Thursday, September 30, 2010

Thirty days hath September. I reckon that's just about enough. If you visit this site, you'll note that W.A. Mozart premiered The Magic Flute Die Zauberflöte, on a cool clear night like this, as it is here tonight in my part of Missouri? or was it raining that night in Vienna, in 1791?

Oh yes, 55 years have passed since James Dean got his ticket punched... Forever young.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

I fell asleep last night by the cool light of black & white Greer Garson movies, including Random Harvest. Today's the 106th anniversary of when she was born in the last year of Theo. Roosevelt's 1st term in office. I'm thinking that I was probably ten when I first saw her in a late night movie, 10:15 P.M., right after the late news. Maybe it was Goodbye, Mr. Chips [based on a book by James Hilton, who wrote Lost Horizon, also made into a movie w/ brilliant Ronald Coleman, who plays an amnesiac in R. H., w/its deeply improbable plot ] or Mrs. Miniver. Oh baby, what a wonderful movie that was, but it doesn't pay to see it more than 5 or 6 times. Then you start noticing how lame & class-ridden it is, in places. There's a scene in which Greer's awakened by the sound of aircraft flying overhead. She runs to the window to look, knowing that her son [rather drippily portrayed by a young man w/whom, I learned later on, she was in love, off stage; later they would marry...] , a crisp new RAF flyer, is piloting one of the planes. When I was a kid I thought never had I seen a face so lovely. Now I think how was it that Mrs. Miniver had gone to bed [in a twin bed next to Walter Pigeon/Mr. Miniver's twin bed] w/o removing her mascara & false eyelashes? Still, lovely she was & dead she's been for a few years now. Glad I am for old movies where folks live on, ever young.

Monday, September 27, 2010

“If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquillity of servitude than the animating contest of freedom, — go from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen!”

Samuel Adams, born this day in 1722

September 27, 1722. My great-great-great-great-great grandfather, Thos. Blackledge of Bucks Co. Pennsylvania, was a teenager and Daniel Defoe published Moll Flanders that year. Johann Sebastian Bach had written The Brandenburg Concertos the year before. Honestly, all I really know about Sam Adams, right off hand, was that his fellow Sons of LIberty got him a fine crimson suit of clothes to wear to the Continental Congress in Sept. 1774. And John Adams got his nose a bit out of joint when Parisians continually confused him with his older, better-known cousin, Samuel, over in Boston. I understand that there's a fine beverage named after him. And I found out just today that today's Samuel Adams's birthday, that he graduated from Harvard in 1740. When he died in 1803, how different was the world, in large part because of the revolution of which he was a bull-headed founder.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

So, yesterday morning, Saturday morning, the 25th of September [Wm. Faulkner's 113th birthday as well as the anniversary of the day in 1764 that Fletcher Christian was born, completely unaware that one day Clark Gable then Marlon Brando then Mel Gibson would portray him in the movies] , I was a few blocks from this here desk, down at the Nat'l Frontier Trails Museum. Should you ever be in Independence, Missouri, do be going to 318 West Pacific and see for yourself all manner of information & exhibits concerning the old trails to Santa Fe, Oregon, & California; the peltry trade, scouts, trappers, mountain men & women and assorted other tough dudes & dudettes who set off to settle the West, never mind/Heaven help/pity the people who were already living there. . Going West: Nothing I would have done, had I lived back then. A horrid camping trip it would have seemed to me.
Where was I? Yes: I was talking to a gathering of pleasant advocates of frontier history and hearty breakfasts about the making of books, particularly my books about the old Pathfinder, Daniel Boone and poor Narcissa Prentiss Whitman, the 1st (along w/ Eliza Hart Spalding, a heroic frontier teacher/missionary), U.S. female citizen to go all the way to the Pacific NW on what would become the Oregon Trail, in 1836. Alas, poor Narcissa and her doctor-husband Marcus had no training whatsoever - I'd say that they had no business whatsoever, [but that's just me, unable to imagine caring so deeply], going way out to the magnificent boondocks forever to Christianize the locals, all ending up in the most hellacious & deadly-miserable unintended consequences in late autumn 1847
Tremendous fun it was, enjoying warm eggs, bacon, & biscuits then talking with and to nice people about long-gone folks a million times more heroic than I. And now it's Sunday, the 26th of September, 190 years today since 85-year-old Daniel Boone passed away. A privilege it was to write about him, to imagine him, to draw what he might have looked like. R. I. P., D. B.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

