24 November 2010

A Long, Cold Winter?

It snowed Monday night and has been in the low teens and low 30s ever since. Abnormally early winter this year in Oregon.

My father heard on the radio yesterday that rabbits have burrowed 14 feet already. Our last hard winter was in 2008, in which rabbits burrowed 12 feet for the winter. The habits of animals in preparation for the winter is a sure sign of the forecast.

In one of my favorite nightlight readings, Laura Ingalls Wilder's The Long Winter, Pa Ingalls explained the behavior of muskrats.

At the edge of the pool stood the muskrats' house. It was taller than Laura, and far larger than her arms could reach around...The muskrats had gnawed dry grass to bits and mixed the bits well with mud to make a good plaster for their house, and they had built it up solidly and smoothly and rounded the top carefully to shed rain...

...Inside those thick, still walls, Pa said, the muskrats were sleeping now, each family curled in its own little room lined softly with grass...

...There they curled comfortably to sleep.

Laura put her hand on the wall of their house. The coarse plaster was hot in the hot wind and sunshine, but inside the thick mud walls, in the dark, the air must be cool. She liked to think of the muskrats sleeping there.

Pa was shaking his head. "We're going to have a hard winter," he said, not liking the prospect.

"Why, how do you know?" Laura asked in surprise.

"The colder the winter will be, the thicker the muskrats build the walls of their houses," Pa told her. "I never saw a heavier-built muskrats' house than that one."

The winter the Ingalls faced in Minnesota that year had over 30 blizzards. The year was 1881. Here is a photo of a train trying to dig out of the snow in Minnesota (March 29, 1881).Here is another photo from Whitewater, Wisconsin from the same year of blizzards.We probably are not in for the Big Snow of '81, but we are probably in for a long, cold winter. They even said on the news this week that we were colder than Anchorage, Alaska. So I think we are in for it. This means a lot of nights by the fire with a good book or knitting in hand, which I don't mind in the least. With a cup of hot chocolate of course! Cheers!

15 September 2010

Discoveries in the Stacks: A Library Adventure

Recently I had to reorganize my bookshelf to house more beloved books. It took some time and some problem solving, but I was able to come up with a temporary solution (until I have more room and money to buy and utilize the gigantic bookcase from Ikea I so desire). This isn't even half of my book collection. There is much more in a bookshelf in my closet and stored away in boxes. Needless to say, due to the lack of funds and space, I am returning to my home-away-from-home: the library.

O, how I love the library! J'adore le library (my attempt at French—I know my Spanish though—Me encata la biblioteca!). I walk in and the smell of dusty shelves, paper, and leather bindings immediately comforts me. When I am down in the dumps I just venture to the library and spend hours in the stacks browsing. There has been many times when I find a unique treasure and I bring it home to investigate this piece of gold from cover to cover.

Now there was a recent occurrence when the rain was pounding the pavement, I just finished a long day at the school, and I was feeling a little inadequate. So I took a detour on the way home and stopped by the library. Dashing through the rain from my car to the doors, I couldn't help but feel my heart's feet skip, and as soon as I entered and pulled the hood off my head I smiled. I couldn't help it. People were in line with their friends and kids held stacks of books waiting to check out, and others were browsing the aisles. I was overjoyed to be in a place where people also treasure books (instead of what those Satanic electronic book mongers call "books") and the thrill of discovery!

On this very day I checked out Diana Gabaldon's Lord John and the Private Matter while I wait for the release of the graphic novel The Exile, as well as request another popular book that was currently checked-out (until today when I picked it up), George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones.* I am excited to start reading this after a dear friend of mine recommended it to me.

So this very evening, I will be nestled in my bed, the scent of lavender in the air, and the sound of rain on the window panes as I read and smell my library-owned paper novels. O, what joy it is! (And I daresay I'm saving my eyesight from those iPad/Kindle/Nook reading folks who have a constant light dilating their pupils—disclaimer: anything I have an opinion on please know that I don't intend to intentionally hurt those who love their iPads; it's not a direct insult. I think the iPad is cool too, I am just very passionate about books and the book industry. Sentiment outweighs the conveniences of technology for me.)

*Side note: A Game of Thrones will become a HBO series in 2011. Something to look forward to.

12 September 2010

The American Film Company

The American Film Company is a rather new film company whose goal is to make historically accurate and entertaining films of events in America's history. I'm always on the search for period films, but I'm often disappointed in their inaccuracy, and instead of enjoying the acting, cinematography, and overall entertainment, I am sitting there nit-picking every historical fact and instance. I'm overjoyed to learn of this new film company and everything they are doing to bring out historically accurate films that are both full of fact, but entertaining as well!

Currently there is a film, "The Conspirator," that is being film, which is about the conspiracy of the Abraham Lincoln assassination. The film focuses on the accusation Mary Surratt in the conspiracy to murder the president and the young Union war hero who represents her in the military tribunal. The film is directed by Robert Redford, and stars James McAvoy, Robin Wright, Kevin Kline, Evan Rachel Wood, and Tom Wilkinson. There is no release day set on the website, but The Internet Movie Database has the date set for this year. However, I suspect it will be released in 2011.

Other films that are in production are "The Arsenal," which is about John Brown and the his band raiding the Harper's Ferry arsenal; and "Midnight Ride," which is about story of Paul Revere and his midnight ride and the start of the American Revolution.

