What do you know about the horse George Washington rode? In paintings we usually see a majestic white animal complementing the general’s stature, hair and blue and gold uniform. Washington was reported to be a superb equestrian, an athlete like Tom Brady or Wayne Gretsky would be to us. But the the actual steed? Its name? Its height? How long it lived?
Washington actually used two horses during the American Revolution: Nelson, shown above, and Blueskin, shown below. Nelson was George Washington’s preferred mount in battle because he was less skittish than part-Arabian Blueskin.
Then, as now, horses were at their best when cared for by farriers, blacksmiths and veterinarians. We can know one of those who took care of Nelson and Blueskin, because a descendant is in possession of original letters and documents.
Kenneth Clarke, who lives in Ohio, had often heard family stories about an ancestor’s connections to George Washington. During the American Revolution Clarke’s fifth great-grandfather, Simeon Prior, shod Washington’s horse and served as the general’s bodyguard. Clarke’s elderly relative left him papers over 200 years old describing some very early history of our country.
Clarke reveals much in his recent book, Wolves and Flax. The title comes from the fact that the Prior family, Simeon and Katharine and several children, had to raise flax instead of wool in the wilderness of Cuyahoga Falls for their livelihood. Too many wolves destroyed the sheep.
Historians, writers and history buffs are always ready to investigate a previously unknown primary source. If you are in this group, I suggest getting a copy of the book.
Nelson and Blueskin lived out their days at Mount Vernon, never having to work after the war. The chestnut-colored Nelson, who was 16 hands tall and died at 27, always came running when he heard Washington’s call. Just like us when we find that there is new information about the Father of our Country.
There were once three farmers named George, Tom, and John. Two were located in southern climates with long growing seasons and fertile soil; one was much further north, limited in the crops he could choose. In fact, later in life, he started planting trees instead of hay.
They lived in colonial times when over 90 percent of the population were farmers. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams we know as our first three presidents, but each owned and operated farms before, during and after they held office.
Mount Vernon is Washington’s famous estate on the Potomac River in Virginia. In his day it included five farms on 8,000 acres. When he was at home, he rode on horseback 20 miles across the fields and back to inspect their progress. When in New York or Philadelphia, he counted on weekly reports from his overseers.
After tobacco crops of his ancestors depleted the soil, Washington turned to grasses, wheat, and other grains, practicing crop rotation and using manure for fertilizer. He raised cattle, sheep, chickens and mules, which he said ate less and worked harder than horses. His love for horses prompted him to buy an Arabian stallion which he raced in Alexandria. Hogs and turkeys ran loose in the woods.
He had inherited some slaves at age 11; at the time of his death he owned 215 people of color who worked up to 14 hours per day in the fields. He also hired white farm hands.
Not far away on a mountain, Thomas Jefferson worked his farms like a scientist, experimenting and recording the results of growing 70 species of vegetables and 176 kinds of fruit trees. Some seeds he’d gathered in Europe while ambassador to France.
His experiments caused the neighbors to label him “the worst farmer in Virginia.” He installed a 10 foot-high wooden fence around his Monticello gardens, “not to let even a young hare in.” His plantation also included 5,000 acres of clover and grain which he inspected daily, noting the difference to the soil made by contour plowing, crop rotation and organic fertilizer. His stock included cows, pigs, sheep, chickens — and fish, which were maintained in “live wells.”
Like Washington he inherited slaves from his family and his wife’s family, growing to 600 in number, who did the major work in the fields.
God speed the plough and prosper the stone wall. — John Adams
John Adams differed in many ways from Washington and Jefferson. He owned at various times a fraction of their real estate, 40 to 100 acres called “Peacefield” in Massachusetts. As a young man, his father took him to the fields and had him work to exhaustion. “Well John, are you satisfied with being a farmer?” he asked.
His son replied, “I like it very well.” His father said, “Well, I don’t…so you will go back to school today.” He graduated from Harvard University when the student body only numbered 100, and became a lawyer and judge. He used profits from his practice to buy more land, and on the circuit made a point of gathering new information about working it. In a letter he gave a recipe for fertilizer which contained seaweed, marsh mud, potash, dung and kitchen waste.
