Friday, May 30, 2008

Tornado Damage in Spivey, KS

A little too close to home

Tornado damage

Earlier this week, my sister-in-law sent this photo, with the quip "A new look for my office." A recent storm -- probably a tornado -- damaged one of the buildings of the oilfield supply company where she works in Spivey, Kansas.

Spivey is a wide spot on Highway 42, about 45 miles southwest of Wichita. My brother and sister-in-law live about five miles from there.

Kathy wrote that the grade school roof was also damaged. Parts of it blew into an old house across the street and broke out windows. She said that the path of damage suggests a tornado touchdown.

The damage to the Jayhawk building, etc., occurred later on the same night that a tornado threw a car off the road near Cunningham, KS, just 20 miles or so northwest of Spivey. The young couple in the car was killed. That tornado was "¾ of a mile wide, stayed on the ground for 48 minutes and traveled 21 miles," according to Channel 12 Eyewitness News (link above.)

The night before, another storm took off the entire roof of the old high school building in Spivey, which had been used as a truck stop until a few years ago. Kathy wrote that the roof landed in the highway and against a light pole.

Dwight and Kathy have a good storm shelter, and I hope they are using it when these wild storms are hitting so close to home!

Related post:
Close Call With a Tornado

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Someone's Shopping List

Just a bit of harmless rubbernecking

The purpose of a shopping list, in my case, is to remind me of what I need because my mind may go blank when I enter the store. Overwhelmed by all the merchandise, I'm likely to forget what I came to buy.

Generally I need just a word or two for each item, and often the words are abbreviated. For example I might write "deod." (which stands for "deodorant") or "pdr. sugar" (which means "powdered sugar.")

I found a list in my shopping basket this week that used a much different style. The author wrote the list in progressively longer phrases. The only thing abbreviated was "SF" which probably meant "Sugar Free. Here it is:

picture frames!
2- 8x10
1- 10x10 or 17 (Dad's Navy pic)
SF - Fudgsicles
SF - angel food cake
SF - Strawberry glaze

pick up green rug for around commode!
Other rug 31" X 52"

get pants for Mom for Martha (green or pink)
Maybe large top for me (petite large)

Sally's Beauty Supply
Get 2 New Image Instant Freeze
Probably get 1 New Image Super Hold, depending.

This list was lost at WalMart -- the top stop on the page. I hope the writer remembered all she needed at the rest of her stops.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Birdies in the Treetops (and Elsewhere)

Random bird stories

When I was working in the garden yesterday afternoon, I noticed how quiet it was. The only sound was the birds, singing all around the yard. This, I told myself, is why we live in the country.


The blackbirds must have a nest in the tall grass and bushes along the back fence. Two of them had a fit about Casper, our cat, who was lounging around the garden. They broadcast their warning so well that even I, a human, heard and understood. Casper is such a twerp that I was ready to laugh if they dive-bombed him. If they had been mockingbirds, they would have, but since they were blackbirds, they just "chirred" from the tree above him.

Mystery bird

A bird has been trying to fly into the windows of the house for days now. It just doesn't give up. It approaches the windows again and again and tries to find a way inside.

Yesterday, I had my car by the garden to unload some stuff, and the little bird wanted to get inside my car. It flew up to the windows repeatedly and fluttered around. I tried to get its picture, but it wouldn't let me get very close. Here it is, sitting on the side view mirror.

It has a reddish breast and a brown back. It's not nearly large enough to be a robin, unless it's a juvenile. Also, its back is not gray like a robin. I've looked through the bird books for an hour and I still can't decide what it is. I think it may be a female since they're often more drab.


A wren has nested in the wren house that hangs on the trellis where the grapevine grows. I really must move that house next year. It's along the sidewalk, and the poor little wren thinks she has to fly off her nest every time someone goes by. Some days she isn't bothered much, but when we're all home and working around the house and yard, the little wren has a very bad day.


The hummingbirds let me know this spring that I needed to set up their feeders. One evening, I looked outside to see a hummingbird flying around the shepherd's hook where the feeders had been last year. It was obvious that he expected to find food there, so I quickly brewed some syrup, cooled it down, and filled the feeders. They hadn't been in place five minutes before the little hummingbird found them.

