Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas. It's been going on all day!

So, I'm not entirely wanting to give up and go to bed because that'll mean that Christmas is over. I've been drawing all day. A pen & ink dwg of Laura•Mary•Carrie•Grace. Someday it'll be a notecard that Laura Ingalls pilgrim-visitors to Mansfield, MO, will buy. But that's someday. Today it was the quiet fun of sitting & drawing, watching lovely TV: Cranford.
Quiet biss on toast, that's what it's been. A necessary analgesic in the face of what the pissed-off sons of extreme Islam did in Nigeria today. Thank heavens for means of escape, reality-wise.

Friday, December 16, 2011

"For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors & laugh at them in our turn?" Miss Jane Austen, born 236 years ago today. I'd wax on about her, but I have other things to tend to.

So, this blog, as it has been from the inception a few years back, is going to change. I set out as I always do, like a merry tractor, roaring forward with elaborate, romantic (manic?) notions of writing daily - every blessed day - about things & individuals historical. Then I settle into my customary, procrastinating, distractible self and let days go by, their commemorations left unremarked. You might, though, you precious few who chance upon this posting, direct yourself to this link, featuring an ethereal melody conceived & worked out by a fellow whose tormented life began on this day in 1770. In any case, beginning with the new year, this blog will take a rather different form as I cannot bring myself to do away with it entirely. I just can't.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Laura's Prairie Rose

So, okay, according to what I know about her, Laura & Almanzo Wilder's daughter Rose was altogether as headstrong as her parents. Her mom, in particular. She was born up in Dakota 125 years ago today. Being a deep-dyed fan of Mrs. Wilder's books, I cannot but be fascinated with Rose Wilder, without whose editorial assistance & advice, her mother's would never have been published to such acclaim, read with such pleasure. Reverence even.
I love knowing, thanks to my friend Bill Anderson (justly admired biographer of LIW & knowledgeable in all things Ingalls/Wilder) that journalist Rose & her good friend "Troub" (Helen Dore Boylston, nurse/WWI vet/author of the delightful series of Sue Barton books) traveled about Europe together after the Great War. That she & Rose took LIW all the way west on Route 66 to California in roundabout 1927. Ah well. Rose Wilder Lane. God rest her. Serious needleworking Libertarian dame.
And she shares a birthday w/ Walt Disney [1901], Gen. Geo. Armstrong Custer [1839], 8th President Martin Van Buren [1782],sappy romantic poet Christina Rossetti [1830]. So much for astrology.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

A pair of dames...

So, in the course of tracking down the birthdays of the eminent, interesting [to me] dead, I came across a lady I'd never heard of. That'd be Octavia Hill. A social reformer, who actively concerned herself w/ the atrocious living conditions of poor folks in Victorian London. She came into the world on the 3rd of December, 1838. And, just for you to know, it was 150 years ago this very day (Dec. 4), an entirely different sort of dame was born. Helen Louise Leonard her name was, but the world came to know her as Lillian Russell. If you click HERE you can hear how she sounded in 1912 and see how she looked.
I'd wax on a bit about how much I would love to have glimpsed ol' Lillian in life, illumined by flickering gaslight, about beauty and the exceedingly different roles its pursuit figured in the lives of these ladies, but their work is done and mine is not.

Thursday, December 1, 2011


"God gave us memory so that we might have roses in December." James Barrie

So this day began in a motel buzzing with dressed up and excited people who'd come to see their dear ones graduating from initial training, I'm guessing, at Fort Leonard Wood. My folks went down there years ago - gosh, it must be at least 30 years ago - to visit my little brother Paul. And now I'm home from 200 miles' worth of driving through beautiful rural Missouri from three days of visiting some lovely schools roundabout Waynesville. Golly, talking to little kids about books, about mastering reading, writing, language. Drawing pictures for them. Entertaining them. 'Twas some serious fun, no foolin'.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Everyday Deathday/Birthday

‎"I never am really satisfied that I understand anything; because, understand it well as I may, my comprehension can only be an infinitesimal fraction of all I want to understand about the many connections & relations which occur to me, how the matter in question was first thought of or arrived at, etc., etc."
Mathematician Ada Lovelace, who d. 27 Nov 1852

So, I'd write more, wax on, elaborate upon the life, extraordinary times and works of this remarkable lady, but there is much to be done before I set off driving to Waynesville, MO tomorrow morning, some 200 miles from here, to talk to classrooms full of children there [the BEST part of my job].
If you're reading this maybe I'm amazed AND I direct you to this link re: Ada Lovelace Day.
What's more, I point out to you that today marks n Ada's deathday AND the anniversary of the birth, in 1834, of the exceedingly beautiful British actress, diarist, and influential abolitionist, once she got an eyeful of life on her husband's Georgia plantation.
"I have sometimes been haunted with the idea that it was an imperative duty, knowing what I know, and having seen what I have seen, to do all that lies in my power to show the dangers and the evils of this frightful institution."

