Friday, July 27, 2012

      So. Had I not begun writing a history of Missouri, never would I have known that there was a clash known as the Honey War back in 1839. Never would have known that a Reverend John Meacham, an African American educator, set up a "Freedom School"  - on a boat anchored in the Mississippi River. Why? Because Missouri lawmakers, in 1847, made it illegal to teach a slave to read or write.  (Sheesh.)  And I never knew that there used to be a little sandbar in the Mississippi where hotheads, including a couple of future MO governors & a future US Senator, Thos Hart Benton -  used to go to fight duels!   What was the place called? "Bloody Island."
    Shoot, I've been learning things I never knew about Ma Barker, "Black Jack" Pershing, Bald Knobbers, the Veiled Prophet, cattle drives, musicians, gangsters, painters - what a fierce part of the world I've been living in!
      Off I go to the shipper to send 18 Laura Ingalls Wilder Coloring Books off to one of the little houses of her girlhood, one of her many homes before weary, stressed out Laura & Almanzo, a.k.a. Bessie & Manly Wilder, came to settle in Mansfield, MO. August 1894. Just for you to know.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Max P.

So. Maxfield Parrish, born 192 years ago today, is one of my all time favorite painters.  He painted this, one of my all time favorite paintings. 
Got a print of it hanging in my bedroom. If I was given to idolatry, ol' Max P. would be an idol of mine, for being such a genius generator of pure, blue Beauty.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

What's Going to be Going ON in The Queen City of the TRAILS

 Commemorate the 150th Anniversary of The First Civil War Battle of Independence, MO,  Saturday, August 11, 2012 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. Marker Dedication: Independence and the Westward Trails The historic McCoy Neighborhood greets special guests from the National Park Service for the unveiling of five panels that interpret the pioneer trails history related to McCoy Park and the City of Independence. The panels (These panels, you guys, feature three of my paintings. How cool is that? One is pictured here, of Hiram Young's yoke & wagon manufactory c. 1850. Mr. Young was a real-life success story hereabouts. Started his life 200 yrs ago, enslaved in Tennessee. Became a businessman & craftsman, a respected employer, prosperous & free.  provide educational opportunities for neighbors, citizens, and visitors to the Park, located south of the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum. This event is free and open to the public. With limited parking, please walk to the Park, or ride a shuttle bus from the large parking lot at Truman & Main Streets. 10 a.m. to Noon Civil War living history re-enactment and book signings 
1859 Jail, Marshal’s Home and Museum 
217 N Main Street 
Museum admission applies 
1-3:30 p.m. 
Civil War-era fashion show, lecture series, and book signings 
National Frontier Trails Museum 
318 W Pacific 
816.325.7575 (Departments) 
Museum admission applies 
9 and 11 a.m. (starting times) 
1 and 3 p.m. (starting times) 
Mule-drawn wagon rides and battlefield tours 
4:45 p.m. (starting time) 
Chuck Wagon Tour 
Admission includes a tour of the route taken by troops during the battle in a mule-drawn, covered wagon; see houses still marked with bullet holes from the battle; pass by the McCoy House where fleeing soldiers sought refuge (and broke out all the windows for a place to sharpshoot); and, a tour the 1859 Jackson County Jail (today the 1859 Jail, Marshal’s Home and Museum) (where the Union Provost Marshal was stationed during the battle). The last tour of the day, a chuck wagon tour, includes all of the above PLUS a barbecue meal provided by Independence’s own Elena’s Fine Catering, and a concert of Civil War-era music by Pick & Hammer. Battlefield tours are $30/adult and $15/children; Chuck Wagon tour is $40/adult; $20/children. For more information, or to secure your seat in the wagon, visit their website or call 816.254.2466. 
Enjoy trolley rides, including through the historic McCoy neighborhood, around town running from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Step on and step off all day long…all for $1. Trolley departs every 25 to 35 minutes from 217 N Main (across from the 1859 Jail Museum). 

Good Intentions. Yikes.

