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 24, 2012

Fires along the Niobrara River

Fires in Brown and Keya Paha Counties in northern Nebraska


North central Nebraska is fighting three big fires in Brown and Keya Paha counties, along or near the Niobrara River. As I understand it, all of these fires were started by lightning from thunderstorms. Vegetation  is very dry due to drought, and high winds have been spreading the fires. Today, the temperatures climbed as high as 108° in the area.


The above map from the Nebraska Emergency Management Area shows the locations of the three fires. The largest of these, on the west, is the Fairfield Canyon Fire that has burned about 50,000 acres. The two smaller fires on the east are the Wentworth Fire and the Hall Fire. These fires are 50 to 60 miles north/northwest of where I grew up in northern Nebraska.

The news section of the Radio KBRB website reports that various agencies and organizations are providing support and assistance. The Central Plains Chapter of the American Red Cross, the Southern Baptist Emergency Relief Team, the National Guard, the Rocky Mountain Incident Management team, the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency, firefighting crews from over 50 Nebraska and South Dakota communities, and other civic and religious organizations are all working in the area.  One of the roles of the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency is to coordinate these efforts to the best advantage.

The National Guard has sent water tankers and also some helicopters that can carry big buckets of water. The helicopter crews can dump the water onto the fire, or they can lower the buckets to the ground where the water can be used by firefighters. These aerial photos from the Omaha World show how the helicopters lower the buckets into the river to fill them with water.

I am not sure this link will work for everyone, but I am going to include it anyway. This is Lorie Olson's Facebook album of about 250 fire photos from the Fairfield Canyon fire. If you click on one of the little photos, it will enlarge, and then you can click on that photo to go to the next one.

My heart is touched by the Facebook messages of my Nebraska friends who live in the area. They describe how they are playing a part in a huge community effort to fight these fires. They are baking cookies and cinnamon rolls, donating bottled water and ice, lending their cots and air mattresses, and working in emergency shelters and kitchens.

This evening, I received an email from Carolyn Hall whose family owns the Hall Ranch where one of the fires is raging (the fire on the east edge of the map.). Here is her assessment of the situation: "They have backfired along the west, north and east sides of the canyon so if the wind stays in the south today it may burn itself out.  The big question is what happens tomorrow when the wind goes to the northwest??????? More troubling is the Wentworth fire which is out of the canyon and heading northeast.  That will really be a problem when the wind goes to the NW."

These fires are devastating people's lives in so many ways. It's not just grass that's burning -- it's people's livelihoods and futures. Please pray for rain for northern Nebraska and all of the drought-parched Midwest -- rain without lightning.

UPDATE: The fires were finally declared contained on July 28. Destroyed by fire: 75,000 acres, 14 homes, 42 other structures, hundreds of miles of fences, and an unestimated number of livestock and wildlife.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Rules for Good Speech

Good verbal communication


This list is from a 5th grade reader that was written about 70 years ago. It appears in a chapter about patriotism that urges the readers to express their patriotism with "good speech." These standards still apply to speaking today -- whether in conversation or more formally.


1. I will have something interesting to say.

2. I will stand correctly when I speak and sit correctly as I listen.

3. I will look at and talk to my audience.

4. I will speak in a friendly manner.

5. I will speak loud enough to be easily heard.

6. I will speak distinctly.

7. I will try to pronounce all words correctly.

8. I will use correct English.

9. I will leave out unnecessary words.

10. I will be a courteous listener.

From The World Around Us, by Gerald Yoakam, M. Madilene Veverka, and Louise Abney, published by The State of Kansas, Topeka. Copyright 1941, Laidlaw Brothers. Page 194.


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

My Revolutionary Ancestors

Passionate about freedom


In preparation for an upcoming get-together with my sister and brother, I've been organizing and printing some family tree information that I think might be particularly interesting to them.

On my father's side of the family, there are several lines that go back to early colonial days in New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and North Carolina.  And on my mom's side of the family, some of her maternal grandmother's people were here during the same time period, in Maryland, Delaware and North Carolina. Almost all of these folks were from England originally, and several of them participated in the American Revolution.

Tonight, I made a list of our Revolutionary ancestors with a brief description of their service. I'm going to include it in the family info I'm assembling for my siblings. It's not a proper genealogical document yet because I didn't list out the sources, but I will improve it in the future.

