Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Ice Storm Came

This is Keely. I'm writing on my mother's behalf, because they are without power and probably will be for some time to come. I live in town and we still don't have power yet, as of Wednesday morning. Mom and the family are okay. They have wood heat, so they've been bored, but plenty warm. She says that they've lost a lot of branches and limbs out of the trees. It's like 1994 all over again.

According to the Kentucky New Era, around 7500 homes lost power out in the county, and about 1500 homes lost power in town. The news said it may be up to a week before power is restored to everyone. Since they live out in the middle of nowhere, it may be about a week before you hear from Mom again.

There's a Red Cross shelter at one of the churches, for people that are without heat due to the power loss. I'm sure they've gotten a lot of takers. I think there is at least one other one, but I'm not sure where. Also, apparently most of the hotels in town have been full since Tuesday when this all started.

Monday night, it rained and sleeted until about a half inch of ice covered everything early Tuesday morning. Most of the people that I've talked to said that they lost power around 4:00 AM on Tuesday. Tuesday it rained all day. It was only barely above freezing, so some of it stuck onto the pre-existing ice. It continued raining into Tuesday night and then it changed over to snow at about 6:00 Wednesday morning. Many of the people who had already had their power restored on Tuesday lost it again, as well as a lot of other people who had previously had power.

Over all, the Hopkinsville area got about a half inch to an inch of ice, and a couple inches of snow. I don't guess that sounds like much to most of the rest of the world, but here it's been a pretty big deal. There are branches and limbs down everywhere you look, and more than a few trees. I lost one in my back yard. Luckily it missed the house and the power lines. Our neighbors also lost one. It missed their house, but it's all tangled up in the power lines.

Yesterday, when I talked to Mom, she said that there was a tree down across the driveway. The neighbor was trying to push it out of the way, but he decided not to when he heard the rest of the trees creaking and groaning like they may follow it down. She's supposed to work today, so I assume that the tree has been moved.

I hope to get our power back on today. We have gas heat, but it's governed by an electric thermostat. No power, no heat. It was pretty chilly in the house last night, but I didn't want to leave the cats. I think I slept with about six blankets on. It's not so bad as long as you're in bed.

I hope everyone else out there is staying safe and warm. Mom should be back to her regularly scheduled blogging soon. I'll let you know if there are any developments in the mean time.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Ice Storm On the Way

Absolutely horrible forecast

I should title this "The Ice Storm Cometh". It sounds like we're going to have a lot of ice. I hope that our trees don't suffer a lot of damage.

If I disappear for a while, you'll know that we have no electricity. In the two bad ice storms of 1994, we were without power for nearly a week each time.

Forecast from Weather Underground for Hopkinsville

Freezing rain and a chance of sleet. Precipitation may be heavy at times. Sleet accumulation up to 1 inch. Ice accumulation around one half of an inch. Lows in the upper 20s. Northeast winds 5 to 10 mph. Chance of precipitation near 100 percent.

Freezing rain and a chance of sleet. Little or no sleet accumulation. Ice accumulation around one half of an inch. Highs in the lower 30s. Northeast winds 5 to 10 mph. Chance of precipitation near 100 percent.

Tuesday Night
Cloudy. Freezing rain with snow and sleet likely in the evening...then a chance of snow and sleet after midnight. Minor snow accumulations. Ice accumulation of up to one quarter of an inch. Lows in the mid 20s. North winds 5 to 10 mph. Chance of precipitation 80 percent.

And, from the National Weather Service in Paducah:

A major ice storm is expected in the Tennessee border counties of western Kentucky... as well as New Madrid County Missouri. Two rounds of heavy freezing rain are expected. The first round will begin this evening and continue into early Tuesday morning. Up to one inch of ice accumulation is expected in this first round.

The second round will begin Tuesday afternoon and continue through the night. Another one half to one inch of ice is expected. Total ice accumulations from one half inch to possibly as much as 2 inches are expected.

I'm really hoping for just one-half inch. I'm trying to think positive. It's quite possible that it won't be nearly as bad as it sounds.

Theodore Roosevelt's Autobiography

Recommended reading

I came across Theodore Roosevelt's autobiography in Google Books this weekend, and as I was looking through the table of contents, the chapter titled "In Cowboy Land" caught my eye.

