Sunday, October 31, 2010

Ghost Story

The story below is excerpted from my novel, Just for You to Know, (set here in Independence, Missouri, 1963), available on Kindle:
and in paperback from my website:

Dad rubbed his eyes and began telling us about the Halloween night "back in '39 out in Tennessee" when he crawled into a boxcar and met an old man named Sam.
"He told me a tall tale 'bout - well, you all know the statue of General Andy Jackson on his horse up on the Square, right there by the courthouse?" The little boys nodded, open-mouthed.
"Well, there's statues like that all over the country. All over the world in fact. That old Sam told me that every hundred years, all those stone and metal horses and riders come alive!" Daddy strengthened his voice a notch on the last word. Velvet stirred in his arms.
"Those horses go leapin' off their pedestals down onto the streets. You can hear them clip-cloppin' and clatterin' 'round town carrying their ghostly riders on a search for one another to make an army. Fight their old battles and smell the gunsmoke one more time. Sam told me they go gallopin' all Halloween night. 'I seen 'em wid me own eyes,' he said, 'back in 18 and 63, in the time of the turr'ble war. I was nought but five year old,' Sam told me, but..." Daddy paused for effect and Mr. Beeler squeezed Aunt Bevy's hand.
"Came the dawn," he whispered, "the statues were back on their blocks of stone, each and every one, nothin' to show for the gallivantin' but the mud on the horses' hooves."
Jimmy broke the stillness after the story. "Say Dad, this is 1963."
"Oh gracious," said Miss Lillian.
"This is the year they ride." Robin's voice was creepy.
"Halloween," said Dad. He glanced at the wall calendar then slid a sly glance over to me and said, "Thursday night."
"Now that I'd like to see," said Mr. Culpepper as my dad got up and hurried off to the kitchen...
Right then I was so glad Dad was my dad, even when, later on, he and I had to go calm Larry's nightmares. On the morning after Halloween, Dad got us all up out of bed before school so he could pile us into the station wagon and take us over to where I did all my crying. He showed us the hooves of General Jackson's horse. It was impressive even though I pretty much guessed that he'd driven by the courthouse in the middle of the night after he got off work just so he could muddy up the statue. I put my hand in Dad's rough hand. I felt sure that he was himself again.
"Beauty is truth, truth beauty,' that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know." John Keats (1795~1821)
"Ours is a circle of friendships united by ideals."
Juliette Low, good scout (1860~1927)
"It has been an ache and a joy both to look over this big shoulder of mine at all my yesterdays." the great Ethel Waters (1896~1977)

Oh now, happy deathday (1926, the year before the lone Lindy flew the Atlantic), great Harry Houdini.
How did Erich Weiss of Hungary come up with his stage name? Do acquaint yourself with the French magician, Robert Houdin (December 7, [b. on Pear Harbor day, did he but know it] 1805 – June 13,1871)
And, jfytk [just for you to know], 13 years before Houdini was sucker-punched into the next world, the first transcontinental motor way was dedicated on Halloween, 1913. 3,389 miles from NYC to San Francisco.... now that's a trip I'd like to take, Mr. Peabody.
And, and, and, happy birthday John Keats, Juliette Low, who was born in Savannah, GA, at a most inconvenient time, and Ethel Waters, ever so much more to her story than the old lady I remember, singing for Billy Graham's Crusades....

Off I go to lay in a supply of candy for the scary little beggars, bless 'em.

Saturday, October 30, 2010


‎"Pan me, don't give me the part, publish everybody's book but this one and I will still make it!...Never give up. And never, under any circumstances, face the facts" Ruth Gordon 1896-1985

So, because I wrote a couple of books about our 2nd President and his family and because these sorts of facts seem to stick in my head, I knew perfectly well [if not the names of people I knew in high school] that today's John Adams's birthday, by way of the 'new' calendar, adopted by the Brit. Empire in 1752, when John was 17, seeing as he was born in Braintree [later incorporated into Quincy, Mass, in 1735, a very different America. But I didn't know until I googled about this morning that this is the anniversary of the day that Ruth Gordon was born in 1896. May I only note two things, maybe three - certainly no more than four:

1. Well I remember, will always remember, how I loved Ruth Gordon's performance in "Harold & Maude.'

2. I'll remember her, too, in that bit o' silly-terrific Clint Eastwood movie, 'every which way but loose' and her gossiping about poor old Dorothy Parker in that swellegant documentary about the Algonquin Hotel gathering: The Ten Year Lunch'
3. Today's also the birthday of poet Ezra Pound, [I very much like the cake named after him.] who once wrote that "A slave is one who waits for someone to come and free him." That's for damned sure.
4. "A desire to be observed, considered, esteemed, praised, beloved, and admired by his fellows is one of the earliest as well as the keenest dispositions discovered in the heart of man." John Adams 1735-1826 Amen to that! Splendid books there are about THE Adams Family, but my introduction to them was Irving Stone's fine Those Who Love. I'd surely recommend it. [I.S.'s Agony & the Ecstasy is a treat, too, absolutamenté ]

Friday, October 29, 2010

29 Oct

“Men always fall for frigid women because they put on the best show.” Fanny Brice, born Fania Borach in NYC, 29th of October, 1891.

."I have a long journey to take & must bid the company farewell." Sir Walter Raleigh, 66, just before he was executed in the courtyard of the Old Palace at Westminster, 29th of October, 1618. "Tis a sharp remedy," he said to the masked man, touching lightly the blade of his axe,"but a sure one for all ills."

Once he'd been a favorite of Queen Elizabeth. I am SO picturing Bette Davis & Helen Mirren... and signing off to get down to today's writing. Maybe watch Funny Girl again, later on...

Thursday, October 28, 2010

"It is always with excitement that I wake up in the morning wondering what my intuition will toss up to me, like gifts from the sea. I work with it and rely on it. It's my partner." Dr. Jonas Salk, b. 28 Oct. 1914

The good doctor was born in NYC, just a few weeks after ships began passing through Panama's newly-completed Canal; just a few weeks before before U.S. ships sailed out of Veracruz, Mexico. Our govt. had sent out the marines to keep the Germans, or "Huns," as they'd have been termed in these spun-up proper-gandered times. WWI had begun a couple of months before Jonas Salk came into the world. Edgar Rice Burroughs published Tarzan of the Apes that year & Alfred Joyce Kilmer, a much-respected literary critic & journalist, published - "I think that I shall never see..." – Trees that year, what would be the most famous of his many poems. Only 31 he was, when he was killed in "the Great War," in the summer of 1918, a couple of weeks after Quentin, TR's youngest cub, [TR, whose cousin FDR suffered so w/ poliomyelitis, largely vanquished, thanks to the work of Dr. J.S.] was shot out of the sky over France... sigh. Ah well. It's Victor Hugo's birthday, too, jfytk, in 1828. I'm glad we had them while we had them.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The 27th

So, according to the wikibots, it was on this day in history, in 1682, that Wm. Penn founded the C. of B. L. a.k.a. Philadelphia. Sometime that year, Wm. Blackledge, another Englishman, settled himself in PA, Bucks County, to be a little more exact. If I remember rightly [be dubious] here's how my mother line goes: Wm. B. > Thos. > Jos. > another Joseph > Emma Blackledge m. Jake Brown > Eulah > Elaine > Me. There you go. When my great-grandmother, Emma B. Brown of Cameron, MO, was 39 yrs. old, her country got itself a new president by way of a nasty bit of tragedy, the murder of Wm. McKinley in Sept. 1901. I most happily wrote about our 26th President in not one but two books of mine, the latter being The Remarkable, Rough-Riding Life of Theodore Roosevelt, which, not so by the way, began on this day, 102 yrs. ago. scholar, reader [voracious when it came to books and all else] naturalist, athlete, rancher, soldier [would be awarded the Medal of Honor], passionate husband & father [passionate in every role incl. warmonger] police commissioner, NYC, big-game hunter, historian, author, NY governor, US president, 1st American to be awarded Nobel's Prize for Peace. Here, Theo, you say something:

"There must be the keenest sense of duty and with it must go the joy of living; there must be shame at the thought of shirking the hard work of the world, and at the same time delight in the many-sided beauty of life. With soul of flame and temper of steel, we must act as our coolest judgment bids us." TR 1858-1919

Do, dear, dear Readers, read this book or somebody's book and learn more about one of the most interesting Americans who ever, ever lived - as far as I know anyway.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

So, this is a big day, anniversary-wise. Two big fat ones occur today, having to do with two of my favorite books: The Amazing Impossible Erie Canal

Together, to my mind, these two were a pair, TAIEC representing the first phase of the USA's unstoppable taking over the continent, 1820s & 30s, when the Ohio Country was the Wild West. The USA was a young exuberant nation along the Atlantic seaboard, busting to penetrate the wilds beyond the Appalachian Range. Americans set their sites on the wealth of land, a bounty of raw materials waiting on the other side (to be marketed to the rest o' the world) - on the Native Americans' whose ancestral home were there - not so much. Another obstacle to be vanquished, I'm afraid. Our history is not a tame lion.
It took 8 years of back-busting work from July 4, 1817 to the fall of 1825 to complete the waterway between Lake Erie & the Hudson River, flowing > NYC>the Great World). Just think of it: 363 miles, 4 feet deep, 40 feet wide. AND - oh baybee - I'd get to paint a glossy ribbon of manmade waterway in some of the most beauteous landscape in North America. I know because my old dad (God rest him) & I drove the distance and got on one another's nerves terribly as we're related. As for 1820s fashions - shut up! - high waisted gowns, glorious bonnets for de ladies & for de gents, high collars & cravats, waistcoats, top hats [too bad for you, beavers. kiss your pelts goodbye.] Anyway, the whole shebang opened for business on this day in history: October 26, 1825. One of my favorite paintings ever is TAIEC's opening spread, showing a glorious flotilla setting 'sail' east out of Buffalo.
Now, if TAIEC represented Phase One, what better way to represent Phase Two (the pressing westward, from the Missouri River to the Pacific Ocean) than those wiry riders & their 4-leggers, carrying the U.S. Mail? Here's how Mark Twain [I did a book about him as well, and the "Queens of the Mississippi" Steamships, fyi. Another tale for another day.] wrote about the Pony Express in his terrific "Roughing It" [by golly, I need to read that again.] :
"The pony-rider was usually a little bit of a man, brimful of spirit and endurance. No matter what time of the day or night his watch came on, and no matter whether it was winter or summer, raining, snowing, hailing, or sleeting, or whether his "beat" was a level straight road or a crazy trail over mountain cragsand precipices, or whether it led through peaceful regions or regions that swarmed with hostile Indians, he must bealways ready to leap into the saddle and be off like the wind! There was no idling-time for a pony-rider on duty. He rode fifty miles without stopping, by daylight, moonlight, starlight, or through the blackness of darkness--just as it happened. He rode a splendid horse that was born for a racer and fed and lodged like a gentleman; kept him at his utmost speed for ten miles, and then, as he came crashing up to the station where stood two men holding fast a fresh, impatient steed, the transfer of rider and mail-bag was made in the twinkling of an eye, and away flew the eager pair and were out of sight before the spectator could get hardly the ghost of a look."
Thank heavens, you don't have to be a genius like Mr. Twain to write about this chapter in our history, this connecting up of the U.S. [about to be @ war] & the golden west. I took my best whack at it and adored doing the paintings, though I so wish I could redo the jacket art. Ah well. You probably know that the PonyEx only lasted a year & a half, until the telegraphic wires were strung & hoisted pole to pole, messages sent by electricity, somewhat faster than any old pony. It ended on this day, October 26, 1861.

