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.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

A Small Snow

The most snow we've had yet this winter



Snowy rural road

We had a small snow last night. A thin layer of ice lay under the snow in some areas, and the roads were quite slick. Classes in the public schools were cancelled.

Isaac got up and drove to town for his classes at the Community College, and to his surprise (mine, too!), classes there were cancelled also. Freezing rain and more snow is predicted for tonight, so I imagine he will be checking his college e-mail for cancellations before he heads out tomorrow.

Currently, it's raining and the temperature is 33°. In the wee hours of the morning, it's expected that temps will drop below freezing and then we'll get the frozen precipitation that they're predicting.

Weather Pictures

Taken during yesterday's wind squalls



Grain elevators in Hopkinsville, KYThe grain elevators along Skyline Drive,
against a forboding sky


Rain clouds behind a wheatfieldClouds were scurrying across the sky,
driven by the strong winds.


Little River in Christian County, KY
Little River, full to the banks, near the bridge
on the Vaughn-Grove/Little River Road,
in Christian County, Kentucky.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Wind Storm in Hopkinsville, KY

A very windy day and not done yet.



Note: If you're seeking information about the February 5, 2008, tornado, please see "Tornado Damage at Crofton, KY, Tonight."

Bradford Square Mall, Hopkinsville, KYBradford Square Mall after one of today's storms


After a day of strong wind-and-rain squalls, a fast-moving front with screaming winds blew through this evening.

Isaac called from his job in Hopkinsville to say that the power had gone out in the store for several minutes. As I talked to him, the wind arrived at our house. It roared tremendously for a long time; in fact, it sounded like a tornado to me at times.

That tempest has passed and the tornado watch has expired, but the gales have been continuing. We won't know until morning if damage has been done to our trees.

Here's a storm damage report from Weather Underground


01/29/2008 0622 PM
Hopkinsville, Christian County.


Thunderstorm wind damage, reported by Emergency Mngr.

Severe damage to local mall. Glass blown into building. Several injuries reported, the total is unknown at this time. Wind gusts estimated 60 to 70 mph. Tractor-trailer blown over along Interstate 24. Multiple power transformers blown.

01/29/2008 0620 PM
Pembroke, Christian County.


Thunderstorm wind damage, reported by Emergency Mngr.

Late report. Time estimated. 3 tractor-trailers blown over. One is a fuel tanker and is leaking fuel. Hazmat responding. Widespread tree damage reported from Crofton through Hopkinsville. Power lines down along Highway 41. Commercial building sign blown over.


As it happens, I photographed the mall this afternoon. A brilliant shaft of sunlight was illuminating the end of the mall and the puddles on the parking lot. The dazzling light lasted barely long enough for me to pull over and take the picture. I wonder if some of the west-facing windows in the photo are broken now.

I'm curious about the storm damage, but I'm concerned about Isaac getting home safely. I hope no trees or electric wires have blown over the roads he needs to travel, and I hope he can keep his little car on the road through the tremendous gusts of wind we are still getting.

UPDATE: Read more about tonight's wind storm in Hopkinsville on the Hoptown Hall Forum.

UPDATE: Isaac got home just fine. The windows in the mall that broke were just to the right of the photo, in the entrance between J.C. Penney and the former Dawahares store. I didn't take a tour of the storm damage around town when I went to work today, but I did see odd bits of storm wreckage lying around -- pieces of roofing, big chunks of broken signs, etc. An old barn along our route to town was blown down. The Kentucky New Era carried an article about the extensive damage throughout the area.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Electricity in the Home, 1942

Electricity applauded, 65 years ago



1940s lampDid your parents or grandparents have electricity in their house by 1942? If they lived in a rural area, it's very likely that they did not. In 1939, just 25% of rural homes were electrified.

In this part of Kentucky, the Pennyrile Rural Electric Cooperative brought electricity to rural homes. Pennyrile Electric was organized in 1937, but out here, some of the old-timers reminisce that they didn't get electricity until the early 1950s. I don't know if that was because electricity wasn't available earlier, or because of reluctance in some families to install electricity.

In Decorating the Home, a 1942 interior-decorating textbook, Ethel Lewis writes about some of the latest electrical gadgets.

Electricity and light are so nearly synonymous today that some of the newest electrical devices can be listed here.

In addition to all the labor-saving equipment, there is the electric clock, the fan, and most of us depend upon electricity to run the radio and the automatic-change phonograph.

For the nursery there is the "seeing eye" which protects the crib and so warns of the approach of thieves or kidnappers.

The ray from the photoelectric cell is the unseen source which opens doors so miraculously as a person approaches.