The eloquence of the descriptive paragraphs that open the chapter surprised me.

It was a land of vast silent spaces, of lonely rivers, and of plains where the wild game stared at the passing horseman. It was a land of scattered ranches, of herds of long-horned cattle, and of reckless riders who unmoved looked in the eyes of life or of death. In that land we led a free and hardy life, with horse and with rifle. We worked under the scorching midsummer sun, when the wide plains shimmered and wavered in the heat; and we knew the freezing misery of riding night guard round the cattle in the late fall round-up. In the soft springtime the stars were glorious in our eyes each night before we fell asleep; and in the winter we rode through blinding blizzards, when the driven snow-dust burnt our faces. (From page 103)

If you like stories of the Old West, I think you'll enjoy this true account of real-life adventures. The chapter relates some of Teddy Roosevelt's experiences as a rancher in what is now southwestern North Dakota. He remembered the region and its people with great affection.

As I read, I realized that Teddy Roosevelt had a good sense of humor. I can imagine this scene very well, and his dry remark at the end of the anecdote amuses me.

Most ranchmen at that time never had milk. I knew more than one ranch with ten thousand head of cattle where there was not a cow that could be milked. We made up our minds that we would be more enterprising. Accordingly, we started to domesticate some of the cows. Our first effort was not successful, chiefly because we did not devote the needed time and patience to the matter. And we found that to race a cow two miles at full speed on horseback, then rope her, throw her, and turn her upside down to milk her, while exhilarating as a pastime, was not productive of results. (From page 107)

Roosevelt wrote that, compared to many of the men he worked with, he was not a good roper or an exceptional horseman. However, he didn't mind laughing at himself.

When the camp was only just across the river, two of the calves positively refused to go any further. [George Meyer] took one of them in his arms, and after some hazardous maneuvering managed to get on his horse, in spite of the objections of the latter, and rode into the river. My calf was too big for such treatment, so in despair I roped it, intending to drag it over. However, as soon as I roped it, the calf started bouncing and bleating, and, owing to some lack of dexterity on my part, suddenly swung round the rear of the horse, bringing the rope under his tail. Down went the tail tight, and the horse "went into figures," as the cow-puncher phrase of that day was. There was a cut bank about four feet high on the hither side of the river, and over this the horse bucked. We went into the water with a splash. With a "pluck" the calf followed, described a parabola in the air, and landed beside us. Fortunately, this took the rope out from under the horse's tail, but left him thoroughly frightened. He could not do much bucking in the stream, for there were one or two places where we had to swim, and the shallows were either sandy or muddy; but across we went, at speed, and the calf made a wake like Pharaoh's army in the Red Sea. (From page 120)

Roosevelt's years as a Dakota rancher (1884-1886) followed a great tragedy in his life -- the deaths of his wife and mother on the same day (February 14, 1884).

After Teddy Roosevelt lost many of his cattle in the winter of 1886, he went back east, remarried, fought with his Rough Riders in the Spanish American War, served as governor of New York, served as Vice President under McKinley, and then became President after McKinley died in 1901. He followed up the Presidency with an African safari.

A detailed and interesting timeline of his life can be read at the Theodore Roosevelt Association's website.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Ice in the Forecast

Kentucky has such a talent for freezing rain.

A winter storm watch is in effect for Monday night through Tuesday night. I expect the watch to turn into a winter storm warning sometime tomorrow.

Monday Night
Occasional freezing rain and sleet...and a chance of snow. Ice accumulation of up to one quarter of an inch. No snow accumulation. Lows in the upper 20s. Northeast winds 5 to 10 mph. Chance of precipitation near 100 percent.

Occasional freezing rain and sleet...and a chance of rain. Ice accumulation of up to one quarter of an inch. Highs in the lower 30s. Northeast winds 5 to 10 mph. Chance of precipitation near 100 percent.

Tuesday Night
Cloudy. Freezing rain and sleet likely...with a chance of rain in the evening...then a chance of snow and sleet after midnight. Ice accumulation of up to one quarter of an inch. Lows in the mid 20s. North winds 5 to 10 mph. Chance of precipitation 60 percent.

