Saturday in the Park, Part 2

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We were cautioned by a ranger in the road not to stop the car, but were allowed to slow it down.  Visible among the pine trees for a moment was a mother grizzly followed by two cubs, their silver fur glinting in the sun.  I had to blink to believe I really saw them.

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Another animal I’d not seen before was the bighorn sheep.  We found some over by Roosevelt Lodge (Tower Falls), in the same area TR did in his visit in 1903.

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Bison are beautiful.  The babies like to jump and dance in the evening.

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Guess you’re never too young to play!

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A raven drops in to see the black wolf the photographers are lined up for in Lamar Valley.

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Iconic elk rest peacefully on ledges of iconic Mammoth Hot Springs.

After an expedition to Yellowstone in 1870 escorted by Captain Doane from Fort Ellis in Montana, members of Congress and President Ulysses S. Grant designated it as our first national park.  The people of the United States would now be able to experience nature in its pristine form, and look forward to their grandchildren doing the same.

In 1903 President Theodore Roosevelt made Pelican Island off the coast of Florida a national bird preserve, rapidly setting aside more than 230 million acres for national parks and monuments.  In 1906 the Antiquities Act which he and Chief Forester Gifford Pinchot plotted swiped treasure from under the noses of miners, loggers and developers before they could profit from it.  TR said the land could never be improved upon.

This Spring, the Antiquities Act is being tampered with.  Of course, they wouldn’t dare take away any land already preserved just to make someone richer.

Would they?


Look at these websites for a discussion of recent actions on the Antiquities Act of 1906:

Saturday in the Park, Part 1

I wasn’t wishing it was the Fourth of July, because by then in Yellowstone National Park the landscape would be shades of brown and the animal life higher and out of view.  As it was, our trip during the second week of May to this famous natural ecosystem in Wyoming and Montana turned out to be a boom time to see and photograph big game animals.



At Mammoth Hot Springs we watched a group of elk, some drinking from a stream and some resting.

Hopefully their thick robes kept these bison warm enough in their crossing of the icy river.


The introduction of wolves to Lamar Valley has been controversial; their numbers have increased while the elk numbers have decreased.  Photographers line up en masse with powerful lenses on tripods.  I married my camera to a telescope and got a clearer view of two wolves working on a bison carcass.  An injured black wolf, possible an Alpha female, was causing a bit of commotion closer to the road.

Yellowstone Lake is still mostly frozen in May.  But deep underneath, seismic activity abounds and is closely monitored.

Almost to the Cooke City entrance on our way out of the park, we spotted these two young moose.


Next time: “You may slow your car, but do not stop.  There are grizzlies ahead…”

Old West Larnin’

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Old-fashioned swing outside a one-room schoolhouse built in 1867.

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There was a gold strike in the 1860s at Alder Gulch in central Montana.  It drew thousands of miners, who panned and dredged an estimated $30 million worth of the precious mineral.  At first, camps consisted of tents and primitive brush shelters, but soon small towns sprang up around the merchant trade.  The boom also drew Confederate sympathizers who schemed to send gold back to their people in the last days of the Civil War.

Fast forward 150 years.  The mining heyday lasted about ten years; people moved away and the towns fell into disrepair.  But history lovers have put two back together so the public could see the Old West in person.  Today one of the small downtown areas close to Alder Gulch is the popular Virginia City, where you can see Boot Hill above the main street and learn of vigilantes who went after cattle thieves (and be entertained by musicals, homemade ice cream, old time music machines and souvenier shopping).  The other is Nevada City, an outdoor living history museum of 90 restored buildings.  Here children and adults alike learn about pioneer life and the events that shaped it.

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Among the general store, livery, bootmaker and other structures stands a one-room schoolhouse which was dismantled from the town of Twin Bridges.  It is the oldest standing school in the state.  Beginning in 1867, pupils walked past the red door to read spellers, practice arithmetic on slates, and learn cursive writing. 

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In the next three months, a wooden sidewalk will lead thousands of visitors past the schoolhouse and other buildings which, combined, teach of a different time and way of life.  Thanks to the State of Montana, which owns it, and the Montana Heritage Commission, which keeps it going, the larnin’ goes on.





