Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Monday, June 15, 2020


Openers:  On the plains, midway between Cheyenne and the Black Hills, a train had halted for a noonday feed.  Not a railroad train, mind you, but a line of those white-covered vehicles drawn by strong-limbed mules, which are most properly styled "prairie schooners."

There were four wagons of this type. and they had been drawn in a circle about a camp-fire, over which was roasting a savory haunch of venison.  Around the campfire were grouped half a score of men. all rough, bearded, and grizzled, with one exception.  This being a youth whose age one could have safely put at twenty, so perfectly developed of physique and intelligence of facial appearance was he.  There was something about him that was not handsome, and yet you would have been puzzled to tell what it was, for his counternance was strikingly handsome, and surely no form in the crown was more notable for its grace, symmetry, and proportional development.  It would have taken a scholar to have studied out the secret.

He was of about medium stature, and as straight and square-shouldered as an athlete.  His complexion was nut-brown, from long exposure to the sun; hair of hue of the raven's wing, and hanging in l ong, straight strands adown his back; eyes black and piercing as an eagle's; features well molded, with a firm, resolute mouth and prominent chin.  He was an interesting specimen of young, healthy manhood, and, even though a youth in years, was one that could command respect, if not admiration, wheresoever he might choose to go.

--Edward L. Wheeler, Deadwood Dick:  The Prince of the Road; or, The Black Rider of the Black Hills (1877)

Wheeler created the famous western character for a theater troupe he managed in Philadelphia.   He later took the character as the hero of a series of dime novels, starting with this one in Beadle's Half-dime Library.  Of the roughly 100 novels wheeler wrote, 33 of them featured Deadwood Dick, and  almost half of those included Calamity Jane, a real-life Old West entertainer -- as a character.

Wheeler's character soon took on a life of its own.  As Deadwood Dick's popularity grew, a number of people who actually lived in Deadwood, South Dakota, adopted the name. among them Frank Palmer, a gambler who claimed he was the original "Deadwood Dick," Nat Love, an African-American cowboy and hero of Joe R. Lansdale's tales about Deadwood Dick and portrayed by Ernie Hudson in the 1996 film The Cherokee Kid, and Richard Bullock, a gunman and bullion guard on the Deadwood Stage .  Other who have taken the name include actors Dick Brown and Richard Clarke, stage coach driver Richard Cole, Richard Palmer, and Robert Dickey.

A 1940 15-part western serial had actor Donald Douglas take the title role as Deadwood Dick.  As chuffed as that makes me, I have to admit it is not a great serial*, although the appearance of Roy Barcroft and Yakima Canutt in minor roles pulls the work up a notch.  The serial pits Deadwood Dick (actually Dick Stanley, a pioneering newspaper editor and proponent for statehood, against a masked figure known only as The Skull, who wants Dakota to become his own little empire.  Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickok both have roles in this oater.  It took fifteen chapters and "about forty choreographed fights" to bring the saga to a close.  Interestingly, there are stories that the producers wanted a Black actor to play the title role (a la Nat Love) but settled for the white version portrayed by Wheeler in the dime novels.  (I have no idea if this is true, but it also echoes today's climate.)

23 of Wheeler's Deadwood Dick novels, as well as 41 other western dime novels by Wheeler, are archived at Northern Illinois University.  Follow the link:

*  Others do not agree, call it fast pace, inventive, and and genuinely entertaining.

Juneteenth:  Juneteenth, or June 19, celebrates the day that the last enslaved American were freed when Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston on that day in 1865 with the news that the war had ended and the slaves were free.  It is one of the most significant days in American history and one that seemed to fade into the background for many years, resurging during the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.  Its popularity is rightly on the rise and is a time for celebration, exploration, and reflection.  Recreational activities, prayer services, and guest speakers are all part of the day's celebrations, as is food.  Lots of food.  Strawberry flavored soda is often associated with Juneteenth, as are barbecues.