Monday, October 25, 2010

"Art is a lie that makes us realize truth." Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)

Few men during their lifetime comes anywhere near exhausting the resources dwelling within them. There are deep wells of strength that are never used. Adm. Richard Evelyn Byrd (1888-1957)

The 25th - it's date spiced with Christmas associations. As a 13-year-old, I remember rather liking the fact that one of the Beatle birthdays was the 25th of February, George's, of course. Anyway, a pair of explorers came into the world through the door marked 25 October. One, Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso, so he was christened,would explore the worlds within & without, as he perceived with those fierce brown eyes of his and equally fierce mind. He was born in Spain, Oct. 25, 1881 - I don't know why it sticks in my mind that President Garfield had died less than a month before and that right about then, young Theodore Roosevelt was besotted with the lovely blond Alice, his first wife, who must have looked smashing in the wasp-waisted, bustled [crazy-ass] fashions then. Oh well. I tend to remember.
On Pablo's 7th birthday, Richard E. Byrd was born in Boston. Pioneer aviator, explorer
of the vast, physical world, particularly the cold parts. Really, an astonishing individual he was.
I'd write more about both these birthday dudes, but other projects await. Quest on!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

“Perhaps they are not stars, but rather openings in heaven where the love of our lost ones pours through and shines down upon us to let us know they are happy.”...said to be an "Eskimo proverb" Profound thoughts get thought, seems to me, where the nights are deep & cold.

"How little do they see what really is, who frame their hasty judgment upon that which seems," said Daniel Webster

So, it appears that Almanzo James Wilder, (1857-1949) and Vicki Grove's mom, Mrs. Baum of Lincoln, MO, both passed out of the world through the door marked October 23. Bess, a.k.a. Laura Ingalls Wilder of Mansfield, MO, surely did portray her husband as a solid chap, boy & man. Not for the longest time, when I was a kid, would I read about him. Why would I want to read about a boy? Turned out that "Farmer Boy," would be my favorite of all of L.I.W.'s books. I reveled, virtually, in the apple pie and everything else Almanzo's hard-working mom, Angeline, served up in the Wilders' home near Malone, NY (way up by the Canada border. Thanks to my dear, cool, amazing, tomboy, dog-rescuing, bagpipe-playing, swell writer friend Natalie Kinsey-Warnock of Vermont, (have you read her 'The Night the Bells Rang"? Go and do so. I LOVE that little book, even more than her fine and better-known The Canada Geese Quilt.) got to visit the wonderfully restored Wilder Farm. Do go there if you haven't.
And, as I was saying before I got off the rails, one of my very best friends in this here vale of tears, Vicki Grove lost her 88-year-old mom yesterday, after a long, heroic and steadfast stint as caretaker of both her parents, while managing to turn out a steady stream of thoughtful, careful prose, being as she is, a genuine, daily writer. "Destiny," I think, is one of my favorite V.G. books, though I was mighty taken w/ "Rhiannon," her historical novel.... Anyway, old Mrs. Baum finally got her ticket punched & passed to the Blue Beyond. Maybe she'll get to meet the great Daniel Webster. His deathday is today, October 24 (1852).

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Sarah & the Swimmer

"Legend remains victorious in spite of history." Rosine, aka Sarah Bernhardt (1844-1925)

“To me, the sea is like a person - like a child that I've known a long time. It sounds crazy, I know, but when I swim in the sea I talk to it. I never feel alone when I'm out there.” Gertrude Ederle (1905-2003)

So, if I could find a way to upload a picture of Madame Bernhardt, you could see just how remarkable she looked, the great & complex lady who has a birthday today, or perhaps yesterday. Here, there are a bunch of images of "The Divine Sarah" at this link:
I noted yesterday that the great French actress came into the world at the time/apace intersection of October 1844/Paris. Back in the spring of 1977, a very hard time in my life [too many addresses, too many heartaches], so taken was I of photographs of her that I remember getting up in the middle of the night to do a painting of her. It was that painting that caught the attention of Phyllis Dove at a shopping center art show in North Kansas City. It was Phyllis who gave me the confidence to put in an application at Hallmark. Boy oh boy, I sure remember sitting across the street from the place, nothing more than bus fare in my pocket, no more self-esteem of a termite, wishing that I could work there. Ah well, all that's a long time ago. Sarah Bernhardt died in 1925, back when my old dad was three years old. Phyllis is gone, too, thanks to her murderer, never to know that I'd ever amount to anything.
In one of the many books I'd come to write & illustrate, I noted the life & accomplishments of Gertrude Ederle. That was in my book Remember the Ladies.
Gertrude came into the world on the 23rd of October, 105 years ago today, in New York City. What must it have been like, NYC, 1905? Here - did you see the story about this on 60 Minutes the other evening? The extraordinary film made in San Francisco shortly before the earthquake? When TR was President, when Gertrude, away off on the other side of the continent was a tiny child? Likely many of the folks you'll see in this film never lived to know that Gertrude would be the very 1st woman to swim the English Channel...

