Books And More Books!

I should have been
born in a library
to spend my life
a voracious bookworm
digesting its contents
munching my way through
musty old history
pondering poetry
puzzling out mysteries
smiling at rom-coms
sniffling over
heartbreaking memoirs
orbiting the sci-fi.
Horror gives me heartburn!

And, oh, those cookbooks
a feast for the eyes!
Though, sad to say,
bookworms seldom find time
to cook, dust
bulging buckling bookshelves
or sweep Home & Garden.
Yes, I should have been
born in a library.

I probably shouldn’t, but I do, subscribe to Book Cave and Book Bub. So I get ads about new releases and sales on e-books already in print. Which lead to the composition of the above poem. Looking over the ones offered today, I d like to read most of them!

As Frank Zappa once said, “So many books, so little time!” Here are some that non-fiction offerings that have piqued my interest; maybe they’ll pique yours, too?

H Is for Hawk: Helen Macdonald writes about adopting a temperamental hawk in the wake of her father’s death. I like animal stories, as long as the animal has a good long life. 😉

Webster’s New World: American Idioms Handbook. “The origins and meanings of American idioms.” Wouldn’t that be a fascinating read!

Too Much Tuscan Sun: Tour guide Dario Castagno “recounts unforgettable stories of his clients and their outrageous misadventures.” Human as I am, I enjoy hearing about other people’s misadventures, especially in foreign lands.

The Men We Became. A memoir by Robert Littell, who was JFK Jr’s best friend and writes about their growing up years. “Conveys the lasting love that can exist between boys who grow into men together.” (USA Today) Obviously this’d be more interesting to American readers, so I’ve included it here.

WW2 : A Layman’s Guide, by Scott Addington. “Concise read offers a thorough overview–without getting bogged down by minutiae.” I think this would be invaluable for writers setting their stories in that era.

The Roman Barbarian Wars by Ludwig Heinrich Dyck. As I said in my poem, I like ancient history. Gives me an idea of what’s gone on in our world heretofore.

Now a question for older readers: I’m reading a book that includes a flashback to Alabama, 1957. The young man is telling his parents, “I’m eighteen, legally an adult, and I can do what I want.” (In this case, marry her if I want to.)

And I thought, “Oh, no, you’re not! Back in 1957 you weren’t legally an adult until you were 21.” I recall some hot words in the 60s about being old enough for the draft, but for voting. What do you readers say? Is he right or am I. (Bearing in mind that US laws will have varied from state to state.)

Grandma Did Saving

Grandma wasn’t a socialist.

“Remember,” she instructed little sister Rose in the biffy one day, “Use only one square for #1; two squares for #2.”

You may smile at such extreme frugality, but Grandma was widowed in the fall of 1924 and went into the Great Depression with six children to feed and clothe. She had to pinch pennies every way she could; she knew the government wasn’t going to pay her bills.

She likely got some relief – many people did – but she knew their survival boiled down to how much of each thing they consumed. She didn’t expect the govt to feed them, or fix the stock market crash that threw so many people out of work. Thankfully the govt has enacted some checks to try and prevent a recurrence of that disastrous week in October 1929.

Grandma didn’t look to the government to fix the climate. It was what it was; folks knew only an act of God could bring the rains again. Since then mortals have tried meddling with the clouds, often to their hurt. People have since wised up some about land management and farming methods are much improved.

The thoughts I’m sharing here were inspired by Martha Kennedy’s blog post: “Save the World 1965.” I’m not considering global climate change, which is more-or-less a political movement. I’m simply considering pollution, irresponsible land and air management. I believe consumer choices–our choices–do impact pollution.

Reading the accounts Martha has posted, I’m amazed at how much has changed in my own lifetime. Recycling never existed–except for liquor and pop bottles. My siblings and I collected them from roadsides and sold them to the town café. Those nickels were precious back in the day! Plastics, just appearing, were welcomed as the saviour of perishable stored food. Since then we’ve counted the cost; now we’re back to paper or reusable grocery bags, wooden spoons and paper drinking straws.