Saturday, November 26, 2011

One More Thing About Mary

Didn't mean to publish yet! Had me an oh-no moment. I wanted to say to whomever happens to come across this post, try to look past the grainy black & white, Civil War-era photo in my previous post re: Dr. Mary Edwards Walker, who'd have turned 179 years old today if she hadn't died back in 1919 - not long after the close of WWI, just a few weeks after Teddy Roosevelt died, by the way], the somber, poignant expression and note how pretty "Dr. Mary" was. But the larger pic posted here definitely does. These smaller images of Dr. Walker, Dress Reformer, taken later on in her long life, shows how bold and courageous she was, going about in her 19th century world, in trousers. When asked about them - even arrested for wearing them- Dr. Walker would boldly reply: "These are not men's clothes - they are MY clothes!"

And Another

"Oh, they’d heard whispers of such things, but they’d never EVER seen it! Not in clear, summer daylight on a public street! Scandalous!

Positively sinful! Illegal! Outrageous!

“That’s that Miss Walker.”

“Didn’t I read about her in the newspaper?”

“I hear she met with President Lincoln himself!”

“She gave a lecture over at the town hall.”

“What’s that fancy medal on her coat?”

“Why, that’s the Medal of Honor, the highest military decoration a man can get.”

“But isn’t she a woman?”

“I’m afraid so,” his mother replied.

“But she’s wearing PANTS!”

From a book I wrote about Dr. Walker, but am not allowed to illustrate, which hurts my feelings. I'm told that it will be published sometime in 2013, which goes a long way towards cheering me up, but not entirely. Still, no big deal and not worth a backward glance when compared to what that lady put up with.

It was on this day in 1832 that the fearless Dr. Mary Edwards Walker was born up in Oswego, NY.

A Long Gone Voice

"The difference between the men and the boys in politics is, and always has been, that the boys want to be something, while the men want to do something.”
the great Eric Sevareid, who'd be 99 today if he wasn't already dead.
This link will take you to his farewell from the CBS Evening News. Jeepers, that was 34 years ago. Really, I loved listening to his take on things, his way of using the language, his calm, measured voice.

Speaking of cherished voices, I woke up to Scott Simon interviewing Doris Day on NPR this morning. Oh baybee.

Friday, November 25, 2011

"As I grow older, I pay less attention to what men say. I just watch what they do." Andrew Carnegie

So, for one thing, I revised my Thanksgiving Carol, fine-tuned it & added a verse. For another, I spent a large bit of time, shopping and cooking for my family [made 'em sing my song w/ me], hollowing out pie pumpkins & stuffing them, roasting them. Oh baybee: try this recipe. For yet another, the indominatable Carry A. Nation was born on this day in 1846, on Andrew Carnegie's 11th birthday.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

My Thanksgiving Song

Here's a song I wrote for you all to sing when you all get 'round the table next Thursday, to the tune of We Gather Together:

Thank you for turkey and plenty of stuffing
Of giblets, chopped onion and bread, sage, and thyme
And mashed potatoes, marshmallows, sweet potatoes
Hot gravy and carrots and corn and green beans.

Thank you for hot buttered rolls, jam, and jelly
Glass dishes of celery and pickles and beets.
We all will make merry with sauces of cranberry
And if there’s still room, we will have pumpkin pie.

Thank you for friends and our family here gathered
For all of our blessings, protection divine
For these years of living we all are thanks-giving
For whipped cream and hot coffee and cold pumpkin pie.

Monday, November 7, 2011


"Let us form one body, one heart, & defend to the last warrior our country, our homes, our liberty, & the graves of our fathers." Tecumseh

And many more such graves there would be after the battle that took place two hundred years ago today in what is now the state of Indiana. I'd wax on about what happened at Tippecanoe, how the bloody incident contributed to Presidency of General William Henry Harrison, albeit not its brevity; how it all might have turned out very, very differently, had not the great Tecumseh been away that day from Prophet's Town.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

‎"Fallen leaves lying on the grass in the November sun bring more happiness than the daffodils."
Cyril Connolly

And I have a yard full of them. Only last night they were trampled upon by princesses and ninja warriors.

