Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Piano Lessons




Can you imagine life without access to music?  Although I prefer quiet much of the time, it would be sad if I could not have music at the click of a knob whenever I wanted it.

For Isaac Werner and others on the prairie, music was very important.  Certain neighbors were known to have fine voices, and Isaac mentioned programs arranged just to hear them sing.  One neighbor gave singing lessons in the winter when people weren't busy in their fields.  Isaac also mentioned an evening of music when he stopped by one evening to visit a friend.  Today, we forget how much we enjoy music on our command--at home, in the car, piped onto some streets, in restaurants and stores.

Although piano lessons may be less common today than they once were, boys and girls still do take piano lessons.  My first piano teacher was Mrs. Fisk in Byers.  Once a week, after school, I would crawl through a fence to cut across a lot on my walk to her house.  I worked my way through "JohnThompson's Modern Course for the Piano," supplemented by songs from the Methodist hymnal.

When I went to Macksville to attend high school, my mother decided I should change piano teachers, and she enrolled me with a lady in St. John named Melba Budge.  I had never been fond of practicing, and once I was in high school, trying to fit the appropriate hours of practice into my many activities became nearly impossible.  More than once, I am ashamed to admit, the first time I played my assigned music was in front of my teacher at the following week's lesson.  My teacher thought I was dreadful, but had she known, she might have been impressed by how well I sight-read when playing a piece for the very first time!  I don't know if Mrs. Budge asked my mother to end my lessons, but I did not take lessons from her very long.  I do remember being given a very simple piece to play for the annual recital of her students.  I believe she thought I was unable to play anything more difficult, having only seen me play pieces I had made no effort to practice.  It was very embarrassing to be a high school girl playing a piece beginners could play.  Maybe she thought a good embarrassment was exactly what I deserved!

In reading through one of the local centennial books I acquired to use as a research source for writing Isaac's story, I found a brief biography of Malba Cornwell Budge.  I learned that her college years were spent at a Conservatory of Music in Nashville, Tennessee and the Institute of Applied Music in New York City.  While there she was a scholarship pupil of a famous piano teacher who was also the head of piano at Vassar.

Melba's husband was a businessman in St. John, Raymond LeClaire Budge, or Doc Budge as I knew him.  I do remember him visiting the farm when I was in grade school, at the time my special pet cat was ill.  My family did not take pets to a veterinarian if they became ill, but I worked up the courage to ask Doc Budge if he could help my cat.  I don't know how "Doc" got his nickname, but my father laughingly explained that Doc Budge couldn't help my cat.

The article in the centennial book describes Melba's professional positions and certifications as a Piano teacher and her role as a judge in piano competitions throughout America.  It described Doc's responsible positions in the community and his outstanding art collection.  The article made me blush as I read it, remembering how my disinterested lack of effort as a piano student showed such inexcusable disrespect for my gifted teacher.  



As lazy as I was in learning how to play the piano, my poor skill has provided me much pleasure all of my life, and I thank Mrs. Fisk and Mrs. Budge for teaching me as much as the did.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

The Travels of a Book

Last week's blog shared Isaac's connection with Mark Twain's The Innocents Abroad, but this week's blog shares a personal story involving  the book.   To gain a better sense of who Isaac Werner was through acquainting myself with what Isaac read, I ordered several books that were in his library, and one of those was The Innocents Abroad.   In selecting the books I ordered, I chose editions published as near the time Isaac would have bought them as possible.  Some of the books date back to the late 1800s, but books published that long ago were not always available.  I had to settle for a copy of The Innocents Abroad from the early 1900s.


Warren R. Austin
It is a beautiful book with a red linen cover and a lovely gold crest of ears of corn encircling the initials "MT."  Some of the books I bought show rough treatment and poor storage, but my copy of The Innocents Abroad is almost like new.  However, its condition was not the only surprise that the book had for me.  On the inside fly leaf was written in pencil:  "Bought in the Mark Twain Country.  Read on "The Alton" St. Louis to Chicago, 12:05 noon October 9, 1932.  On Campaign itinery for Hoover & Curtis, I spoke last night at Hannibal, MO, Mark Twain's town.  There is a memorial group erected there to Tom Sawyer & Huck Finn, the first ever erected to literary characters.  Warren R. Austin."

Cabinet:  President Hoover & Vice President Curtis in center
It will probably not surprise you to learn that my curiosity led me to research who Warren R. Austin was.  Born November 12, 1877, he was an American politician and statesman, a lawyer appointed State's attorney of Franklin County at the age of 25, followed by numerous political roles:  Chairman of the Vermont Republican State Convention in 1908, Mayor of St. Albans in 1909, a member of the United States Court for China in 1917, while also serving as a commissioner for the Second Circuit from 1907 to 1915.  After other prominent positions, he was elected to the United States Senate in 1931 following the death of the prior senator, but was re-elected twice more, in 1934 and 1940.  He resigned from the Senate in 1946 to accept appointment as America's 2nd U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, a position he held until January of 1953.  He died December 25, 1962.

