Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Tonight I boarded a plane bound for Seattle from San Jose. It was a nonchalant flight until I realised I REALLY had to go peepee (pardon my use of the infantile word for 'urinate'). Coffee apparently seeks revenge on those daring enough to drink it before a flight. Anyway, it was all I could do to get off the plane with a quickness. "Can I please get by you? I feel sick" I implored, lying, to all the people standing in the aisle in front of me. They all looked annoyed but gave me the right of way. I trudged up the jetway slowly for obvious reasons, and was relieved to find a restroom right out of the gate.
Suffice it to say, I think that the conveniences of modern restrooms are one of the miracles of modern life. Of course, ancient civilizations like the Aztecs, and some more recent societies like those in Paris have recognized the need to channel human waste. I mean, if s*** has been happening since the dawn of time, there has always been a need to contain it... right?
Here are two photos of pooping locations that just happen to be in ghost towns. I guess that means they are the sites of many ghost poops. One of them is in St. Elmo, Colorado, and the other (on the open plains) is in the town of Keota, Colorado. How many butts have graced each location is anyone's guess, but the answer is clear: convenience is the answer when you've gotta go.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
These photos have sentimental qualities that remind me of traveling home for the holidays, with the sailors on the train and the woman making a wreath from a pattern available on the copy of Ladies Home Journal which is visible in the lower right corner of the picture. Happy Holidays!
Thursday, December 18, 2008
This spooky old school foundation was found in the ghost town of Keota, Colorado. It's not a big place and has only a few remaining buildings, including the foundation of a school, which is shown here. This place has an interesting history as the center of the cattle industry and certain kinds of agriculture. I also learned that the author James Michener based his book Centennial in the area. Now I'll have to go read it.
Words can't describe the scary feeling that crept over me as I approached this building. Unlike peering into the window of an abandoned building, there was something particularly affecting about the vacuousness of this building placed on such an empty piece of land. It was just too empty.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
A lot of people don't realize that most of eastern Washington State consists of flat desert; in other words, much of the state resembles the high plains of Colorado or Wyoming -- treeless and desolate. Additionally, the weather is similar, reaching negative numbers in the winter and often over 100 in the summer. Washington is an interesting place! It seems that a lot of people think of Seattle and rain, but the state is quite varied.
This is a photo from Colorado. However, it could have been from a lot of places.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
If you were driving around in the remote bleak landscape in Northern Colorado in the middle of winter, and you encountered an abandoned house, would you go over to it? Well, 104 year-old bloggers don't have much to lose, and that's just what I did! However, I got an acute case of the heebie jeebies when I realized that most of the garbage littering the main room was from hundreds of video tapes that had been unravelled... seemingly in a deliberate way. They were also all over the branches of a tree outside, fluttering in the wind in a very creepy way. I have no idea why they were there in this old house, but I made haste getting out of there!
Lydia E. (Estes) Pinkham was born in Lynn, Massachusetts in 1819. She had a background as a political activist who wrote pamphlets condemning slavery and supporting women’s rights, which came in handy later in her life. Her ability to write successful sales pitches would project her to later fame and wealth as the most successful female business women of her time. She had been of a Quaker background and her father was a profitable shoe maker, so she received a good education for her time. She married a shoe maker who became a real estate mogul, and started a family. Her husband eventually suffered a financial ruin in 1875 and was left unable to care for his famly.
At this time, Lydia, who had always been plagued by “female ailments” that today would be treatable with Midol, began selling a herbal concoction that she had invented herself. It was meant as an all-in-one women’s remedy containing black cohosh, life root, unicorn root, pleurisy root, fenugreek seed and a large quantity of alcohol. Lydia was smart to take a measure of protection by filing a patent on her remedy, and successfully kept the business as a family-run operation. It was a hugely successful company, too – by the time she died in 1883 her mainstay Vegetable Compound was selling $300,000 a year, and by 1925 her profits reached $3.8 million. Quite an accomplishment for a woman of her time!
