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.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Baby Pageant

Small town entertainment



The West Kentucky State Fair is in progress at the Hopkinsville fairgrounds, and one of the attractions is a series of beauty contests. It includes several pageants for babies and little children.

All week, at the store where I work, moms and their little children have been shopping for pageant clothes.

Some of the moms brought along friends, grandmothers, and aunts as consultants. In a few cases, the group was becoming very frustrated. They had visited many stores, and they still didn't have a suitable set of clothes.

One mom who came in tonight was cool and calm. She already had some shorts for her little boy. She bought them several months ago. She was just looking for a cute little shirt. Long pants and neckties never win, she told me.

This is her son's third pageant. He's three years old. He hasn't won yet, but his mom enjoys seeing him in the competition. "Sometimes you wonder, 'Why didn't my kid win?'" she explained. "But let's be honest -- they're all cute babies."

Her words suggest a good interpretation of the baby pageant. At our fair, we have this year's best tomatoes and biggest zucchinis. We have the prettiest cakes and quilts and rabbits and chickens. And we also have an exhibition of cute babies. I hope all the moms can calm down, let go of the competition, and just enjoy the show.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Hummingbird Nest

Great photos



Over the weekend, take a few minutes and visit a hummingbird nest. There are five pages in all, with photos that document the eggs in the nest, the birth of the fledglings, and finally, the empty nest.

The empty nest is the most impressive photo of all. It's so very tiny.

Special thanks to my cousin Alta who sent this link.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Spivey, Kansas: Busy with Oil

Oilfield parts keep a little town on the map.



My sister-in-law Kathy sent a link to a Wichita Eagle article about Spivey, Kansas. Kathy is the office manager for one of the oilfield-supply companies mentioned in the article.

Spivey is located in the Spivey-Grabs oilfield of Harper and Kingman counties in south central Kansas. It's also centrally located within a wide area of oil and natural gas production that stretches across southern and western Kansas and northern Oklahoma. Because of its location, Spivey has become the headquarters for several companies that supply parts for all phases of oil and gas production -- drilling the wells, pumping the petroleum, and bringing it to market it via pipelines, storage tanks, etc.

The Spivey Field, located in Kingman and Harper Counties, South Central Kansas, was discovered in 1949. Development of oil and gas reserves from the Mississippian Chert Formation, at an average drilling depth of 4,250 feet, has been continual since discovery... Great lateral extent, thick pay sections, and long-lived production characterize the reservoir.

Source: a 1998 report by the 3TEC Energy Corporation


It's hard for me to say much about Spivey without repeating what the Wichita Eagle writer said. It's just a little, dirt-street town. The school, the truck stop, and the church are all closed. You can't even buy a newspaper or a loaf of bread in Spivey. Less than 100 people live there, but the oilfield-supply companies will be in Spivey for the duration.


Related:
Oil Drilling in the Land of the Free
Old-time photo of Spivey

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Wordle

Internet toy



Have you tried Wordle yet? It's an entertaining way to spend a few minutes or hours. Copy and paste a block of text, or type in some words, and Wordle will make a word cloud from them. The number of words, font, color scheme, and layout of the cloud can be manipulated.

Here's a cloud I made from Prairie Bluestem of May, 2008.

Wordle cloud

This one is made from the blog tags I use on Prairie Bluestem.

wordle cloudI didn't limit the number of words, so these clouds are large and crowded -- just like my blog.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Seen in Princeton, Kentucky

Caldwell County Courthouse and downtown Princeton, KY



Art deco courthouse

I've been doing a little research lately on WPA buildings in this area of Kentucky. To my surprise, I learned that Princeton, a small town northwest of Hopkinsville, has one of the few Art Deco courthouses built by the WPA in Kentucky.

I had only been in the downtown area of Princeton once, so Dennis and I drove over to look at the Caldwell County courthouse last Sunday. It is a striking, concrete building that sits on the square in the center of Princeton. Each of its four sides has a dramatic doorway, but the main entrance with the widest steps (photo above) is on the south.

Caldwell County, KY, courthouse

Here's a closer look at the south facade (above photo.) This is the area directly above the doorway. The very austere eagles are repeated around the building.

On the east and west sides, the stylized leaves between the first and second floor windows surely must represent tobacco. At the top of the building, another set of designs may represent plants -- tobacco again? I'm not sure.

One wall has a bust of George Washington (I think) under a giant, rounded-off, concrete ledge that is an architectural detail of that wall. You can see the ledge and the bust protruding from the side of the building in the photo below (upper right.)

