Thursday, December 28, 2017

New Year's Resolutions

When I asked face book friends to share their New Year's Resolutions for this blog, a very special friend from law school replied with these words:  "I hate to share a resolution.  Like a wish, [it] may not come true!"  Interestingly, she is not alone.  My research for this blog indicated that many people are superstitious about sharing their resolutions for fear that might jinx the outcome.  Others decline to share their resolutions because they don't want anyone to know if they failed to keep them!

Isaac Werner never mentioned making a New Year's resolution in his journal, although he did mention attending a few New Years' parties.  My research indicates that the tradition goes back for centuries, perhaps 4,000 years, with its roots in religion.  The Babylonians are believed to have been the first, although their New Year began in mid-March when crops were planted.  They promised their Gods to pay their debts and to return borrowed objects!

Roman God Janus
Another ancient God is also connected with the New Year, for January is named for the Roman God Janus.  Of course, Janus is the 2-faced God that decorates doorways and arches, seeing both those coming and going.  Symbolically, he could look back at the old year as well as forward into the new year.

As for Americans today, the most common New Year's Resolutions fall into certain categories:
1.  Self improvement physically and mentally;
2.  Advancement in career and financial circumstances;
3.  Personal growth in such ways as education, organization, and time-management;
4.  Interpersonal relationships through volunteering, making new friends, and improving social skills;
5.  More time with family;
6.  Traveling;
7.  Confronting decisions, like marriage, parenthood, faith;
8.  And perhaps the newest one on the list and the one most quickly broken, Spending less time on social media!

Victorian New Year's Day Card
Statistics about the number of Americans who make New Year's Resolutions were not found as far back as the late 1800s when Isaac Werner was keeping his journal.  But at the end of the Great Depression, it is said that only about 25% of American adults made resolutions, in contrast to the start of the current century when about 40% did.  Some believe that number has grown to 50% today.  Studies have shown that actually making a resolution to achieve the typical "Self improvement" goals, like more healthful eating, weight loss, exercise, and quitting smoking, will make you 10-times more likely to succeed than those who only want to do those things, without an actual resolution.

So, for those of you who decline to share your resolution because it might not happen, only you will know whether you succeeded or failed.  However, according to one survey for those of you who share your resolution with others and don't quite succeed, here are four great excuses that one survey found:  35% said they had set unrealistic goals for themselves; 33% said they didn't keep track of their progress; 23% said they forgot about what they had resolved to do; and about 1 in 10 respondents to the survey said they made too many resolutions!

I'm only planning two resolutions for 2018.  I'm following my friend's example and keeping one resolution to myself!  However, the following resolution I'm willing to share:  "Make more time to read books by authors whose work I respect and learn to put books down when an author disappoints me!...although I may have to modify that commitment by making myself more careful about what I choose to read, since I seem to struggle with abandoning a book unfinished!!"  See, I've even built an excuse into my resolution in case I fail at laying a disappointing book aside!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Happy Holidays to Everyone!

Followers of this blog come from all around the world.  Different topics attract readers from different countries, but every week I have many foreign visitors.  In December, I have had followers from Italy, Viet Nam, Ukraine, Spain, China, Brazil, Egypt, Russia, the United Kingdom, and France.  Readers from Germany, India, Australia. Canada, Ireland, and other nations are frequent visitors in significant numbers.

The internet links all of us around the globe, and I am delighted that my posts about history and an ordinary man who dreamed of creating a farm on the prairie in the late 1800s resonates not only with Americans but also with people everywhere.

Last week, my blog about Pratt, Kansas, and my hours in a family owned jewelry store drawing a picture of Santa Claus was read by 114 people in Italy and 98 people in Viet Nam, among the many others who visited the blog.  I'm glad it was a blog about an American small town, so that those readers can see a part of our country that may not always make the news.

So to all of you who read my blog, however you celebrate the holiday season, I send my holiday greetings with these special quotes I have selected for the season.

Christmas gift Suggestions:  To your enemy, forgiveness.  To your opponent, tolerance.  To a friend, your heart.  To a customer, service.  To all, charity.  To every child, a good example.  To yourself, respect.  Oren Arnold  (1903-1997; U.S. Representative and U.S. District Judge)

Christmas is a necessity.  There has to be at least one day of the year to remind us that we are here for something else besides ourselves.  (Eric Sevareid; American author and news journalist)

Fear less, hope more.
Whine less, breathe more.
Talk less, say more.
Hate less, love more.
And all good things are yours.
Swedish Proverb

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Santa Visits Pratt Art Walk

Photo credit:  Lyn Fenwick
For the first time, I believe, last week I did not post a blog.  The explanation is simple--my laptop was not available.  It returned home this afternoon, just in time for me to tell you about the Pratt (KS) Art and Music Walk.

