From a photograph by Solomon D. Butcher of four daughters of rancher Joseph M. Chrisman, at their sod house in Custer County, Nebraska. From left to right, Harriet, Elizabeth, Lucie, and Ruth. Photographed in 1886.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Google Custom Search Bar

New search bar on this blog


I've added a Google Custom Search that's available from Blogger in Draft. It's at the top of the page just under the Prairie Bluestem title. (You've probably noticed it already.)

This search is not a hack . You don't have to go into the HTML of the template and change anything. This is a widget that you can add to your blog in the "Page Elements" of Blogger in Draft.

The search is very cool. The results pop right into the main column of the blog. It searches 4 unique sources (just click the tab you want to display):

  • This blog
  • The blogs in my blog-roll (listed in the left sidebar)
  • Internet sites linked to by this blog
  • The entire internet


Please let me know if the search doesn't work right for you, or if the search-bar's position in the column looks wrong to you (maybe it's covering something else or it doesn't seem to be "all there"). It seems to be fine when I look at it on my system and in web renderers, but only you can tell me if it doesn't look right on your system.

Some may remember a similar search bar on Prairie Bluestem before I made the switch to the new Blogger. I got it from a different branch of Google, but it used the same AJAX technology. It looks like the Blogger development team intends to make this search available as a widget for every Blogger weblog.

Oh, one other thing. I've read (here's one place) that it's not illegal to remove the Blogger navigation bar at the top of the page, so I have dared to do it. Removing the navbar does require a small hack of the HTML, but it's very easy to do.

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Monday, July 30, 2007

Working Out at the Y

My machines and me



We dropped our membership at the YMCA about a year ago because we weren't using it enough, Now we've rejoined, and we're giving it another try.

Woman on treadmill We've been going regularly, and I must admit, it's good for me. I walk on the treadmill and get on a couple different exercise bikes for about an hour. I don't go too fast, but it burns about 350-400 calories.

With the exercise and eating a modified South Beach diet as well, I've lost five pounds since we joined. It certainly motivates me to be careful about what I'm eating when I know how much sweat it takes to burn off a few hundred calories.

Dennis likes the various machines that are supposed to tone up different areas of your body. He's also been swimming every day in the pool. He goes on his long, daily bike ride before we even go to the Y, so exercise bikes don't interest him.

I just do my cardio machines. I want to give my heart a little workout, and losing a little more weight would be a nice bonus.

It's nice to exercise in the air conditioning. It's been so hot and dusty that I don't feel like walking outside at present!

I don't know how the Y will fit into my schedule when/if I get a job, but I hope I can make it work.

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Friday, July 27, 2007

Midnight Bus Ride in Santa Cruz, Bolivia

Riding through dark streets in a collectivo


When we lived in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, in the early 80s, we didn't have a car. We went everywhere in buses or taxis.

Santa Cruz had two types of buses -- micros and collectivos. Micros were small, fast buses, used by residents who could pay a premium fare.

Collectivos
were old, slow, full-size buses that transported the masses. Their fares were cheap. Often, the passengers carried huge bundles of their belongings, garden produce, or even live animals.

One night, Dennis and I found ourselves out late and too far from home to walk. We waited at a bus stop, knowing that we needed to take any transportation that came along because the 1:00 A.M. curfew was getting close.

Eventually, a lumbering old collectivo appeared, and it was headed in the direction that we needed to go. We climbed on board and were surprised at the darkness inside. The only light came through the windows. The bus lurched away with a great roar, and we groped for a handhold as we staggered in the aisle.

Even at that late hour, every seat was taken and many passengers were standing. No one was talking. The only sounds were the grinding and groaning of the bus's worn-out gears and engine.

It was summer and the night was warm. Inside the bus, the air had a peculiar, dank odor of unwashed bodies and dirty bundles. It was the smell of hardscrabble third-world poverty, steamed for years.

The bus roared through the shadows of the old, narrow streets, and we struggled to hold our balance when it pitched around corners. As passengers moved to and from the doors, their bodies and burdens bumped against us.

I realized that I was, at that moment, in the most foreign place I had ever been.
I was as close to an experience of the life of Bolivia's urban poor as I might ever be. The cloak of darkness over my anglo appearance had made me just another needy, late-night traveler.

"SeƱora?" A woman offered me a seat. She pulled her billowing skirts closer to make room for me beside her. I gratefully accepted her offer, but I kept my purse tight under my arm on the side away from her. I had been in Bolivia long enough to know how quietly a razor blade could slash into a bag in a moment of jostling.

Soon enough, we recognized landmarks of our neighborhood. We called to the driver and the bus stopped. We got off and became gringos again, scurrying home before curfew. Our fellow passengers rode on into the night.

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Summer Days

Plenty of time for play



Collagemama wrote today about the summers of her childhood in which she had plenty of unstructured time to contemplate the marvels of nature. She wonders how much time today's children have for such things.

I remember the long summer vacations we had when I was little. We had three full months of freedom from school. Most days, my mother had some chores for me, but after the dishes were done, I had long afternoons to do whatever interested me. My schedule was open to...

  • Play house with my sister
  • Look for wild mushrooms after a rain
  • Feed bread crumbs to the ants
  • Help the mama cat take care of her kittens
  • Read a book from cover to cover
  • Collect snails from the windmill tank in a jar
  • Fish with a cane pole from the Skull Creek bridge
  • Make a comfy nest in the haymow


And if I got tired of doing those things, I could...

  • Wade in the windmill pond
  • Ride the ornery little pony
  • Search for 4-leaf clovers
  • Find Indian turnips in the pasture
  • Visit the hayfield to watch the haystacks being made
  • Count the ladybugs on the lawn
  • Stir up some mud pies and weed-seed coffee
  • Eat green beans right off the vine in the garden


Educators are worried nowadays that the kids will forget too much during a long summer vacation. Here in our county, there's been talk of year-round school with a couple weeks off at the end of each quarter. After public protest, that idea was officially dropped, but for about five years now, school has started early in August. It's not year-round school, but summer vacation is greatly shortened.

In addition, many children spend their days at daycare centers or summer camps. They may also have a busy schedule of lessons, practices, and competitions or games. When they do get home, many electronic amusements are available. Certainly, all of this reduces the time that children spend creating their own simple ways to have fun.

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Rest of the Story

Expandable articles



I've installed a Blogger hack that allows me to make some of the longer articles here expandable. That means that only the first few paragraphs of a longer article will show unless you click the link that says, "Read more of this article..."

If you read to the bottom of the full article, there's another link that says, "Collapse this article again..." If you click it, the full article will disappear and the page will again show just the first few paragraphs.