Sunday, October 30, 2011


John Adams (1735-1826): "As much as I converse w/sages & heroes, they have very little of my love & admiration. I long for rural & domestic scene, for the warbling of birds & the prattling of my children. " And Abigail.

Dang! It's the 30th of October, not the 31st. Not until tomorrow is Ethel Waters' birthday & that of all of the other Halloween babies. SO, huzzah for the great Overlooked, the perplexing, stubborn, exuberant, highly intelligent and passionate, devoted husband and patriot, second President of the nation that would never have existed w/o him. Who was the first president to live here Who grew up here. Who died here at an exceedingly advanced age, on the day of the great Coincidence. Subject of one of my very favorite books, of all of those I wrote & illustrated, that is, The Revolutionary John Adams.

Ethel & the Halloween Babies

"It has been an ache and a joy both to look over this big shoulder of mine at all my yesterdays," the first day of which was 115 years ago today, when the great Ethel Waters was born, in 1896. Exactly 101 years after the birth of poet John Keats. He, too, had a lot to say, but not nearly as many years of life in which to say them. My introduction to Ms. Waters was seeing her sing at many a Billy Graham crusade on our black & white TV. (Years later I went to one in person, went forward, not out of a 'wake up smell the coffee' moment for my soul - already been through that more than once, but to see the great preacher a little closer. People stare at you, fyi, as you make your way to the podium, doubtless hoping to see tears.) Anyway, check out that link above to her Wikipedia bio and be knocked out by some of Ethel's yesterdays, her hard knock childhood, & what she did, how she sang when she grew up. Can't sum up a person's life in a moment, can you? That's the truth is beauty is truth is beauty..."that is all ye know on earth & all ye need to know."
Miss Ethel & Mr. Keats, just for you to know, share a birthday w/ Dale Evans, who also sang her way up & out, & Juliette Gordon Low, Girl Scout No. 1. and today marks 85 years since Harry Houdini got sucker punched, thence failed to escape Death's clutches. Now there's a desk to be cleared, dwgs & painting to be done, and oh my gosh, tense it is when you've finally finished a manuscript and sent it out into the world...

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Distant Hoofbeats

"Not by a long shot was it the last adventure in beating the western wilderness: seven and a half years of railroad tracks racing to meet at the Golden Spike were just ahead. But its the ponies and the daring young men who ride in our imagination.
When the wind is in the West, listen for distant hoofbeats.
It's the Pony Express."

Cheryl Harness

I loved working on this book. It's been years ago now. One day I was driving up to St. Joseph, MO, about an hour north of here, to visit the Pony Express Museum [click link above], to research. Next thing you know, I was taking a pile of artwork to the P.O., kissing the pkg. for luck, lest it be lost in transit and I'd feel compelled to throw myself under a buss. Must have been like that [except for the bus] for the army of characters who planned & executed the audacious business of establishing speedy, regular postal delivery between the eastern States & faraway California. BANG: They were off! 3rd of April, 1860. Big fat election year! Young men riding through the wilds, all kinds of weather, day & night. No headlights on their horses.
Then, as of the 26th of October, 1861, it was over. It wasn't like the fastest horse could outrun electronic messaging via telegraph wires. Now it's been 150 years, almost 55 thousand sunsets, as of today, can you believe it?

Monday, October 24, 2011


"If it was with my dying breath,
I would caution anyone
against attempting the feat..."
Annie Edson Taylor

"O shut the door! and when thou hast done so, Come weep with me..."
Wm Shakespeare [maybe] Romeo & Juliet

So. Just a note, a bit of pencil sharpening, so to speak, before I get down to writing this novel I've been working on. I learned about Annie Edson Taylor when I was illustrating Julie Cummins' Women Daredevils
and, if you read it or the Wikipedia entry on this lady, I'm betting you'll be as struck as I was by the pathos of this intelligent, educated widow's story. Years of plucky enterprising to avoid poverty's ever-present undertow led up to her celebrating her 63rd birthday by allowing herself to be packed into a specially made barrel, having the lid screwed on then rolled onto the waters leading to Niagara Falls. 110 years ago today. 24 Oct. 1901. A quaint picturesque time it looks to be in the old photographs. Long skirts. Big hats. Streets full of clip-clop. Social safety nets? Welcome to the poorhouse. Cuppa gruel?
Why'd she do it? Shoot, if it killed her, she wouldn't have to be broke and scared anymore. If she survived (No one ever had.), she'd make a bundle on the lecture circuit. Nothing on TV back then, after all. Oh well. I've got to get to work on my own [exceedingly amusing] get-rich-slow scheme. Suffice it to say Annie got cheated & poverty dragged her down just the same.
May good fortune shine, hard times not get too hard.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Disappointment, not without Consolation