When Adams was far from home in various government offices, he left the management of the farm to his wife, including purchasing and selling land (See a former post on Abigail – Nabby – Smith at https://amazingbirdcollection.wordpress.com/2017/04/04/nabby/). In one of the surviving 1100 letters they wrote to each other, he said, “I fear your crop of hay falls short. Contrive every means for the maintenance of the stock and increase food for the cattle.” Other animals they owned included horses, sheep and chickens.
The Adamses had no slaves, hiring workers when needed. In his last years, John reflected, “There is nothing to try men’s souls nor to excite men’s souls but Agriculture…God speed the plough and prosper the stone wall.”
George Washington emancipated his slaves at his wife’s death. He had said in 1786, “I never mean to possess another slave by purchase,” and also that he would have liked to see a plan adopted by Congress in which slavery would be abolished by slow, sure progress.
Thomas Jefferson gave seven of his slaves, all members of the Hemmings family, their freedom, but did not include Sally, who is said to have bore him several children. The rest of the enslaved people at Monticello were sold at auction to eight different bidders to pay back Jefferson’s debts. The man who wrote that all men were created equal in 1776 had once likened slavery to holding a wolf’s ear — one could neither hold him, nor safely let go.
This is a season of reflection. In late summer gardens and flowers wither, dropping their last unpicked fruit and blooms. While there are still warm rays from the sun, thoughts of tillers and planters turn to clearing out and getting the dirt ready for next spring.
Washington, Jefferson and Adams all knew the feeling. We must not lose or hide the example they showed replenishing the earth.
But to own another person to do the work was not, and will never be, right.
~ ~ ~
Information for this post came from John Adams by David McCullough, smithsonianmag.com, mountvernon.org, whitehousehistory.org, masshist.org, arnoldin.arboretum.harvard.edu, bostonteapartyship.com, monticello.org, nps.gov/articles.
Leslie Gore’s hip song of the 60s has nothing to do with politics, but its opening words are strangely appropro today. The complete line is, “It’s my party, and I’ll cry if I want to,” which many Americans are feeling when it comes to Republicans and Democrats.
Perplexed at who to vote for because we don’t agree with all of anybody’s platform, what are we supposed to do? Not vote at all?
Would you be surprised to know that our founding fathers were opposed to political parties? “Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party generally,” George Washington said in his 1797 farewell address.
The next president, John Adams, dreaded nothing so much as a “division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other.”
Then came Thomas Jefferson, who pretty much caused the big split as he disagreed with Alexander Hamilton on how much power the federal government should have. “A man under the tyranny of party spirit is the greatest slave upon the earth, for none but himself can deprive him of the freedom of thought.” Of course, he was speaking of the party he opposed.
James Madison, our fourth president and Father of the Constitution, warned of “mischiefs of factions” and believed that the government could prosper without parties. “I have always considered their existence as the curse of the country,” he stated.
George Washington chose Hamilton for Secretary of the Treasury and Jefferson for Secretary of State, hoping he could get the opposing leaders to work together in the country’s interest. Hamilton wanted a national bank, and more federal power, which he got. Jefferson, the Virginian, who wanted more power for the states, believed New England would benefit financially at the expense of farmers.
The first two political parties were the Federalists and Anti-Federalists, which soon were known as the Whigs and the Democratic-Republicans.
In 1828 the Democratic-Republicans became the Democrats. Andrew Jackson won on their ticket. In 1834 the Whigs became the National Republicans, and by Abraham Lincoln’s election in 1860 we were in our current two-party system, the Democrats and the Republicans. The big issue then was, of course, slavery. Other issues, including entering the first world war, the Great Depression, and abortion, have headlined the liberal and conservative divide since then.
Third party experiments have been compared to bees: “They sting, then they die after one or both parties restructure in response.” An example is Theodore Roosevelt’s Progressive (Bull Moose) Party, second in 1912 to the Democrats and Woodrow Wilson. Businessman Ross Perot took 20 million votes away from Bill Clinton and George Bush Sr. in 1992.
Party bosses such as the Daleys of Chicago and the Tweeds of New York fulfilled some John Adams’ fears.
