A Frosty Christmas

We drove to Manchester airport to pick up Mom and Dad for Christmas. We drove northwest through the White Mountains in the thick snow and ice. 2 interstates were closed nearby but we continued slowly onward. Nonetheless, we took the road less traveled to Franconia and the snowy path led uphill to Robert Frost’s home.

Robert Frost is considered the quintessential American bard or poet. He lived from 1874 to 1963. Right before his passing in Boston, he delivered the inaugural poem for JFK.

Robert Frost won 4 Pulitizer Prizes and the Congressional Gold Medal. He was born in San Francisco but moved alot. He lived primarily in New Hampshire and England where he was influenced by Ezra Pound, Edward Thomas, Rupert Brooke, and Robert Graves. Frost went to Dartmouth and Harvard. He first published in 1915. He published 2 books called North of Boston and A Boy’s Will. His poetry quickly amassed a great following and by 1920, he was known all over America and beyond.

Castle Frankenstein

In 2002, I was working with the Department of Defense Finance & Accounting Service. About once a month, I would travel from Grafenwoehr, Germany to DFAS headquarters at Kaiserslautern to hand-deliver financial records for the US Army Transportation Management Center for Europe.

On one trip, I finished early and took the autobahn back home. I saw a sign around the Mannheim and Darmstadt area for Burg Frankenstein. This immediately piqued my interest. I had time to spare so I took a short excursion to the castle said to inspire Mary Shelley to write her gothic novel, The Modern Prometheus, in 1818. Today, we know this story through Halloween and classic hit movies as the story of a monster come to life by a mad scientist through the channeling of a lightning bolt.

But did you know that there really was a mad scientist?

Castle Frankenstein is all mostly in ruins now. In 2002, it was still quite large and stunning, however. I remember the stones being almost red. I remember walking through the ruins alone and up the stone steps to the towers. The place is supposed to be haunted.

The castle was built around 1250. It was sold in 1662 and used as a hospital for a while before falling into ruins. By the time Mary Shelley may have seen it in 1814 when she visited the Rhine region and a small town called Gernsheim, 10 miles away, the castle would have been in pretty bad shape. No one knows for sure if Mary Shelley went there but it is believed her stepmother, who was a translator for Brothers Grimm stories, had first heard the story of the mad scientist and passed the story on to Shelley.

Who is this mad scientist?

His name was Johann Konrad Dippel. He lived at the castle or near the castle sometime around 1673. He invented what he called an “elixer of life” that was said to cure many diseases. Johann was a professional alchemist, a medieval term for a chemist. According to rumor, Johann also did anatomy and some even speculated that he exhumed bodies for his research.

There are other fascinating and mysterious stories associated with the grounds around the castle. Supposedly, there is a fountain of youth nearby that turns old women into young girls on Walpurgis Nacht. There is also a story of a knight fighting a deadly dragon.

The most interesting story I found is located on Mt. Ibes. This is the location of a collection of magnetic stones. Compasses do not work on Mt. Ibes. It is a place supposedly where ancient rites, rituals, traditions take place according to the old ways of the Franks, the previous Germanic tribes that lived in this area. Frankenstein literally means “stone of the Franks” which could be related to this magnetic stone circle phenomenon. Mt. Ibes is supposed to be a sacred and respected place.

Sadly, I did not take pictures of the trip. This was 2002 prior to the arrival of the smartphone. and it was just a side excursion from the autobahn. It was one of those “spur of the moment” decisions that I will never regret. Some day it would be great to see the Castle Dracula too.

There is another place close nearby there along the border with France. The paranormal story from this place was called The Bleeding Nun and it is featured in another gothic classic written by Matthew Gregory Lewis called The Monk. The bleeding nun is an apparition that appears at Castle Lindenberg and warns you of giving in to lustful desires as it must have led to her demise. The Monk was published in 1796.

The only other story I really love from the Rhineland region is probably The Lorelei. She is a beautiful apparition that sits on the rocks just above a dangerous turn of the Rhine River. She was jilted by a faithless lover and committed suicide by casting herself into the waters of the Rhine at that spot and drowned. Now, she seeks revenge on sailors or other male travelers on the Rhine river. She sings a wondrous tune just like a siren. She is said to be exquisitely beautiful and also…..deadly. Men who see her, generally swim towards her….only to drown in the treacherous rapids below her. She became the inspiration for a portion of the small adventure book I wrote, Searching for Fire.