How Warren R. Austin's copy of The Innocents Abroad came to be available through an online book seller I suppose I will never know, but it is an interesting addition to my library.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

When Travel is Curtailed

Mark Twain in a Fort Worth, TX Park
One of the books in Isaac Werner's library was The Innocents Abroad or The New Pilgrims' Progress, Being Some Account of the Steamship Quaker City's Pleasure Excursion to Europe and the Holy Land  by Mark Twain.  It purports to be an ordinary travel book, but with Mark Twain as the author, it is certainly not.  In fact, one of the examples from the book is Twain's contrasting of what he experiences from what travelogue authors had mislead him to expect.  He also pointed out the profiteering and the inaccurate presentation of history at locations they visit.

While it might be expected from reading The Innocents Abroad that Twain had little regard for foreign travel, that is not the case.  In fact, in his Autobiography of Mark Twain he wrote:  "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindness."

At this historic moment when the Coronavirus has resulted in travel bans around the world, it is a good time to reflect on Twain's words.  Does travel open our eyes and minds to people and places different from ourselves and the places from which we come?

Certainly travel is greatly changed from1869 when Mark Twain's book was published.  Isaac Werner was born and raised in Pennsylvania, and he traveled west to Illinois shortly before or just after Twain's book was published.  There, Isaac was a druggist, and later a partner in a milling operation.  In the later 1870s,  he was attracted by the offer of free land in Kansas to travel further west to claim a homestead and a timber claim.  Yet, his longing to see more of the world was apparent from the travel books he bought and the stereoscope image cards he purchased.  His journal makes clear, however, that he never travelled more than a days journey from his claims once he settled in Kansas.

Yet, Isaac traveled through the books in his library, protecting his mind from "prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindness" through reading, with books to learn foreign languages, books about art and history, and books authored by foreign writers.

As we are warned against travel and encouraged to remain at home as much as possible to avoid exposure to the Coronavirus, perhaps it is a good time to read some of those books we have put off reading!  If your book shelves offer nothing tempting, today we have the option of reading books online.  What would Isaac have thought of that! 

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Truth vs. Interpretation

Cicero: Credit, Liam Clarkson-Holborn
For a decade, I have been doing research for my manuscript about the Populist Movement of the late 1800s.  I was fascinated to learn that such a significant event that began with the Farmer's Alliance in Texas and reached its peak with the People's Party in Kansas, (spreading to other states primarily in the South and the Central states), was so quickly forgotten.  The People's Party is the most successful 3rd Party movement in our nation's history; yet, many...perhaps most Americans (except those of you who have followed this blog) are not aware of its importance. Nor, are many Americans aware that their ancestors were participants in this movement.

My focus on a political movement from our past has made me especially aware of how people can receive the same information and interpret it differently.  That makes reasonable political discord challenging.  As satirist  Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) wrote in Gulliver's Travels, it might do a politician some good to "...have half his brain swapped with half the brain of a member of the opposing party."

The Populist Movement and the creation of the People's Party arose very quickly, and it fractured and faded just as quickly, less the result of opposition tactics of the Republicans and Democrats but more from divisions and disagreements within the People's Party itself.  The two old parties succeeded in a sense by implementing some of the Populist ideas, so that the need for a third party to get those things done disappeared.

Those of you who read this blog regularly know that I collect quotes I find particularly thought provoking.  Too often, I jot these quotes down on scraps of paper or whatever writing surface is at hand when I discover the quotes.  Eventually, I copy them into a file on my laptop.  Sometimes, before I get them copied into that file, I end up with quotes from unrelated authors and eras that give particular reason for reflection.  When I found the three that I am sharing today in the back of my desk drawer, they challenged me in exactly that way.

Friedrich Nietzsche - 1861
Two of my great grandfathers were friends of Isaac Werner, whose journal has inspired my manuscript over the past decade.  (A third great grandfather was also an acquaintance but lived outside Isaac's immediate community.)  One of those neighboring great grandfathers was a Union Soldier in the Civil War, and like so many of those soldiers, he came to Kansas and staked his claim with the advantage of crediting his 3 years of military service to reduce the 5 years otherwise required to mature a homestead claim, resulting in only 2 years needed for him.  And, like most Union Soldiers, he voted Republican, the party of Lincoln.  My other great grandfather in Isaac's neighborhood emigrated from England, and at that time had only his wife and two young daughters, the youngest being my grandmother.  A son and another daughter were later added to the family.  He became active in the Populist Movement and supported the People's Party.  One a staunch Republican and the other an active Populist, these two men brought differing political perspectives to their voting during the Populist Movement.  Did those differing perspectives impact their political decisions, and how might they have aligned themselves with the two quotes that follow?  

"What is morally wrong can never be advantageous, even when it enables you to make some gain that you believe to be to your advantage.  The mere fact of believing that some wrongful course of action constitutes an advantage is pernicious."  Marcus Tullius Cicero, (106-43 BCE)

"All things are subject to interpretation, whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power and not truth."  Friedrich Nietzsche.  

As the quotes of Swift, Cicero, and Nietzsche have shown,--men whose lives span several centuries,--the distinction between how we define "Truth" and "Morality" has been and always will be complex when mixed with politics.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

You owe how much!?

Reading from the County Captal newspapers
In explaining Kansas farming debt, their Senator wrote:  "crop prices had gone down while labor was costing the same and purchased items were costing more."  Continuing, he said, "if a farmer had given a mortgage for $1,000...he could have paid for it with 1,050 bushels of corn.  Ten to seventeen years later it would have taken, without interest, 2,702 bushels to have paid it."

