Merry Christmas

Wow! I had no idea producing a Christmas Day blog entry would be this hard. The schedule I set has Sunday as the day to post a new entry. I also created some guidelines  which say that, even though support for road trip comments is one of the blog’s roles, road trips should not impact the blog’s “regular” entries. That guideline came into being after trying to synchronize the two became rather messy. I’m now finding out that consciously not synchronizing them can be messy, too. If I weren’t on a road trip, I could write about anything I’ve done during the preceding week. Since I am on a trip, anything of that sort that I write has the potential for duplicating something in the road trip report. My intent was that a Sunday in the midst of a trip might get a canned “My Gear” style post if no other non-trip related topic came to mind. I’d do that now but IT’S CHRISTMAS. I can’t just ignore that fact because I happen to be on a road trip. In hindsight, I could have written some sort of essay on the holiday weeks ago but I didn’t and I can’t really do that now — off the cuff — in an hour or two.

So, if I’m not going to write about the current road trip and I consider a “My Gear” too trivial for a Christmas Day topic, what can I do? I can think of nothing so nothing it will be. This blog post intentionally left clear of any real content except to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and suggest taking a look at the road trip I’m not talking about.

My Gear – Chapter 4
Canon PowerShot A20

Canon A20As I looked back over my travel gadget purchases, it was immediately obvious that many preceded a major trip. The idea of a long lived website, rather than a one trip experiment, started to form as I got serious about retracing a 1920 Florida trip my great-grandparents had made. Purchases were made during the summer of 2001 in anticipation of making the trip in late August. The first was a real upgrade in the camera department.

Some of the improvement over the Agfa came from a significant increase in price but a lot more came from two years of progress. Even with more than a hundred dollars off the $500 MSRP, the Canon PowerShot A20 cost over twice what I’d paid for the Agfa — $384 vs. $186 — but I now had a real camera. It had auto focus, 3X zoom, and 1.92 effective mega-pixels plus, apparently, 0.18 ineffective ones. This was good enough to convince me that I didn’t have to carry my film camera everywhere but not good enough to make me want to get rid of it. Digital was clearly the only way to feed a website but film was still the way to go for good sharp prints.

I believe it was about this time that a friend asked me to recommend a good digital camera and I answered that I couldn’t. There were some very good digital cameras being made but they cost thousands not hundreds of dollars. Nikon’s first digital SLR, the D1, came out in 1999. The 2.6 mega-pixel wonder retailed for $5580 — body only. The D1X came on the market in early 2001 at about the same time as the A20. With what is now a familiar characteristic of electronics, resolution, 5.4 megapixels, was up and price, $5350, was down. These were professional quality cameras with prices that could only be justified by professionals needing instant product. For an amatuer convinced he needed instant product to feed a website, even the few hundred dollar price of the little Canon wasn’t easy to justify. Of course, if financial justification was a real factor in any of this, there wouldn’t even be a website to feed.

My Gear – Chapter 3 — Garmin GPS III Plus

Book Review
Wabash 1791
John F Winkler

Wabash 1791: St Clair's DefeatBack in November, I stopped at Fort Recovery specifically to pick up a copy of Wabash 1791: St Clair’s Defeat and to hear the author speak. There’s a blog entry about that visit here. John Winkler began his talk that day by briefly describing the circumstances that preceded the battle then, while frequently pointing to a projected map of the battlefield, he stepped though November 4, 1791, by locating key figures and events in space and time. He spoke from memory and it was obvious he knew his stuff. The knowledge he demonstrated in that talk fills the pages of Wabash 1791. In fact, the book could be considered a hard copy version of that talk — with a few thousand fold increase in detail.

Winkler begins the book, as he did that presentation, by talking of things that led to the battle only here he is not quite so brief. The world at the end of the eighteenth century can be pretty tough for modern day readers to imagine. When the Battle of the Wabash took place, the United States constitution was barely three years old and our very first president was only half way through his first term. The Ohio River was the nation’s border. England was still very much a military presence in North America and would officially be at war with the US in another twenty years. In 1791, there were plenty who thought England just might be picking up the pieces of her old colonies once the US collapsed.