Perhaps nothing appeals more to the mechanically minded than the automatic window closer which works so swiftly when the alarm sounds the hour for rising.

The control and use of electricity are certainly one of man's greatest achievements, and many a home is a better place in which to live because of it.

Let electricity work for you; let it help you to preserve your eyesight.

From Decorating the Home (p. 127) by Ethel Lewis. (Published in New York by the Macmillan Company in 1942.) The lamp images in this post are also from Decorating the Home.

1940s lampDid you notice? The electric refrigerator, electric range, electric water heater, and electric clothes washer aren't even mentioned, though they totally changed women's lives. They're part of the "labor-saving equipment" that Lewis breezes over.

I must admit that I take them for granted also -- as long as my electrical appliances work, I don't give them the grateful appreciation that they deserve.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Broadbent Building Near Cadiz, KY

German and Austrian POWs in Trigg County, Kentucky, during World War II



Broadbent building in Trigg County, KY
UPDATED February 13, 2008

We've been told by several people that this large building along Highway 68/80 east of Cadiz, KY, was built by German prisoners of war during World War II. The building's rounded corners are cited as evidence that the construction crew was German.

I assumed this to be true because I knew the government had programs that provided POW laborers to American farmers and other industries. With so many men gone to the war, America was desperate for laborers. Without support behind the lines, the war effort would fail.

I thought it likely that the prisoners came from Camp Campbell, just 20 miles southeast of the Broadbent Farm (or possibly from Camp Breckenridge, near Morganfield, KY.)

As it turns out, the story we heard and my speculations were partially correct, but several details were wrong. After I originally wrote this post, a Prairie Bluestem reader researched the story of the building with someone who remembered its construction. John wrote:

My dad says he remembers going down with the Broadbents to "Camp Campbell" and picking up those German soldiers. His dad also used German POW's on his farm. He did not remember [Mr.] Smith Jr. [Broadbent] using Germans to build the "seed house" as they called it. Mainly they worked in the fields. Most of the POW's were farmers back home and were glad to work instead of being in the stockades. They weren't allowed to pay them much; they mostly paid them in cigarettes and fed them really well. The Germans may have had something to do with the construction, but my dad didn't think they did.


John's father checked with some of the Broadbent family, and this week, John wrote again:

I finally got the scoop on the old seed house. It was built by 19 WWII POWS. They weren't German though. They were Austrian. [Mr.] Smith Jr. [Broadbent] went to Camp Campbell and picked up 40 originally, and kept 20 to work on the building. All were working out except for one of them. He happened to be the only German among those 19 Austrians, so I am sure there was a conflict there. As for the architects, they were out of Des Moines, IA. So it was definitely built by POW's, just of the Austrian persuasion rather than German.


The sign over the building's door says "Broadbent's B&B Food Products." Apparently the building was once used in the production of Broadbent Farm's famous, prize-winning hams, sausage, and bacon. Broadbent Hams was sold to new owners in 1999, but I don't think this building was included in the deal.

In our family, this building is associated forever with an unfortunate highway breakdown. A couple years after we moved here, we were coming home from a long trip to Missouri and Kansas. When we turned off I-24 onto Highway 68/80, our little VW Fox lost its ability to change gears. You can't go anywhere when your car is stuck in neutral!

We had to push the Fox off the highway into the parking lot of the old Broadbent building. Then we called our pastor. He is a kind soul; he came in his van, armed with automotive fluids and tools. When the breakdown proved too serious for a roadside remedy, he drove us home. It was a bad ending to a long, hard day of driving and a long week of traveling.

When I showed these photos to Isaac, he immediately identified it as the place where we pushed the Fox off the highway. As an afterthought, he mentioned that it was built by POWs.

POW building in Trigg County, KY

Interesting links:
German POWS in North America
German POWs in Alabama
German POWs at Camp Crossville, TN
Picture postcard of a barracks at Camp Breckenridge
Story of a German artist and sculptor who was a POW at Camp Breckenridge
Airfield at Camp Breckenridge
The War in Kentucky (online videos)
TN Encyclopedia: POW Camps in World War II

(When I find some interesting links for Austrian POWS in the U.S., I will add them.)

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Kentucky Barn in January

Winter scene: Browns, grays, and a promise of green



Old barn

It bothers me a little that this barn's doors have been left open all winter. I wish that the farmer would take the time to stop by and close them.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Happy Goodman Family on YouTube

Great Classics of Southern Gospel



I'll warn you right away -- if you don't like gospel music, you should just skip this post. But if you do like gospel, these links will bring a smile to your face and perhaps a tear to your eye.