WPA courthouse in Kentucky

This is the north entrance (above photo.) In case you get disoriented, the direction is inscribed above each doorway. I wonder if the pillars in front, with the inset glass blocks, might light up from the inside.

Princeton, KY downtown

Princeton, KY historic downtown

The buildings in the two photos above are just a few of the interesting old storefronts in the downtown area around the courthouse. I believe that Princeton has done a better job of preserving its old architecture and keeping some business downtown than Hopkinsville has done.

Princeton, KY church

The church in the photo above is the Christ Tabernacle. The sign says it's a non-denominational church and everyone is welcome. Nearby there's also a large Baptist church. Both churches are only about a block from the courthouse.

I want to drive back over to Princeton and look inside the courthouse on a weekday. I'm curious whether the interior has any distinctive Art Deco features.

General Harlan B. Lyon of the Confederacy burned the Caldwell County courthouse, the Christian County Courthouse (in Hopkinsville), and others during the Civil War so they wouldn't fall into Union hands. He was said to be the "courthouse-burn'est" general around.

Caldwell County built another courthouse after the war was over. It must have been in poor repair or too small, because they needed another new one by the time the WPA was looking for projects during the Great Depression.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Bolivian Mennonites

Glimpses of their lives


When Dennis and I taught school in Santa Cruz, Bolivia in the early 1980s, we were quite surprised to see Mennonites there. However, we soon became accustomed to seeing them around town in their horse-drawn farm wagons.

The Mennonite ladies always wore long sleeved dresses, and I always thought that they must be sweltering in the heat. I certainly was, and I didn't have long sleeves. They did make a few concessions to the tropical climate -- they wore broad-brimmed hats rather than bonnets and they didn't bother with black stockings.

Our main contact with the Mennonites was at the markets where we bought their cheese -- queso menonito. It was a white cheese that was a bit watery, salty, and squeaky. Our Wisconsin friend, Dan Sands, said it reminded him of "new cheese." It didn't melt well, but we used it in grilled cheese sandwiches anyway.

I didn't know anything about the history of the Bolivian Mennonites then, but I've learned from the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online (GAMEO) that the first colony around Santa Cruz was established in the late 1950s, and other colonies were established in the Santa Cruz area during the 1960s.

I taught a little Mennonite boy from Kansas in my 6th grade class at the Santa Cruz Cooperative School. His family was in Bolivia as workers from the Mennonite Central Committee, the outreach of the North American Mennonites. His father's job was to teach improved farming methods to the Bolivian Mennonite men, and his mother's job was to teach the women various skills for the home.

Recently, I've read several articles about the Bolivian Mennonites and the land reforms in Bolivia. They're worried about losing their farms. They have cleared and created a lot of farmland, and while they hold title to some of it, they don't have papers for all of it. (This is not surprising in Bolivia.) My sympathies lie with them. They've worked hard for what they have.

Slide show about the Bolivian Mennonites (New York Times)
Jordi Busque's photo essays about the Bolivian Mennonites (scroll down)

Friday, June 20, 2008

Trust, But Verify

Creative non-fiction in the newspaper


It seems to be my week for writing about the local newspaper. My last post criticized WalMart for trying to steal the newspaper's classified ad business. Tonight, I'm feeling critical of the newspaper.

I'm disgusted that, against my better judgment, I trusted the Kentucky New Era (KNE) about something that was completely wrong. Fortunately, it wasn't anything of grave significance. It was just a bit of local historic trivia, but I don't like finding boldly-stated errors in the newspaper.

Last February, I wrote a blog article about the First City Bank renovation in Hopkinsville. I mentioned that, according to the Kentucky New Era, the building was constructed in the late 1800s.

Let me quote. The KNE article states, "The old bank building was constructed in the late 1800s." (Source: "Architects hired for old bank renovation," by Jennifer Brown, Kentucky New Era, July 18, 2003, subscription required)

I wrote in my blog article that I was surprised that the building was that old because it looks more modern. I had always thought it might be from the 1920s.

My estimate was very nearly correct. A well-researched book I purchased today states that the First City Bank building was completed in 1930, following the merger of three local banks that had survived the stock market crash of 1929. (Source: Hopkinsville & Christian County Historic Sites by Kenneth T. Gibbs and Carolyn Torma for the Kentucky Heritage Commission. Published by Gateway Trust, 1982.)