Rivers, once floating sewers and chemical cocktails, have been cleaned up. There’s less paper production, so no more mercury poisoning. I’ve heard the Thames is much improved and London no longer has its pea soup fog. Chemical companies are much more accountable–at least in our country.

Internationally not so much, sadly. And where most of our goods are coming from? Can we have our cake and eat it, too? No pollution here but tons of cheap goods from third-world countries? And we need lots of fuel for travel–or heating and air conditioning for huge buildings with floor-to-ceiling glass windows. You didn’t see those a century ago. The govt could ration fuel, limit air travel, order all those fuel-gobbling cruise ships docked. (COVID did a lot of this for us, remember?) But travelers would complain, employees would lament lost jobs. In any legal restriction there are hidden costs. Rationing tends to create black markets.

One of Martha’s articles mentions population. There are too many of us! Or we consume too much? However, family size has dropped drastically since I was young. My Dad was one of ten; my parents had six. Abortions are terminating millions of possible citizens–sad to say. Speaking of hidden costs, China tried limiting their population by law and it appears their plan had some, though a lot of foreign couples have adopted girls from China, spreading some of their numbers around the globe.

My Dad, somewhat of a cynic, said, “The world has a way of regulating population. When there are too many people, another war or plague will come along.” Well, most of us pray there will never be another international conflict! And when COVID came to threaten us, we fought it tooth and nail. Or mask and sanitizers. And we’re doing better (too well?) at keeping people alive. People like me, who would have died without the amazing modern medical treatments. Seems we’re not very keen to die to make more room on the planet.

Yes, more land and air cleanup can be done. I do wonder, though: has our society become too socialist-minded? As in expecting the govt to fix the problems for us? Would our world be better off if each person/family felt more responsible for their own consumption? Our leaders may make speeches and promises, but they know they have no control over what happens in other lands. Consumer dollars actually do.

Rambles In Sand

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning is BULL

This is dry land. Some crop land, a lot of pasture and hay with patches of brush. On prairie soil maps the soil in this area is classified as “dune sand” – not much worry about getting stuck in mud after a rain. Plus it’s rather saline, not suitable for a lot of trees and shrubs.

Buffalo berry, wild sagebrush, some wild rose bushes and chokecherries are the natives here. Silver Buffalo Berry (shepherdia argentea) is a very hardy, slow growing shrub found around sloughs, in coulees, and on light soils across the prairies. Buffalo berries, like chokecherries, are food for birds. The shrub is blessed with natural deterrent: deer won’t eat silver-leafed bushes and cattle seem to leave it alone, too. It can handle this alkali soil so it survives here. Ditto with sagebrush (artemisia tridentata)

As I said, we have a lot of pasture and cattle. There are a few dairies so we see some Holsteins, but mainly black Angus beef cattle. Some farmers have a mottled mix and I’ve seen the odd animal with long horns, indicating some Texas ancestry. Pasture grass is not lush here; beef cattle growers need to have a fair number of acres per animal and supplement with hay in winter & spring. We often see round hay bales being transported on flatbed trailers or sitting in neat rows in fields.

In spring and early summer we’ll see a few bulls in a pasture by themselves, or even one lone bull grazing or lazing. Contented or bored – one never knows. In early July they’ll be called upon to do their duty again, so calves will be born in April. Obviously calves have a much better chance of survival if the worst of winter is past. Calving is a hectic time for local ranchers, who must be near at hand, checking cattle frequently, to be sure no complications develop that will cost them a calf.

Light as it is, in the Dirty Thirties this soil really blew. Wannabe homesteaders picked a 160-acre quarter section at some govt office–usually the Land Titles Office in Winnipeg. Did the homesteader threw a dart at the huge map there? Most of them had no clue what they were getting and no idea how to farm this dry country.