Friday, October 22, 2010

22 Oct

Look at this!é-Jacques_Garnerin

You know, I've been making this a bit of a habit, checking to see who once celebrated this or that day as his or her birthday, thinking that on a day like this – cool, clouds gathering over trees shedding their leaves – some significant someone came into or departed from our world through the slot marked October 22. So what do I come across? the fact that a 28-yr-old Parisian, a former P.O.W., André-Jacques Garnerin accomplished something most brave and extraordinary. I never knew. If you've already clicked on the link above, you've read his story.
I think it's the birthday of Sarah Bernhardt, the glorious French actress. ... learned that - or think I learned that from the fabulous bio by Cornelia Otis Skinner. oh, shoot - it's not until tomorrow. I was so taken by the photos of her. Did a watercolor painting years ago of 'Mme. Sarah.. 'the Divine Bernhardt' ....'twas that painting that caught the attention of Phyllis Dove, a lady who befriended me... bless her, may she r.i.p.
I confess that my historical leanings lean upon images, impressions, books I've read, films I've seen, old episodes of Masterpiece Theatre. So I'm much taken w/ notions of American life in the first decades of the 1900s [picturesque, dramatic yet quaint from afar. damned scary & uncomfortable up close] & still a bit bereft that the century, its arc of events, is past... Warren Beatty's Reds: It was on this day [1887] that John Reed [poet, brave & passionate journalist, author of Ten Days That Shook the World.... the only American to be buried in the Kremlin, Moscow, after he died @ age 33 or thereabouts] ....was born. The 1991 film Impromptu: glorious, funny, romantic.... Hugh Grant as Frederic Chopin; Judy Davis as George Sand. Julian Sands portrayed Franz Liszt, whose birthday it is today....

Am I rambling? Yes. Down to work.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

“The world is put back by the death of every one who has to sacrifice the development of his or her peculiar gifts to conventionality.” Florence Nightingale, who passed away a hundred years ago this past 13 Aug, @ the age of 90

So here I am, back from rolling Kansas, from a fine gaggle of elementary schools down 'round Augusta, just east of Wichita - a long stretch of lonesome road through beautiful country [nothing flat about it, if you don't count the turnpike] betwixt here and there. According to the wikibots, truly heroic, stubborn Ms. Nightingale took her brigade of nurses to the Crimea, to the dreadful war being fought there, on this day, October 21, 1854.

This link will take you to a very fine article about her, well worth the reading.

Monday, October 18, 2010


"A woman's place in public is to sit beside her husband, be silent, and be sure her hat is on straight." Elizabeth Wallace Truman

Off and away I'll be going in the next little while, southwest into the Free State for a bit o' school-visiting. On the way out of town I'll make a point to drive past the big white house on Delaware where once lived a good lady who died 28 years ago today. My mom saw her once, up at the Kroger's supermarket. How I wish I'd been with her that day. As a matter of fact, would that I could go to the store w/ my mom again. Anyway I'll be talking to young Kansans tomorrow about my books, especially Ghosts of the White House. I adored doing that book, researching, writing, drawing, painting, reading about the individuals who all lived in the President's House. Do, if you haven't, read William Seale's splendid, readable 2-vol. history of the mansion. I don't know that it's actually haunted. I've never seen a ghost and I don't know that I want to. But I used that device to show & tell about the U.S. Presidency, the men who took on the office. Here's what Bess had to say about the subject:

"Now about those ghosts. I'm sure they're here and I'm not half so alarmed at meeting up with any of them as I am at having to meet the live nuts I have to see every day. ...I won't lock my doors or bar them either if any of the old coots in the pictures out in the hall want to come out of their frames for a friendly chat."

