Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Challenging Space Travel

Richard Branson

 Isaac Werner may have been seen as a dreamer--leaving the security of the community where family lived to become a druggist in Illinois, and then leaving a successful business to try other careers, resulting in staking a claim on the untamed prairie!  Isaac made a success of his claim, despite years of struggle.

I thought of Isaac as I watched Richard Branson onboard Virgin Galactic, flying to the edge of space on July 11, 2021.  Only a few days later, I thought of Isaac again when Jeff Bezos boarded his own Blue Origin NS-16 to make his own flight.  Certainly, both men had to be dreamers to have imagined the ventures that lead them to achieve the first steps of their dream.

Jeff Bezos
I confess.  With so many issues on earth in need of financial assistance, I found it difficult to fully applaud their achievements.  However, when Jeff Bezos combined his dream of space travel with generosity for things on earth, I was impressed.  I learned that he, through his philanthropic initiative, had gifted $200 million to the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum.  $70 million will be applied to the renovation of the National Air & Space Museum, but $130 million will launch a new education center.  The focus will be on helping teachers utilize the Smithsonian's collections, and programs will be designed to inspire students to explore careers in STEM, the program to encourage emphasis on science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics.  The intention is to reach students and teachers not only in the Washington, D.C. area but also in communities across the country.

That gift alone was quite impressive, but Bezos was not finished.  During the Blue Origin's post flight press conference, Bezos had another surprise--the creation of the "Courage and Civility Award."  Bezos is certainly excited about the role space travel has for future generations, ideas that include moving industries that are currently harming our planet with pollutants to the moon, as one example.  But he also recognizes that problems on earth need to be addressed.  He told the CNN interviewer, "We have to do both...we have lots of problems here and now on Earth, and we need to work on those.  We always need to look to the future.  ...We have to do both."

The present short flights that Branson and Bezos have achieved seem more like billionaires' amusement rides, but Bezos sees their purpose differently.  He believes the opportunity for people to actually "see with your own eyes how fragile it [our planet] really is" will change their perspective on the urgency to protect and save our planet.

That is why he is not only using space travel to allow those with the wealth to by a ticket to see our precious planet differently in hopes they will return from their flights inspired to use their wealth to help solve the Earth's urgent problems.  He is also setting an example through the "Courage and Civility Award," and while he had the world's attention right after the flight, he introduced the first two recipients of that award, giving two men $100 million dollars to make charitable donations of their own choices.

Jose Andres
His first two "Courage and Civility" recipients both have a track record for philanthropic achievements.  Celebrity Chef and restauranteur Jose Ramon Andres Puerta is well known for his non-profit devoted to providing meals in the wake of natural disasters.  He has frequently been recognized for his generosity and organizational ability:  2014 he received an honorary doctorate degree in public service from George Washington University; 2015 he received the National Humanities Medal from the National Endowment for the Humanities; 2012 & 2018 he was named one of the world's most influential people by Time; 2018 he received the James Beard Foundation Award for Humanitarian of the Year; and 2018 he received an honorary Doctor of Public Service degree from Tufts University.  In 2018 he was also named a Nobel Peace Prize nominee for his humanitarian work.

Van Jones
The other recipient of  the "Courage and Civility" award is lawyer Van Jones, perhaps best known from his commentating on CNN from 2013-2019, as well as from his three best-selling books.  However, he is also the founder or co-founder of several non-profit organizations, particularly focusing on resolving problems in the Black community and combining Black jobs with the Green Movement.  He joined with Newt Gingrich and Patrick J. Kennedy on rebuilding the Dream Movement & advocating for Opioid Recovery.  His focus on "green pathways out of poverty" led to his book, whose title plays on the reference to "White Collar" jobs with the title "The Green Collar Economy."  This emphasis on "green pathways out of poverty" included the "Green-Collar Jobs Campaign.  Like the other recipient, he also has received a great many awards.

Isaac Werner received no awards, that I am aware of, but he too served his communities, especially active in his roles in educating farmers.  Perhaps in his small way he met the criteria Bezos set for the recipients of his "Courage and Civility" award, as "leaders who aim high, pursue solutions with courage and always do so with civility." 

