Thursday, December 28, 2017

Believing God Is Not Dead Nor Does He Sleep

Below are the original words of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem "Christmas Bells":

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
and wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound the carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn the households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said;
"For hate is strong, and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail, the Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men."

As most know, the Civil War was fought from 1861 to 1865, While the war itself would have been enough to give anyone at the time a feeling of hopelessness, the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's second wife of 18 years died in 1861 after sustaining burns when her dress caught fire. That tragic accident took place on July 9th, 1861.

His first wife, Mary Potter Longfellow, died in 1835 after a miscarriage. His second wife Frances Appleton Longfellow's death came as an accident while supposedly putting locks of her children's hair into an envelope. She was attempting to seal the envelope with hot sealing wax as was the custom of the times. Her dress suddenly caught fire. Henry heard her screams and jumped off a sofa where he was taking a nap. He rushed to help her and immediately threw a rug over her to try to put out the flames.

Fanny, as she was known to all, was badly burned and was rendered unconscious during the ordeal. She was taken to her room while a doctor was sent for. It's said she drifted in and out of consciousness. At around 10am on the next morning, she awoke and asked for a cup of coffee. She then closed her eyes and died.

Henry burned his face and hands very badly while trying to save her. His burns were so bad that he wasn't able to attend her funeral a few days later. The burns to his face were so severe that he stopped shaving and he wore a beard from then on. Today, we know the poet's beard as a sort of trademark.

After her death, America's most popular poet of the times, a man who used some of the income from the sale of his poetry to discreetly buy slaves their freedom, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow stopped writing for years. Devastated by her death, it's said that he never ever fully recovered. It's even said that he resorted to using laudanum to help deal with his grief.

In March of 1863, Henry Longfellow receives a letter from his oldest son Charles. His letter states in part, "I feel it to be my first duty to do what I can for my country and I would willingly lay down my life for it if it would be of any good."

In 1863, Charles Longfellow joined the Union Army without his father's knowledge or blessings. During his service, he would be promoted to the rank of Lieutenant and become severely wounded. In 1864, his father traveled to a Union Army hospital in Washington D.C. to find his son. He then took Charles home. His wounds were serious enough to where that was the end of the war for Charles Longfellow.  

In the winter of 1863, with the war raging and no solution for peace in sight, months before finding out that his son Charles was not dead, and still reeling from the death of his wife, despair fell over the great poet. It is then that he penned his poem "Christmas Bells." 

Longfellow is believed to have written his poem on Christmas Day in 1863. Some say he was in such sorrow over the way the war was going, and the possible loss of his son, that his spirits were lifted when he himself heard the local church bells ring out. It's said that with hearing those bells, he felt as though God was reminding him that he has not abandoned him and all there.

His poem speaks to a Christian nation being overwhelmed by the roar of cannons and hate. It speaks to having despair, yet finding hope despite that gloom. His poem "Christmas Bells" was first published in February of 1865.

Christmas carols are inspirational, heart warming, and some songs can be absolutely fun and goofy as with "Grandma Got Ran Over By A Reindeer." Most spiritual Christmas carols speak to the miracle of the birth of our savior Jesus Christ. They speak to our faith as Christians.

As with all of us, I have my favorite Christmas songs. And depending on my mood, there are a few that I will still play into the ground just as I did when I was a kid with my 45s and small record player. Among my favorites is a relatively unknown carol called "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day."

This carol actually comes from Longfellow's poem "Christmas Bells." Though it was written and published in the midst of the dark days of the Civil War, the poem was not set to music until 1872.

As Christmas songs go, this one never reached the Top Ten list. As a song, it was recorded in 1956 by singer Bing Crosby. And while many others including Harry Belafonte and Frank Sinatra have recorded the song, it is Bing Crosby's rendition that has met the test of time.

While Longfellow's poem "Christmas Bells" references the Civil War in his poem, including the lines "Then from each black, accursed mouth, the cannon thundered in the South. And with the sound, the carols drowned."

Those words don't appear in the song "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" as you can see for yourself below:

Joy to the world
Let earth receive her King

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play
And wide and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to man

I thought as now this day had come
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rung so long the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to man

And in despair I bowed my head
There is no peace on earth I said,
"For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to man."

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep
God is not dead nor does he sleep
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to man

I believe this small Christmas carol speaks to one of the reasons why Christmas means so much to all of us. Our desire for peace on earth and good will to all of mankind speaks to our having faith in God during our darkest hours. It speaks to our not giving up even when giving up may seem so easy to do. It speaks to our faith and how we can overcome the hate and those against us. 

While peace and goodwill seem so rare, even in this day and age of conflicts and strife, that small Christmas carol speaks to our faith in God. Our faith that good will triumph over evil no matter how bad things appear because "God is not dead, nor does he sleep." 

Tom Correa

Saturday, December 23, 2017

A Christmas Long Ago

By the late 1940s, he started his own ranch with two friends. It was hard to keep it afloat but they did. Soon the others wanted out, and after a while, he was the only one left. He kept it going for years until that thing called the "economy" made it a losing proposition in the late 1970s during what my grandfather called the "Second Great Depression".

He used to tell me a lot of stories about "the old days," especially how it was during the Great Depression. I remember once I had asked my grandfather what were the hardest days that he'd ever gone through?

I expected him to say it was when he had to leave school after finishing the 3rd grade to work in the fields, or when he was 12 and told to run away from home because his step-father beat him and his mother worried that he'd be killed, or maybe the time his merchant ship was torpedoed during World War II.

Without hesitation, he told me that it was the Christmas of 1934. Work was hard to find. A huge Longshoreman's Union strike in San Francisco crippled the West Coast and Hawaii ports for months earlier in the year. That strike hurt a lot of men for the rest of the year even after it ended. It put a lot of good men out of work. He had been a merchant marine seaman for a couple of years by then and couldn't find a ship to save his soul. After doing this job and that, he said he lucked out and found work as a cowboy again to make ends meet.

He said he got up Christmas morning and opened the few presents they had. He and my grandmother got my mother a doll. He was able to get my grandmother a small necklace. My grandmother actually made him a work shirt that Christmas. They were living with his in-laws, my great-grandmother and great-grandfather. They helped them a lot. He said that they all went to church for a Christmas Mass. After returning home, they ate and visited.

"It was your mother's first Christmas," he said. "I worked that Monday which was Christmas Eve. No one worked on Christmas. We had very little. That is, other than our love for each other. It was a very rough Christmas, but we were better off than many many others."

As a young couple, they had no choice but to move in with my great-grandparents. They were fine with them moving in. In fact, they encouraged it by telling them that they would be able to save money by doing so.

My great-grandparents knew what hard times were. They had seen it when they were first married. They knew really well the struggle that takes place when you have nothing and your husband is taking whatever work he can. They knew really well that hard times do pass. They also knew that in its midst, it feels as though it'll never end.

Years later, he took a job on a ranch. He told me about on raining day when he sat on his horse with his rubber raincoat pulled up to his ears. He would have loved to have a slicker, but it was not a slicker. Instead of a slicker that extends the length of one's body, he only had his heavy rain jacket that he used on ship when at sea. Because it wasn't a slicker, it was too short and the rain dripped into that spot between his saddle's cantle and his trousers. So now as he sat there, he thought how his butt was wet, how his cigarettes were wet, how even his matches were wet.

He sat there as the first truck loaded. He spurred his horse to move the cows closer to the loading chute. Every now and then, he'd move his horse right and then left, left and then right, forward to nudge the cows forward down the alleyway and into the chute. It was a job. And frankly, that's all that mattered.

It was common for a Merchant Marine Seaman to find a job between ships. Since there wasn't Unemployment Insurance at the time, people took whatever jobs they could get to bring in an honest dollar. And while he knew real well that crews were needed for this ship and that, hard times made it so that he was being bumped by hands who had more seniority than him. 

As he once said, "Since sitting at the Union Hall and playing cards with the other guys waiting to get assigned to crew aboard an outgoing ship didn't feed his family, he needed work and would take any job he could." Of course, that was the attitude that most good men had during the Great Depression. They took whatever work they could get. 

He'd only been a Merchant Marine for a few years at that point. He didn't mind the work. He stepped aboard his first steamer in 1928. He was 15 years old and hired on as an "Oiler." He did it because it was work. He had never dreamed of going to sea or working aboard ship. He did it because it was work. Because it was a job. That in itself was reason enough to do it to the best of his abilities.

As with most things, we remember the good times instead of the bad. While he was now working as a cowboy again, for a moment he remembered how wonderful it was to go to sea. He was young back then, and he liked the hard work and being part of a crew. He liked the ports, the sights, and meeting the different people in faraway places that he only heard about.

He remembered his first Chief Boatswain. It was his Boatswain who made sure that he put most of his pay in an envelope for the Captain to hold. He told him that that was so he'd have money to send home after being out on the town. He remembered how his Chief stopped him from being taken for a ride in a clip joint in Seattle.