That quote comes from a book by Walter T.K. Nugent, quoting populist Senator Peffer.  The senator was describing a theoretical mortgage given in 1870, with rising interest rates during the 1880s and 1890s. These rising interest rates, falling crop prices, and the costs of rail road shipping were front and center during the years of the Populist Movement of which Isaac Werner was a part.  Farmers had mortgaged their farms when crop prices were high and interest rates were low, but the mortgages were short term and were renewed at increasingly higher interest rates.  Kansas led the nation in the number of mortgaged acres.

Means of harvesting in Isaac's time
Does any of that sound familiar?  As I read a recent article in USA Today, I could not help thinking of Isaac.  He had double-dipped in mortgaging his farm, he had mortgages on his horses, and he owed notes to merchants.  Yet, he had avoided going into debt for about a decade, until he finally realized he needed a horse to break more sod for fields if he were ever to make his farm a success.

His debts to merchants were secured by notes.  More people today put their debts on credit cards.  

According to the USA Today article I read, the average American consumer has $6,194 in credit card debt, up from the previous year.  The average credit card interest is 14.87%, and that is actually a low figure because it does not account for interest-free loans.  If they are excluded, the assessed interest rate averages 16.88%.

When that rate is applied to Americans' average credit card debt, the average consumer is paying $1,045.55 annually.

Hand Planting
What has been so interesting to me in doing research for my manuscript about Isaac Werner and the Populist Movement, and in transcribing Isaac's 480-page journal, are the similarities of the issues in Isaac's time with the ongoing issues of today.  The anger aroused about the influence of wealthy and powerful persons on our government in Isaac's time is equally argued today.

I will close with a quote from the County Capital  in St. John to which Isaac subscribed.  In writing about the influence of wealthy railroad tycoons on politicians in Washington and state capitals, a subscriber's comment was published on March 25, 1892.  The subscriber declared:  "We would just as soon be robbed by a thief as a politician." 


Thursday, February 27, 2020

Fountain Pens & Journals

Antique pen & pencil set
I recently received an advertisement from The Goulet Pen Company, and among their pens was a beautiful fountain pen with a deep green finish that reminded me of my father's pen.  I was never allowed to use his pen, nor was my mother, although she wrote beautifully in cursive.  It was his alone, and no one was allowed to injure the point and spoil his favorite writing instrument.

How many of us today own a fountain pen?  When I was younger, a nice pen and pencil set was still an appropriate graduation gift, and perhaps the sets I received as gifts were for one or more of my graduations.  Perhaps I even bought one of the sets when I graduated from law school, believing it would reflect dignity on a young lawyer to use a fountain pen to sign important documents.

I own my father's pen, a treasured object associated with memories of him at his desk, a Victorian desk first owned by his father and now owned by his lawyer grandson.  Many times I played nearby as he wrote checks for his farm business and for the church he served as secretary-treasurer for many years.  Those days imprinted on my mind the association of using a fountain pen for important documents, just as my mother's beautiful script imprinted the importance of beautiful penmanship.

Sadly, today I write with disposable pens and my cursive penmanship will never match my mother's script.  I remain convinced, however, that cursive writing and even the printing now taught in schools are an important reflection of the person.  Even if letters are rare, cards are still signed, and a personal note is appreciated.  Documents still require signatures.

Page from Isaac's journal 1871
In other blogs I have written about penmanship, and in doing research for those blogs I was shocked to learn that many younger people cannot read cursive writing and are unable to decipher treasured family documents.  That brings me to the subject of this blog, which is the penmanship of Isaac Werner.

When I found Isaac's journal and recognized what a valuable historic document it is, I decided to transcribe it.  That process, which also involved annotating it and researching all of the names mentioned in his journal, took 11 months.  Of course, far deeper research related to the contents of his 480-page journal has since expanded over a decade, but this week's blog is about his penmanship.

The early years reflect the confidence of a younger man, living in a small Illinois town where access to supplies was simple.  His script is strong, and the ink remains dark.  When he resumed his journal as a homesteader on the Kansas prairie, his script was tighter, seeming to hint at a thriftiness required of homesteaders, who wasted nothing.  Recycling was essential in a place where money was scarce and trips to town took all day, even though today they would be ten minutes away.  I suspect that Isaac may have watered his ink when he noticed that his ink well was getting low and he might run out before his next trip to town.

Page from Isaac's journal 1887
The pen set pictured in this blog was among family objects saved after our parents' deaths, and I do not know whose they were.  The two images of Isaac's penmanship show the bold script of his younger years in Illinois and the tiny, tighter script of his later years on the prairie.  The ink from the 1887 page is faint, and my assumption  is that Isaac had diluted it to avoid running out, since pages before and after are not faint and do not indicate a likelihood of a habit of leaving the journal exposed to sunlight that would have faded the ink.

I hope you enjoy this reflection of lost customs, as well as a peak at the interior of Isaac Werner's 480-page journal that I transcribed, which has become the heart of my manuscript about the history of the populist movement in Kansas.

Remember, you can enlarge the images by clicking on them.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

The Meat Market

  I have wanted to use this ad in a blog post since I first copied it from the St. John County Capital newspaper, but I had not found a reason for using it.  Today it occurred to me that maybe it was worth sharing without a particularly good reason!  