That sentence about the building being constructed in the late 1800s is tacked onto the very end of the KNE article. Obviously, the writer, Jennifer Brown, didn't take time to check that fact. So why throw it in there, then?

Jennifer Brown was promoted about a year ago to deputy editor at the Kentucky New Era. She has received various journalism awards, and she has a master's degree in creative nonfiction.

I expect accuracy in the newspaper, That's not too much to ask, is it? After all, if the newspaper isn't trustworthy in the small facts, can we trust it on the big stuff?

I feel moved to share a strange-but-true story. About ten years ago, the Kentucky New Era ran a long, locally-written article about an Arab sheik, and they called him a "chic" throughout the entire story. It was too awful to be funny.

(Tomorrow is my day off. Maybe I won't be so cranky in my next post.)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Classifieds at WalMart.com

WalMart undercutting local newspapers



I learned today that WalMart.com has a free online classified ad service. It seems to be intended mainly for private party use. The Terms of Use say that ads that "engage in any commercial activity" may not be posted.

I noticed that the ads contain many homes for sale by realtors, which would surely be commercial activity, but maybe that's considered OK since the sellers are private parties.

The classifieds site is powered by Oodle, a classified ad aggregator. Oodle gathers classified ads from a variety of sources and makes them searchable. Ads from all sources that match any certain search query are then displayed on an Oodle page with links to their sources.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette was not pleased to learn that their newspaper ads were appearing in the WalMart classifieds. WEHCO Media, which owns the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and ten other Arkansas newspapers, decided to withhold their ads from the WalMart/Oodle site.

While WEHCO realizes it must compete for classified ads and audience, the company says it does not see the advantage in helping classified competitors, especially since classified content is a major reason for reading a newspaper or its Web site, and classified revenues are a major source of funding news gathering, reporting and journalism. (Source)


Having worked several years in classified advertising at Hopkinsville's locally-owned daily, I sympathize with WEHCO Media. Newspapers already face competition on all sides. Dwindling circulation numbers affirm that the public has many choices about where to read the news and advertisements. It's adding insult to injury for WalMart/Oodle to republish a newspaper's classified ads as well as offering free ads.

Classified advertising is a vital revenue source for small newspapers. WalMart's not really interested in the money, though. WalMart wants to take over the traffic that classified ads bring to the local newspaper. They want the public to develop a habit of visiting the WalMart website regularly.

On first glance, free ads may seem a nice service, but it's not helpful to any community if the newspaper goes broke or its owners are forced to sell out to a large newspaper chain.

Really, it reminds me of the Bible's account of David and Bathsheba. David had great riches and plenty of women already, but he looked out from his palace rooftop and saw Bathsheba, the wife of an ordinary soldier, and he wanted her too. That's what WalMart is doing -- looking out from their piles of wealth and seeing something else they want, something that still belongs to small, local firms, in many cases.

A hat tip goes to The Rural Blog, where I learned about the ad controversy in Arkansas. By the way, I've deliberately not linked to either WalMart or Oodle. It's my symbolic bit of protest.

Monday, June 16, 2008

A Good Wife in 1948

Faithful service rewarded with a watch



Quoted from a Hamilton Watch advertisement that appeared in the December 1948 National Geographic magazine:

To Peggy --

for marrying me in the first place...

for
bringing up our children -- while I mostly sat back and gave advice.

for the 2008 pairs of socks you've darned.

for finding my umbrella and my rubbers Heaven knows how often!

for tying innumerable dress ties.

for being the family chauffeur, years on end.

for never getting sore at my always getting sore at your bridge playing.

for planning a thousand meals a year -- and having them taken for granted.

for a constant tenderness I rarely notice but am sure I couldn't live without.

for wanting a good watch ever so long ... and letting your slow-moving husband think he'd hit on it all by himself.

for just being you...

Darling, here's your Hamilton with all my love!

Jim


In fairness to Jim, I must say that a Hamilton watch was a nice gift. Watches pictured in the ad include a platinum watch, set with 32 diamonds, that sold for $725. (It was similar in design to this Hamilton watch, set with 48 diamonds.)

However, this one was what Peggy really deserved for darning all those socks and putting up with years of insults about her bridge playing!

Related webpages:

Vintage Watch Ads

Brief History of the Hamilton Watch Company
Watchmaking at the Hamilton Factory in Lancaster, PA, 1947
1913 Hamilton Railroad Watch Manual

Sunday, June 15, 2008

A Traveling Salesman Remembered

The Minnesota Woolen Mill salesman



Traveling salesman One hot afternoon every summer, the Minnesota Woolen Mill salesman came to visit in his dust-covered station wagon.