From Weather Underground's forecast for Hopkinsville

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Biannual Checkup

Exhorted to exercise

I am glad this day is over. I've been dreading it for a while, because this was the day I had to go to the doctor to renew my various prescriptions. I had myself in a dither, imagining that my cholesterol and triglicerides would be too high and the doctor would scold me about it.

However, the results from my fasting blood test were not that bad. My cholesterol is significantly less than it was a year ago. The HDL is up and the LDL is down, and the triglycerides and blood sugar are OK.

I haven't lost any weight since my last checkup, but I haven't gained any. The doctor was fairly happy with the blood pressure readings for the last two months that I brought to show him.

The lecture topic of the day was exercise. I reminded the doctor that he had cut a big wart out of the bottom of my foot five months ago and I had only recently stopped wearing a bandade to protect the sore spot. He had a perfect comeback: Who needs to stand for exercise? What about the woman in the wheelchair who works out at the Y?

The doctor's right, of course. I can make lots of excuses -- my foot, work, cold weather, holidays -- but I should be getting more exercise.

Spring begins in February here. It's a good time to develop better habits. Even if I don't feel like going to the Y, I could do yard work on the nicer days or go for a walk. I can even become a mall walker if it's raining or snowing.

When I begin seeing some positive physical results, I might even get self-motivated. Now that would be a real change.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Shivarees Remembered

Fun at the expense of the newly-weds

I think that many older folks in the U.S., particularly those from rural areas, remember attending (or at least hearing about) a shivaree.

A shivaree was a loud, middle-of-the-night serenade of a newly-wed couple. A crowd gathered quietly outside the home, and then on signal, a terrible racket was raised with shouting and noise making instruments -- pan lids, cowbells, horns, whistles, and even guns fired into the air.

In most of the shivarees I heard about when I was young, the couple invited the crowd in and served them refreshments. They had been expecting a shivaree (or they'd received a tip), so they had a stock of candy bars or cookies on hand.

While inside the house, pranksters might tie knots in shirt sleeves, short-sheet the bed, remove labels from the canned goods, put salt in the sugar bowl, and generally do all the minor mischief they could.

At wilder shivarees, the crowd got drunk in preparation for the event. The newly-weds might be subjected to torments like being thrown into a water tank or left in a distant pasture to walk home.

I have a little scrap of memory about my Uncle Harold's shivaree. We lived south of Johnstown, Nebraska, then, and I was three or four years old. My newly-wed Uncle Harold and Aunt Evelyn lived farther south, near Moon Lake.

Late one night, we drove to the home of our elderly neighbors, Jess and Ivy McDaniel, who lived just south of us. They got in the car with us, and we drove together to my uncle's house.

Before we got there, we stopped and waited behind a hill with the lights turned off. It seemed to me that we waited a very long time. Finally I needed to potty, and my mother and I got out of the car. I don't remember it being cold there on the hillside, but I do remember the immensity of the quiet darkness.

I suppose that eventually a group gathered and the shivaree was carried off, but I don't remember all that. I was little, so maybe I fell asleep. My parents always said that someone threw my uncle's electric shaver (a bit of a novel luxury in the 1950s) into the wastebasket that night. It was burned with the rest of the trash the next day.

Some years later, we had a newly-wed couple living at our ranch -- Jim and Orpha Saar. They were shivareed one night by people from our church. It was a tame get-together compared to most shivarees I've heard and read about. The worst thing that happened was that the paint on the living room floor was scraped a little by a large lady's high-heeled shoes.

I've chosen to spell the word shivaree as I remember it being pronounced, but alternate spellings I found on the internet are charivari, chivaree, and even shivery.

As you'll note from the locations listed below, shivarees were held in many areas of the country. However, I believe the custom is dying out, and it's probably not a great loss.

