Huron Pouch

Huron Pouch

Huron Pouch

Three leaps carried this warrior to the side of Deerslayer, whose withes were cut in the twinkling of an eye, with a quickness and precision that left the prisoner perfect master of his limbs. Not till this was effected did the stranger bestow a glance on any other object; then he turned and showed the astonished Hurons the noble brow, fine person, and eagle eye, of a young warrior, in the paint and panoply of a Delaware. He held a rifle in each hand, the butts of both resting on the earth, while from one dangled its proper pouch and horn.

– James Fenimore Cooper, “The Deerslayer”

‘Tis the Season

Winter Stars, by June Winter, wildflowers

Winter Stars, by June Winter, wildflowers

Work this week was in turmoil. There was the usual program politics, which level set the workplace angst. On top of all of this, was Friday, the final day in our open enrollment period for next year’s benefits. There’s no minute like the last minute. The angst can be fairly placed at the feet of Obamacare. As a Democrat I am entitled to say this. This year, we had a Cadillac healthcare program, or so it would have been judged, if the company hadn’t jacked-up our rates for next year. Like I said, there was a lot of angst this week at work.

A month ago, the previous paragraph would have been preamble to a mighty political rant. Today, I don’t really have the heart for it. I guess that the furor of this year’s election season has tamped down. All of our elected servants are back at work, doing what they do best, bickering. We’ve heard it all before and we will certainly hear it again, and again, and again, before it is finally all over. As we careen every closer to the looming fiscal cliff, I say let Toonces drive.

Although it was a little grayer than I had hoped, Saturday was way too unseasonably warm to spend all day railing against the Republican’ts. “Holy climate change Batman, to the bike cave!” Anne is still on the disabled list. She started PT for her injured knee this week. So, I’m riding solo today.

Afterwards, Anne and I returned to the park and went to the Missouri History Museum to view the Discover the Real George Washington exhibit. I’ll write about this show later, except to say that they had a pair of Washington’s false teeth on display and they weren’t wooden. The other main exhibit currently at the history museum is Missouri in the Civil War. We’ve already seen this show, but in the MacDermott Grand Hall separating these two shows, a museum intern put on a one woman dramatization of African-American history in Saint Louis, during the Civil War. After the show she took questions, but was quickly overwhelmed. Her boss stepped in and answered this question so thoroughly that no further questions were asked.

Except I saw the boss later and asked her about the Spirit of Saint Louis airplane that hangs in MacDermott Hall. She said that this replica of Lindbergh’s plane was built in 1928, the year after the famous transatlantic flight. It was built by Ryan Airlines, the same company that built the original plane. Our replica is quite special itself, having been featured in the movie “The Spirit of Saint Louis”, starring Jimmy Stewart. Both Stewart and his consultant, Charles Lindbergh, flew this iconic replica.

Jane Winter’s “Winter Stars” wreath is part of the collection on wreaths on display this Christmas season in the Ridgeway center at the Missouri Botanical Gardens. I like this wreath, but I really like the juxtaposition between the work’s tittle and its designer’s name. There are many other wreaths in this show and I’ll be doling them out, in this year’s run-up to Christmas.

The Spirit of Saint Louis

The Spirit of Saint Louis

I am thankful for not having to go to work today, and also tomorrow and also this weekend. They’re be no paper airplane building this holiday. I’m thankful for a good job that has supported my family and does not require me to go to work on Black Friday, or even worse, Grey Thursday.

I am thankful for the spate of warm weather today that will allow me to go bicycling, before cooking the rest of the day. It was especially foggy on Wednesday morning. I knew that the airport was closed, because the Running Rabbit wasn’t going, as I passed underneath it on my way into work. The Running Rabbit is that ribbon of chasing lights that leads pilots into land, at night or in not too inclement weather. Dave posted a photo of similar weather in the early AM at Purdue. My suspicions were later confirmed that Chicago’s O’Hare Airport was also shutdown. Our country’s busiest airport was shutdown on its busiest day of the year. I’m thankful that none of my family was flying today.