Browsing around my bloglist this evening, I visited the Cheatham County Rock Star Wife. Marisa's blog is a bit "Goodman-flavored" right now -- that is, she's been listening to the Happy Goodman Family, and the music has affected her.

Now I've been listening to them and it has affected me too.

First, I want to share a wonderful YouTube video of the Happy Goodman Family singing "The Sweetest Song I Know." Marisa has this posted on her blog, and I understand why. If you like Southern Gospel, I promise you'll enjoy seeing and hearing this masterful performance from 1968.

If you want more (as I did after watching that great clip), here's a great gospel hit by the Happy Goodman Family -- "I Wouldn't Take Nothing For My Journey Now." It's also on YouTube -- apparently a cut from Tennessee Ernie Ford's television show during the 1960s.

Two more great performances -- "He's Coming Again" and "Looking For a City."

Don't miss "When God's Chariot Comes" with J.D. Sumner.

Ah, they were great. They put their whole hearts into their singing.

We recently got satellite internet, which makes it so much easier to enjoy things like this.

UPDATE: Corrected the link for "The Sweetest Song I Know"

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A Great Friend

Someone to count on


Today, a little white-haired lady came to my cash register. In the course of ringing up her purchases and visiting with her, I learned that she is 84 years old.

As the conservation continued, my elderly customer stated that she is driving to Nashville tomorrow, though the weather forecast predicts a cold day. "Oh, my

," I said, marveling at the independence of this senior citizen. "Could you not go another day when the weather will be nicer?"

"No," she said. "I'm driving my friend to her cancer treatment."

I asked if she had a good set of directions to the medical center.

"I know exactly how to get there," she said. "I've been driving her to her treatments for four and a half years."

My amazement was probably evident. "Your friend is very fortunate that she has you," I said.

"She knows that she can count on me," my customer said.

In a few moments, she left with her purchases, but she remains in my thoughts. I wonder -- is any ingredient of friendship more important than loyalty, when the chips are down?

A friend in need
Is a friend indeed.

Photo by StuSeeger

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Images from Crofton, KY


Note: If you're seeking information about the February 5, 2008, tornado, please see "Tornado Damage at Crofton, KY, Tonight."


White Stucco churchThe CME Church on East 800


Small town cafeRestaurant in downtown Crofton


New Dollar GeneralNew Store on South 41


Tiny brick houseVacant house with curious architecture

Bobcat Children

"Animal Children" from an old book





The little Bobcat and Canadian Lynx
Just must be related (so everyone thinks).
Except for their ears they're alike as two pins,
And look every whit as if they were twins.

Source: Animal Children: The Friends of the Forest and Plain, an e-book at Project Gutenberg

Monday, January 21, 2008

Big Cat Sightings

Wild cats amongst us


NOTE: If you're seeking information about photos of a big cougar killed on a Trigg County, KY, highway, the e-mail is a hoax. That big cat has been the star of so many bogus e-mails that it has finally been listed by Snopes.com. Also see the March 10, 2008, Kentucky New Era story: "Mountain Lion Exists Only in Hoax," (subscription required). I hope you enjoy reading this article anyway, though.

Dennis has been watching a show about big cats in the U.S. this morning. To be specific, he's watching a "Monster Quest"show about unexplained repeated sightings of black cats that are several times larger than large domestic cats.

MonsterQuest: Lions in the Backyard
Airs on Monday January 21 04:00 PM

Mountain lions do occasionally attack humans, and when they do it makes headlines across the country. However, it has been reported that people are seeing something else--attacks by large black cats. Pictures and law enforcement encounters prove a big black cat is out there, while it resembles a mountain lion, there is no such thing as a black mountain lion. From Texas to Minnesota to West Virginia, follow the eyewitness accounts and physical evidence of these demon cats. Bones from a carcass that eyewitnesses claim was a huge black cat will be put to the DNA test. One-part history, one-part science and one part monsters discover the truth behind legendary monsters.

Source: Upcoming episodes of Monster Quest on the History Channel

It's been an interesting show. Many of the photographs and videos can be explained or dismissed, but a few cannot. At the end of the show, the bones of the "cat" turn out to be a domestic dog. The official verdict is that most of the "big black cats" are mis-identified bears, dogs, or housecats. A few might be exotic cats, escaped or released from private zoos. Of course, these explanations do not satisfy those who have actually seen the big black cats.

Big cats in northern Nebraska during my childhood


Mountain lionWhen I was growing up in north-central Nebraska, there were reports of mountain-lion sightings from time to time. Usually, the big cat was observed in or near the wooded canyons of a river or creek.