So, did you know that it was on this day, September 21, this day in history, in 1938, when Herr Hitler was ruining many a life and fixing to invade western Europe, when Jeepers, Creepers was a hit song, when Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings published The Yearling and Daphne du Maurier published Rebecca (one of my favorite novels ever, MUCH, ever so much better than the fine film], that a big whacking hurricane swept through New England and killed as many as 800 people?
Well, now you do.

do check out this blog if you haven't - I hope you will:

Sunday, September 19, 2010


"Next in importance to freedom and justice is popular education, without which neither freedom nor justice can be permanently maintained." President James A. Garfield, whose life ended on this day, 19 September, 1881, thanks to Charles Guiteau, his assassin

So, dang – had I had the will to write anything yesterday OR the day before, I'd have noted here that yesterday was the 301st birthday of English writer Samuel Johnson. And if Greta Garbo was still alive, she might well have been feeling too old and puny yesterday, bless her, to have celebrated her 105th birthday.

I meant to then did not note here that the 17th of September was Constitution Day, the anniversary of the cool clear Monday in 1787, in Philadelphia, PA, when 39 men [out of a delegation of 55] put their names to the newly-crafted Constitution of the United States. Our handmade government. Thousands had fought, campaigned, argued, lost their lives for the ideal of self-governance and have since that day. Plenty of folks were still alive 75 years later, when tens of thousands of Americans fought one another on September 17, 1862, at Sharpsburg, MD, for one another, for their home folks' way of life, and for that ideal. More than 26,000 American fighters were wounded, killed, or went missing that day in the Battle of Antietam. Just imagine.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

So, here on the occasion of 390 years having passed since the good ship Mayflower left England for the New World, here's a passage from The Adventurous LIfe of Myles Standish and the Amazing-But-True Survival Story of Plymouth Colony (Nat'l Geographic, 2006. oh baby, I illustrated it, too.) a book of mine which far more people would have purchased and read if the world wasn't so horrible and rotten [she wrote with a twinkle in her eye]:

Did Myles and Rose Standish squeeze each other's hands as the Mayflower sailed into the English Channel? As the buildings of Plymouth got smaller and smaller? Did they shade their eyes and squint up at Master Jones? There he stood, up on the lofty poop deck, taking them sailing into the west and away, September 6 [old calendar], 1620.
...It's likely that even tough, 36-year-old Myles Standish was seasick as a "fine small gale" blew the tiny ship out on the North Atlantic. Almost all of the other passengers were. These homesick, seasick, psalm-singing landlubbers got on the crew's nerves and got in their way as sailors worked the sails and the multitudes of ropes that drove the ship. Little kids chattered or cried when men were trying to sleep. The crew cussed at and made fun of these "glib-gibbery puke-stockings," who began their days praying and singing on the upper deck. One in particular kept threatening to toss them all overboard – until he got sick, so sick that he died. It was his body that went into the sea. Had God Himself, the superstitious sailors wondered, punished their big-mouthed buddy? They cut out the teasing, just in case.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Viva Mexico