I find it interesting to see images of the living animals alongside the images of them after being butchered and offered for sale.  The advertisement includes the farm barn name--Pyles' Barn--, and the Saturday sales each week of their stock--horses, cattle and hogs.

A related entry in Isaac Werner's journal involves his idea of forming a small country town in their community.  He even suggested a business to anchor the new town--a slaughter house!  As he visited neighbors to discuss the potential of a town, many people expressed interest.  Rather, they expressed interest in the town, but not necessarily for the slaughter house.

The idea was encouraging enough that they selected a location, and several men pledged to buy stock in the town company if plans progressed.  An entry in the County Capital reported that investors from Kansas City were planning to proceed with building several businesses, but nothing more was heard about the town--or Isaac's idea for a slaughter house.

Advertisement from the County Capital in St. John, Kansas























Thursday, February 13, 2020

Love is in the Air

Love is in the Air, and Cupid is firing his arrows everywhere!  Happy Valentines!  With Valentine's Day's arrival, it seems appropriate to share its history.

The most common explanation connects the modern celebration of Valentine's Day with the Christian Feast of Saint Valentine, but specific details vary.  Perhaps it is related to the Roman prohibition of soldiers marrying Christian women and the martyrdom of a priest who ignored that prohibition.  

Other explanations refer to the idea that birds mate in early spring, which is considered romantic.  Geoffrey Chaucer wrote in 1382, For this was on seynt Volantynys day When euery bryd comyt there to chese his make, or as translated, "For this was on St. Valentine's Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate."

However it may have begun, February 14th is certainly a romantic tradition today.  The history of the exchange of Valentine cards is better known.  As early as the 1700s, special notes and letters were exchanged, but the exchange of printed cards began in the mid-1800s, perhaps first in England but soon adopted in America, particularly after the Civil War.

Some of the cards were quite elaborate, with hidden gifts such as jewelry inside.  Other valentines were given the name of "Puzzle Purses," which consisted of a series of love letters which collectively could be arranged to make a beautiful design or convey a message.  

Of course, the gift of chocolates remains a popular valentine gift, and I remember the elaborate chocolate boxes that were so beautiful and well built that they became treasured keepsake boxes once the chocolates were gone. 

Another gift from clever young men who want to be sure they always remember their engagement date is giving yjeir beloveds an engagement ring on Valentine's Day, the typical stone given today being a diamond.  The first documented example of a diamond engagement ring dates back to 1477 when Archduke Maximilian of Austria gave his betrothed, Mary of Burgundy, a diamond ring.  Upper class couples copied the tradition, and in 1866 when diamonds were first found in South Africa, that discovery eventually lead to diamonds that were more affordable for less affluent young men to give their sweethearts. 

In the United States, after W.W. I and especially during the Great Depression, diamonds declined in popularity.  Gradually the popularity of diamond engagement rings has returned, as most of us know, and in most cases what follows is marriage.  The image at the top of this blog page is of a wedding dress advertised in 1892.  I thought it would be fun to go online to find examples of what a bride might chose for her wedding in 2020.  Traditional gowns remain popular, but I thought you might enjoy seeing some less traditional choices!  Happy Valentine's Day.









Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Art is for Everyone!

Isaac Werner's Invention
At noon on Friday, February 7, 2020, I will be sharing some of my art at the Filley Art Museum in Pratt, Kansas.  The Museum has initiated a series of noon time programs on the first Friday of the month called Lunch & Learn, featuring artists from the region who speak and share some of their work.  It is especially nice for working people who can bring their sack lunch and enjoy the program during their lunch break, but everyone is welcome, with or without a snack, and admission is free.

My theme on Friday will emphasize that whether you are an artist, someone who wants to learn more about art, or someone who loves to visit art museums and support the arts, Art is for Emeryone.

It certainly had an important place in Isaac Werner's life.  Isaac was creative, and the sketch, shown at left, of his invention to wash bottles when he was a young druggist in Rossville, IL appears in the margin of his 488 page journal.  Most of his margin drawings relate to ideas for inventions or furniture, but some are like his tiny illustration of a local church.  There was also a large drawing of his invention for a thatching machine folded inside the journal, as well as his design for a chicken house.  Among Isaac's many talents was art!

However, his appreciation for art was not simply his own practical drawings.  There was his stereoscope, probably similar to the one at right which belonged to my Beck ancestors.  Isaac mentions in his journal sharing his stereoscope cards with my great grandparents.  

His library included such wonderful books as Classical Antiquities  written by a professor at Amherst College and containing elaborate illustrations such as full page  engravings of the Pantheon and the Ruins of Athens, the Pyramids, and Greek sculptures.  In order to understand the sort of books Isaac collected, I found an  edition of Antiquities online published at the time Isaac lived, as well as other titles from his collection.  One of the many books in his library was Cuba with Pen and Pencil, published in 1871.  I bought a beautiful facsimile edition published in 1989 containing all the lovely drawings of Cuban scenes and people.

Antique and facsimile titles in Isaac's library
The books in the photograph are some of the titles from Isaac's library that I acquired in editions near years Isaac's was collecting.  The book with a black cover and a red rectangle with the title in gold is the book about Cuba and to the right is the Antiquities book.

