Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Last Hours of New Year's Eve

(c) Lyn Fenwick
As the last hours of New Year's Eve 1870 drew to a close, Isaac B. Werner opened his journal.  In a reflective mood, Isaac wrote:  "Who may see the last of 1871, only 365 days but what changes may take place [in] that very short time to come?  How many warm beating pulse may rest motionless 'til then, and what Shakespeare may take his life in the meantime to shine some future day, an ornament to the period?"  

"Very nearly can I say that I enter the New Year--at least--without pressing debts, about $40.00 near at hand to liquidate, while I have also cash in pocket to meet same and maintain square, while that would leave me about square and strapped.  But how many would feel rich at that?"  

Although Isaac was satisfied with his financial situation, his usual longing remained, for he continued his New Year's Eve reflections by listing all the books "...I would like to buy now."  After completing the list, which included the prices (indicating he had been studying the sales catologues from which he typically ordered his books), he continued writing:

"There is nothing like patience to conquer [a] great many things & undertakings.  Whether I really increased the value of my real estate & chattles during this last year or not,  I confidently feel that I enriched my mind, satisfactory to my desire--beyond my any expectations--and in my eye that looks a fortune worth possessing.  'O learn thou young man.  God hath provided wisdom the reward of study.'"  

As 2015 draws to a close, like Isaac, I find myself reflecting on this past year.  I am saddened by the havoc of nature, of war, of hateful discourse, and of the natural sadness time brings as family and friends are lost.  I am heartened by all of the good things in my life, however.  My reflection did not cause me to open a journal but rather to sit down to my drawing board and take up my colored pencils to sketch how Father Time must feel about the burden he has carried in 2015 and how intimidated Baby New Year must be by his task for 2016.

Isaac did not include any New Year's Resolutions in his journal, but here is my challenge to all of you.  If you have made any resolutions, share them with me--in the comment section of this blog, at my e-mail address, or on my Lynda Beck Fenwick Author's page on face book in the comment section below the announcement of this week's blog.  If you meet my challenge, I will share some of your resolutions next week!

Here are my Resolutions for 2016:  1.  Eat and exercise sensibly to get over my holiday indulgences!  2.  Read more of the unread books I have acquired before buying too many more.  (Notice I left myself a little wiggle room about adding really special books to our library.)  3.  Find solitary, uninterrupted time to begin the planned revisions to my manuscript.  4.  Accept the sad and unpleasant things that will surely happen in 2016 with grace and try harder not to be so impatient with the unnecessarily unpleasant and stupid things I see, hear, and do during 2016.  

Here's wishing all of you a Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Santa Fe Scrapbook

The images at right are taken from "A History of Kansas" with the caption "In Early Santa Fe."  The accompanying text reads: "The 'Great American Desert' lay between Santa Fe and the settlements of the western border of the United States. But Captain Pike's interesting descriptions of the wealth and resources of the Spanish country stirred up enthusiasm...and traders, on their journeys to the Spanish city wore a pathway that crossed the length of Kansas.  This pathway came to be called the 'Santa Fe Trail.'  (See "Early Kansas Expedition," 10-1-2015 in the blog archives.)

Santa Fe Street scene
The settlement of the Great Plains disproved the original assumption of the region being the Great American Desert, but travelers continue to 'wear a pathway' to Santa Fe.  The winter holiday season is an extremely popular time for visitors, and we recently joined those travelers.  We did not see any burros in the streets, but we certainly enjoyed the interesting architecture and continued the tradition of trading!

Our favorite adventures were walking the streets to enjoy shops and galleries (and stopping in a few), dining in some of the wonderful restaurants, and pausing to take photographs.  In this blog, I will share some of our photographs.  Remember, you can click on the photographs to enlarge them.

Photo Credit:  Lyn Fenwick
On the north side of the New Mexico Museum of Art the shadows preserved the snow-capped walls.  On the south side the sun had begun to melt the snow, but the icicle cast its shadow, as did the tracery of the tree branches.  The photographer was caught in the act of preserving the lovely shadows!

Photo Credit:  Lyn Fenwick
Photo Credit:  Larry Fenwick

Wandering through the many galleries in Santa Fe occupied much of our time.  Our first stop was the Joe Wade Gallery, to thank them for their generous cooperation with the recent Vernon Filley Art Museum in Pratt, KS for an exhibition by two of their artists, Roger Williams and Robin Laws.    

Like the early travelers of the Santa Fe Trail, we saw wild life...but our sightings were of bronzes and paintings!  This sleeping bear on a bench in front of the Manitou Gallery caught our eye, and inside we met Andrea Vigil and Bob Nelson. Nelson may be familiar to some of you from PBS's Arizona Collectibles, but much of our conversation with him was devoted to Lindsborg College, which he attended, and Burger Sandzen, whom he came to admire while a student there.  (See "The Natural Bridge," 8-28-2014 and Part II, 9-4-14, in the blog archives.)