So, sure, a diligent person would have noted here that yesterday the Iranians finally released at least ONE of a trio of innocent hikers. And yesterday marked the day when lawyer Francis Scott Key wrote a notable poem on the 14th of September, 1814. The Defense of Fort McHenry. We know the words, mostly, as the lyrics of our national anthem, which should be the song originating with the poem by Miss Katherine Lee Bates, America the Beautiful. Just my opinion.
In any case, TODAY [a dark, damp, misty day hung about with storms] is absolutely infested with commemorations, some horrid & brutal, some festive, all remarkable.
Today marks the Bicentennial of Mexico's independence from Spain. 'twas on this night in 1810 that Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla called for rebellion, called for Mexicans to rise up against their Spanish overlords. The padre's 'Grito de Dolores' [Cry of Dolores] : "My children: a new dispensation comes to us today. Will you receive it? Will you free yourselves? Will you recover the lands stolen by three hundred years ago from your forefathers by the hated Spaniards? We must act at once… Will you defend your religion and your rights as true patriots? Long live our Lady of Guadalupe! Death to bad government!" The priest? Captured & executed in 1911. Mexican self-rule? Still a work in progress, as is ours.
“Poor Mexico: So Far From God, And So Close to the United States José de la Cruz Porfirio Díaz Mori, b. 15 Sept. 1830. President of Mexico, 1884-1911
It's the birthday of U.S. President Wm. Howard "Big Bill" Taft [1857] and author Jas. Fenimore Cooper, too [1789].

Oh, and it was on this day in 1963, that some cruel bozos, convinced as all terrorists are, that they were doing a good thing, bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. Four young ladies, who'd dressed themselves that morning in their Sunday best, were killed forever, had stolen from them all that might have done and experienced: Denise McNair (11), Addie Mae Collins (14), Carole Robertson (14) and Cynthia Wesley (14).
s i g h

Monday, September 13, 2010

"Lord, it is time. The summer was very big. Lay thy shadow on the sundials, and on the meadows let the winds go loose. Command the last fruits that they shall be full; give them another two more southerly days, press them on to fulfillment and drive the last sweetness into the heavenly wine."
- Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926)

Aren't those lovely words? I came across them, looking for my daily quotation, something to post onto my Facebook profile page. I looked for a Gen. Pershing quote, it being his birthday (1860). Handsome, Missouri-born, John J. "Black Jack" [so called by his Army buddies, meaning to insult him, seeing as he in charge of African-American troops] Pershing led the American Expeditionary Forces [A.E.F.], which included redheaded Albert Harley Wolfe of Missouri. Way later on, after the Great War had become known as WWI, Harley would be my Grandpa.
Both Gen. Pershing and Dr. Walter Reed [b. this day in 1851] said many fine and useful things, I'm sure, but as I'm too impatient to hunt for them beyond a quick quote search, I found Mr. Rilke's lines on September. A happy discovery. Now I'll write them down in my little book, telling the poet thank you, lost to us though he's been since 1926, back in the land of the dead.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

So, had I had any inclination whatsoever to type anything this past Friday, I'd have noted that the 10th of September marked the anniversary of the 1813 Battle of Lake Erie. Tame little factoid in an encylopedia. In life, a nightmare for all concerned. 10 Sept was Huey Long's deathday, down in Louisiana, back in 1935. Hard times there are not forgotten, I reckon. An assassin shot 'the Kingfish' two days earlier. Blowhard he was, but he had buckets of fine notions. And not so by the way, the opening page of Robt. Penn Warren's All the King's Men, based [loosely] on Long's life [cut short] is some of the best writing ever, ever.
Dalton Trumbo, blacklisted screenwriter, passed away, too, on 10 Sept, in 1976, when my life, incidentally, was horrible, one friend's couch away from just about no place to go. sheesh...
There was a time, years' worth of time, when school children were asked to remember that poor doomed Henry Hudson first laid eyes on Manhattan Island on 11 Sept 11, 1609. And I'll bet generations of neighbors in eastern Pennsylvania remembered September 11 as the day soldiers suffered & pounded their way through the Battle of the Brandywine in 1777. All overshadowed now, these past nine years. For any who'd welcome some clarity, some coherent background, do try & find your way to seeing & hearing [on HBO, perhaps] journalist Lawrence Wright's My Trip to Al-Qaeda
And then, and then here it is today and now it's nearly gone, this 12th of September, the day that wondrous curmudgeon H. L. Mencken was born in 1880 and Lester Harness, my dear uncle was born in 1916, the day in 1953 that a lovely debutante married skinny Jack Kennedy. I"ll bet he promised fidelity that day. Ah well. There's so much bad in the best of us, so much good in the worst of us, that it little behooves any of us to compare ourselves with the rest of us. So said a saying, anyway, on the wall of my poor mom's horrible kitchen. God rest her.