After Winkler describes what he calls “The Strategic Situation”, he moves on to describe the opposing forces. The leaders of the two armies were certainly different but all were among the best of their time. St Clair, Butler, and Darke are just a few of the proven officers leading the Americans. On the Indian side, an equally qualified group of leaders surrounded chiefs such as Little Turtle, Blue Jacket, and Buckongahelas and the hated renegade Simon Girty. Also present were some out-of-uniform British officers. At the level of individual combatants, however, different meant unequal.

Recruiting had not gone well and continuing supply problems made it worse. Delays in supplies resulted in expiring enlistments and lack of supplies hampered training. In a sad “For want of a nail the shoe was lost…” style example, a shortage of paper led to a shortage of musket cartridges for training and target practice. As hard as it is to believe, some new recruits marched out of Camp Washington without ever having fired their guns. By contrast, fighting was part of every Indian’s life. Winkler quotes an officer who wrote, “…war is their principal study, in this they have arrived at considerable perfection.”

I hesitate to use the word “scholarly” but it really is appropriate for portions of the book. In particular, some of this early background information reads like a text-book and can be rather dry going. But there’s lots of good information being conveyed and the payoff occurs when the battle begins. Winkler can report the action without the need to repeatedly explain why one side did this and the other that. And report the action he does and it is brutal. Though the two armies were roughly equal in size, approximately 1700 soldiers and militia versus 1400 Indians, most of the experience and all of the surprise was with the Indians.

Two types of illustrations augment Winkler’s battle descriptions. Color coded diagrams show three stages of the battle and artist Peter Dennis has produced three “snapshots” to help visualize the scene. The one used for the cover shows Captain Henry Carberry shouting at the demoralized soldiers to charge the encircling Indians simply in order to escape. Numerous photographs and drawings illustrate other sections of the book.

More US soldiers died that day than in any battle prior to the Civil War. This battle was the greatest victory American Indians ever achieved over US forces. The loss nearly eliminated all United States military capabilities and had the potential for destroying the young nation. In fact, a proposed investigation into supply chain corruption was abandoned to avoid that very risk. With the passage of time, this clearly significant battle has been largely forgotten by non-historians. How much success Winkler’s book has in reviving the memory is yet to be seen but it seems to contain all of the details needed for filling in the blanks.

Wabash 1791: St Clair’s Defeat, John F Winkler, Osprey Publishing, November 2011, paperback, 9.6 x 7.1 inches, 96 pages, ISBN 978-1849086769

I’ve seen other accounts of St Clair’s Defeat. Allen Eckert’s fairly short one in That Dark and Bloody River is a pretty easy read. Eckert writes in the style of a novel with the factual base of a text book. In my youth, as I was first learning of the battle that occurred just about fifteen miles from where I grew up, I formed the impression that St Clair was a bumbling idiot and was almost single handedly responsible for the disaster. As I learned more of the supply and equipment problems, my view softened. Eckert blames St Clair for not aborting the campaign in light of the huge recruiting and supply issues but little else. Winkler hardly blames him even for that. That could just be the result of Winkler’s even handed reporting where he presents facts and holds back opinions.

As I read Wabash 1791 with the internet at my fingertips, I learned of a 1896 Harper’s Magazine article on the subject written by Theodore Roosevelt. This was just over a hundred years after the battle. A slightly edited version was included in volume 5 of Roosevelt’s Winning of the West published in 1905. Roosevelt doesn’t think much of St Clair and describes him as possessing “none of the qualities of leadership save courage.” Perhaps he was a bumbling idiot after all. ‘Tis a puzzlement.

Thumbnails of scans of the Roosevelt article appear in the archives section of the Harper’s website. Accessing full sized readable copies requires a subscription. However, there is another section of the website, apparently sponsored by Balvenie scotch whiskey, which contains articles written by folks such as Lewis Carroll, Mark Twain, and… Theodore Roosevelt. Maybe they’re all Balvenie drinkers. The 1896 Roosevelt article is available there. A far from full bottle of The Balvenie sits in my liquor cabinet and I poured myself a wee dram to drink a toast in thanks for the article. You can read the article here but you’ll have to supply your own whiskey.