Okay. I actually went in the door and stayed at the local coffee house for 15 entire minutes and lemme tell you, that was brave of me. What a sissypants I am, I know. I'd gone up there with the intention of going up and reading a bit, one of the funny bits, from my 2006 novel, Just For You to Know.  Man oh man, I've talked in front of many a roomful of people, but they've been people who know of me and my work. Young strangers - that's a whole 'nother deal.


So, I've been immersed in another in a long line of get-rich-slow schemes. Got it in my head to write a history. I've had many a book published over the years, made my living at it. Feels kind of foolish, maybe I'm indulging in a bit of a luxury item to be researching, writing, working on a project that might not make much money, but shoot! I'm having an awfully terrific time coming up with a list of 1,000 Cool Things & People to Know So YOU Will Be a TOTAL MISSOURI BRAINIAC.
  I'll be taking my Shih Tsu, Mimi out for a walk - and not a very long one, seeing that it's so rotten hot outdoors, and it will occur to me that, chronology-wise, I need to link this heat wave back to similar stretches of misery hereabouts in the mid 1930s, in the early 1950s and don't forget to put a mini-bio of Missouri-born Betty Grable in the WWII section.
    More about MO later. Right now, I think I'm going to go up to the Square, where there's a coffee house. Where there's an open mic deal tonight. Where I told myself I was going to go and do a bit of a reading & try to be amusing for a few minutes. Now I'm nervous about it. Public speaking is such a rush.
Once you get past the oogly-booglies.
I'll let you know how it goes.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Ida B

“The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.” 
 Ida B. Wells-Barnett

So, here's just a brief note to commemorate the valiant, stubborn life of Ida Bell Wells-Barnett, which began in Mississippi, 150 years ago today. Do you know about her? She grew up in a devilish time, parents died of illness, left her with younger siblings to care for. Which she did, as well as getting herself sufficient education to become a teenaged teacher.

   "I came back home every Friday afternoon, riding the six miles on the back of a big mule. I spent Saturday & Sunday washing & ironing & cooking for the children & went back to my country school on Sunday afternoon."

       She went on to become a powerful journalist and lecturer, who agitated against the thousands of lynchings that went on throughout America well into the 20th century.  Gives me the wimwams & heebie-jeebies just thinking about it. How is it that we humans can be so wonderful and so horrible?

"Brave men do not gather by thousands to torture & murder a single individual, so gagged & bound he cannot make even feeble resistance or defense."

Sunday, July 15, 2012


On a lighter note than in my previous post, since I hadn't gotten around to replacing my busted my ice cube trays, I've discovered how much FUN it to freeze an inch or so of water in a 9" by 12" baking pan then WHACK it into pieces for my Diet Coke, water, and tea. And my morning elixur: instant coffee + 1% milk. I love whacking.

Sunday Morning

"This land is your land..."

       So. I should have said more, yesterday, about the great poet, troubadour, Woody Guthrie, whose centenary was yesterday. And by the way, there's a splendid documentary about him, well worth checking out. But I was preoccupied with finishing the revision of my novel, for which I have hopes. I always have hopes. Then late into the night I was working on my history of Missouri, my home state. Trying to explain the ghastly First World War, I came across the fact that Nat'l Guard troops from Missouri & Kansas were formed into the 35th Infantry Division. Ironic, considering how fiercely Missourians & Kansans fought one another in the bad old Civil War Days.
       And I wanted to note that on the morning of 11 August, there's going to be a dedication ceremony in my neighborhood, for a trio of historical panels that the Nat'l Park Service is going to install in McCoy Park, here in Independence. Why am I telling you? Because three of my paintings will be printed on them. They illustrate Hiram Young's yoke & wagon manufactory. Hiram Y., a freed African American, was a big deal around here, back in this trail town's wagon train glory days. Another
shows the mule drawn train that used to haul would-be emigrants the three miles or so from the Missouri River landing up to the Independence Square, where they'd wagon up for their big adventures on the long trail to Oregon or California. Not a trip I'd want to take. The other painting is a mini-mural panorama of old Independence, the Queen City of the Trails. Lots of sky above for text. It's looking like the city's going to buy the three paintings so does this make me happy? You bet. The Q.C. of the Ts is my hometown. It's good to know that my work will be cared for, will be sort of a legacy.
       And, just for you to know, the long-gone painter Rembrandt van Rijn was born on this day in history, in 1606.  He shares this birthday w/'a few other summer babies, of course, most notably Clement Clarke Moore & explorer Edward Shackleton.  And, she wrote gloomily, today's the anniversary of Tad Lincoln's deathday, in 1871. Poor tragic kid. Just 18 years old when he got his ticket punched. Having lost his big brother, his dad, and suffered through his last years w/ his tragic, nutty mom.  Sheesh.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