I am sure that some of the reports were true. The mountain lion (also known as cougar, panther, or puma) was once native to Nebraska. Plenty of suitable habitat could still be found in northern Nebraska in the 1950s and 1960s (and still can be found today.) The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission has recently confirmed the return of the mountain lion to Nebraska -- even in and around Omaha, as reported by the Plains Feeder in 2005!

In my childhood, every now and then someone would shoot a bobcat, usually around a canyoned area. Maybe the bobcat was bothering the livestock -- or at least, the rancher was worried that the bobcat might bother the livestock. I think I remember a few photos in the newspaper of dead bobcats laid out in the back of someone's pickup truck. They may have been trophies of an official bobcat hunting season, and I didn't realize it.

Mountain Lions Around Kansas City


My husband grew up near the Missouri River in Independence, Missouri. When he was little, many stories were told of mountain lions along the river, but none of them were ever proven.

Then, about ten years ago, when the Missouri River had a major flood, many reports were made that mountain lions had been spotted in the residential areas near the river. As I recall, a policeman even reported seeing a mountain lion in a little field within Independence.

After so many unconfirmed sightings through the years, many people felt vindicated when a mountain lion was hit and killed on the Interstate in the greater Kansas City area. Even the Missouri Conservation Department has finally admitted that there's evidence of a growing mountain lion population in Missouri.

Bobcats and Cougars in Christian County, Kentucky


Here in Christian County, Kentucky, we occasionally have reports of mountain lions. Of course, they are never confirmed. We have large areas of rough, wooded hills and plenty of streams, especially in northern Christian County. Our over-abundance of deer would be attractive to big cats, so I don't arbitrarily dismiss mountain lion stories.

I can testify that there are bobcats (Lynx rufus fasciatus) here, because I've seen two of them. One time, we were visiting a neighbor who lives near Pilot Rock. As we stood outside his house, a large bobcat crossed the field in front of us, several hundred yards away.

BobcatOur neighbor pointed out the bobcat. It was well camouflaged in the tall dry grass, and I probably wouldn't have noticed it, on my own. He commented that he saw that bobcat frequently. I don't know how he knew it was the same one!

It is interesting to note that a couple hundred acres around this neighbor's house was in the CRP (Conservation Reserve Program) so it hadn't been used for crops or livestock in a decade or more. The property also includes a creek that runs through a rocky ravine and associated woodlands.

About six or seven years ago, a bobcat ran in front of my car as I drove home from work one dark winter night. I was caught by surprise, and I couldn't imagine what it was! I knew it wasn't a fox or a coyote.

Just a day later, someone brought a stuffed bobcat into the office for my boss. When I saw it, I immediately recognized the animal that had crossed my headlights. I should have known it was a bobcat, but it was a lot smaller than I had expected.

I suspect that I once heard a bobcat in the ravine that lies between our house and the highway below us. One hot summer night about midnight, I went outside to enjoy the cool night breeze that always wafts up from the valley below us.

As I sat there in the dark, listening to the tree frogs and cicadas, I heard a wild scream from the ravine. It was a little unsettling, so I went in the house and went to bed. It may have been a screech owl, but it sounded like a cat to me.

Related:
PDF map of confirmed mountain lion sightings in Nebraska, 1991-2007
US map: Confirmed sightings of cougars outside their established range, 1990-present
Website that lists "Alien Big Cats" around the world

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Diner Plates and Hot Beef Sandwiches

Vintage dinnerware and classic comfort food



Michael Leddy has a new "dowdy" coffee cup with saucer that looks like old-time restaurant ware. The everyday dinner plates at my house are similar in style. They are heavy, white, Corning® plates with burgundy bands on the rims.

Corning plateI bought fourteen of them at a flea market a couple of years ago for $1.00 each. I have no idea if that was a good price, and I don't really care. I bought them because I like them. I think of them as my "diner" plates.

When I imagine going back in time to a small-town cafe of my childhood, I see my dad getting a hot beef sandwich on a plate like that. The sandwich is two slices of soft white bread, filled generously with thin-sliced roast beef. It shares the plate with a big mound of mashed potatoes. Brown gravy covers the sandwich and potatoes and fills the plate to its brim.

Flashduck has a good photo of a hot beef sandwich in her Picassa album. In my opinion, the roast beef sandwich shouldn't be open-faced, but otherwise, it's perfect. It looks tasty.

Maggie Osterberg photographed a hot beef made with French fries. The sandwich looks great (mmmm, lots of pepper), but those gravy-laden fries just aren't right. (And the plate isn't right, either!)