Henry Emmons, follower of William Miller, Biblical scholar, who'd been pretty certain that Jesus was fixing to return, imminently to the scene of the crimes:
"I waited all Tuesday [Oct. 22, 1844, known in some circles, ever since, as The Great Disappointment] and dear Jesus did not come;– I waited all the forenoon of Wednesday, and was well in body as I ever was, but after 12 o’clock I began to feel faint, and before dark I needed someone to help me up to my chamber, as my natural strength was leaving me very fast, and I lay prostrate for 2 days without any pain– sick with disappointment."
I only know about this because I & my parents, who art in heaven w/ all the other dead people, including poor disappointed Henry Emmons, and their pets, got involved with the Seventh Day Adventists, back when others of my generation were either at or wishing they were at Woodstock. The SDA happens to be made up of folks who get a bang out of end-time scenarios, 'cleansing of sanctuaries,' and arguments w/ well-thumbed Bibles: so, is He coming back pre- or post, before or after the Millennium?
Ah well.
That was what it was. That was then, this is now: the 167th anniversary of the disappointing night, even more disappointing morning after, having given away all and spent a chilly night in one's nightgown, watching for the heavens to part. Am I laughing at such people? Only ruefully. I've not been a stranger to passionate tangents, the urgent desire to believe.
So the 22nd of October sticks in my mind. One reason I remember today's Sarah Bernhardt's birthday. 167 years since La Divine Sarah was born. Allow me to totally recommend Madame Sarah, Cornelia Otis Skinner's bio , the life & times, that being the 1890s, le fin de siecle, of the great, eccentric French actress [redundant? maybe. peut-etre].
Okay. Enough of this work avoidance. This danged novel I'm struggling over will not be written w/o a boatload of attention & application. I'll confine myself to pointing out that the best and funniest Stooge, Curly Howard, a.k.a. Jerry Horwitz, was born this day in 1903. Died 48 years later, going to show you: comedy & tragedy = next door neighbors.
Pretty Boy Floyd got killed this day in 1934 AND AND AND AND this very day marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of the glorious, handsome, prolific composer and performer of the most demanding piano music ever, the great Franz Liszt. Do check out this little take on him in this excerpt from the swellegant little movie Impromtu.
Okay. Down to work.

Thursday, October 20, 2011


Today I'm finishing this draft, by golly. Had the idea years ago. Told a bunch o' kids about it.
"Cool!" Told another bunch of kids about it just this week.
"Cool!" Gosh, I adore gassing away to innocent school children about the books I used to do before everything went down. And I'm finally finishing this draft, fueled on Folgers & candy corn, gonna get it revised by Halloween. And did you know that Mickey Mantle and Bela Lugosi share a birthday? Well they do. 1882 & 1931. Back to the writing. If I don't finish this novel, I'll be quite angry with myself and there's been more than enough of that.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

oh yeah - a couple of other things

I love Christiane Amanpour's earrings, especially the turquoise ones. And I'm sorry I used sort of a cuss word in my previous post and I'm thrilled that that glamorous gasbag Sarah Palin decided not to run for the Presidency and I've been listening to this link again and again, just for the beauty. And the Farmer Boy chapter is called 'Fall of the Year.'