Here's a little bit of background on Juneteenth:

In 1921, a white mob attacked the Black enclave of Tulsa in an act of cowardice and hate, killing some 300 people (probably more), destroying homes and businesses, and leaving thousands homeless.  It is one of the most shameful acts in American history, which has been laden with too many shameful acts.  With much of the country coming together to protest the killing of George Floyd and the systemic racism in this country, Juneteenth events should be part of a learning and healing process.  Instead President Trump decided to throw some raw meat to his lowest supporters and announced a speech and rally scheduled for Juneteenth in Tulsa.  Tacky does not begin to describe it.

Some of Trump's advisors have managed to talk him into re-scheduling the appearance to June 20 -- the day after Juneteenth.  I suppose that is less a slap in the face than the original planned date, but it still brings attention to the fact that our country's leader is continuing on a racist course of division.  It still is a slap in face of all of us, whatever color, who yearn for America to live up to its stated goal of justice for all.

Can November come too soon?

Anxious?:  Since the beginning of the pandemic a local church has had this sign out front:  "Anxious?  Afraid?  Need to talk?  Call me on my cell [local phone number given]."  This impresses me each time I drive by the sign.  I don't know if this pastor is offering comfort or his own style of bible thumping (I hope the former) but this points out a basic truth.  We are social animals.  We need to connect and never more so than in times of crisis.  As everybody's grandmother used to say, "A problem shared is a problem halved."

Magna Carta:  On this date in 1215 England's King John put his seal to the Magna Carta.  Back then it was known as the Magna Carta Libertatum (Great Charter of Freedoms) and was essential a peace treaty between the king and rebellious barons.  As with most peace treaties, it was essentially ignored by all parties.  Despite being was annulled by Pope Innocent III, the document was a beginning of a constitutional style of government.

In 2016, following John's death, the regency of young King Henry III reissued the document, striking out some of its more onerous clauses in the hopes of gaining support for the crown.  The following year the document, now known as the Magna Carta, formed part of the peace treaty of the First Barons War.  The Charter was reissued in 1225 by Henry in exchange for a promise of new taxes.  Edward I renewed it in 1297 as part of England's statue law.  For the most part, it was then renewed by each monarch in turn, although after the fledgling Parliament began to pass new laws, its significance lessened.

At the end of the 16th century and into the 17th centuries, English jurists began to use the document as an argument against the divine right of kings.  Over the centuries, popular thought had it that the document protected ancient personal liberties of the English citizenry rather than being concerned with the rights of the king and his medieval barons.  It was this populist myth that helped form the American Constitution, as well as those of Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the former Union of South Africa and Southern Rhodesia.  Actually, by the nineteenth century most of the articles of the Magna Carta had been repealed or superseded by later law.

The Magna Carta, through its many fits and starts, is a foundation of personal liberty and democracy.  As such, its importance can not be diminished.  America would not be America without the influence of the evolving Magna Carta.

Oops!:  As if 2020 was not weird enough, Poland accidentally invaded the Czech Republic this month.  Polish soldiers unknowingly crossed the border where they began stopping Czech citizens.  Both countries acknowledge the mix-up and feathers remain unruffled.

And the French, bless them, determined last month that the gender of the word COVID-19 is feminine, putting an end to a heated debate of whether to use le or la before the word.  Viva la Covid-19!  Wait.  No. no.  Don't use that sentence!

As bad as 2020 has been, it might not be as bad as some 45 to 50 million years ago where the seas were host to giant, saber-toothed anchovies!  These anchovies were about three feet long and had sharp, jagged teeth on their lower jaw.  Not recommended to be put on Jurassic pizza.

And last month Tennessee proved to be a disaster magnet for food.  Forty-thousand pounds of mac and cheese spilled out over the roadway when a trailer truck over turned.  Just a day earlier, a truck carrying chicken and a truck carrying pumpkin pies each caught fire in the Volunteer State.