06 September 2010

She-Wolf: short story

Recently I watched a UK film, "Centurion," which depicts the Roman conquest of the Britons (specifically the Picts). I realized that I knew very little about the Britons and their tribes. So I decided to do some independent research on the ancient tribes of Britain. Since I have Welsh ancestry, I particularly focused on the the Votadini tribe (or in Welsh: Gododdin or Guotodin), who came under Roman rule in 138-162 AD. The Votadini became a buffer tribe for Rome and other tribes within the walls of Hadrian and Antoninus. An ally of Rome, they became a very wealthy people, for archeology has uncovered Roman silver, plates, and silverwear in the region. With all this in mind, I was inspired to write a short story on the legacy of the Votadini people.


Rhian Bleidd was the daughter of Bleidd, which meant wolf or hero in the language of the Gododdin Tribe, a native people of Britanica. Many of their tribesmen called her Bleiddwen, meaning she-wolf, for she was born of a woman named Penarddun, which means most fair. Penarddun used her beauty and wiles to seduce Bleidd, for there was a prophecy in Gododdin that a great woman warrior and queen would come from the line of Bleidd. Penarddun wanted more than anything to produce that queen. Her greed would kill her at the birth of her daughter Rhian Bleidd.

At the time of Rhian Bleidd’s birth, her father Bleidd was out with the warriors defending their land from the vicious Romans. When he returned to the village he was handed Rhian Bleidd from the old priestess Adara.

“The prophecy will come from she and a man of foreign blood,” Adara whispered in Bleidds’ ear as she walked away to prepare the body of Penarddun.

Bleidd watched the old woman limp away, her white hair trailing down her back. The child moved and whimpered in his hands, and for the first time he looked at the infant girl. Her skin was so fair he could see the blue veins beneath, and her hair was as white as snow. When she opened her small eyes, they were as blue as a lake.

He took the child to his sister, Olwain’s hut, pushing the child into her arms.

“Feed the bleiddwen,” he said with disgust. It was at this moment that the Gododdin would begin calling Rhian Bleidd she-wolf.

Bleidd wedded Angharad, the daughter of the Gododdin chief. There was rumor, however, that on the last breath of Penarddun she cursed any other woman who would lay with Bleidd, in order that no other child would fulfill the prophesy. Angharad was barren. Any child she did conceive ended in blood and bones. In her grief, she beat Rhian Bleidd until she bled and casted her out of their family hut.

Rhian Bleidd found solace in the arms of Adara, the old priestess. Each time she returned to Adara, she would ask to hear the prophecy again and she found comfort in the words, for it gave her hope.

When Gododdin was defeated by the Romans and became trapped within the walls of Hadrian and Antoninus, Rhian Bleidd had lived a decade. Bleidd was becoming an old man and at the death of Angharad, left the village, taking Rhian with him south. He did not tell where they were traveling to as much as she asked him. They traveled through the woods and valleys for thirteen days.

On the fourteenth day Rhian Bleidd awoke to the sound of horses and men. She lay silently within her wolf fur robe and opened her eyes. The fire was black and smoked, and the place where her father lay was vacant. She sat upright and looked around. There was no sign of her father, their belongings, or their horses. The men on horseback sounded closer. Their words were foreign to her ears. She began to panic. Quickly gathering her wool blanket, her robe, and her leather pouch, which contained her few personal belongings, she ran and dove beneath the shrubbery of a hedge tree. Branches and rocks obscured her vision, but she saw as the horses approached the camp, and men dismounted, walking around where Rhian and her father had slept. She could hear her heart pound in her ears and she covered her mouth in hope that her breath would not give her away.

These strangers were neither Caledoniis nor Brigantes, for they wore strange leather shoes and wool pants beneath leather and iron armor. She remembered stories of the Romans and she feared her father had been taken captive. Suddenly, hands gripped her ankles and she scrambled to hold on to rocks and branches in horror. The hands pulled her out from under the bush and her struggle was in vain. The hands were far stronger than her own.

“What do we have here,” said the strange man.

She could not understand their words; in paralyzing fear she found that she could not scream like she willed.

“A girl of the Votadinis,” said another.

The stories were true. These men stood tall in their iron armor and horsehair crested helmets. She could not make out their faces, but their sneers were evident within.

Another, who wore a red cape with his armor, which was decorated with medallioned cuirass, approached Rhian Bleidd.

“What’s your name?” he barked.

Rhian Bleidd stared at him in fear.

“The little bitch is without a tongue,” the one who held on to her said.

“Quiet Batiatus!” he yelled. Then more serenely, “Child, what’s your name? I am Quintus Varus,” he said pointing at himself.

Rhian Bleidd swallowed her fear and hoping to scare the strange soldiers, she told them what her people call her, hoping to incite fear in them. “Bleiddwen,” she hissed.

The three men did not falter at her words. Instead, they went into action, as Quintus barked orders to the other two. With speed and efficiency, they had Rhian Bleidd’s feet and hands tied and thrown over Quintus’ horse. Finally she began to scream, hoping if her father was near by he would hear her and come rescue her. The horse startled, throwing Rhian Bleidd off its back. Her scream caught in her throat as she hit the ground, tears stinging her eyes. She struggled on the ground, until Quintus picked her up and placed her before the front pummels so she could not fall off. She screamed again, but this time, Quintus hit her skull with the handle of his puggio, silencing her.

She awoke at nightfall, yet her vision was filled with dim light and a starless sky. As her vision adjusted she realized she was underneath a dark tarp, furs piled on top of her and an oil lamp beside the mat she lay upon. Soon upon waking Quintus entered the tent, said some words she did not understand, and was then handed a plate of bread and goat cheese. He barked an order to her, and when she did not respond, he repeated the order, putting his hand to his mouth in demonstration to eat.

