Category Archives: History

Draw Two Sketches and Call Me in the Morning

Today’s post comes from Clyde

For twenty years I have been using various kinds of activities to ease my pain, especially rhythmic activities, which is why I rode a bike for so long. Which is why I drew/painted with pastels. I still don’t know if that is drawing or painting. I guess painting. However aging has taken both of those activities away from me. Life has added monumental stress and a diagnosis of migraines, which my neurologist says I have had for 30 years at least.

So I went back to art, at a much more forgiving level, sketching, in other words, at a level where I can accept the sudden jerks of my hands and my poor close range eyesight issues. I can be in a severe headache and force myself to sketch, get lost in the process, and then realize 15-30 minutes later how much lower my pain is. My neurologist is surprised by this. I pointed her towards the medical literature on it.

I sketch from photographs, some as old as 75 years. I get lost in the memory of the people, places, and events. Among my favorite are travel photographs, which I group together. So I thought I might spin off VS’s game. So can you identify, despite my poor hand where I was? Some are specific places, such as 1, 6, and 7. Or maybe you can identify the area or a similar area in 2, 3, 4, and 5. Two places should be easily identifiable to two Baboons, but then there is my weak art skill. A hint: I have only traveled in 46 states and four Canadian province.

December is proving to be a hard load to carry. How does December go for you?

Queens of Heart

On Thanksgiving morning, while enjoying my coffee and watching the parades, I discovered that there is a popular musical comedy on Broadway right now called Six – The Musical.  It’s about the six wives of Henry VIII.  Really?  Of his six wives, only one truly survived (Anne of Cleves) and came out of her marriage debacle in relatively good shape.  So now we have a musical about a wife cast aside, two wives beheaded, one wife dead from childbirth complications and his last wife, while surviving, also dead in childbirth after marrying again to a man whom history suggests only wanted her because she was the Queen Dowager.  Somehow all this death and destruction doesn’t seem like the stuff of comedic song and dance.  (Of course who would have thought the plight of five women accused of murder in Chicago would make for a compelling musical?)

If you look up “historical fiction” you’ll find definitions that all seem to include any story that takes place in the past but that’s just silly – unless it’s sci fi, set in the future, wouldn’t every book written be historical fiction after about a week in print?  I’ve always thought of “HF” was any re-working of a historical subject/figure.  Like Hillary Mantel’s book on Robespierre and Danton during the French Revolution (and all her Wolf Hall books as well).  Or King at the Edge of the World by Arthur Phillips.  Or The Other Boleyn Girl by Phillippa Gregory. And I haven’t read Nefertiti by Michelle Moran yet, but I’m pretty sure it’s mostly fiction and very little historical, since even Egyptologists admit to knowing extremely little about the ancient queen.

As these books sell well, I worry that future generations will think of the plots and characters as more historical than they really are.  Of course in looking up Six online, it looks like the plot doesn’t even attempt to portray history, so hopefully no one will come away thinking that wearing a choker to represent that you got beheaded is a meaningful fashion statement.

When was the War of 1812?

And Your Father Smells of Elderberries

I know you’re thinking it’s not possible for me to talk about Nashville any more than I have.  Wrong.  With the exception of three trips to St. Louis to see Nonny (two of them medical issues), I haven’t traveled anywhere since before pandemic.  For someone who worked in the travel industry for 30+ years, 3 years is a long time between trips so Nashville was actually pretty special.  And have I mentioned that I had a great time with my friend Pat?

On my first morning in the city, we went downtown to see the Frist Museum; there was a display for Japanese textiles that we wanted to see.  It’s not a large museum and all they do is special shows – no permanent galleries.  The day we were there just happened to be the very last day of a special display of armor from the middle ages – so lucky!