Dickens of a Christmas

Ohio History Center ControversyI missed it. I missed an exhibit I really wanted to see. From April through November, the Ohio Historical Center had a display entitled Controversy: Pieces You Don’t Normally See. Of the five items it contained, the retired electric chair seemed to be the main attraction with a KKK outfit, a thumb mitt, an adult crib, and a nineteenth century condom rounding out the bill. I’m sure I drove by the building more than once while the exhibit was in place but, as we often do, I assumed there would always be another chance. It wasn’t until I visited the Ohio Historical Society’s website to sign up for Dickens of a Christmas that I realized that I’d blown it.

Dickens of a Christmas is an annual festival sort of thing that takes place in the recreated nineteenth century village adjacent to the Historical Center. I registered to attend the first night of Dickens of a Christmas and, even though there was no electric chair or condom to be seen, headed to Columbus in time to visit the Historical Center in the afternoon. That’s how I got the picture of the entrance to the recently closed Controversy exhibit.

The American Soldier Photographic TributeOhio Battle FlagsIn addition to the many worthwhile permanent exhibits, the Center currently has a captivating temporary exhibit called The American Soldier: A Photographic Tribute From The Civil War To Iraq and several of the 434 Civil War battle flags in the museum’s possession are on display. Plus, although it’s a poor substitute for an adult crib from an insane asylum, there was, once upon a time, at least a little controversy associated with the two headed calf.

Saint Nicholas at Dickens of a ChristmasThe Ohio Historical Center is certainly a cool place to spend an afternoon but the title of this entry is “Dickens of a Christmas”. My evening at Ohio Village is covered in a separate Oddment page here. It is only the second Oddment page added since the start of this blog. While there is no precise definition of what qualifies one subject for an oddment page and another for a blog entry, it seems likely that I’ve completely covered a subject in a blog entry that might have appeared as an Oddment in pre-blog days and it is all but certain that some of the existing Oddment pages would have instead been blog entries had the blog existed at the time they were created. I believe one of the things that helps decide Oddment or blog is number of pictures. I haven’t posted a huge amount of pictures from Dickens of a Christmas but there are more, sixteen, than I feel comfortable with in a blog entry. Look them over at the Dickens of a Christmas Oddment page.

I know some who see this will have heard of Kickstarter but I’m guessing not all. It’s a method for funding projects with large numbers of small contributions. Learn more about it at the Kickstarter website. Kickstarter depends a lot on word of mouth. Friends tell friends, usually in an indirect Facebook/Twitter/newsletter sort of way, about projects they like and that, in case you haven’t guessed, is what I’m doing here. I’ve contributed to a couple of projects that I liked and blown off a couple more that didn’t quite click with me. I recently learned of a documentary project that I like and, since you’re reading about it here, there’s a chance you will too.

I heard of the project from Dirk Hamilton. It isn’t Dirk’s project but he is in it. I was inclined to give it a couple of bucks ’cause I like the general subject and, of course, I like Dirk but I was hooked for sure when I read the “Part music documentary and part road trip movie…” line. The documentary is called Folk. Check out its Kickstarter page here.

Remembering Infamy

A TV commercial has been running for the last several weeks that begins by urging viewers to mark December 7 on their calendars. It grabbed my attention the first time I saw it because I knew the significance of December 7 or thought I did. It is the date of one of the most important events in our country’s history. I anticipated some news about a Pearl Harbor Day observance or maybe just a PSA about the attack’s upcoming 70th anniversary. But the spot went on to explain that December 7 marks the end of open enrollment for Medicare.

Medicare enrollment is certainly important and I’m not faulting the ad in any way. It stresses the need to do something by a certain date and stresses what that date is. Although I’m sure it’s entirely accidental, the fact that the date is December 7 may really increase the ad’s effectiveness. The majority of people who need to be concerned with Medicare are exactly the same people for who December 7 is a date which continues to live in infamy. The full date is December 7, 1941 but just December 7 is enough. To my generation and one or two on either side of it, December 7 means just one thing.

New Richmond Pearl Harbor RemembranceI wasn’t around in 1941 but I showed up just as soon as I could after the war. December 7 and June 6 were two of the very first dates I learned about. However, despite an almost instinctive connection between December 7 and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, I don’t believe I’ve ever attended any sort of commemorative service for the day. I don’t recall even seriously considering it until a few years ago when I became aware of a ceremony conducted in New Richmond, Ohio. New Richmond is an Ohio River town that I tend to visit fairly often. Just about everything I learn about the town, which is home to that cardboard boat race I wrote about here, makes me like it more. So I’ve thought about going for a couple of years but this is the first time I actually made it. This year’s New Richmond Pearl Harbor Remembrance was held on Sunday, December 4.