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

A Life-long Passion for Learning


Titles Isaac owned, Credit: Lyn Fenwick

Those of you who follow this blog are already aware of Isaac Werner's life-long passion for learning.  At the time of his death, I documented over 400 books in his library, and by that time he had given away many of his books.  It was a remarkable collection for that era, especially for a man who was far from wealthy.  The books in the photograph above are titles Isaac owned with publication dates near the dates Isaac would have been acquiring his library.

The life-long passion for learning continues for many people even today.  Next week I begin my virtual Osher Class through the Lifelong Learning Institute at Kansas University, a part of KU's Professional & Continuing Education.  KU and other universities across the nation offer a diverse collection of courses to participants age 50 and older, although all ages can join.  Those teaching the classes are chosen from having "the academic qualifications, a passion for the topic, and a love of teaching."  Most classes are a single meeting, but the classes may be three separate gatherings.  With Covid limitations, the current classes at KU are virtual.  I am pleased to have the opportunity to share the rise and fall of the People's Party in three classes, beginning next week.  My research for "Prairie Bachelor" included far more information than appears in the book, and I am excited to share that history.  Obviously, I meet the requirement for "a passion for the topic."

The Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes were begun by Bernard Osher, who envisioned noncredit courses with no assignments or grades for adults over the age of 50.  Grants from the Bernard Osher Foundation make his vision come true at over 120 universities and colleges throughout the nation.

The life-long passion for learning is recognized by other opportunities for seniors, and among those is the not-for-profit Road Scholar travel program.  Road Scholar offers, according to their web site, "5,500 learning adventures in 150 countries and all 50 states, serving more than 100,000 participants per year."  This may not reflect their scheduled adventures during Covid, but their purpose is to provide opportunities to experience the world "by meeting new people, touching history where it happened and delving deep into the cultures and landscape we explore."

Education for seniors happens across the nation.  There are many Americans who choose to go back to school after they retire.  NBC news reported that students over the age of 35 made up 17% of all college and graduate students in 2009, with an expectation that the number would rise.  Certainly their survey was not confined to seniors, but retirees make the decision for many reasons, including those who failed to complete their degrees and do so in retirement.

Community and state colleges are also recognizing the desire for continuing learning, with tuition waivers for those over 60 at some schools, while others offer the opportunity to audit classes without paying, and although they gain no credit, they do gain knowledge.

Our own community has Club 62+ Senior Program for senior citizens in the service area of Pratt, Kiowa, Barber, Kingman, Harper, Comanche and Stafford counties.  Among the offerings at Pratt Community College are "casino trips, special speakers, and murder mysteries."  You need to check with the College regarding their current schedule.

Among the benefits of continued education are Social Connections, Cognitive Improvement, and Skill Enhancement.  Isaac Werner knew all of that.  Not only was he passionate about reading, he was also involved in his local community in various organizations, and he traveled to St. John, Pratt, and Stafford to attend lectures and other programs.  Life-long learning is nothing new!   

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Truth or Half-truth

 Recently I was on face book, looking at posts by my friends, when I came across the picture on the right above.  The caption beneath the photograph stated that at one time it was legal to mail children by attaching stamps to their clothing.  'Oh My Goodness!' I commented, but then I added, 'have you checked the accuracy of this image?'

My friend did not reply, and later I turned to Snopes to see if they knew the answer.  Like many things in life, I learned that the image is a little bit true, but not exactly. 
In 1913 the U.S. Post Office introduced Parcel Post, which for the first time provided the handling of mail that had been considered too heavy for normal letter mail handling.  As a result, it was legal to mail children, with stamps attached to their clothing.  In fact, that was done!

However, although a newspaper reported a family attaching the requisite 53 cents required by their daughter's weight to mail their little girl, the trip was only to her grandmother's home, most likely with the child having been entrusted to a mail carrier the family knew.  It is likely that the few examples of mailing children were jokes or arrangements for a short journey in the care of a trusted mail carrier.  Quickly a law was passed to make such events illegal.