Part of what made her company so successful was the publication of her “Pinkham Pamphlets” which touted the benefits of her concoctions, along with recipes and answers to medical questions that her compound was supposed to help.
One interesting fact about her vegetable compound is that it contained about 20% alcohol, which (in spite of her involvement with the temperance movement) she claimed was used as a solvent and preservative. Not surprisingly, the product experienced a surge of popularity during the 1920s when alcohol was prohibited in the United States!
The pictures shown above are the front and back cover of a Pinkham Pamphlet that I bought not too long ago. I had no idea what it was initially. The inside of the book features a lot of recipes that are suitable for picnics, as well as testimonials about the effectiveness of the Pinkham Vegetable Compound against virtually every ailment. It’s amusing to read.
I think Lydia would be proud of the legacy she left, and prouder still that a variation of her original product still exists on the market!
Thursday, December 4, 2008
Tomorrow I will travel to Cheyenne, Wyoming for a week. I have never been there and I never considered the possibility that I would ever go there in December. I have joked to some people that I'm going there to work on my tan -- however it's much more likely that I'll end up with wind burn, if anything. Temperatures are in the teens and snow has been coming in flurries. In telling people that I'm going to Wyoming, I have received MANY quizzical looks, as if to question why anyone would go there. Well, why not? Whyoming? (Sorry! It was too obvious a pun!)
Cheyenne will have a lot of historical interest value, I'm sure. The attractions may be offbeat, but that's the way I like it. I know there there is a historic train depot museum, and Cheyenne is the state capitol (the largest "city" in Wyoming at around 50 thousand people), so I'm sure there will be some vague governmental intrigue. Wyoming also a lot of horizons -- or so I've heard. I will also be celebrating my 104th birthday on Sunday. Perhaps a good buffalo steak on the frontier is in order.
If time and weather permit, there is a chance I will be able to visit St. Elmo, Colorado, which is 200-odd miles from Cheyenne. I spent a considerable amount of time living an imaginary life there while I transcribed family letters from my great-great-great uncle, who was a telegrapher in St. Elmo for two years during the town's peak. Ever since I read his the stories of this place at the time it was alive, I have wanted to be able to say that I've been there. I have heard that road to St. Elmo is plowed all winter, so I am keeping my fingers crossed that I can see this place for once and for all!
I have been reading a book called Wyoming Ghost Stories by Debra Munn, and I am now feeling pretty exuberant about meeting Random JoeBob Ghost! Some of the stories in the book (all purportedly true) gave me real chills, so perhaps this is just the landscape to be in if you have an active imagination!
Wyoming is the least populated state in the U.S., in spite of being the 10th largest state. Hee-haw, everyone, I'm going to the Cowboy State!
The reason I posted the photo of Seattle is that I am drawn to the layers of time that put their marks on every place that people live. Many houses have many histories; there may have been three or four generations born and raised in a house, only to have it sold to a new family raising young children. I think that the feelings and realities of the past are really not that far; you can sense them in any place that has history -- which is all places, if you think about it.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
I took this photo of a dilapidated house just outside of a small town called Fossil, Oregon. Eastern Oregon is full of ghost towns that emerge unexpectedly along hill crests on long, lonesome roads. Over Labor Day I took a trip out to the town of The Dalles, Oregon. It is a beautiful old town on the Columbia River which has a rich past as a home to the Fort Dalles. Fort Dalles was the final stop on the Oregon Trail. It is a very interesting place with a historic museum that was once part of the old fort, dating back to the 1850s.
Oregon boasts a total of 18 ghost towns -- more than any other state. Of course, there are always places that have been swept away without notice (and along the way I saw many abandoned buildings that were not part of any town). However, Oregon is full of ghost towns, and they sit casually at the side its winding highways. Many towns were built due to gold mining, but were abandoned after railways bypassed them and ended up creating and supporting different boom towns. Others were abandoned just because the settlers hadn't anticipated weather conditions which rendered their crops useless.