Birdies in the Treetops

"Birdies in the treetops" is a phrase from a little song we sang in Sunday School, many years ago. The rest of it goes like this:

The birdies in the treetops sing their song;
The angels chant their chorus all day long;

The flowers in the garden blend their hue;

So why shouldn't I, why shouldn't you, praise Him too?

(Author unknown)

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Black Homesteaders At Ewing, NE

Monument to be dedicated

Marathon Pundit
sent me a news article tonight that he thought I might enjoy. The article, originally published in the Omaha World Herald, was about black homesteaders who settled near Ewing, Nebraska.

World Herald writer Paul Hammel relates how an IRS agent, Dennis Vossberg of Plainview, NE, learned of the black settlers and became so interested in their history that he finally wrote a book.

After the book was published, readers began donating money for a monument in honor of the black homesteaders of Bliss, Nebraska. The monument has been placed in a small country cemetery west of Ewing, where about 20 of the settlers are buried in unmarked graves.

Bliss, Nebraska, named after its postmaster, was a small town located near Goose Lake in southeast Holt County, near the Wheeler county line. The black homesteaders at Bliss were freed slaves.

It's believed that the black settlers arrived in the early 1880s. They were misled by dishonest land agents who told them that the land around Goose Lake had veins of coal. The land that they settled on was difficult to farm. Depending on the weather, it was a wet marshland, a dry sandy wasteland, or anything between. The last black settlers at Bliss left around 1918.

During the terrible dust storms of the 1930s, the wind blew out a small black cemetery at Bliss, exposing caskets and bones. Three local ranchers moved the remains with horse-drawn wagons to Valley View Cemetery, southwest of Ewing, and reburied them. Valley View Cemetery already contained about ten unmarked graves of black homesteaders.

The identities of some graves are known, but others are unknown. The monument, to be dedicated on Memorial Day, lists family names of the black homesteaders of Bliss.

Many thanks to John, aka Marathon Pundit, for sharing this very interesting article.

Source: Nebraska's Black Homesteaders: Forgotten graves mystery no more

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Play a Word Game To Donate Rice

Help the UN World Food Program

Visit the above link to increase your word power and help feed the world's hungry. For each correct answer you give, 20 grains of rice are donated to the UN World Food Program by a sponsor. Visit the options page to customize the game to your liking.

I have a hard time quitting this little word game, once I start to play. I hope you'll give it a try.

Friday, May 23, 2008

1966 Chevrolet Impala SS Convertible

'66 Chevy Impala Super Sport

1966 Impala Convertible

After I got off work this evening, I went to Godfather's Pizza to eat with Keely, Taurus, and Annie (Keely's friend.) As we were standing in front of the restaurant later, a very well-kept (or nicely restored) Chevy Impala convertible pulled in. Two men and two children got out. They looked like a grandfather, a dad, and two grandkids. I asked the guys if I could take some photos of their car. They seemed pleased.

1966 Impala Convertible
All the boys wanted a cool car like this when I was in high school. I suspect that a lot of guys my age still would like to have this car! (Just a hunch.)

1966 Impala Convertible1966 Impala Convertible

Taurus mentioned that this Impala is somewhat unusual because it is a two-door. "Quick, Taurus," Keely said. "What year is it?" "'65 or '66," he answered. He was right. After checking some photos online, I decided that it is not a '65 but it definitely looks like a '66.

1966 Impala Convertible1966 Impala Convertible

1966 Impala Convertible

Related: Chevrolet Impala article on Wikipedia

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Poll Worker's Day

Working the election

Dennis and I were poll workers in Kentucky's primary election on Tuesday.

As judges, one of our responsibilities was to provide the voters with the correct ballots and to tell them how to record the ballots on the machines. It was a primary election, so the Republicans had a different ballot than the Democrats.

One of our machines the E-Slate, has been used for several elections now. It is designed to make voting easier for disabled people. A wheelchair can roll right up to the screen and controls. The buttons and dials are large, and there are earphones. The words on the screen are in a large font.

The other machine, the E-Scan, is a new machine that we used for the first time. Many of the voters were apprehensive when told they'd be using a new machine. However, many remarked afterward that voting had been quick and easy.