Related: Hot Beef Sandwich Reminiscent of Home Cooking

Friday, January 18, 2008

Montana Shepherds of the 1940s

Earth, sky, and sheep




Lee, Russell,, 1903-, photographer. Herder with his flock of sheep on the Gravelly Range, Madison County, Montana. 1942 Aug.
Image source: Library of Congress

Related image:
Another 1942 photo of a huge flock of sheep in Montana


Related post on this blog:
Montana Sheepherder's Life in 1920

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Snow Day Tomorrow?


The children are nestled
All snug in their beds,
While dreams of a snow day
Dance in their heads.



It's snowing tonight in Christian County. Big wet flakes started falling about 7:00 p.m.Some of the "flakes" have been slushy rain. The grass is mostly covered with white, but on the sidewalks, the snow has been melting as it falls.

If the temperature drops just a couple degrees, and if the snow continues to fall, the roads may be a little slick tomorrow morning. Maybe school will be set back an hour or two, or perhaps it will even be cancelled.

If you could hover above Christian County tonight and tune into the thoughts of Christian County's children, you'd hear a chant of little mind-voices: "Please, let school be cancelled tomorrow. Please, let school be cancelled tomorrow."

That decision will be made about 5 a.m. by a team of school administrators. They drive out into the county and check some of the less-traveled backroads that are likely to have an accumulation of snow or ice. Then, if school is to be cancelled, a bulletin goes out to the radio and TV stations before 6 a.m.

It would have to snow a lot before Isaac's classes at the Community College were cancelled. And the roads would have to be truly impassable before I'd be able to skip work.

Dennis, however, has signed up to be a school cafeteria substitute worker. Currently, he's doing a two-week stint in one of the elementary schools. He's the only one at our house who has a chance of getting a surprise day of vacation tomorrow, due to the weather.

Often, the residents of Hopkinsville wonder why school was cancelled because the streets in town are clear. However, I can vouch that the rural backroads are often slick and treacherous, even though main roads and town streets are fine. It gets colder out here in the country, and we don't have much traffic, so snow and ice are more likely to stick.

Education Problems in Christian County

My thoughts on the topic aren't brilliant.


Christian County, KY, is in the middle of an education crisis that's been coming for years. Finally, public outrage has been ignited.

The radical and innovative Kentucky Education Reform Act was implemented in the early 1990s, about the time my daughter started first grade. Since then, a tremendous amount of time and effort has been dedicated to creating student writing portfolios, as required by law. However, no education miracles have happened in this county.

In fact, the opposite has been true. We're graduating illiterate high school seniors who aren't prepared for the work world. Our schools' test scores are low by both state and national standards. We've even become one of Kentucky's worst school districts.


According to statewide test scores for the 2006-07 school year, Christian County Public Schools ranks 164th out of 175 Kentucky school districts.

The entire community should endeavor to change that, [Hopkinsville Mayor Dan] Kemp said.

“Having an educated workforce is the main key to a successful economy and a higher quality of life,” Kemp said.

The mayor coordinated the first Community Education Summit with Superintendent Dr. Bob Lovingood, the Hopkinsville-Christian County Chamber of Commerce and Hopkinsville Community College President Dr. Jim Selbe. HCC will host the summit.

Source: "Education event seeks unification", by Joe Parrino, Staff Writer, Kentucky New Era, January 5, 2008


The mayor's summit was held last weekend. Community agencies and officials, state education officials, representatives from successful school districts in the region, and our own school administrators and board members met with interested members of the public. Speeches were made and workshops were held.

Now the good folks on the Hoptown Hall forum are hashing it over. Most of them seem to be concerned that the Christian County schools aren't challenging their bright kids to excel.

I know that problem exists. Certainly, my kids weren't challenged to excel by many of their teachers (though they both had a few great teachers.) Still, though my kids came through the worst schools in a county of substandard schools, they did very well on their ACTs when they were high school seniors.

How can this be? Well, I believe it happened because we made reading a part of their lives from infancy. They wanted to read for themselves, and they were thrilled when they could! They were thoroughly convinced that books were wonderful. They quickly became hungry readers, and to a large extent, they educated themselves. In addition, we expected them to behave themselves and do well at school.

I think it's nice for bright students to get special attention at school, but I just can't get myself agitated about it being one of the worst problems with education in Christian County. It seems to me that we ought to get agitated about young adults who graduate from high school but can't read.

But even if we try to do a better job of teaching reading, there are so many social factors that affect how well our students learn at school. In Christian County, many of our children come from homes where drug abuse is a problem. We have a lot of low-income families. Many of them don't have two parents in the home.