I’m not a fan of military strategy or warfare in general but the lengths that we humans will go to is just amazing.  Having never seen any kind of armor up close, I was amazed that so much of it was covered in remarkable artistry, carvings in silver and gold adorning a lot of pieces.  Trying to figure out how a knight would be able to see took quite a bit of doing and I don’t even want to think about what happens when you’re all suited up and nature comes a’ calling!

Despite having seen Camelot several times as well as Ivanhoe and Robin Hood, I hadn’t really paid much attention to the armor that horses wore.  A full suit of armor for a horse is called a bard or barding but the piece that amazes me the most is the chanfron – the face mask.  I’m thinking that there was probably an industry for training horses to wear face masks.  I doubt you could just stroll into the stall and have a horse accept this easily.

The other amazing thing to me is the naming of armor pieces.  Every single little piece has a name, even the part that covers the armpit – the besagew.  Many of the names come from the French – guessing that armor trends started in that part of Europe and spread?  Here’s another suit that I found interesting – not sure why we needed to be reminded of the anatomical features of the wearer.

Another friend of mind who lives in St. Paul knows an enormous amount about medieval warfare and I can’t wait to see her next and show her my pictures.  I’m guessing she already knows all the names of the pieces.  Maybe I’ll quiz her.

Did you ever want to be a knight in shining armor when you were a kid?

Looking Forward and Ahead

Today’s post comes from Ben.

Been nice, sunny, warm-(ish) weather this week and looks nice into the coming week. Good time to get all those outdoor summer projects finished up.

We ended the growing season with about 3000 GDU’s, +200 above normal. Last year was +511.

Rosie and Guildy are fine, but they barely come out of their pen, and they’re not mingling with the others, and it will certainly complicate winter chores if those two keep being so anti-social. In a slight attempt at unification, I moved their water buckets a few feet further away and took the fence down. We’ll see.

This week was all about getting the college show up and running. It opened Thursday. It was mostly ready. Set was finished (well, to a point) and the paint was dry. Costumes… well… we made do. And it wasn’t for lack of ambition or determination by the costumer, it’s just that, well, life happens. So, it wouldn’t do the director or I any good to get mad; we know she was trying. And we had a good laugh about how we would have handled this 20 years ago. I said I would have had to take his clipboard away. (The joke is he used to throw it across the stage. Course now it’s an iPad) Now we sigh, and we laugh, and we know it will work out somehow.) And we go home and complain to our spouses.

There’s always one set piece that’s a challenge. I have a ‘ball of fire’ that the Fire Troll pulls. (That joke was “Fire BOWL?” or “Fire BALL?”)  A wood frame, some plastic tubing wrapped around it, muslin soaked in paint covering it all. Painted yellows and reds.  And then inside some fans blowing streamers up to be flames. I can’t imagine why that didn’t work. Sounded like a good idea! Evidently there is a lot more physics involved in air movement than I imagined. This was my ‘do-fer’ one night.

I walk past these photos every day.

The farm in about 1930 something.

An arial view of the farm in the mid to late 1950’s.

My Grandparents, before my Dad was added to the mix so this is about 1924.

And then this family, my grandparents and uncles. Don’t know who they are, but I can’t get over how tiny the mother is! Eleven kids!

Ever had a ‘Tiny Grandma’?  

Have you mellowed or gotten feistier in the last 20 years? 

Bob’s Your Uncle

You all know that I am a little obsessed with Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie.  Just recently I finally splurged and purchased the David Suchet as Poirot version of Death on the Nile. I’ve watched it repeatedly since it arrived and despite having seen it previously, I was surprised to find the Simon Doyle character saying “Bob’s your uncle” in the market scene.  From context it clearly meant “there you have it” or “easy peasy”.  I was fascinated so headed to the internet to figure out exactly what it meant and where it got started.

The more prevalent explanation is that it came about when Robert Cecil, the Conservative British prime minister appointed his unqualified nephew Arthur Balfour as Chief Secretary to Ireland back in 1887.  Since Arthur was clearly not fit for the job “Bob’s your uncle” became the explanation about his selection.  Of course, this account is controversial as the phrase can’t be found in any print reference until almost 40 years later. But this is the etymology that I like.

