Friday, December 29, 2017

"Washington's Spies - The Story of America's First Spy Ring" by Alexander Rose

We watched the AMC series "Turn"; finally the 4th and last season ended. In order to plug the "show-hole grief" that always happens after the completion of a beloved series, I read the history book on which the show was based.

The book is written in modern style, yet completely referenced with sources.

For a commander to hire civilian informants to spy on  the enemy on a regular basis was considered low; but even so Washington needed to know what the British were up to in New York during the American Revolution. So the link between Ben Tallmadge and his Long Island connections was formed; it functioned quietly for several years.

A lighlight was the early realization of the defection of Benedict Arnold.

After reading the book, I was better able to understand the connections our family shares with this time in history.

We have long known of the Silliman's in Fairfield CT. Researched by my husband's Grandmother, his 5th Great-Grandfather had been a corporal in the CT militia during the Revolution. This man's uncle was General Gold Selleck Silliman, in charge of defence of CT coast line.

Many families have interesting heritage, either in the US or in countries of their origin; if only people had the interest to use the records to discover it.

We had known that General Silliman was kidnapped and held by the British for months; but from the book we learned that: "On arriving at (Lloyd's Neck) they (the kidnappers and hostage) were hailed by Col. (John Graves) Simcoe (the essence of evil in the TV series). "Have you got him?" asked Simcoe. "Yes" was the answer. "Have you lost any men? asked Simcoe. "No". And Simcoe says "That's well, Your Sillimans and your Washingtons are not worth a man."


Another family connection is one with Selah Strong: both descended from the immigrant John Strong (well researched family tree). And Caleb Brewster would certainly have know General Silliman.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Slightly Belated Remembrance of Dad's 98th Birth Anniversary

 As an infant, with his Father
 As a toddler, with his Mom. Below, probably the first photo ever as a very young enfant. Spring, 1920.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Haha--another kind of mask

One of our home grown potatoes seemed to smile at me as it was readied for cook pot.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

I was Confused....But there really is a "Tailor of Panama"; A Great Read!

"The Tailor of Panama" by John Le Carre

Since he also wrote a wonderful spy thriller called "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy", where those occupational references were "code names" for suspected turn coats, I wondered if the "tailor" referred to a character from a previous novel?

But no. In this post-Soviet era novel, published 1996, Harry Pendel is an expert and savvy British tailor to the cream of society in Panama: local dignitaries including the President, as well of foreigners of all nationalities--but all wealthy and powerful. In the perfect position to facilitate espionage; Harry is trapped into assisting his government in the effort to keep a finger on the pulse of the disposition of the Panama Canal once the Americans turn it over to the local government at the end of the century.

There is a perfect anti-hero and some great characters who populate the British Embassy. I'm not going to say one more word about the plot, since the twists are part of the enjoyment.

My favorite part of the book is the method the author uses to tell the story: it's as if we are sitting in the pub or bar having drinks with the worldly, all-knowing narrator. He tell the story in casual diction, it feels like the story wanders pleasantly as the narrator has a few more drinks--no, he is providing back ground. After I finished the book, I had to go Google all I could find on Panama and the Canal. I watched several You Tubes and satisfied my curiosity. 

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

"Silent Voices" by Ann Cleeves: my introduction to Vera

"Silent Voices" is a routine British crime novel, set among the rural villages in the northeast part of the country.

Vera Stanhope is the Detective Inspector; she's not routine at all; of course she's brilliant, but rather like a female version of Columbo. Middle aged, overweight, under-styled with a failure to delegate chores of detective work to the appropriate subordinates.

There is a series of novels about her and her team. These have been adapted for TV; I have not been able to find the DVD's in my local library or else I would watch a season or tow.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Did I Mention? Masks and Random Objects.

Since the visit to the Denver Art Museum in September, I'm obsessed with Masks. The oldest one in this group:

this one, so simple, so expressive.  I find that if I try to draw a face, I do a better representation if I draw it as a mask.


A stone in the path somewhere in the Tetons, also from our visit in September 2017. Natural or placed by man? An old peoples' Valentine?

Could inspire a painting of lights and darks? At the Mormon village near the Tetons.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Three Books Non-fiction, because I'm trying to read more of this.

I admit I read too much random, eclectic fiction that I pick up as it crosses my path--little focus to my reading? So I'm trying to select more history, memoir etc.

First, to celebrate my own approaching "retirement", "Twilight at Monticello" by Alan Pell Crawford; should I find inspiration in the retirement years of a US Founder, I wondered?

It was a fascinating narrative of the final 17 years of the life of a principal crafter of the Declaration of Independence (though I learned from other reading that Benjamin Franklin guided his pen). Jefferson saw the wisdom and acted to acquire the territories west of the Mississippi River and commissioned the exploration.

In retirement, his major accomplishment was the nurture of the University of Virginia. On a personal level, he kept busy and physically active, up to the limits of his surprisingly frail health. He wrote extensively about the Bible. Sadly, he left his descendants in deep debt, due to very generous habits of spending, borrowing and lending to others. There is a 19th century photo of Monticello in ruins--sad. His grandson spent years working to pay his debts.   A good book.

Second, James Alexander Thom's "Long Knife-The Story of a great American Hero, George Rogers Clark".