Most of the "clip-joints" were bars near the piers. All employed inside those joints were out to cheat young sailors out of their hard-earned cash. It was the same story with most clip-joints in any port. Most of those places had your standard young women who wore hardly anything. Those hustlers got sailors to buy them "campaign cocktails" that were three times the price of a regular drink. In reality, their so-called "campaign cocktail" was only a little orange juice mixed with 7up for the bubbles. 

Crooked bartenders were usually in on the scam. After getting a young sailor drunk, the bartender would charge him twice to three times what his drinks cost all to make it appear legit. In many cases, the bar would get a sailor drunk quickly. It was then that the bouncers would help them out the back door and into an alley where the sailors would be rolled for the money they had on them.

He remembered how his Chief Boatswain made sure he was paired up with another crew member so that he wouldn't be found later with his head bashed in and his money gone. He remembered that Chief telling him what bars to stay out of and how not to flash too much of his cash around. He also remembered how he gave him a roll of pennies to put in his pocket and his first night ashore in Hong Kong. The Chief Boatswain told him to wrap his fist around those pennies nice and tight before punching someone. Certainly before having to fight his way out the door.

He remembered that Chief padding him on the back when he found out that he'd met a gal who he wanted to marry. How happy the Chief was that it wasn't some barroom floozy but instead a nice local gal about his age. He wasn't yet 20 at the time.

Between ships, he'd found a temporary job working a jackhammer for a construction company, driving a bus, and even selling Singer sewing machines among other things. He was between ships and selling sewing machines when he met his future wife -- the wonderful woman who would be my grandmother.

It was soon after that when he asked permission from her parents to "court" her. It was then that he would show up and sit with her in their parlor. What we today call a living room. All while her mother sat in a chair across from them as they talked. They were soon married, and soon after that, his new wife became pregnant.

He remembered how much he loved being at sea at first. But then it swept over him, it was his remembering that lonely feeling when being aboard ship at sea. Not all of the time, but there were certainly those times when he knew that feeling of longing for home. He remembered how it would hit him now and then especially at night when on watch and the sea is black and the moon glimmers its reflection on every passing wave.

Now he was wet and shook his head thinking, that though waiting for a ship, here he was again working as a cowboy. Yes, it was something that he thought he'd never do again. Not because he didn't like being a cowboy, it was just because he didn't think he'd go back to something after leaving it behind him.

Another truck pulled their load of cows out. He sat there and waited for the next truck to come in and load up. The rain was constant and he wanted a smoke in the worst way. He gigged his horse as he had all day to move the cows into the alleyway and up closer to the loading chute. As had been taking place all day, every now and then he'd move his horse right and then left, left and then right, forward to nudge the cows forward down the alleyway and into the chute.

It had been about six years since he'd worked for his first cattle outfit. It was one of the times in his life when he was very happy. That outfit was great in that they treated him no differently than any of the other ranch hands, even though he was only 12 when he walked into the place looking for a job.

He was used as "the gopher" at first. He would go for anything the boss and others wanted. He was tasked with mucking stalls, cleaning, painting, loading, and unloading this or that. He learned how to string barbed wire and fix fences, repair water pipes and replace valves at troughs, And of course, he was there on the ground during brandings learning to cut horns, castrate, and run the hot irons to the cowboys doing the branding.

That's the way it was for six or eight months until that one day when the boss told him to make a saddle and a headstall and bridle out of the old stuff sitting around the tack room. He remembered going in there and finding what he thought he needed out of the old tack hung here or there in cobwebs and dust.

He found an old A-fork saddle that he cleaned up and oiled its leather. He changed out its worn bucking rolls, its cinch straps, latigo, and even replaced a stirrup with one that he found on another old saddle that looked cannibalized.  He used whatever old tack that still looked usable that the other cowboys didn't claim. He made sure he didn't touch any of their gear.

Sitting on that horse in the rain, he remembered how he enjoyed being a cowboy those few years of working for that outfit. He felt a bit sad when remembering that day when his boss showed up to let him and a few others go. He'd never heard the word "economy" before. He remembered his boss saying he was letting him and some of the other hands go because of the "economy."

He had forgotten about the times he had worked in the mud mugging some steer or being wet when he wished he were dry and drinking a warm cup of coffee. He'd forgotten the long days during calving season, getting cattle out of a neighbor's property after they escaped through a break in a fence, or nursing the sick back to health.

Pushing cows to a loading chute can be sort of boring when having to wait for a new truck to back in. He shook his head remembering how this all started as a short conversation outside a grocery store. He was buying a loaf of bread when he overheard a local rancher say how he couldn't find good help who knew anything about cows, never mind horses.

It was then that the between-ships sailor said that cows and horses were no problem if a hand knew what he was doing. When the old rancher asked if he knew what he was doing around cows, he told him the name of the outfit that he'd worked for before this thing called the "economy" cut his job out from under him.

He told that rancher how he went to sea to make an honest dollar, how there were those times when he missed being in the saddle, how he was between ships, and how he was looking for work because he had responsibilities since he was recently married and had a new daughter.

The old rancher took a piece of paper out of his pocket and wrote down his address, saying, "Be there at 8 o'clock and I've got work for you. If you show me that you're experienced, you'll be paid what I think you're worth."

He was brought up to understand hard times. He had worked full time since leaving home right after he finished the 3rd grade. His first job was in the fields as a picker and he did that for almost 4 years before finding work on that ranch as a cowboy.

He liked being a cowboy. He liked the hard work and the cattle. He liked the horses and learning to do an assortment of different jobs. He liked that no day was the same as the next, especially during gatherings. He liked being a cowboy more than any job that he'd ever had.

He knew jobs were hard to come by, so getting a job was half the battle to making a dollar. The other half of course was being able to hold a job. So when he was hired on somewhere, he ran with it and gave his boss everything he had. He knew what it was to be hungry. He didn't like being hungry.

The last of the cattle were loaded onto the trucks that rainy day. It was getting dark and the rain was coming down harder than earlier. He didn't know how long he'd be working as a cowboy but he liked it. He had something to eat for breakfast and they worked through lunch to get the trucks loaded. He didn't mind because he always loved the work. It was honest money and he felt good about giving his boss a good day's work even in the worse of conditions.

He liked knowing that he had a good reputation. That he was seen as a good hand, a hard worker, someone reliable and dependable, meant a lot to him. He liked knowing that he was a cowboy again even if it was only until this boss comes over to tell the boys that he was letting some of the hands go because of the "economy".

Even though it was Christmas Eve, he felt good about working hard and knowing that he was taking a few bucks home to his wife who just gave birth to their daughter in early November.  The boss paid him for the week and he knew he could spend those needed dollars on presents, but they needed food and clothing more than Christmas presents.

The years would grow harder still. He knew that he would take any job as long as it was honest work. He knew jobs were few and the bread lines seemed longer every day. His attitude of taking whatever job that came along made all the difference in surviving the tough days of the Great Depression.

My grandmother used to say, "A man feels good about himself when he's working."

Since providing for your wife and children is the number one duty of a husband and father, she was probably right. My grandfather did whatever it took. Whether it was between ships when he needed to find work, or later when he finally gave up on the sea, among other things, he'd cowboy to pay the bills and keep food on the table. He liked it and felt good about himself because he was working.

Tom Correa

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Light For Rural America

Dear Friends,

Back in the mid-1980s, I had a foreman who was a hard-working man with a great work ethic. Above all else, he understood hard times, and I respected that most about him.

I found out later that he was born in 1932, which made him 6 years younger than my Dad. Yes, like my parents, he was born and raised during the Great Depression.

Besides working together, he being my boss, we became pretty good friends over the years. For me, I mostly enjoyed his stories about growing up in Arkansas. In reality, it was because of him that I actually learned a great deal about how it was to grow up during those Great Depression years in the rural South.

It wasn't as if I didn't hear a lot about how it was during the Great Depression. My Dad and my Grandfather had both told me a lot about the hard times that were everyday life for the vast majority of Americans during that time. My friend's experiences were different from that of my Dad and Grandfather because my family is from Hawaii. During that same time period, conditions in Hawaii were very similar to what was going on the "mainland" or "in the states." But at the same time, things were also very different as well.

For example, where my family worked for the pineapple and sugar plantations on Oahu, my friend's family were sharecroppers in Arkansas. Where my family was poor, they still had a roof over their heads because it was provided to them by the plantations. In contrast, my friend's family was essentially homeless after losing their farm. And where my family was able to have a small garden where they could grow vegetables to help save money that they didn't have, his family didn't have any of that for a long time after losing their farm. Because of that, he remembered going hungry at times because his father just couldn't find work. 

Besides telling me about how bad it was, he once talked about growing up without electricity. The only thing that I could compare that to was how my family's ranch in Hawaii did not have electricity. We made do with kerosene lanterns and a Navy generator that refused to work when it had the mind to no run. Of course, our not have electricity was not the same as my friend's family. For us, it was because our ranch was in a very remote area of the island at the time. My friend's family didn't have electricity even though they weren't all that far out of town. 