Here is a nice link to a BBC article with pictures of Castle Frankenstein. Thanks for reading this and have a gute nacht, freunde.

http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20161018-germanys-most-monstrous-castle

Listen to the Hillbilly Redneck Moron

I got called a hillbilly redneck moron today for saying people should work together, a centrist narrative. At first I was upset. But then I realized this was an oxymoron.

I am 42 years old. I am the granddaughter of two farmers I greatly respected and admired because they were actually some of the smartest folks I ever met. Why? Because they grew things and conserved things on a large scale for others. Do you know how hard it is to grow and sustain things? Once, in college, I killed a cactus cause I overwatered it but I was taking Calculus. Book smart does not equal real world smart. Farmers are real world smart. They know when to water. They know when to not water. They know all sorts of fascinating and essential details about growing thousands upon thousands of crops or raising cows, or chickens, or whatever for our mass human consumption. Farming is real hard work plagued by all sorts of variables. You cannot be lazy and be a farmer.

So hillbilly redneck is, in fact, in my book synonymous with genius. But genius without reward or adulation.

What is the most fascinating thing I learned lately about farmers?

Farmers are generally usually conservative probably by nature of their work close to nature and their constant need for resourcefulness. They have to fix things themselves, survive things on their own. They just can’t run to town to fix the tractor so the crops can be taken care of. They rely on themselves and their network of neighbors.

Do you know in the history of mankind, what follows revolution?

Famine. Massive famine.

Why?

Because the conservatives who produce the food disappear (through various means). This happened after the French Revolution and the Bolshevik Revolution. The revolutionaries wiped out the one group in society they so critically relied on.

What is my point?

It is important to respect the farmer hillbilly redneck. He is the weathered and worn hand that feeds without much recognition or reward.

That hillbilly redneck is the best damn human I know. And yes, you may not like his beliefs or views. He may be old school. But you get rid of that guy at your own peril.

Maj General Nathanael Greene

One time while I was visiting my grandma at her farmhouse in Kansas, she showed me a bookcase full of old books. First she gave me a book she liked when she was little. It was called The Trail of the Lonesome Pine. I looked it up recently and saw online that this was turned into a movie at some point….I think with Henry Fonda. I read the book and liked it. Afterwards, she took me to the bookcase again. She told me that she had a special book. She pulled it off the shelf and gave it to me to keep. She told me it was about my ancestor.

I looked at the book. It was an old yellow book with yellow pages. The first pages were a map of Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina, and South Carolina. It appeared to be a map about the Revolutionary War and showed images of Loyalists and Revolutionaries.

The book was called The Sound of Chariots. It was written by Helen Topping Miller. I still have this book to this day. I keep it in my own bookcase and showed it to my own children recently. My grandmother passed away sadly 5 years ago in Topeka, Kansas.

Her name was Ruth Margaret Green. She was married to Otis Patterson, a retiree of the U.S. Postal Service and WW2 vet. He was a crew chief for bomber mechanics at Wendling AFB in England. Basically, the planes flew in from bombing Europe and it was his job and his men’s jobs to repair the planes overnight and then they would fly out again in the morning for other bombing raids. He only flew over Europe once at the end of the war to see what Dresden looked like.

Grandma said we were related, though not directly, to a guy in this book called Nathanael Greene. For years, I truly did not understand much about this guy. He is considered to be one of the least known generals of the Revolutionary War, probably because he passed away just years afterwards in Georgia. He was a Maj General who led several battles in the south. He is considered a strategic leader of the war and a close personal friend of George Washington. From what I could read, he would attack and retreat over and over again against Lord Cornwallis forcing him up north to Yorktown where George Washington and his Army swooped in and defeated the British, forcing a surrender and final end to the war. Supposedly, Greene was a very smart guy. Nathanael Greene is also connected with the trial of Benedict Arnold and with the establishment of Westpoint Military Academy.

Grandma belonged to the Order of the Eastern Star and Grandpa was a Freemason. She also worked with Job’s Daughters. Grandma researched our background and said she tried to join Daughters of the Revolution but could not prove direct lineage.

This is what I know from Grandma. Her father’s name was Jesse Dale Green. Her grandfather’s name was Ira Weston Green. He lived during the late 1800s. That’s as far back as I can trace on this side.