I have often shared what a progressive arts community Pratt and its surrounding area are, with the state-of-the art Vernon Filley Art Museum, the impressive Native American Art Collection at the Pratt County Historical Museum, the rotating exhibitions at Pratt Community College, and Mother Nature's beauty on display at the Forestry, Fish, and Game Museum.  Not only the visual arts, but also music and theater are important at Pratt schools, churches, and community concerts.  Surrounding towns also respect the importance of the arts, examples of which I have mentioned in previous blogs.

Last June the first Pratt Art and Music Walk was held in conjunction with the Miss Kansas Pageant.  The second Walk was held December 2nd, and I chose to participate.  Merchants throughout the down town area participated, and I was hosted by Parson's Jewelry Store.  They were wonderful hosts, and I had a cozy corner just inside the front door in which to work.

Photo credit:  Lyn Fenwick
The Art Walk lasted from 11 to 2, and I arrived with several sketches roughed out on my drawing paper, unsure what I would choose to do or how long it would take for me to finish one drawing.  I do not believe in copying the work of another artist or photographer, so the rough sketch was my own work; however, I positioned my portrait of Santa at a similar angle to a photograph I had found.  

It would have been nice to have had a live model, but Santa is so terribly busy at this time of year that he couldn't spare the time to sit for his portrait for three hours!  I needed a reference to get my lights and darks correctly placed, and by blocking out my drawing at a similar angle I was able to use the reference photograph to place the highlights and shadows where they needed to be.  (I do work from photographs I have taken myself, especially when doing portraits of children, who are too full of energy to sit still for very long, but I prefer to take several photographs to help me capture personality.)

(c) Lyn Fenwick; Photo Credit:  Larry Fenwick

I missed the pleasure of visiting the shops where other participants in the Art and Music Walk were working and performing, but I did step outside to hear the music of the PCC Carolers!  

I also enjoyed spending 3+ hours at Parson's, reinforcing my belief in the importance of supporting our local merchants.  We need to be reminded that local merchants give us so much more than a place to shop.  Yes, I did overhear some sales being made, but I also overheard advice and suggestions offered--a true service to the 'customer' but not a sale for the merchant.  I  overheard friendly conversations and empathy being disbursed without any expectation of a sale being part of the visit.  

It's fun to go to the city to shop, and it's easy to sit down at the computer to place an order.  But when we can, it is important to buy from local merchants--if for no other reason than to selfishly make sure those stores can continue to stay open for us when we need them.

Thank you to everyone who stopped by to visit as I worked, thank you to everyone whose efforts made the Pratt Art and Music Walk possible, and a special thank you to the Parson's Family, who treated me so graciously.  

Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Union Labor Party in Kansas

Because so many Union Soldiers claimed homesteads and began farming in Kansas, the party of their old commander, Abraham Lincoln, a Republican, led many of them to adhere strictly to the Republican political party.  However, in the late 1800s laborers, including farmers, began to feel that the wealthy exerted more power in Washington.  They felt that too much legislation favored the wealthy and neglected or took unfair advantage of working class people.  

Laborers began forming political organizations, and the activity was initially stronger among employed laborers, such as factory workers and railroad workers.  Farmers tended to come together to find non-political ways to better their situation, their perspective as land owners working for themselves seeming to distinguish their issues from hired laborers.

Some of the early organizations attempted to influence government through lobbying rather than by forming political parties.  However, eventually political parties were organized.  The Prohibition Party chose candidates at the national level, but had greater success electing their candidates at local levels.  The Greenback Party also chose candidates at all levels, their focus being on the economy.  Yet, the Republicans and the Democrats remained the dominant political parties.

The Union Labor Party was originally organized by non-farming laborers, but in the 1880s they began to organize farmers as well.  Briefly, they recruited many voters from central Kansas.  However, it was about that time that the membership of the Union Labor Party nationally began to decline.  The Populist Movement in which Kansas and Texas played such important roles joined with other states, largely agricultural and ranching areas but not exclusively so, and created the People's Party, which reached its peak in the late 1880s and early to mid-1890s.

Union Labor Temple in Hutchinson, KS
When I saw the Union Labor Temple in Hutchinson, KS, I naturally but wrongly jumped to the conclusion that it might have been some early structure having to do with the Union Labor Party.  A little research informed me otherwise!