New Richmond Pearl Harbor RemembranceNew Richmond Pearl Harbor RemembranceNew Richmond has been doing this for twenty-plus years. In the past, it has been held at the park near the river and may still be on dry days. Today wasn’t one of them. Things began with the entrance of a sizable color guard followed by the singing of the national anthem and the pledge of allegiance to the flag. The anthem was sung solo by a fellow who I know nothing about beyond his name. John Hale‘s a cappella performance of The Star Spangled Banner was right up there with many big-name auto-tuned renditions I’ve heard. A very nice job. There were speeches, of course, but all were brief and pertinent. More nice jobs. Then we came to a point in the program labeled “Introduction of Pearl Harbor Survivors”.

Pearl Harbor Survivor Joe WhittWhen New Richmond began holding this remembrance, it was attended by approximately twenty-five area residents who had survived that horrible day in Hawaii. Just three remain. Two are in nursing homes and unable to attend. Joe Whitt stood alone. Joe enlisted when he was seventeen and turned eighteen just a couple of months before the attack. People familiar with pictures of Joe from that time say that he looked fourteen. The math is fairly simple. This is the seventieth anniversary. Joe is eighty-eight. He stood straight and recounted events of that day with frightening clarity. He and others fired at the planes with rifles. Because his ship, the USS San Francisco, was stripped for maintenance, these were the only weapons available to them. One of his shots, which he doesn’t believe did any real damage, was at a pilot whose face was clearly visible at “about the height of the ceiling” of the high school gymnasium. Even though Joe went on to fight in seventeen battles and do a lot more shooting with much bigger guns and a lot more impact, there is no doubt that his memory of that pilot’s face is vivid and crystal clear.

New Richmond Pearl Harbor RemembranceNew Richmond Pearl Harbor MonumentThe left hand picture shows local Buckeye Boys State representatives presenting a wreath to Joe Whitt as Ralph Shepherd of the American Legion looks on. Today, the actual anniversary of the attack, it will be placed at the riverside monument and another will be cast into the Ohio River.

As far as I know, this is the only Pearl Harbor observance in the area. Someone said that Addyston, on the west side of Cincinnati, may still have one but I could find nothing online. In some respects, having the horrible events of December 7, 1941 recede in our collective memory is a good thing. Unfortunately, they are not receding so much on their own as being pushed back by more recent and equally horrible events. Yes, we should never forget events such as the attack on Pearl Harbor but it would sure be nice if all such memories were really really old ones.

With the Remembrance scheduled for a Sunday, my first thought was to make it the subject of the blog post for that same day. As Sunday approached, I realized that I would not have a book review ready for Wednesday and that I had a small herd of electrified horses trotting about my brain. It would be better, I surmised, to post the horse parade stuff on Sunday, the Remembrance stuff on Wednesday, and hope to have a book review by next Wednesday. Sorry to disillusion anyone who thought this was all carefully planned weeks in advance.

More Horses (and a bit on a madonna)

Last night I completed the trifecta of southwest Ohio horse parades. I just happened to be in Greenville on the occasion of their parade two weeks ago. I blogged about it here. Last week I was again in Greenville and came home through Springfield with a goal of getting some pictures of the recently relocated Madonna of the Trail statue. (More on that later.) I was surprised to see downtown Springfield blocked off and more surprised to learn that it was for the city’s first ever hose parade. I certainly had to stick around for that.

Springfield Horse ParadeCarriage rides were available before the parade and, yes, I took one. Neither the carriage rides nor the parade actually passed the Madonna. The picture at right shows one of the “public” carriages leaving the blocked off area in anticipation of the parade itself. The parade formed behind where I stood to take the picture and turned right to reach the parade route proper.