From Nathanael Greene on Ancestry.com and other online websites, I traced down to his grandson, Nathanael S. Greene who lived from 1809 to 1899 in Bristol County, Rhode Island. On his tombstone reads the names of two wives and perhaps he had a total of three wives. The first wife listed on the tombstone is Sarah A. Munro from 1808 to 1832. The second wife listed on the tombstone is Lydia T. Cory from 1812-1880. From there the trail grows cold but there is one website online, a registry from St. Michael’s Church in Bristol County, R.I. The registry shows marriages, births, and deaths of parishioners. Under deaths, Sarah Munro is listed in 1832 as well as a son of Nathan Greene in 1843 in January and another unlisted child in 1843 in March. For births, it shows two entries for May 24, 1837. Apparently, these were twin boys named George William Greene and Francis Stanley Greene. It is not clear which woman is the mother of these two listed.

So from about 1837 to the late 1800s, there is an unexplained gap. I can’t seem to find out what happened to George William Greene or Francis Stanley Greene…..although I did find some records related to the Civil War military registry for a George William Greene but it is not clear if this is the same person.

Bottom line, I can’t find a definitive connection. I want to believe what my Grandma told me long ago but there’s a 60 year gap in the information provided. If we are related at all, it is probably either very, very indirectly or perhaps, illegitimately. It is hard to tell. Also, it is not clear what happened to all the children of the other wives listed on the tombstone for Nathanael S. Greene, the grandson of Nathanael Greene.

Some day, I hope to visit the birthplace of Nathanael Greene and find out more information possibly. Maybe I’ll bring that old book with me too. To this day, there are many counties in the United States that are named Greene or Green County and supposedly this traces back to the Maj General. For example, in Missouri across the border from here, is a Greene County where Springfield is located.

I looked online recently and saw that there are not a lot of statues of Nathanael Greene but one was involved with some controversy back in June or July of this year. I can understand why. From what I read, he may have had a plantation shortly after the war but then died soon afterwards. The Founding Fathers were definitely far from perfect role models for generations going forward. Yet, without the bravery, courage, fortitude, resilience, and brilliant military maneuverings of these men and women……we could still be a colony with restricted freedoms, rights, and privileges. Some, nowadays, may shy away from being affiliated with a person like this. I am happy to think that possibly somehow we could be related to this man they call “the strategist of the Revolutionary War.”

Maybe we are related. I hope. Some day, I ‘ll visit Rhode Island and maybe I can learn more.

7th Gate

They had come back early from camping at Lake Clinton but it was now dark outside.  It was late October and the autumn breeze was cool on her face as they drove the Jeep Wrangler down the highway.  She held her brown hair back as the curls whipped here and there wildly in the wind.  They were listening to Red Hot Chili Peppers.  The volume was turned up quite a bit so they failed to notice anything out of the ordinary when they stopped at the little town named Stull.  No one lived there anymore.  It was just old buildings, forgotten and faded with time. 

They had heard the rumors about this place but they didn’t care.  They were young.  Why should they care?  As they pulled into the little gravel parking lot behind the abandoned old grocery store, she looked hesitantly, however, around in the dark.  He turned down the music.  She looked off to the north past the road to the crest of the hill where the ruins of the old church sat solitary and still in the dim moonlight.  She looked again at the dark around them and she shivered a little. 

“We might want to hurry..” she said with a twinge of uncertainty.  With the music turned off, she listened for any small noises around the vehicle.  It was hard to see much past 30 or 40 feet to her right.  Everything was so dark over there, pitch black almost.  The beams of the headlights shone on the exterior back of the old store.  Once again, she looked at the church, the 7th gateway to hell……..that’s what the locals said it was.  It was a secret portal according to the rumors.  Supposedly, if you threw a bottle against the wall of the church, it would not break.  The devil’s portal….just an urban legend she thought to herself. 

He got out of the jeep and rummaged among their bags in the back looking for his cell phone. 

“I know I left it in here,” he said as he dug through a camo green backpack.  He found it and returned to the driver seat. 

“Maybe we should put the hard top up,” he said to her. 

She just shrugged, hugging herself a little.  “I’d rather not do it here.”  She smiled feebily.  “Perhaps down the road a bit.”

He smiled at her then and nodded towards the old church.  “Nervous?” he asked with a slight smile. 

She didn’t say anything.  Just shrugged. 

“Relax, there’s nothing to worry about.  It’s just a dumb story.  Nobody even goes up there anymore.  It is fenced off.” He grabbed her chin and tugged her head slightly to the left.  He grinned at her.  “Calm down.”