A topical list of the roles of a political party includes: running candidates for office, checking the other party, informing the public, and organizing the government. One source states that what they agree on are liberty, equality and individualism, maintaining the Constitution, and the election process. After the last election, who is sure of any of that?
Yuval Levin, a director at the American Enterprise Institute, stated in March of this year: “Trust in our highest institutions is broken..a lot of elite journalists now step out on their own onto a platform like Twitter…building their own following.” I remember concluding in a paper I wrote in college that the biggest thing affecting mass media in the future would be the public’s relationship with them. I wasn’t far off.
Remember the absence of civility in the 2016 presidential debates? Civility is, as defined by Martin Luther King Jr.: “If you want to persuade your enemy, you must redeem your enemy.” Other advice includes these statements: The people you disagree with will still be there tomorrow, so don’t cut every tie. We shouldn’t disagree less, we should disagree better.
“We can only do good by not trying to do the impossible good,” Theodore Roosevelt said, under the theme of Practical Politics.
Voters have traditionally changed their thinking as they age. When young they leaned toward the Democrats, but turned towards the right as they experienced home ownership, marriage and children. In 2020 many red states turned blue, possibly showing a switch in attitudes of Generation Xers and Milleniums.
Maybe in the mess, someone who was never elected to anything had the best idea: “In truth, I care little about any party’s politics — the man behind it is the important thing.” –Mark Twain
May better men step up to leadership of our country. We can still hope.
A puffy grey fledgling balanced on the side of a giant tower, focusing its already keen eyes on a new environment. Hatched in Alaska, it had been brought to Monroe Lake near the IU Bloomington campus in Indiana. The year was 1985.
Eagles had been disappearing from the state for one hundred years. In the new century, their habitats were destroyed and new pesticides, particularly DDT, poisoned their food so that shells of their eggs were too thin to let the babies grow. In 1973, the year the Endangered Species Act was passed, there were only three eagle sightings recorded in Indiana.
But then – in 1983, a thorough proposal was made, the Indiana Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Program (you can see it online) to re-establish the eagle population. Two years later, 73 eaglets were brought from Alaska and Wisconsin, placed in a 25 ft. nest tower at Monroe Lake, and fed until they were 12 weeks old when they could fly.
In 1991 there were successful eagle nests at Monroe Lake and Cagles Mill Lake – the raptors don’t lay eggs until they are four years old – and by 1998 there were new nests in nearby counties of Tippecanoe, Posey and Brown.
Fast forward to 2021. Eagles are now off the Endangered List in Indiana, although they are still protected by state and federal laws. Last year there were 350 nest territories within our borders.
I’d heard people talk about spotting them, but l don’t know, maybe I was waiting for a time when one just happened by. The thing is, they need a river for their mostly-fish diet and we don’t have one in our back yard.
Last week a friend posted on Facebook about eagles she and her husband saw on Salamonie Lake, about an hour’s drive away. We also discovered that near the small town of Andrews there were some by the Little Wabash River. My husband and I needed to get out of the house, so we took a drive. Poking along a dirt road, I spotted what looked like a whirligig high on a branch. We backed up. There it was, the first eagle we had ever seen in Indiana.
We watched it from the recommended football field distance (and it was probably watching us) until it flew away. Its wingspan was five or six feet. Then we moved down the road aways and saw two others resting on a small sandbar in the water, presumably waiting for a cold fish dinner.
The record for a Haliaeetus leucocephalus or bald eagle life length is 38 years; Eagle #C43 was spotted in 2018 in Monroe County at 30 years old. She was one of the eaglets from Whitestone Harbor, Alaska released in 1988.
The proposal which resulted in the re-introduction success cited a lot of education: posters, tours, AV programs in schools, press kits, displays at public boat launching sites, seminars, and films. I hope its writers and researchers have received due honors for bringing the national bird back to Indiana. It was well worth the effort.
Information from: my-indiana-home.com, fws.gov/midwest/eagle/recovery, in.gov/dnr
I have been trying to make a simple, flaky piecrust like my mother’s for ** years. Just flour, salt, Crisco and water, mixed with her hands, it is always delicious, especially with McIntosh apple filling between the double layers.