Scared that he may repeat his barking order, she began to eat. But as famished as she was, she feared the food might be poison, so she ate slowly, hoping to stop if symptoms occurred.

She remained at the camp near Hadrian’s wall for four years, as Quintus’ slave girl. She came to understand the language of the Romans, yet at night she whispered the welsh of her people in fear that she would forget. Quintus did not abuse her, for he treated her as if she were the daughter he left behind in Rome, renaming her Lupa.

Very few soldiers remained at the garrison at this time, for many were North at the Antonine wall. Life at the garrison was inactive. The soldiers that remained continued their patrols of the region along the wall, and drank and gamed with their free time. Quintus kept Bleiddwen from the troops and beat any man who made inappropriate advances toward her. One time she was caught in a crowd of drunken soldiers and she was passed around the group to be groped and petted. Upon hearing this, Quintus raced to her aid, and beat the men with a vine branch past submission until they were bruised and bloody. After this incident all men stayed clear of Quintus’ Lupa.

Five years after her capture, Quintus received orders from Antonius Pius to move to the Antonine wall. His replacement, Legatus Trogus Avienus, arrived at the garrison with his young wife Varelia. Trogus, upon seeing Bleiddwen, was succumbed with lust. Varelia, knowing her husband’s veracious appetite for the flesh, she wished more than anything for him to be distracted by a female other than her self, for she was disgusted with her wifely duties. Quintus, who was a centurion under the legatus, was ordered to leave the garrison without the slave, for she was a slave to the legion, not to himself.

Bleiddwen, who only knew the kindness of Quintus and was attached to him for protection of herself and her virginity, cried with horror at their separation. Quintus, a man of great pride and will-power, pulled Bleiddwen’s gripping hands from his arms. He swallowed the building lump in his throat and placing the helmet on his head, walked away to the screams of his Lupa, knowing he would never see her again.

That night, Trogus and Varelia, conspired to bring the girl out of Quintus’ abandoned tent with gifts of grapes, wine, and olives. Without any progress Trogus ordered Varelia to go coax the she-wolf from her cave, hoping the sugary words of his wife would soften Bleiddwen in their favor. Beneath the sugary words of Varelia was vinegar, yet Bleiddwen, who knew nothing of Roman women, believed her lies and followed her to the corridor of the legate.

Trogus and Varelia showered her with food and drink, and when Bleiddwen was happily drunk, they led her into the antechamber where they undressed her and Varelia put her in a purple Roman tunic.

“Now you are suit for a legatus,” she said, pleased with herself.

Varelia placed her on the chaise and showered her with rose water and petals. And departing into the shadows, Varelia watched as her husband did as he pleased with the Votadini girl.

In the early hours of the dawn, Batiatus, Quintus’ right-hand man, found Bleiddwen bleeding in the ditch between the garrison wall and the palisade. Batiatus washed her, put her in a tunic and fur robes, and placed her on a horse.

“Go back to your people, Bleiddwen,” he commanded. “Go as far away as you can.”

For fourteen days she traveled the land, but she did not remember how to get back to her people’s village. On the fifteenth day she came across a woman, who was scavenging for roots, who spoke the Gododdin language. Filled with joy she spoke to the woman of her circumstances and her name. The woman was revolted by her name.

“Are you a faerie or a witch?” she asked, for she was told Rhian Bleidd was dead.

“No, I am she. I have been alive all these five years, as captive of the Romans.”

Bleiddwen showed the woman her Roman military issued tunic and she came to believe her.

The woman’s name was Ulrica and she said, “Come to my village. My people are your people. They will welcome you.”

With that, she allowed Ulrica, to accompany her on her mount, and they rode back to the village.

They did not welcome her as Ulrica had said. As the sun descended on the fifteenth day, a meeting was held with the chief and all of his warriors to discuss the girl. They did not like that Bleiddwen was in their village. They believed she was a curse and they feared that the Romans would come looking for their captive. At the moment they were at peace with the Romans, and often an ally on the battlefield, so they did not want to incite violence.

“If she wants to be with her people,” said Brynmor, the chief, “let us send her to her people. Tomorrow at dawn we will escort her to Bleidd and his clan.”

Brynmor and a group of his warriors, rose Bleiddwen at first light, and they traveled across the hills and dales to the village where she was born. Her own people were not pleased to see her either and as her old father came out of his hut to greet her, she saw the frown on his weathered face.

“You have returned with a curse on your head, Bleiddwen,” he said. “Your mother spoke a curse at her death and you were brought in the world with those words in her mouth. Death follows you.”

Ceridwen, the daughter of the deceased priestess Adara, came out of her hut and rebuked Bleidd. “Are you deaf, old man? Have you never heard the prophecy?” Ceridwen was a dryw, or seer.

“The prophecy has been revoked by her mother’s curse,” he defended.

“A prophecy always overcomes a curse. She is the hope of Gododdin. She knows the way of the Romans. Only from her will we find freedom from the Roman irons,” Ceridwen said.

“Come Rhian Bleidd,” she said, gesturing for her to follow.

Bleiddwen told Ceridwen all that had happened in the Roman camp.

“If you are pregnant,” Ceridwen explained after Bleiddwen told her of the rape by the legatus, “then it is the will of the goddesses.”