Another example of how people of the late 1800s valued the arts is how quickly they built opera houses in their small towns.  Some served multiple purposes, with level floors also used as skating rinks.  That was true in St. John, and is true in Red Cloud, NE where the lovely opera house has been restored and is the heart of the Willa Cather Foundation.  The dual use as skating rinks should not mislead your image of the elaborate structures.  Other early opera houses, however, had fixed seats on sloped floors, and were designed strictly for performances.  Once these communities could be reached by trains, performers and stage sets arrived to entertain. 
St. John, KS Rink & Opera House

When I drive the main streets of Kansas towns  that date back to the late 1800s, I ignore the current store fronts and look up at the second floors and roofs that escaped the 'modernizing' of the 1950s and 1960s.  I admire the intricate brickwork and carved stone figures and designs.  Many of them proudly display the carved date of their construction.  The beauty of these details reveal the refined aesthetics of the day, even if there were still people living in dugouts on country farms.

Second St. John, KS Courthouse from the late 1800s

This respect for beauty was shown in the public buildings as well.  The first courthouse in St. John was a simple building in the square, today's city park but then a dusty square.  But citizens wanted a fine courthouse to represent their community, so funds were raised to build the elaborate brick building at left.  Unfortunately, it had to be replaced, probably for a combination of reasons, including these two:  first, the bricks were soft and gradually eroded, and second, the robbery attempts involving dynamite exploding in the County Clerk's office, in an attempt to access the safe, weakened the structural stability of the building.

St. John, KS School House
The St. John School House of that era also reveals the esthetic taste of their citizens.  I cannot help but marvel at the ability to build such structures at that time, lacking the powerful equipment we have available today.  County schools of that time may have been sod or wood, and by the turn of the century brick, but the respect for education was just as strong in those crude structures.

The arts were important then and remain essential today, but I wonder if we prioritize them as highly today as our ancestors did.  Certainly leather bound books and the universal passion for reading seems less important.  The efficiencies of our buildings seem more important today than the elegance of the past.  Many schools place the teaching of art at the bottom of the budget, if it remains a part of the curriculum at all.

How fortunate our region is to have so many resources that preserve history and the arts.   Pratt is particularly fortunate to have schools that value the arts, museums that preserve our past and respect the plants and animals of our region, a  newly remodeled library and a state-of-the art museum like the Filley.  I am honored to have been asked to speak at the Filley at noon on Friday, February 7, 2020, and I look forward to seeing some of you who read my blog at the Filley!  

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

America's Unique President

Oil painting by Anders Leonard Zorn
Americans may debate which president was the most intelligent, which was the most admired, which was the most wise, and which was the most popular--among other characteristics for which our presidents might contend.  But,  only one President can claim the unique experience of serving two non-consecutive terms.  Grover Cleveland was elected the 22nd President of the United States in 1885, was defeated in the next Presidential election, and was elected the 24th President in 1893.

Because Isaac Werner's journal resumed in 1884, and I follow his story until his estate was settled in 1898, the presidential years of Grover Cleveland have been part of my research.  The son of a Presbyterian minister, Cleveland was known as a man of integrity, who fought political corruption and patronage.  His campaign slogan in 1884 was "A public office is a public trust."

The President (front center) and his 2nd Cabinet

However, his intervention in the Pullman Strike of 1894, backing the Railroad rather than the striking workers, and his support of the Gold Standard rather than Free Silver, put him in opposition to populists like Isaac Werner.  The picture at right shows Richard Olney, a former railroad attorney, and the one acting for the president in the Pullman Strike, (on the left of Cleveland in the photo, hands clutched in his lap).   Other decisions that were contrary to the needs of workers and veterans were his veto of hundreds of private pension bills for American Civil War veterans and his veto of the Congressional Seed Bill, which had appropriated funds to purchase seed grain for farmers whose crops had been completely destroyed by a drought, leaving them nothing to plant for the next season.  He justified his veto, saying:  "...the lesson should be constantly enforced that, though the people support the government, the government should not support the people."

One position taken by Cleveland would have pleased populists, when he stood up against the railroads by ordering an investigation of the western lands granted to the railroads by the government, resulting in the forfeiture of some 81,000,000 acres because the promised rail lines for which the lands had been granted had never been built.  

During his first term in the White House, at the age of 49 he married the beautiful 21-year-old Frances Folsom.  When Cleveland was defeated in 1889, his wife was reported to have told a White House staff member, "I want you to take good care of all the furniture and ornaments in the house, for I want to find everything just as it is now, when we come back again."  Her confidence proved warranted when they returned to the White House in 1893!  No other president has returned to the White House after failing to be reelected following his first term.

The tradition of serving only two terms was established by George Washington, although there was, at first, no prohibition against running again.  Franklin Roosevelt ignored that tradition, having won the presidency four times, 1932, 1936, 1940, and 1944, although he died less than a year into his fourth term.

In response to FDR's dominance of the office for so long, congressional Republicans proposed the 22nd Amendment, which is now law:  "No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of President more than once."  You will notice the limit of 6 years for any one person to serve in the office of president.

President Ronald Reagan expressed disapproval of that limitation to a reporter, saying the inability to run for a third term, whether or not the president actually chose to do so, inhibits a lame-duck president from accomplishing important matters because everyone knows his power will end at the close of his second 4-year term.