The book is actually a historic novel, but so loaded with factual, researched information that is has a solid bibliography included. George Rogers Clark was a friend of Thomas Jefferson; he was the older brother of William Clark, of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

Basically, GRC and a very small troop of mainly Kentucky settlers ran the British out of the West and back to Detroit during the American Revolution. He lost none of his men in combat. His actions freed the Mississippi River of British involvement; it curtailed the British practice of paying bounties for the scalps of Kentucky settlers: men, women, children and even unborn babies.

His contributions were made at his own expense; he was never repaid. And he develped a drinking habit the shocked people, even then. A sad life. An interesting book.

This author writes in similar style about other regional American subjects. I read "Follow the River" in recent years, the story of the escape from Tribal captivity by an American woman about 1755.

Why has there not been a movie about the life of Isabella L. Bird? A hundred years ago, she was famous and known everywhere as an explorer, humanitarian and writer. The book I read was published in 1960, reprinted in 1985. Has any one heard of her now?

"A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains":

In 1873 she was a fearless 40 year old single British lady who decided, on her way back to England from exploring Hawaii, that she would go ride a horse (usually alone) around the recently explored Rockies, principally Estes Park. She rides alone for long days, finds lodging a bug invested camps, maybe she has a romance(?) with a local badass who is killed soon after she leaves on her journey back to England; he helps her climb Longs Peak to the summit---all in autumn approaching winter. She wrote the book in the form of letters which she mailed back to her sister in England. Her works were published during her life to help finance further travel.

I wish she had realized she was writing for the ages; explained more about the people, way they lived, especially the women she encounters. She was infected by the prejudices of her time: she detests the Mormons, she dismisses the Tribes (she encounters only the remnants, homeless and destitute) and she is not too supportive of women who are mere wives and mothers (most women of her time).

It's amazing she survived the Rockies. She lived until just after the turn of the 20th century, even as she was planning another faraway adventure. She had traveled through Asia, India, Japan and other places in the her life.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Mother's 98th Birthday Anniversary

Mom would have been 98 years old today. Sadly, she developed terminal dementia and passed away in 1999; way too soon. The photos are some lesser, more candid, random shots taken over the years.
She looks a little tired and fussy in the last photo.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

At the Denver Museum of Art...

Fascinating exhibit about the artistic ceremonial masks and cloaks styled by ancient and more modern Tribal people of the Pacific Northwest. Inspiring.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Friday, September 29, 2017

The Backstreets of the West in Dubois, WY, on the way to the Tetons and Yellowstone...

Many of the Western tourist towns hold little charm or interest; this one was small, with walkable streets and a neighborhood to explore. I liked these "alley shots" of various old sheds, supplies like wood for the winter and novel decorations made by the residents.  Colors, textures and stuff, on a cloudy September day.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Home From a Two Weeks Ramble, with some visual Memories...

While trying to set up camp at Gros Vente near the Teton Range, we seem to have interrupted the grazing of this Mom and Baby Moose pair. The camp sites were fairly deserted, so likely the moose were catching up on nibbling in these areas which may have been crowded with poeple all summer. They were relaxed as long as we weren't too close. Interesting to be so near these big animals.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

An Old Fashioned, Feel-Good Horse Opera: "Thunderhead" by Mary O'Hara

Photo by Barbara Besler:  Battle of Wills taken at Keeneland September Sales about 2 years ago.

Sometimes, I enjoy reading a book (fiction or not) that was written, say, 70 or 90 years ago, when the author and readers did not know there was to be a WW2, atom bomb, Vietnam War, Beatles, etc.
Mary O'Hara lived from 1885 to 1980, was married several times. She appears to be a little ahead of her time, but probably she was right in tune with her ability to use her education and talent. "Flicka" was published about 1941, "Thunderhead" in 1943.

"Thunderhead" is a sequel to the very popular novel, "My Friend Flicka" which I have not read, but movies and TV shows based on the story were everywhere during my childhood. Both stories focus on the "coming of age" of pre-teen Ken McLaughlin at his parents' financially troubled "Goose Bar Ranch". His iron-willed Dad is trying to breed and sell polo ponies during the time of the World Wide Depression of the 1930's; he's losing his shirt, and he is angry.

Thunderhead is the name that was eventually lived up to by Flicka's foal, a colt who is a throw-back to the mysterious, legendary Albino; that stallion terrorized the ranchers of Wyoming by stealing their broodmares. One of the McLaughlins' mares fell for the charms of this bronco, but eventually was found--with foal.  Thunderhead is pure white, like his great-grandsire, Albino; strong and willful.

There are several plots that thread through this story: the boy, the horse, the head-strong Dad and much from the point of view of the (pre-womens liberation) Mother, Nell; she can do nothing to help her husband till he decides to alter his business plan for the ranch.

Best: the author (who wrote the books to help save her own family's failing ranch) had a talent for getting into the head of the horses to help the reader think like a horse. She did a wonderful job of painting the Wyoming landscapes with words. Perhaps the book could have been 50-pages lighter.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

How Many More Butterflies Photos can I show Them?

The Butterfly Hotel will be closing it's doors for the year soon. There is one more Monarch chrysalis which will probably become a butterfly tomorrow. I have two Black Swallowtails which are either dead or else "of the second generation", meaning they should be the first flight of 2018. I have to figure out a place to stash these outdoors; I don't want them to become butterflies in January inside the house!

Probably we have sheltered about 25 Black Swallowtails and likely at least a dozen Monarchs.

Walkabout in the American South in Early May

In Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina and Kentucky. Just enough camping, some relaxing in hotels. We discovered the site of ...