During their time, gold rushes represented a significant part of American history. Now, there is a different sort of rush at hand: the rush to find sustainable alternative energy. Wind farms now line many different parts of the Columbia River Gorge, which is a natural wind tunnel. Business in wind energy is now so lucrative that some describe the scramble to acquire the means/land to create these wind farms as similar to the gold rush. As a result, small communities experience an influx of population and business during the creation of the wind sites, and a waning when the company leaves in the direction of another venture.
Along the same trip, I also took this photo of wind turbines being assembled an hour east of The Dalles. A friend works as a field engineer for a company that specializes in putting up windmill farms. Each of these windmills are immense at 300 feet high, and have huge blades like jumbo jet airplane wings. They generate 2.4 megawatts each, and the power is harnessed by high voltage lines right nearby, and sent to California (among other places along the way, of course). The largest wind farm in the world may soon be along the Columbia River in Oregon.
After seeing buildings in various stages of decay all along the scenic Journey Through Time Scenic Byway (a beautiful drive that everyone should experience), I was left to wonder what around us is on the rise, and what is on its way to being outmoded.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Statistically speaking, more heart attacks occur during the winter/holiday season, for a variety of reasons. When they do happen, they are often more serious than in the summer. Not to be a downer, but knowing CPR is essential! It's never a bad idea to take a class over at the local fire department.
I found this photo, as well as three others like it, of a group of people learning CPR in the 70s.
Friday, November 21, 2008
This photo, which I bought at an antique mall (incidentally, a former Safeway with the recognizable 70s architecture) in Edmonds, WA, has some cursive writing in blue ballpoint ink on the back. It reads:
See Page 31
McGuire & Tyus USA won easily which was an upset. Taken From Press Box. LA Coliseum. July 25, ‘64
Several things about this photo caught my attention right away. First, it looks like a professional photo of a race like one that might be featured in a newspaper. This may very well be the case, as any photos taken from a press box were probably taken by media photographers.
Wyomia Tyus and Edith McGuire are the runners who are mentioned on the back of the photograph. Both were very accomplished sprinters for Tennessee State University during the early 1960s and ran against each other for a long time. As a runner, Edith McGuire was formidable; in the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, she had accomplished a huge feat by winning three gold medals in track in field while struggling with a sprained ankle. She was instrumental in gathering attention to the sport of women’s track and field as a competitive athletic sport. Up until the Olympics, Wyomia Tyus had never bested Edith’s time. The race shown here in this photo marks a changing point that never reversed itself, for either runner.
Prior to this particular track meet, the Soviet runners had been far and beyond the American runners, to the point of dominating the sport. This particular run was staged on a day when the Cold War was still raging; any victory from the Americans was surely an “upset.”
The race shown here was in July of 1964, and Wyomia went on to the Summer Olympics in Tokyo in October, where she equaled Edith McGuire’s 100 meter World Record in the heats. She ended up beating Edith McGuire (for the first time ever) by two tenth’s of a second in the finals. She also won a silver medal in the 4 x 100m relay.
The following years, Tyus won numerous national championships in the sprint events, and a gold medal in the 200 m at the Pan-American Games. In 1968, she defended, and won, her title in 100 m. In doing so, she set a new World Record of 11.0 and became the first woman to retain the Olympic 100 m title. Wyomia also qualified for the 200 m final, and finished sixth. Running the final leg for the relay team, Tyus helped in setting a new World Record, winning her third gold medal.
Wyomia Tyus retired from amateur sports in 1968, after having become the first person to win consecutive Olympic gold medals in the 100-meter dash. She had been the only daughter of an encouraging dairy farmer father. Her mother was more reluctant, thinking that running was un-ladylike. Wyomia started with basketball, but started track and field high-jumping. She realized that she had talent for the sport and continued to international success.