The old Union Labor Party that enjoyed a very brief popularity in Kansas among farmers prior to the creation of the People's Party was only one among many "Labor Parties."  Among them were the United Labor Party, the Industrial Labor Party, the Labor Reform Party, and even a coalition called the Greenback Labor Party. 

Among the books in Isaac's library were two by Henry George, including the one for which he was most famous, Progress and Poverty.  Georgisms were highly regarded, and his book sold around the world.  In 1886 he ran for mayor of New York City on the United Labor Party ticket.  He received 68,000 votes, primarily votes against corporate capitalism as much as for a particular party.

None of these Labor Parties survived as separate parties.  Their members were swept up into the other parties, either the two major parties, or in the case of many in our central Kansas region who briefly voted Union Labor, into the People's Party.

Yet, for one brief voting season, many of the male voters of this region turned away from the two old parties to vote the Union Labor ticket.  (Women did not yet have the vote.)  That is just a bit of our generally forgotten history.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Celebrating Thanksgiving with Pigs and Pigskins

A cake for a genuine pig lover!
I thought perhaps you have seen enough pictures of turkeys and pumpkins!  Last week's blog thanked all of you for your continued support of my blog and let you know how thankful I am for your ongoing interest in Isaac B. Werner and the history of the Populist movement!

Those of you who are regular followers know just how difficult times were for farmers like Isaac, and he recorded in his journal many Thanksgivings when people had too little to put much of a Thanksgiving Dinner on the table.

However, one year a farmer of better means went through the neighborhood buying up every fat hog in the community the week before Thanksgiving.  He loaded all of the hogs on a train and shipped them East.  His enterprise gave a great many neighbors a little money in their pockets with which to afford a real Thanksgiving dinner.

I doubt if any of them gave up their traditional pumpkin pies for a "Pig Lover's Cake," although I hope they gave a little credit, and perhaps an unspoken thank you, to their poor pigs for their Thanksgiving feast.  Perhaps this year you should raise a toast to all the pigs over the years who gave their skin to producing footballs!

The Thanksgiving postcard at right is circa 1900!  The tradition of rival schools holding their annual football games on Thanksgiving Day was widespread.  Fans loved it.  Mothers and wives who were left at home to prepare the holiday feast weren't so fond of the Thanksgiving Day football game tradition!

However, one of the all-time great college rivalry games, Texas vs. Texas A&M, came to an end not because of complaints from the women left at home to cook but rather because of money!  A new contract for broadcasting Texas football ended the tradition with the 2011 game.

There have been many such rivalries over the years.  The University of Kansas and the University of Missouri played the first of their 19 consecutive Thanksgiving day games in Kansas City, MO, starting in 1892.  A Conference rule requiring games to be played on college campuses interrupted the tradition, although it was resumed in 1916 and continued into the 1940s.  Gradually college contests on Thanksgiving Day diminished, although many continue the tradition by scheduling games during the weekend following Thanksgiving.  

Many high school rivalries hold traditional contests around Thanksgiving, as well as decades old unorganized groups such as extended families, college fraternities, clubs, church groups, and other organizations who play "Turkey Bowls."

Professional Football teams have played on Thanksgiving from their inceptions.  This year the Minnesota Vikings are scheduled to play the Detroit Lions at 11:30 Central time on FOX; the L.A. Chargers will play the Dallas Cowboys at 3:30 Central on CBS; and the NY Giants will meet the Washington Redskins at 7:30 on NBC.  So, whether your family tradition plans Thanksgiving Dinner at noon, midday, or in the evening, chances are high that somewhere in the house the television will be tuned to a football game. 

I'm posting the blog early again this week, since the family cooks will probably be too busy cooking and washing dishes, pots and pans to read the blog tomorrow on Thanksgiving Day, and the football fans will be watching games from noon to nighttime!  Happy Thanksgiving to everyone, wherever you are and however you spend your day.   

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Thankful for Memories

In doing the research for my manuscript inspired by the journal of Isaac Beckley Werner and in writing this blog since 2011, I have often reflected on Isaac as a "forgotten man."  I began research about his family on and found only a few others researching the Werner family.  Now I am delighted to see several people adding to the Werner family information on Ancestry, and most of them have "poached" off my tree, which pleases me very much.  Without Isaac's journal, that would not have happened.  I am thankful my prairie bachelor left behind a journal of his daily life and the life of his community.