what things are like today

So, for one thing, Autumn is here, in person, as it were. Leaves falling, showers of dry, gold flakes that were tender green nubbins a few months back when I was thinking Thank God - no more goddam snow! As soon as I get done typing this, I swear, I'm going to go downstairs and get my copy of Farmer Boy & reread the Turn of the Year chapter, about autumn at the Wilders' red house in upstate New York. I recommend whoever's reading this to do the same - shoot, read the whole book! It really is wonderful. Timeless even.
My sister's been sick. She's got a doctor's appt. next week and we're worried. What's going on inside of her?
And I've been sick - bit o' food poisoning or something, but I'm better now and I hope I never have to throw up ever, ever, ever again. Don't you hate throwing up?
And John Lennon would be 71 today and I don't like the political incorrectness in me, my personal feeble-mindedness at still being kind of angry at Mark David Chapman, whose action outside of the Dakota was pretty likely symptomatic of mental illness so was it criminal? Was he bad or was he sick? I think both.
And the novel I've been working on has lots of good in it, but still a lot of not so good in it so I must wrestle w/ the angels. Do like I was telling a whole bunch of kids just the other day: Work hard until I make it look easy.
AND there are bunches of comfortably dressed people sitting out & about w/ badly designed signs because they're upset about the fact that our country's not what it was [and never has been, come to think of it]
because the gap between the rich & the poor is going Grand Canyon out from underneath our feet
because the middle class is slipping away
because school teachers are being laid off
because so many people are out of work
because big business & big govt. are pretty much one & the same
because the 'job creators' aren't creating jobs, not in America anyway. no, they're doing business and if they can do what they do for less money overseas, they're irresponsible, they're letting down their investors if they don't. if they can avoid paying taxes and get away with it, they're irresponsible if they don't and the future's a scary place. It always has been. So what's to do? Do what Steve Jobs did: Stay hungry [work to feed the hunger for what is needful, i.e. change. a better life. a better way of doing things, of making people happy, including yourself] Stay foolish [take chances].
So for me anyway, today, that means finish this novel, work on it until it's no longer stoopid. that's what I call the pursuit of happiness.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Here I am, Lauer

I'm just now ever so grateful for having survived the long dark road, just now home from the far eastern side of Missouri, from visiting Mason Ridge Elementary over in the environs of St. Louis. It was pointed out to me, by an alert reader, that I've been slacking, blog-wise. Because it feels so pointless sometimes. And then again, one's feelings are not the best indicator of what there is to be done. And not done.

That being said, gosh, how grateful and happy I am to get to gas away at innocent, delightful school children - THE best part of my job, THE most fun - I adore talking and drawing and making kids laugh, sharing w/ them the virtues, the pure joy of reading, learning, knowing, imagining those who have gone before. How grateful I am that no distraught deer hurled itself in front of my headlights out on I-70. How grateful I am to have been away, doing what I got to do today and to be home again, home again, rich in happy memories.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

So. I meant to write yesterday, honest, because all day long it was the 17th of September, 47 years since Charlie Finley, the owner of the KC Athletics, brought the Beatles to town. Why couldn't I go? Because we were living in a ratty old farmhouse, made worse by my messy family moving into it, down around Chilhowee, a good 60 miles from KC. I was 13. Couldn't drive. No friends. No money, but rich in anguish. My poor old long-commuting dad brought me a couple of Beatles singles. One was a Vee-Jay 45, the other a Capitol.... very, very, very nice of him, especially considering all the crap & ridicule I took off of him re: those long-hairs.... And I found out some time later that 17 Sept. 1964 marked 102 years since the Battle of Antietam. Nearly 23,000 men, lost, killed, wounded, just one day.
Wretched, bloody day, poor souls.

And I got to participate [talk. sing (!), make people laugh - shoot, cut me off another slice of that! I love talking to a bunch o' people] in the annual author breakfast at the Reading Reptile. If you're ever in Kansas City, go there. You won't be sorry. You might think that you're walking into a bookstore. You'll quickly realize that you're entering Pete's & Deb's living work of art. I hurried home afterwards to take Mimi outside to relieve herself then got down to painting. Listening to The Good Earth. Boy oh boy, that Pearl Buck. no matter what else she wrote and she wrote a lot; she'd written her masterpiece. She was magic. [read it if you haven't] It's like no matter what J.,P.,Geo., & R. did, they'd been the Beatles to the world & carved their songs into the culture.
so I didn't write a word yesterday. didn't even sign a book. Nobody bought one.
Hard times, but there are compensations.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

starting fresh

So, it seems fitting to revisit this blog this week, being a time for new beginnings, buying school supplies, sharpening pencils. After a very long inertia siege, I've taken up one of my several unfinished novels. Beastly it is to conjure characters into existence then leave them languishing in my hard drive. I've a painting [for a handful of historical panels hereabouts, in the Queen City o' the Trails - did you know that a man who had worked long & hard to buy his freedom ended up building many a wagon, intended for the long trails to Oregon & Santa Fe? that he became a most prosperous businessman just a few blocks from where I sit typing?] to do, a sculpture [I've been taking myself weekly to a ceramics studio] to complete, and a massive revision to do, for a book having to do with the Gold Rush, when my hometown was far and away livelier than it is these days. So heck, why not blog?
I can think of lots of reasons....