I know that I can be longwinded about mundane things of limited interest (except to me!) Now those articles won't dominate the page -- unless you choose to enjoy their full-length splendor.

I got this hack from Hackosphere, a blog of Blogger hacks written by Ramani, a software engineer from California. A while back, I used another of his hacks to change this blog from two columns to three columns. A link to his site is in my "Blogs of Note."

If the expandable posts don't work right for you, please let me know.

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Driving Home in the Dark

The airport beacon light at Ainsworth, Nebraska, and other early memories



My family lived out in the hills south of Johnstown, Nebraska until the end of my first-grade year. From those early years of my life, I have many memories. Many of them are just fragments, but like a picture in a book, each has a little story, even if I don't know the entire plot.

I have quite a few memories of driving home at night. Usually, we had been to Sunday night or Wednesday night church services, or perhaps a revival meeting.

It was always very dark when I looked out the windows. Along Highway 20, between Ainsworth and Johnstown in the mid-1950s, there weren't many lights, and after we turned off Highway 20 and drove out into the hills on a little sand road, the lights became sparse indeed.

At night, I couldn't enjoy my favorite sights along the way -- the bandstand in the Ainsworth park; Bone Creek, meandering through a meadow just west of Ainsworth; the tall slide on the Johnstown school playground; the viaduct west of Johnstown where we crossed over the Chicago Northwestern Railroad; and the long stretch of picket snow fence nearby that was supposed to keep the highway from drifting shut in the winter.

However, the beacon at the Ainsworth airport could be seen only at night. Its lights rotated at the top of a tower, and their brilliant beams swept across the runways, the land around the airport, and the highway. The light even swept through our car as we drove by it. It traveled much faster than we were driving, so I could watch several rotations as we approached and several more as we drove away.

One night while we were at church, the weather turned bad. We drove home in a snowstorm. After we turned off the highway onto the sand road, we came to a place where the snow had drifted so deep that we got stuck. My mom took the wheel and my dad pushed and shoveled and pushed and shoveled but we couldn't get out. Finally, he decided to walk home and get the tractor. He wasn't wearing a heavy coat, so my mom gave him her coat.

I don't know how far my dad walked, but it must have been a fearful trip, in the dark, in the storm, knowing his wife and little children were waiting for rescue. I was too little to understand that, though. I went to sleep and when I awoke, Daddy had returned on the tractor. A few rough jerks, and we were out of the drift and on our way home, following the tractor through the wind-blown snow.

When I mentioned this memory to my mother many years later, she told me how hard she had prayed for my dad while she was waiting.

A tired little girl, riding home in the dark, sometimes goes to sleep along the way. I remember one time when my dad carried me in the house and laid me on their bed. He tucked my mother's coat over me so I wouldn't get cold. I could feel its scratchy wool. I moved it around a little so the smooth satin of the lining was against my skin. The luxury of falling back to sleep, on my parents' bed, warm under my mother's coat, cannot be described.

Another time, we waited at Johnstown late at night to get my mother off the train. Johnstown didn't have a train station, but the train would stop there to let passengers off. Mama had been to Omaha to stay with her father, my Grandpa Harry Sees, at the hospital.

Finally the train's light glimmered in the distance, growing bigger and brighter as it drew near. The cars clanked and shuddered to a stop, a door slid open, and my mother emerged.

On the way home, my mother told us her train car had been full of cigar smoke. Her clothing smelled terribly of it, but I didn't care -- I was glad to see her! I still remember the fabric of the suit she was wearing. It was a brown and black houndstooth check.

My parents were young then -- just in their early thirties. My brother was in his first few years of grade school, and I was a preschooler. Most of these "dark memories" were made before my sister was even born. My goodness, that was a long time ago.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Camp Alcorn at Hopkinsville, Kentucky

A Confederate States Army camp near Hopkinsville during the Civil War


I've mentioned before that Riverside Cemetery in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, is the final resting place of about 300 Confederate soldiers who died of measles, dysentery, tuberculosis, pneumonia, typhoid, and other illnesses while camped at Camp Alcorn during the Civil War.

I was quite interested when I stumbled across some correspondence to, from, and about Camp Alcorn in an old book that has been digitized by Google.

The book is The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. It was published in 1902 by the U.S. Government Printing Office, with input from many authors and sources, including the United States War Dept, United States Congress. and the United States War Records Office.

I've written the following brief history of Camp Alcorn based mostly on Confederate letters that are recorded in this book...

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How Camp Alcorn was established


After a number of skirmishes with Union troops in this part of Kentucky, Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston and Brigadier General Felix Kirk Zollicoffer took Bowling Green in the fall of 1861. Meanwhile Confederate General Simon Buckner occupied Hopkinsville.

These victories led to a Confederate plan to create a "Kentucky Line." The idea was to stop the Union forces in Kentucky, and thus to prevent the Union from gaining control of rivers and railroads that led to Nashville, Tennessee, and beyond. Also, there were iron furnaces of importance to the Confederacy along the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers of western Kentucky.

Shortly after taking Hopkinsville, General Buckner was promoted and moved to Central Division of Kentucky headquarters to Bowling Green. Buckner left Brigadier General J. L. Alcorn in camp near Hopkinsville with a brigade of Mississippi volunteers and two small regiments. Alcorn had brought these troops from Mississippi as part of a response from that state to a request for 10,000 men for sixty days service in Kentucky.

Alcorn was supposed to defend the Cumberland River and the railroad bridge over it at Clarksville, Tennessee, from an overland attack from the north/northeast. However, widespread illness among his soldiers limited his ability to do this job.

General Alcorn returns to Mississippi after escorting the troops to Kentucky and setting up camp at Hopkinsville


On October 19, 1861, Alcorn wrote to General Buckner, to give a scouting report and to inform him of the health situation in camp.
My command, after furnishing nurses for the sick, is reduced to a battalion. It appears that every man in my camp will directly be down with measles. The thought of a movement in my present condition is idle. I am not more than able to patrol the town.

Source: Letter from Alcorn to Buckner, Oct. 19, 1861 (pp. 464-465)

At the end of the letter, he requested to be relieved of command at Hopkinsville so he could return to Mississippi.
[T]he cause for my continuance no longer exists in force sufficient to detain me. I wish to leave for Mississippi; and ask your permission to fix the 27th instant as the day for my departure. This post is an important one, and should not be commanded by one who has not the confidence or is distasteful to the Government at Richmond. My service as brigadier-general of Mississippi is due that State only. If the Confederate Government wished me, I would be appointed. This not being done, I am an intruder. My self-respect, my own honor, is dearer to me than country or life itself. The hope of being able to make an early movement has lured me; that hope dissipated, common decency requires me to leave this command. Besides, to stay here and labor and toil as I do, struggling with disease and death, to be superseded presently, or, if continued, to be a mere interloper, a nondescript, every impulse of my nature says, "No; death first," My command will complain, but this will soon be hushed, for now they are bound. I shall leave with them my son, a captain of a company, as hostage that my heart is with them.