As Thanksgiving draws near, I am thankful for memories of family, memories that are often related to objects.  This week I am going to share some objects that relate back to the late 1800s when Isaac was keeping his journal, as well as some objects from the early 1900s.  It is my hope that this blog might encourage some of you to pull out family mementos of your own to share with younger members of your family.

I have chosen to enter all of the photographs in a small size in order to include more images, but remember that you can click on them to enlarge them.

Basketball Trophy
While I always assumed that the stereoscope pictured above right belonged to my grandparents, having read Isaac's journal I now suspect it was owned by my great-grandparents, as stereoscopes were very popular in the late 1800s and Isaac owned one.  I see a great many donated stereoscopes in local history museums, but if your family still has one, what a treasure to start a conversation with the younger members of the family about the subjects of the slides as well as the types of entertainment their ancestors enjoyed.

The basketball trophy at left was purchased by my father when the old Emerson School House was torn down.  Perhaps it once had a base with the name of the tournament and other information, but that is missing.  What I was told was that it was a trophy awarded to a team on which my father played.  I treasure it.  Many schools have stopped keeping all of the trophies, removing the older ones from the display cases to make room for new victories.  I'm sure you can guess that I am disappointed, as a sense of heritage is an important thing to pass on to later generations, in my opinion.  If your family has acquried old trophies, what a great opportunity to pass on a little family sports history to children and grandchildren!
Lady's Dressing Table Set

The lady's dressing table set pictured at right belonged to my great-aunt Verna, who was a young school teacher who contracted tuberculosis and died at the age of 23.  Her initials were VPB and if you enlarge the image you may be able to read them in the swirling monogram.  The material is Bakelite, an early synthetic plastic patented in 1906 by its inventor, Leo Hendrick Balkeland (1863-1944).  I was given this set as a little girl, and perhaps that contributed to my affection for this great-aunt who died long before I was born.  The lamp base that can be seen at the top of the picture is one of a set that was always on my mother's dressing table, and the dressing table itself  in the photograph belonged to my husband's mother.  Personal items and old furniture can bring ancestors to life in the imaginations of children.

Shot Glass
The shot glass pictured above left fascinated me as a child.  I think my fascination was a result of its tiny, child-like size, and I doubt that I had any idea of its purpose.  There was no liquor in my childhood home.  It's message, "Just a Swallow," did not convey any particular purpose to me until I was older.  By then I knew its use, and I understood that in his youth my father had enjoyed a drink but when I was a child had made a choice to abstain.  I respected that choice, and I respected his decisions on other occasions to share a celebratory drink with his grown children--interesting memories of a fine example set by my father.

Glass Keepsake Globe 
The Glass Lidded Keepsake Globe was where my mother put her jewelry until she could take the time to put it away properly.  It sat on her dresser and usually contained something for a curious daughter to admire.  Little girls may now have the benefit of Title Nine and be competitive athletes, but most of them still love jewelry, and keepsake jewelry that once belonged to ancestors is a wonderful way to share memories of those women.  One of my mother's best friends loved jewelry, and I remember that she belonged to an earring-a-month club.  I loved looking through her jewelry box when we visited her home, and she would tease me that if I married her son I could have all of her jewelry!  I didn't get the jewelry, but her son is still a great friend of mine.  Many sons also treasure watches, rings, and other items pass down through the generations.  Sharing the stories about the prior owners will make family jewelry even more special when it is received.
Mantle Clock

The Mantle Clock now sits on our fireplace mantle, and I know that my parents received it after the deaths of my father's parents.  At that time they received two mantle clocks, the second clock now in my uncle's family's keeping.  I wish my parents had told me more about this clock--did my grandparents purchase one or both of the clocks or did they inherit one or both of them from their parents, and if so, which family line?  The clock is a good reminder to share the full story of the past of family heirlooms with descendants. 

A Favorite Photo
The framed photograph of my father at right is just a reminder that Thanksgiving is a great time to get out the old pictures.  Kids like to see old pictures of themselves to hear the stories of events they were too young to have remembered, as well as see Mom and Dad in younger years!  But, while you are looking through the pictures together, it is also a good time to tell them about older ancestors and to write identifying names on the backs.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you, and a special Thanksgiving Greeting to my many foreign followers.  On the 4th Thursday of November,  Americans traditionally take time to remember all of the things for which we have to be thankful.  I am very thankful to all of those who have followed this blog, both those long-time followers and those new-comers who have discovered the blog a bit later.  Some of you are regular visitors and others visit the blog for posts of particular interest.  I am thankful for the support of each and every one of you!  