Shivarees in Russell County, Kentucky
Shivarees in the Cumberland Gap area (Kentucky/Tennessee/Virginia)
Shivarees in Montana territory
A charivari in Superior, Montana (see page 4)
Okie Shivaree
Shivaree in Goodsprings, Nevada
Shivarees in Emmitsburg, Maryland
Shivarees in Alden, New York
Shivarees, shiverys and serenades in Orlando, West Virginia
Wikipedia's entry about charivaris

Does anyone else have a shivaree story to share?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Make Your Photo into a Jigsaw Puzzle

One more way to waste time and have fun online

Dogwood in January, Christian County, KY

I uploaded this photo to Jigzone and made a 48 piece puzzle of it. I've linked to the puzzle at the end of this post, and I hope you'll give it a try. I guarantee that solving it will take your mind off the economy for a few minutes.

Thanks, Gloria, for sending the Jigzone link. I'm not going to say how long it took me to solve the Puzzle of the Day. My time was a little more than average, but after all, it was my first attempt.

Dogwood Jigsaw Puzzle

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Soul Food for a Cold January Night

Staying warm as winter strengthens

January is upon us. Even in the upper South, we are feeling the polar air mass that's moving across the continent.

Tonight's low is supposed to be +11° with a wind chill of -10°, and tomorrow night, the forecast predicts +2°, again with wind. Those numbers may not sound extreme to people who endure subzero temperatures frequently, but it's cold for this area.

We're hoping that this is our worst cold spell of the winter, but it might not be. One frigid night during the early 1990s, the temperature dropped to -10°-- the coldest temperature I've seen in Kentucky so far.

Tonight, we brought in some of the good hickory firewood that we've been saving for a cold spell. As it burns, blue flames bloom over the logs, and when the flames die down, the logs crumble into a hot pile of coals that glow for hours.

The gas heater will come on if the wood stove needs some assistance overnight, but so far tonight, the wood stove has been doing the job alone.

Dennis, Isaac, and I were all at home and able to have supper together tonight. I made potato soup. To me, it's a comfort food -- warming to both body and soul.

I can't write an exact recipe for the soup, but this is how I made it:

  • Boiled about 2 quarts of peeled, cubed potatoes with some minced garlic until the potatoes were soft.
  • Diced 2 stalks of celery and an onion and cooked it in a little water in the microwave until soft.
  • Diced a couple of thick slices of ham.
  • Made about 3 cups of thick white sauce in a big soup pot.
  • Melted a cup of shredded cheddar cheese in the white sauce.
  • Added some chicken soup base dissolved in hot water.
  • Mashed a few of the potatoes;  added all the potatoes to the soup pot with their water.
  • Added the hot onions and celery with their water.
  • Added the ham.
  • Thinned the soup with some milk, and then ...
  • Thickened it up just a little with some instant mashed potato flakes.

This soup wasn't much like the potato soup I ate when I was growing up. My mother and father liked dumplings in their potato soup -- not southern dumplings which are really just extra wide noodles, but northern dumplings which are made by dropping spoonfuls of dough into the hot soup to cook.

I suspect that the dumpling idea came from my mother who had a strong German influence on her upbringing. Her soup was a lot like this recipe for German potato soup with dumplings.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Corner with the Pink Church

Landmark in Santa Cruz, Bolivia

This church of unusual hue was a landmark in our neighborhood when we lived in Santa Cruz, Bolivia (1980-1982). In my mind's eye, it is a brighter pink than this image shows it.

We lived seven or eight blocks from this intersection, and directions to our house began with, "Go to the pink church and ..." I hope the building is still there because I remember it affectionately as a distinctive and useful landmark. And I hope it is still a church, as well.

We taught at an English-speaking school in Santa Cruz. When school was dismissed in the afternoon, we often rode a micro (red-and-white bus in the photo) to this corner and walked the rest of the way home.

An Indian lady with big skirts and a little bowler hat always had her pushcart on this corner, near where I stood to take this photo. Vendor pushcarts like hers were miniature convenience stores where passersby could get an aspirin, a handkerchief, a comb, a piece of candy or gum, a rubber band, a T-shirt, or whatever.

I smoked in those days, and one day, I stopped at the cart and asked for a pack of cigarettes. I didn't look carefully at the cigarette box before paying, and when I got down the street, I found that she had opened it and replaced all the cigarettes with rolled up pieces of paper.