In conclusion, I thank you most sincerely for the kind manner in which you have treated me since my return to my native heath, and beg that you will have some one to take my command, if not before, on the day indicated. Do not neglect this, I beg you.

Source: Letter from Alcorn to Buckner, October 19, 1861 (pp. 464-465)

My research leads me to believe that General Alcorn survived the war and later became a U.S. senator from Mississippi.

General Tilghman assumes command and learns of conditions at Camp Alcorn


Shortly after Alcorn requested permission to go home, Brigadier General Lloyd Tilghman was assigned to command the troops at Camp Alcorn. Tilghman was a West Point graduate from Baltimore, Maryland, and a civil engineer by trade. He had served in the Mexican War and had helped to build the Panama railroad. Railroad construction brought him to Paducah, Kentucky, and in the 1850s, he built a home there that you can still visit today.

When General Tilghman took over Camp Alcorn, the men were apparently living in very sad conditions. He wrote to General Johnston at Bowling Green on October 27, 1861:
I have been detained here [at Clarksville, Tennessee] to-day, preparing matters to aid my organization at Hopkinsville, where I learn a vast deal of suffering exists, owing to the exposed condition of men. I have made arrangements to put 200 women to work on clothing, and hope for a contribution of blankets and clothing from the society at this place. I regret deeply to hear of the condition of things at Hopkinsville, but hope to overcome them. I am sorry also to hear of the inefficient condition of things at Fort Donelson [along the Cumberland River, west of Clarksville, Tennessee). I fear our interests there are well-nigh beyond our control.

Source: Letter from Tilghman to Johnston, October 27, 1861 (p. 479)

Reports from Hopkinsville by General Tilghman


By the 29th of October, General Tilghman had arrived in Hopkinsville. He reported the following to Bowling Green:
I had hoped that the picture, sketched to me of matters here might not have been realized, but I am compelled to think it not too highly colored. Under all the circumstances, 1 doubt not General Alcorn has made the best of things, his camp being merely one large hospital, with scarce men enough on duty to care for the sick and maintain a feeble guard around them, with insufficient pickets at prominent points. Over one-half the entire command are on the sick list, with very grave types of different diseases. Those remaining and reported for duty leave not enough really well men to do more than first stated. The Kentucky Battalion of Infantry, numbering 547, have only 45 cases reported sick. The measles have made their appearance, and the battalion will average 20 new cases per day, judging from to-day's report. The morning brigade report, herewith inclosed, shows only 716 for duty out of a total of 2237.

Source: Letter from Tilghman to Col. W. W. Mackall, October 29, 1861 pp. 485-486

On November 2, General Tilghman wrote again to Bowling Green:
You will have some idea of [the situation in Hopkinsville] when I tell you that in endeavoring to get up a little command last evening to move on Princeton, 1 found that the First Mississippi had 151 for duty, the Third 128. Out of these, guards and pickets had to be taken, giving me only 100 men from each regiment, half of whom were really unfit for the night march (raining in torrents). I managed, however, to get together 400 men and two pieces of artillery, the poorest clad, shod, and armed body I ever saw, but full of enthusiasm. I soon found that half the infantry were so unfit, that the surgeon stated that humanity demanded they should not go. I was relieved by a courier from my embarrassment and delayed until this morning, when a second courier relieved me entirely, by stating that the enemy had turned off from Princeton and [were] making northward. This morning I learn again that they have retired again (as their gunboats have done) towards the mouth of the river. You may therefore consider me relieved of the pressure for a few days.

Source: Letter from Tilghman to Buckner, November 2, 1861 (p. 500)

On November 7, 1861, reinforcements arrived -- volunteers from Texas led by John Gregg. They were partially armed and not yet organized into a regiment. Gregg wrote the following to command in Bowling Green:
Except a number of sick men on the road our nine companies are all here. The number is 749. Five of our number died on the way. From exposure to cold and wet on our journey we have more coughs and colds than I ever saw among the same number of men. Under General Tilghman's direction we will organize and elect our officers to-day or to-morrow. We have the consent of the Secretary of War to that purpose.

Source: Letter from Gregg to Mackall, November 7, 1861 (p. 524-525)

Health at Camp Alcorn improved under General Tilghman's command


By November 11, 1861, General Tilghman was a bit encouraged about the health of the camp. He wrote the following along with a long report of scouting and skirmishes north of Hopkinsville:
I am glad to be able to report "improvement" in my whole command, and the gradual assuming of form and energy in every department. A thorough change in my entire hospital arrangement, by the use of appropriate buildings and the procurement of proper supplies, aided by thorough police, has produced the results usually attainable through such means. The cheerful and able assistance rendered me by those of my own staff, as well as many of the regimental officers, is deserving of high commendation. The command, however, is yet very insufficient for the objects I know you would desire to have attained, and as it seems my only hope is in a patient waiting for re-enforcements, I can only hope I may now be allowed a little respite from the constant danger, real, that has surrounded me for the last ten days.

Source: Letter from Tilghman to Mackall, November 11, 1861 (p. 535-537)

At the end of this letter, he asked that funds for clothing be allocated immediately for the troops under his command.

The First Presbyterian Church of Hopkinsville was one of the sites used as a hospital during the winter of 1861-62, according to a historic marker at the church (corner of 9th and Liberty.)

General Tilghman's letter of November 13 to Bowling Green contained a mixture of good and bad news. A batallion of Colonel Nathan Bedford Forrest's cavalry had arrived from Fort Donelson. The forested area around the river was not good for cavalry maneuvers and furthermore, there wasn't enough food for the horses. General Tilghman had already sent out a joint cavalry and infantry group to prevent Union theft of a large herd of pigs that had been purchased by the Confederate agent in Clarksville. Tilghman also wrote, "My command still improves; are getting into their new hospitals." Source: Letter from Tilghman to Mackall, November 13, 1861 p. 549)

General Tilghman transferred to Forts Henry and Donelson


On November 14, orders were issued by General Buckner in Bowling Green, transferring Brigadier General Tilghman to the Cumberland River. He was given command of Forts Donelson and Henry, where a dangerous lack of discipline and organization existed, even as the Union was getting new and better gunboats. A Brigadier General Charles Clark was put in command of the two Mississippi batallions at Hopkinsville.