Edith McGuire retired from athletics sooner than Wyomia; she stopped competing in 1965 to become a teacher. She had broken Wilma Rudolph’s record at the 200 meter-sprint in 1964’s Olympic Games in Tokyo. Edith McGuire is the only American woman to hold three different National Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) titles at different times. She has been very successful since; he was a recipient of the NCAA Silver Anniversary Award for outstanding athletes who distinguished themselves in their careers. Ultimately, she did some humanitarian things by touring East Africa for the State Department. Now, along with her husband, Edith owns and operates three McDonalds restaurants in Oakland, California. She and her husband sponsor a program called “Hoop it Up For Education.”
The idea here is: no matter what your background and experience, a certain drive to achieve a goal can project you much further than you expected. Cheesy?
I should mention again: I bought a packet of photos at a run-down antique end-game kind of place, but it happened to include this gem. What do you have at home that should be in a trunk, wrapped against moisture and/or fire damage???
Thursday, November 13, 2008
This photo shows a family, presumably the same man and woman I referred to as George and Dorothy in an earlier post. At the time I purchased the photos, there were several that appeared to be from one family and spanned quite a few years. The family seemed to really know how to have fun, judging by some of the photos.
I can't imagine where this was taken but I'm assuming it was probably not a Christmas-themed adventure park, such as the ones I found while searching Google to see what kinds of parks like that existed in the 1950s. In doing so, I found this page which looks back at some of California's Christmas theme parks of yesteryear. Of course, every state had something similar; what I wouldn't give to take a field trip to Santa's Village right now!
In this picture, the snow is clearly authentic, and the little girl is bundled up like a marshmallow. I suppose it could be someone's farm where they herded reindeer and offered sleigh rides.
I am looking forward to the holiday season, and this picture reminds me of what fun the holidays are for children.
I have started accumulating a few photos that appear to have been taken in orchards. What this means is anyone's guess; however, I do know that at the time (early 1900s) there was a descriptive style to photo-taking. For example, if someone was a homesteader, it would be expected that there would be photos of the homestead.
This woman's stance suggests a no-nonsense approach in life -- one I have always admired but have had trouble pulling off in so-called "real life."
No-nonsense means no apologizing for who you are. For where you've been. For what you've thought and then alternately not-thought. Life shows us a lot of options and then we choose. We should all hope to choose best in order to find our own happiness.
This lady in an orchard wryly smiles on, knowing.
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
This little election button was recently given to me by a visiting friend from Ireland. She came to the U.S. 1) to see places she'd never been and 2) to be in Chicago during this historic election. I thought it was a very thoughtful little gift since I'm an enthusiastic collector of all things "olde" and I'm also keenly interested in the election.
I love the fact that this election represents so many "firsts" -- first woman candidate (sorry Hil), first African American candidate (go Obama!), first time in 8 years since there has been hope of lifting the heavy storm cloud of the Bush Administration.
However, this little token of an election long since past made me do a little research into the names Smith and Robinson, and I discovered that in his time, Al Smith was also a first in some ways. At the time that he gained the Democratic nomination, he was the first Catholic to be nominated on the presidential ticket. This was shocking at the time due to anti-Catholic sentiments that were felt in politics. Born in 1873 and raised in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, he began his career in politics in 1895 when a friend recommended him for a position as an investigator in the Office of the City Commissioner of Jurors. In 1903 he was elected to the State Assembly of New York, and eventually became a very influential reformer whose interest in the welfare of the working people gained him a reputation as a progressive. He worked hard to put in place safety measures for workers and investigated dangerous working conditions.
Al Smith eventually served four terms as New York Governor where he did a great deal for social conditions in New York, and helped pass reform legislation, including improved factory laws, better housing requirements, and expanded welfare services. In 1928 he was nominated as the Democratic presidential candidate, but lost in a landslide to Herbert Hoover. However, his politics ended up being monumentally influential, and he helped create the classless politics that became the New Deal under Roosevelt.
The Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner has since remained as an annual white tie charity fundraiser, and a traditional stop along the presidential campaign trail. It is customary for the opponent presidential candidates to roast each other lightheartedly, and this year was no exception as Barack Obama and John McCain met for the 63rd Al Smith Dinner on October 16th. There are clips on youtube which are pretty amusing.
I am very excited about this election and I hope that it will bring the positive changes in the country and world that so many have been praying for. Godspeed, Barack Obama!
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Punch boards have been around since the 1700s as a form of gambling. Typically, they used a board with holes drilled in it. The holes would be filled with small numbered pieces of paper. The holes themselves were covered by another piece of paper, as shown above. The bar patrons would use a sharp object to puncture the paper and reveal the paper inside the drilled holes.
Ever since punchboards have existed, there has been room to cheat. Many times bar owners would tear open the back of the punchboards and learn where the high pay-out numbers were and remove them, thus eliminating the possibility of a big winner.
This photo shows a woman sitting at a table full of gambling paraphernalia of the time. To one side of her you can see that she has a Texas Charley punchboard. The story behind this is anyone's guess. This is probably circa 1950s.
Monday, October 6, 2008
These are only a few of the signs of weak, unhealthy nerves that are steadily robbing thousands of people of their youth and health.
MEN In men, these signs of nerve exhaustion are produced as a result of worries, intense concentration, excesses and vices. The mad pace at which we are traveling is wrecking the entire Nervous Organization.
This advertisement was published in a March, 1932 copy of a magazine called National Republic. On the front cover it says:
In This Issue: "Uncle Sam's Naval Plan," by Hancock Adams; "The Irish In Our Revolution," by Fairfax Braxton; "The Tragedy of John A. Sutter, " by Dr. Horace Ellis; "On the State of the Union," by George B. Lockwood; Other Illustrated Features
Sunday, September 28, 2008
I love to go a-wandering,
Along the mountain track,
And as I go, I love to sing,
My knapsack on my back.
My knapsack on my back.
I love to wander by the stream
That dances in the sun,
So joyously it calls to me,
"Come! Join my happy song!"
I wave my hat to all I meet,
And they wave back to me,
And blackbirds call so loud and sweet
From ev'ry green wood tree.
High overhead, the skylarks wing,
They never rest at home
But just like me, they love to sing,
As o'er the world we roam.
Oh, may I go a-wandering
Until the day I die!
Oh, may I always laugh and sing,
Beneath God's clear blue sky!
Lyrics by Friedrich-Wilhelm Möller
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
So. I present to you a photo of a well-dressed family in (what is probably) the 1890s.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
These photos were, according to the date stamp, taken in October 1961. The guy is clearly a proud owner of a new garden tractor called the Cub Cadet, manufactured by International Harvester between 1961-1963. These tractors were predecessors to a whole line that followed, yet used a different engine. The shown model, from what I've learned, has a cult following among collectors. There are several websites dedicated to the hobby of collecting and restoring them. The Cub Cadet was evidently the first line of small garden tractors of their kind that were manufactured during the time when there was a rise in country-home living. There were a variety of aftermarket attachments like lawn mowers, snow blowers, front loaders, among other things.
These people were obviously happy while posing on their brand new 1961 Cub Cadet. It looks like they are clearing some property, though honestly it must have taken more than a Cub Cadet to accomplish that. The photo of the woman has some writing on the back that reads "Even Dorothy can drive it." There is no information on the man's name, but I'll call him George.
Monday, September 15, 2008
This dapper gentleman, sporting a very put-together ensemble, appears to be gazing meaningfully down a hill or maybe even mountain. The thing I find hilarious here is that his pose seems intentionally "candid" during a time when candid photos were virtually non-existent. I can only wonder whether the man with the umbrella chose his own pose, or whether he was told by the photographer (in a serious tone, of course): "Put your right foot over your left and lean toward the tree. And focus on that snag up ahead while I count to 10."