I have resorted to the Pioneer Woman’s recipe which you can get online, and by rolling it out between two pieces of waxed paper can accomplish an acceptable result. But the added ingredients expand the wavy edge and keep it from looking like I shaped it with my thumb and forefingers before it went into the oven.
A long time ago I tried a recipe which used cooking oil, and pressed it into the pan like Play-Doh. It tasted like Play-Doh. I wouldn’t recommend it.
I do use refrigerated crust from the grocery store at times, but don’t consider that a homemade pie.
Do you have an all-time favorite made-from-scratch filling? Mine would be pumpkin, Dutch apple, banana cream (stirred in the double boiler) and sugar cream. Glazed fresh strawberry pie marks a special summer dessert time at our house. Though I have a recipe for the glaze, I also use Wick’s, which probably contains more red dye than I want to think about. Who remembers the ban on red food coloring?
The oven temperatures which result in a set but not runny end product can be tricky. Some instructions tell you to start out high, then turn to medium for the duration. The knife test in the middle always certifies the state of the filling. A century ago farm ladies had to be even more skilled to keep their wood-fired ovens at an even heat for pies, cakes, cookies and bread.
Even with the unusual circumstances of holiday celebrations this year, you can bet there will be pies on many tables. If yours are homemade, consider yourself fortunate. There is no shame in buying a Christmas pie. I guess in that case, it is easy.
We are so tired of negative news. That blanket statement, I believe, is based on the experience of most of us.
But do you remember the term “muckrakers” from high school or college history class? I always paralleled them with writers who liked to dig up dirt on other people, more specifically really bad dirt that you’d find in an animal’s stall on a farm.
President Theodore Roosevelt assigned that word, which he found in Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, to certain journalists. Historical accounts say that he was talking about an unusual reporter, Ida Tarbell, and her colleagues at McClure’s Magazine in the early 1900s. But not so fast.
Ida Minerva Tarbell (thoughtco.com)
Tarbell was different, for one thing, because she was a female professional writer. Most women of the day married and took care of their families for the rest of their lives. But Ida loved science as a high school student, going on to study at Allegheny College in Pennsylvania. She was one of five female students on campus and the only one in her freshman class.
She worked as a teacher for a time, and then as an editor for a regional publication. Then she sailed to France to see more of the world. Sharing a small flat with friends, eking out a living as a freelance writer, she produced remarkable work, including biographical sketches of Madame Roland and Napoleon. Samuel McClure convinced to to move back to New York to write for the magazine named for himself.
McClure was not an ordinary publisher. He gave his writers two very important things to carry out their assignments to the best level they could: time and money. To Tarbell fell the job of to investigating John D. Rockefeller and Standard Oil Company, a story which grew into 23 installments, a book, and ultimately anti-trust legislation in America.
Ray Stannard Baker (thoughtco.com)
Ray Baker, another prolific member of the McClure’s team, wrote a series about the manipulation of union members. He was described as a good listener whom “you could not ruffle or antagonize.”
Lincoln Steffens, more outspoken, was fascinated by the relationships between the police and politicians, the law and city officials, and business and the church. Readers were drawn to his stories, which included the corruption of politicians in Minneapolis and Cleveland.
Lincoln Austin Steffens (wikimedia.org)
In two separate 1906 speeches, Theodore Roosevelt lambasted “muckrakers.” He later said he was talking about employees of William Randolph Hearst’s Cosmopolitan. In a letter to a friend, he wrote, “Hearst edited a large number of the very worst type of sensational, scandal-mongering newspapers…he preaches the gospel of hatred, envy and unrest…cares nothing for the nation, nor any citizen in it.”
As a point of reference, one of Hearst’s writers, David Graham Phillips, wrote a scathing story called “Treason of the Senate.” Author William Harbaugh later said that TR was just plain afraid that the reform movement was getting out of hand.
Of course newspapers were defensive in general. Public sentiment was leveraged toward the institutions and corporations being attacked. Baker lost respect in many ways for TR, later becoming an advisor to Woodrow Wilson. Steffens ended his career sympathetic with communism.