However, they got the land and it was their business to farm it, until people realized – and the govt finally admitted – that some land may be open prairie, easy enough to plow, but NOT suitable for constant cultivation. And for sure not deep plowing. After the 1930s the govt bought back huge chunks of land in this area and designated it as community pasture. So it is to this day. From time to time we see mini cattle drives down our road, moving cows from the community pasture just east of us to pastures just west of us.

Inspired by today’s prompt, I hope my little ramble has given you a little picture of what we see in our area.

mission accomplished
Old Angus sits in the shade
bull dozer


Keelhauling Anachronisms

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning is ANACHRONISM. Ah! One writing topic about which I frequently harangue caution younger writers.

One area that comes to mind is words and expressions. How many readers know what KEELHAUL means? Likewise, when I see something that comes from a 70s or 80s sit-com being said by a character in the 1930s, it grates. The expression, “Been there; done that,” didn’t exist in my youth. As to our prompt yesterday, EMBIGGEN, please don’t use it in your 1920s mystery or WWII story!

Another area that comes to mind is how effective birth control has changed society.

Grandma had 14 children, spread out over 28 years — the youngest born when she was 48. Her daughter Helen had 17. We once visited a family that had eleven–the youngest six months old and the oldest almost fourteen. As I do family tree research I see evidence of this same prolificacy, even if infant mortality was high.

I also see evidence that some writers born after the 1960s seem to have little idea how things worked before the Pill. They create promiscuous girls and put them in a setting where a young lady wouldn’t have dared. Girls have affairs with no consequences. Fat chance!

Social mores kept most girls on the straight and narrow–abstinence being the only sure means of birth control. Should a girl lose her purity she risked falling pregnant. Especially before the 1920s she’d risk becoming a social outcast, tainting her family with scandal–especially her sisters–and losing hope for a decent marriage. You see this in Pride and Prejudice, where Lydia’s whole family would have been disgraced by the scandal of her running off with Wickham. Only the hasty forced marriage of those two allowed her sister Elizabeth to wed Mr Darcy.

Seldom mattered if the girl had consented or not, she was blamed. If a victim spoke up, lawyers would tear her life to shreds in court. “Shotgun weddings” were many. Thousands, if not millions, of young women lost their lives in botched back-street abortions. Babies were born in secret and confined to orphanages. (Read Oliver Twist.) Anyone who wants to write about illicit affairs in the pre-Pill era and get a good picture of the mindset back then should read the first half of Ben Wicks’ compilation, Yesterday They Took My Baby.

We had such a situation in our clan. Grandma’s sister went to teach school in a small SK town and met and became engaged to a young man. I know not the intimate details, but when she fell pregnant he left for parts unknown. Took off, as we say, and left her to face the music. She died giving birth to twins and Grandma had to go bring her body home. On her 1904 death registration “cause of death” was left blank. Great-Grandma would have nothing to do with this “fallen daughter” and wouldn’t allow her to be buried in the family plot because she’d disgraced them. The twins were given to relatives–a childless couple.

And the fellow? Apart from whatever twinges of conscience he may have felt, it was no problem for him! No, the double standard seems so unfair, but that’s how it was. A writer can’t correct history by freeing her female characters from the normal consequences women did face. Prior to WWI few young women had money, or even the means to earn any, so running away from parental wrath often meant putting yourself out on the street and into the hands of “white slavers.” Even when I was young, an uneducated woman could barely manage to pull in a wage that would house and feed her.

I see in my family tree there were a few small families, perhaps because the couple worked out some birth control, but more often because of health issues. For single girls of that era, perhaps a botched abortion might render a young woman infertile. Even so, the talk! Communities were closer; everyone knew. The gossip, upturned noses and social rejection were serious. Some families would rally round, some would cast out the sinner. Some parents quickly married off the wretched girl to whoever would have her. Some girls took that option themselves.

This is not 1800s stuff; this was the scene when I was a girl in the 1950s. Writers need to research the social mores of the area in which they’re setting their story. Please, rid your work of post-Pill anachronisms and make your stories as true to their times as you can.