We gave each E-Scan voter a paper ballot and explained how to mark it. The voter took the ballot to a privacy booth, marked it, and signed his name on a stub at the bottom of the ballot. Next, the voter brought the ballot to the E-Scan machine. He tore off the stub with his signature and put it into a slot in the side of the E-Scan. Then he fed the ballot into the scanner.

The E-Scan refused to accept a couple of ballots. In both cases, there were marks in too many boxes. One man had made a mistake and partially blackened an extra box. The other fellow told us that he did not realize he could only vote for one in each race. He had voted for several.

We couldn't look at their ballots to figure out the problem -- that would have been illegal. Rather, we made suggestions, based on the error message. The spoiled ballots were put into the slot in the side of the machine, and the voters received fresh ballots to try again.

Our precinct's voting place is a country church basement. The church members are having supper and a revival meeting every night this week. There were lots of leftovers in the refrigerators, and they urged us to help ourselves. We did try their banana pudding and Strawberry Delight. The Strawberry Delight was wonderful -- I must get that recipe! (This sounds like it.)

Election results returned to the courthouseAfter we locked the doors at 6 p.m., we closed the machines and printed the tallies. Then the machines were taken down and secured. That completed the day for the other election workers, but the judges (Dennis and I) had to take the election returns to the courthouse.

At the courthouse, we waited in line to have our suitcase checked. The girls from the county clerk office checked each ease for the control unit for the E-Slate, the voter register, the clerk's and sheriff's records, leftover ballots, and the envelopes that contained the vote tallies. It was a rather nervous moment when they opened our suitcase, and we were relieved when we had checked out OK.

It was a long day (5:15 a.m. when we left the house and 7:45 p.m. when we got home.) We got to see a lot of our neighbors though, and we helped them vote, so it was a day well-spent.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Bill Clinton Visits Hopkinsville

Sort of a non-event

Former President Bill Clinton, Wikipedia image

Stuff that happened on Friday:

  • Little River Days started in downtown Hopkinsville.
  • Our cats left a dead mouse on the porch steps for us.
  • Keely went back to Murray for the weekend.
  • I saw a very large bat flying around a street light at the grocery store.
  • Bill Clinton made an appearance at Hopkinsville's Convention Center.

Yes, former President Bill Clinton was in our little town on Friday, campaigning for Hillary. We were on the tail end of Bill's swing through western Kentucky; he had already been to Owensboro, Madisonville, Paducah, and Murray, earlier in the day. His Hopkinsville stop was titled "Solutions for America" and it took place at 7:30 p.m. at the Bruce Convention Center.

I was mildly curious about him coming to town. I took a little poll of my customers at work: "Are you going out to see Bill Clinton this evening?" Not one person said "Yes." A few seized the opportunity to make insulting remarks. Others expressed regret but said their schedules didn't allow them to attend. One lady said she would be at home, but President Clinton was welcome to stop by if he wanted.

I had thought about going to see him myself, simply for the experience. (I am not a Hillary supporter). But after working all day, I decided to get groceries and go home instead. I was too tired to fight a traffic jam, stand in line for an hour, and then spend several more hours tightly packed into a hot room full of noisy Hillary fans.

I imagined a traffic jam, long lines, and a big crowd because of a 1992 event, when George H.W. Bush was running with Dan Quayle. A few weeks before the November election, Quayle made a quick campaign stop at the Hopkinsville High School gymnasium. A fellow at church was handing out tickets for the rally so I decided to go. I thought it would be a good civics lesson for Keely (age 6).

After we finally got through the traffic jam, we sat on backless bleacher seats for a couple of hours before Quayle finally appeared. The gym was so hot and crowded that Keely began to feel sick and dizzy. We had to go outside and get some fresh air.

When Candidate Quayle arrived at last, we were all very glad to see him. He thought we were excited about him. I suppose we were, but we were also happy that the event would conclude immediately after his appearance.

That is what I imagined that the Clinton rally would be like, and I was not willing to go through that for Bill Clinton. However, it wouldn't have been such an ordeal, after all. Only about 300 people showed up for the Clinton event. The room was only half full. It's reported that there was even ample parking room.

Despite the light turnout at the Hopkinsville rally, local Democrat Senator Joey Pendleton predicts that Hillary Clinton will win Tuesday's Democratic primary in Christian County and in Kentucky.