This is the end of the Camp Alcorn paper trail I've been following. I can add that General Tilghman did his best in December, 1861, and January, 1862, to get the troops and fortifications at Fort Henry and Donelson ready for battle. The Union attack came in February, 1862 -- 15,000 Union troops and seven Union gunboats -- and both forts fell into Union control, opening the way to Clarksville, Nashville, and beyond. It was the first big Union victory of the war.

General Tilghman surrendered with his men and was imprisoned for about six months. After he was released in a prisoner exchange, he rejoined the Confederate forces in Mississippi. He died in battle at Vicksburg, Mississippi, in 1864, and it is reported that his men wept when he fell.

The end of Camp Alcorn


As for Camp Alcorn, some of the sick were sent to a Confederate hospital in Clarksville, Tennessee, in November due to the likeliness of a Union attack upon the camp. 53 of Camp Alcorn's volunteer Texans died in Clarksville, and I am not sure how many others.

A historic marker at Riverside Cemetery states that Colonel Nathan Bedford Forrest lived in a log house in Hopkinsville with his wife and daughter during the winter of 1861-62 and withdrew from Hopkinsville to Tennessee when the CSA left Bowling Green. Kentucky's historic markers document a busy winter of raids and reconnaissance by Forrest in the area around Hopkinsville, though many of his men fell sick while camped here.

Camp Alcorn was apparently broken up when all its able-bodied troops were sent to the defense of Fort Donelson in February of 1862. As far as I know, the only remaining evidence of its existence at Hopkinsville is the Camp Alcorn cemetery.

A local Sons of Confederate Veterans group (Jefferson Davis Birthplace Camp # 1675) has worked hard to honor these fallen Confederate soldiers by compiling records, providing individual tombstones for each known soldier, and faithfully placing flags for them.

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Related articles on this blog
Civil War Graves at Riverside Cemetery in Hopkinsville, KY
A Walk In Riverside Cemetery
More About Riverside Cemetery

Letters sent from Camp Alcorn
From a Confederate soldier to a lady he admired
Description of the sickness at Camp Alcorn and the weather, Winter of 1861-62  (Scroll down to "Letter from the 'Bass Grays'.”)

A description of the housing at Camp Alcorn

Additional related material:
That Dark and Bloody Ground: The Kentucky Campaign of 1861
One Camp Alcorn soldier's history
Tribute to General Lloyd Tilghman
Norwegian reenactment group for the 7th Texas Infantry, includes a list of all soldiers who died at Camp Alcorn
Lloyd Tilghman at Wikipedia
Tilghman monument at Vicksburg
Another photo of Tilghman monument
Captain J. M. Sparkman's Tennessee Light Artillery Company
My Civil War, Before, During, and After -- Memoirs of a Union soldier who fought in this part of Kentucky with the 5th Iowa Cavalry

Sunday, July 22, 2007

How to Write Better, According to Me

A hard-to-read sentence in a newspaper article



The quotation below is a sentence from an AP article about J. K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series. It was written by Jill Lawless, a busy foreign correspondent whose editor should have intervened here, but didn't.

Just try reading this aloud.

Rowling (her name rhymes with bowling, rather than howling), looking relaxed in jeans and a sweater, shoulder-length blonde hair stylishly cut, has wildly mixed emotions at leaving behind the character she conjured up during a train journey across England in 1990: a neglected, bespectacled orphan who learns on his 11th birthday that he is a wizard.


If I were her editor, that long sentence would have been broken into two sentences. I would have slightly reworded it to get rid of two awkward phrases and an adjective that looks better than it sounds. The result would be something like this:

Rowling, whose name rhymes with bowling, looked relaxed in jeans and a sweater, shoulder-length blonde hair stylishly cut. She has wildly mixed emotions at leaving behind the character she conjured up during a 1990 train journey across England: a neglected orphan with spectacles who learns on his 11th birthday that he is a wizard.


Isaac says, "Well, Mom, your version's not as journalistic." Maybe not, but it's easier to read. He does have a point, though. I'm not a journalist. I'm just a woman with a blog.

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Friday, July 20, 2007

Selective Blindness in My Family

Amazing Avoidance of Ice Cube Making



When we had ice cube trays, I was the only one who could see that the empty ones should be refilled and put back into the freezer.

The other members of the family had a peculiar blindness to empty ice cube trays. Unless I pointed out an empty tray to them, they were unable to see it.

Nowadays we have an ice maker in the freezer. It's very easy to operate. It has a little lever. If you push the lever down, it makes ice, and if you push the lever up, it stops making ice.

Here is a curious fact. I am the only who can see that the lever should be moved in either direction. No one can see that he has just removed the last ice cubes from the bin and the ice maker should be started. Nor can they see that ice is spilling out of the bin and the ice maker should be stopped.

Amazing, but true. I can hardly believe it myself.

I know, I know. I could just let them suffer the consequences, but then I wouldn't have ice for my drinks.

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More about Mogul Wagons

Mogul Wagons and the Forbes House of Hopkinsville, KY



Mogul Wagon emblemThe Mogul Wagons emblem (at left) is included in the Founders Square mural near 9th and Main Streets in downtown Hopkinsville, KY.

I didn't know much about the history of Mogul Wagons, until a few days ago, when I received an e-mail from James T. Forbes. Dr. Forbes is a descendant of the family who manufactured the Mogul Wagon.

Mogul Wagon in Hopkinsville, KYUntil Dr. Forbes wrote to me, I did not fully understand why a Mogul wagon sits on the front porch of the former Fuqua-Hinton funeral home in Hopkinsville. Now I realize it is there because the house was built and owned for many years by the family who manufactured Mogul Wagons.

Dr. Forbes graciously agreed to allow me to publish the information he sent me about the Mogul Wagon company and the family who owned it. The following brief history is compiled from his e-mails.

I ran across the web site in which you described the Mogul Wagon sitting on the front porch of the Fuqua-Hinton funeral home. My family owned and operated the Mogul Wagon Co.

The wagon company, Mogul, was originally (starting in 1871) at 10th and Virginia St, [in Hopkinsville, KY] and moved to the beltline on Harrison between 18th and 21st in 1906.

It was destroyed by fire Dec. 28, 1925, and the parts were sold by Forbes Hardware until 1951. We used to burn the hubs in the fireplace when I was growing up -- they would probably bring a handsome sum today.

The wagons were advertised as "Easy-to-Pull, Hard-to-Break", "Strong Where the Strain Comes", and "Buy a Mogul and Will it to Your Grandson". It was but one of the family businesses which ran the spectrum from retail hardware, farm implements, groceries, jewelry, construction, etc.