Thursday, September 9, 2010


So, my old Timelines of History book [bought it in a used book store years ago, a little bit o' the best money I ever spent] tells me that, in 1585, Wm. Shakespeare left his home village, Stratford-on-Avon [River] to seek his fortune in London. And the French poet Pierre de Ronsard [quoted so beautifully by Herbert Marshall as Somerset Maugham in the 1946 film version of The Razor's Edge], died that year and in the year before, Sir Walter Raleigh had claimed a portion of the New World. Virginia he called it, kissing up to his patroness.
Anyway, a boy-child was born 9 Sept. 1585, in Paris [man oh man. mon dieu! what then must it have been like to walking about the streets of Paris? ] Armand du Plessis. He's better known as Cardinal Richelieu, stern prime minister of France, played by Charlton Heston in the 1973 version of The Three Musketeers film, the only really good one... by Vincent Price in the 1948 technicolor whack at the daring trio..... jeez Cheryl -get a life!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Coeur de Lion

So, according to my trusty World Book, Henry & Eleanor's boy, Richard the Lion-Heart [splendid nickname - what would mine be, I wonder? 'Possom Heart] was born in Oxford on this day in history. Were he alive today, old Richard I, King of England, he'd be far too, too decrepit, I'd imagine, to enjoy the light made by the 853 candles on his cake. My battered Timelines of History notes that Jews were massacred at his coronation in 1189. Really? How utterly horrid. May their souls be blessed & comforted. According to the W.B. by the way, the Lion-Heart beat its last, during the siege of a French castle.

Sheesh, what a species we are.
On a blessedly different note, it was on a long, hot 8th of September 16 years ago that I drove my white Escort from Colorado Springs to Independence, to my new/old home where I lived when I was in high school. 'Cruddy Dump,' - that's what Mom called it when we first moved there in the summer of '68... Anyway, a 12-hour drive 'cross Kansas with beautiful Irene the cat [dazed, tranquilized, yowling 600 miles], my Scottie dog, Maudie; and 2 hound dogs, Ruby & Rosepie, the Bassett Sisters. They're all gone now, off in the Blue Beyond with all the dead folks and their pets. The sun was a red ball over hot hazy KC when we finally got hereabouts....

Monday, September 6, 2010


So, just for you to know, a fine, hardworking illustrator, one of my all-time favorites, Jessie Willcox Smith, was born on this day in 1863, a couple of months after the horrific Battle of Gettysburg. If I didn't have a boatoad of work to get to my own self I'd point out that Miss Jessie [she never married, never had children of her own, much preferring to paint them rather than having to fool with them all day long. amen.] turned 31 in 1894, the year that President Cleveland signed the paperwork, making Labor Day a national holiday, to take some of the sting out of the fact that he'd sicced federal troops on striking railroad workers.

Sunday, September 5, 2010


‎".... my life was threatened daily, and I was forced to go heavily armed. The whole country was then full of militia, robbing, plundering and killing."

Jesse Woodson James, whose lively life began this day, 1847

So, September 4, was the 208th anniversary of the birth of doctor/missionary/Oregon Trail pioneer Marcus Whitman and I neglected to write about him yesterday. Boy oh boy, I once spent several satisfactory months writing and illustrating a book about him and his wife Narcissa. It graced no bestseller lists & sits on too few bookshelves, but the Whitmans lived lives worth knowing if only because their stories tell us so much about the larger story, the Westward Movement, ethnic misunderstandings, cultural hubris, & all. Were I not so dispirited and impatient right this very minute, busting to go out and take a walk on this lovely September Sunday, and needing to get back indoors to write some more about another 19th century American (Dr. Mary Walker, eccentric reformer, Medal of Honor winner, Civil War personality, a bit of a crackpot in her later years), I'd wax on a bit about Marcus & Narcissa & the deadly culture clash at the end of the Oregon Trail. I'll content myself with pointing out that Jesse James was not quite two months into his storied life when the Whitmans and a bunch of other folks at their mission were murdered way off to hell&gone west, in what would be the state of Washington, on 29 November, 1847. Who killed them? Men of the Cayuse, whose tribe was dying of measles, brought in by white settlers pouring into their land, one of the tribes they'd traveled clear across the country to convert to Christianity.
I'll say what Grandma used to say, when confronted with a little too much to handle: Horrors.