Springfield Horse ParadeSpringfield Horse ParadeAs mentioned, this was Springfield’s first year for a parade and there were just fourteen entries. All were “hitches”. In other words, there were no horseback riders. The portrayal of  the Christmas story in a setting where eighteenth and and nineteenth century covered wagons (albeit with pneumatic rubber tires) was the norm was simultaneously shocking and 100% fitting. I liked it. Future generations of Springfieldians may have a very unique take on the whole Christmas-pioneer-Madonna-covered-wagon thing.

Black Horse Tavern at the Golden LambSo, after attending Springfield’s first and Greenville’s eighth more or less by accident, I felt almost obligated to attend Lebanon’s twenty-third horse parade. It’s not only the oldest of the three but, with 122 entries, far and away the biggest. It’s also the only double header. There is a daylight version at 1:00 and an in-the-dark illuminated-carriage version at 7:00. Other commitments kept me away from Lebanon until something after 1:00 but I headed there anyway thinking I might catch the tail end of the matinee. I couldn’t even get close. I whiled away the afternoon on the far side of town then returned thinking it entirely possible that I would just pass through again and head home. But I found a parking spot about three blocks from the Golden Lamb. In the Lamb’s Black Horse Tavern, I ran into some friends I hadn’t seen in quite awhile and managed to while away another couple of hours until parade time was near.

Lebanon Horse ParadeLebanon Horse ParadeI’ve attended both light and dark versions of the Lebanon parade before but it’s been a long time. Both the parade and attendance have had time to grow and they certainly have. All of downtown Lebanon was pretty much shoulder to shoulder and withers to withers.

Lebanon Horse Parade ClydesdalesLebanon Horse Parade Fire EngineSeveral of the parade participants had been at Greenville and a few had been at Springfield but with more than eight times Springfied’s entries and nearly double Greenville’s, Lebanon obviously had some exclusives. Foremost among these were a nineteenth century fire engine and a team of Clydesdales. Both of these actually brought cheers from the crowd when they charged down the street.

Golden LambDuring the parade I managed to somehow walk to it’s origin and back. Some of it was pretty awkward but in the end I just stepped into the street and paced the parade. I recall my father once telling me that the secret to getting around a military base is to carry a clipboard and walk briskly. The same technique works with parades using a camera. The friends I had met in the bar told of past success in watching the parade from the balcony at the Golden Lamb. Even though that appeared to be a bit more challenging than in prior years, they were going to give it a try. As the parade wrapped up, I snapped this picture of the hotel’s balcony just in case they were up there. No, I later learned, they had been blocked from the balcony but found an empty third floor dining room where they and another couple watched the parade in relative privacy. The only intruder was a hotel employee who stopped by now and then to take drink orders.

Ohio Madonna of the TrailNow, about that Madonna. In 1928 and ’29, as the era of named auto trails came to an end, the Daughters of the American Revolution placed a Madonna of the Trail statue in each of the twelve states through which the National Old Trails Road passed. The one for Ohio was placed in Springfield. Two of the four sides on each statue’s base were inscribed with information specific to the statue and its placement. On Ohio’s Madonna these concerned the end of federally funded construction, which was quite close to the statue’s original placement, and George Rogers Clark victory at Peckuwe which was about three miles from the original placement as noted in the inscription. In the mid 1950s, highway construction caused the statue to be moved about a half mile east. The inscriptions were no longer as accurate as they had been but they weren’t off too much. A bigger problem with the move was that, once US-40 became four lanes wide, there was no convenient access to the statue. Reaching it involved either pulling over on the busy highway or parking in a safe spot and walking along the busy highway.

Ohio Madonna of the TrailIn September, the statue was again moved. This move was about two miles distance to a park in downtown Springfield. The setting makes the statue much more accessible while making the inscriptions much less accurate. Some consider this a net win; Others don’t. During the hour or so I hung around the statue last Saturday, I saw about twenty people take note of the statue in some way. There was a lot of foot traffic in the area Saturday and the majority seemed oblivious to both the new park and the relocated statue. Of those that noticed it, about half recognized it including one fellow who arrived with camera and tripod to photograph the old gal in her new home. Quite a few of those who had no idea what it was did read at least one panel. Several read them all. Whether or not any of them develop even the slightest interest in any aspect of the history that this Madonna of the Trail represents is anybody’s guess.

A newspaper article about the September 22 move is here. The Madonna can be seen thirteen days before the move here and here.