A little note inside the box said (in Spanish), "Ha ha, stupid gringo." She knew that only gringos would buy a whole pack of cigarettes from a market cart. Any Bolivians who were shopping at a market cart would buy one cigarette at a time.

If I had taken it back to her, she'd have professed innocence or pretended not to understand my Spanish, so I accepted that I'd been taught a lesson. I never bought anything from her again, so in the long run, she was the loser. Or maybe she won, because I still remember the incident to this day.

Friday, January 09, 2009

1870s Fourth of July

Twisting the tail of the English lion

On the Library of Congress website, I found a 1938 interview with Miss Nettie Spencer of Portland, Oregon, in which she remembered her childhood during the 1870s. The interviewer and writer was Walker Winchell of the Federal Writers Project.

Miss Spencer talked about the annual Fourth of July celebration held in her rural community. It was the one event of the year that everyone in the entire area attended.

Early in the morning, the family and great quantities of food were loaded into the wagon for the trip to town. When everyone had gathered, the celebration began with a parade.

The first float always carried that year's "Goddess of Liberty," a pretty local girl who had won the contest. She was surrounded by little girls who represented the states of the Union. Cadets from the local agricultural college and a band followed, and there might be floats with political effigies behind them.

Now for the interesting part:

Just before lunch - and we'd always hold lunch up for an hour - some Senator or lawyer would speak. These speeches always had one pattern. First the speaker would challenge England to a fight and berate the King and say that he was a skunk. This was known as twisting the lion's tail.

Then the next theme was that any one could find freedom and liberty on our shores. The speaker would invite those who were heavy laden in other lands to come to us and find peace. The speeches were pretty fiery and by that time the men who drank got into fights and called each other Englishmen.

In the afternoon we had what we called the 'plug uglies' -- funny floats and clowns who took off on the political subjects of the day. There would be some music and then the families would start gathering together to go home. There were cows waiting to be milked and the stock to be fed and so there was no night life.

The Fourth was the day of the year that really counted then. Christmas wasn't much; a Church tree or something, but no one twisted the lion's tail.

Source: Life History of Miss Nettie Spencer, Portland, Oregon

Fathers, grandfathers, and great-grandfathers of many Americans of the 1870s had fought in the American Revolution and the War of 1812. This community's formal "twisting of the lion's tail" each year honored the sacrifices made for independence and took pride in winning a hard fight.

(Right: UK coat of arms, 1837-present. Image from Wikipedia)

Film and Slide Scanner

New computer toy

Dennis and the kids got me a little Vupoint film and slide scanner for Christmas and I've been playing with it for a couple of days.

I have about 150-200 slides from our school teaching days in Bolivia and I'm looking forward to scanning them. I already have prints of most of the negatives I own, but I'm sure I'll play with negative scanning too.

I have mixed feelings about the scanner. It seems to do fairly well on a typical image with scenery, but it loses all the detail in any large light areas. The adjustments I can make don't have much effect.

How can I complain too much, when I've created a number of acceptable digital images of slides that I haven't viewed in years?! However, it is frustrating to look at a perfectly good image through the viewfinder and then be unable to transfer what I see.

Screen shot of the preview of the slide

The scanned image -- best one I got after much tinkering

The scanner came with a program called Photo Impressions 6, but I am experimenting with scanning the images into some other image processing programs.

Here's one of the slides I scanned tonight. Dennis took this photo of me in Cochabamba, Bolivia, in 1981. If I remember correctly, there was a monument on this hilltop to the brave women of Cochabamba who defended the city against attack when all their men were doing battle elsewhere.

I'm not sure if this was before or after someone tried to cut into my purse with a razor blade at La Cancha, the huge, crowded open market. Fortunately, the purse was made of heavy leather with lots of seams, and the thief couldn't make a big enough hole to get anything out. I didn't feel the attack, and I was shocked when I saw the slashes.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Missionary in a Cow Town

Wild days on the Nebraska frontier

Whitman, Nebraska, the end-point of the B. & M. railroad in the late 1880s, was a rough little frontier town with stores, saloons, dance halls, corrals, and a train station. All the ranchers for many miles around drove their cattle to Whitman to ship them to market.