Or, The Trouble With Blogging

There are aspects of blogging that really bug me.  For example:

  • In the interest of scholarly research I try to cite sources, especially for photos and graphics.  But some of the best ones are on Pinterest, which directs you to someone’s blog.  Often the author doesn’t tell where it originated from.  Aarrgh!
  • The mechanics of the program I use set the first version in stone on notification emails.  This petrified original photo and blurb don’t change if I find a mistake and correct it, which Facebook will update.  So if you get an email message about a new post on either of my blogs, and something looks out of whack, I probably corrected it.  At least let’s say I did.
  • When I share my blog on FB, sometimes I forget to change the audience to “public” and only my friends can see it.  I WANT the public to see it.  I’ve received several messages from people in groups I’m in saying my attachment is unavailable, which prompts me to change the setting.

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  • And then there’s blogger’s block.  Same as writer’s block, but I couldn’t resist the alliteration.  Blogger’s block.  That felt good.  Sometimes I think there are no more interesting subjects to write about.  Then my brain gets going again after a meeting I attend, a conversation I have, a movie I watch, a book I read…  And yes, sometimes a random Google search for something else gives me an idea I hadn’t thought about before.
  • I would really like to have a nice, hard copy of my blog year by year.  As yet I know of no one that provides this service, aside from printing and binding it myself.  If I were rich and employed a secretary, I’d have him/her do it and throw the cost to the wind.

We’ll see if the time between writing and publishing this post is proportionate to the number of “blirksome things” I think of.  I bet not.  There are some pitfalls, but more benefits, to writing a blog.  I like it.

Any of my fellow bloggers have a pet peeve?


Well Worn

It has never been easier to get dressed than it is today.  After browsing online stores, we narrow our choice of an article of clothing according to design, size and color.  Click!  It’s on the front porch in a few days.  What would our ancestors think of that?  Subsisting for them meant making what they wore (as well as what they ate and a place to live) from scratch.

Eons before stretch denim jeans and synthetic Dryfit shirts, people had to first think about where the thread came from.  Then they wove it into sheets of fabric, and finally, constructed a garment, whether it be dress, trousers, shirt, or scarf.

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For his inauguration in 1789, George Washington didn’t want to wear anything made of imported fabric.  His brown suit was wool and cotton broadcloth (“homespun”) with a nap which resembled velvet, woven in Hartford, Connecticut.


The long, warm growing season of the South in which cotton flourished was a cause with far-reaching effects.  Large plantations required many workers, and owners resorted to buying slaves to cultivate and harvest their crops.  The situation almost prevented our country’s beginning; the divisiveness of northern and southern states led to the the Civil War less than a hundred years later.  Cotton remains a staple in today’s world, but it now comes from developing countries.

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Spinning Wheel

An encouragement to industry, this 1749 English engraving also shows something of eighteenth-century clothmaking.

Eighteenth Century engraving of industrial cotton loom.

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Indigo-dyed homespun coverlet from the 1800s.


Synonymous with a bride’s dowry, linen was in the makeup of fine bedding, tablecloths, blouses and underwear (ancient Egyptians used it to wrap mummies).  The flax plants from which it comes were raised by early colonists.  In recent times, according to Purdue University, it has been commercially grown in a few north central states for oil rather than fiber.

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Flax being harvested for linen thread.


Silk speaks an exotic language through its texture and heritage.  Ancient China produced fine silk fabric for centuries before American colonists imported silkworms and mulberry trees to try and produce their own.  The experiment didn’t have much success.

Nineteenth Century engraving of the process which produced silk cloth.

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Silk scarf made in France in the late 1700s.


The natural coat which keeps sheep warm has transferred its insulating power to humans throughout history.  New England colonists including the John Adams family raised sheep for wool, which they sheared off, cleaned and carded, spun into yarn, dyed and wove into fabric.  Native Americans, too, were skilled in making woolen garments and blankets.

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First Phase Navajo chief’s blanket of finely woven wool.  In 2002 it was appraised at the Antiques Road Show for over $300,000, and sold at auction for over half a million dollars.


Original residents of this country hunted deer, tanning and sewing with sinew their jackets and heavy leggings.  In the Revolutionary War some regiments wore buckskin uniforms.  Fringed shirts of our Indian brothers also became a symbol of mountain men, cowboys, and the West.

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Theodore Roosevelt in his custom-made buckskin shirt, 1884.

The subject of leather brings us into a whole ‘nother realm: shoes.  You can bet that between online window shopping sessions for my next pair of Nikes, I’ll be looking into the heritage of footwear.