The Constitution states that in the case of impeachment by the House and conviction by the Senate, there are two penalties imposed on the guilty president:  removal from office and disqualification "to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States."  Since such a conviction has never occurred, the manner in which removal and disqualification occur has never been employed.

Recently a man, known for spreading conspiracies, tweeted that although President Trump has been impeached, were the Senate to fail to convict it would nullify the president's first term and allow him to run for office two more times.  That tweet is inconsistent with the 22nd Amendment stating "No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice..."  While President Trump might run for President a second time, to attempt a third term would violate the 22nd Amendment.

In the case of President Cleveland, he did seek the nomination for a fourth run for the presidency but failed to be nominated by his party.

(As an aside, looking back to last week's summary of presidential firsts in communication, Cleveland was the 1st president to be photographed by a motion picture camera when, in his final hours in office, he was photographed at William McKinley's inauguration on March 4, 1897.)


Thursday, January 23, 2020

How Our Presidents have Communicated

At the peak of the Populist Movement of which Isaac Werner and many of our ancestors were a part, the People's Party had succeeded in electing not only local candidates but also state and federal officials.  The People's Party was challenging the Republicans and Democrats for the votes of primarily working people, but also some professionals.  

In 1896, however, they took a strategic risk.  They decided to nominate as the People's Party presidential candidate the same man as the Democratic nominee--Wm Jennings Bryan, a 36 year old man from Nebraska.

Their strategy failed, and it split the People's Party.  But, during his campaign, Bryan used the trains to reach more potential voters than a presidential candidate ever had, traveling 18,000 miles between September 11th and November 1 to give 600 speeches to an estimated 5,000,000 people.

The American constitution stipulates that the president "shall from time to time give to Congress information of the State of the Union and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient."  We are now familiar with seeing the sitting president deliver the annual State of the Union Address on our televisions, but George Washington delivered his message to congress in the provincial capital of New York City on January 8, 1790, and his 'recommended measures judged necessary and expedient' were left to be conveyed to the public in newspapers and broadsheets..  

How communication has changed over the years!  Rutherford B. Hays was the first president to speak by telephone from the White House in 1877, but it was Abraham Lincoln who installed a line for his use in the War Department, used to communicate with state governors and generals.

Although Warren G. Harding was the first president to make a speech by radio, on June 14, 1922, his voice was first transmitted by telephone to a broadcasting station and from there broadcast over the radio.  Of course, the president we think of as a master of radio is Franklin Roosevelt, who reached out to Americans so effectively in a conversational manner during his regular "fireside chats."

The first televised address was given by Harry Truman on October 5, 1947, but Dwight Eisenhower was the first to use television regularly, particularly his use of television commercials in his 1952 campaign.

What Richard Nixon called "the most historic phone call ever made from the White House" on July 20, 1969, occurred when he spoke to the Apollo astronauts on the moon.  The call was set up in advance over a microwave link between Washington and Houston, then out via microwave link to the Deep Space Network, then over DSN stations with the moon in view via S-band.

Bill Clinton was the first president to use email, initially more of a test to show the president how emails were done.  President Clinton himself regards the first e-mail he sent as president to be the one he sent to astronaut John Glenn soon after he boarded the International Space Station.  About a year later, Clinton became the first president to participate in a Webchat hosted by Democratic Leadership Council and an internet company.

While Obama's 2008 presidential campaign used social media very effectively, the first tweet by President Barack Obama was on January 18, 2010 when he hit the "send" button for a tweet composed by an employee hosting the president and first lady on a tour of the Red Cross headquarters in Washington.

Great technological changes in communication have occurred over those decades.  Today, the faces
The Home of our Presidents
and voices of our presidents are familiar from their many appearances on television.

Donald Trump, our current president, is not the first president to tweet, but he is certainly the one to have made tweeting his trademark.  According to Bustle, an online magazine for American women, Trump tweeted 2,568 times during his first year as president.  An article in the New York Times documented the most tweets sent by Trump in one day, in mid-December of 2019, as 123 tweets.

I do not tweet and I have no account, but many people around the world do.  If fact, it was estimated as of September of 2019 that there were about 350 million global monthly active twitter users, with 100 million active daily, 20.5% of those being in the United States.

I cannot predict the methods future presidents may use to communicate to America's citizens.  I can only hope that the future of communication bears no likeness to the telescreens in George Orwell's classic novel, 1984.  

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Nature's Voice

In past blogs I have shared Isaac's Werner's connection with nature and ways our parents and grand parents and great grandparents predicted the weather by signs that became sayings.  In last week's blog I shared a book that urges the importance of children's exploration of nature.  To my surprise, it touched the emotions of many followers of this blog.  This week I will share some of the comments I received from readers, and some quotes that may surprise you.  The photographs I share in this blog are taken at our farm, beauty captured as I roamed the places I explored as a child.

