Let’s Just Move the River!

How hard could it be to pump water from the Mississippi River to the Llano Estacado? It’s only a few hundred miles, all uphill, across two or three states. The water in the Red River was already allocated, but the Mississippi had no in-stream requirements or water rights filed, and everyone was always complaining about flooding, so why not? Especially if Dallas or Fort Worth could be persuaded to buy some water to help pay for the pipeline, pumps, and power plants. Continue reading


A Gentle Reminder…

1. Please leave reviews for books/stories/stuff you buy at Amazon and other retail sites that allow reviews.

2. Please do not drink so much today that you start to see all the snakes that St. Patrick drove OUT of Ireland.

Please Don’t Bring the Snakes Back.

And remember, St. Patrick is the patron saint of souls in Purgatory, NOT of hangovers.


Names on the Landscape

River of the Hills that Look Like Prairie-Dog Mounds. Yellow House Canyon. River of the Lost Souls in Purgatory. Plains of St. Augustine. Mt. McKinley. Jackson Square. Possum Kingdom Lake. Red River of the North, Colorado River, Colorado River, Rio Colorado, Baton Rouge.

Bog. Muskeg. Moor. Moos. Peat Bog. Beaver Meadow. Fen. Mire. Swamp. Slough. Playa. Tascosa. Cieneguilla. Polder. Spew. Snape. Brochan. Carr.

I’ve been reading a book about trails and ways in and around Britain, but an English author and poet who has also written a book of place-terms, the disappearing regional vocabulary of places, weather, and waters. The words are fascinating, and the ideas and special terms tell you a great deal about how the speakers saw the land, what they valued, and what they avoided. The Comanche, for example, used very descriptive names, describing what a feature should look like so that you could recognize it easily. There’s nothing fanciful about “The River near the Hills That Look Like Prairie-Dog Mounds” which today is the Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River. Continue reading

Four Minutes, One Mile

Sir Roger Bannister, the first man to run a mile in four minutes, died at age 88 last weekend. https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2018/mar/04/sir-roger-bannister-first-athlete-to-run-a-mile-in-under-four-minutes-dies-aged-88

For many of us of a certain age, we remember him because of something else. A film he  had no part in, but that is always associated with records, track, and questions about priorities in life:

Bannister was the next generation, and made his mark in 1954. He went on to become a physician.

When Does Modern Start?

It depends on who you ask. Are you inquiring about art, the news media, literature, history, architecture, or something you can’t quite define but know when you see it? I hadn’t really thought about it in several years, but recently a substitute teacher (who used to be full-time until he retired) asked me when the Modern Era started. Without blinking I said, “1789 and the French Revolution.” I don’t think that was quite what he was expecting.

So, why, for a historian, is the French Revolution modern? We’re talking about people who still wore silk stockings and knee breeches, wore powdered wigs, listened to Mozart and Hayden live (if you were in the right place), wore embroidered waist-coats, and lacked indoor plumbing, unless you count a chamber pot of closed-stool as “plumbing.” How can that be modern? Continue reading

George Washington and Abraham Lincoln

Please do not re-fight the American Civil War/War Between the States in the comments section. Nor do I want to debate if that episode were a civil war or a conflict  between two different countries.

Thank You.

February used to be known for Valentine’s Day, George Washington’s Birthday, and Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. I remember cutting out profile silhouettes of both presidents to put on the grade-school bulletin board, and being very confused because I thought they were black (since all we used was black paper.) Sometime between first grade and college, their birthdays were smushed together and became Presidents’ Day. Continue reading

Fat Tuesday

The Battle of Carnival and Lent

Today marks the last day of Fasching (Germany/Austria) and Carnival (France, elsewhere), if you follow the Western Church’s calendar. Feasting and merriment are about to come to an abrupt end, as Christians are enjoined by tradition to renounce certain pleasures, or to take on new devotions and duties, in spiritual preparation before the great feast of Easter.* In Europe this was a time to eat up the last of the meat and butter and other fats. Continue reading