She smiled bigger this time and leaned in to kiss him.  She closed her eyes as she felt his warm lips on hers.  He cupped her face in his gentle hands.  She placed her hand on his waist and he pulled her in deeper.  They pulled away for just a moment, enough for her to lean her forehead against his and say softly, “I had fun last night.” 

He grinned.  “I did too.” 

They embraced again.  This time with more youthful urgency and passion.  Eventually, he pulled reluctantly away and grinned.   He licked his lip slightly and took her hand in his.  He said, “We need to get back.”

She just watched him in the darkness.  She loved him.  She knew it. 

He turned to start the ignition of the Jeep.  She looked forward to the hill once more.  She shuddered.  As the engine started up and her boyfriend shifted gears, she looked casually to the right.

That’s when she saw it…in the darkness beyond….maybe not twenty feet from the car.  There in the darkness she saw the slight red light.  It was very small.  Silently, it was there…suspended in air.  She blinked.  She looked closer.  It was still there.  She knew instantly what it was.  She watched it more intently.  She kept watching.  She was staring now without blinking and she felt a sudden fear.  And then… it moved.  The light moved with intention, as if making its presence known only to her.  It was just a slight movement but just enough to let her know, they were not alone.    

A cigarette.  It was the light from a cigarette.  Someone was watching, had been watching them silently in the dark distance as they kissed.  Someone was standing right there. 

Her eyes flickered swiftly to the church and then back to that same spot.  The cigarette light was now gone.  Her boyfriend pulled the jeep out of the gravel parking lot and back onto the main road.  She watched that spot, the spot where the cigarette light emanated briefly.  She watched for it as long as she could until Stull and its eerie presence faded into the dark distance behind them.    

Bleeding Kansas: Making the Trip to Osawatomie

Prior to the American Civil War of the 1860s, my hometown state of Kansas was the site of a contentious battle regarding slavery. The first political election for the territory of Kansas was made in 1855.  The result of the election was a pro-slavery determination for the territory which sparked several years of border skirmishes.  These fights between pro-slavery and anti-slavery groups near the Missouri border caused the territory to be known as “Bleeding Kansas.”

bleeding kansas
Google Images.

At this time in 1855, over 5,000 Missourians that were pro-slavery crossed over into Kansas territory to vote in the election which caused some politicians to refer to the election as fraud.  However, the vote was kept.  Several months afterwards, abolitionist groups established the Free State militia force.  One such abolitionist and preacher was John Brown who later led the infamous raid on Harper’s Ferry in Virginia in 1859 prior to the Civil War.

john brown1
Google Images.
john brown
Google Images.
harper's ferry
Google Images.
hanged
Google Images.

By May of 1856, a group of Missouri raiders led by Quantrill sacked and burned the Free State supporter town of Lawrence founded by Massachusetts abolitionists.

quantrill's raid1
Google Images.
quantrill's raid 2
Google Images.

Today, if you visit Osawatomie in east central Kansas, you can see several John Brown historical sites. We recently saw the site of the Battle of Osawatomie between Missouri forces and Free State Kansas territory forces. At this site, is the Adair Cabin, one of only a few Osawatomie original buildings that survived the ransacking.

If you travel further south along the Frontier Military Route, you will see the site of the Marais de Cygnes Massacre, another border skirmish that occurred near the Travel Post.

IMG_3299
Google Images.

Further south of that is the Civil War era Fort Scott military fort.

Incidentally, Osawatomie also happens to be the place where the conservative Kansas Republican Party was established in 1859 during the “Bleeding Kansas” years.  The Kansas Republican Party was created by Free State abolitionist sympathizers.

Celebrate Aesop’s Birthday on June 4th

According to legend, Aesop who created the famous Aesop’s Fables was born a slave in the 6th century BC. His birthplace is unknown for certain. He had two masters before he was granted freedom. His masters’ names were Xanthus and Iadmon. Aesop was extremely bright and it is said that is the reason he was involved in public affairs in later life. He also traveled a great deal. King Croesus of Lydia granted Aesop residency at his court.

The death of Aesop in 564 BC is quite a tale. He was on a mission to deliver gold to the people of Delphi in Greece. However, a trap was laid for Aesop at Delphi when a golden bowl from the Temple of Apollo was found smuggled into his bags. He pled innocence but he was found guilty and hurled off a cliff.