Friday, September 3, 2010


“In the life of each of us, I said to myself, 'There is a place remote and islanded, and given to endless regret or secret happiness.'
Sarah Orne Jewett, born 3rd of September, 1849

So, I said to myself, there's a lovely quotation I'd never have come across had I not been looking to see who was born on this day in history. Were I to be telling personal truth here, I'd note that all is pretty much peaceful on my inner island though the climate is generally regretful. As I'm not, I'll note that important, complex men were settling their wigs on their heads, tugging on their silk stockings, clothing themselves in fine wools and linens, buckling their shoes, making ready for a big day in Paris, 227 years ago this day. Sealing wax was melted, quills were trimmed, ready for the dipping and scratching signatures across fine parchment on Sept. 3, 1783, , where the final treaty of peace & commerce between Great Britain & the baby U.S.A. was about to be signed, ending the truly dreadful world war/Indian war/civil war, never mind those quaint engravings and oil paintings. The Revolutionary War of Independence was finally over. God bless the United States of America - and all the other nations, too. We all, for sure, need all the help we can get.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Pudding Lane

So, do you care to know that the last queen of Hawaii was born on this day in history? Liliuokalani. 1838, the year that George Sand, a.k.a. Baroness Dudevant, won Chopin's love, the genius's dubious ardor. [Oh, do, if you haven't, see Impromptu, the glorious 1991 film re: their affair].. The soprano Jenny Lind, a.k.a. "Swedish Nightingale," made her debut in Stockholm that year - oh to be able to peer back in time, see the audience that night.....Lamplight on excited faces. Elaborately tied cravats. Satin slippers. Whisper rush & crackle of heavy silk & taffeta. Oh you know that the iron boot heel of the patriarchy was firmly planted on the necks of women & girls then. Ah well, those who had menfolk w/ deep pockets could console themselves by dressing up total doll-baby. The European dress styles were marvelously poofy-foufy. Note the horrid [except for Laurence Olivier as Mr. Darcy] 1940 film version of Pride & Prejudice. Don't even ask why the Bennet ladies were dressed pretty much 1830s. Anachronism & ruffles.
No? Well then let me remind you that today's the anniversary of the surrender [long goddam horrid time coming] of the militarized, god help 'em, Japanese Empire. 1945.
No? Then I'll point out that it was in the wee-est hours of the 2nd of Sept. 1666 when a fire broke out in a bakery in Pudding Lane. The Great Fire of London had begun. Before it was over three days later - oh man, before the conflagration, the fiery hellish business, was over... not a scene I wish even to ponder.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


So, check out this here website: You'll see that the site is in its infancy, but I wanted you to see the lovely pictures of my friend Vicki & where she lives, way off in the Missouri country to the south of here. I wrote a novel once because I wanted to write the book I wish I could've read when I was twelve, when things were so horrible. And then I could always say I'd written a novel, as had my friends, particularly Vicki Grove. I wanted to merit her friendship. Wanted to see if I could finish an entire novel, climb clear up to the top. It, my chapter-book, was published, had its day, but I'm not & never will be one of those who simply must write. Not having done so, will not feel whole. When do I wish to write? When I'm driving down the highway. When I have painting that must be done. When I'm sewing. When I'm reading something splendid: most recently Advise & Consent by Allen Drury. In other words, when I'm not writing. When I must write, I'd ever so much rather read. Let me tell you: Having, pondering a splendid idea for a book is rather like romance. Like dating. Following through, working your way through chapter upon chapter, is something entirely else. Talent w/o resolve, w/o will, w/o consistent industry, is - Well, one must be a good steward of one's gifts, so I learned in Sunday School, back when I was 12, when things were so terrible.
I was going to write a bit of appalled, sorrowful, looking-in-the-rearview-mirror verbiage about the German armies blasting into Poland on this day in history, in 1939, the Golden Year of movies, black & white, but oh well....