Remember, you can click on the images to enlarge them, and you can share stories of your own about family objects that preserve memories by posting a comment below.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Random Thoughts for Veterans' Day

A great many of Isaac Werner's neighbors and friends were Civil War Veterans, including my own great-grandfather, pictured in a tin type photograph in his Union Blues.  A year ago my Veteran's Day blog honored a dear friend whom we have lost since then.  We are rapidly losing our W.W. II soldiers.  This year my Veterans' Day blog rambles a bit, but I hope it reminds you to think of the men and women who have in the past and who continue to protect and defend our nation.

Last weekend we enjoyed a short holiday, and during our  adventure we passed through the Kansas town of Lyons.  We spent some time enjoying their tribute to the veterans from their community, and the photographs that follow show their memorial on the corner of the courthouse square, as well as one example of the many individual tributes picturing their service men and women.  The banners hung from lamp posts around the Courthouse Square and along the streets.  Many communities continue to honor their veterans in a variety of ways, but we found the manner in which Lyons did so particularly nice.  

Veterans' Memorial in Lyons, KS
Banners around the square & streets

Our destination, however, was the Swedish-heritage town of Lindsborg, where we stayed at the charming Rosberg Bed & Breakfast.  A photograph album in the parlor revealed the extensive work done on the old Victorian home of the Rosberg family to bring it to its present elegant condition.  All five of its rooms were occupied during our visit, and if you decide to stay there, which we recommend, don't delay making your reservations, particularly if you hope to stay there on one of the special seasonal occasions.

My husband at the Rosberg B&B

Fireplace with Rosberg family photograph

So, you are beginning to wonder, what does this lovely Rosberg B&B have to do with Veteran's Day.  It is a bit of a reach, but there is a connection.

Poster of Gorbachev's Visit
Gorbachev Slept Here

As we began to walk down the hall toward our room, we noticed the pictures posted on the wall, including the one above left with Mikhail Gorbachev's picture.  In October of 2005, an event called "Chess for Peace" was held in Lindsborg, and Mikhail Gorbachev spoke at Bethany College.  

It just happened that we had reserved the room Gorbachev had occupied.  It is said that in Colonial times in America, as well as the early years of our young nation, lodging places would boast that famous men had slept in their establishments.  If all of the boasts had been true, these men would either have needed to travel to a different inn every night of their lives or to have spent many nights in several places!  However, Gorbachev did sleep in the pictured bed--and so did we!

This is not the place for political comments about the current relationship between the United States of America and Russia, nor are those of you reading this blog likely to be in need of being reminded.  

The 1987 visit to the Reagan White House
However, some of you may need to be reminded of the mid-1980s and early 1990s when that relationship was quite different.  As the Soviet General Secretary in those years, Gorbachev sought to revive the Soviet economy and to institute reforms, with one of his first being an anti-alcohol campaign to fight alcoholism.  In 1988 he introduced glasnost, intended to give the Soviet people more freedoms.

Perhaps I should mention that in 1977 my husband and I visited the USSR at the time foreign tourists were first being permitted to visit.  We were part of a group, as independent travel was not yet permissible, and well trained guides accompanied us as most of our time was spent in the two major cities of St. Petersburg (then called Leningrad) and Moscow.  Naturally, that experience may have caused us to pay more attention to news about Russia in the following years.

While Gorbachev's intentions were to institute his reforms within the existing political structure, the taste of new freedoms stimulated nationalist feelings in the Soviet republics that led to riots and violence.  In March of 1990 Gorbachev became the President of the Soviet Union, but the revisions he had envisioned never were accomplished.  Events in 1991 became even more chaotic, further splintering the Soviet Union.  August of 1991 ended what Gorbachev had tried to create, and on December 25, 1991 Gorbachev announced his resignation as president.

Gorbachev and H. W. Bush in 1990
During some of Gorbachev's years in office, however, there were times when the Cold War thawed, agreements were negotiated, and the Berlin Wall came down.  Our Presidents visited each other's countries, and the world seemed to be a safer place.

Gorbachev did not entirely disappear from politics following his resignation.  His disappointment was apparent in a 2011 interview with the BBC in which he said, "The electoral system we had was nothing remarkable but they have literally castrated it."  In a 2013 interview,  he said of Russia, "...politics is increasingly turning into imitation democracy."  While he credited Vladimir Putin's stabilization of Russia after the extremely turbulent years, Gorbachev has criticized the backsliding of democratic efforts and has voiced concern about corruption, and in 2009 he was willing to meet with Pres. Obama and V-Pres. Biden in that administration's attempt to "reset" relations between the two countries.  

