(Don’t) Quote Me on This

This week I read a quote of President Theodore Roosevelt’s used to support the view that requiring a child to wear a mask to school violated his rights as an American. He and other like-minded people were facing heat and personal attacks because of their stand.

Roosevelt’s words:

“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”

Now, TR did say that. It was in a speech from 1910. I can’t ask him, but I’m pretty sure he wasn’t talking about a mandate meant to save people’s lives. It is apparent to me that if doctors and nurses wear masks to prevent airborne diseases during surgery, average citizens can surely do the same to try to stop a pandemic never before faced by people on the earth. I would not fight for the “right” to keep my mask off. I might fight those who insisted it was an inherent freedom, however.

I always thought things worth fighting for were are basic rights which have already been fought for: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; freedoms of speech, press, and religion, and others outlined in the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

Anybody can google a famous quote and try to use it to support an opinion. It takes more effort to research the context and the times in which it was used. TR was speaking to the Iowa State Teachers’ Association in Des Moines. The Great War was looming in Europe.

Earlier in 1910, Roosevelt gave this speech in Paris, “The Man in the Arena.”

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

These words could also be misconstrued to support different beliefs. But let’s use common sense and responsibility to prioritize those beliefs, and to do battle for what really is important.

On Eagles’ Wings

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.

Image may contain: tree, plant, outdoor, nature and water
My first Indiana eagle.

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

Easy as Pie

Whoever coined that simile never made one.

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.

Image may contain: food
Grocery or Grandma’s?

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.

Image may contain: dessert and food
I guess it is a little easier to make a graham cracker crust for some pies.

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.

Image may contain: dessert and food
I had to give up on the wavy edge., using a fork to make it look decent.

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.

The Dirt

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 Tarbell: Muckraker, Journalist, Monopoly Critic

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.

File:Photo of Lincoln Steffens.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

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.

Here a Doodle, There a Doodle

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.

visual-alphabet

Andy Warhol, sketch. Courtesy of Schulson Autographs.
Andy Warhol
Steve Jobs. Courtesy of Schulson Autographs.

Steve Jobs

Mark Twain
Herbert Hoover
Dwight Eisenhower
Picture
I wish I were talented enough to create this doodle. classroom doodles.com

Information and doodles from: news.artnet.com, hungryjpeg.com, alfastudio,com, flickr.com, quartoknows.com, theatlantic.com, reddit.com, daringtolivefully.com, healthharvard.edu.

How Old is Old?

 

What's Your Real Age? | The Dr. Oz Show

doctoroz.com

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.”

–George Bernard Shaw

 

Man of Letters, Words, Phrases, Sentences, Books

 

Theodore Roosevelt Delivering Speech, Providence, Rhode Island ...

gettyimages.com

Theodore Roosevelt talked a lot.

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.

Mr. Tiger

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.

Al Kaline remembered for talent, graciousness | Baseball Hall of Fame

baseballhall.org

Happy Birthday Al Kaline!!! | 30-Year Old Cardboard

psacard.com

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.

Dated

Perfect title for a blog post. 

For a long time I wanted to use that word for a headline, and considered what the content might be. Pelted by Nicaraguan monkeys with fruit from a palm tree? Returning from a night out at the movies and a Big Boy restaurant in high school?  Or..

Better to go with the obvious.  The world tends to see us in the era we came from.  Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad, and sometimes it just is.  

A barrage of senior photographs on Facebook honoring this year’s graduates who won’t get to finish their studies on campus has prompted memories of the way things were.  Of hair, of clothing, of thinner faces and whiter teeth.  Many of us have crossed the bridge of seeing the difference in ourselves then vs. now.  I commented to a friend that he looked the same almost 50 years later.  “I wish,” he replied, but it was true to me.

When does something go out of fashion?  Not only clothing, but music, architecture, furniture, art, TV genres?  I remember one time the press hyped President Reagan for setting a new style when he wore a dapper suit.  Surely well-dressed men would follow.  Then he simply told them, “It’s an old suit.”