“I have no desire to be pregnant with a Roman child!” Bleiddwen cried.

“Hush! The prophecy demands a child of foreign paternity.”

“That could very well mean from another tribe. Maybe the child would be from a Pictish warrior.”

“Unlikely. You must be prepared for whatever is your legacy.”

Resolute, Bleiddwen accepts her fate. Months later she gives birth to a son with a shriveled hand. Together Ceridwen and Bleiddwen take the child to a faerie hill, for the faeries to exchange the changeling for Bleiddwen’s child. Ceridwen recited the proper rites and left the necessary food offerings. They would return in one day’s time to find Bleiddwen’s child. The following day they returned to find the place barren, with no child in site.

“There is no rightful child, Rhian Bleidd,” Ceridwen explained. “You gave birth to a changeling. Therefore, the fated child is yet to come.”

Bleiddwen accepted this explanation, although she felt a hole was left in her heart by this changeling. Now her will and devotion required her full belief that the prophecy would come true.

Three years passed, then another three years. Near the summer solstice the warriors, led by her elderly father, went out to patrol the south region of their tribe. The Romans had sent word for help to assuage some villages in the southeast, near the Antonine wall, in exchange for silver. Many have accepted Bleiddwen and as Rhian Bleidd, she is given a rank as warrior. Trained since her return to the tribe in archery, she is now a skilled warrior.

Painted in woad root and hair combed with clay, they went with their horses prepared for battle if necessary. Listening to their surroundings they rode and stopped, rode and stopped, until they reached a camp of Domhnain warriors, which held five Roman prisoners. They all came to a halt when the Domhnain took up arms.

“What is the meaning of this?” one Domhnain, who appeared to be the leader said, seeing Bleidd and all of his men and women dressed in war paint.

“We came to squelch any rebellion,” Bleidd said.

“In the name of Rome, I presume, traitor of Briton,” he said, spitting at the feet of Bleidd’s horse.

Bleidd leveled his sword at the man. “Release the prisoners!” he ordered. “You will be paid handsomely in return.”

“By Roman incentive,” he humphed. “I think not. I would rather die than accept the patronage of Rome.”

“I’m sorry to hear that Domhnain,” Bleidd said, wielding his sword. “Archers!” he yelled.

A cry like banshees pierced the air as the Gododdin warriors released arrows into the camp. Exhausting arrows, Bleiddwen dismounted, drawing her sword with the metal singing in exaltation. She saw only blue paint and blood as she slashed through the warriors that came at her. As they broke through the lines of Domhnain warriors, Bleiddwen could see the Romans tied to a tree. She ran toward them, continuing to slash warriors as she reached them.

“Lupa!” she heard her Roman name and she fell to her knees before Quintus.

Without words, for she had none in her surprise and rush of battle, she cut their ropes freeing the Roman soldiers.

“Dagger!” Quintus yelled, grabbing the dagger from Bleiddwen’s belt as she helped free the rest of the Romans.

In one quick motion, Quintus dug the dagger in the side of Domhnain, whose breath was caught short and fell in a sputter of blood.

Side by side Quintus and Bleiddwen slashed and stabbed the onslaught of Domhnains. Suddenly, as soon as it had all began, a quiet emerged from the scene, which was only pierced by short gasps as they canvassed the area for survivors to help them into the otherworld.

That night they camped at the place of the slaughter in order to burn the bodies in the rites of their people. Alight by the fire, they all sat quietly in small groups. Bleiddwen and Quintus sat together beneath a great pine tree, watching the funeral pyre burn, and silently saying prayers in their languages to their gods.

Together they lay down beneath their robes and studied each other, for both had changed within the last six years. Full breasted and wide hips, Quintus marveled at how much she matured. Bleiddwen in turn, marveled at the graying hair at his temples and his sun-burnt face, lined with age, yet he was still a solid muscular man, who appeared at the peak of robust health. Beneath their robes they acquiesced to one another and he called her Lupa and she called him paternus of the future warrior queen.

Rhian Bleidd, Lupa, became the mother of a line of warriors in the Votadini tribe. The son of Quintus Varus was named Julius Quintus Varus. A long line continued the Varus name, until a daughter named after an ancient grandmother Lupa Varus, also known as Bleiddwen to her people, married another Roman named Tacitus two hundred years after the death of Rhian Bleidd and Quintus Varus. Tacitus had a son who was known as Paternus of the Scarlet Robe, or Padarn Beisrudd ap Tegrid. Padarn continued the line with another son, Edern or Eternus, who in turn fathered Cunetacius, or Cunedda, the Good Hound, who established the Kingdom of Gwynedd in the 5th century. Cereticus, also known as Ceredig, established the Kingdom of Ceredigion in Hen Ogledd. Ceredig had a son named Seisyll, who established the Kingdom of Seisyllwg in the 7th and 8th centuries.

Gwgon, king of Ceredigion, drowned with no heir, leaving the kingdom to his sister, who married Rhodri Mawr of Seisyllwg. In the 9th century, Rhodri the Great, split his kingdom between his two sons, Anarawd and Cadell. Anarawd received the Kingdom of Gwynedd and Cadell received the Kingdom of Dyfed and Seisyllwg. Cadell had a son named Hywel Dda, who united the kingdoms to form the Kingdom of Deheubarth. In the 11th century, from the line of Hywel Dda and his wife Elen, came Rhys ap Tewdwr, who fathered the Prince of Wales, Rhys ap Gruffydd. In the 12th century, the Norman-Saxons conquered Wales.