Fact is, like many rural Americans of the time, he was raised on candles and oil lamps. Yes, up until the passage of the Rural Electrification Act of 1936, which created the Rural Electrification Administration (REA), many rural Americans lived in the dark compared to their urban cousins. 

The REA was one of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's "New Deal" Federal programs. Like the others, it was meant to spur economic growth and improve the sad state of America's economy. Specifically, the Rural Electrification Administration was set up to better the working conditions of those working in American agriculture and their families, which were hit especially hard by extended drought and flooding during the Great Depression. In essence, the REA, the Rural Electrification Administration, gave incentives to corporations to build power plants and put in power lines in areas where there were none.

For some odd reason, President Franklin D. Roosevelt doesn't get a lot of credit for working with big corporations. People forget that part of the New Deal was to jump-start employment. The fact is President Roosevelt did work closely with corporations in huge ways to create jobs. For example, the president's federal REA program provided low-interest 25-year loans, loans at just 3 percent interest, to energy corporations to construct power plants and put in power lines in rural areas. 

With those REA low-interest federal loans, corporations could make electricity available to rural Americans like my friend's family, who never had it before. Farmers, ranchers, dairymen, schools, small businesses, local courthouses, small towns that dot our nation all could afford to have electricity in their homes, farms, businesses, and much more. 

President Roosevelt's Rural Electrification Act of 1936 was passed to believe that electrified agriculture would improve incomes and raise standards of living in rural America. 

Before the REA, electricity to rural America was costly simply because of fewer customers per mile of electric line than urban areas. Because of the cost of building lines and still making a profit, many private power companies, energy corporations charged rural customers more per kilowatt-hour than they charged urban residents simply because they were trying to recoup costs. Before the Rural Electrification Administration (REA), it's just that electric service to rural Americans was minimal. 

Before the passing of the Rural Electrification Act of 1936, the federal government had already tried to provide rural Americans with electricity by way of creating the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). In 1934, the TVA began providing fairly inexpensive electricity to rural Americans in the Tennessee River valley. Because the TVA was such a success, everyone, including the politicians in Washington D.C., saw that agriculture benefited by using electricity. 

It is said that those in agriculture saw processing made easier and production increase. It's also said that their families saw the benefits of electric lights, electric well pumps, electric washing machines and stoves, and even radio. It was the TVA that actually spurred demand in rural areas for inexpensive electricity.

The Rural Electrification Administration was created to meet that demand. The Tennessee Valley Authority's (TVA) success proved that getting power to rural Americans as possible and financially feasible. 

Rural electrification has fulfilled the promise of improving the standards of living in rural communities across our nation. Ranchers, farmers, dairymen, their families, and their communities all benefited, and their lives became better for it. 

I remember my friend telling me that he was about 9 years old when his family got their first light bulb. He told me about how his Mother stayed up for hours during their first Christmas after getting that first bulb. He said his Mother sat and waited for the bulb to go out just as if it were a candle. He said his Dad had to explain to her how she didn't have to worry about it running out of oil or about it burning down to nothing as a candle would. He told her it would stay on as long as she kept didn't flip the switch to turn it off.

I remember my Arkansas friend tearing up when remembering how his Mother refused to flip the switch because she was afraid that it wouldn't come back on again. How she just sat watching that lonely bulb. All the while with tears of joy running down her face. All over the mere thought of having a light a hundred times brighter than an oil lamp. Light as she never experienced. Light with the flip of a switch.

He said she saw that light as a gift from God and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  
I think she was right on both counts. That's just the way I see it. 

Tom Correa

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Saving Christmas

"The way I see it, every time a man gets up in the morning he starts his life over. Sure, the bills are there to pay, and the job is there to do, but you don't have to stay in a pattern. You can always start over, saddle a fresh horse and take another trail." -- Louis L'Amour

For me, that's the part of life that I believe we should all be so thankful for. Each day is a brand new opportunity for us to change a bad situation for the better, a chance for us to rethink what we want, to reinvent ourselves, to break out of a rut, to knock off bad habits, to treat others as we ourselves want to be treated, to be who and what we want to be, to return to a time when faith and belief in God came natural. Yes indeed, as the famous writer Louis L'Amour said, "You can always start over, saddle a fresh horse, and take another trail."

So can we forge a new trail, or maybe take one that we hadn't been on in years? Years ago, I knew an old man who did just that.

He was a smart man, and actually a good hearted man despite his rough exterior and cynicisms. Though he had a good life with many tangible accomplishments like that of being married for 40 years, raising a family, working hard and making ends meet, he was always a little ashamed that his formal education was lacking simply because he choose to squander the one afforded to him by screwing around and not applying himself when he should have.

Because of that, he always saw himself as not being very educated even though he became a voracious reader of just about anything. But more than anything else, he sank himself into reading newspapers, any number of newspapers everyday. Because of this, he was up on current events, what's taking place around the world, politics, and who's running things these days. He didn't care for the reoccurring Hollywood scandals or their endless bed-hopping that seem to always make headlines. He hated reading about sports and its prima donna millionaires. But on the other hand, he loved reading about how the local high school football team did in the game on Friday night or how their new crop of young wrestlers were doing this year.

He liked knowing that kids were learning discipline as well as experiencing what it is to want. He felt that a lack of real want in our country stifled folks. He saw high school sports as a way to teach kids to want to achieve something even if they failed while doing so. His time in the Marine Corps taught him that champions are those who strife with a desire to win even when knowing that there may be the chance of failing.

While he couldn't find very many writers that held his attention, he liked Louis L'Amour Westerns and O. Henry short stories. He liked Westerns because he was brought up watching television Westerns as a kid. He liked those old series because they were uplifting instead of the sour grapes that Hollywood puts out today. He also liked those old Westerns because he identified with them. He was raised on a ranch and saw himself a Cowboy even though he had never worked as a day wage hand.

As for his love of short stories? He loved reading O. Henry's work, but he also enjoyed reading about Ghost Towns and their history, about the Old West, about the Great Depression, historical events, and the biographies of famous historic figures. He found himself reading about people who he'd never heard of, and because of that found the people really responsible for taming the West. He wasn't interested in reading every nuance of someone's life, but he did like finding out what he saw as the things that pointed to one's character. He found himself during more than one occasion looking for the things that serve as signs as to whether a historical figure was really a hero or in reality just a bum. 

When he first started reading about his childhood heroes, he was amazed at how many of them were not what he was led to belief. But then again, he thought he understood life. He believed that not all of what we learn as children stands the test of time into our adulthood. Of course, some say that he grew cynical over time after losing his wife to cancer and his children drifted away. Others says he simply lost faith over the years though a series of hardships. 

As far as he was concerned, he knew real well that as adults we need to see the world for what it really is. He believed that as adults we should be ready for hardship and pain and disappointment. And though that was the case, and indeed some of his childhood heroes bit the dust so to speak, there was that one day when Jim Nickles learned that there are some things from our childhood that are best kept alive and well. That was the day he decided to take another trail and get off the path he was on. That was the day he regained his faith in God.

It was Christmas Eve. And for him, it was a day no different than other days. After a long day of working around his place, he fed his horses and went in to shower and dress. He was retired and alone. He had a set schedule of things he did everyday and he had nowhere special to be that night. Too many great memories were bringing him down and he found himself growing bitter at the world for taking his wife. He was making his way to his truck to go to town when a pickup drove onto his property. A stranger got out and walked up and asked if he could speak to him?

Jim responded, "How can I help you?" 

"Well, I live right up the road from here about a mile or so," the stranger said. "My little girl's horse is in trouble and I just don't know what to do. My daughter has been sick fighting pneumonia and is recovering fine. But if something happens to her horse, it'll just crush her. I'm worried what losing her horse will do to her. I know your neighbor Bob and he said that I should talk to you." 

"Have you called a Vet?" he asked.  

"The Vet can't be reached. Her receptionist said she's on another call since yesterday where there's no phone reception. I don't know very much about horses, but I'm sure you do. I don't know you Mister Nickles, but I need to know if you can help me? I will pay you what you think is fair."

Jim Nickels had been a roper for years, a Heeler, and was in a few rodeos in his day. In his lifetime, he'd rode for friends working gatherings and brandings. He made himself available whenever he wasn't working his regular jobs as a truck driver. He hauled cattle, horses, freight, heavy equipment, dirt, machinery,  manure, and potatoes among other things. He didn't care what the job was. All that mattered was that it was honest money. A good day's work for a good day's pay. Right after retiring, tragedy struck when he lost his wife. To take his mind off his sorrow, he worked cattle for a few years all for no pay just to help close friends hold on to their ranch.

He knew horses because he grew up around them and had always owned them. But frankly, he didn't see himself as some sort of an expert. He saw people who claimed to be experts as being full of themselves. So all in all, while he was confident that he knew enough to doctor a horse in an emergency, he saw saving  horses from death as the thing that Vets did for a living.