When I see photos like this, I feel an air of intended suggestion; this fellow is leaning in a manner most debonair, pinning the ground below him with the point of his superfluous (from the looks of the weather) umbrella. His style of dress is also rather formal, suggestive of railway employment.
From reading all of the old letters from my family, I learned that there was a considerable amount of crossover when it came to finding "prospects." Rail men invested in mine claims and miners invested in railways. However, real estate ownership was every one's ultimate goal.
Saturday, September 13, 2008
These ladies appear to be decked out and ready to go somewhere. Looking at the photo, I can imagine them boarding a train for a short ride for a weekend visit. Are they sisters? Friends? The shadow of a third woman photographing them shows that she, too, is wearing a hat in the same style. Their faces are difficult to see in the bright light of the sun, but I can see the cheerfulness of the woman on the left and she looks like the kind of person who would be fun to know. This photo was probably taken in the early 1920s, perhaps even a little earlier.
Fishing in the Puget Sound has always been a big industry, but it hasn’t been without its share of controversy. Long before the white settlers came along, Native Americans had been historically fishing along the Puget Sound using a variety of techniques including reef-net fishing. Reef nets were often created with nettle fibers and cedar (or willow) bark, and were strung between tethered canoes or some other kind of anchor (often large stones found during low tide) from their end. They were strategically placed in ways that would guide salmon along shallow artificial reefs, where they were caught.
The Treaty at Point Elliott in 1855 was a lands settlement treaty between the U.S. government and the Native American tribes in the Puget Sound area. It dislocated the Lummi tribe, which was native to Point Roberts, away from various areas including Point Roberts; in return it granted the Native tribes unregulated fishing rights in areas that had been used over time. Obviously this “solution” didn’t please everyone. In 1883, the Lummis appealed the treaty, and by 1894 commercial fishers and the Lummi tribe were at a deadlock over fishing grounds.
This document from 1900, referencing H.B. Kirby, documented the rental of equipment (which was commonly to make fishing traps) to a man named H.B. Kirby. From what I have found, I gather that he was a skilled fisherman. While sleuthing around, I have discovered some things about good ol’ H.B.
1) He was involved in creating some of the first fish traps in the Puget Sound region
2) He was known to tote a gun and intimidate people
According to the book A History of the Puget Sound Country :
In the spring of 1884 he [Duncan Neil McMillan] came to Tacoma to engage in a fishing business and in company with his brother, Malcolm and H.B. Kirby, put in and operated one of the first fish traps on Puget Sound, but, as the market proved poor during the season, they abandoned the industry for a time.
This was apparently not enough to deter H.B. as his name resurfaced in the midst of a fishing area dispute at Point Roberts. Much like Alaska is separated from the U.S., Point Roberts is a little enclave on the tip of a peninsula in British Columbia that is actually beneath the U.S. boundary line at the 49th parallel, so it is part of Washington State. Many native tribes, especially the Lummi, had deep roots in the salmon fishing there. In 1884 the Alaska Packers Association (APA) established a cannery at Point Roberts and some vigilante fisherman took issue with the (legal) Native American fishing presence. The APA began placing salmon traps among the Lummi’s reef-nets at Point Roberts, and there was some resulting animosity. In 1883 the Lummi tribe appealed the Treaty, which had previously forced them out of Point Roberts and other historic fishing sites. However, the Alaska Packers Association had a legal right to fish there too, and this became an issue over time. By 1894, it was at a point of becoming violent.
Old Polen, a member of the Lummi tribe residing on the relatively-new Lummi reservation on the Lummi Peninsula, recounted how the Alaska Packers Association had put up three large traps in front of Lummi fishing ground. He said that in 1894, while he was fishing, he was assaulted. 
H.B. Kirby, who was then in the employ of the defendant Association, came to the shack occupied by me on the beach and ordered me to leave and stayed around until I left. He threatened me with injury if I did not leave.