Descended from a granddaughter of Rhys, in the 15th century, Owan ap Maredudd ap Tewder, or Sir Owen Meredith Tudor, married Catherine of Valois. Owen and Catherine gave birth to the 1st Earl of Richmond, Edmund Tudor who married Lady Margaret Beaufort. From their union came Harri Tudur, the first Welsh monarch, Henry VII of England. Due to Henry Tudor’s War of the Roses, the unification of England and Ireland brought a peaceable reign and succession of his son Henry Tudor VIII, King of England and Ireland. And from the she-wolf of the 16th century, Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII bore the warrior queen of the prophecy of Bleiddwen, Queen Elizabeth I of England and Ireland.

There is also a myth, that the changeling of Bleiddwen, carried her line to Constantine III of Britain, father of Uther Pendragon, and grandfather of King Arthur ap Pendragon. Whether this is true or not has never been founded.*

*I was able to trace the line of the Tudors back to the Kingdom of Deheubarth. Names are all historical figures, however, I used some liberties here to strengthen the fictional prophecy. The line between historical facts and myths are often blurred. However, I do believe there is always some basis of fact in myth. Whether King Arthur is an actual historical figure is heavily debated, but I wanted to use this to blur (or define—based on your own perspective) the line between history and myth.

18 August 2010

This I Believe.

Blogging has been limited the last few weeks due to the beginning of my graduate teaching program. Tomorrow I can officially declare whether I survived the first term or not. For now, though, I would like to share an assignment we did in my Teaching and Learning class. This is my infantile pedagogy, which will hopefully grow with my experiences and learning.

This I Believe

I believe teachers have a responsibility to care for their students and their environment. Go out of your way to care for a student. Make yourself available to students between classes, at lunchtime, and after school. Get to know the families of your students. Get to know your students. Period. Talk to each student about life and issues outside of the classroom inside your classroom. Connect Social Studies themes with concerns of young adolescents. Actively engage the students through authentic learning and field exploration. Create a safe, relaxing environment for learning and participation. Don’t tolerate anything less than exceptional performance. Don’t allow anyone to fail or to settle for mediocrity. Everyone deserves better than that. Everyone deserves time and attention to achieve excellence.

I believe schools should incorporate curriculum that involves a variety of content that engages all learners. Schools should invest in their communities and build curriculum on community involvement and local businesses. Curriculum should be based on the students, not on national standardized testing. School is not a bureaucracy, but a classroom is a democracy. School programs should cater to the ambitions and dreams of students. Never should a school, teacher, councilor, or principle kill the dream of a student. All must help fuel the flames of a student’s interests and desires.

I believe curriculum should have meaning to the students. Teachers should be able to explain the reason for every lesson and instructional strategy, and should relate directly to the needs of the individual as a person, not as a student. Students should come away from their learning process being able to conceptualize what they learned and how to use it today and tomorrow. Without understanding the objective of the lesson or instructional strategy, how is a student going to be able to have a meaningful learning experience? Every student should leave my classroom and be able to share with a friend, parent, sibling, or teacher what they learned today.

I believe history should be used as a tool to guide ones life and to learn about oneself and identity. It is important to understand ones history in order to understand ones present and future. Jean Mabillion, a 15th century Benedictine scholar, wrote in his De re diplomatica, "To study history is to study the motives, the opinions, and the passions of men in order to know all the successes, the initiatives and the detours, and finally all the illusions that they make known to the mind and the surprises that they make the heart feel. In a word, it is to learn to know oneself in others.” This is what I believe. And this is what I will act upon in learning and teaching.

04 July 2010

America: Raw hide, gumption, courage, gristle, ambition, and whiskey

Despite popular belief that the Fourth of July is America's birthday, people continue to celebrate the birth of a nation on this date. However, America was "born" fifteen years prior to the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

During the French and Indian War, the British government allowed for writs of assistance (basically open-ended search warrants) by any person, whether an authority or neighbor. "Every men prompted by revenge, ill humor or wantonness to inspect the inside of his neighbour's house may get a writ of assistance" (Otis). By 1760, at the death of George II, all writs expired. However, the Boston governor continued to write out warrants to search the property of merchants for smuggled goods. James Otis, colonial lawyer and representative of the Massachusetts merchants, argued against the writs of assistance. He argued that laws, such as the writs, were against the fundamental principles of law:
A man's house is his castle; and while he is quiet, he is as well guarded as a prince in his castle. This writ, if it should be declared legal, would totally annihilate this privilege...this wanton exercise of this power is no chimerical suggestion of a Brain...
John Adams, at the time a young lawyer in Massachusetts, wrote in his notes of Otis' speech, "the first scene of the first act of opposition to the arbitrary claims of Great Britain. Then and there, the child Independence was born."

The escalating tension between colonists and British authorities continued to build until the first shots ten years later in 1770 on the streets of Boston. Four years later a war will officially begin with the creation of Provincial Congresses.
The war will not end for another ten years and it will only be then that the formation of the United States of America will be formed. Yet, it will continue to evolve as Americans evolve. These are the foundations of the American people. History repeats itself, yet Americans are uniquely different from any other people.
Americans are made of raw hide, gumption, courage, gristle, ambition, and whiskey.
Americans don't give up. They take pride in their trials and turmoil, turning their hardships into achievement and prosperity. They take the bull by the horns and conquer. Where there's a will there is always a way. American's don't know the word "can't," but understand the word "can;" after all it is an inherent part of US. We are immigrants, soldiers, farmers, laborers, newsies, slaves, bootleggers, factory workers, mothers, fathers, daughters and brothers. These are the people we come from and these are the people we will always be, for it runs in our veins.