They also built the house that is in the picture in 1905. My aunt, Annie L. Forbes Hancock, sold the house to the Fuquas in 1954. I visited the house many times before that and lived in it the last year before it was sold.

The house cost $50,000 to build in 1905 and was built by the brothers, James K. and M.C. Forbes. M.C. was my great grandfather and was also known in town as "Mr. Bud".

My father practiced medicine in Hopkinsville from 1953 until 1986 when he passed away. I no longer have any direct connection with Hopkinsville but I lived there from 1953 until I went away to college.

When I was growing up, I had constant reminders of the family business as they built most of the schools in Hopkinsville including the old HHS on Walnut St. and Virginia St. and West Side schools. They also built the old part of Jennie Stuart hospital.

Source: E-mails received from Dr. James T. Forbes in July 2007. Reprinted with permission.


Here are three additional bits of historic information about Mogul Wagons that I've gleaned from Google's book search

1. The following is quoted from the Handbook of Kentucky, by Hubert Vreeland, Kentucky Bureau of Agriculture, Labor, and Statistics, published in 1908: "Several manufacturing establishments [in Hopkinsville, Kentucky] have recently greatly enlarged -— Forbes & Bro., now Forbes' Manufacturing Company; lumber planing mills, extensive manufactory of Mogul wagons, employing some 250 hands... "

2. According to The Scroll of Phi Delta Theta, by Phi Delta Theta Fraternity, 1909,
James M. Forbes, '06, had been elected vice-president and manager of the Mogul Wagon Co., which had just built a $300,000 factory at Hopkinsville, Ky.

3. In America's Munitions, 1917-1918: Report of Benedict Crowell, the Assistant Secretary of War, Mr. Crowell writes of the demands that World War I made upon America's wagon makers.

The first military order for wagons exhausted the entire nation's supply of air-dried lumber. To meet the military need, wagons were constructed of kiln-dried lumber for the first time ever. The War Department contributed to the cost of building the kilns.

As the war progressed, the wagon makers were at full production. Furniture makers were called upon to help produce spare parts and automobile makers to produce wheels.

By Armistice Day (November 11, 1918), America's wagon makers had produced 110,000 wagons. The Mogul Wagon Company of Hopkinsville, KY, is included in a list of "prominent wagon companies engaged in this work."

Mogul WagonMogul Wagon on the porch
of the Forbes House, Hopkinsville, KY



Related Prairie Bluestem articles:
Mogul Wagons
Mogul Wagons Revisited

Try the "Mogul Wagons" label at end of this post.

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Railroad Bridges of St. Louis in 1920

St. Louis, a shipping and industry center of the Midwest in 1920



This description of the city of St. Louis, Missouri, is from my 1920 geography book:

The largest city on the rivers, corresponding to Chicago on the lakes, is ST. LOUIS, the fourth in size among our cities. It has a very favorable position in the center of the Mississippi Valley, on the Mississippi River near the mouths of its two largest tributaries.

The railway bridges across the Mississippi at this point have also had great influence on the growth of the city. It is an important shipping point both by water and by rail.

Like Chicago, St. Louis is one of our leading markets for grain and live stock; but being so far south, it handles Southern products also, especially cotton and tobacco.

Besides this, it is a great manufacturing center. It manufactures immense quantities of tobacco, beer, flour, clothing, iron, steel goods, and is the greatest manufacturing center of boots and shoes in the United States.

Source: World Geographies: Second Book (pp. 125-126) by Ralph S. Tarr and Frank M. McMurry. Copyrighted in 1920 and published by the MacMillan Company, New York, in 1922,


It's hard to imagine a big city like St. Louis depending on ferry boats to bring goods across the river, but that was the case until the Eads Bridge was built in the 1870s. In those days, ferry and steamboat companies fought against river bridges, fearing that their business would suffer.

In 1866 (just after the Civil War), Congress passed a law that specified minimum bridge height and span requirements to insure that river traffic would remain unobstructed by bridges. One of the bridges authorized in the act was the St. Louis Bridge that later became known as the Eads Bridge for its builder, James Eads.

Eads Bridge, completed in 1874, was the world's first steel truss bridge, a masterpiece of civil engineering. Its foundations were set on bedrock, and the length of its three spans (two are 500 feet and one is 520 feet) were unprecedented. It could carry two trains simultaneously on its lower level, and it carried vehicular and pedestrian traffic on the upper level. The Eads Bridge has been renovated and is still in use today.

The Terminal Railroad Association (TRRA) acquired ownership of the Eads Bridge shortly after it was built. For about 15 years, TRAA enjoyed a monopoly over rail traffic across the Mississippi for about 15 years. Finally, Merchants Bridge was built by a group of merchants who were tired of exorbitant freight rates. It opened in 1890.

For a few years, freight rates were more reasonable. However, following the Panic of 1893, Merchants Bridge was acquired by TRAA, and freight rates regained their former heights. In fact, freight rates were so high that ferries remained an alternative method of getting goods across the river into the 1920s. (Source.)

Merchants Bridge and its approaches were renovated in 1998 and 2005 to accommodate the heavy, tall freight of today's trains. It remains in service.

The McKinley Bridge opened in 1910. It is named for its the president of the company that built the bridge. It joined north St. Louis and Venice, Illinois. Automobile lanes were added to it during the 1930s (for the famous Route 66), but it was built as a railway bridge. It remained an important railroad crossing over the Mississippi until rail traffic decreased in the 1960s. Currently, McKinley Bridge is closed for renovation, but it is supposed to reopen for highway, bicycle, and pedestrian traffic in late 2007.

These are some of the early bridges that enabled St. Louis, Missouri, to become an major Midwestern crossroads of shipping by rail as well as by water. The ability to ship goods encouraged the growth of industry, and industry fueled the expansion of shipping. This is why the geography book's authors wrote, "The railway bridges across the Mississippi at this point have ... had great influence on the growth of the city."

Interesting links:
McKinley Bridge
Merchants Bridge
Eads Bridge
The Eads Bridge
Antique St, Louis Bridge Company stock certificate
Bridging the Ohio, Mississippi, and Missouri
Library of Congress Exhibit on Eads Bridge
St Louis Fun Facts and Trivia at about.com
Old Merchants Bridge postcard
PBS Video tour of the Eads Bridge in St. Louis

Interesting bit of trivia: The first bridge across the Mississippi at Hannibal, MO., was completed 3 years before the first bridge at St. Louis.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Sources for Color Palettes

Masterpiece color palettes



Whether it's your home, a brochure, a quilt, or a website, color is an important part of the design. It will have a tremendous influence on the final appearance.

One way to find a set of colors is to use a palette generator. Give it the URL of any Internet image, and it will produce a palette of colors. It doesn't get much simpler than that.