Can’t Be Done?

The Ragtag Daily Prompt today is PUNCTUATE. Rather than going into details about commas, colons and semi-colons, I’ll share this bit of history and add a favorite verse.

During his sermon one Sunday our Pastor described the scene when the children of Israel faced the promised land. They’d spent enough time trekking through the desert, now they were eager to go in and take possession of the land. First they sent spies to assess the situation–and especially the opposition. Twelve men went a-spying and came back bearing the fruit of the land, huge clusters of grapes, sheaves of grain, etc. Yes, it was indeed a fruitful land.

However, ten of the spies fretted about the men of the land: huge, fearsome, well armed men of war. “We were as grasshoppers in their sight.” They’d have to conquer great fortified cities. When the ten spies were done giving their report, protests and plaints punctuated the air. “Giants! Great walled cities! They’ll slaughter us! We just can’t do this!”

Joshua & Caleb, the other two spies encouraged the group. “Yes, we can! No need to fear.” Caleb urged them, “Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it….If the LORD delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us; a land which floweth with milk and honey.” (Account from Numbers 13: 25 to 14:40)

It Couldn’t Be Done

by Edgar Guest

Somebody said that it couldn’t be done
      But he, with a chuckle, replied
That “maybe it couldn’t,” but he would be one
      Who wouldn’t say so till he’d tried.
So he buckled right in with the trace of a grin
      On his face. If he worried he hid it.
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
      That couldn’t be done, and he did it!
Somebody scoffed: “Oh, you’ll never do that;
      At least no one ever has done it;”
But he took off his coat and he took off his hat
      And the first thing we knew he’d begun it.
With a lift of his chin and a bit of a grin,
      Without any doubting or quiddit,
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
      That couldn’t be done, and he did it.
There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done,
      There are thousands to prophesy failure,
There are thousands to point out to you one by one,
      The dangers that wait to assail you.
But just buckle in with a bit of a grin,
      Just take off your coat and go to it;
Just start in to sing as you tackle the thing
      That “cannot be done,” and you’ll do it.

Greats & Great-Greats

The Bloganuary question for today is: How far back in your family tree can you go?

Clicker-Free Vector Images — Pixabay.

By accessing the records of Ancestry. ca and My, I’ve been able to find the great-greats and more, on both sides. My Mom was a Harmon, her mom was a Falconer from Minnesota. Grandma Falconer’s grandparents came from Scotland as singles; I have record of their marriage in Philadelphia, PA. Grandma Thelma’s mother was a Working, from a family that emigrated from Germany and settled in Pennsylvania.

The James Welcome Harmon family came up to Canada from Minnesota to homestead here in SK. There were Wilson, Smith, and Sillsbe women married into that family. I can go back with that clan at least six generations, to the state of Maine.

I have records back to Great-great-great-grandfather David Vance who married Agnes Jones in Gallowayshire, Scotland. David’s four sons came to Canada; en route my gr-gr-gand married Sarah, the daughter of Samuel Allen in New York. The Allens go back to Plymouth Colony, now Boston.

Great-grandfather Samuel Vance was married to Mary Smith. No Smith family records, as her father, John Smith, was kidnapped by a press gang when he was nine. John worked his way to Ontario and married Ruth Dobson of Oxford County. Her family came from New Brunswick. I have record of great-grandmother Ruth’s parents and siblings.

My dad’s mother was the child of Alice Watchorn (her father Charles’ family came from central Ireland to Lanark County, Ontario) and William Turner. I can only go back to his father, my great-great-grandfather Charles and his wife Alice Doyle. He supposedly came from Ireland and married in Halifax Nova Scotia.

I find genealogy interesting, following all the lines reaching back into history, and would gladly connect with folks on the other family tree branches. But the effort would have a lot more meaning if I didn’t just have names and dates, if I could actually roll back the years for a few minutes and see the sort of people they were, how they met, etc.