Cottonwoods in the Pasture, Credit Lyn Fenwick 
Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature.  It will never fail you. --Frank Lloyd Wright, (1867-1959) American Architect, interior designer, writer & educator


A true conservationist is a man who knows that the world is not given by fathers, but borrowed from his children.  --John James Audubon, (1785-1851)American ornithologist & painter

Trees are the earth's endless effort to speak to the listening heaven.  --
Rabindranath Tagore, (1861-1941) polymath, musician, poet & artist

Cottonwood seeds on the Lawn, Credit Lyn Fenwick
To me, a lush carpet of pine needles or spongy grass is more welcome than the most luxurious Persian rug.  --Helen Keller, (1880-1968) American author, political activist & lecturer


And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.  --Khalil Gibran, (1883-1931) Writer, poet, and visual artist  


I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars.  --Walt Whitman, (1819-1892) American poet, essayist & journalist


Stranger in the Driveway, Credit Lyn Fenwick
All my life through, the new sights of Nature made me rejoice like a child.  --Marie Curie, (18867-1934) Physicist & Chemist

Nature teaches more than she preaches.  There are no sermons in stones.  It is easier to get a spark out of a stone than a moral.  --John Burroughs, (1837-1921) American naturalist & nature essayist

Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.  --Albert Einstein, (1879-1955) Theroetical physicist

I'm about halfway through [Last Child in the Woods] but am ...taking my time to soak it all in...to pass those foundations down to [my daughter.]  C.L. blog reader, KS

Hedgeapple Shadows, Credit Lyn Fenwick
If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in.  --Rachel Carson, (1907-1964) American biologist, author, and conservationist

There is an outdoor classroom and an edible schoolyard at our daughter's childcare center, and I'm so grateful.  Simply no substitute for outdoor play and exploration.  A. O., blog reader in NE

The richness I achieve comes from nature, the source of my inspiration.  --Claude Monet, (1840-1926) French impressionist painter

Nature's Travelers, Credit Lyn Fenwick
Nature is just enough; but men and women must comprehend and accept her suggestions.  --Antoinette Brown Blackwell, (1825-1921) First woman to be ordained as a mainstream Protestant minister

There is a way that nature speaks, that land speaks.  Most of the time we are simply not patient enough, quiet enough, to pay attention to the story.  Linda Hogan, (1959-    )  Television personality

Teaching children about the natural world should be seen as one of the most important events in their lives.  Thomas Berry, (1914-2009) Religious scholar & student of man's role in Earth history & evolution

We grew up in years & a place that this type of learning was a part of our normal childhood.  R.V.H, blog reader, NM

 The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God.  Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be. ...And I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles.  Anne Frank, (1929-1945) Diarist
Prairie Gold, Credit Larry Fenwick

Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.  There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature--the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.    Rachel Carson

As the saying goes, with my own edits, 'Why does the Lord give us trees, mountains and dirt?  So we can learn to climb...and have a place to land when we fall.'  NONE of us, ESPECIALLY the young, are climbing and falling enough.  R.G., Blog Reader in Texas

I must close this post sometime, so I will end the blog with two more e-mails I received from readers.

My dad always thought of a pasture or a grove of trees as a perfectly appropriate playground for us, and boy was I surprised to learn that other parents weren't letting their children experiment on plants or arming them with field guides and turning them loose to identify birds.  T.T. in NE

And the last...

Your recollections made me smile and think of the time we lived in St. John (from 3rd grade thru the 7th).  ...I've surely told you stories of living on the north west edge of town, a farmstead across the street with all the farm animals farms had in those days.  A mile and 1/2 catty corner NW across wheat fields was a grove of trees for day trips with a buddy or alone.  On the edge of the tree grove was the Rattle Snake Creek.  It had water in it in those days and nice holes deep enough to skinny dip in.  Good memories.  A. H. in KS

Thank you to everyone who shared their memories and experiences.

Remember, you can click on images to enlarge them.








Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Kids and Nature, (first titled Confessions of a Slow Reader)

I just finished a wonderful book titled Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv.  In fact, I loved it so much that I bought several copies of the book to gift to friends who have young children.  I recommend it very highly.

The Last Child in the Woods is about the importance of providing childhood experiences with nature.  Louv is not opposed to watching nature programs on television nor walks in parks with carefully mowed lawns, tidy flower beds, and playground equipment designed for safety.  However, he advocates for children's need to experience the untamed woods and prairies that fuel  and develop an unsanitized, curiosity-motivating, imagination-inspiring, unsupervised, relationship-developing opportunity for children to experience the natural world that is rapidly disappearing.  He advocates our responsibility to provide that opportunity. 

Louv argues in his 2006 book that in our desire to keep children safe, we have cocooned them from opportunities to experience the wonders of nature which are needed to create healthy children.  He points to such issues as childhood obesity, depression, and attention disorders as side effects from restricting exposure to interactions with nature.

Photo credit:  Shealah Craighead
Paul Harvey (1918-2009), a well-known radio pundit in the late 1900s, appeared in the city where we lived when we were fresh out of college, and I have never forgotten an analogy he used in his speech.  He said, 'you can't sweep the floor with a broom and expect not to have to sweep it again.'  Problems may be resolved, but they will not stay that way without ongoing efforts.  (Harvey received the Medal of Freedom in 2005, and the photograph at right shows that ceremony.)

Using Harvey's analogy, we can compare our efforts to build safe playgrounds and to protect children from the dangers of strangers and unsupervised explorations beyond the boundaries of home to aggressively sweeping away not only the bad but also the good things of childhood.  Richard Louv would suggest that we should learn to sweep more thoughtfully--realizing that our aggressive sweeping has also swept away the very things that fuel imagination, inventiveness, problem solving skills, working with others, unstructured active play, and other things important to children's healthy growth.

