Farm Fun!

There’s just something cool when you turn a bunch of history-minded people loose in a museum. I earned serious street creds from a group of professors in Oklahoma City by helping them identify which theme went to which Western TV series. I’ve heard interesting stories while lurking behind the next display, pretending not to be listening in. And this was no exception. After all, it is not often that you can spend time looking at something like this, and talking to people who grew up riding on them or working on them, or yes:

First came tanks, then tractors, then more tanks. You’ll still see large treaded tractors on the northern plains.

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Broad History of a Flat Place

I’ve been on the road a great deal recently, traveling with friends or going to a regional history meeting. I’m following old routes, some of the time: rivers, chains of rainwater lakes, little swales in the landscape that catch water and gradually lead to canyons, then to the eastern low plains. Other routes belong to machines rather than ancient men, pathways laid in straight lines from city to city, diverting only to avoid the impossible, or to reach the occasional older market. No dramatic terrain meets the eye, no startling contrast other than that of sky and ground meeting somewhere far, far away. Continue reading

Scribble, Scribble, Scrunch into Corner

So there I was, peering over Old NFO’s elbow, trying to read the accession number on the little tag hanging off the 1878 Smith and Wesson .44 Russian, so I could record it along with the fountain of information pouring forth, but the floodgate had opened, hands were moving and it was all I could do to write down numbers, names, and details. Peter Grant was looking at another revolver, inspecting some modifications, and I couldn’t remember if I’d written that one down yet or not. Five more revolvers lay on the counter in front of us, swords and spears and a few maces hung from brackets on the wall, and Dorothy Grant had wisely tucked herself into the corner with a book, well clear of overflows of enthusiasm. The curator alternated between making note of what had been looked at and asking questions. I had unleashed a monster: knowledgable experts with nearly unlimited examples to inspect, poke, and teach from. What hath Alma wrought?!? Continue reading

A Haunting Movie

I’m trying to prep a few weeks worth of lessons in advance, because things are about to get very crazy at school, due to a conjunction of Spring Break, then music, academic, Latin, and sports activities that will have me filling in for almost everyone else for a week, while 4/5 of the students will be out on some field trip at any given point during the week. So I sat down to re-watch Triumph des Willens, or in English Triumph of the Will. It creeps me out every time, and also makes me sigh for lost history. Continue reading

Peopled Out: Introverts On the Road

Last year I met someone who makes me look like a wild, outgoing, party-animal who never met someone who wasn’t an instant friend. No, I’m not naming names, but I was hiding in a quiet area reading, trying to get away from people for a while, when Superintrovert walked in at a very brisk pace, glanced around, and sat. After a minute I looked up and asked, “Peopled out?”

“Oh yeah. Peopled out.” Ten seconds later Superintrovert departed for truly solitary climes. I felt a little bad, still do, about speaking to Superintrovert and possibly chasing said person away. Then I returned to my book and basked in being alone. Continue reading

When Nerds Travel

  1. You’ve read all the books on the recommended book list, plus four more.
  2. You have a list of the museums you are going to see on the tour, including temporary exhibitions, and a second list of museums to see if the guide turns his back on you long enough for you to sneak away.
  3. You really wish you’d been able to duck out of the gourmet French lunch to go to the museum of prehistoric man down the road and up in the cliff (true story.)
  4. Old days: most of your luggage weight going out is books and maps, even though you are not the guide and are not driving.
  5. Modern: your e-reader is loaded with local and regional history. Coming back, your luggage is full of books and maps even though . . .
  6. You plan your family trips on a theme, such as the Oregon Trail this year, then the fur trapper rendezvous, then the Mormon Trail, then Civil War battlefields, then US colonial history, and so on.
  7. You print out [search engine]maps with English-language bookstores for when you travel.
  8. You print out [search engine] maps with great chocolate stores for when you travel. (MomRed in Belgium)
  9. You buy books in languages you don’t read because the pictures are so great and you can puzzle out bits of the captions with the dictionary you got.
  10. Someone asks you where you got that lovely silk scarf and you say, “The gift shop at the Prado. It was part of an exhibition on pre-Reconquista art and it is based on a pattern from the third main room of the Alhambra.” (True story but not me)
  11. You hit the museum book-n-stuff shop first, then go to the museum.
  12. You tell the guide that you’d prefer to see Romanesque and earlier churches and castles, no Gothic this time. (True story, not me)
  13. You plan your vacation around museums and zoos and planetaria* and botanical gardens.
  14. You’re been known to dress to match the hotel’s history.
  15. You’re been mistaken for a) a Park Ranger, b) a docent, c) a tour guide, d) the tour guide, e) faculty, f) an official interpreter. And you have not corrected the person, but provided the information/answered the question/guided them to the proper person (“I’m sorry, but I’m a geology specialist, ma’am. If you’ll come with me to the main desk, you can ask the critter ranger.” The real National Park staff were amused, and played along because the lady was in her 80s, and I was wearing olive-green brush slacks, a khaki shirt, and a brown hat, and hiking boots.)

*Am I the only one who thinks it really should be planetarii, based on 2nd declension -um ending in the singular? Apparently planetarium is 3rd declension neuter, so the endings are -um, -i,-o,-um,-o; -a, -orum, -is, -a, -is.  And yes, I am one of those who gets into polite arguments over which declension Prius (TM) is.