His criticisms of Russia and his willingness to consider a "reset" of Russian and American relations should not be misunderstood, however.  For example, he has defended Russia's annexation of Crimea and he openly disagreed with our leadership during the Iraq War of 2003.  He also blamed our economic model for the financial crisis of 2007-2008.

My point, as we honor our Veterans, is that whether the current political environment is relatively peaceful or frighteningly unstable, our military is there, fulfilling their duty to preserve the peace and protect us in times of danger.  Thank you to those who have served in the past and to those who protect and defend us today.

May leaders around the world find their way to Peace.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Farewell, Old Friend

Photo Credit:  Lyn Fenwick
This past weekend we said farewell to a dear old friend who has been a part of the farm since before I was born.  The 1941 Farmall M  was purchased by my Grandfather prior to Pearl Harbor.  When he suffered a stroke a few years later,  my father came back to the farm and purchased the tractor from his dad.   He farmed with it until his death in 1976, after which my mother sold it at the farm sale.  For  13 years the Old Red tractor saw hard use and neglect, until a cousin spotted it on a sale lot and called my husband to tell him it was for sale.

Old Red 13 years after being sold

We were "City-Folks" at that time, living in Atlanta, Georgia, but my husband bought it for me, sight unseen.  His step-father enjoyed restoring old machinery--with a preference for John Deere tractors.  Just this once he took on the task of restoring something RED!  It was a challenge, but when we came home for Christmas one year he surprised us with the completed job.  Larry's mother had acquired a Santa suit and enlisted me to create a face for Santa, and the old Farmall M with Santa at the wheel decorated their yard for the holidays.
My husband sees what he bought!

Because we continued to live in distant cities for several years, the Farmall M made its home with its restorer, and later, in the repair shop of my husband's brother--a rather awkward insertion of red, since his brother managed a John Deere dealership!  Eventually we returned to the farm and built a barn, and the Farmall M was finally home again.  The Old Red Tractor celebrated its first Halloween back home with Jack Pumpkinhead (a character from Baum's Wizard of Oz series) sitting in the driver's seat to welcome guests to our Harvest Moon Barn Dance.

Old Red and Santa
Although the crop land the Farmall M had once farmed with my father, my brother, my husband, and an assortment of male cousins occupying the driver's seat, our land was now leased and farmed by much larger tractors.  However, the Farmall M resumed its responsibilities by dragging a mower  around our farmstead.  Old Red was back at work!

Farmall M with Jack Pumpkinhead
Eventually green equipment began to invade the farm, and Old Red began spending more time alone in the barn, out of the weather.  If tractors have feelings--and it seems as if the Farmall M would have after being a part of this family for so many years--it must have been sad for Old Red.  At the family reunion held at the farm in 2004 soon after its return, the red tractor was the star of the show.  The nephews, now with gray in their hair but who had come to the farm to help their Uncle Ralph during summers when they were teenagers, just had to take the Farmall M for a spin, and it occupied the center of the family group portrait.  Now it sat unused and alone.

I once thought about using the Farmall M as the central character of a children's book, and I had written an outline and imagined the illustrations I would draw of the old tractor.  However, one of my favorite children's book illustrators, Loren Long, beat me to it!  His brave red tractor named Otis is the central character in a series of children's books, but Otis looks a lot like our old Farmall M!
Loren Long's Otis
Our old Farmall M

I didn't realize how much the tractor I rode with my father when I was just a little girl resembled Otis until I got out my most recently purchased Loren Long Otis book.  I have a variety of Loren Long's books in my collection, in addition to the Otis series, and I have given his books to children, which they love.

I had just come into the house after saying good-bye to our old tractor when I decided to tell the story of Old Red on my blog instead of in a children's book.  After all, Otis seemed to be a great stand-in hero for our Farmall M. I took one of Loren Long's books, Otis and the Kittens, off the bookshelf, and I couldn't believe how many of the photographs I had taken of our old tractor were similar to Loren Long's portraits of Otis.  I believe they must be close relatives!

Loren Long's Otis
My father's view
Feeling quite sentimental about saying good- bye to our old tractor, I had sat in the seat to photograph the view through the steering wheel that my father must have seen for uncountable hours.  I could hardly believe it when I found a similar illustration drawn by Loren Long!