UPDATE: Michelle Obama will be in Hopkinsville on Monday, campaigning for her husband. Her event is for military wives, by invitation only.

Local reactions to the Clinton visit:
Hoptown Hall thread
Kentucky New Era story and comments (When this story moves to the KNE archives, it will probably require a subscription, but it should be free for a few days yet.)

Friday, May 16, 2008

Comic Book Memories

Smokey Stover, Little Lulu, and others

Collage Mama recently posted a link for Smokey Stover's website. I remember him from the color funnies in the newspaper when I was quite young. The website says that Smokey's creator, cartoonist Bill Holman, retired in 1973, but I think his strip was dropped years before that by the Omaha World Herald.

The website says that Smokey Stover's adventures were also published in "hundreds of thousands of 10 cent 'Big Little Books.'” I'm sure that's true, but I don't remember them. That may be because my favorite comic book characters were Little Lulu, Nancy, Little Iodine, and Casper the Friendly Ghost.

One time, my dad bribed me with comic books. We were going to Gordon, Nebraska, to visit Grandma Barb, and Daddy wanted to go in the El Camino so he could pick up something in Valentine on the way home. The problem was that there wasn't enough room for him, Mama, and three kids.

The back of the El Camino's seat flipped forward, and there was quite a large compartment behind it. That's where I rode, all the way to Gordon (180 miles) and all the way back home again the next day. I got four new 25¢ comic books as payment.

With my pillow, my comic books, and my library books, I was quite comfortable. I don't remember being either claustrophobic or carsick.

I suppose Dwight sat in the middle and Charlotte sat on Mama's lap. Back then, vehicles didn't have seat belts and proper infant seats hadn't yet been invented. I was probably in the safest place of any of us.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Compare Local Gas Prices

If you're worried about gas prices (and who isn't?!) this link will help you out.

Enter a zip code and it tells you the gasoline prices at various stations in that town and gives you a map to find them.

Gasoline prices for 42240 (Hopkinsville, KY) range from $3.59 to $3.79 tonight. In other words, $20 buys, at best, about 5-1/2 gallons.

This link was posted on the Hoptown Hall Forums tonight by Yojohn.

Blizzards of the Plains

Buffalo Bill's description of a genuine blizzard

Photo of Buffalo BillIn Buffalo Bill's book, True Tales of the Plains, he writes vividly of blizzards on the American plains. I'm not sure whether Buffalo Bill (William Frederick Cody, 1846-1917) wrote these words himself or if someone ghostwrote them, but it doesn't really matter. The passage is quoted below. As editor, I've divided the long paragraphs, left out a couple of sentences, and added some headings to make it easier to read.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

I have had many experiences with genuine blizzards — a combination of snow-storm, cyclone and tornado — that sweeps from the Arctics down the American plains, even to the Rio Grande, in which neighborhood it receives the appropriate cognomen, the Norther...

Characteristics of a blizzard

A blizzard occurs at a time of winter when several previous snow-storms have left the earth covered with deep snow, when the new storm, driven with cyclonic force, is not only in the air, but the deeply bedded covering is agitated into mingling with cutting force, thus making the heavens and the earth both contribute to the conditions that inspire such confusion and terror.

The force of the wind, blowing at the rate of from fifty to eighty miles an hour, breaks up the snowflakes into an almost infinitesimal fineness, and this is driven through space at incredible speed, looking almost like a solid mass. So thick does it become, that no object can be seen half a dozen feet away, and, at the same time, the noise made by the rushing winds prevents the voice of the strongest-lunged being heard beyond half a score of steps.

This fine snow blown in the face succeeds in a very few moments in blinding the one caught in it, and he is only able to struggle forward, impotent to aid himself, except by locomotion, until either guided by instinct or accident he stumbles into safety, or goes down in utter physical exhaustion to despair, sleep and, perhaps, eternal oblivion.

How blizzards strike

These storms "sneak up" on the world as though they were some sort of Nemesis, following only to destroy. The morning before a blizzard is generally of the bright kind that inspires one to get about and be doing something. Farmers start for the towns to do their trading, ranchmen and shepherds ride out long distances to visit their corrals or sheepfolds. Later in the day, light clouds gather and obscure the sun, while a gentle fall of snow warrants no fear for the moment.