Another Lummi tribe member, Harry Sewalton, had similar testimony about H.B. Kirby, and claimed that Kirby threatened him with a revolver while he tried to fish. He also accounted how the APA used a pile driver to place piling at the fishing area he was using. According to Sewalton, the APA also destroyed his fishing equipment, including anchors, ropes and appliances. H.B. Kirby went into Sewalton’s shack at his shack with the revolver and told him to leave.
Ultimately, the court upheld the Alaska Packers Association’s right to fish at Point Roberts and reef-net fishing was abandoned by the tribal people there.
This receipt of rental from the Puget Sound Bridge and Dredging Co., was issued in 1900, six years after the Point Roberts incident. I have no knowledge of what became of H.B. Kirby beyond this date.
1 William Farrand Prosser, A History of the Puget Sound Country: Its Resources, Its Commerce and Its People: with Some Reference to Discoveries and Explorations in North America from the Time of Christopher Columbus Down to that of George Vancouver in 1792 . The Lewis Publishing Company, 1903
2 Richard E. Clark, Point Roberts, USA: The History of a Canadian Enclave. Textype Publishing. Bellingham, Washington, 1980.
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
Monday, September 8, 2008
Sunday, September 7, 2008
This is a letter written by my great-great-great uncle Ezra describing a train wreck which could have taken his house out and/or killed his family. Just a day in the life back in 1889. As a side note, Washington became a state on November 11, 1889, and this letter was written while Washington was still a territory.
August 9, 1889
Yours received some days ago but some way have been busy and am pretty tired tonight. Been working my poll tax out and it about used me up. My hands are so soft. I was ditching in water and my hands burn in water, and my hands burn and smart pretty bad. Awful disagreeable weather now today and very smoky, so smoky a person cannot see 80 yards at any time in the day, and you can scarcely see sure at all. It smarts a persons eyes and almost strangles one. Hope it will rain soon sure as nothing else will clear it. Am mighty glad you have such good prospects for lead and hope you may strike it rich. If you get in a tight place I can help you some. I think I could send $150 any time. We are looking around for some good investment for it now. Guess I will buy a lot some place and let it lay, be good some time. Wish I could buy a good farm but every thing high in the shape of farm.
Had quite a wreck here yesterday. We are right at foot of a heavy grade and sometimes trains get away and come down flying. Yesterday morning at 6:50 a.m. a train was standing in front of the depot getting orders, and an extra came looming out of the smoke above about a quarter of a mile away, and coming about 15 miles an hour. The engineer of the train standing by the office made a jump, reversed his Engine and released his brakes and then jumped his train. Just started to move as they came to get her. I did not know whether to run or to stand still. Our shack is on the outside of the sharp curve right at the foot of the grade, and is not a safe location by any means. I stood back and watched the engines come together. I tell you, it looked bad. Two cars loaded with steel rails reared upright at the door and then swerved to one side just missing the house. Had they struck 4 or 5 seconds sooner it would have taken the whole end out of the house. Mrs. B. was not at the house, kids were back away from the track so I took chances to see the Biz. Everybody jumped. It was a great sight to see them popping out the windows of engine and going end over end. A fireman got his knee knocked out, is all that was hurt.
Olive is down to Burnett with her sister tonight. Her sister is an agent. There she has an agency post office and small notion store, a nice house to live in. Her bro, a young fellow of 19, is keeping house. They are fixed nicely. The wires are in there now you see. I have changed the address of the letter as we can get mail from there easier than from Melrose, it is One South Prairie Coal Mines. Her Bro weighs coal.
I was over to Seattle week or so ago. I tell you, that is a busy town. Never saw so much work going on in any place in my life . Can’t get anything to eat for miles as you have engaged ahead and every what place is a restaurant While I was over there I called on Lizzie Daugherty, or rather Malone. They have a nice place and 2 fine looking boys. Vincent told me she was there where I was in Ellensburg. She is rather hence sick to go back to Columbus. I expect we will soon have a new sister-in-law and I don’t know what to think of her. I think she is a good woman and smart, and will make AB a good wife. I don’t like all the family but maybe she won’t stick to them very close as she seems to have a mind of her own and I think the relatives will have to keep their place. At least she is about as different from Flora as anyone could be. She’s about the size of Laura.