Dave drove into town last night, completing his whirlwind cross-country sojourn. We trooped over to South Grand for our traditional pre-Thanksgiving Vietnamese dinner. Our atomic family is all together again and all valances are strong. I’m especially thankful for this.

I’m thankful for all our other family members, who we won’t be seeing this holiday. Many we have seen this year, but some we missed. We hope to see them again in the new year. We’re few compared to other families, but mighty. Some though, we won’t see again. I’m thankful that I have known, loved and been loved by them.

Thanksgiving is an American holiday. Yeah, I know Canada has one too. On this holiday, across this land, we attempt to recreate a mythical meal, once shared between our Pilgrim fathers and their Native American neighbors. A recent Slate article implicates the Pilgrims for plaguing these very same neighbors into extinction. Another Slate article contends that Turkey Day is really Dino Day. I am thankful for these holiday readings, it will stimulate table conversation.

Recriminations can abound when diaspora families reunite. There is always the big three, politics, religion and sex, three things better not discussed at the dinner table. Interesting, but inconsequential small talk can be a godsend. I’ll be thankful for turkey sandwiches after the all the hub-bub dies down again.

As you travel into and through this holiday, don’t imagine yourself as some lone aviator, trying to be the first to cross the Atlantic. Lindbergh’s triumph eventually turned to tragedy. Enjoy the parade. You’ll see some of the most significant people in your life, parading before you during this holiday. Be thankful for them and enjoy them!

The Civil War in Missouri

It has been a week since we visited this exhibit, so closure demands that I write about it. The Missouri History Museum is best when it sticks close to home. With its new exhibit, “The Civil War in Missouri”, it does just that. The exhibit ably covers the war, its causes, events, and aftermath. It ranges across the state and across state lines, but mostly remains close to home, close to Saint Louis.

This year marks the sesquicentennial anniversary of the start of the Civil War, a fitting point for commemoration. The problem for Missouri is that the war had been going on for some time by 1861. The rest of the country just happened to catch-up with us that year. This head start made for a dubious show of leadership on Missouri’s part.

Saint Louis then and still now was one of a pair of northern bookends, in what was a southern state, the other one being Kansas City. It held fast for the union cause and prevented Missouri’s slide into secession. Bloodshed officially came to Missouri, when union forces ousted secessionists from Camp Jackson, within the environs of present day Saint Louis. A few set piece battles, like Wilson’s Creek, serve only to punctuate what was essentially a guerilla war. A war marked by atrocities as much as fighting.

The History Museum’s exhibit covers all of these issues and more. Hundreds of artifacts comprise this show. Pictured above is the 34 star, 1861 flag. The union never recognized the session of the Confederate states, but did recognize West Virginia’s wartime split from Virginia, giving that flag 35 stars. Rather then just filling in one of the empty corners, that flag’s stars were rearranged, somehow fittingly leaving a hole in the center of that flag’s star field.

Most of the exhibit comes from the Museum’s collection. In every wartime exhibit, there is the cliché bible that stopped a bullet. In this exhibit there is Austin M. Standish’s dented pocket watch. Dented by a musket ball, it stopped the bullet and saved its owner life. More disturbing, for what it signified, there is James V. Johnston’s navel uniform. James was a powder boy on his father’s ironclad. He was also only six years old.

A significant, borrowed item is George Caleb Bingham’s Order No. 11, pictured below. In an effort to control the guerrillas in Missouri, a union general ordered the forced evacuation of the populace from four Missouri counties. Denied local support, this action did much to curb guerrilla activity. It also irrevocably harmed the vitality of those counties.

In addition to the exhibit’s historical artifacts, an array of interactive technology complements their value. Animated maps diagram military actions; Q&A scenarios allow the viewer to determine the loyalty or disloyalty of historical Saint Louisans; using electronic CAD software, design an ironclad, as James Eads would have. “The Civil War in Missouri” will be on display until March.