But gradually the clouds grow blacker, the storm increases rapidly, and before shelter can be reached the blizzard is on with all its fierceness and destructiveness to life and property. The temperature grows colder, and 20 to 50 degrees below zero is often recorded...

Why they're called blizzards

Singular to relate, the word "blizzard," though familiarized as an application to these peculiar storms in the West, must have been brought there by some ancient mariner or ex-man-of-war's-man, who recognized its descriptive availability when the old sea-dog struck this Arctic cyclone. The word "blizzard" was originally used as a sailor's substitute for broadside, to define the difference from a simultaneous broadside fire, to designate a continuous rain or hail in firing from the ship. It was about the year 1806 when it was first used as a descriptive term to apply to the fierce storms of our West and Northwest.

No other country or other place seems to be able to get up such a conflict in nature as to cause her to show her power in this chilling manner. About the best method of describing one of these atmospherical disturbances is to say that it is a snow-storm exaggerated some ten-thousand-fold.

- - - - - - - - - -
Quoted from pages 87-89 of True Tales of the Plains, by Buffalo Bill (1846-1917). This book was published in 1908 by the Cupples & Leon Company of New York. The photograph of Buffalo Bill is from Wikipedia.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Adventures in Blogging

I apologize if you visited the blog today and it didn't display correctly, or if you are seeing some duplicate posts in your blog reader or in your e-mail updates. I had made a change in Feedburner (through which the blog is published) and it was apparently preventing the blog from loading right. When I went to Feedburner and unclicked the box I had checked, the blog mended itself. That sounds simple, doesn't it? However, I had forgotten about the Feedburner change, so I drove myself crazy for a while, trying to figure out what could possibly be wrong.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Tennessee Renaissance Festival, 2008

A day at Tenn-Ren

The kids and I went to the Tennessee Renaissance Festival on Sunday (Mother's Day.) It was a damp, dark day with temperatures in the high 50s and a very strong wind.

I spent most of my free time last week sewing costumes for this event. I made a new dress for myself and a monk's robe for Dennis (who later decided not to go.) Keely did a lot of sewing over the last month, too. She made her outfit and the kilt that Taurus wore, as well as several outfits for friends who are going to the Ren Fest on another weekend.

It was so chilly on Sunday that I was glad for my double layer of long skirts, and I wished I had brought my cloak as well! Due to the weather, the festival was not at all crowded. The merchants probably weren't happy about it, but it was nice to have no line at the lunch counter.

I recently learned that someone who dresses for Renaissance fairs is called a "playtron" (rhymes with "patron.") Here's the definition from the Double-Tongued Dictionary

n. an observer or vistor at a Renaissance fair or festival who wears a costume suited for the time period.

At Tenn-Ren, many of the playtrons dress in fantasy costumes or add fantasy elements to their Renaissance costumes. I always enjoy seeing what everyone is wearing. Here are some of the photos I took.

Taurus, helping Keely straighten out her laces
The front gate of the Fair
The wood pixies (I'll bet they were cold!)

Renaissance garb for sale
This lady was an older, but avid playtron.
Some wear their "mundane" clothing. (In SCA speak, "mundane" means "modern.")

A lady merchant who surely was shivering!
Looney Lucy, one of the Tenn-Ren professionals
Coats of arms and foam swords

Glass-working with a hot torch
A belt I admired
More garb for sale

Isaac bought a "man-in-the-moon" necklace here.
More whimsies inside -- magical mushrooms
The rag lady --another Tenn-Ren pro

Fantasy costumes are common at Tenn-Ren.
Isaac enjoyed the monk robe that I sewed for Dennis
Members of the court

The Queen of the Faire visiting the market
A troubadour serenades a lady and her husband.
A beautiful little yellow fairy

Watching this dancer spin in circles nearly made me dizzy.
The apprentice belly dancer cracked everyone up.
The final impassioned sashay of the apprentice

A falconer poses with fairgoers (as Keely and Taurus approach)
The court bows as the queen enters.
A game of human chess
The big, bad wolf
and his tail

Related Prairie Bluestem posts:
Tennessee Renaissance Festival 2007
Tennessee Renaissance Festival

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Horse-drawn Hay Rake

Raking hay with horses

Photo by Howard W. Marshall, 1978, at Paradise Valley, Nevada
From the Library of Congress "Buckaroos in Paradise" collection

Old horse-drawn machinery, lined up along a fence, was a familiar sight when I was growing up in the 1950s and 1960s . Most farmers and ranchers had a few relics of horse-powered equipment, like this hay rake, that were quietly rusting away.