In truth, most of our collecting can only be viewed on the scales!  Dining well is an honored tradition in Santa Fe.  We sampled the local Mexican fare, the pastries and delicious bar small plates in the La Fonda hotel bar, and other delicious meals.  Among our favorites were dinner at the always wonderful Geronimo's Restaurant on Canyon Road and the sophisticated and intimate Inn of the Anasazi on Washington just off the Square.  Both offer lovely surroundings, excellent service, and most importantly, food so beautifully presented and amazingly delicious that either one of those meals would have been worth the trip!

Lunch at the Inn of the Anasazi
Our lunch at the Inn of the Anasazi is pictured at left.  I had salmon, prepared to perfection.  Larry's meal was shrimp and scallops, equally perfect, according to him.  Having been raised in the farming region known as the bread basket of America, (formerly known as the Great American Desert), I appreciate delicious breads, and the Inn did not neglect the importance of that portion of our meal!

Dessert at Geronimo's

Our party at Geronimo's consisted of 4 adults and 2 teenagers, and our server, Arianna, made the occasion a delight for all of us.  The young man with us was curious about a rather complicated appetizer of small pancakes with scallions,  caviar, and other things new to his palate.  Ari's explanation as he ordered and as it was served made that dining experience a special one he will remember, and when his sister coveted (and received) one of his pancakes, Arianna brought her a small tray of them for herself.  By the way, the young man was also brave enough to select Geronimo's special dish, elk, which he enjoyed.  Only because I was so full did I remember to pause for a photograph of my citron  dessert with meringue kisses before spoiling the presentation in my eagerness to begin eating. 

Angels & Ancestors Tree
 One of the highlights of our Santa Fe visit was the performance by the Aspen / Santa Fe Ballet of The Nutcracker at the Lensic Performing Arts Center.  We have seen The Nutcracker in various cities over the years, but this was our favorite.  First, The Lensic Theater is a lovely old movie theater from the era when interiors were ornate and magical.  The theater setting framed the ballet beautifully.  Second, the stage settings and costumes were wonderful and in character with the ballet.  And, third, the dancers brought the story to life perfectly.  As is often true of attending the Nutcracker, watching the fascination of young children in the audience is part of the joy.

It is no secret that I am a child myself about Christmas trees, and when I joined the 'other children' crowded around the table in the lobby selecting the perfect souvenir Christmas ornament, I spotted the exact Clara already on my tree.  I gave my spot at the table to a child awaiting the chance to select her own favorite, content that I already had my favorite souvenir waiting on the tree at home!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of you, however you celebrate the season!!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Early Kansas Schools

An early sod school house
In 1914 the textbook titled A History of Kansas was first published.  Written by Anna E. Arnold and revised and republished in 1919 and 1931, it was used to teach Kansas school children the history of their state.  The book began with these words:  No state has a history better calculated to inspire patriotism in its people than has Kansas.  In this fact lies the greatest reason for teaching Kansas History in the schools.  A knowledge of the difficulties that have been met and conquered in building the State will create in the minds of the boys and girls a greater respect for the sturdy qualities of the pioneers; it will give them a wholesome sense of the great cost at which the ease and comfort of to-day have been purchased; it will stimulate in them a desire to live up to the past.  Obviously I agree with that author and attempt to share the the importance of the role Kansas has played in the past through this blog.  (See "I Love History," 1/3/2012 in the Blog Archives.) 

The Emerson School Isaac helped build
As I have previously shared, the first school house in Isaac B. Werner's community was built of sod.  It was replaced by a wooden structure, with David Carnahan hired as the contractor, assisted by Isaac and William Goodwin in building that school.  (See other blogs in the archives about early schools:  "Isaac Builds a School House," 10/11/2012; "One Room Schoolhouse Surprise," 7/12/2012; "Once There was a Community," 3/5/2015; and "Back to School," 9/24/2015.)  While I have no image of the sod school in Isaac's community, it may have resembled the image above taken from A History of Kansas.  The wooden building shown at left in this blog is the structure Isaac helped build, taken several years after its original construction.

If you think school children in your own families might enjoy seeing pictures of the type of schools their ancestors attended, you could consider sharing this blog with them.  During spare moments of the holiday school vacation, perhaps you could scroll through the blog archives to explore other history they might enjoy.  Anna E. Arnold intended with her history book " show forth what manner of men and women were the builders of our State, what motives actuated them, what conditions surrounded them, how they lived, and what they accomplished."  I hope with my blog to do the same.    

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Christmas Trees

Our tree at the Filley 2015
Everyone is so busy during the holiday season that I will try to keep my blog postings shorter.  Writing about how Isaac B. Werner celebrated Christmas day is reason enough to need few words.  Nearly always he celebrated alone, sometimes writing letters.  Occasionally he attended a holiday party near Christmas, and one year he was the chairman of a Christmas celebration of Farmers' Alliance members.  If he was lonely, he didn't express that loneliness in his journal, but it must have been hard to be far from family, without a wife and children of his own, on Christmas day.
One current holiday celebration in Isaac's old community  is the Festival of Trees at the Filley Art Museum in Pratt, Kansas.  During December the museum is charging no admission fee, so everyone can enjoy their gallery of trees.  My husband and I decorated our tree for the show with the theme of a "Red, White & Blue Country Christmas."  It has ornaments collected over the years and gifted to us by family and friends.  Eighteen beautiful and unique trees are displayed, and five of those will be given away in a drawing at the open house reception.  The rest are private family trees on loan for the festival.  Read more about the Festival of Trees at  