Not knowing what he could do to help, he found himself saying, "I'll take a look at her horse for you. But friend, I can't promise anything," 

The stranger introduced himself as Don Fox. They left and a few minutes or so later they arrived at the old Bar D Ranch. Jim knew the people who owned the place before Don and his family moved in. He pulled up behind Don's truck and followed him into the barn. There in a birthing stall was a very distressed mare in foal.

Jim spoke low at almost a whisper and said, "You didn't say she was in foal. You didn't say this was the trouble."      

He knew that if the mare didn't deliver after 30 minutes of losing her water, or if  a second labor did not begin within three hours of the first stage, then it would be absolutely vital to examine both the mare and unborn foal to see what's wrong. That is, if he could. This is when a Veterinarian is needed. But since there wasn't a Vet, Don saw Jim there was being a Godsend. Jim wished the Vet was there.

A pregnant mare, a mare in foal, can have complications. Having someone there to know what to do when you need immediate help is important for the survival of both the mare and the foal. Don's mare was in trouble because of the unborn foal's presentation. That is, its position or posture within the pelvic canal. 

It's called "dystocia," which means "difficult birth." In horses, it's one of those conditions that no one can predict. Frankly, it just happens during the first stages of the birthing process. In this situation, Don's mare started giving birth but stopped and has been in all sorts of distress since. Unable to get a Vet, he found the Cowboy who he believed he needed to help him. 

If stage one of the birth process had gone on for too long say between 2 to 4 hours and one foot or no feet are showing, but nothing else is happening then there is a problem. If that happens rolling by a mare is normal as she tries to position the foal. 

There's three stages of birth. Stage one is when the foal properly aligns itself in the birth canal. That can take hours. Stage two is when the foal presents itself and is delivered. That can take anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes. If stage three goes well, then a mare should pass the membranes. That takes about an hour. Dystocia can happen in either stage one or stage two.

Jim looked at the mare and realized that she couldn't birth her foal because of how it was positioned. He didn't know whether it was upside down, in a sitting position, head first, or what. He was hoping to find one foot or both feet presented which would have been very common if he were lucky. He knew a neck presentation would not be good. He knew that would be very bad as it often means the foal is already dead. 

"What do you think?" Don asked Jim. But Jim didn't answer. He was busy on the floor trying to examine the mare to see a foot. 

After a few minutes, Jim said, "If the foal is backwards, she could be dead. But, we should be able to save your mare."

Don looked down for a second and looked at Jim and asked, "Is there anything that we can do about the foal?"

Jim was silent again. He knew that the position of the unborn foal can be moved if the mare’s movements by her getting up and down and rolling helped to reposition the foal. If its a large foal that the mare cannot expel then all sorts of problems can take place. There are infection problems and of course the foal is probably dead or even deformed.

Jim could see that the mare was way beyond stage one and two, and the time for both. She was in obvious distress, and now Jim was not only concerned about delivering a new foal. He was concerned about saving the mare. 

For the longest time, Jim Nickels has felt that as adults we need to see the world for what it really is. That it is a cruel place. Certainly unlike the world of his childhood. Certainly not the time when he believed that prayers are answered. Yes, that the last time when his prayers weren't answered. That time when his wife was ill. From that, he felt prayers were for children and did stand the test of time into our adulthood.

"If we lose the foal, she'll be crushed." Don said. "But she'll be fine. She'll just have to learn that that's how life is." 

Jim looked at Don and now realized that the mare was not his daughter's horse. It was the foal. Don's daughter had already named the foal "Christmas" and she was waiting to treat it as her own. 

It was then that Jim Nickels saw that he needed to take a different trail. One that he had long dismissed as being unneeded. That was when he did something that he had not done since he himself was just a kid. He closed his eyes, and prayed with all of his heart. He asked God for this not to be what it is. He prayed and said that he was sorry for losing faith. He begged God to help someone else, to help Don's daughter, to do this for her foal. To save her Christmas.  

Sometimes doing the wrong thing like using to much force to pull a foal out may cause all sorts of irreparable damage to your mare. His hands were clean as he now reached inside the mare. He needed to reposition the foal inside the birth canal to allow normal birthing. That is, if he could.

Don watched as Jim Nickels, the Cowboy who he went to for help, gently assisted a leg to come forward. With that, and a steady tug, nature was about to take its course.

Jim was focused on the amount of force he was using. His eyes were closed as if trying to feel for a snag or a heartbeat or saying a prayer. He hoped and prayed the foal was not already dead. Don watched and then heard Jim Nickels mutter, "I believe. I believe."

Before they knew it, they watched as the foal slid out. But both saw that the foal was not breathing, and they too held their breath. Then just as Jim was about to grab the foal's mouth and blow his own air into its lungs, both men happily saw the newborn take its first full breath of life.

Don smiled. Jim nodded. Soon the foal slid over to join its mother. Don looked over at the stall door. His wife and daughter were standing there. He looked at their smiling faces and said, "This is Jim Nickels. He's a Cowboy. He's the reason for our Christmas miracle. He saved your horse."

Jim shook his head and said, "No. We can thank God for Christmas."


Tom Correa 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

ABC has a Credibility Problem

I don't watch "The View." I refuse to watch such mean spirited hateful people. As a matter of fact, anytime that show comes on by accident, I immediately turn the channel.

I'm sure there are people out there who really enjoy the daily hatred for everything President Trump does. I'm sure there are people who love the way they make deceitful claims about what the president has said or done. Forget needing supporting evidence, the women on that show call the president things that they would never call the crazy dictator in North Korea. They do so without having to support anything they say.

So now you're asking how do I know this if I don't watch it? Well, unless it inadvertently comes on after something else that I may have been watching, I don't watch it. The times that I have had to listen to what is said on that show is usually while I'm looking for my remote so that I can turn the channel. That is plenty enough of a sample as to what takes place on "The View." So when it comes on by accident and I can't turn the channel fast enough, I get an earful of the standard Liberal line of malicious hate coming from those women.

The show which is a platform for disbursing Liberalism and hate speech consists of incessant attacks on Conservatives and the more than 60 Million Americans who voted for President Trump.

As for those who are thinking that I use the term "hate" a great deal to describe "The View," actually the term "hate mongers" comes to mind when I think of "The View." After all, the ABC television talk show has shown itself to be extremely venomous to anyone not of their political persuasion. It essence they are "political racists." And as for the token Conservative woman on their show, from the little that I have seen of the show, she is stepped on every time she has a point to make in support of Conservatives or President Trump. She is outnumbered and ganged up on relentlessly. I'm actually surprised she stays and allows herself to be made the punching bag.

“The View” host Joy Behar had to eat crow yesterday, December 4th, after her reaction to a Fake News story put out by ABC on Friday. While announcing the Fake News story on air, she became celebratory for all of the wrong reasons. And yesterday while addressing her exuberant reaction to ABC's Fake News story, she instead focused on the report by calling it inaccurate, "a mistake." She did not address her actions at all.

The issue was not ABC's Fake News story. The issue was her very obvious joy, her overwhelming glee, he celebratory outburst after reading the Fake News announcement that ABC issued. Yesterday, you wouldn't have known that because she focused on the report and purposely avoided addressing her outburst.

Behar's screams of joy came during the broadcast of "The View" on Friday, December 1st, 2017, after she read a card that was handed to her. The card with "breaking news" was "supposed" to be factual, but it wasn't. 

Behar read the ABC News exclusive “report” that stated, "Michael Flynn promised full cooperation to the Muller team and is prepared to testify that, as a candidate, Donald Trump directed him to make contact with the Russians."

After reading the "breaking news," Behar threw the card, lifted her hands, and screamed in absolute joy. Her outburst ranked up there with one celebrating their team winning the World Series, or with one who just won a multi-million dollar Lottery. 

Of course, there is a problem with the Fake News that Behar reported on "The View." It was fake. It was not true. Someone made it up. Someone fabricated it. Someone had to write it on that card that was handed to Behar, and Behar was more than willing to shout it from the rooftops!

She did not stop and ask if it was true. She did not question it. She simply read it. She echoed it on air because it fit her notion of the truth. It fit her belief. It fit what she and others on "The View" want in the worse way. It fit their desire to destroy President Trump.

Trump-Haters dream of finding evidence of so-called "Russian Collusion". They nurture the idea of Impeaching President Trump by spreading lies about his policies and him personally. Trump-Haters are angry that there isn't any evidence of some sort of collusion on the part of Donald Trump during the 2016 Election. So instead they have resorted to believing that "there must be" even if there is absolutely no evidence to back-up their assertions that "there must be." 