Having lots of fires out here. I suppose you see accents of them in papers. Yakima still whole, but can’t tell when it may follow the rest at any time. Still streets are so broad that they have a good chance to fight it and they have rather both sides of every street.
Our kids continue well and grow slowly every day. Will soon be as big as Bertie as he improves and grows so much faster. About the pictures of your chaps, we have one of Holly taken in Iowa and a large photo of Nadine is all. I think we sent you one of our kids taken in Portland a couple of years ago. Well, my hands hurt and I am mighty tired so I guess I will nap a little. Our work is pretty heavy and keeps us close. As I do night work I am able to work where they call me, making it very handy but when a fellow has to get up a dozen or more times a night, it breaks him up pretty bad. I expect biz will be pretty heavy for a while now until I get what in, which will be a year in spring. We had a fine watermelon yesterday. Can’t raise them on this side of mountains but lots of them in Yakima County. Well good night. Write soon and often.
Love to all,
Saturday, September 6, 2008
Dear Mrs. P----.
We are returning the photos you submitted to us for our perusal however on the account they were received so long after the accident occurred we are unable to use them. Many thanks for sending the to us, anyway. Sincerely, Miss ---------
*authentic letter and photos, most likely taken in Whatcom County Washington. I smeared out the names on the extremely unlikely off-chance that these people are still living.
Friday, September 5, 2008
Your most welcome letter of the 19th rec'd. I can't say as things have been too bad, irrigation lines improved upon greatly, were able to bring in enough water to get a good crop of hops this last season. Joseph has been out just west of Sacramento last week looking at a prospect. God willing we will go in on the the property with Hanson and Phelps, both of them good men, trustworthy.
We are raising some hogs, fine corn-fed and fetching a nice sum after slaughter. Also some goats, I have an orphan kid, it's mother died after getting sick from a wound on her leg. Poor baby, I'm naming her Flora, she's friendly and follows me around. I am selling my quilts in town now. Do you have word from East? Well will close now, write again soon when you can.
Your loving sister,
- receipts from an antique store and Trader Joe's
- Post-Its with indecipherable reminders to do things that I can't quite make out
- a threatening letter from Farmer's Insurance
- and a button I popped off of my pants.
Never one to be too interested in "history" as it was presented to me in textbooks, I avoided the subject other than to learn the things required for a grade. For a long time I had trouble finding a context that made the history I learned relevant. History sections of the bookstore have always seemed to mock me and try to pick fights with me as I walk past on my way to the self-help, I mean, literature section.
All of that changed with my grandfather John gave me a collection of letters written by his great uncle Ezra with the hope that I'd be able to transcribe them. Being a fast typist I agreed with enthusiasm, but realized soon enough that I was in way over my head. Way over. To begin with, there were about 300 letters, many of which were several pages long. Making matters more difficult, the letters were written in the late 1800s in a style of script which was completely unfamiliar to me. On top of that, the language of the time was very different. Most of his letters, which I will delve into on this blog if I don't get distracted first, discuss his attempts to make money in mine claims or land ownership or by being a supplier. He was a railway telegrapher who worked his way west as a station agent, and there were many different terms I had to learn in order to make sense of them. However, I eventually did plough through the letters. It took me a year and a half, but they are now back with my grandfather who will be presenting them to various historical societies. I scanned them all in order to have my own copies, and I will probably post some of them.
In the mean time, I will say that I am realistic about the possibility that no one will ever read this blog and if they do, it may be infinitely boring. At very least, it will probably be somewhat irritating. After all, I'm it's author.
Yours Most Resp'y,
Ezekiel Barzillai Smythe
Thursday, September 4, 2008
This is a fictional account.