Aesop’s stories have influenced much of Western culture and civilization. One of his best known stories is The Boy Who Cried Wolf. He also wrote The Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing as well as The Lion and the Mouse. Probably his best known story is The Hare and the Tortoise, a fantastic story about a light speed bunny racing a “slow and steady” turtle that eventually wins the race.

I like this lesser known one I found in my children’s own book of Aesop’s Fables:

The Crow and the Pitcher

A thirsty crow found a pitcher with a couple of inches of water in the bottom, but no matter how hard she tried, she could not reach it with her beak. It seemed as though she would die of thirst. At last she hit upon a plan. She began dropping pebbles into the pitcher. As each pebble was added, the water rose a little higher until it finally reached the brim of the pitcher. And so the clever bird was finally able to quench her thirst.

Moral of the story: Necessity is the mother of invention.

Prison Break

There’s this guy that was born in my hometown in rural Kansas. He was born in April of 1912 in Pittsburg. It’s a small college town with only about 20,000 residents and not of any huge significance to the world. A lot of people around here don’t know about him now. So many years have passed. He was considered a career criminal starting at the early age of 16 arrested for grand larceny. At 17 he attempted and failed to rob the Dr. Pepper Bottling Works in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He was sent to the state prison in McAlester, Oklahoma.

He was a smart guy and performed several prison breaks and more crimes until he was sent to Leavenworth in 1935. And from there, he went to the most notorious prison of all, Alcatraz. He was “considered vicious and in need of maximum security and discipline.”

This man was named Theodore Cole and with his accomplice, Ralph Roe, became the second prison break attempt in the vivid history of Alcatraz. He broke out of Alcatraz sometime around December 16, 1937 and the warden recounted, “The prisoners were counted at 1 pm and again at 1:30, when Roe and Cole were found to be not at work. Somehow, in that half-hour, they disappeared into a fog which made it nearly impossible to see any distance.” (Warden James Johnston, December 17, 1937)

They started their breakout by studying the routines of the guards and discovered that one particular guard was more lax than the others on watch. They used a stolen hacksaw blade to saw through the iron bars of one of the blacksmith shop windows were they worked. They replaced the missing pieces of metal with grease and shoe polish. They were speculated to have created floats from lightweight fuel cans. They planned to squeeze through the window, drop to the ground, cut the chain link fence surrounding the area, and make a mad dash over the cliff to the water.

On the day of their escape attempt, there was a deep fog over the San Francisco Bay area. They did manage to make it to the water and disappeared. They were never found but many speculated that they did not survive the waters. Still, others insisted as late as 1941 that the two were living comfortably in South America and were wealthy criminals there. The FBI continued to search for Theodore Cole and Ralph Roe up until the 1960s.

Did they survive? The truth is still out there.

See Keukenhof Gardens in Virtual Tour

One of the most beautiful places in the world is Keukenhof, considered to be Europe’s gardens. Check out this great link from the Daily Mail that talks about a virtual tour by drone of the gardens put together by photographer Albert Dros. Scroll through the brief article and you will see the videos to click on and view the wonderful outdoor spectacle that is Keukenhof. The park is closed for the first time in 71 years but still can be seen through this virtual tour.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/escape/article-8272887/See-flowers-Keukenhof-garden-Holland-virtually-thanks-photographer-Albert-Dros.html

I learned about this oddly enough by researching the Dutch origins of the Snickerdoodle cookie. I’m smiling right now just thinking about how the internet leads you off on various other paths so easily. Yes, I’m making an old family recipe book. It is just a short collection of favorite family recipes that I am planning to give to my mother-in-law for Mother’s Day which is fast approaching.

My family name on one side is Schippers which in Dutch means “son of a skipper” or “son of a shipowner.” My family moved to western Kansas in the Midwest United States in the late 1800s from the Volga River region of Russia. They were German-Dutch farmers that lived in Russia under the authorization of Catherine the Great. With all the turmoil of the late 1800s and early 1900s, they re-settled in America.

Snickerdoodles were a popular recipe among Dutch-German immigrants along with other things like Smargs and Beirocks. Here is some origin information about this sweet cinnamon sugar cookie. This is a great article:

https://www.myrecipes.com/cooking-method/baking-recipes/snickerdoodles-history

And here is our family recipe for the cinnamon sugar cookie. It’s a pretty good one:

(Google Images.)