Yes, the thinking, the logic, the assumptions of Trump-Haters is as illogical as those who believe in the Easter Bunny. The same as those who believe that the Clintons are honest and moral people. The same as those who refuse to acknowledge the bigotry and divisiveness of the Obamas. The same as those who believe that "there must be" evidence of something completely fabricated by the Democrat Party. The same who refuse to look at the evidence that proves that "Russian Collusion" did take place between Obama and the Russians, and Hillary Clinton and the Russians. They are okay with turning a blind eye to crimes when it is one of their's who commit them.

While Joy Behar is typical, extremely common, nothing different from the other Trump-Haters out there, she represents the hate coming from Democrats these days. In fact, after seeing her joy and outright love of the news that there could possibly be evidence of "Russian collusion" on behalf of President Trump,  I can't help but wonder if Behar would have the exact same ecstatic glee if she were reporting that President Donald Trump were assassinated?

As for ABC, its news department was forced to correct that report. The second time around, they made it clear that Flynn was directed to contact Russia after Donald Trump had already been elected president. Not as a candidate. Proving once again that there was no collusion from the Trump Campaign with Russian operatives. 

As a result of the report being "inaccurate" as reported by ABC News Chief Investigative Correspondent Brian Ross, ABC suspended Brian Ross for a month without pay for botching the story. Especially when the story of former Trump White House National Security Adviser Michael Flynn plea deal was so easy to understand.

Retired Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn pleaded guilty to lying about a non-crime. Yes, he pleaded guilty to lying about something that was no against the law, that was not a crime. It was perfectly legal for Flynn to speak with Russian officials after the election. In fact, even Democrats are acknowledged that conferring with a representative of Russia about the incoming administration’s Russia policy is not illegal or improper after the election.

President Trump came out and stated that there was nothing to hide. He said, "He [Flynn] has pled guilty to those lies. It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful."

As for ABC News Chief Investigative Correspondent Brian Ross’s botched "exclusive" about Trump's former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn? It was reported that ABC News president James Goldston not only suspended Brian Ross for four weeks without pay, but has supposedly made it clear that Ross would no longer be allowed to cover stories about President Donald Trump.

Remember, it was Brian Ross who reported that "Flynn would testify that Trump had ordered him to make contact with Russians about foreign policy while Trump was still a candidate."

Please understand the ramifications of such a report on the national airwaves. The ABC report from Brian Ross immediately created the idea that there really was collusion on the part of the Trump Campaign. That notion immediately made the aspect of a Trump Impeachment possible. And that, well that sent the Stock Market into a nose dive. Yes, Ross did all of that. 

Remember, this was all on December 1st, last Friday. At first ABC's Brian Ross reported the Fake News, then "The View" host Joy Behar starts celebrating over her desire to see President Trump impeached. And finally, many hours later that day, Brian Ross was on "World News Tonight" to "clarify" his error.

That second report was an ABC News "clarification" to Ross's earlier report. The later report stated that President-elect Trump directed Flynn to contact the Russian for help with ISIS after he’d been elected president. That's the key distinction to the investigation. Flynn did not contact Russians during the campaign, but after the election.

Brian Ross has been at ABC News since 1994 after spending nearly 20 years at NBC. He has a lengthy history of getting it wrong!

In 2001, Brian Ross incorrectly reported that Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi dictatorship may have been responsible for anthrax attacks that terrorized the United States in the months after 9/11 even though the Bush White House told him that the anthrax story was wrong. That didn't stop Ross, and he ran with it anyway. A week later he issued a correction.

In 2006, Ross reported that then-House Speaker Dennis Hastert was a target of a federal corruption probe involving former lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Despite the Justice Department’s denial, Ross insisted that Hastert was “very much in the mix” of the investigation. Hastert was never approached by prosecutors.

In 2010, Ross was involved in a report called "Taking on Toyota" which claimed that some of the Japanese automaker's cars contained a defect that caused "unintended acceleration." Talk about Fake News, the report included footage of a tachometer shooting from 1,000 to 6,200 RPM in seconds while Ross sat behind the wheel. But, more of the same footage showed that the car Ross was inside was actually parked with the doors open and not moving at the time.

Of course, the most infamously Brian Ross report came in 2012 after the massacre at the Aurora Colorado movie theater. Ross reported that the shooter James Holmes may have had ties to the Tea Party.

In that report on "Good Morning America", Brian Ross states, "There is a Jim Holmes of Aurora, Colorado, page on the Colorado Tea Party site as well, talking about him joining the tea party last year. Now, we don’t know if this is the same Jim Holmes – but this is Jim Holmes of Aurora, Colorado.”

Ross later apologized for the Fake News report. He received criticism for that report including John Cook who wrote the following in a post on a blog, "When there’s breaking news, especially about terrorism and national security, ABC News’ Brian Ross is there. And under no circumstances should you listen to anything he says."

Brian Ross is the latest proof of Liberal-bias by ABC News which is part of the ultra-Liberal Disney ABC Television Group. We shouldn't forget that during the 2016 campaign, ABC had to pull its Chief Anchor, George Stephanopoulos, from moderating any debates because Stephanopoulos had bee exposed as a former Clinton operative who had also made very large donations to the Clinton Foundation.

Of course there is no better proof of ABC's Liberal leanings then what they did by canceling the very popular comedy "Last Man Standing" earlier this year. The show was a Conservative leaning comedy. One with give and take. We need to remember that ABC cancelled "Last Man Standing" despite the Tim Allen show being a ratings hit and extremely cost efficient. All a normal win-win situation for networks interested in keeping their viewers.

With the cancellation of "Last Man Standing," ABC made it known that they were not interested in keeping Conservative viewers. This is a turn around from years ago when networks seemed to strive to pull in any and all viewers with shows that entertained.   

And with that, we go full circle to "The View" which is a television show that is not highly rated or cost efficient. The show attacks and alienates viewers who do not agree with their Liberal political philosophy. They consciously cater to only one segment of the population, those who voted for Hillary Clinton and are loyal followers of the Democrat Party. That's it. There's who they care about.

If that's not true, then why is it that "The View" has been allowed to attack Trump voters, President Trump, make unsubstantiated claims, all without have any disciplinary consequences. If not true, then why hasn't Joy Behar the hater been fired?

ABC should stop the pretense of acting as though they are impartial in their News presentations or in their television line-up. After all, it is obvious that ABC's actions has now reached the level of CNN and MSNBC in so far as their showing their Liberal leanings and contempt for Conservative Americans. Subsequently, their actions, their Liberal bias and lack of impartiality, their contempt for Conservative America, has created ABC's present credibility problem. 

That's just how I see it.

Tom Correa 

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Hints on Purchase of Riding Horses (1901)

A horse should be rejected for any one really bad fault. The greatest strength of a horse is limited by his worst point.

Horses are often bought because they possess one or more very good points. This is a wrong principle in buying. The selection of horses should begin by rejection for bad points. 

Bad points are of course, in a great measure, a question of degree. Discretion is needed in rejecting as well as buying.

In measuring a horse or judging of his height and size by sight, take care that he stands on a level with yourself. Dealers generally stand a horse, if under-sized, on higher ground, or is over-sized on lower ground that the intending purchaser.

Want of a fair amount of breeding should be an absolute bar.

Reject a horse with a:

Big coarse head
A small sunken eye. (They are generally obstinate and sulky).
A colour light of the sort.
With a long slack back. (It will not carry weight).
With a hollow back. (The formation is weak).
With flat sides. (They will not do work or look well).
With a slack loin. (Undue length between the last ribs and hind quarters. They are often bad feeders and will run up light with work).
With a light loin. (Want of breadth over the loins. They run up light with work.)
With scraggy hips. (They never do credit to feeding particularly if also slack in the loins).
With a bad girth. (Light through the heart. This formation will always cause trouble in saddling).
With a thick or short neck.

Unless it has a good rein. (With a clumsy neck the head is in consequence badly set on. Without a good rein a horse will never break well, or be pleasant to ride.)

Reject a horse with very low withers. The saddle will be apt to work forwards, and the 'rein' will probably be deficient, and the leverage for the muscles of the forehand is defective. A slug always a nuisance.

To see the above points stand on the side and form your opinion before the horse moves off.

Reject a horse with a narrow or shallow chest. (There is not sufficient capacity for the Lungs.)

With forelegs very, close together. (This and the former defect generally go together.)

To see these points stand in front.

Whose forelegs are not straight. (They will not stand wear).

Stand behind the horse as he walks away from you, and you will be able to notice these defects, if they exist.

Which is light below the knee, especially if light immediately below the knee. The conformation is essentially weak.

With long, or with short or with upright pasterns. (Long pasterns are subject to sprains. Short or upright pasterns make a horse unpleasant to ride, and on account of extra concussion are apt to cause ossific deposits).

With toes turned in of out. The twist generally occurs at the Fetlock. Toes turned out are more objectionable that toes turned in. (When toes are turned out, the fetlocks are generally turned in, and animals so formed are very apt to cut or brush. Both, however, are weak formations).

Whose hind legs are too far behind. Good propelling power will be wanting, and disease as a result may be expected in the hocks.

Which goes either very wide or very close behind.