The back of his wagon was weighted down with suitcases, and the suitcases were stuffed with samples of all the Minnesota Woolen Mill merchandise for that year -- wool blankets, wool garments, and other winter items like flannel sheets, thermal underwear, and quilted nylon parkas.

When my mother granted permission, the salesman hauled the suitcases into our living room, and we sat down to hear his spiel and see what he was selling.

He had one sample of each item and a book of swatches to show the different colors available. In mid-summer, his goods seemed very warm indeed, especially when a sample garment was tried on to get an idea of the size needed.

If my mother decided to buy something, the salesman filled out the order form. Then he refolded his samples, packed his suitcases, loaded his stationwagon, and drove on to the next ranch. Several months later, a package from Minnesota Woolen Mill arrived at our mailbox.

Over the years, Mama bought several Minnesota Woolen Mill blankets. They were heavy and scratchy with a creamy white background and bold stripes. I still have the one that I used as a child, and it is still a heavy, warm blanket.

In my fabric scraps, I have a Minnesota Woolen Mill skirt from the winter that I was ten. It's a turquoise-and-gray plaid, with knife pleats all the way around, and it was an important piece in my winter dress-up wardrobe until I outgrew it. One of these days, it will become part of a wool quilt. For no practical reason, I will carefully remove and preserve its tag.

I think that the last summer my mother ordered anything from the Minnesota Woolen Mill salesman was 1967. She had thought for several years that the prices were much too expensive, and that year, she was disappointed in the quality of the merchandise.

For the first time, the Minnesota Woolen Mill salesman had skirts, dresses, and jackets made of bonded wool. Those garments did not have the usual nylon lining that was attached separately; rather, the fabric had wool on one side and lining fabric on the other side.

After my sister and I wore our bonded wool skirts a few times, the lining separated from the wool and the garments lost their shape. Furthermore, the wool was not as tightly woven as it had been in the past. Mama was irritated.

I don't remember the Minnesota Woolen Mill salesman stopping at our house after that. Perhaps he did, and my mother sent him on his way. Maybe the mill went out of business. Or maybe the salesman retired; his job surely demanded strength and stamina, and he was not young.

For many years, though, he brought a selection of quality winter goods to our living room, with an opportunity to see and touch that a mail-order catalog couldn't match.

Friday, June 13, 2008

19th Birthday

Time goes too fast!



Birthday cake

Here's Isaac, posing in the light of his birthday candles. This was the most human of his birthday pictures. His other poses included "zombie birthday." I'll leave that to your imagination.

I didn't want Isaac to be born on the 13th, because some years, his birthday would fall on Friday the 13th (like this year.) I'm not superstitious about Friday the 13th, but I thought that birthday might provide opportunity for someone to give him a hard time sometime. If that has ever happened, I'm sure Isaac was able to handle it.

Partners in Crime

Bad kitties



Cats

It's a good thing Dennis didn't see these two sitting on his car. I thought they were cute, though naughty. I don't think Dennis would have agreed about their cuteness.

Dennis doesn't usually park in this spot. The cats noticed right away that a new napping location was available.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Thoughts About My Neighbor's Wheatfield

Bread on the stem



Wheat

Do they still teach little children that bread is made from flour and that flour is made from the wheat that farmers grow? It's important that they know that farming is an honorable occupation and that farm products are vital to our nation and the world.

Food doesn't magically sprout from the grocery store shelves. If it weren't for the farmers who grow our food, we'd have to grow it ourselves. Do they tell school children that, nowadays?

The wheat in the photo above is in our Mennonite neighbor's field, across the road from our house. The tallest stalks are a full five feet. This field should make a lot of straw in addition to many bushels of grain. Well done, Willis, and thank you.

Long Valley Cemetery in Loup County, Nebraska

Remote hill country of northwestern Loup County


While I was poking around Abebooks tonight, I happened upon several copies of the Holt County, Nebraska, centennial book and a copy of the Loup County, Nebraska, centennial book. These counties border on Rock County, Nebraska, where I grew up.

I probably won't buy either book. All my bookcases are stuffed already, and besides that, I don't casually buy $50+ books. Also, the Loup County GenWeb page says that the Loup County Historical Society still has new copies of the centennial book for sale.