Color Inspiration from the Masters of Painting, a post on the Colourlovers blog suggests taking a color palette from a famous painting that you like.

The article includes some nice color combinations extracted from famous paintings by Van Gogh, Picasso, etc. (If you register, you can download the palettes, and vote for the ones you like by clicking the little hearts.)

Somehow, it sounds a little more sophisticated to say your palette is taken from a Rembrandt painting rather than produced by an Internet palette generator. And remember -- you can run the Rembrandt through the palette generator and see what colors come out.

The idea of finding a palette of colors in a painting appeals to me because
Running the Monet through the palette generator, here's what I got:



















I don't think the palette generator does the Monet justice. The colors it found are so gloomy! That painting doesn't seem gloomy to me. Here's my human selection of colors from the same painting:







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Living Off the Fat of the Land

Generous neighbors share their veggies



Let me tell you what happened last week. A neighbor lady stopped by with half-a-dozen sacks of sweet corn in the back of her truck. She insisted that I take one of them and refused to let me pay her for it. She said she'd bought it from a nearby Mennonite farmer, and he gave her a great price.

That bag had six dozen ears of corn in it. I might have frozen some of it, but our little freezer's pretty full already.

We had corn-on-the-cob for supper that night. The next day, I took a big bag of corn to Keely in Murray, along with zucchini, beans, cucumbers and other things we're getting from the garden right now. It was a good excuse to go see Keely. I figured what she couldn't eat, she could share with her starving college friends.

We ate corn on the cob for supper again, and I put the remaining ears in the refrigerator thinking that we'd be able to eat them up in a day or two easily enough.

Then someone knocked on the door. The teenaged daughter of our nearest Mennonite neighbor stood on our front step with -- guess what? -- two dozen nice ears of sweet corn for us. I thanked her as enthusiastically as I could. Really, it was nice of them to give us sweet corn. They know that I don't grow it in my garden.

We finally finished the last of the corn on the cob tonight, and it was delicious, but I'm glad it's gone.

Tomorrow, I'm going to buy a couple of home-grown, field-ripened cantaloupe and watermelons at the produce stand. I'm still enjoying the fresh garden vegetables of summer, but I'm ready for a change of flavor.

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Sunday, July 15, 2007

Sod House Construction

How sod houses were built



The following description of sod house construction is from a 1916 journal for geography teachers. It includes some interesting details about how sod houses were made.

How is a sod house constructed? Nature furnishes the material at first hand. She also deals kindly with man's handiwork. The house is put together most simply. Sometimes, as in the case of a school house, all the neighborhood families gather and build it in one day.

No framework need be erected before the sod is laid. Any tough sod convenient to the building is used, such as blue-stem grass or hay meadow grass cut from a moist, compact land, a mile or less away. Autumn is the preferred time, when the roots are tougher and thicker.

A dry time is best for laying the sod, as the building settles less. The sod is cut in blocks two feet or more in length, a foot or more wide and two to four inches thick. It is laid block upon block like brick, with the grass side down. The length of the block determines the thickness of the wall.

It can easily be seen that window and door casings will be wide when set in a wall that is several feet thick. The frames for these are of lumber,and are in place when the walls are being built up.

The roof of the early sod house was of sod, where now shingles are often used. It is able to withstand the showers. From the "draws" or "canyons" the homesteader secures the long pine and the saplings...

The ridge-pole for the roof of the "soddy" is usually the long pine. Along the middle of each side of the roof a second long pole extends parallel to the ridge-pole. Rough slabs are laid across the poles. These may be covered with tar paper or straw before the sod is laid for the roof, grass side down.

The sod may be laid double, the second layer covering the openings in the first. The pitch, or slant, of the roof is slight. And invariably the stove pipe extends through the roof. The American homesteader seems not to have made a success of roof thatching...

A well-build sod house may be occupied for ten, twenty or thirty years, with the sod roof renewed occasionally. Cool in summer and warm in winter,it furnishes secure shelter when the winds howl over the plains bearing the blinding blizzard or the grating sand. Flowers bloom in the deep window recesses the year around.

Today many a family lives in the sod house as a matter of preference. In modified form, it is likely to remain in use for some time to come in the western counties of the Great Plains, where timber is scarce and transportation poor and towns are far apart.

Source: The Journal of Geography 1915-1916, Volume XIV, June 1916, pp. 387-388. Edited by Ray Hughes Whitbeck, and published by the Post Publishing Company of Appleton, Wisconsin. Digitized by Google Books.
Related website: How to Build a Sod House
Also on Prairie Bluestem: Sod House Stigma

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Saturday, July 14, 2007

Junk In A Junker

The urge to hoard



I had to run some errands in Clarksville this morning, and I persuaded Isaac to come along for the ride. Coming home, we spotted a yard sale sign and decided to stop.

To get to the sale, we had to walk up the driveway along the house and pass through a gate to the backyard. Along the way, we walked by a weathered automobile that obviously hadn't moved from its parking place for a while. All its tires were flat.

The driver's seat was stacked high with newspapers. An old canister-style vacuum cleaner was sitting in the passenger seat. Several cardboard boxes were piled into the back seat, and they seemed to be filled with miscellaneous junk. I saw some plastic freezer containers and old Tupperware in one box.

It seemed that a yard sale was probably a step in the right direction for this household.

In an odd way, it's good to see something like that. It's a lesson about how hoarding junk can get out of hand. It's also an excuse to smugly say, "Well, at least I..." (the sentence can be finished in any number of ways.)

Friday, July 13, 2007

Two Strange Dreams and A Nightmare

Bears, boys, and postal rates



I've been dreaming a lot lately. Well, to be more precise, I've been remembering my dreams lately. That's unusual for me. I often dream vividly, but forget what it was all about as soon as I wake.

Here's a sampling of my recent dream adventures.

  • I was driving my car through the woods on a terribly crooked road. My kids and other people were with me. A large, brown, bear cub was also in the back seat. Except for his color, he looked a lot like Knut, the polar bear cub at the Berlin zoo. The cub wasn't mean, but he was biting and scratching playfully (much like our half-grown kitten.) We were taking him to the park ranger's house. Finally, we arrived. We put the bear out of the car and started to drive away, but the ranger came running out of his house. "Wait! Come back!" he shouted. "You can't just dump a bear here for free. There's a $20 fee for bears..."

  • I was at a social event of some sort. I was wearing heels, and I was walking around gracefully in them. I was surprised at how comfortable they were. Apparently, I was young, beautiful and charming, because men were standing in line to talk to me. (Yes, really.) I was enjoying myself! Then my little brother appeared and started whining. He was hungry. He was tired. He wanted to go home! I took a good look at him. That wasn't my little brother. I don't have a little brother! That was my son, Isaac...