Sunday, October 17, 2010

I drove the long road down to Springfield, Missouri, and back again in the course of these last few days, passing road signs that spell out the life of me & mine. Humansville. We moved there the spring I was 8, to a rundown farm outside of town. I remember seeing the stars through a hole in the roof. The folks used to pile us into the car every once & a while for a trip to Dunnegan Springs or over to Osceola, just about exactly a 100 years after the town was sacked, burned down & out by Jim Lane's Kansas marauder,s in Sept. 1861. I think he killed himself some 5 years later. That's not all of his story by a long shot, but I'm not of a mind to go into what I've read of the notorious James Henry Lane.
My people have lived &/or traveled along that road more than 150 years. My great-great grandparents are buried a little ways west of the way, near Chilhowee. south of Warrensburg, where I went to college, where I got my heart busted a couple of times and learned not nearly enough. Alden & Sarah's grandson, Clarence was born in Post Oak, in the year that Franz Liszt died, the year in which the Statue of Liberty was dedicated. I knew him as Grandpap. Peppermints in his pocket. Not the best of dispositions, soured by a father, Alden Jr., who abandoned him & his mom, went off no one knows where.

Off I was visiting Paxton Elementary School in Platte City on the 14th, the 120th anniversary of the day that David & Ida Eisenhower welcomed their 3rd boybaby into the world, into the time/space intersection of Denison, Texas and 1890. They named him Dwight, but this kid with the sunny smile came to be known as Ike and, in time, well, you know. I swear, after all these years, talking with school children is THE best part of my job. Telling them about the making of books – the research, the writing, the rewriting [kids, those who aren't wicked hard on themselves, tend to let themselves off way too easy when it comes to revising their work when it's already done for crying out loud.] The drawing and the painting.
Oh, I draw for the little squirts, bless 'em, and try to make it all as vivid and fun as I possibly can, then away I go. Down to a literature festival in Springfield, MO State U. on the 15th, on the 129th birthday of P.G. (Pelham Grenville) Wodehouse, bless him forever for the books he wrote. I've painted many a picture while listening to the incomparable Alexander Spencer read Right Ho, Jeeves and its sequel The Code of the Woosters.
Talking with children. Talking with other authors, wishing that I did not remember the words of Oscar Wilde, [b. 16 Oct 1854]: 'Every time a friend succeeds, I die a little.' Alas, I do remember. His words do come to mind, but thank heavens they're not the only ones that do.) Good it was to be there. Good it was to get back onto the highway for home, on Saturday, yesterday [oh my goodness - I just checked, was reminded that on 16 Oct 1793 Marie A. was marched up the steps to the guillotine. How frightened & exhausted she must have been, she and a multitude of others there & then. Golly. Pauvre enfants.
Two more hours, by my clock, until this 17th of October is over once & for always. Happy birthday long gone movie stars, Rita Hayworth. Jean Arthur, Spring Byington & Montgomery Clift [did you see him opp. brilliant O. de H. in The Heiress, 1949? oh baby.}. Happy deathday, Frederic Chopin & Julia Ward Howe. So long. Thanks for everything and on we go, further & further away from them all, back up the road in time.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

"Anyone who limits her vision to memories of yesterday is already dead."