Snickerdoodles

1 and ½ cup flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

Pinch of salt

½ cup vegetable shortening

¾ cup granulated sugar

1 egg

1 tablespoon milk

4 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

Combine flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt.  Set aside.  In another bowl, cream shortening and sugar.  Beat in the egg and the milk.  Stir in the dry ingredients.  Cover dough and chill for ½ to 1 hour.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.  Combine 3 tablespoons of the sugar and the cinnamon in a small bowl.  Set aside.  Roll the dough into small walnut sized balls.  Roll the balls in the cinnamon sugar mixture and place on a cookie sheet about 2 inches apart.  Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until very lightly colored.  Transfer to wire racks to cool. 

It’s Not the Size of the Dog in the Fight

There are two people credited with this quote. The first one is Mark Twain and the second one is Dwight Eisenhower. Technically, it is Mark Twain that said, “It is not the size of the dog in the fight but the size of the fight in the dog.” On the other hand, Dwight Eisenhower said, “What counts is not necessarily the size of the dog in the fight but the size of the fight in the dog.”

Who knows really? Perhaps this former President of the United States was a Mark Twain fan.

Today, you can go to Abilene, Kansas, in my home state to see the Presidential Library and former home of Eisenhower. He served in WWII and was a 5-star Army General, Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe, and also the 34th President of the United States from 1953 to 1961.  Richard Nixon was his Vice President.  Eisenhower is credited with the development of NASA and the space race, DARPA, and the Interstate Highway System.

Here are some other quotes associated with Eisenhower:

“Pessimism never won any battle.”

“We are going to have peace even if we have to fight for it.”

“A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both.”

“The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionable integrity.  Without it, no real success is possible.  No matter whether it is on a gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office.”

“Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.”

“Plans are nothing but planning is everything.”

“I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.”  

(Google Images.)

Years ago around 2002, I visited Buchenwald camp as a military spouse living in Germany. We were stationed near Vilseck and Grafenwoehr. Grafenwoehr is famous for the tower there which was erected for Hitler to overlook the training grounds in the 1930s. Later, when it came under Allied command, Grafenwoehr was a place that Elvis Presley was stationed during his time overseas.

In regards to Eisenhower, however, and getting back to the main subject….among his other noted decisions and achievements, Eisenhower was the first commander in Europe to openly discuss what was occurring at the camps. I remember touring Buchenwald that day in March and it was very cold even with coats bundled up. A wide swath of the forest on the hill had been cleared. This clearing was for the camp and buildings as well as a bear sanctuary oddly enough that was kept by the commander of the camp.

We walked through the old sites and the museums and I remember seeing Eisenhower’s pictures viewing Buchenwald after liberation. The camp means Beech Forest and is located near Weimar but it also rests in the same area that the famous German poet and creator of Faust, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, is said to have been inspired to write his works. There is an old oak tree in the camp that had not been cut down because it was called the Goethe Oak, the tree under which Goethe penned his writings. Another famous writer, Elie Wiesel, was also at Buchenwald and he later went on to write the book Night.

But anyway, back to Eisenhower, if you happen to be on the Interstate 70 (created under the Eisenhower administration) which cuts through the top portion of the state of Kansas from Missouri border to Colorado border, stop by Abilene for a visit. Besides being the home of a U.S. President, Abilene was the last stop on the Chisholm Trail where cowboys from Texas drove their herds north to Kansas to meet up with the Union Pacific railway station at Abilene. From there, the herds were shipped to Chicago stockyards and meatpacking industry. It’s in Chicago that Upton Sinclair would write The Jungle which became a bestseller in 1906 and pushed the creation of a Food and Drug Administration in the United States. Upton Sinclair also wrote about prisoner conditions at Ft. Leavenworth and was a journalist for a newspaper from my hometown region called The Appeal to Reason. At the turn of the century, around the 1900s, this newspaper rivaled the Los Angeles Times as third largest news distribution in the United States. That southeast corner of Kansas has a fascinating story. Just look up something called The March of the Amazons. It was the first women’s labor march in the United States as immigrant women, wives of the coal miners, took to the streets of Pittsburg to fight for better working conditions in the mines. At the time, Pittsburg was the third largest producer of coal in America and called The Little Balkans for the large immigrant population from southern Europe that lived there and worked in the mines. However, in the 1930s and 1940s, it was discovered that this coal was too environmentally hazardous and so the mines eventually closed down one by one.

You’d be surprised by the interesting history you can learn in Kansas of all places.