Battle clip from The Patriot:

01 July 2010

Reading On a Rainy Evening

Yet again I find myself yearning for a new piece of literature to pick up and devour. I have been reading Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love; but I can barely stand to read it when it makes me WANT so much. It makes me WANT to travel, especially to Italy. It makes me WANT to eat. It makes me WANT to go to some exotic place where monks have been praying for centuries. It makes me WANT to experience adventure and be pushed out of my comfort zone. All things that I can't have right now—and with my habit of reading before bed—definitely things I can't have when I'm in bed, in my pajamas, with my teeth brushed. I will finish the book though, because I always have to read a book before the movie and I so WANT to see the movie.

Besides that, I need to finish this book so I can read more books on my list before I have to read books assigned to me in grad school (yes, my dear readers, I'm going back to school to become an educator!). My list is continuously growing, so I thought I would share my list thus far:

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

The World From Rough Stones, The Rich Are
with You Always, & Sons of Fortune by Malcolm Macdonald

Ross Poldark: A Novel of Cornwall 1783-1787
by Winston Graham

by Richard Flanagan

The Unfinished Work
by Frank Meredith

The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott
by Kelly O'Connor McNees

A Separa
te Country by Robert Hicks

Death of Innocence
by Richard Greene

Of course I will not be able to fit in all of these books before grad school, which begins in nearly two weeks, but I think I can at least make a little dent in my list. I'll be doing very little choice reading the next year, but there will always be breaks from studying and class.

The rain continues to fall on this early summer evening and my bed is calling my name—no, not calling...YELLING!—so to bed I go with my book.

29 June 2010

75th Anniversary of Gettysburg

A montage of archival footage taken during the 75th Anniversary of Gettysburg. How wonderful it would have been to know one of these heroes?!

Pickett's Charge

A clip from the movie "Gettysburg," depicting Pickett's famous charge.

Pennsylvania 147 Years Ago

This evening as I sit at my lap top listening to "Appalachian Spring" by Aaron Copland, I can't help but remember what our nation has been through. One hundred and forty-seven years ago our country men were fighting for preservation and state rights. At this specific time of year, I not only think of our up-coming Independence Day (which began over 230 years ago), but I also think of the turning point of the Civil War: Gettysburg.

Everyone learns about Gettysburg in their history classes, but the significance of the actual battle never seems to take weight as the teacher lectures to the students. I did not realize the significance until the fruition of my own research and writing of my manuscript. While I write I am transported to another time and become connected to the past. However, I am not writing this entry to talk about my manuscript, but to talk about what was occurring in 1863 at this time in June, leading into the July 1st commencement of the Battle of Gettysburg...and make it real to the readers.

York, Pennsylvania was a small town in 1863, full of farmers and German immigrants. There was something different about York from any other Northern town. This town was not full of Lincoln Republicans, despite the fact that there were several households that were part of the Underground Railroad. Many disagreed with the war and did not vote for Lincoln in the second election. However, as the Confederates moved northward, house wives frantically buried their silver and gentlemen transfered their stores farther north. They'd be damned if the Rebels got ahold of their belongings!

On June 28th, 1863 (yesterday 147 years ago), the York citizens were in their Sunday finery, departing church and going calling, when Confederate General William F. Smith's brigade marched into town. General Smith turned to his aide and told him to tell the brigade band to play "Yankee Doodle" as they marched into town. As the band played, General Smith led his brigade on horseback, bowing and saluting to every pretty girl on the street. At first the York citizens were shocked and beside themselves. They didn't know what to do. But then taken up by the pageantry of their arrival, they begin to cheer enthusiastically and follow them to the town square. The general took the town square and made a humorous speech which left the citizens and his brigade applauding. He finished his speech saying:
"What we all need on both sides is to mingle more with each other, so that we shall learn to know and appreciate each other. Now here's my brigade—I wish you knew them as I do. They are such a hospitable, wholehearted, fascinating lot of gentlemen. Why, just think of it—this part of Pennsylvania is ours today; we can do what we please with it. Yet we sincerely and heartily invite you to stay! Are we not a fine set of fellows?"
Meanwhile, down the line on the Columbia-Wrightsville Railway, Union troops are hurriedly burning and exploding bridges and rails to keep the Rebels from progressing. Two days from now, Rebels and Yanks run into each other in the "sleepy" town of Gettysburg while buying shoes. It is during the next two days that our future is forever changed. Union casualties estimate 23,000 out of 88,000 troops and Confederate casualties reach 20,000 out of 75,000. A definitive moment in the battle, the famous Pickett's Charge, becomes a definitive moment in the Civil War. From this point on all is changed.

The following posts contain a video of Pickett's Charge from the movie, "Gettysburg," and archival footage of the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg.