Rakes like the one above were used in hay-making. Step 1 in the hayfield was mowing the hay and letting it dry in the sun. Step 2 -- gathering the dry hay into a windrow -- was accomplished with the hay rake. Step 3 was gathering the windrows and either making a haystack or hauling the hay to a barn.

The hay rake was pulled by one or two horses, across the mowed, dry hay, with the long, semi-circular teeth lowered to the ground. When the rake was full of hay, the teeth were raised and a windrow of hay was dumped. Then the teeth were lowered again, and the rake continued across the field, until it was full enough to dump again.

The next time the rake came across the field, its rider dumped the hay each time he came by a windrow from his first trip. In this way, the windrows were made longer and longer, until finally, all the hay was raked into long lines that stretched across the hayfield.

The man on the rake lifted the teeth with a lever. Some strength was required to operate it. He also had to be attentive in order to dump the hay exactly at the end of the windrow.

This rake looks like it might be 10 feet wide. What a radical change the tractor made in the hayfield! With tractor power, dump rakes doubled and tripled in length, greatly reducing the time required to rake a field of hay.

Related posts:
The Hayfield
Caring for Our Own

Interesting websites:
Hay in Art
Hay Time
Horse-powered Haying, 1880-1940s

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

1952 South Dakota Blizzard Story

Historic snowstorms, survival, and death

I've heard many stories about the bad winter of 1948-1949 in Nebraska, when some snowdrifts reached second story windows and shed rooftops. My parents told of being snowed in for weeks at a time.

However, I am not at all familiar with the Blizzard of 1952 in South Dakota. The South Dakota Office of Emergency Management (OEM) compares that weather event to the infamous Schoolchildren's Blizzard of 1888:

Jan 1952 Blizzard -- This blizzard had many similarities to the one of 1888. The temperature dropped from 40°F to -8°F in a short period of time. The wet, driving snow clung to everything. Cattle were blinded and suffocated as snow covered their mouths and noses. Young country school children lost their way home and died of hypothermia. A few ranchers died when they tried to gather their livestock. Snow piled up to a point that people could walk along tops of REA power lines. In some isolated areas, people were snowed in for 4 months off and on throughout the winter. Planes were used to deliver mail, groceries, fuel, and feed for livestock. Snowtrack vehicles were used to transport doctors to isolated farm areas.

Source: South Dakota OEM Listing of Past Natural Hazards, Occurrences, and Disasters

We were living south of Johnstown, Nebraska, in Brown County in 1952, just 30 miles or so from the Nebraska and South Dakota state line. Surely, we had a significant snowstorm, but I've never heard any stories about it.

Just north of us in south central South Dakota, the blizzard was so intense that Mrs. Walter Hellmann wrote a little book about it: Blizzard Strikes the Rosebud, 1952, Winter of Disaster. The book is said to contain many photographs of the massive snowdrifts as well as the stories of the area residents.

An excerpt from Mrs. Hellman's book has been reprinted on a Longcor family history webpage. (Scroll down to "Ducks for Company in a Grain Bin", slightly past half-way down the page.)

The excerpt is the story of Clarence Longcor, who left home to purchase supplies at noon and was trapped on the road by the storm. He was unable to return home or to go forward, so he finally decided to follow the fences to a neighbor's house. He didn't find the house, but he came to a grain bin where he spent a very cold night with some ducks, afraid to sleep because he might freeze to death. This happened in the Millboro, South Dakota, area, just north of the Nebraska state line, northwest of Springview, Nebraska, and southwest of Colome, South Dakota.

When reading storm stories like this, one should remember that weather forecasts were not nearly as accurate 60 years ago as they are today.