So said Lillie Langtry, the Jersey Lily, the lovely actress who was born on the 13th of another October, that of 1853. I'll take her word for it and confine myself to saying that in my fairly immediate future, on the 14th of October, the 287th day of this here year, I'm heading off north to talk with bunches of little kids. About the time they're piling onto the yellow busses, I'll be fixing to drive south to Springfield, MO, for a literature festival on Friday.. More little squirts to talk to! 'bout books, of course, the writing and the drawing thereof. I intend to be exceedingly informative & amusing. I'd better pack my harmonica and check my stock of factoids - oh my gosh, I just did. 15th of October marks the birthday of one of my favorite authors ever, ever, ever: Hint: Would that I had Jeeves butlerizing these environs.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


So, for the sake of a precious 3-day weekend, 'Columbus Day' was noted yesterday, a time for drawing sailing ships & reciting the old couplet featuring 'the ocean blue.' Folks might give a thought to a bull-headed, courageous navigator, 3 boatloads of sturdy seamen. Awe-fulness unleashed on the vasty wilds & all the people whose people had been living in the 'new world' since who knew when. long time anyway. Were it not for the fact that I need to go write other words than these I'd wax on a bit about a Edith Cavell, 29-year-old Englishwoman who was nursing, spying, doing whatever she knew to do to help the Allies defeat the 'Huns' in the Great War. That included helping some 200 soldiers get out of German-occupied Belgium. Caught, tried, convicted of treason, stood up in front of a firing squad, and on this day, 95 years ago, Nurse Cavell was shot, her soul dispatched into the next world, what you could call the New World as far as any of us mortals would know, never mind that the Blue Beyond had been there all along.

Monday, October 11, 2010


Up above the smoke & cinders & rooftops all the stars, very nicely aligned, seemed to shine down on old New York - boy oh boy, they must have, when lovely, delicate Anna Hall married Elliott, second son of Theo. "Greatheart" Roosevelt. The handsome, charming son - rather unlike his toothy, precocious older brother, Theo. Jr. What a pitiful couple of coconuts they turned out to be.
Young Mrs. Roosevelt gave birth to her only daughter on this day, October 11, 1884. Far off in Missouri, Harry Truman was a round-faced baby. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a blond toddler. Sam'l Clemens aka Mark Twain published Huckleberry Finn, his masterpiece, that year. Helen Keller was a fair-faced four-year-old down in Alabama, thrashing around, mystified, still trapped in the dark & the quiet.
Anna Eleanor the Roosevelts named their firstborn. So surprised & disappointed Anna was in how her her child looked. She knew first hand how important it was, in her world, for a girl to be beautiful, but Eleanor, as she was known, wasn't. True, her eyes were beautifully blue, but what an unfortunate mouth she had, poor shy, solemn thing. To her doting drunkard of a father, Eleanor was 'little Nell.' To her sad, chilly mother, Eleanor was 'Granny.' She didn't seem to have much of a future.
If you're reading this, you probably already know that the Roosevelts were never to know how the world would know their valiant daughter, whose birthday it is today.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Sorry girls - he's dead!

So, I was driving yesterday, keeping up w/ the traffic out on I-70 between here & St. Louis, listening to a reading of The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham. I was finding a place to park not so very far away at all from the white tents, folding chairs, and meanderers, signifying Clayton's Big Read. Ah, just the place for someone such as I, a tried & true author/illustrator in the old age of her youth, in the childhood of her old age. Walking about, watching a tentful of attendees, there to cheer their young, school-age authors, LEAVE the tent as I was preparing to speak - about what? a book I did back when Bill Clinton was in office. They're Off! The Story of the Pony Express. In the course of a 1/2 hour of VERY lively talking on my part, a few people, on their part, came to listen. Maybe seven, bless 'em. Vaudeville lives. I signed a book and drove home, listening to W. S. M.'s continuing tale of T. P. Veil, the plot of which was significantly changed in the very swell movie by the same name and all the while, shadowed over the entire day & all that happened and did not happen was the knowledge that the day might have been the day when old Boomers such as I would have been marveling that half of the Fab 4 is 70 - can you believe it? John and Ringo are 70 – go figure! But no, the one is still here, and the other was murdered - neither fact changing the fact that the Beatles will always be. don't mean to be such an old dork, but they meant EVERYTHING to my long-gone [gods be thanked] 13-year-old self and to the subsequent various versions . ..
was it a bad day, yesterday, an unusually bad day at Attica for Mark David Chapman, I wonder?