17 June 2010

Journey Back in History: The Columbia River Gorge

It's been awhile since I last wrote, so I have to make up for lost time. Last month my dad and I took a trip through the Columbia River Gorge to relish in our local history and drive through one of the world's greatest geological features. We left by nine that morning and drove straight to The Dalles for lunch at the Baldwin Saloon, circa 1876. Now, this most definitely isn't the oldest saloon in Oregon (saloons came to the West with the land speculators even before civilization came to the West), but it is one of the oldest saloons still in use today, which encompasses all of its authentic charm.The saloon was established by James and John Baldwin with the boom of the railroad (which is literally across the street from the saloon). Following the proprietorship of the Baldwin brothers, Dr. Charlie Allen (affectionately titled "doctor" by himself, for he was a seller and adjuster of eye glasses) purchased the saloon and married the Madam of the brothel next door. To ensure his costumers of his reputation as a "doctor," he included caduceus on the facade of the building framing the windows (as seen in the picture below).Since then the building has been a restaurant, warehouse, steamboat navigation office, coffin storage, state employment office, and saddle shop. In 1991 the saloon was refurbished to its original use and was reopened as Baldwin Saloon, including many original pieces from its early days (including a big brass cash register, floor safe, and scale).

Following our lunch of delicious sea food stew and grilled cheese turkey sandwiches, Dad and I traveled down Celilo-Wasco Highway and turned down Fulton Canyon Road to the small township of Locust Grove (if you can call it a township). From the road, Locust Grove consists of two or three homes, an old barn, and an abandoned church. Surrounded by hay fields, Locust Grove isn't even on Google maps. However, the church was enough to make my dad and I stop and get out of our car.
As we approached the weathered church surrounded by naked trees and overgrown weeds, I couldn't help but notice the peaceful serenity of the place. The wooden building was black and gray from sun exposure and weather, yet what remained of the tin roof gleamed. We could not enter the building due to a "No trespassing" sign and probably to decaying floor boards, but as we looked into the building the quiet sanctuary was not so quiet. The song of birds, which now inhabit the rafters filled the air. It reminded me of a quote from St. Francis of Assisi:
My sister birds, you owe much to God, and you must always and in everyplace give praise to Him; for He has given you freedom to wing through the sky and He has clothed you...you neither sow nor reap, and God feeds you and gives you rivers and fountains for your thirst, and mountains and valleys for shelter, and tall trees for your nests. And although you neither know how to spin or weave, God dresses you and your children, for the Creator loves you greatly and He blesses you abundantly.
The presence of God is still evident despite its human abandonment. Bails of hay still act as makeshift pews, yet the congregation has long since departed. On a metal sign beside the doorway tells the only history of this forlorn church.The sign left me wondering, what happened to the town and the church? Who was M.A. Van Gilder? Using all the databases available through my affiliated university and through Oregon Historical Society. Again and again my searches returned empty. Finally I decided to simply Google M.A. Van Gilder and I was able to find a biographical sketch about him and his family written in 1905. Milon A. Van Gilder was born in New York in November 1854 and married Miss Jennie Porter in 1864. As a farmer and carpenter, Van Gilder moved him and his family to Sherman County, Oregon in 1889, purchasing four hundred acres of land. By 1897 he built a two-story home and large barn. I am not certain if Van Gilder built the Locust Grove church on his own property or not, but by the time he built his home and barn, the church was erected. By 1904, Van Gilder's property increased to six hundred acres. Still the mystery of what happened to the town and Van Gilder remains...

Dad and I continued our journey to the Washington side of the Columbia Gorge and to our main destination: Maryhill Winery and Museum. Sam Hill (1857-1931), an entrepreneur of the Pacific Northwest, who helped construct the Historic Columbia River Highway, purchased 5,000 acres to establish ranchlands under the name of Maryhill (named after his daughter) for a Quaker community (his family had Quaker roots). However, the Quaker community did not spring up as he had hoped, and began building the mansion in 1914 and turned the ranchlands into vineyards. Still, the Hill family did not take up residence in the rustic Columbia Gorge, and by the persuasion of Hill's dear friend Queen Marie of Romania (1875-1938) the mansion was dedicated as an art museum in 1926. Through the combined efforts of other famous faces, the museum was open to the public in 1940.The museum houses artifacts from the Romanian royal family, gifted by Queen Marie, as well as sculptures, paintings, and other pieces of art from turn-of-the-century artists. A whole gallery is dedicated to the French sculpture Auguste Rodin. Another exhibit displays Native American artifacts.

As we returned to the Oregon side of the Gorge, we decided to stop for a chocolate dip cone at Wendy's and drive the Historic Highway up to Rowena Plateau. In the photograph below, the road beneath the plateau is part of the Historic Columbia River Highway. It was such a wonderful way to end our mini-road trip, for the whole plateau was abloom with wild flowers.If anyone gets a chance to travel to the Pacific Northwest, the Columbia Gorge is a must see! The fingerprints of God are everywhere.

12 May 2010

St. Albans Raid: Confederate Raiders Turn Criminal

On October 19th, 1864, the town of St. Albans, Vermont was quiet as usual. It was the day after Market Day, business was slow, and most of the citizens were either in Montpelier for the meeting of the state legislature or in Burlington for the session of the Vermont Supreme Court.The locals referred to their home as “Rail City,” but in actuality St. Albans held the characteristics of a trade-post and farm residence; to the Confederate lieutenant, Bennett H. Young, St. Albans was an ideal location. With a railroad running through town, St. Albans was the largest town near the Canadian border with three prominent banks within a block of each other, and a convenient escape route into Canada. On that rainy Wednesday afternoon, the Confederate raiders exited their accommodations and placed the town under the possession of the Confederate States of America. They then commenced to arrest citizens and put them under guard on the town green, rob three banks, shoot at the stubborn Vermonters (critically injuring one man and killing another), steal horses, attempt to burn down the town with homemade Greek Fire, and manage to burn a farmer’s hay wagon as they were chased out of town. The raiders escaped into Canada, but were soon arrested as suspects in the St. Albans Raid. Tried under pretense of violating the neutrality laws of Canada and to conclude whether they should be extradited to the United States of America, Lieutenant Young and his fellow raiders argued they were commissioned officers performing their ordered duty in a time of war. The raiders had been commissioned by the Confederate Government and ordered to raid St. Albans, but they were not ordered to rob the banks, making the act a crime rather than an act of war.