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Mid-May Madness

So, I've lost count of how many days until I turn 60, but it's creeping up on me and after all, does it matter? I'll still be the same doofus I am now, but by then, God willing, I shall have this manuscript done. I'll have found out tomorrow that the illustrations I mailed at the US Post Office on Saturday morning made it to New York. Somewhere there is a publisher at which I still have a contract for a bona fide picture book, its publication long delayed. And what happened on this day in history? I'm not sure, but I'm willing to wager that loads of people were born or they fell in love or they died too soon. Or long after they prayed to go. All of the above. And outside, in the dark, purple irises are in bloom.

Monday, May 9, 2011


The spirea are blooming as they doubtless were 127 years ago when Mittie Truman gave birth to baby Harry down in Lamar, MO. Mimi and I hiked up to his Presidential Library yesterday morning, a big fat thrill for a little black & white dog, getting to run, run, run all around the great green lawn. For me, it was more of a Rocky Balboa deal, trudging, huffing, puffing up the slope to the however many steps there are to the front porch to peer in through the big windows to see the tremendous Thos. Hart Benton mural that gleams from the wall within. What a glorious painting it is! Then back home again, all sweaty & breathless, Mimi panting & both of us eager for a cold drink of water. Out walking again this morning & determined I am to keep it up and get a good deal thinner than I am today, please God. Never have I been so .... well, I'm not going to type that particular F-word. I didn't expect to be so becalmed, unable to move through lack of wind in my sails, i.e. umph, at this stage of life.

Saturday, May 7, 2011


SO, yes, today would have been Elaine Harness's 83rd birthday if she hadn't gotten her ticket punched back in the autumn of 1992 and glad for her I am, bless her heart, that she was able to pass away when she did. In the many years after this picture was taken, she had six more children, gained SO much weight, and got terribly, terribly sad. Life wasn't all she hoped it would be when she went to some California photo studio with little me. Some 13 years later she would tell me 'don't be like me.' Okay Mom, I pretty much ran with that little piece of advice.
How pleased and proud she always was, by the way, that she shared a birthday with the great and marvelous actor, Gary Cooper, who, had he not passed away way too soon in the spring of 1961, would be celebrating his 100th BIRTHDAY this very day. As for me, today makes 59 days before I turn 60, 59 more days in which I intend to make it my business to better observe poor Mom's sad, soft, thick, trapped, checked-out example as life has a way of catching up with a person if you're not careful, when you're not paying attention.

Monday, May 2, 2011

65, I think

So, wide open popped my eyes when I switched on the BBC about 1 A.M. and heard the news that the old renegade had been surprised by intruders, shot in the head, & dropped in the ocean. So long Osama, it's been bad to know you.
Off I need to be going in the next little while, off driving across Missouri for to talk to three groups of sleep-deprived middle schoolers about books & such. Will they want to know that yesterday [today] marked 119 years since flying ace of aces, Manfred von Richthofen, THE Red Baron was born? We'll see, but I doubt it. Still, aerial battles. 80 victories, intense young pilots - pretty goddam thrilling. Will they care that today [tomorrow] is a birthday shared by Bing Crosby [who?] and Golda Meir [ditto]? But it'll be Pete Seeger's birthday. And Sugar Ray Robinson's. Oh well. I'll tell 'em about books, about history, its role in our lives, our role in history. After all, look how one person, caught up in a wide sequence of events, can bend it, as today's [yesterday's] death dude so demonstrated. Glad you're gone, O.b.L., you rascal you.

Friday, April 29, 2011


Now yesterday I stood in a dim museum, what once was a busy RR station - set off from there with my grandma in 1967, on a train trip up to Julesburg, Colorado. In 1919, she [Eula] and her new husband [Harley Wolfe, home from the Great War] set to farming there..... I stood w/in inches of the ruffled taffeta gown Diana Spencer wore once upon a t. - went out & rented a color television just to see that wedding, golly, years & years ago.... So, this morning, to Mimi's mystification, I rolled out of the sack in the early dark to see today's Gown. Silk satin & lace it turned out to be and worth the getting up as were the Hats. I know it's a tiny bit chilly-hearted, watching all of this irrelevant hoohah [but gosh, the history ]when so many folks are sorting through the tragic storm wreckage. That Tuskaloosa twister came perilously close to a dear one. Ah well... thoughts are whirling fast. I'd better get to painting.