In his 1921 memoirs, Trails of Yesterday, pioneer rancher John Bratt tells an interesting story about Whitman. An elderly preacher came to the little prairie outpost with deep concern for the souls of the cowboys, railroad workers, gamblers, outlaws, fallen women, drifters, and others who frequented the town's establishments.

Mr. Bratt describes a rowdy scene in a dance house. The old preacher was being forced to dance with a drunk woman, and cowboys were shooting at his feet to make him step higher.

[The old preacher] stood it all good-naturedly until completely exhausted. He got into one corner of the hall and sat down on the floor. After resting a while and during a lull in the dancing, the old man got upon a gambling table and commenced to talk to the crowd. He said he had attended their dances every night and done everything they wanted him to do, including many things that were not right. "Now," he said, "with your permission and God's help, I will hold service in this hall to-morrow, Sunday night," and asked them all to come. They told him they would be present. I could not help but admire the old man and told him I would remain with the cowboys from our round-up camp and would personally help him all I could.

The next morning, Mr. Bratt borrowed an organ from the stationmaster's wife and pursuaded her to play it for the service. He also cleaned up the dance hall and secured a promise from the owner not to sell liquor during the service.

A crowd gathered in the dance hall that evening. The preacher stood at a table with a lamp, a Bible, and a hymnbook, and spoke from his heart. Then the hymn, "Rock of Ages", was sung.

Tears came to the eyes of some of the women and all seemed deeply interested, until some one shot the lamp to pieces on the table. This mean act incurred the displeasure of nearly all present. Another lamp was secured and "Doc" Middleton walked up to the side of the old preacher and said, "Whoever did that was damn mean and if he does it again, I'll kill him." The man who shot the lamp left the hall and the service proceeded without further interruption.

At the end of the service, the group passed a hat for the old fellow, and $130 was given. The next morning, having accomplished his mission, the preacher got on the train and went back east.

Doc Middleton was well known as a horse thief, of course, but many people liked and respected him. He was gifted with natural charm, and he enjoyed a Robin Hood reputation of stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. This story speaks well of him, I think.

About the others who attended that Sunday service, Mr. Bratt wrote:

The cowboys and I came on to the round-up camp on the Dismal River where we had left it. On the way some of the boys talked freely and regretted what they had done and promised to do better.

- - - - - - - - - -

Quotations in this post are from Trails of Yesterday (pages 275-277) by John Bratt. Published in 1921. Try the "Flip Book" of this text.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

New Books about Hopkinsville, KY History

History of Christian County, KY

Chris Gilkey and William Turner published two new local history books this year, and Dennis got them for me this Christmas. They are in the "Images of America" series by Arcadia Publishing, and the titles are:

William Turner is the official Christian County Historian. All the photos in both books are from his collection. He's about 70 years old, I estimate, and he's been collecting bits of Christian County history for most of his life. As I recall, it was a picture postcard collection (his aunt's, I think) that got him interested in history as a boy.

Mr. Turner grew up here and became a history teacher at Hopkinsville High School and then a professor at Hopkinsville Community College. He's now retired from the college, but stays busy with the Pennyrile Museum in Hopkinsville and the Christian County Historical Society.

Chris Gilkey is around 30 years old. He teaches history at Hopkinsville High School and is active in the Christian County Historical Society. He also helps Mr. Turner with anything that involves the internet, because Mr. Turner doesn't use computers. Isaac had Mr. Gilkey as a teacher in high school and enjoyed his classes.

Firefighting in Hopkinsville includes images of the rural volunteer fire departments of Christian County, including the little fire station in our community. In the photo, our firetrucks are parked in front of the building, and the caption tells the make and vintage of each truck. The image is recent, but black-and-white, as are all the images in both books.

Mr. Turner has been very involved with the Woody Winfree Fire and Transportation Museum these last few years. I'm sure the firefighting book is a byproduct of the research he's done while getting the fire museum going.

Related posts:
Hopkinsville's Fire Station and Transportation Museum
Hopkinsville's Clock Tower

Friday, January 02, 2009

New Year's Eve

I spent a safe and sober New Year's Eve with our daughter Keely and her friend Taurus. Here we are at Shoneys, enjoying the breakfast buffet, after an exciting game of Scrabble.
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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.