With very straight or very bent hocks. (The former causes undue concussion, the latter are apt to give way).

Which is 'split up', (Show much daylight between his thighs. Propelling power comes from behind, and must deficient in horses without due muscular development between the thighs.

With flat feet or over-large feet, also with very small feet. Medium sizes are the best.

With one foot smaller than another.

A goose rump is not objectionable as mechanical formation, but it is ugly.

Action must be light, easy, free, and straight. Reject a horse that crosses his legs in walking or trotting. He will be unsafe. Freedom, power to move easily along, is the great point.

A good walk is absolutely essential. Reject a horse that does not walk well; he is never a pleasant ride. If a horse walks well, he will probably trot well; but a horse may trot well without walking well.

To ascertain whether the action is true and straight, stand behind the horse as he walks and trots away from you. You cannot ascertain this important point be standing on the side.

Never omit to stand behind a horse as he walks away.

A good sloping shoulder is an important item in a riding horse, but bad action may co-exist with a good shoulder; and vice versa, good free action may co-exist with a somewhat straight shoulder.

Reject a horse, which is straight in the shoulder and long from the point of the shoulder to the upper part of the forearm. This formation places forelegs too much under the horse, and makes him unsafe to ride.

You may have a plain horse, even if all the above very apparent defects are absent, but you will, at least, have a serviceable one if in addition found sound on veterinary examination.

Having first of all kept clear of all absolute defects such as the above, then select your horses for the presence of good, serviceable, and handsome points, and easy, free, graceful carriage.

But, I repeat, begin by rejection for any one positively bad defect. The greatest strength of a chain is limited by the strength of its weakest link.

In purchasing Horses, it is a great point not to lose time. If you see any one radical defect, reject the Horse at once. The Dealer will, of course, try and persuade you to do otherwise, and will call your attention to some very good point or points in the really defective animal.

Do not lose time. A dealer, if you are a stranger to him, will probably bring out and try and palm off on you his inferior horses. But if you are quick in seeing bad points, and at once reject defective animals, he will soon find it necessary to show you his best horse.


We shall conclude these remarks by observing that neither frame nor constitution is of much use without good condition. This latter great essential can only be obtained by food grooming, careful and regular feeding on the best forage, strong and regular exercise, fresh wholesome air in the stables, and general good management.

-- end of article.

From Horses and Stables by British Lt. Gen, Sir F Fitzwygram, 1901
Published by Longmans, Green, and Co. 
39 Paternoster Row, London, New York and Bombay 

Editor's Note:

I find this interesting in so far as giving us a glimpse into what some people were looking for when buying a horse back at the dawn of the 20th century. In many respects, not much different than folks today.

This was re-printed here exactly as published in 1901. 

Tom Correa

Monday, November 13, 2017

Rural Life In 1870s Oregon

The postcard above shows a man and wife with part of their herd in southern Oregon in the 1870s.
During the Great Depression, the Federal government started the Federal Writers' Project. It was part of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), which was part of President Roosevelt's New Deal program. The Federal Writers' Project was a government project to fund written works and to support writers during the Great Depression. It was one of a group of New Deal programs that funded the arts. The Federal Writers' Project fell under Federal Project Number One. That program was set-up to help employ artists, musicians, actors, writers.

The Federal Writers' Project was authorized to employ writers, but was not limited to writers, editors, historians, researchers, and art critics. They also employed archaeologists, geologists, and cartographers. In total, more than 6,000 American writers of some capacity were employed by the Federal Writers' Project. One notable writer who was employed by that government program was John Steinbeck who later wrote The Grapes of Wrath and Cannery Row.

In each state, The Federal Writers' Project organized a staff of editors and researchers. The editors were usually more educated than the researchers. The larger part of the staff was the researchers. All of the researchers, the field-workers, were unemployed locals. Many of them had not even completed high school. It should be noted that most of those working for the Federal Writers' Project were fairly young and from working-class backgrounds.

The goal of the Federal Writers' Project, as was all of the WPA/New Deal programs, was to get Americans working. In the case of the Federal Writers' Project, they were very successful at chronicling the lives of Americans. 

One American whose live was chronicled is Miss Nettie Spencer. She grew up in rural Oregon in the 1870s. Resolved herself to never marry and became a grade school teacher. She enjoyed traveling, which included a trip to India. 

The excerpt below is part of her interview that was conducted by a Federal researcher in 1938. It is published in American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1940, Subject: Rural Life in the 1870s. It is what she recalled of growing up as a young women in rural America in the 1870s.

Please note that I have printed the excerpt without editing it at all. Her interview took place in her kitchen which the interviewer said she used as a living room. It started during the afternoon of December 14th, 1938. It resumed the next morning, and ended hours later that same day. 

The interviewer noted that her house was a "large old, somewhat shabby building of the last century." He went on to describe her kitchen as " the kitchen, which serves as her living room most of the time, is stacked with clippings that have interested her, as well as books, pictures, and documents, and all of the twine, wrapping paper, etc, that a single women of her years can collect." 

During her interview, she said that her parents got married in 1859 and that she was born soon after that. But, not surprising, she refused to give the exact date of her birth or who old she was. Imagine that. 

Here is what she told the interviewer in 1938:   

". . . All of our shoes were made by a man who came around every so often and took our foot measurements with broomstraws, which he broke off and tagged for the foot length of each member of the family. The width didn't make any difference and you could wear either shoe on either foot; for a long time, too, for the shoes wore well. Mother carded her own wool and washed it with soap she made herself. She even made her own lye from wood ashes, and when she got the cloth finished she made her own dye. Black was made from burnt logs and brown from the bulls of black walnuts. I think she got her green from copper, and peach leaves made the yellow. The red dye was made from leaves she bought. The dresses were very full and lasted entirely too long. . . . One of the things I remember most as a little girl were the bundle peddlers who came around. They had bundles made up and you bought them as they were for a set price. I remember that some sold for as high as $150. In these bundles more all sorts of wonderful things that you didn't get in the country very often; fancy shawls and printed goods; silks and such other luxuries. It was a great day when the family bought a bundle.

Our food was pretty plain most of the time and we didn't have any salads like they do now. The menu for a fine dinner would be: Chicken stew with dumplings, mashed potatoes, peach preserves, biscuits, and hominy. We raised carrots for the stock but we never thought of eating them. . . . We didn't have any jars to put up preserves in, like they do now, but we used earthen crooks instead. The fruit to be preserved was boiled with brown sugar -- we never saw white sugar and when we did we used it as candy -- and then put in the jars which were covered with cloth that was then coated with beeswax. Another good cover was a hog bladder -- they were the best. Sometimes we had molasses pulls and once in a great while we would have some real striped, candy. That was a treat[!?]

Most of our medicine was homemade too . . . There wasn't much social life on the farm and I didn't pay any attention to it until I was older and moved into Salem and Corvallis. The churches didn't have any young peoples . . . organizations and they were dead serious with everything. Sermons lasted for hours and you could [smell?] the hell fire in them. We never had church suppers or the like until way past my time. The only social thing about the church was the camp meetings. That was where most of the courting was done. When a boy would get old enough for a wife the father would let him use the horse and buggy for a trip to the camp meeting to get him a wife. . . .

Most of these people came to church on foot over the muddy roads. The ones who came by wagon used a hay-rack, and mother and father sat in a chair at the front while the children were churned about in the straw strewn in the wagon bed. . . .

After a long service "meeting" was out, and neighbors had a grand hand-shaking party, and then families often invited other families to dinner. This crude church, located where Alfred Station now is on the Southern Pacific Railway, a few miles north of Harrisburg, which then was a small village, was the only public gathering place, except perhaps on the Fourth of July, when families went on mass, with shiny new shoes to Corvallis, to "the Celebration". . . .

The games played were: ante over, crack the whip, base, hide and seek, tag, ring around the rosie. . . .

The big event of the year was the Fourth of July. Everyone in the countryside got together on that day for the only time in the year. The new babies were shown off, and the new brides who would be exhibiting babies next year. Everyone would load their wagons with all the food they could haul and come to town early in the morning. On our first big Fourth at Corvallis mother made two hundred gooseberry pies. You can see what an event it was. There would be floats in the morning and the one that got the [girls?] eye was the Goddess of Liberty. She was supposed to be the most wholesome and prettiest girl in the countryside [md] if she wasn't she had friends who thought she was. But the rest of us weren't always in agreement on that. She rode on a hay-rack and wore a white gown. Sometimes the driver wore an Uncle Sam hat and striped pants. All along the sides of the hay-rack were little girls who represented the states of the union. The smallest was always Rhode Island. . . .

