.

Some of the magazines I remember regularly looking at and reading sections of were Life, Farm Journal, Successful Farming, Nebraska Farmer, National Geographic, and Call to Prayer. And then there were the mail-order catalogs from Sears Roebuck, Montgomery Ward, Spiegel, and Aldens. They provided many hours of looking and reading.

We all read the comic strips every day. I was very worried at times about Little Orphan Annie who was trapped in a cave or locked in a dungeon. I could hardly wait to get the next newspaper to see whether she would be rescued before the water got too high. I knew exactly what adventures Dick Tracy, Winnie Winkle, Mary Worth, Li'l Abner, Alley Oop, Terry and the Pirates, and even Prince Valiant were having (though the Prince was only in the Sunday paper which didn't arrive until Monday as I recall). Ann Landers was interesting, and Heloise's household hints were readable if nothing better was available.

My little sister and I rode Beauty, the Shetland pony, to the mailbox many summer afternoons. Oh, she was a mean little brat. She tried to run under the trees and scrape us off her back, and she loved to turn her head and bite our feet. One day, we were trying to ride her across the meadow so we could get to the mailbox faster, and she went out in the middle of a little pond and lay down. All of this was very frustrating to two little girls who just wanted to read the funnies.

When I was about ten years old, I discovered what a joy it was to send and receive letters. I had a penpal from Orion, Illinois, whose name I found in the "Just for Kids" section of the daily livestock newspaper. I wrote to her regularly for about five years. When I was a teenager, I wrote nearly every day all summer long to my long-time friend, Sammie, who has commented here on the blog a few times.

My mother was a prolific letter writer, and she carried on correspondences with many relatives and friends and even some missionaries in foreign lands. Our mail often had several hand-written letters along with the business envelopes. Even the hired men looked forward to the mail because they sometimes got letters from their girlfriends.

Perhaps you can imagine that the mail was the highlight of a homebound summer day to me -- and to all of us, I think. The mail brought variety to our lives and contact with the greater world, the wide world beyond the ranch, beyond the Sandhills and beyond Nebraska.

In an undetermined location (somewhere!?), I have a little square Brownie photograph that my sister must have taken. I'm a young teenager and I'm opening our mailbox. Most people wouldn't look twice at that simple snapshot, but I recognize now that it's quite symbolic of my childhood years on the ranch.

UPDATE: October 19, 2006. I finally found the photo so here it is.

At the mailbox

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CONTENTMENT: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry, live simply, expect little, give much, sing often, pray always, forget self, think of others and their feelings, fill your heart with love, scatter sunshine. These are the tried links in the golden chain of contentment.
(Author unknown)

IT IS STILL BEST to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasure; and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.
(Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957)

Thanks for reading.