So imagine my surprise when just two weeks later, in a restaurant in Chattanooga (during my trip to Nashville), I stumbled upon Bob’s Your Uncle Hard Cider on the menu.  I almost never do alcohol at lunch but I had to make an exception this time.  I even managed to remember the source of the name.

And as if “Bob’s your uncle” hasn’t fallen into my path enough, last week one of the YouTube channels that I follow did a list of popular idioms and it was titled “Bob’s Your Uncle”.  Apparently the phrase is fairly common in Britain, but crossing my path three times in a month seems remarkable. I keep telling myself it’s just a coincidence but….

What could the universe be trying to tell me?

Night Owl

l get occasional updates from Ancestry on various things related to my genetic history. For example, they have recategorized my genetic makeup to reflect that while many of my ancestors are from coastal Germany, a substantial amount of my DNA is from Sweden, Norway, and Denmark. They used to say I had all this DNA from the British Isles. I guess they decided that people from the British Isles have Swedish, Danish, and Norwegian DNA because the British Isles were invaded by the Scandinavians centuries ago. They also invaded and raided coastal Germany, hence my DNA similarities to the British.

Ancestry has started looking at genetic traits like risk taking and remembering dreams. I am supposedly average for those traits. Just this week, though, I got another update that says I am more likely than 80% of the population to be a night owl. I really believe it.

I have loved staying up late my whole life. I love sleeping in. I guess there are 24 genetic markers for sleep patterns like this. How on earth they can find out these things is beyond me, but it is nice to know I have an excuse for being so different from my early-bird husband and children.

Are you are early riser or a night owl? What personal traits would you like to blame on genetics?

Where in the World is VS?

A friend of mine recently re-located here and just moved into her new townhouse; she invited me to come down for a few days to visit.  Although I have been to this state, I’ve never been to this city before, despite having sent a few groups here over the years.  I’m looking forward to a few relaxing days of sightseeing and entertainment.

    • The city is named after a Continental Army general during the American Revolutionary War.
    • The person who first called the U.S. flag “Old Glory” lived here.
    • The largest songwriter’s festival in the world is held here.
    • There is a full-scale replica of the Greek Parthenon in this city.
    • President Theodore Roosevelt coined the phrase “good to the last drop” here.
    • This was the first city in the nation to be granted an FM-broadcasting license.
    • The first seeing-eye dog training school in the U.S. was founded here.

Where am I?  And if you know, what should I see while I’m here?

A Case of Mistaken Identity

I received several condolences from local people these last couple of weeks on the death of my mother. This was rather surprising, as my mother died in 2014.

There was a death notice in the local paper a couple of weeks ago for a Marilyn Boomgaarden. Well, the last name is correct, but the first name is not my mother’s, and I understand the confusion. Local folks thought she must be my mother because we have the same last name and there aren’t any other Boomgaardens in southwest ND. Marilyn was the wife of my dad’s cousin Irwin, and was briefly here in Dickinson to be close to her daughter, my third cousin. She moved here from Dell Rapids, SD.

My grandfather had eleven brothers and sisters, and if you encounter a Boomgaarden in Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota, or North Dakota, chances are really good they are my kin, especially if their last name has two a’s in it. It is a pretty odd name, although in Ostfriesen/Dutch it means orchard. The family was fairly close knit, and cousins kept track of each other, so I heard all about all Dad’s cousins growing up. I have yet to write to the person who sent a sympathy card to me and donated three bibles to the Salvation Army in my mother’s memory. Oh, to live in a small community!

Have you ever been mistaken for someone else? Do you have any close or distant relatives who live nearby you? What does your last name mean?