I'm a little more interested in Loup County history than Holt County history, because my family had pasture land in northwestern Loup County. Much of the county is Sandhill rangeland -- big, sandy hills -- and there aren't many real roads off the highways. Two-track trails wind through miles of pastures from one windmill to the next. They are used by ranchers checking their cattle. No one else has any reason to be out there in the hills off the main roads.

At one time, every square mile of those hills was homesteaded. One by one, most of  the homesteaders eventually went broke or gave up, and their land was bought up by the cattle ranchers. In some places, the land is still scarred a century later from wind erosion of the homesteaders' plowed fields.

Long Valley Cemetery is another reminder of the homesteaders who once inhabited the hills. It's south of the land we owned, and west or southwest of the Upstream Ranch (a landmark along the 60-mile stretch of Highway 183 between Taylor and Bassett.)

The Taylor, Nebraska, website states,

Located in the yard of the old Long Valley Methodist Episopal Sod Church, with seven interments, this cemetery is accessible only via guide and 4-wheel drive pickup. Contact Loup County High School if interested. There are NO roads near this cemetery. (Source)

In other words, they don't want people to drive out into the hills and get their cars stuck in the sand trying to find the cemetery, and then maybe get lost trying to walk back.

A history of Loup County provides a little information about the Long Valley Church:

A Methodist Episcopal Church was organized and incorporated at Long Valley in western Loup County Sept. 12, 1909. Rev. Mr. Brink of Burwell was the organizer and later Rev. Albert Elliott became regular pastor. The church building was a large sod structure, which was not uncommon in the early days in the sandhills. (Source)

I would probably find lots of interesting, obscure, historic trivia of this sort in the Loup County centennial book, and that's why I'm tempted to buy it, despite my better judgment.

Above: A sod church somewhere in
Nebraska (not the Long Valley church)
Also see this photo of a

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Shingles Shot Now Available

Chance of shingles reduced with shot



According to a May 16, 2008, Associated Press news report, a vaccine for shingles (herpes zoster) is now available. Vaccination is highly recommended for people who are 60 and older. It's even recommended for people who have had shingles already.

I'm fortunate that shingles broke out on my hand (rather than my face or elsewhere), and I hope that I'll never have them again if I take the shot.

My cousin Alta wrote the following about her experience with shingles:

Shingles, I know how they hurt. I had them 6 years ago on the left side of my face including my left eye, which they thought I would lose my eye sight but the shingle was behind the eye so that helped. I have lot of eye scares from the shingles so can't remove the cataract that is forming. Too dangerous but I can see out of it, but not as good as I would have.

Source: E-mail, 6-8-08


The Center for Disease Control (CDC) cites statistics for shingles and some common complications.

Approximately one in three persons will develop zoster during their lifetime, resulting in an estimated 1 million episodes in the United States annually.

A common complication of zoster is postherpetic neuralgia (PHN), a chronic, often debilitating pain condition that can last months or even years. The risk for PHN in patients with zoster is 10%--18%.

Another complication of zoster is eye involvement, which occurs in 10%--25% of zoster episodes and can result in prolonged or permanent pain, facial scarring, and loss of vision.

Approximately 3% of patients with zoster are hospitalized; many of these episodes involved persons with one or more immunocompromising conditions.

Deaths attributable to zoster are uncommon among persons who are not immunocompromised.

Source: CDC document, "Prevention of Herpes Zoster." This document also notes that 99.5% of U.S. citizens test positive for varicella (chicken pox), and about 50% of those who live to age 85 will contract zoster (shingles.)


Before my current outbreak of shingles, I wasn't aware of the high likelihood of getting the disease, the possible complications, or the vaccine that's now available. I'm better informed now. I intend to have the shingles shot as soon as possible.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Struck by Shingles

A pox on pox and their ilk!



When the blisters began to form, I thought I had a chemical burn from a cleaner I had used at work. I remembered dripping it on my hand.

I expected improvement in a day or two, but instead, the blisters got worse, More blisters appeared. Then the top of my hand was numb. When I woke up with severe pain shooting up my arm, it was very clear that I needed to see the doctor. By the time I got there, the numbness had gone up my arm to the elbow.

The diagnosis: I have shingles. The doctor said it's unusual to have shingles on a hand, but the outbreak on just the pinkie and ring finger is consistent with the virus following a nerve. The numbness and shooting pains are symptoms of the nervous system involvement.

Just to be sure, he took a fluid sample from one of the blisters, Then he wrote me a prescription for an anti-viral (Famciclover) and some painkillers (Darvocet).