Close-up of our tree
 Last year we loaned our "Angels & Ancestors" tree for the Filley holiday show, and this year we are enjoying that tree back in our own home.  (See "Collections & Creations," 12/4/2014 in the Blog Archives.)  Part of our annual holiday season is inviting our ancestors to our home as we remember them by placing their photograph ornaments on our tree and seeing them there throughout the season.  (See "Christmas Guests," 12/13/2012 in the Blog Archives.)
Our tree at the Filley 2014
America is a land of many cultures, and we celebrate the holiday season in different ways, some of which we loan to each other!  Cultures around the world celebrate the winter season in a wide variety of ways as well, and some of those customs were brought to America by immigrants.  However those of you who follow my blog celebrate the season, Happy Holidays! 

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Isaac's Love for Cats

Emerson helping with my blog
Mark Twain, Isaac B. Werner, and I have in common our appreciation for the character of cats.  In our marriage, my husband and I have been owned by five cats, all of whom found us.  Prince found my husband at the college farm where he worked when we were in college.  Remington decided that our dog Abbey needed a playmate, and mewed to be found.  Black Kitty and Jacob found us when I put out milk for their wild mother cat in an unsuccessful attempt to tame her. (I didn't know she had kittens--they stayed, she didn't.)  Emerson flagged us down from the side of the road by pretending to be a tiny kitten lost on a freezing night (instead of the 4 or 5 year old Tom cat our veterinarian says he is).  Obviously Emerson is a literary cat, and after seeing last week's blog, he suggested that I do a follow-up this week about Mark Twain and Isaac Werner's particular affection for cats.
New York Herald

Isaac was known throughout his community for his love of cats.  One of his journal entries involved his disgust with a neglectful mother cat who left the box behind the stove that he had provided for her and her kittens.  When Isaac found the cold, apparently dead kittens the next morning, he fired up the stove and wrapped the kittens in a towel and placed them on the door of the warming oven in an attempt to revive them.  He was successful with only one of the kittens.  Unfortunately, even bringing the mother and her kittens into the house and providing them with a box behind the stove was not enough to keep them from freezing when strong winds pushed the cold air inside his house at night after the fire died down.  Many early settlers suffered from frost bite inside their crude homes.  

One of Isaac's journal entries documents a visit by my great grandparents, Aaron & Susan Beck, who came looking for a kitten to adopt.  The cartoon at above-left was published in the New York Herald on December 13, 1925 to accompany the memoirs of Clement's secretary Mary Howden.  The caption reads "That cat will write her autograph all over your leg if you let her."

Mark Twain's love for cats of legendary.  He wrote, I simply can't resist a cat, particularly a purring one.  They are the cleanest, cunningest, and most intelligent things I know, outside of the girl you love, of course.  

The portrait at right is by Connecticut portrait artist Susan Drake.  To see more of her work you may visit her website at and see some of the famous people she has painted.  Her studio is called The Lobster Pot, the name given by Twain to the property when he owned it at the turn of the last century.  If you are lucky enough to consider having her do your portrait, you may find out how to reach her at that same site.

Twain admitted "Some people scorn a cat and think it not an essential; but the Clemens tribe are not of these."  Certainly he and Isaac would have hit it off well, for Twain also declared "When a man loves cats, I am his friend and comrade, without further introduction."  

Two of Twain's passions!
In a letter dated October 2, 1908, Twain wrote to Mable Larkin Patterson about two of his passions--cats and billiards.  "One of them likes to be crammed into a corner-pocket of the billiard table...and then he watches the game (and obstructs it) by the hour, and spoils many a shot by putting out his paw and changing the direction of a passing ball."

Well known for his own yarns, Twain admitted his awareness that a falsehood will travel forever with countless re-tellings when he said, "One of the most striking differences between a cat and a lie is that a cat has only nine lives."  

Some people resent the occasional indifference shown them by their cat, but Twain regarded that as one of the breeds most admirable qualities.  "Of all God's creatures there is only one that cannot be made the slave of the lash.  That one is the cat.  If man could be crossed with the cat it would improve man, but it would deteriorate the cat."  --from Twain's Notebook, 1894

Who says cats aren't loving?
Legend has it that there are 'cat people' and 'dog people,' but if that is so, some of us are exceptions to that rule and love both.  Since I have shared with you the names of all our cats, it seems only fair that I mention our two dogs as well.  First came Lady, a beautiful black and tan mixed-breed, small spaniel, who took care of us through college, the Air Force, and my husband's career start and my law school.  Then came Abbey, the Cavalier King Charles spaniel who became Remington the cat's best buddy (but only when no one was looking!) 

Frankly, we have found both our cats and our dogs to be loving companions--although I confess that training a full-grown Tom cat is proving next to impossible.  We have, however, taught him that he shouldn't be doing what he is going to do anyway!