I was not one of those farmer's daughters who learned to drive a tractor and helped out in the field.  My contributions were more traditional, cooking meals for hungry harvest hands.  However, I often took cookies and a cold drink to the field and rode a few rounds with my father or my older brother, and after I was married and my husband occasionally helped at the farm, I sometimes rode with him.

My last photo on the Farmall M
I had been surprised and a little confused when my husband bought our old tractor.  Yet, I confess, I loved seeing it back on the old home place when we returned to the farm.  Even after we stopped using it and the effort of getting it out of the barn to sit by the gate on special occasions were reduced to a rarity, it was hard to think about ever allowing the tractor to leave the farm.

Yet, finally, that decision was reached.  I thought I was being very reasonable about it, but when the time came I shed a few tears, although I am very happy to see it go to a special cousin--one of those who drove it when he was a young man.  We are confident that his affection for the old Farmall M is nearly as great as ours.

Our last farewell at the farm
I have tears in my eyes as I type this--silly to some of you I am sure, but not to everyone.  Even in this time when farmers trade tractors frequently, you can still hear a touch of nostalgia when they speak of the first tractor they drove or the tractor with which they began farming.  It is not unusual for retired farmers to begin restoring old models, just as my husband's step-father did.  

I know I will miss the old Farmall M, but I am confident we did the right thing.  My cousin just sent me a text with a picture of the old tractor, delivered safe and sound.  It looks right at home!

Cropped images from Loren Long's Otis and the Kittens are copyrighted and must not be forwarded or printed.  They were inserted in this blog solely for educational, non-commercial purposes and to personally promote my recommendation of Loren Long's books for children.

Remember, my photographs were shown in a small size to allow more images to be included, and you can enlarge them by clicking on the image.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Cat People vs. Dog People

Isaac Beckley Werner was definitely a Cat Person.  He mentions being given a puppy by a neighbor once, but after the entry about the gift the puppy was never mentioned again.  I assume it was returned.

However, he loved his cats.  This was rather unusual, because he also had a great fondness for birds.  He trusted the predictions of seasonal changes from migrating ducks and geese flying south in autumn and returning to the north in the spring, and he knew the predictable time that his favorite song birds would return in the spring.  

He also liked chickens and had a favorite among his flock.  Unfortunately, when a skunk got into the hen house, it was his favorite that was killed.

But his favorites were his cats.  Before giving away a kitten, he made sure the neighbor taking it had some sort of shelter available for the cat.

Just for fun, this blog is about the distinction between Dog People vs. Cat People.  Studies have found that there are personality differences! Mark Twain was among the authors in Isaac's library collection of books, and Twain is known for being a Cat Person!

Portrait by Lyn Fenwick (c)
Of course, some people love both cats and dogs.  However, if people have a specific favorite, more are dog lovers than cat lovers.

Researcher Denise Guastello, an associate professor of psychology at Carroll University in Waukesha, Wisconsin concluded that such preferences may be related to the types of environments cat or dog people prefer.  Quoted by Rachael Rettner in her article, Guastello said: "It makes sense that a dog person is going to be more lively, because they're going to want to be out there, outside, talking to people, bringing their dog.  Whereas, if you're more introverted, and sensitive, maybe you're more at home reading a book, and your cat doesn't need to go outside for a walk."

The studies do seem to confirm that Dog People are more likely to be extroverts, while Cat People are more likely to be introverts.  In addition to being more likely to be introverts, cat owners are more likely to live alone, to be more timid, modest, obliging, and fairly trusting. Dog People, on the other hand, are generally described as being forceful, assertive, persistent, self-assured, and self-confident.

Dog a descendant of Rin-Tin-Tin
Those who identify themselves as Cat People are unlikely to want to have a dog in their household.  When asked if they were given a dog would they keep it, Cat People tended to say "no," while if Dog People were given a cat, they were more likely to say they would keep it.  That seems to have been true of Isaac, when his friend gave him a puppy.

I tend to identify myself as a Dog Person, but we have had both cats and dogs and we've loved them all.  The photograph at right is of me with a breeder of German Shepherds whose line is descended from Rin-Tin-Tin.  He was a gorgeous dog!

Because cat lovers tend to be introverts, and often book lovers, that would certainly apply to Isaac.  In our family, it may be our cat who is the book lover!