I get through the day OK. The blisters are very tender, but it helps to bandaid them. The numbness doesn't bother me too much. Nights are the problem. When I'm asleep and my hand lies still, the shooting pains develop.

Last night was miserable. I woke up at least a dozen times. I couldn't find the heat pad (Dennis had put it somewhere), so I used the hot water bottle and found some relief in pressing my arm against it. If the Darvocet helped, I couldn't tell. Demerol would have been better. I'm hoping for better sleep tonight.

I've learned some things from this experience. I've learned that I was not sympathetic enough to my mother-in-law when she had shingles. I thought she might be a bit whiny. It's ironic that now I have shingles, and yes, I am whining about it. Shingles makes a person do that. I understand that now.

First Cutting

Hay season



Hay bales

Most of our neighbors have already made the first cutting of hay. About 99% of the hay was put into big round bales, like these. In most fields, the bales are numerous, thanks to ample spring rains.

It's been hot this week, and most days we've also had a strong wind. Those who were making hay had no problem getting it to cure. The hot wind dried the sap out of the hay in short order.

Farm machines are raising a lot of dust in the fields, lately. We could use a rain, but I don't see much hope in our forecast. Over the next week, our best chance for precipitation is 30%.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

400 Mile Sale This Weekend

Trash and treasure for sale along Highway 68



Garage saleKentucky's annual 400 Mile Sale starts tomorrow (Thursday, June 5,) and runs through the weekend. Some sellers were already setting up shop east of Hopkinsville, yesterday afternoon.

I hope to go to the sales between Hopkinsville and Elkton, sometime on Saturday. I will probably go by myself. Dennis is not much of a yard-saler. Isaac has to work, and Keely is going to a family reunion with her boyfriend. I don't mind. I'll be able to proceed at my own pace.

Why do I like yard sales? Well, I'm curious, I like bargains, and I'm always hoping to find a little treasure of some sort.

It's not an totally irrational hope. Michael Leddy at Orange Crate Art had a note today about a sensational garage sale find -- and it happened to be a Kentucky garage sale.

A lady bought an old chest. She considered throwing the contents away, then decided to have the papers and photos appraised by a rare documents dealer. They turned out to be correspondence and photographs by noted photographer and photojournalist, Weegee (Arthur Fellig, 1899-1968).

A slideshow of ten of the newly-found Weegee photos has been posted with a New York Times article about the find.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Bird Update

Feathered friends



Recently, I wrote about a mystery bird who is fixated on getting inside our house. Sarabeth and Mark thought it might be a bluebird female. Heelers hoped it might be a little robin.

I got out the bird books again and read about the markings of female and juvenile bluebirds. The books said to look for patches of blue on their backs and wings.

Then, I tried to get a good look at my little bird's back and wings -- not an easy thing to do! When he approached the windows, his wings were moving much too fast to see their color. He often landed on the outside window sill, but he flew away in a fright everytime I tried to look through the window at him.

So, I had to foil my little feathered friend. I opened the window about an inch -- just enough so I could peek through the crack. When the little bird came back, he fluttered around the window, trying to get in. Then, as is his custom, he perched on the window sill. I peeked through my little viewing slot. His wing was directly before me, and yes, there was a small patch of blue on it.

My opinion is that he is indeed a bluebird. (Sorry, Heelers.)

The bird books say the juveniles have speckled breasts. I didn't see even a hint of speckles, but I do think it's a juvenile. Surely an adult female wouldn't spend so much time, day after day, trying to get into the house. She'd be too busy with nest-building or egg-setting or baby-feeding.

In other news on the bird beat, a red-bellied woodpecker has been visiting the hummingbird feeders recently. He is not a particularly large red-belly, but he's heavy for the hummingbird feeder. When he lands on the little perch, the feeder lists to that side. In a day's time, he drinks or spills a couple of inches of sugar water.

All in all, it's been an interesting spring for bird watching.

The Dot Com

Kids say the darnedest things.



At work tonight, I struck up a conversation with a little girl who was waiting for her mama to finish shopping. She was about three years old. "I like that worm," I said, referring to her stuffed animal. She corrected me -- "He's a snake!" -- and showed me his red forked tongue.

"He's not a Webkinz," she informed me. "My sister has a Webkinz snake. She goes on the..." (Here, a short pause for word-finding.) "She goes on the Dot Com and plays a game with him."

She couldn't have been more correct. The Webkinz website is definitely a Dot Com. I'm glad Webkinz hadn't been invented yet when my kids were little.
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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.