Made Up

Dabbling in the history of cosmetics…

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Would you rub lead powder all over your face?  Or arsenic?  How about dried cat dung?  Women have always tried to make themselves look more appealing, and records of the past reveal how far they were willing to go.

Living in hot, windy Egypt 4,000 years ago naturally dried out the skin (just as it does today).  Queens Cleopatra and Neferteri applied castor oil to soften their faces, and ground up certain rocks to decorate them.  Malachite, a kind of copper, served as green eye shadow; black kohl outlined the eyelids of the images we’ve seen in drawings.  Ancient Greek girls came up with ingenious fake eyebrows made of ox hair.  The Romans mixed thyme, marjoram and rosemary in their olive oil beauty treatments (did they take the leftovers and go broil a chicken for supper?)  Geishas in Japan of long ago wore lipstick which included crushed safflowers.

Queen Elizabeth I of England was famous for her pale look, dubbed, “the mask of youth.”  She put a mixture of white vinegar and lead on her face to cover up the ravages of smallpox she had in her twenties.  Other ladies lightened their complexions with egg whites and dyed their hair red with henna.  For a hair remover, they ground dried cat dung and mixed it with strong vinegar.

A few hundred years later, Queen Victoria proclaimed that using makeup was immoral.  She associated it with ladies of the night and stage actresses.  When motion pictures were invented, the lights required special makeup so faces wouldn’t be washed out on screen.  From silent pictures to the first talkies and on to glamour days of the 1930s and 40s, female movie stars were identified with their makeup.

Max Factor had opened a professional studio for actresses in California in 1909, and soon ordinary women were coming in to buy his products.  During World War II, lipsticks were most popular because they were colorful and inexpensive.  Other makeup containing petroleum and alcohol were unavailable because those ingredients were being used in the war effort.

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Glam: Marlene Dietrich.

Nobody who saw Twiggy on her first magazine cover in 1966 will ever forget it.  A totally unique look, her haircut and false eyelashes were done on the spur of the moment, and it went viral.  She didn’t wear it long, but the teenagers of the world did.

Then came the 70s when many girls stopped wearing makeup, and some never started.  Oh, perhaps occasionally, but even if the FDA prohibits lead and arsenic in those products, can any of them be good for your pores?

Today’s cosmetic looks run the gamut of soft and sweet to dark and Gothic, with most somewhere in between.  I won’t even get started on supermodels.  I do not pretend to be an expert on this subject, but as my husband says, “If a barn needs painting…”

Good Dishes

I love china.  Most of all I love the pieces which have belonged to my family, some for generations.  Each one, whether I have others to match it or not, has a special place in my heart.  The plate, cup and saucer of the Lenox “Harvest” pattern below belonged to my Great-Aunt Elsie, who grew up in rural Steuben County but moved away when she was married.  I think she chose it because it reminded her of the farm.

Elsie’s mother, Maria (pronounced with a long i), had a soup tureen which passed into my mother’s hands and then mine.  It is heavy, white stoneware.  I can imagine holiday dinners when Great-Grandfather lifted the squash handle and dished out hot food to his strapping sons.

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Delicate Depression Glass, like this fruit bowl of my dad’s mother’s, to me suggests a charmed life with tea parties and society ladies.  Far from it.  She did hard physical labor inside and outside the house.  But she liked pretty things.

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 Because I inherited her name, my maternal grandmother’s place setting of her grandmother’s transferware came to live in my china cabinet.  It traveled from England to America on a sailing vessel in 1843, according to a  handwritten note taped to the bottom of the saucer.  I photographed it (as well as the fruit bowl) on a linen tablecloth which Margaret Edith Beck tatted before she was married.  The transferware pattern is Canova, named for a sculptor; in the center of the design is always a large urn.

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Before I was married, I chose a china pattern.  Had I been a little older I may have selected something different.  But it was what I liked then, and so I cherish it because of those special days of looking forward to house and family and making more memories.  Are brides today choosing good china?  Is it practical to have a special set of dishes when time is so limited and schedules permit only the fastest ways to get things done, so time may be better enjoyed?  I don’t know.

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I had planned to include research about the source of Early American china, and how manufacture and sale of dishes have changed throughout the years.  But I think I’ll leave these photos as they are, with their special owners attached, and let them speak for themselves.  It is my history.  That is enough for now.