Saturday, April 23, 2011


So, I meant to post this yesterday, on the 22nd of April, which would have been my little brother Paul's 53rd birthday, had it not been for an icy road, a late night (in Jan - golly, all of a sudden I cannot recall the year, she wrote, appalled & chagrined.... 1980. that's when), and too much drinking. Paul's the little guy in the foreground here. Beautiful little boy. Toady - that was his nickname. And there's Timmy, head tilted and Gary, taller, older, darker of hair, more grievous of future as there are some things - life, for instance - worse than an early death.
And there am I, at age 11, holding baby Laura Jeanne.


"My subject is War and the pity of War. The Poetry is in the pity."

So wrote Wilfred Owen. His words, his still all too goddam pertinent [thinking here, just now, of photographers Tim hetherington and Chris Hondros], words, are inscribed on the tombstone that marks the final resting place for Rupert Brooke, who died on the 23rd of April, 1915... thus sharing a deathday w/ Wm. Shakespeare....
. He was another British poet, another 'Tommy," one of the many thousands of British soldiers whose lives were lost in the Great War. Owen was 25, as a matter of fact, when he was killed in France in 1918, a week before the guns went silent.

Young men - and women - dying in the wake of the misdeeds of the old.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood,
And fired the shot heard round the world.
So begins Ralph Waldo Emerson's glorious poem honoring the citizenry of Concord and Lexington, Massachusetts, and thereabouts, on the 19th of April, 1775. The people, the places, and their importance all deserve more time and more words than I can afford to give them right this minute. There is drawing to be done.

Long live the Republic.

Monday, April 18, 2011


So. Here I am, I and Grace, my little red hoopie, as we appeared in Veda Jones's driveway in Joplin, Missouri, this past weekend, on my way over to the little town of Diamond. What's there? A beautiful museum, well worth the visiting, The George Washington Carver National Monument. It's got a peanut warning on the front door - made me smile.
The "Peanut Wizard" was born thereabouts in the early spring of 1865. For a bit more about Dr. Carver - really, a tremendous individual, you may well wish to read today's posting on the I.N.K. blog. Now, as for Interesting Nonfiction for Kids, I must go and, with luck and the continued application of the seat of my pants to the seat of this chair, write some.

Saturday, April 16, 2011


So, I'm BACK from a fairly longish drive down to the SW corner of MO & back, from gassing away to a swell gaggle of visitors to the Geo Washington Carver Monument. It's just outside of Diamond, what might be termed a hamlet. A village? Anyway, a nice little town with a TERRIFIC museum nearby, concerning the life & works of a most significant individual.
And the night before? Visiting, sniveling, eating, drinking, laughing, wine-ing & whining with dear, swellegant author friends Veda Boyd Jones & Vicki Grove ... then today: cold gray, soon turned to a lovely, cool & sunny 16th of April.
It's the anniversary of Charlie Chaplin's birthday in 1889 and that of lovely painter, Élizabeth Vigée Le Brun, in 1755. Garth Williams, whose illus. of Mrs. Wilder's books I loved so much when I was a little squirt [not so much now], was b. on this day in 1912, the day after the great ship went down, the day after Harriet Quimby flew the English Channel, 99 years ago.

Friday, April 15, 2011


So, was it a rainy day like today, on this day in 1452, when Catarina gave birth to her son, Leonardo? The records say that it was Piero da Vinci who fathered the child upon her, the child who'd grow up, drawing as angels would if they cared to. Ah well, happy happy to Leonardo da Vinci, the original Renaissance Man, on the 559th anniversary of his birth. And to another painter, whom I saw walking about (at the art supply store where I worked), before he kicked the bucket -after all, sensational it would be if I saw Thos Hart Benton after he passed on. Not so by the way, not three blocks away from where I'm here typing is a most glorious mural of his - gosh, the COLOR! - up at the HST Presidential Library. Do see it if you haven't.
Now, off I go to southern Missouri, to another artist's old stomping grounds, to the birthplace of George Washington Carver. I'm to be talking about him tomorrow. I'll be sure to tell whomever shows up that there was far and away more to the gent than peanuts and that he deserves to be known and admired, as more than some quaint, peanut-butter-scented Black History Month icon.
A seeker after attention he was, but his sights were, for sure, set upon Truth.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


“America is a large friendly dog in a small room. Every time it wags its tail it knocks over a chair.”

“Civilizations die from suicide, not by murder.”