With the help of Snopes, my question was answered, but I remembered my husband describing how, as a child, he would visit his mother, who worked at the local small town post office, and he remembered having seen chicks that were shipped to local farmers by mail.  That made me wonder whether live animals were still shipped by the U.S. Postal Service.

Thanks to the advertisement of 'Backyard Poultry' shown above, I learned that Baby Chicks can still be shipped by Mail.  In fact, as the Poultry ad explains, because newborn chicks are still digesting the yolk sacks from the eggs, they are especially well equipped to survive, if they are kept warm and arrive within three days at the most.

Sadly, in the fall of 2020, when requested funds were withheld from the Postal Service, there was a slowdown of mail delivery, and thousands of baby birds died.  This news was confirmed at

At the Postal site, I also discovered the requirements for shipping other live animals through the mail, such as Live Bees, Adult Birds, Live Scorpions, and Small, Harmless, Cold-Blooded Animals.

Who Knew!!!  The requirements are very specific, including general requirements that they must be able to make the trip without need for food, water, or attention while in transport, they must not create sanitary problems, and they must not create obnoxious odors.  If you are curious about more details, you may check the U.S. Postal Explorer.

As for the picture posted on face book by my friend, it may have truly depicted the mailing of a child, and that was briefly possible in 1913; however, the full reality of those cases would indicate that such mail delivery was not evidence of neglectful parents who took their child to the post office to be weighed and slapped the required stamps on their clothing and carelessly sent them on their way! 

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Sandhill Plum Season Again!

Photo credit:  Lyn Fenwick

 The 2019 sandhill plum season was terrific, and I can't remember how many jars of sandhill plums I made.  We shared them with friends across the United States.  

Unfortunately, 2020 there was a late frost and it killed the plum crop.  We had shared most of the jelly I canned, and we were down to our last jar this spring.  We had a light freeze this year, and I was afraid that there would be no plums again.  I watched carefully, and I was delighted to see that the freeze had not killed the plums.  I could hardly wait!

Then, disaster struck!  Someone sprayed along both sides of our road, where I love to pick the plums.  If you remember an earlier blog, I photographed one particular area where the plums are particularly large.  That is one of those large plums hiding in the sprayed bushes.  Obviously, even if a few of the plums survived the spraying, we could not have risked eating them.

Credit:  Lyn Fenwick  (More Sprayed bushes)
My heart was broken.  A few days later I crawled over the fence and went into the pasture to see if there were plums there.  Fortunately, there were, and although picking in the overgrown pasture is not as pleasant, at least I knew were would be plums.

Our pasture is unplowed prairie, and since we don't have cattle, the plum bushes have practically taken it over.  We keep planning to get rid of some of the bushes, but we keep putting it off.  The creatures love it, and both times I walked up to check on the ripening plums, I scared up a deer.  

For those of you hunters who read my blog, it is posted NO HUNTING.

Photo Credit:  Lyn Fenwick
My husband kindly mowed around some of the bushes so I would not have to walk through the overgrown pasture, and when we checked on the progress of the ripening, he went with me to pick.  The plums on the right (more ripe) are from that first picking, and as you can see, they are smaller.  It took a great many of them to make only 5 1/2 small sized jars, and the taste is not as sweet.  That day's picking also resulted in a special surprise for me--two ticks!  Fortunately for me, I discovered both of them while they were wandering around on me looking for a juicy place to bite!  They have now gone to wherever ticks go when they die!

With only 5 1/2 small jars, and one of those definitely going to my sister-in-law, who had shared her cherries with me, my husband offered to go by himself to pick enough plums for an least another batch.  He was the one who discovered a bush in the pasture with the nice large plums like I usually pick along the fence--the ones I thought were lost forever!

The nice big plums needed some ripening, but in a couple days I was able to mix them with some of the smaller ones already picked, to make more jelly.  We should have enough jelly to get us through the winter...and maybe even another year if frost kills the 2022 crop!  The pasture has enough plums to share, for some of you local jelly makers, but cover up well and check for ticks as soon as you get home.  And, if you neighbors do decide to come picking, please check in at the house to let us know its you driving through our yard.  

(c) Lyn Fenwick, "State Fair Jelly