So. Happy Bastille Day. And Vive la France, still French after all these years. And happy birthday to you Woody Guthrie, off in the Blue Beyond, come into this old vale of tears 100 years ago today. And happy me, just finished a revision of a novel I've been working on. Now back to the Missouri history I've begun. I've got the 20th century to explain.

Thursday, July 12, 2012


Oh well, the 12th of July. There was a time when I was much younger than I am now, when I wished that this was my birthday rather than six days earlier. I mean, Andrew Wyeth, an artist whose work I adored when I was in high school, came into the world through the door marked 12 July, three months after the U.S. jumped into the  loathsome, needless 'Great War,' made to look so quaint and picturesque on many a Masterpiece Theater. And every 12th of July marks another anniversary of the day that Henry David Thoreau was born. And didn't I love Walden when I was a romantic, deeply dorky high school student. So how did I celebrate the day? By continuing work on a revision of a novel for which I have hopes then going to a movie I'd looked forward to, to see what it'd look like. I'd loved the book on which it was based. Really wished I'd written Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith. I'm no scholar, not a genuine historian, but I'd done enough research on my own books about our 16th president to know that S. G-S. had done his homework and had created a wonderful entertainment - unlike the jokers who made the dreadful film out of which I walked well before its conclusion.

July 13th will be better.  Tomorrow is another day - a quote from another movie that wasn't as good as the book.  Except for JAWS [masterpiece film/mediocre book] and To Kill a Mockingbird [brilliant movie/brilliant novel], the book is always better. The book is always better.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

We Bumble On

So. There's so much to say, but really, I'm too impatient to write it all. I've a drawing to do & I'll be doing it while I keep one eye & some of my mind on HBO's rebroadcast of its brilliant miniseries based upon the life & times of John & Abigail Adams, based upon David McCullough's biography. And I've a novel still in need of revision. Now that I've written a bit of a note here, now that I've revisited my sadness by reading Andy Griffith's obituary and been reminded that we all can keep getting older w/o his presence in the world. Now that another great chunk has broken off of the continent of my culture and fallen into the big river...It must have been like this - not exactly like this but I'd be willing to bet that some of these feelings might be mirrored in the hearts of Americans 186 years ago, when they heard that Thomas Jefferson had died. Got his ticket punched. Moreover, the loquacious lion of the Revolution, John Adams, left the building, exited the world's stage on that very same day, 50 years to the day since the 2nd Continental Congress voted to adopt the D. of I.  Of course Thos. J. drafted it, but his older Revolutionary brothers, J. Adams & Benj. F., gave it a good editing & going over - a painful process it must have been. and all done w/o our modern luxury-turned-necessity: AC.
 No. It couldn't be - wouldn't be the same for those long-gone Americans, reading about the great & dead Duo, the Pen and the Voice of the Revolution. That Greatest Generation hadn't grown up watching them, hearing them, seeing their images on omnipresent screens as did my big, but not all that great generation of Boomers [lots of potential though], growing with Andy Griffith (d. 3 July 2012), Jimmy Stewart (died 2 July, 1997), & Charles Kuralt (d. 4 July 1997). Have I no sense of proportion? Yup, I got plenty. Well aware I am that a pair of accomplished actors & a TV journalist do not equal Mr. A. & Mr. J.  And what a wrench it must have been, in the summer of 1826, finding out that they were gone, but they bumbled on w/ the Republic. I reckon we still do. And we still worry about it & recognize that it is in peril, think that old John & Tom would gag & croak all over again if they could but see some of the things that have happened [Citizens United anybody?]. But not w/o some pride & incredulity that we've bumbled on.