Emerson the Cat

Isaac Werner was a single man who lived alone, enjoying his reading.  He was willing to work hard for the things he supported, but he often did his work in a solitary way, for example, going to the school house to make repairs when he saw that they were needed.  He was modest and obliging, for although he initiated the formation of the County Agricultural Society and the local group of Progressive neighbors, he was content to serve as the Secretary of the groups, rather than feeling snubbed because he wasn't chosen as the President of the groups he formed.  In fact, he was elected Secretary of nearly every organization of which he was a part.  He definitely met many of the common characteristics of a Cat Person.

I thought you might have some fun with some of the generalizations about common traits.  Cat people are more intelligent than dog people.  Cat people are more neurotic than dog people.  Dog people tend to be more conservative than cat people.  Dog people are more obedient--just like dogs.  Cat people are more open-minded that dog people.  Dog people are more masculine than cat people.  Dog people and cat people have a different sense of humor.  (These Basic Differences Between Dog People and Cat People are taken from a list by Lorenzo Jensen III.)

Frankly, I agree with some of the generalizations, but many do not seem to fit my friends and their pets.  The generalizations are based on studies and are simply a measure of what is more likely to be the case.  They certainly aren't absolutes! 

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Roads Across Kansas

Oregon Trail near Kansas City
The earliest settlers arriving in Kansas probably found more ruts than roads, as covered wagons followed the depressions in the prairie sod left by earlier travelers.  However, in 1855 the territorial legislature had recognized the importance of wagon roads and a basis for highway construction was defined, making counties responsible for road-making.

A township road in 2014 a mile from Isaac's claim
In 1857 township road-making was organized.  Isaac B. Werner came to Kansas in 1878, as did many of his neighbors, and by 1884 when he resumed writing in his journal, he described his township road tax which was owed by every man 45 and younger.  Each year the men had a duty to work a certain number of days on the roads and bridges of their township.  Although Isaac did not have a horse for several years, he worked alongside his neighbors to satisfy the road tax.  The township was initially 6 miles from north to south and 12 miles from east to west, and he mentioned working on the bridge in the western part of Clear Creek Township.  Later, that township was divided into two separate townships 6 miles by 6 miles, and Isaac continued working in the new eastern Albano Township where his claims were located until his 45th birthday passed.  Once he had a horse, he used it, if the work they were doing called for a horse.

When railroads reached Kansas in the 1870s and 1880s, trains were available for distant travel.  By the 1930s there were nearly 10,000 miles of railroad in Kansas, most belonging to the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe, the Missouri Pacific, the Union Pacific, and the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific.  However, local roads were still needed.  Until 1917 counties and townships worked independently to provide roads for their communities, although in 1909 the office of county engineer was created and in 1911 a state engineer was provided.  Federal aid for road-making was passed in 1916 but approved in Kansas in 1917, and that resulted in significant progress.  By 1930 Kansas had almost 4,000 miles of surfaced highway.  However, only about 1,000 of that number was hard surfacing, such as concrete or brick.  The remainder was sand, gravel, or chat surfacing.

The next big leap in road improvements occurred with the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, popularly known as the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act.  Initially, $25-Billion was designated to construct 41,000 miles of Interstate Highway over a 10-year period.  

A Network of Interstates
President Dwight D. Eisenhower's support for the project was key and explains part of the reason for the inclusion of "Defense Highways" in the title of the Act.  As a young army officer, Eisenhower had participated in the Army's first transcontinental motor convoy across the United States.  Even then it was intended to show the need for better highways.  Eisenhower still remembered the cracked bridges, the nearly impassable muddy roads, and the broken equipment damaged while traveling.  In addition, Eisenhower had seen the German autobahn network during World War II, which convinced him of the need for a highway network in the United States.  The President's support was expressed as a national defense issue, rather than merely highways for convenience, comfort, and progressive business.  When the new interstate highway was completed, it took only 5 days to transverse the distance that had taken the Army convoy 2 months to travel in 1919!

Today, many of us have become so accustomed to the convenience of our well-paved state and national highways that we forget to explore some of the lessor roadways and the discoveries that await us.  One purpose of this blog is sharing some of the sights to be found by pulling off the major highways to explore.  Some of you have told me that this blog has encouraged you do just that!  But, of course, when we are in a hurry those well-paved roads are appreciated!!

When we first returned to the farm our sandy roads leading to the house had been neglected for years, with little traffic past an old vacant house to justify serious road work.  I want to use this opportunity to say "Thank You" to the township board and our road grader for working so hard since we have returned to the farm to give us a good way to the nearest paved road when it rains and for remembering to open a way for us to get out when it snows.  Our sandy loam soil is a challenge, but it is so much better now.  Isaac would be impressed!

Remember, images can be enlarged by clicking on them.