Take being cooped up at home, like most of us have been in the last month.  Is it dated to put together a puzzle, talk more to family, write letters, send packages, invent new games, and read what you put on the shelf two years ago for lack of time?  Notice I did not mention cleaning out closets.  If you did that, you’re on your own.  Cleaners and avoiders each stand the test of time.

What’s never out of style is noticing sunrises and sunsets and marveling at spidery leaves of a crocus among its lavender blooms.  Spotting red cardinals, blue bluejays, and hearing woodpeckers hammering on trees in the distance.  Looking at photos of wedding cakes and videos of baby giggles.  And rediscovering the echo of a train moving through a crossing nearby.

 

Vintage Schwinn Girls Bicycle

 

Objects on The Antiques Roadshow, American Pickers, and forgive me, Pawn Stars, date us when we recognize them as from “our time.”  Are they antiques?  I had a bike like that!

The black-and-whiteness of time discrimination dissolves a bit more, and turning off media reports helps, too.  When we get to get together again in person, may we keep in mind that the inside of all of us is more important than the outside.  And it is a privilege to have lived in whatever time from which we came.

 

 

Developing Story

Behind every story you read, there is another story of how it came to be.

If you think authors open their little notebooks and choose ideas from long lists they’ve been keeping…well, maybe some do.  But unusual and fascinating circumstances have perpetrated many of the tales we love.

When Madeleine L’Engle turned 40, she told herself she would quit writing and pay more attention to her children.  However, she reneged and completed a novel by the end of the year, submitting it to 40 publishers.   They all rejected it.  Then at a tea party she hosted for her mother, she presented one of the guests with a copy of that story (for children) which involved quantum physics.  He liked it.  In 1962 A Wrinkle in Time rolled off the presses.

Madeleine L'Engle

madeleinel’engle.com

Bennett Cerf, whom some of us remember from the old show What’s My Line,  bet Theodore Geisel $50 he couldn’t write a book with just 50 words.  The result was Green Eggs and Ham; Geisel won the bet, but Cerf’s publishing company won the contract.  Hope he shared more of it with Geisel, whose pen name was Dr. Seuss.

C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien once flipped a coin to choose new genres to write from.  While  Lewis’s space trilogy was very successful, Tolkien’s book on time travel was not.  Oh well, Bilbo made it up for him.

Successful ad writer Edmund Morris changed his focus and began writing a screenplay about Theodore Roosevelt and his ranch in the Badlands of North Dakota.  He kept finding more information, and more information, filling filing cabinets with meticulous note cards.  The resulting first book, The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, won the Pulitzer Prize for Literature in 1980.  He followed with two more volumes of the biography, carefully choosing which notes to use at the back, which are interesting to read in and of themselves.

nytimes.com

Several movies center around the writing process, one of which, All the President’s Men, starring Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman as green reporters, blatantly shows the guts of how a story comes into being.  Up Close and Personal, also starring Redford, deals with a young woman who becomes a network news anchor, showing how her storytelling expertise is built bit by bit.  The recent Man Who Invented Christmas with Dan Stevens unravels  how Charles Dickens created characters and the plot for A Christmas Carol.  He’d begun with the idea of exposing starved and overworked children in London.

The Man Who Invented Christmas | Kanopy

kanopy.com

I meant to write a book called Pure Act (the title from a Henry Adams’ quote) about Theodore Roosevelt, until I discovered what Mr. Morris had done.  So I narrowed my topic to TR’s passion for natural history as a child.  I wrote a beautiful four-page outline and never used it.   I started accumulating notes, like Edmund did — and those sources led to other sources, taking on a life of their own.

I wouldn’t say that stories write themselves.  I would say that the stories are there, though, and present themselves to writers who take time to make the mistakes necessary to bring them to readers.

Some factual information from electricliterature.com and medium.com.