Perhaps the worst problem we face is that many parents have an apathetic or even an antagonistic attitude toward the schools. Negative parent attitudes contribute to all sorts of discipline problems.

Most of the social problems aren't going to be changed by holding public meetings about local education, but maybe at least the public attitude toward the schools will become a little more cooperative. I hope so.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Another Day, Another Sunset

January in the Kentucky countryside



January sunset in Kentucky January sunset, Christian County, KY


This is a winter photo. I took it today, January 14. Look how green the grass is from the rains we've been getting. It's much greener now, in the middle of winter, than it was last summer during the drought!

There are a few hints of winter in the photo. The trees and the sprigs of trumpet vine on the post have no leaves. The dead blades of grass in the fence row are left from last summer. But it would only take a week or two of warmish weather to transform this landscape into spring.

Later this week, overnight temperatures are supposed to drop into the low 20s. One night is supposed to be down to 13°. Along with the cold air, we're supposed to get some snow flurries. It's a good thing because, otherwise, the daffodils might start blooming.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Montana Sheep Herder's Life in 1920

Sheep herding on the open prairie



1920s Montana ShepherdA sheep herder, his dogs, and his sheep
on the high plains of Montana about 1920.


This photograph is from my 1922 world geography book. The man is a sheep herder in Montana. It must have been an exciting day for him when this photograph was made. He appears to be dressed in his best suit of clothing for the occasion. The two little dogs beside him don't look much like "sheep dogs", but I'm sure he had trained them to help.

Here's the description the book gives of sheep ranching and the sheep herder's life:
A good sized sheep ranch has from twenty-five thousand to forty thousand herd of sheep. These, like cattle, may feed partly upon government land, or the "range" and partly open land fenced in and owned by the ranchman. During the coldest winter weather, when the snow may be so deep that the sheep cannot obtain food, they are often driven into protected corrals and fed on alfalfa. The fierce winds of the open plains help them, however, by drifting the snow and thus leaving open patches where they can find grass.

When the sheep are feeding on the range, one man, with a dog can herd twenty-five hundred; and if he has a horse to ride, he sometimes takes care of five thousand Selecting a spot near water for a camp, the herder drives his sheep out each morning, and back at night, going each day a distance of two or three miles from camp. When the grass is eaten in one place, the camp is moved; then from the new point as a center, they wander out as before.

The life of the herder is extremely lonely, both day and night being spent with the sheep. Once a week a man brings him food; and for weeks, and even months at a time, the only company he has aside from his sheep, is his dog and possibly his horse.

Source: World Geographies: Second Book by Ralph S. Tarr, B.S. F.G.S.A, and Frank M. McMurry, Ph. D. Copyrighted in 1920 and published in New York by the Macmillan Company in 1922.


The article says that one out of twenty sheep died during the harsh Montana winter. These animals were skinned and the hides were sent to market in early spring.

About the first of June, the sheep were sheared. To avoid the expense of transporting the wool, the sheep were often driven to the railroad over a period of weeks. They grazed along the way, moving a few miles closer to their destination each day. When they arrived at the railhead, they were sheared. The wool was pressed into bales and shipped to the eastern U.S. for manufacturing.

According to the book, some 3 to 5 year-old sheep were sold for mutton starting in July. I suppose that by mid-summer, they had regained some fat.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Dieting Over the Holidays

The retail diet plan



Weighing inI have a helpful hint for anyone who wants to avoid weight gain over the winter holidays. It's a simple hint, but I swear that it worked for me -- just work 35-40 hours a week at a busy retail store.

I lost ten pounds between November 10 and January 10. I ate my usual peanut butter and toast for breakfast, and I took a sandwich to work for lunch. That was conservative enough, but every night when I got home from work, I enjoyed supper and a liberal amount of homemade Christmas candy.

When I went to the doctor in mid-December, he told me to keep my job because it was good for me. My cholesterol was up a little (probably from the Christmas candy!) but I had actually lost some weight. I have to get a cholesterol re-check in a couple of months, but I expect it to be OK now that the Christmas candy is all gone.

The retail worker's day is full of light exercise, done quickly -- lifting, walking, carrying, reaching, bending, kneeling, climbing, etc. At my store, if you're on the clock you're standing, even if you aren't working. All in all, it's the most effective weight-loss plan I've ever experienced.

To be honest, if I hadn't been working, I would have spent a good portion of November and December sitting at my computer, where I burn a minimum of calories! I usually gain at least 5 pounds over the holidays. I do agree with the doctor that my job has been good for my health, though it certainly has cut into my blogging time!