Friday, October 8, 2010 There's a fine, handsome photo here, along w/a telling of the exploits of Capt Eddie Rickenbacker, birthday guy....

‎"Courage is doing what you are afraid to do. There can be no courage unless you are scared." Aviator Eddie Rickenbacker, b. 8 October, 120 years ago today, on the day after the 41st birthday of 'The Hoosier Poet," James Whitcomb Riley... You'll find many of his writings here:

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

So, I know it doesn't mean all that much right now, today, here in the scramble, the tangle of the multi-faceted present tense, knowing that today's the anniversary of the births of soprano Jenny Lind, P.T. Barnum's "Swedish nightingale" (1820) & Geo. Westinghouse, the inventor, in 1846. I'm thinking that I when I cast a backward glance & find out that a pair of long-gone actresses (Carole Lombard & Janet Gaynor) once shared an Oct 6 birthday, back in a vanished world in which audiences would set aside their troubles to sit in the dark together, watching black & silver-white stories gleaming - well, these factoids lend meaning to the day. So here we are, sloshing through the latest in an exceedingly long line of days labeled 6th of October. Souls are stepping through the 6 Oct slot, onto time's conveyor belt, into the bodies of infants, whose dear ones, I hope, will make a cake for them. Some crackpot aunt will note - 'hey, you have the same birthday as Thor Heyerdahl, the Norwegian explorer who built & navigated a seagoing time machine. Isn't that neat? Maybe he was born on a day just like this, except it was in 1914 & everything in Europe had gone to hell, but still...'

Monday, October 4, 2010

"Must swear off from swearing. Bad habit. " Rutherford B. Hayes, who was born 4 Oct, 1822, back when men were digging the Erie Canal. Somehow it's nice to know that I share a bad habit with the 19th President of the United States.

"I knew the wild riders and the vacant land were about to vanish forever... and the more I considered the subject, the bigger the forever loomed. Without knowing how to do it, I began to record some facts around me, and the more I looked the more the panorama unfolded." Frederic Remington, who was born 4 Oct. 1861, who painted moonlight and horses better than almost anyone.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

So, count me among the countless who didn't know that yesterday, 2 Oct, marked the anniversary of the day, 141 years ago, that a noble peacemaker, Mohandas Gandhi was born in India. And on Oct. 2, the Mahatma's 50th birthday, poor old President Wilson got head-whacked, out in Pueblo, Colorado, out campaigning for his nation's becoming part of the League of Nations [no deal], with the stroke that paralyzed him.
As for today, the 3rd of October, 276th day of the year, the tiny wiki-bots tell me that it was on this day in 1955, when I was a delightful 4-year-old, that the Mickey Mouse Club debuted, just a few days after James Dean was killed.
Happy birthday, long-gone, lovely, pretty [Hallmark] artist & art-collector Alice Ann Biggerstaff. Happy day to glorious, lovely, neurotic, brilliant Italian actress, Eleanora Duse, born in 1858.... and to Gore Vidal, b. the year that The Great Gatsby was published.... And oh my, it seems that it was on this day, in 1656. that the old red-headed hot-headed Myles Standish passed away. Hard to imagine almost, that I wrote a book about him once.
And in 1836, just a few months he was visited by Marcus & Narcissa Whitman, Black Hawk, chief of the Sauks, died in prison, in St. Louis. The Whitmans were newlyweds, Oregon Trail pioneers, and missionaries, on their way to the West & being future massacre victims/ I wrote a book about them, too. It's Woody Guthrie's deathday, too. 1967. Bless 'im. I was a miserable high school sophomore then.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

So, I surely did mean to write yesterday, Jimmy Carter's 86th birthday. It was the 1st of October, and had I not gotten all involved in revising a manuscript about stubborn Mary Walker, I would have written if only to note that poor old lost & wild Bonnie Parker might have had 100 candles on her birthday cake last night, in some ratty old folks home in Texas, had she not taken up with bad company... had she not been born into such a mean, dusty world.

and now it's the 2nd of October. funny how time keeps cranking away