  • I was at the UPS store with two packages to mail. I was happy because they were light in weight. I had my money in my hand and I was ready to pay. The clerk weighed them. We decided they should go by U.S. mail, not UPS. Then she and another clerk had a long hushed discussion. Finally, my clerk announced the price. "Nineteen dollars and twenty cents." "Nineteen dollars and twenty cents?" I shrieked. "Nineteen dollars and twenty cents," she said. "It's the new rates." I put away my money and got out my debit card. Then I went to my car and sat for a few moments in shocked disbelief. When would I wake up?!


Actually, the last little story above wasn't a dream plot at all. It really happened to me yesterday.

I paid $7.50 to send a little knit top in a padded envelope by standard mail to Mama Netz in Kansas City. The girl said mail was cheaper than UPS for it. And I paid $11.70 to send a backpack by standard mail to Freeport, Maine for repair. The backpack didn't weigh much. Most of its weight was the small cardboard box it was in.

The total for the two packages: $19.20.

I'm thinking about my mother-in-law's Christmas. Early in December, I've been sending her several pounds of homemade candy (made from her recipes) to share at the assisted living center. Then I've sent a second package with several gifts at Christmas.

It's hard to know what to do for her at Christmas because she doesn't want or need anything, except to be young and strong again.

This year, I need to get an estimate on how much the postage or freight will be. If it's too much, I'll have to think of a new way to do Christmas for her -- and that's a nightmare.

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Concerts -- Real and Fantasy

What concerts have you attended? What concerts would you like to attend?



We ate supper last night with Keely and Taurus (her boyfriend.) The conversation turned to concerts and music stars. Keely asked an interesting question:

If you could see anybody in concert,
whom would you choose?


She named some bands of the past that she wished she could see -- the Beatles, the Beach Boys in 1970, Guns N' Roses, and others.

I've been thinking about that. I don't follow popular music at all. But of the musicians and groups I like, who are still performing, I'd choose Asleep at the Wheel.

Some musicians of the past whom I'd like to see in concert are:



Here's a list of some people and bands whom I did see in concert (back in my younger days.)



Of this group, Linda Ronstadt was the only one that I organized a trip to see. She has a great voice, and I really liked her music (up to that point.) But at the concert, Linda sang only a couple of her past hits. She was in the process of changing from country/rock style (Linda Ronstadt's Greatest Hits Volumes I and II) to punk rock.

I was a little disappointed by that concert, but it foreshadowed Linda Ronstadt's future style -- eclectic. Through the years since then, I've enjoyed only a small number of her recordings (most notably, those with Emmylou Harris and Dolly Parton). However, I suppose she has enjoyed her musical adventures, even without me.

My husband was the organizer of the trips to see Neal Diamond. I had a great time at the concerts even though I am only a lukewarm Neil Diamond fan. (I like his music OK, but I've never bought an album.) He is a dynamic performer. If anyone ever offers you a ticket to see him, you should take it.

What concerts have you attended? What musicians or groups (from any era) do you wish you could see?

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Hopkinsville, Kentucky, in 1907

Hopkinsville, 100 years ago



The following paragraphs about Hopkinsville, Kentucky, were written 100 years ago for the Handbook of Kentucky ("The Seventeenth Biennial Report of the Bureau of Agriculture").

I've added some relevant photos from past Prairie Bluestem posts. The notes below each photo are linked to the post the photo originally came from.

It's interesting to think how advanced Hopkinsville was in 1907, when many homesteaders of the Great Plains were still proving up on the land they obtained through the 1904 Kincaid Act.

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HOPKINSVILLE
Revised 1907 by Chas. M. Meacham, Mayor


Hopkinsville, the county seat of Christian County, KY, is two hours travel by Louisville & Nashville railroad from Evansville Ind., and Nashville, Tenn., and seven hours from Louisville.

The Louisville & Nashville and Illinois Central railroads intersect here, traversing the best coal, grain and tobacco lands in western Kentucky.



The white graded schools, three buildings, have 1400 pupils; colored public schools, 1300 pupils. Two flourishing colleges, Bethel Female, for young ladies and South Kentucky, for both sexes, and other private schools and also a college for colored people. There are ten white and seven colored churches, representing the leading denominations.

Hopkinsville has one national, three State and one savings bank; capital, $380,000, deposits July 1, $1,800,000. Seven tobacco warehouses, four stemmeries and rehandling houses, branch factories of two of the largest tobacco companies in the world; wagon factory, lawn swing factory, three cigar factories, and one canning factory.



We have a handsome opera house and a brick tabernacle for large gatherings, seating 5,000 people.

Hopkinsville has water works, gas works, electric lights and an automatic alarm system, the best in the State. The waterworks for fire, by pressure, throws two streams 100 feet. We have also a wagon, two ice, brick and lime factories, large planing mill, four merchant flouring mills turning out 2000 barrels a day, a steam laundry and dye works and two telephone exchanges.



The hotels are excellent and unsurpassed anywhere in the State. We have prosperous home building and loan associations, six newspapers and the handsomest business houses in Western Kentucky.

Western Asylum for the Insane, with a population of 1,300, is located within one mile of the city and spends $150,000 annually.

A belt line railway has just been completed through the manufacturing district.



The dry goods and grocery trade amounts to $250,000 annually.

The city is famous for culture, good order and healthfulness. New manufactories are free from city taxes for five years. There are over twenty miles of excellent macadamized streets, 110 miles of free turnpikes, extending into fine farming sections, and at least eight miles of sewerage system.

Source: Handbook of Kentucky by Hubert Vreeland, Kentucky Bureau of Agriculture, Labor and Statistics. Published in 1908 by the Globe Printing Company of Louisville, KY.

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Related posts:
Mogul Wagons
More About Mogul Wagons
Signs of Days Goneby
Peace Park in Hopkinsville
Prejudice and Segregation
Also check the "Local history" tag below.

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Spotplex "Popular Articles" Widget

Wondering if the widget is worth it



I like the idea of the Spotplex "Popular Articles" widget (in the right sidebar). It's a good way to get new readers to look at some articles that aren't on the front page.

I'm not happy with how it's working. I noticed last night that most of the links to the articles are wrong!

For example, if you click on the title "How To Patch The Knees of Jeans," you'll go to the article "The Community Remembers Miss Lorene." To read "How to Patch the Knees of Jeans," you'd have to click on the title, "Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum at Nashville, TN."

I've written to Spotplex support and complained, but I'm not holding my breath on them fixing it. If they do write back, I think they'll just say that Prairie Bluestem's feed is messed up.