Friday, January 11, 2008

A Free Weekend

Two days off in a row!



The Christmas season is just about over and done with. At work, the after-Christmas returns are slacking off, and only a few odds and ends of Christmas merchandise still remain Jumping for joyto be sold.

Here's proof that the retail season is changing. For the first time since before Thanksgiving, I have two days off in a row -- this weekend!

I could make an impossible list of chores to do over the weekend, but I think I'll spare myself the unnecessary guilt. The only thing I must do is pay a few bills and get them in the mail.

When I get that done, I'm going to focus on important things -- enjoying Keely and Taurus when they come to visit tomorrow, fixing a family meal or two, going to church Sunday morning, and taking a long nap on Sunday afternoon.

The only thing wrong with this weekend is that it just has two days!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Fiscal and Physical

Easily confused words



Fiscal means financial.
We all have our pet peeves, and one of mine pertains to the words "fiscal" and "physical." I have a strong urge to correct people who confuse and misuse these words.

Today, at work, one of the managers said that the "physical year" was just about to end so we should not allow sales to slide. Ugh. What on earth is a "physical year"?

Let's review these these two adjectives.

Fiscal means financial. The word fis-cal has two syllables.

Physical either has a scientific meaning (related to physics) or it describes something about a body (related to the physique.) The word phys-i-cal has three syllables.

Which adjective should be used to describe a business year, a year that begins and ends on arbitrary dates set by accountants? The answer is -- fiscal! It's a fiscal year! It's a purely financial period of time. There's nothing scientific or bodily about it.

Beautiful Sunset

Heavenly color in the western sky




Isaac and I watched a beautiful sunset last night while driving home from Madisonville, KY. In about half an hour, the western sky changed from shades of pink to intense reds, roses, and purples. I kept wishing I could pull over and snap a photo, but traffic was heavy. Finally, we had a chance to stop on the shoulder just south of Crofton, KY, and Isaac took this picture from the car window.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Oxen and Big Steers

What's an ox?



I read on Sarpy Sam's blog about some big steers, over 8 years old, that his dad rounded up when he bought the ranch. Sam said his dad had a hard time getting them in (in order to drive them to the train and send them to market.) I'm sure that the horses were a bit afraid of those big, wild steers!

The story of the big steers on the range reminded me of a couple of big Holstein steers we saw at the State Fair when I was a kid. I wasn't too big, so I may not remember right, but in my mind, those steers were at least six feet tall at the shoulder, and their heads were higher than that! The sign on their pen said they were 12 years old.

Those two steers surely weighed 2500 pounds each, or maybe more. That's a wild estimate, based on the weight of my dad's biggest Charolais bulls, years ago.

Last night, I happened upon this old-time photograph of four oxen hitched to a plow in eastern Kentucky. The oxen look like any ordinary cattle. I think they might be Shorthorns. (The photograph is part of the C. Frank Dunn collection which dates mainly from 1920 to 1940, with most photographs collected during 1928-1932.)

I began wondering exactly what distinguishes an ox from a big steer, and after some research today, I've learned the answer. It's training. Any cattle that are trained to work can be called oxen.

Many sources say an ox is a bull -- usually castrated, but not always. (A castrated bull is a steer.) Some make a distinction between a working steer (under 4 years old) and an ox (the same animal, over 4 years old.) Some sites emphasize that oxen can be either male or female.

Many of the covered wagons in U.S. history were pulled by oxen, and some of the oxen were cows. Cows were favored because they provided milk along the way. At the new home, a cattle herd could be started if your ox was a cow.

Oxen could live on grass or even sagebrush along the trail. Horses and mules were pickier about what they ate and couldn't be depended on to swim streams or pull through deep mud like oxen.

According to an interesting British website about working with oxen, workhorses have strength and speed, but they pull in spurts. Oxen, however, pull long, hard, and steady. Two oxen can replace a big workhorse and it will cost less to keep them . Before tractors, oxen were the preferred animal to move heavy loads or to pull out a large vehicle that had become mired (even train cars that had left the tracks!)

Check out the great old photo of a big team of oxen at the link in the previous paragraph. The ox in the front looks old and thin. Perhaps he was placed in front because that position required less work, or maybe he was just a good leader.

Many of the old British cattle breeds were used as oxen, and of course, the same is true of all the old European breeds, including the breeds of large, muscular cattle that have become popular with beef producers in the U.S. during my lifetime -- Charolais, Gelbvieh, Limousin, Simmental, and others.