During the trial in Montreal, Canada, the witnesses of the defense produced official Confederate Government papers, displaying the commission of Bennett H. Young (the leader of the raid). However, four commission letters from James A. Seddon, Confederate Secretary of War, were all signed and dated June 16, 1864. Bernard Devlin, representative of the United States, pointed out the contradicting and vague orders of three of the four letters, which James Seddon signed on the same day.

In the first instructions given, Young is ordered to proceed without delay by the route already indicated to him, and to report to C.C. Clay, Jun., for orders. In the second, the same Bennett H. Young is order to proceed without delay to the British Provinces, and there report himself to Messrs. Thompson and Clay for instruction. While in the third set of instructions he is informed, that the organization will be made under the control of the War Department.
At least one of the letters was legitimate enough to commission Bennett H. Young as Lieutenant in the Confederate army. William L. Price, a fellow prisoner of war and member of General John Hunt Morgan’s command, witnessed Young in action. Price saw Young “in the uniform used by Morgan’s command,” sharing that only commissioned officers were given uniforms, while enlistees “generally wear the clothes of citizens.” Young was also well known among Confederates in Chicago, where he and other raiders had previously escaped from Camp Douglas.

George N. Sanders, a Confederate also formerly belonging to General Morgan’s command, played a prominent role in managing the case of the Rebel raiders, claiming them all to be of “the first families of Kentucky.” Sanders tried desperately to promote the raiders to the Canadian public as honorable soldiers. He sent a letter to the editor of the Montreal Evening Telegraph, stating that the raiders “all having served in the Confederate army…and still in that service, were especially commissioned and detailed for that service, under the direct authority of, and, in fact, by direct orders from the government ofthe Confederate States.” Of course he was the one who formerly approached C.C. Clay, the Confederate Commissioner, who he convinced that attacking Northwest towns “would be legitimate acts of war in retaliation for the campaigns of” Sherman and Sheridan in the South. At this point in the American Civil War, the South was feeling the ever-tightening strain of the Federal blockade, and was losing ground. The St. Albans raid was supposed to be one of many, hoping that Federal troops would detach from the army in the South to fight off raiders on the Northern home front, while alleviating the Confederate troops from the on-going pressure of war and allow them to regain ground in the South. Clay then went ahead, sending a letter to Young, dated October 6, 1864, authorizing such raids as St. Albans.

Your report of your doings, under your instructions of 16th June last from the Secretary of War, covering the list of twenty Confederate soldiers who are escaped prisoners, collected and enrolled by you under those instructions, is received. Your suggestions for a raid upon accessible towns in Vermont, commencing with St. Albans, is approved, and you are authorized and required to act in conformity with that suggestion.

During the trial, George N. Sanders was called to the stand, as Clay was no longer in Canada, possibly fearing he had violated the neutrality laws. Sanders informed the court of Mr. Clay’s involvement in directing the raid and said, “Mr. Clay told me about the eighth day of December last, a few days before he left that he would leave such a letter as the paper writing marked P, and which I infer had not been written up to that time.” The fact that the letter wasn’t written until after the arrest of the St. Albans raiders, causes questions of the legitimacy of other letters between Young and Clay, which only showed proof of planning outside of Canada rather than from within.

Whether, Clay was afraid he had violated the neutrality laws of Canada, or that the St. Albans Raid was criminal, he definitely was fearful. In fact, he insisted he did not order the men to rob the banks. It is evident he did not hold the same sentiment as many of the other Confederates involved that the money should go to the Confederate Treasury for retribution in the damage caused by Generals Sherman and Sheridan and other such Federal campaigns. Jacob Thompson, a fellow Confederate commission agent, said, “I found that the raiders have refused to give up their money to Mr. Clay and that he has left the place in a huff, stigmatizing them as a band of thieves.” Clay had a fellow housemate, Beverly Tucker, write a testimonial on his involvement with the raid. On one occasion, when discussing the expedition with Young, Tucker overheard Clay remark, “that the object of his enterprise was to destroy property of the enemy by burning, etc., and that robbery was not contemplated in your instructions to him; and I think your words were: ‘Burn and destroy, but don’t rob, for this will demoralize your command.’” Other evidence shows Clay’s disgruntled attitude toward the raiders after the raid, leaving proof that he was anything but pleased by their actions.

The Confederate raiders of the St. Albans Raid were indeed guilty of robbing, murder, attempted murder, and arson. Fortunately for them they were deemed commissioned officers doing their authorized duty as soldiers of the Confederate government, not in violation of Canadian neutrality laws, concluding that they would not be extradited to the United States. Commissioned officers they most likely were, given the evidence of many authorized notes on Young’s commission, witness accounts of fellow soldiers in General Morgan’s command, and Clay’s admittance to the direction of the raid (the date of the above letter is irrelevant). However, the act of robbery seems to have not been authorized by Clay, leaving him displeased in the result of the raid, which he deemed “mere selfish plunder.” The commissioned raiders, although doing their duty in the act of war, became ruthless robbers in the small town of St. Albans, Vermont. In the eyes of many, they were mere criminals.

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