The North Sea

I was skimming over one of the stories in Distinctly Familiar, looking for any major holes. It brought back my memories of visiting the edge of the North Sea, near Husum, Germany.

Into the teeth of a rising storm on the North Sea, standing on a sea dike near Husum, Germany.

It felt darker than the photo looks, because a storm was coming in. Continue reading

Once You Know Where To Look . . .

We were trying to find six castles. In Poland. On a scenic castle route road. We saw one from a distance, found the last one, but spent frustrating hours hunting for all the others. That night, I discovered that I had a German-language guide book with GPS coordinates and village names. We found two the next day, in ten minutes.

SIGH. It’s easy to find castles once you know exactly where to look. Continue reading

Much Needed Road Trip

This weekend, Mom, Dad, and I drove up to one of the gems of the Panhandle, the Citadelle Museum in Canadian, TX. They had a traveling exhibit of hats and headdresses from around the world, and it was a good excuse to get out of town for half a day. It had been two years since we went up to see the Rembrandt sketches, and as I said, it was an excuse to get out of town.

It is dry. Of all the playa lakes along the route, all of which should have a little water in their basins, only one has any water at all, and that was a tiny fraction of what’s usually there. That explains the lack of waterfowl this year. As we drove farther east and north, we started seeing scores of sandhill cranes, some geese, and a few other migratory waterfowl, all racing south. High clouds covered a lot of the sky, dimming the sun a little. Canadian was only supposed to get into the upper 60s, while Amarillo aimed for 80 or so. Milo fields and cotton stood ready for harvest, attracting waterfowl and some pronghorn (25-30 or so).

Traffic was fairly light on the road, but heavy on the railroad tracks. Two coal trains headed southeast, while hundreds of container-freight cars trudged uphill toward Amarillo and points west. I only counted ten Amazon containers, unlike in June. Lots of Maersk, Seeland, HamburgSud, B.J. Hunt and others.

As we turned due north into Roberts and Hemphill counties, we dropped into the Canadian River Breaks. Cottonwoods shimmered in the late morning sun, fluttering gold and almost-gold. Canadian has a big fall foliage fest every year, although this year’s was muted compared to the past. The grasses looked brown, all shades of brown, even though this area had gotten more rain than most of the rest of the region. What cattle that I saw grazed or runinated. Lots of Angus, no Herefords, at least near the road.

The museum, in a former church, then house, was ours. We were the only guests, although they would be hosting an outdoor wedding later that afternoon. The docent let us into the traveling exhibit, and we spent at least ninety minutes looking at hats, headdresses, caps, and scarves. They came from all over the world, and ranged from simple black or white (Shinto priest’s hat, Catholic bishop’s miter) to amazing silver crowns and embroidered and beaded wonders. A number came from peoples of the D.P. R. Congo, and China (ethnic minorities). That was a little sad, because of what’s happening to those peoples in China today, but the artwork and care in the hats and skullcaps remains vibrant and lovely.

One, a shaman’s hat from Indonesia, reminded me of the Sumarian headdress with all the little fluttering plaques and leaves. This sported a tree in silver wire and foil coming out of the top, and the leaves shimmered, fluttering when the wearer moved or a breeze stirred. Another masterpiece depicted riders on horseback, Asian dragons, a forest, then possibly mountains or just a geometric pattern, all in silver and silver-colored metal, on an embroidered base. That was not worn for extended periods, because of the weight, but the craftsmanship!

The only European hats were a Protestant woman’s hat from Alsaice, a Bavarian men’s hat, a cap from Serbia, and two embroidered felt hats from the Sammi of far northern Norway. A Plains Indian “warbonnet” (probably dance regalia, given the age and the turkey feathers) and a Tewa hat were the only contributions from the US. 

It was a lovely display, with lots of information about the hats, what head coverings symbolize, why people cover their heads, and so on.

We chatted with the docent for a while before departing. We stopped at the coffee shop on the way out of town, then drove home. For five hours I didn’t think of Day Job, or anything but observing the land and wildlife, and thinking about the Canadian River and sundry. I needed that. It was a great day to be out and about.

Canadian, TX is off the beaten track, but well worth visiting. The Citadelle’s permanent collection is amazing, and the founder keeps finding “Oh my gosh” stuff that his family didn’t remember that they had. Like a silk carpet from Lebanon, probably from the 1920s, that seems to show Ataturk. It came from a storage area, and the owners forgot that they’d gotten it. (They were originally Orthodox Christians who came from what is now Lebanon, working in the grocery and dry goods trade, then became doctors, ranchers, and so on.) The history museum is also quite good, and there are hiking trails and other things to do in the area.

A Well-Traveled People

One of the ranchers from the Panhandle died on the Titanic. A rancher in eastern New Mexico sent his children to the Austrian Alps during the late 1920s and early 1930s to spend time with their relatives, who were among the old Habsburg nobility. Others traveled to England, Ireland, and Scotland on a regular basis, as well as to Houston, Chicago, New York City, and the like.

One of the surprises of doing research about this region’s early settlement and growth is just how mobile the population was. Continue reading