“The supreme accomplishment is to blur the line between work and play.”

“The extinction of race consciousness as between Muslims is one of the outstanding achievements of Islam, and in the contemporary world there is, as it happens, a crying need for the propagation of this Islamic virtue”

So, the historian Arnold J. Toynbee had very much more to say than this quartet of snippets, but wow, what a sampling! I only came across these because A.J.T. was b. on this day in history, on the 24th anniversary of the day on which John Wilkes Boothe got himself good & liquored up for a death-dealing at Mr. Ford's theatre. People doing bad things, thinking they're doing good things - that's history for you.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


"Educate and inform the whole mass of the people ... the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty ...Enlighten the people generally, & tyranny & oppressions of body & mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day."

Thomas Jefferson, who would turn 268 years old today if he wasn't so seriously dead. I doubt that he knows or cares off in the Blue Beyond or if his soul is animating another vessel – brown-skinned, I'd be willing to bet, if there is anything to the notion of karmic lessons – these days, that his birthday is shared by the outlaw Butch Cassidy, a.k.a. Robt. Leroy Parker. How I loved writing and illustrating a book about our 3rd President....It's my brother's birthday, too, my lost, derelict, frightening & upsetting, tragic brother. May the Gracious Spirit keep him safe and far away from me.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


Let him who elevates himself above humanity . . . say, if he pleases, "I will never compromise"; but let no one who is not above the frailties of our common nature disdain compromise.Henry Clay, b. 12 April 1777
So, it was on this day in 1920 that my mom's big sister was born. Red-headed Dorothy Lea Wolfe. She had lots of beauty & lots of pain.
It's the birthday of Henry Clay, savvy Compromiser of Lexington, Kentucky. He was young Lincoln's 'beau ideal' of a politician. Just for you to know.
And it's Franklin D. Roosevelt's deathday. Imagine Americans' shock, hearing that news, that the President they'd known for 12 years was gone - and w/ a huge, whacking war still to be won.
Lilacs and redbuds, just as now, were festooning & purpling the yards 1920. 1777. 1945. 1861 (and 100 years later when the first - think of it, of 27-yr-old USSR pilot Yuri Gagarin, the first human allowed himself to be strapped into a rocket & sent up into space) - in the north & in the south, when patriotic hotheads fired their first volleys, thinking that they were doing, not treason, but a righteous & noble thing. And how could their lofty notion of the consequences - a nation in which states & individuals governed themselves, free of central command, free to buy and sell people, work 'em & breed 'em, as unusually clever, bipedal livestock - even resemble what really happened over the next four years? It couldn't. The future's always hidden 'round the bend.

Monday, April 11, 2011


So, I went to the movies today when I should have been writing or painting or cleaning. Went with Kim, the only fellow in my entire high school who cared enough to be seen w/ me in public. We went to see the latest film adaptation of Jane Eyre, a completely lovely, beautiful - fabulous costumes, no foolin' – exercise in patience.
Okay. Back to my deadline. I swear I spent HOURS over this past weekend trying to explain Pontiac's Rebellion and the Proclamation Line of 1763.

Sunday, April 10, 2011


the 10th of April

‎"A grave blockhead should always go about w/ a lively one; they show one another off to the best advantage."

"As is our confidence, so is our capacity"

English writer, William Hazlitt, b. 1778

Wm. shares his birthday with Commodore Matthew Perry, Lew Wallace [Civil War veteran, author of the saga of Ben Hur], Joseph Pulitzer, that snotty, ambitious, clever Claire Boothe Luce, 96-yr-old actor Harry Morgan who was in about 2 million movies, labor activists Frances Perkins, the 1st female Cabinet Sec'y [of Labor] & Dolores Huerta, Omar Sharif; and my sister.
It was 49 years ago last night. I sat up on the stairs watching Mom, in her robe (pin-wale corduroy, it was. bright turquoise, her best color), pacing past our pink wall phone, over in the next block @ 715 N. Cottage...fixing to call Dad or the doctor, go to the hospital. They let me name the new baby. Laura [after Laura Ingalls Wilder] Jeanne Harness. My sad-dork 11-yr-old self didn't much like her. Jealous.
I do now.

Friday, April 8, 2011


My gosh, according to the Wickibots, the marble Aphrodite was discovered on the Greek island of Milos, on this day in 1820. All but her arms, which must have been lovely if there were anything like that which survived all those years upon years upon years. Life is short. Art is long.