Just before lunch - and we'd always hold lunch up for an hour - some Senator or lawyer would speak. These speeches always had one pattern. First the speaker would challenge England to a fight and [berate?] the King and say that he was a skunk. This was known as twisting the lion's tail. Then the next theme was that any one could find freedom and liberty on our shores. The speaker would invite those who were heavy laden in other lands to come to us and find peace. The speeches were pretty fiery and by that time the men who drank got into fights and called each other Englishmen. In the afternoon we had what we called the 'plug uglies' [md] funny floats sad clowns who took off on the political subjects of the day. There would be some music and then the families would start gathering together to go home. There were cows waiting to be milked and the stock to be fed and so there was no night life. The Fourth was the day of the year that really counted then. Christmas wasn't much; a Church tree or something, but no one twisted the lion's tail. . . ."

-- end of excerpt. 

Sadly for the Federal Writers' Project, some of it's writer's politics got in its way. Sources indicate that some of them were active in Left-wing politics. There were even those suspected of being Communist and Socialist. At the time, that was a real taboo, and it didn't sit well with some who were questioning the political goals, if any, of the Federal Writers' Project

Their works were supposed to be non-bias and free of politics, but some of there works were not. Because of that fact, a lot of their works became suspect and soon much of it was strongly opposed in state legislators as well as the United States Congress. As a result, during most of its time, the Federal Writers' Project was hit with constant criticism. 

In particular, a great deal of harsh criticism came from Congress and their House Un-American Activities Committee. Since the program depended on Congress for its funding, it was not a surprise when Congress cut off all funding for the Federal Writers' Project in 1939. In 1940, when its funding completely ran out, some states attempted to sponsor the program but that didn't last and it ultimately died off completely in 1943.

Common sense tells us that rural Americans in the 19th century were more self-sufficient than we are today. The reason that I say it's common sense is that most of us realize that the folks back then simply did not have the goods, services, and modern conveniences that we have today. Even by the independent self-reliant standards of today's rural America, folks like myself and others who live here in rural areas are hardly as self-sustaining as they were back in the day. In many way, that's simply because it was a simpler life. Harder, but simpler. 

Tom Correa

Friday, November 10, 2017

The Taos Revolt, 1847

In August of 1846, the New Mexico territory was under Mexican rule when it was surrendered over to American military forces under General Stephen Watts Kearny.

Today, General Kearny is remembered for his commitment to duty and significant contributions during the Mexican-American War. General Stephen  Kearny should not be confused with his nephew Philip Kearny who was a Union General during the Civil War.

His nephew Major General Philip Kearny is probably best known for his action during the Battle of Williamsburg during the Civil War. At Williamsburg, before leading his men into battle, he yelled, "I'm a one-armed Jersey son-of-a-gun, follow me!" Then General Kearny led the charge with his sword in his hand, with his reins in his teeth. He is noted for urging his men forward, saying, "Don't worry, men, they'll all be firing at me!" 

The other thing about Major General Philip Kearny that's very memorable is the way he died. On September 1st, 1862, during the Battle of Chantilly, General Kearny is said to have decided to investigate what was believed to be a gap in the Union lines. Though he was warned by a subordinate of the risk that he'd be taking, he responded, "The Rebel bullet that can kill me has not yet been molded." 

Well that was fine until he came into contact with a large body of Confederate soldiers who may have molded that minie ball that morning. When the Confederates figured out that they captured a Union  General, they demanded that he surrender. Instead of surrendering, he turned his horse toward his lines and tried to escape. General Kearny had an interesting way of riding a horse, it was more like a jockey with his butt in the air. So yes, some Confederate soldiers must have thought it funny to shoot a Yankee General in the butt. Records say that minie ball entered one butt cheek and came out his shoulder. It killed him instantly. 

As for his uncle, General Stephen Watts Kearny received the surrender of the New Mexico territory by Mexican Viceroy Manuel Armijo at the Battle of Santa Fe. Believe it or not, it wasn't much of a battle. In fact it's said to have taken place without a single shot being fired. 

It's true. the Battle of Santa Fe took place near Santa Fe, New Mexico, which was the capital of the Mexican Province of New Mexico. The "battle" lasted from August 8th through the 15th, 1846. No shots, none at all, were fired during the capturing of Santa Fe.

Before getting to New Mexico, General Stephen W. Kearny's orders were to secure the New Mexico territory and Alta California (Northern California). To do that, he moved his 1,700 man Army of the West southwest from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and into New Mexico. 

On August 9th in Santa Fe, Governor Manuel Armijo set up a defensive position in Apache Canyon which is about 10 miles southeast of Santa Fe. But on August 14th, before Kearny's Army ever arrived, the Mexican governor Armijo decided not to fight. General Kearny and his men arrived on August 15th and entered Santa Fe. He then claimed the New Mexico Territory for the United States. All without a single shot being fired. 

As military governor of the territory, Kearny establish offices including appointing the first American New Mexico territorial governor there. So when General Kearny left Santa Fe with his forces headed to take California from Mexico and wrap up the Mexican-American War, he left Colonel Sterling Price in command of U.S. forces in New Mexico and Charles Bent in charge as the first American New Mexico territorial governor.

Many New Mexicans were not happy about Armijo's surrender. There were even rumors that he had been bribed by Americans before Kearny's Army ever came near Santa Fe. And really, it wasn't long after the surrender that many New Mexicans resented the treatment they were receiving by the American troops. 

While the American troops certainly threw insults at the local residents, how they were being treated by American troops was just salt in a bigger wound. Fact is, they were really angry over fears that the titles to their lands, all of course issued by the Mexican government, would not be recognized by the United States government. Some of those titles were Spanish land grants, some were handed down over generations. The idea that they could lose their lands to Americans was a smoldering powder keg when General Kearny departed for California. 

Soon, the New Mexicans plotted a what was called a "Christmas" uprising. Of course that was put to a halt when the American authorities there discovered the planned revolt. And though that was the case, that didn't stop the conspirators from planning their uprising for a later date. In the meanwhile, the New Mexican residents of Santa Fe prepared by enlisting the help of Pueblo Indians who also wanted the Americans out.

It was pre-dawn on the morning of January 19th, 1847, when the killings started. It was then that the attacks began in what would become known as the "Taos Revolt" in present-day Taos, New Mexico. The attackers were led by a murderous psychopath, a Pueblo Indian by the name of Tomas Romero, who was also known as Tomasito (Little Thomas). The other leader was a Hispanic New Mexican by the name of Pablo Montoya. They attacked, killed, and mutilated their victims.

Some sources claim that Tomas Romero was in command. In fact, he was known to call himself "the alcalde." As for Pablo Montoya, some sources say that he was commanding the rebels during the Taos Revolt. Believe it or not, he was known to call himself "the Santa Ana of the North." Yes, big egos indeed. 

On January 14th, 1847, newly appointed Governor Bent traveled to his home in Taos without a military escort since he didn't expect what would take place.

A few days later, on the morning of January 20th, Romano and Montoya led a group of Hispanic New Mexicans and Pueblo Indians to the home of Governor Charles Bent. Bent was no stranger to that area. In fact, he had been a fur trader with his younger brother William, and a partner Ceran St. Vrain right there since 1828. His office may have been in Santa Fe, but he and his family maintained a residence that also acted as a trading post in Taos.

Once there, the attackers broke down the door. Once inside they shot and killed Bent and his brother-in-law Pablo Jaramillo, newly appointed Taos Sheriff Stephen Lee, Judge Cornelio Vigil, circuit attorney J.W. Leal, and nineteen-year-old Narciso Beaubien. All were scalped while still alive.

A number of sources report that Tomas Romero scalped Bent right in front of his family while the Governor lay dying. But there are other sources that say Bent's wife Ignacia and their children, as well as the wives and children of their friends Kit Carson and Thomas Boggs escaped while the Pueblo Indians were busy killing and mutilating the men. The escaped by digging through the adobe walls of their house to escape into the house next door. As they were making their escape, Ignacia and the others could hear the screams of the men as they were being scalped alive.

Scalping is defined as "the act of cutting or tearing a part of the human scalp, with hair attached, from the head of an enemy as a trophy." While there is a myth that has been promoted that Native American tribes learned scalping from Europeans, that is not the truth at all. In fact, historian Mark van de Logt has written, "Although military historians tend to reserve the concept of 'total war' for conflicts between modern industrial nations, the term nevertheless most closely approaches the state of affairs between the Pawnees, the Sioux, and the Cheyennes. Noncombatants were legitimate targets. Indeed, the taking of a scalp of a woman or child was considered honorable because it signified that the scalp taker had dared to enter the very heart of the enemy's territory."

Many Native American tribes routinely scalped their enemies long before Europeans ever stepped foot on North American soil. In fact, some theorize that Native Americans may have brought the practice of scalping, like their knowledge of building tepees, with them when they arrived in North American after leaving Siberia thousands of years ago. 

To prove that tribes scalped and mutilated their enemies long before the arrival of Europeans, all we have to do is look at the approximately 500 or so bodies at The Crow Creek Massacre site. Of those found there near Chamberlain, South Dakota, it is believed that 90 percent of the skulls there clearly show evidence of scalpings and other mutilation. That sad event took place around 1325. Yes, long before Columbus found the Bahamas.  