When I counted the names on my list, I saw that we have at least twelve Revolutionary patriots and/or soldiers in our family tree. I am immensely proud to be their descendant, but I am also humbled as I think of their willingness to risk their lives for the cause of freedom and independence.

I've read several of their applications for war pensions, in which they described their service, and I've decided that we have far too little respect for the American colonists who fought for freedom and independence. We say the word "sacrifice" so glibly when we talk about them, and we don't even think about what their sacrifices really were or what hardships they endured. (And that's true for all soldiers in every war, not just for my ancestors.)

I wonder if my Revolutionary ancestors would be as proud of me as I am of them. And what would they think of the nation now? The preservation of hard-won, blood-bought freedom is such an important responsibility -- am I doing my part?

Here are their names:
Four images of Revolutionary War battles
Image source and artist info

Ezra Caswell
Private for 3 years in Capt. Thomas Converse's Connecticut line, discharged at Fishkill, NY.

Elijah Clark
Enlisted by Samuel Jones. Enrolled July 17, 1776. Passed by Will. Harrison July 27th, 1776. Private in militia. From his Revolutionary war pension application: he “served in a regiment of the Maryland line, he does not recollect the number, under the following named officers. General George Washington, Samuel Adkinson Col., John Tabs Maj'r., Thomas Henson Capt., Sam'l. Jones & William Henson Leftenants, William Adams Ensign, John Grant Sergeant, William Tiler Second Sergeant.”

Smith Mapes and 
Samuel Mapes
Smith Mapes and his father Samuel Mapes were signers of the Revolutionary Pledge and both served in the Second (“South-end”) Regiment, Ulster County, New York Militia, under Colonel James McGlaghry.

Jeremiah Cory
Private in the Morris County Militia (New Jersey). The Indiana DAR* notes that he was taken prisoner during his service.

Isaac Messenger
Isaac served in Capt. Amassa Mill's Company, Connecticut Regiment, 5th Regiment of Light Horse. Seven Messenger brothers served, and all survived the war. Only one was wounded.

Reuben Martin
According to his Revolutionary War pension application, he served in Sussex County, New Jersey, militia in the company of his brother, Captain John Martin, commanded by another brother, Colonel Edmond Martin; was under Colonel Edmond Martin in the battle of the Brandywine, where he was wounded and at Germantown, and was at Middle Brook May 10, 1778, under the same brother.

Nathan Slaughter
02 Mar 1778, Subscribed to the Oath of Allegiance and Fidelity (made his "A" mark) before the Hon. Richard Mason, Caroline County, Maryland. (This doesn't seems quite as illustrious an act of service as some of the others, but signing an oath of allegiance is considered an act of patriotism by the DAR* and SAR**.)

Robert Hill
Joined Capt. Jonathan Wood's company, 8th Worcester County, Massachusetts, regiment. Joined Capt. Smith's company, Col Bigelow's regiment for 3 years, etc. He has a long service record in “Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors of the Revolutionary War.” His service included shoemaking, Oct 1778- Feb 1779. Discharged Jan 2, 1780.

Basil Israel
Maryland Militia. Commissioned as Ensign, August 28, 1777, and served for the duration of the war in various capacities, according to SAR and family records.

John Ferry
Private in New York Continental Line, 1st Regiment, under Col. Goose VanSchaick, (according to "New York in the Revolution, page 32.) His wife, Susannah Munn, served as a nurse for part of the time that he was in service.

Susannah Munn
Field Nurse 1st Regiment, New York Continental Line.

* DAR: Daughters of the American Revolution
**SAR: Sons of the American Revolution;
(Membership in these two organizations is limited to those who can prove that an ancestor served in the American Revolution.)

Friday, July 06, 2012

Keely's Fair Exhibits

Well done!


This week, Keely entered two exhibits in the Marketable Crafts section of the fair in Hopkinsville (Western Kentucky State Fair). One exhibit was a "Wild Thing" she had crocheted (based on the Maurice Sendak book, Where the Wild Things Are). The other exhibit was a "Veil of Isis" shawl, knitted with lace-weight yarn.

We're very pleased that Keely's Wild Thing took second place in his category. The first place ribbon went to a cute Teddy bear.


And Keely's Veil of Isis shawl won first place in it's category and grand champion of the entire Marketable Crafts section. It's a large, light-weight, beaded lace shawl. The small size when folded is due to the very fine yarn used to make it.