[UPDATE: This problem was fixed promptly when someone from Spotplex found this post through its Technorati tag. I'm impressed about that.]

I also don't understand how the list is compiled. It seems to ignore older posts that are requested just as often from search engines. I wonder if it compiles statistics only for posts that are still in the site feed.

[UPDATE: The Spotplex representative explained this in the comments.]

I think the widget has greatly slowed the loading of the page.

I'm thinking about removing it, especially if it doesn't start showing correct links! I'll give it a few more days -- but it's definitely on probation, so it had better shape up and fly right.

[UPDATE: I'm keeping the widget for now while I evaluate whether anyone seem to be clicking the links.]

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Monday, July 09, 2007

No Phone, No Internet

A major phone cable has been cut in our area. I'm at the library with Isaac, using the computer while he gets some books. I won't be posting again until we have telephone service. The phone company says it might be Wednesday before they get the cable repaired. So, TTFN ("Ta Ta For Now",) as Tigger used to say. At least I think it was Tigger.

UPDATE:
When we came home this evening, the telephone lines were working again. I'm glad it didn't take until Wednesday after all.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Great Quote About The Family

The family as defined by Erma Bombeck



I borrowed this quote from Favorite Apron.


The family. We were a strange little band of characters trudging through life sharing diseases and toothpaste, coveting one another's desserts, hiding shampoo, borrowing money, locking each other out of our rooms, inflicting pain and kissing to heal it in the same instant, loving, laughing, defending, and trying to figure out the common thread that bound us all together.

~Erma Bombeck.


Erma Bombeck had a wonderful gift for writing humor with so much underlying truth that it made you wonder whether to laugh or cry.

Thanks for the quote, Favorite Apron. I enjoyed the photos of your cows and chickens also. I tried to leave a comment, but I kept getting a Blogger error message.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Sod House Stigma

Little sod houses on the prairie



It was hard work to build a sod house. Ripping up an acre or more of sod, cutting it into large building-block chunks, and stacking it to form walls was dirty, back-breaking labor.

Then a ridgepole was laid across the top and a wooden framework was built to support the roof -- a sod roof if the builder couldn't afford lumber.

Sod roofs often leaked, and sod houses tended to be dark and dirty. It's easy to imagine why a frame house was preferred.

Sometimes the walls were plastered or stuccoed, inside and out, if suitable materials could be found. This made the house more durable, brightened the interior, helped keep out insects, and decreased the dustiness. Interior walls were often covered with newspaper, if it wasn't possible to plaster them.

A sod house in the family tree



My father was born in a sod house in Brown County, Nebraska. I didn't learn this until I was in my early 40's.

When Daddy passed away a few years later, I helped write a eulogy. I suggested that we mention his birth in a sod house. To my surprise, my mother said she didn't know if my father would want that included. She relented when I said that descendents of the family would like to know that interesting fact.

I think my parents felt that sod houses were lower-class dwellings. By the time they were born in 1923, I suppose that many of the sod houses the homesteaders built had been replaced with frame buildings. Only poor folks lived in sod houses -- like my father's young parents who were struggling to get a start.

Who knows? Maybe the kids at school teased my dad about being born in a soddy.

I don't know when my grandparents became owners of land adjoining Moon Lake (south of Johnstown, NE), but that was the setting of all the stories I know of my father's childhood. The ranch had a two-story frame house that burned to the ground when my father was 12 or so. Fortunately, they had insurance and they were able to rebuild.

A South Dakota soddy



A few sod houses were still being built when my parents were children (the 1920s and 1930s). In a book of South Dakota homesteader history, the following account is given:

Mr. and Mrs. Jesse Tuttle and family came to Mellette County from Tripp County in 1929. Upon arrival they lived for two years on what was known as the Ivan Nelson ranch, just two miles from where the Tuttles live now. Later they moved onto their own place and lived in a schoolhouse while Mr. Tuttle built a sod house.

He said it was difficult to find good sod in this territory [northwest of Valentine, Nebraska] as it washed so easily one could hardly hold a house together. Mr. Tuttle is rather an expert at building sod houses.

In 1932 the family moved into their new dwelling. It was a comfortable sixteen by thirty-six inside and the walls were two feet thick. Mrs. Tuttle recalls that they kept the house warm the first winter with just a kitchen range.

Source: Mellette County: 1911-1961 published August 15, 1961 by the Mellette County Centennial Committee, White River, South Dakota

I grew up in the 1950s and 1960s. I don't remember any ruins of sod houses, though there surely had been some in that area at one time. I do remember hearing that one of our neighbors (south of Bassett, Nebraska,) had a sod house enclosed within their frame house.

Here in Kentucky, when a log house has been enclosed within a frame house, they call it a "log room." You could say our Nebraska neighbors had a "sod room."

Related websites:
Nebraska Studies: Building a Sod House
Sod House Photograph Collection

Related Prairie Bluestem article:
Sod House Construction

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A Rainy Week in Christian County, KY

Above average rainfall last week eases drought conditions



Approaching rain cloudJust before the rain


We've had a week of above-average rainfall, and it's looking a bit greener here. The rain cloud in the above photo bypassed our part of the county, but we had various other showers. We didn't have any big rains, but it was enough that we are back in moderate drought rather than severe drought. The ground is still hard as a rock, but the fields and pastures look greener.

Our Mennonite neighbor's cornfield west of our house and his nearby beanfield looks the best of any crops around. Willis, who studies the weather avidly, says that we've had several showers right here that other parts of the county didn't get. That very fact shows what an odd year this is. Usually, our little area stays dry while it rains all around us.

An hour ago, I watched a beautiful pink sunset over the cornfield. The aroma of corn silk and tassels was thick in the air. It's one of those hot, humid Kentucky evenings when you should drive down a country road with your windows open, and smell the vegetation, and listen to the tree frogs singing.

Related post: Too Dry in Kentucky

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Friday, July 06, 2007

Rockin' Girl Blogger ElisaRae

Girl Blogger Award





Much to my surprise, I was declared a "Rockin' Girl Blogger" a few days ago by Mrs. Mom. With this post, I'm passing on the award to very deserving blogger -- and yes, of course she's a girl. The blogger is:

ElisaRae of ElisaRae's World

ElisaRae has been blogging for over a year now. She has a refreshing point of view and she takes good photographs. (Of course, she does have a great photography teacher -- her dad, Rich Legg.)

ElisaRae roller skates, rappels and rock-climbs. So you see, she really is a rockin' girl!

ElisaRae, I think the rules are that you can pass this award to as many as five girl bloggers. Also, if you want, you can display the "Rockin' Girl Blogger" award on your website.

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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.