In a simple analysis, the muckraker speech backfired on President Roosevelt. He didn’t mention it in his autobiography but he did say a lot about “practical politics,” which means the philosophy of giving consideration to both corporations and individuals.
And Ida Tarbell, in her memoirs, chided TR, whom she felt “had misread his Bunyan.” The man with the muck rake was an allegory for someone who “would only peer down at the debris and dust” — rather than looking up to his purpose in life.
Tarbell, Baker and Steffens left McClure’s soon after TR’s speech, a move probably not directly caused by it. Their boss was scheming for a large, multi-faceted corporation with which they could not agree. The three writers bought another magazine in New York for which they wrote and edited several more years.
Today scandals in government and big business seem more common and dirty than ever. Most writers of a century ago would be indignant, even embarrassed, of what now appears in print and on the the nightly news. Twenty-four hour a day cable channels and social media have desensitized many readers so that the bad stuff becomes larger and more visible. But least for Tarbell and others like her, the old word “muckraker” did not do justice. She said she should instead be called an historian. And there are still a few investigative journalists around who would agree.
Doodlers of the world, unite! We’ve always known what people say now, that doodling is a healthy outlet for a writer. It enhances creativity, increases productivity, helps concentration, and stimulates areas of the brain that are dormant. Some say that it alleviates stress and calms the amygdala, thereby helping process our emotions.
I don’t know. I just like to doodle. In high school and college, if I could find those noteboks, I doodled all over the pages. Usually it started with drawing borders around important words, but then elevated to symbols and pictures. And when I studied, I think the graphics helped me remember the information.
I remember that my sixth grade teacher told a story about a boy that had been in her class years before. He was always doodling at his desk (which I don’t think she discouraged). Anyway she said she’d just received an invitation to attend an exhibit of his work in an art gallery.
Famous doodlers include Queen Victoria, Theodore Roosevelt, Ernest Hemingway, Claude Monet (who woulda thought?), Marlon Brando, and Presidents Hoover, Eisenhower and Kennedy. I imagine George W. Bush was and is, as his artwork is pretty good.
A squiggle may or may not be just a squiggle. It could be a Freudian slip. It might mean the person with the pencil isn’t paying attention to the speaker at all, completely lost in his own thoughts. There’s even a theory that a doodle says something about the author according where it’s drawn on the page.
I just think they’re fun.
Information and doodles from: news.artnet.com, hungryjpeg.com, alfastudio,com, flickr.com, quartoknows.com, theatlantic.com, reddit.com, daringtolivefully.com, healthharvard.edu.
I am overdue to shop for a new smart phone. I bought the I-4 about six years ago, but it still works fine, and the photos I take with it parallel my SLR.
But people wonder that I haven’t traded it in for something newer. Can you imagine, in the 1920’s, a five-year-old telephone being considered old?
When thinking about the consequence of the passing of years, many things can come to mind. Books, for instance. A classic is a book that stands the test of time, we were taught. It’s true – you can read a Newbery Award winner from 50 years ago and marvel at its fresh, unique style.
Movies, television — film noir and old sitcoms — can be just as enjoyable as the first dates they aired. I never tire watching the tap dancing in Yankee Doodle Dandy, or laughing at Fish in Barney Miller.
And why is it that horses, dogs and cats have their years telescoped into a fraction of ours? It doesn’t seem fair: they live the same amount of hours we do, but run out of time much sooner.
Of course, I’m winding around to the subject of human age. “Sixty (or some other number) is the new forty,” we hear. The average age considered old for women is seventy-three, and for men seventy, a psychology magazine reports.
People like Dr. Oz talk about chronological age vs. real age. Some try to guess your age according to how you look.
I don’t base a lot of things on how I feel, for feelings are often fickle. But I do think that you are about as old as you feel. This can differ depending on the day.
It’s always been hard for younger people to understand this. They see what they see, and judge accordingly. I remember thinking how ancient I thought great-aunts and uncles seemed, when they were the age I am now.
Aging is a being-there experience, as we used to call our school field trips. You have to go through it yourself. You have to enjoy and weather the different decades of your life. I don’t know if it should be compared to earning something, but I guess more people work harder at getting through it.