Keely's already talking about what she might make for the fair next year. The other exhibitors may not realize it yet, but their competition is now a lot stiffer than it used to be.

Keely has been knitting for maybe four years. Her friends at work got her started, and she took to it like a duck takes to water, as the saying goes. I can't claim any credit at all for her knitting skills. However, I did introduce her to crochet when she was about ten years old. I hoped she would entertain herself with it for a few hours. As you can see, my plan was successful.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Henna Pix

As requested...


Several people have told me in comments and by email that they wanted to see photos of my freshly henna-ed hair.

Here's my problem with posting photos of my hair. To show off the red highlights, I would need sunshine. Sunshine is not allowed into my home at present. I would have to go outside and stand in the hot sunshine. And I'm not good at photographing myself, so I might have a sunstroke  before I finally got a picture that wasn't ridiculous. It makes me cranky even to think about all that, so I'm not going to do it.

But take heart. I was sitting in my car today, enjoying the AC and waiting for my daughter, when I noticed that the sun was shining through the car window on my hair. I immediately thought of my photo-hungry readers, and I got my camera out of my purse and took a few pictures of my image in the visor mirror.

The visor mirror isn't very big, so when I held my camera to the right of my head and out of the picture, the camera saw only half of my face. But I made sure that the photos included the important part -- my glowing red hair. In fact, my hair glows several degrees redder in these photos than it does in real life. You can judge the brilliance of the sunshine and the amount of overexposure in the photos by the lack of color and features in my face.

So, without further ado, dear readers, here are the photos I took. I've decided to post them uncensored and in chronological order. I hope you enjoy them. I would have taken more for you, but mercifully, my daughter returned after #7.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Henna-ed Again

Hair history


Photo by Khalid Mahmood
What's the same about me and the elderly Punjabi lady in the photo? Well, let's jump to the obvious -- that is, it would be obvious if you saw me. We have both henna-ed our hair!

Yes, my hair is kind of red right now, especially the parts that were formerly gray. But even my formerly gray, now red parts are not as carrot-colored as this lady's hair. (Thank goodness!) 

When I was in my 20s, my girlfriend and hairdresser Pat  introduced me to henna. She sold me the packets of henna powder at a cheap price, and I used it every now and then for several years. It gave my hair a slightly red glow and made it feel thicker. It was fun!

Then I grew up, got busy, and had children. For years, I kept my hair long and wore it in a single braid down my back. It was a quick, tidy style that kept the hair out of my eyes.

About six or seven years ago, I had my hair cut to shoulder length. Over the next several years, I gradually cut it shorter and shorter, and now it's finally short enough that it's out of my eyes again. (I really can't stand my hair falling into my face.)

Over the past decade, I've been getting a few more gray hairs all the time. My hair is still mostly dark, but my sideburns are going gray and the rest of my hair is sprinkled with gray and white. The gray doesn't bother me -- I call it my "natural highlights." And I've always sworn that I would never color my hair because I don't want the fuss of keeping it colored.

That changed a few months ago. Keely told me that she had found an herbs and botannicals website that sold henna by the pound. She said that she had ordered a pound and she was going to henna her hair. I heard myself say, "Oh! Let's do my hair too!"

Keely read online about different methods of applying henna to hair, and she decided we'd mix the henna powder with lemon juice. She said she expected the henna to really "take" because that's the same way that wools are dyed (with an acid.)

And she was right. It was the most effective henna I've ever used! My hair turned surprisingly reddish and even looked several shades lighter than my usual dark brown. I think the lemon juice bleached it a little. All my gray hairs turned red, so my sideburns were quite red. It was sort of an edgy look, compared to my usual self. And my eyes looked very blue with my new hair color.

What I need when I get tired of my red look...
Since then, the color has faded somewhat (not completely). And of course, the gray started showing again (the exact problem that I always thought I'd avoid.) I thought about letting nature take its course. But Keely persuaded me to redo the red, so we had another henna party yesterday evening. I think my hair may be a little redder this time than last time.

I asked Isaac today what he thought about little old ladies with red hair. He avoided saying anything derogatory. My husband patted me this morning and said that I'm always beautiful. Keely is enthusiastic about my redhead look. So, in this absence of criticism, I must say that henna is still fun. 

And Keely's a redhead too. Henna with lemon juice really takes on her light hair, and the color looks good on her! I told her she should say she got her red hair from her mother.
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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.