"Young country school children lost their way home and died of hypothermia," the South Dakota OEM says in the storm description above. It's very sad that school children lost their lives trying to get home in a 1952 blizzard. I can't find any additional information about it, but surely the South Dakota OEM is a reputable source.

In northern Nebraska in the 1950s and 1960s, our teachers always had us bring cans of soup to keep at our country school. We were ready to wait out a blizzard at the schoolhouse if we had to do so. I didn't realize that this emergency preparedness was probably in response to the 1952 tragedy of South Dakota school children as well as the terrible loss of life in the Schoolchildren's Blizzard of 1888.

Related post: Blizzard of 1949 Stories

Tuesday, May 06, 2008


A little orphan deer has adopted a Great Dane for its parent. Isaac and I agreed that it reminds us of the little orphan hippo who adopted a huge tortoise. More photos of the hippo and tortoise appear in the e-book, Owen and Mzee (a pdf file, about 1.4 MB.)

Saturday, May 03, 2008

The Latham Cottages

Historic Hopkinsville homes

Historic homes

Originally, there were three Latham Cottages on Campbell Street in Hopkinsville. One cottage was torn down in the early 1960s to make room for a gas station that was moved in from another location.

The cottages were built by Mr. John C. Latham, Jr., as Hopkinsville's first rental houses in 1889. They're particularly noteworthy because they were the first houses in Hopkinsville with central heat, running water, and electric lights.

Virginia Park is directly across the street from the cottages. I was standing in Virginia Park when I took this picture. Mr. John C. Latham, Sr., once lived in a large, beautiful home on the site of Virginia Park. After he died, the house was moved to another location and the property was donated as a park to the city of Hopkinsville.

I read somewhere that Mr. Latham, Sr., didn't like to look at the freight depot and railroad tracks when he sat on the large veranda that encircled his house. When Mr. Latham, Jr., built the Latham Cottages, they blocked the unpleasant view.

The cottages were sadly dilapidated when we first moved to Hopkinsville, but recently, both have had new roofs and exterior maintenance. They look very nice now.

It's Not Butter

Pass the spread, please.

In our family, we have real butter for a few special occasions during the year. The rest of the year, we misapply the word "butter" to any butter substitute. We say "Please pass the butter," when there hasn't been butter in the house for months. What we really mean is, "Please pass the spread."

We like the word "butter" a bit better than "spread." I think most people do.

I've never seen a butter advertisement that claimed it tasted just like spread. However, lots of spreads claim to taste like butter. It's clear which word has a desirable connotation.

(If you wondered where this post is going, we have now arrived.)

Have you ever noticed this? With no added letters and only a slight punctuation change, the spread named "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter!" would be named "I Can't Believe It! Snot Butter!"

Snot butter provided material for kitchen table jokes at our house for years. A few days ago, I asked Keely to get the butter out of the refrigerator. When she found a tub of "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter," she made a scornful remark about "what you call butter."

I figured she was testing me to see if I still remembered, so I replied, "That's not butter; that's snot butter!"

She seemed oddly pleased.

By the way, a Google search reveals that quite a few people have read the words "Snot Butter" on the tub of spread!

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Old Pump Organ

Thrift shop treasure

This lovely old pump organ is currently for sale at the Goodwill in Hopkinsville for just $600. It made me think of Miss Wilma Jean Mengers, who had a similar pump organ in her home when I was a child. She even let me play it once, which was very kind of her.

Old organ


Heart Attack Warning Signs for Women

Recognize the symptoms.

Symptoms many women experience when a heart attack is occurring
- Chest discomfort may be mild to severe
- Pressure, squeezing, tightness, or fullness in the chest
- Pain in the arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach
- Nausea or vomiting
- Difficulty breathing
- Weakness
- Unusual fatigue
- Cold sweat
- Dizziness

Symptoms many women experience up to a month before a heart attack
- Unusual tiredness
- Sleep problems
- Shortness of breath
- Indigestion
- Anxiety or uneasiness

"Women's Heart Attack Symptoms," published in Healthy Outlook, Spring 2008. Copyright 2008 by Aetna, Inc.
"Heart Attack, Stroke and Cardiac Arrest Warning Signs," on the American Heart Association website

Related Prairie Bluestem post:
Close Call with a Heart Attack
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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.