It is the nature of life that there will always be issues to resolve, misdeeds to confront, and lessons to learn, and we should never expect a perfect world.  But, if we discover that we may have swept the floor too clean, perhaps we should try a different broom.

Our own histories can often guide us in raising the next generation.  I, for one, certainly remember hours spent in the sand hill plum thickets, creating imaginary rooms in areas cleared of thickets by cattle or other animals.  I'm sure the sharp thorns in the thicket drew my blood many times, and my mother may have worried about the dangers of a thorn damaging an eye, or perhaps she worried about snakes, badgers, and ants sharing my playground. But, she didn't stop my fun, and I survived.  I wandered for miles bare foot on our sandy roads, and I disappeared into the fields and tree rows for hours without telling anyone where I was headed when I left the house--primarily because I had no idea where I was going.  I wandered and experienced the joy unanticipated discoveries.  Of course, the world has changed, and the dangers parents fear for their children today are real, but children still need the freedom to explore and imagine.  Louv reminds his readers of that.

Without the courage and curiosity of our ancestors, they would not have crossed oceans.  Without the imaginations and initiative of homesteaders like Isaac Werner to confront the unknown dangers of the prairie, the lives of their descendants would certainly have been different--assuming that those descendants would even have been born.

Richard Louv worries that if a generation of children mature without the unplanned discoveries of nature's beauties and wonders, not only will it be a great loss to those children but also a huge loss to nature itself when a generation without the childhood experiences of nature become decision-making adults.  Those of us in farming communities may not understand how nature-starved urban children can be, with buildings instead of trees casting shade, paved playgrounds and sidewalks offering no opportunity for making mud pies or feeling sand between their toes, with the beauty of stars bleached by constant lights and the explosion of colors as the sun sets blocked by a profile of roof tops.

After talking with a group of children, Louv asked them to describe their favorite place to play.  One little boy said, "in the house."  When Louv asked him why, the boy said, "because that's where all of the electric receptacles are."

It is certainly something to think about.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Look at the Stars

A fairy ring in our yard
Some time ago our nephew, who lives in a city, visited our farm with his family.  They had come for the day and had meant to get  home before dark, but they stepped out our door just at that magical time when the sky is a deep velvet blue but not completely dark.  The stars truly were like diamonds in that deep blue sky.  Yet, it was simply that time of evening when, if we bother to look up and the night isn't cloudy, anyone who lives in the country can see such a sky.

In a voice filled with awe, our nephew said, "Look at the stars."

A garden spider's web
The rest of his family looked up, and someone may have said, "Yes, pretty" as they hurried toward their car, anxious to be on their way.

I have never forgotten the wonder in his voice as he saw stars usually obliterated by the city lights where he lived.  He was young enough that those stars seemed like a miracle.  

Living in the country, after spending our adult lives in urban environments, we appreciate the magnificent sunsets and sunrises we see most days.  Recently we experienced the most incredible double rainbow that reached nearly to the ground at both ends.  It cast a spell on both of us that made us unable to walk away from something so very beautiful.

Cicada exuviae on an iris leaf
Imagine what our ancestors must have seen as settlers on the open prairie.  Isaac writes in his journal about watching an eclipse from a rooftop he was shingling.  He describes, almost poetically, the first tornado he watched, dipping down from the clouds and raising a cloud of dirt before pulling back into the cloud from which it had dropped.  He admits his dislike of walking at night during a lightning display, although in fair weather he walked under moonlight and starlight regularly.  

After living in large cities, we bought acreage when we moved to Texas, and we built a home miles from the city, but we could not enjoy the blue-velvet sky we now see at our farm.  Even in the deep of night the lights from the city and the businesses along the interstate had bleached the sky over our Texas country home, to say nothing of the constant rumbling of the trucks on the interstate several miles away.  One night I set the alarm to awaken in the middle of the night to watch the spectacular meteor shower predicted for our location.  I lay in our driveway and looked to the northeast where the meteors were said to be most prevalent, and I saw a few faint drifting dots during the half-hour or so I watched, but the urban lights faded nature's meteor display and, disappointed, I returned to bed.

A wing more delicate than leaded glass
The first entry every day that Isaac made in his journal was weather.  Most of his day was spent out-of-doors, and even indoors weather intruded with the cold winds of winter and the blistering heat of summer.  Yet, Isaac's journal contains few complaints about the weather, except for truly extreme temperatures.  Rather, he writes more about the pleasures of crooking frogs at evening and the return of song birds in spring.

For many of us, weather is something to hurry through on our way between an air-conditioned car and an air-conditioned building, or its opposite, rushing through winter's chill between our centrally heated houses and seat-warmed cars.  Like our nephew, suddenly seeing the stars that are always over his head but are obscured by city lights, all of us are guilty of ignoging the beauty nature offers us constantly, and we obliterate her offerings with lights, earphones, and indoor comforts and entertainments.  

Living at the farm has reawakened my notice of the small everyday things I have included in this blog--things that Isaac Werner cherished in his daily life--and I feel very lucky. 

Remember, you can enlarge the images by clicking on them.