As for Tomas Romero, just scalping a dying man wasn't enough. Romero is said to have leaned over Governor Bent as he was taking his last breath and "raked a bowstring over his scalp, pulling away his gray hair in a glistening sheath." It is said that it "cut as cleanly with the tight cord as it would have with a knife". 

Romero was a killer beyond words as he led his band to repeat his grizzly act several times over. All of the  victims were the newly appointed American officials, as well as anyone who was seen as being a part of the U.S. territorial government. All were tortured alive before being killed. All were the targets of what became known as "insurrectionists" during the "Taos Revolt". 

Colonel Price would later write, "It appeared to be the object of the insurrectionists to put to death every man who had accepted office under the American government."

On the second day of the revolt, January 20th, about 500 Hispanic New Mexicans and Pueblo Indians attacked Simeon Turley's mill in Arroyo Hondo which is about 12 miles from Taos. Before the attack started, Charles Autobees, who was an employee at the mill, saw the attackers coming. It's said that he jumped on a horse and rode to Santa Fe for help. One of the defenders left to defend the mill was his younger half-brother Tom Tobin.

During the fight the ensued, there were 8 Americans, all mountain men and trappers there to defend against the attack. By the end of the first day, only two of the Americans survived. They were mountain men John David Albert and Tom Tobin. Actually, the attack had turned into a siege and the mountain men were hanging on as long as they could. But as night fell, the men knew that those alive were either going to die there or leave then to tell others what took place.

Albert and Tobin were told to escape since they were the only two left who were still capable of leaving. To cover their escape, the remaining others, all wounded and dying, held off the attackers into the night as Albert and Tobin escaped alive. The two actually escaped that night by going in separate directions to throw off their attackers.

It is said that Albert walked over 160 miles in three days to Pueblo, Colorado. That was through snow and blizzard like conditions with no coat as he was only able to escape with his rifle and shooting bag. He found a trading post and people who took him in. As for Tom Tobin, it's said that he made it the 80 miles to Santa Fe before finding safety. Their determination to stay alive against all odds is what true legends are made of. Today, what happened at that mill is known as the Arroyo Hondo Massacre.

On the same day of the Arroyo Hondo attack, a group of Hispanic New Mexicans and Pueblo Indians scalped and killed 8 American merchants traders who were passing through Mora, New Mexico. The group of eight American merchants were on their way to Missouri. Mora is said to have been little more than a village when the unlucky Americans found themselves in a deathtrap.

While this was going on, U.S. Army Capt. Hendley was informed of the revolt while he was in command of the grazing detachment along the Pecos River. He entered Las Bagas with his 250 men and immediately took possession of the town. He actually declared Martial Law in the town because he saw an angry mob of insurgents gathering.

On January 21st, U.S. Army Col. Price whose headquarters was in Santa Fe led his unit of 300 troops to Taos to put down the rebellion. His unit included 65 volunteers as well as a few Hispanic New Mexicans. On their way, his force engaged and beat back a force of some 1,500 Hispanics and Pueblo Indians at Santa Cruz de la CaƱada and at Embudo Pass. 

In each case, the insurgents retreated. They headed to Taos where they took refuge in a Catholic church because of its thick adobe walls. When the American Army engaged the insurgents at the church, they used a field cannon to breach its walls. They then fired directly into the interior of the church to inflict as many casualties as possible. All toll, Colonel Price's unit is said to have killed about 200 insurgents. His unit pursued the insurgents and were soon fighting at close quarters hand-to-hand combat. In all they captured close to 500 more after the fight. And as for the number of American troops killed, believe it or not only 7 American soldiers were killed in action during that battle.

On January 22nd is when Capt. Hendley learned about what took place in the village of Mora. He was informed that insurgents had a force of about 200 in Mora. So he headed to Mora with 80 troops since he needed to leave the rest behind and maintain things in Las Bagas.

Two days later, on January 24th, Capt. Hendley and his troops arrive in Mora. He finds "a body of Mexicans under arms, prepared to defend the town." Then almost immediately he and his men come under attacked by Mexicans. The shots are coming from windows and loop-holes of the houses, so he deploys his man to go house to house to flush out the attackers. 

During the fighting, he and his men were pursuing the insurgents into an old fort when Capt. Hendley was shot and killed. Because of overwhelming enemy forces laying blistering fire on them, Capt. Hendley's second in command pulled all of the troops back to safety to regroup.
The second battle in the village of Mora took place on February 1st when Capt. Morin and his men returned and destroyed the village. Capt. Morin with a force of 200 troops returned to Mora armed with two howitzers. 

Capt. Morin setup his two howitzers and soon began an artillery barrage on the make-shift fort that was constructed by the Hispanics and Indians. After the barrage, Capt. Morin attacked with the full force of his unit. 

In no time most of the New Mexicans gave up and ran. As they were searching for more insurgents, small skirmished took place as the American troops pushed out what remaining insurgents there were.  Soon the remaining insurgents were either captured or had fled into the mountains. 

Observing that the instigators were getting away, Capt. Morin then directed a small portion of his troops to pursue the fleeing Hispanics. And knowing that Mora was being used as base of operations, he ordered his troops to completely destroy Mora. So with that, Capt. Morin's troops, those who were not tasked with chasing down the insurgents, actually set fire and burned the village's surrounding crops. After the crops, the village of Mora was burned down as well. As for the villagers, they left and fled to the mountains. Those residents would later return to Mora and rebuilt their village.

Some say that Capt. Morin was seeking revenge for the killing of Capt. Hendley and the others just a week earlier. Some say he was making sure there was no food or safe haven for the insurgents to come back to. 

No American troops were killed or wounded during the second battle at Mora. But that wasn't the same for the Mexican and Indian insurgents, they had several of their people killed and wounded. And besides the dead and wounded, seventeen of them were captured and held as prisoners.  

The very next day after what took place in Mora, American officials ordered the execution of some of the prisoners in the plaza in Taos in what was called a "drumhead court-martial." A "drumhead court-martial" is a court-martial that's held in the field. It is arranged quickly in an effort to hear urgent charges of offences committed on the battlefield, in action, and in clear violation of the rules of war. The term is said to have originated when a drumhead was used as an improvised table. Some say the the term comes from using a drumhead as an altar or as a gathering point for issuing orders. One of those who was hanged that day was Pablo Montoya who referred to himself as "the Santa Ana of the North." 

After that, Col. Price arranged for a military court to try the remaining prisoners under civil law in Taos. Imagine this if you would, Col. Price appoints Joab Houghton, who was a close friend of Charles Bent, and Charles H. Beaubien, who was the father of 19 year old Narcisse Beaubien who was killed and scalped when it all started at the Governor's home. Houghton and Beaubien are the judges who will render a penalty if the jury says they are guilty. 

George Bent, the late Governor’ brother, was elected jury foreman. And the jury itself consisted of several friends of the Bent family, as well as Lucien Maxwell who was a brother-in-law of young Narcisse Beaubien.

 Col. Price justified his selection by saying that both men had previously been appointed as judges to the New Mexico Territory Superior Court by the late Governor Bent in August of the previous year.

The court was in session for fifteen days. The jury was out for an hour or so when they returned with a verdicts. They found 15 men guilty of murder and treason, and the judges sentenced them to hang. And on April 9th, American troops carry out the sentence by hanging six of the convicted insurgents in the Taos plaza. Two weeks later, American troops hang five more prisoners guilty of murder. All toll, American troops at least 28 insurgents convicted of murder or treason. 

As for the revolt in New Mexico, it's said that it didn't end with Taos. In fact, New Mexican insurgents fought against American troops three more times over the next few months. It was only after American forces dominated in the field that New Mexicans and Pueblo Indians decided to end their revolt.

As for Tomas Romero? He was turned over to the American troops as part of a surrender arrangement following a battle. The Pueblo Indians agreed to turn him over, and he was jailed in Taos. Then on February 8th, an American soldier, Private John Fitzgerald of Cook County, Illinois, entered the jail. He pulled out his pistol and shot Romero dead.

Private John Fitzgerald was arrested and locked up in what was described as "a windowless room." During the night, he was given fire wood to keep a fire going. He got so much fire wood that he was able to pile it so that he could get through the ceiling and escape.

Believe it or not, Fitzgerald is said to have returned to barracks and his unit. Once there, he got supplies and then headed north until he got to Colorado. There he supposedly met up with Ceran St. Vrain and Lewis Garrard. After that, he simply disappears.

The U.S. Army did issue Private Fitzgerald a Dishonorable Discharge, though that really didn't matter since no one ever saw him again. As for bringing him in for murdering the butcher Tomas Romero? All in all, no attempt was ever made to find him nor bring him in for what he did.

It's just my opinion, but I'm thinking that they never went after him simply because they wanted to do it themselves and Fitzgerald simply beat them to it. Besides, how can anyone in good conscience try a a man for killing someone who really deserved killing?

That's how I see it.

Tom Correa