I close these random thoughts with the best thing I read today:
You don’t stop laughing when you grow old, you grow old when you stop laughing.”
Six years ago when I started this blog, I wanted to publicize my study of our twenty-sixth president to a larger audience. I’d finished my book about his childhood as a naturalist but continued to find he was more fascinating with each new thing I read about him.
Not only did TR like to talk, but he put 35 books and 150,000 letters down on paper (not counting personal letters before and after his presidency). At one point, thinking his political career was going nowhere, he referred to himself as a “literary feller.”
You may or may not realize his common catchphrases still in use today. “Good to the last drop,” “the right stuff,” “throwing my hat into the ring,” and “lunatic fringe” came from him. His political programs, “The New Nationalism” and “The Square Deal” sound familiar, don’t they? Cousin Franklin, a TR wannabe from the time he was in college, combined them to make…The New Deal. Seems the country wasn’t ready to adopt Theodore’s progressive ideas until it was in such a hole in the 30s.
A good friend and superb re-enactor of Theodore Roosevelt, Larry Marple, set to sharing TR’s thoughts on his Facebook page during the past month. With his permission, I have copied some of them below. Larry and his wife, Julia, who portrays Edith Roosevelt, spend the summers in Medora, North Dakota, enlightening visitors about the Roosevelts’ time in the West.
“There is no effort without error and shortcoming…”
“There must be honesty in public life…”
“That land of the West has gone now…”
“Some of my supporters sent me a small bear…”
I will share more of these delightful vignettes in a future blog. Check out the Marples’ re-inactments on troosevelt1904.com.
At the corner of Michigan and Trumball Streets in Detroit stands a nice, new Police Athletic League baseball field. Its cheerful astroturf spreads out over a rebuilding neighborhood, taking up a fraction of what it replaced, the old Tiger Stadium.
Once a summer in the 1960’s, my dad would load up a few of us kids and his own dad to travel from our home in Indiana to a Major League game in the overgrown city. I remember the largeness of it, the old wooden seats and stairs, and the popcorn smell. But most of all, I remember the names of the players. Willie Horton, Bill Freehan. Mickey Lolich. Rocky Colavito (loved to roll that one around on my tongue). Norm Cash, Dick McCauliffe, and Don Wert. But always, always, there was one we looked forward to cheering for the most: Al Kaline.
Albert William Kaline joined the Tiger organization straight out of his Baltimore high school in 1953, and never left. Two years later he was the youngest player to win the American League batting title. A right fielder, he played in the All-Star game 15 times, won 10 Golden Glove Awards and was elected into the Hall of Fame the first year he was eligible, 1980. He played 22 seasons before retiring.
I guess what made Kaline, who passed away at age 85 last week, the hero to us was what a good guy he was. “I’ve always served baseball to the best of my ability,” he said. “Never have I deliberately done anything to discredit the game, the Tigers, or my family.” He didn’t have to tell us that, though. We knew.
Brooks Robinson said Kaline was the best all-around player he ever faced. The Detroit Free Press echoed that “he was a living monument of how gracefully baseball could be played.”
His #6 jersey was the first to be retired by the ball club. Wearing it he had racked up 3,007 hits and 399 home runs. In all, he scored over 1600 runs and drove in about as many. He was a consistent defensive player in the outfield.
It was a racially dishevilled Detroit in 1968 when they played in the World Series. Al had broken his arm that summer, and didn’t think he deserved to be in the lineup — but how could fans be denied a part for their favorite Tiger? And they beat St. Louis for the title.
He stayed with Detroit as a television and a radio announcer, side-by-side with George Kell and Ernie Harwell. Many warm Saturdays I would open the front screen door to the sight of my dad listening to them broadcast a game as he washed the car.
In 2018 there was a 50th Anniversary celebration at Comerica Park for the great 1968 team. My uncle, cousin, brother and I sat in “Kaline’s Corner” to see and hear the old players again.
It was just as exciting as it was in the 60s. Heroes are heroes. Al Kaline was a gift, another star to look up at. While readers may revere different baseball players, I, along with Mitch Albom and Jim Price, will always remember Mr. Tiger.
Information from AP reports and the Detroit Free Press.