Page Turning Pariah

As a voracious reader, I depend a great deal on other folks’ recommendations.    Ten years ago I added a column to my reading spreadsheet – Inspiration.  When a finished title gets added to the spreadsheet I notate where I got the idea for reading the book.  If it’s a specific person, I list their name.  If it’s a bookclub selection, BBC, Illiterati or MIA.  If I actually remember where I first encountered the title, I enter that (Scientific American, Goodreads, CNN).  If it’s book off one of my various lists, that gets written in (Monarchs, Presidents, Banned, Newbery, Caldecott).  And, if by the time I finish a book (that’s a whole new blog topic – my over-curated library account), I don’t remember where I got the idea any longer, then O&A, Out & About, is the label.

All of this to say that I do take book recommendations seriously.  I’m pretty sure that I’ve read 75% of the books we’ve talked about on this blog, not because, as Steve used to say “VS has read everything” but because when somebody mentions a book on the Trail, I write it down or go to my library account immediately. 

I have a friend in Indianapolis who reads as much as I do and although we don’t always gravitate to the same thing, I’ve found most of his recommendations fascinatingly good reads.  (For example, I would never have picked up Countdown Bin Laden by Wallace & Weiss of my own accord, but since he spoke highly of it, I gave it a shot.  It was excellent and is likely to make my top ten this year.)  When he suggested a title that I had heard of from a few other folks, I picked it up from the library.  That’s when I found out that the title is also an Oprah Pick and has either won or been a finalist for just about every literary award out there.  93% of folks who have reviewed on Amazon have given it one or two stars.  Just 1% rated it with only one star.  This is unprecedented so I was really looking forward to getting into it – I even suggested it to my other book club.

I didn’t like it.  I didn’t like it to the point that if it hadn’t been a book club title, I might not have finished it.  It was WAY too long; it’s really two stories, related but distinct enough for two separate treatments.  Then there was the jumping around in the timeline, which I didn’t find to be well-handled. Too much repetitiveness; probably could have trimmed 50 pages by leaving out all references to “collard greens”.  But the biggest problem was that there wasn’t one likeable character in the entire book; 400+ years of story and 900+ pages of book, that’s a LOT of unlikeable characters. They ran the gamut from heinous to slightly sickening, but really not one really decent person among the lot of them. 

But it’s really hard to dump on a book that appears to be universally loved and admired.  REALLY hard.  And because I like to think I’m a discerning reader, it has made me wonder what’s wrong with me. What have I missed. In fact, I’ve been writing and re-writing this blog post in my head for two weeks trying to decide whether to name the book or just ruminate on feeling so out of step with what feels like the whole of humanity.  I do feel out of step a fair amount.  I’m not interested in fashion. I think reality TV is an abomination. Much of what is generally valued by current culture leaves me “meh”.

That’s why I am extremely grateful that I have found niches where I feel like I fit in, with good friends who think a bit more like I do.  This is one of those places, of course.  Thanks for all of you in my life and on the Trail who leave a place for my quirky self at the table! 

Tell me about the last book that you DIDN’T like.  (And if you’ve read the book I’m talking about and liked it, that’s OK… you’re in good company!!)


I like to read the historical events that happened on particular days, and one of today’s I found very silly indeed.

On this day in 1889, the Second International Electrical Congress adopted the joule as a unit of energy, after James Joule, the watt as a unit of power, after James Watt, and the quadrant as a unit of electrical inductance. Inductance is the tendency of an electrical conductor to oppose a change in the electric current flowing through it. The flow of electric current creates a magnetic field around the conductor.  What I found so silly is that the name “quadrant” was later changed to henry. The henry (symbolized H) is the Standard International unit of inductance . One henry is the equivalent of one kilogram meter squared per second squared per ampere squared (kg m 2 s -2 A -2 ).

Henry? Why not Flora or Sylvester? This got me started renaming things. “Yep, husband drove 90 Biancas to Bismarck last night. ” Or “I lost 10 Elliots with my new diet.”

Come up with some silly names for units of measurement.