Interesting searches:
Oxen as draft animals
Oxen associations

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Someone Else's Grocery List

A carefree eater goes shopping.


I stopped at Kroger tonight after work to pick up a few groceries. The last shopper's list was lying in the bottom of the shopping cart, so I picked it up and read it. Here it is -- just five items.

  • 6 bananas
  • 1 lb. bacon
  • 1 doz. eggs
  • 1 crispy c. donuts
  • beer bratwurst

This list suggests to me that its author keeps donuts in the house regularly, just like bacon, eggs, and bananas. Krispy Kreme Doughnuts as a staple of life! What a concept!

Related: Friday Donuts

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Green Stamps at the Grocery Store

The era of trading stamps has passed.



Image by Wandering Magpie
When I was a child, grocery stores gave trading stamps with every receipt. I particularly remember S&H Green Stamps and Gold Bond stamps in our area, but some other brands of stamps were given by stores in different towns.

The number of stamps a customer received depended on the amount of money he had spent in the store. Stamp books were provided, and full books of stamps could be traded for merchandise in a catalog.

My mother always thought that pasting the stamps into the books was a good job for my sister and me. When she came home from the store, she threw the stamps into a box. When she thought she had a bookful or two, Charlotte and I got a bowl of water and a sponge. We used a lot of water, so the books and the table were pretty wet when we got done. Also, the books usually had some their pages stuck together when they dried out.

Maybe the catalog had one or two little items that could be purchased with a single book of stamps, but most items required multiple books of stamps.

I knew a family that saved enough trading stamps (around 200 books, I think) to buy a dishwasher. It took them years! My mother once had enough trading stamps to get an electric sewing machine. That was when my dad got Green Stamps with some seed corn he bought.

Wikipedia says that S&H Green Stamps is still in business, but I haven't seen trading stamps for years.

In our area, the closest thing to the trading stamp idea is the "Kroger card" which is sort of a combination ID and reverse credit card. When you buy groceries at Kroger, they scan your card and it entitles you to special prices on some items and (when enough dollars have been spent) a 10-cent-per-gallon discount for a fill-up at Kroger's gas pumps.

I am most familiar with Kroger's cards, but some of the other grocery stores, book stores, etc. also have discount cards.

Related:
The Trading Stamp Story
Does Anyone Remember S&H Green Stamps?
Andy Warhol S&H Green Stamps at Museum of Modern Art
Andy Warhol S&H Green Stamps lithograph
New York Times column by David Leonhardt relates frequent-flyer miles to Green Stamps

Image by Hugo90


Thursday, January 03, 2008

How to Spend a Cold Winter Morning

Staying warm and being cool



Sleepy cat on a pillow

Some of us have to go outside, brace ourselves against a cold wind, scrape off our frosty cars, and go to work, but Casper is spending this chilly winter morning in a more sensible way.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

2008 Already?

Time is flying. Are we having fun?



Oh, time is flying by at a rapid rate.

It seems just a year or two ago that Keely, her friend-boy PJ, Isaac, and I spent the New Year's Eve of 2000 together, enjoying a nice free meal at one of Hopkinsville's better restaurants.

I had won a drawing at work for a meal and show at Opryland Hotel in Nashville. Unfortunately, we had a prior commitment on the date of the tickets, but my employer gave me a very generous amount of credit at O'Charlie's in Hopkinsville, instead.

Dennis had to work on New Year's Day and wanted to go to bed early, so I took the kids out to celebrate the New Millenium without him.

I think we all had steaks that night -- at least, I remember that I had a steak and it was very good. After we ate, we went to an open house at the museum and listened to the tolling of the old firehouse bell in honor of the turn of the century.

* * *


Since that night when we passed into the next century and millenium together, my three companions have grown up. Keely graduated from college in December. PJ will soon begin student teaching. Isaac has completed middle school and high school and now is a freshman in college.

During those seven years, there have been many events and changes in my life and within my family.

In my community and my church, babies have been born. Little children have become high schoolers. People have married, changed jobs, moved away, and retired. New constructions have begun; some have been completed and others have stalled. Landmarks have passed into memory, and leaders have come and gone.

And just think of all the national and world events since January 1, 2001. Some of them have affected our lives greatly.

* * *


Suddenly, I feel ... older.

I wasn't done with last year yet, but here we are. The holidays have gone by in a fast blur, and another new year has begun.

The only way I can freeze time is to convert moments to words and put them on paper -- or in our post-modern world, into the computer. I must write every chance I get next year, because time is going by much too quickly. That is my only resolution for 2008.

Well, I do have one other goal. I'm going to try to finish Keely's high school graduation quilt.
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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.