And a man in Thailand has been arrested for stealing 126 pairs of flip-flops so he could have sex with them.  I can imagine that 126 Thais have told police not to return their stolen shoes to them after that.

And in Russia, a twenty-something nurse in a male coronavirus ward has been reprimanded for wearing just a bikini under her transparent PPE wear.   Another nurse said the woman managed to raise her patients' moods with the revealing outfit.  That was most likely not all she raised.

Happy Birthday, Saul!:  Today is the birthday of New Yorker artist/cartoonist Saul Steinberg (1914-1999), whose pen and ink drawings subtly skewed American life.  The link takes you to a large sampling of his work.  You're welcome.

Florida Man:  

  • Florida Man and Pastor of Mount Tabor Ministries outside Opa-Locka Burnice Mikell, 64, punched the President of a local Rotary club which was distributing free food in the same area.  The Rotarian, Felipe Madrigal, had evidently arranged a donation from one of the church's deacons without the knowledge of the pastor.  When Madrigal showed u at the church to collect the food, the pastor thought he was there to donate to his food drive.  When he realized what had happened, the pastor started swinging, knocking Madrigal out sold.  There's no word on whether the Rotarian turned the other cheek so the pastor could take a swing at that one, too.
  • Florida Man and hospital worker Franz Beldonin, 23, swore that he is innocent of sucking on am elderly female patient's toes.  The incident took place at Gulf Coast Hospital in Fort Myers.  Beldonin told a local news outlet, "It makes me look crazy...or, like, creepy, and I'm not...I'm not that type of dude."
  • Florida Man Dorleans Philidor, 33, was in Miami-Dade Circuit Court, charged with burglary and grand theft when he decided to go into the Flordai Man Hall of Fame.  Philidor pooped in open court and threw his feces at the judge.  Then it got weird.  He yelled at the judge,"It's protein!  It's good for you!"  Then he proceeded to eat his own feces.  Ugh.  Curiously he was acquitted of the burglary charge.
  • Florida Man Shaun Michaelson, 41, wanted to be "a good father," so he let a 12-year-old girl drive his SUV through the streets of Jupiter after midnight.  A local policeman spotted the car making an illegal U-turn and the ensuing chase reached 85 mile and hour in a 45 mile an houor zone.  The girl told the officer that Michaelson told her to speed.  Michaelson, "the good father," is not related to the girl.  In addition to being charges with child neglect and letting an unauthorized person drive his vehicle, Michaelson was also charged sing a minor to become a delinquent by buying her a vape pen.  She had asked for the vape pen, Michaelson said.  She had also asked to drive the vehicle, according to Michaelson.  Alcohol was involved.
  • Palm Bay Florida Man Thomas Morgan, 57, was charged with attempted murder and felony animal cruelty merely because he fired several shots at his sister, held a gun to her head, and killed the pet bird sitting on her shoulder.  File this one under Florida Family Time.
  • Florida Man Howard Harlib went to Oregon to swindle the Mill Casino in North Bend out of $12,500 by claiming he could book The Village People at the casino.  Harlib, who has a history of scams and frauds dating back to 1992, pleaded guilty to the wire fraud case.  The Village People, by the way, were appearing in Florida on the date Harlib had booked them for North Bend.  The YMCA musical group denied having any knowledge of the Florida scammer.

On the Other Hand, Here's Some Good News:
In the midst of COVID-19, the fight for racial equality, murder hornets, and giant saber-toothed anchovies, ordinary people are working every day -- in ways  both large and small -- to make this world a better place for future generations.

Today's Poem:

Nothing changes if nothing changes
Nothing changes if things only change
Change is needed to take on any challenge

But change is not always progress
We strive for more, never less
While our resources are never less

One more step can help you advance
One more step can make you fall
A step in and on itself doesn't make much sense
Without the right direction to reach the goal

-- Gorba Ambroise

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