Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Tuesday, November 16, 2021


 Openers:  The room around them was big and solid and familiar.  It had a hardwood maple floor, brightened considerably by several genuine antique Navajo rugs in patterns of warm reds, blacks, and grays.  It had soft pine walls,, with the knots showing.  There were five good paintings, four of these modern and one a Gauguin almost two centuries old.  The chairs were comfortable, the one desk substantial.

Wade Dryden leaned forward in his chair.  His first reaction was one of incredulity, but already the back of his mind was grateful for the no-nonsense style of the room.  It gave him something to hang onto, and he had a feeling he was going to need it.

"They found what?" he asked. knowing well enough that he had heard it correctly the first time.

"Horses," Heinrich Chamisso repeated.

-- "A Star Above It" by Chad Oliver (first published in Oliver's collection Another Kind, 1955)

Horses had been found in 1445 in Central Mexico in Aztec territory.  Horses had once lived in the new world but the had died out in the Pleistoscene era and would not be introduced again until 1520 when Cortez first brought them to Mexico.  So what are horses doing there some 75 years early?  That's the question facing the Time Security Commission, the organization responsible for controlling the time stream in 2080.

The fact that there were horses at that place and at that time threatened the entire future world.  With horses, the Aztecs could have defeated Cortez, the Indian kingdom could flourish and expand, tking over the entire continent.  They would have been strong enough to defeat the European forces.  The United States could never have existed.  The world as it had been known would be erased as if it had never existed.

Time travel was a tricky business and time travelers must blend in smoothly with the native population.  Time Security could not afford to send in a team to correct the problem.  The more people sent back, the greater the chance of being discovered.  One man had to go back in time and the man chosen was Wade Dryden,

The horses -- there were about fifty of them -- were brought to 1445 by Daniel Hughes, a respected historian who had been thoroughly vetted before being allowed to travel to the past.  Where he had gotten the horses was a mystery.  What his purpose for doing that was unknown.  These early horses could change the flow of history and erase the present.  Dryden had to remove traces of the horses from the historical record, and, most likely, kill Hughes.

Oliver combines science fiction with history and anthropology for this novelette, something he had done before.  Oliver was probably the premiere writer of anthropological science fiction.  Oliver himself was a respected anthropolist and educator.

Symmes Chadwick Oliver (1928-1933) was born in Ohio, moving later to Texas.  When he was fourteen he began writing fan letters to various science fiction magazine; about 75 of them were printed in the letter columns of such magazines as Astounding Science Fiction, Captain Future, Famous Fantastic Mysteries, Fantasic Adventures, Planet Stories, Startling Stories, Super Science Stories,  and Thrilling Wonder Stories.  These letters were glowingly positive, written with youthful enthusiam, and some of the early ones wwere signed "Chad Oliver, the Loony Lad of Ledgewood. "  Oliver developed rheumatic fever and his family moved to Texas, where the 90-pound weaking became active in sports, grew sronger, and became "The Mountain That Walks."  Oliver and another Texas fan put out a fanzine, The Moon Puddle.

Oliver received his Bachelor's and Master's degrees at the University of Texas.  He traveled to Los Angeles for his doctorate in Anthropology from UCLA.  His doctoral dissertation was titled "Ecology and Cultural Continuity as Contributing Factors in the Social Organization of the Plains Indians."  Oliver had long had an interest in North American Indians, something that shows up repeatedly in his short tories and in his later novels.  While in Los Angeles, he fell in with a talented crowd of writers, including Charles Beaumont, William F. Nolan, Ray Bradbury, Richard Matheson, Frank Robinson, and John Tomelin.  Doctorate in hand, Oliver returned to Texas to begin teaching at the University of Texas, Austin.  He spent two years in Kenya researching the culture and ecology of two Kamba tribes.  When writing his novel The Wolf Is My Brother he found that his Indian characters "sounded more like the Kambas than the American aboriginals."

Oliver was friendly, outgoing, and genuinely interested in this students.  His course were among the most popular at UT -- in one course in particular, he imitated the warning calls of the higher primates to the deight of his students.

He bcame Chairman of the Department of Anthropology at UT.  His science fiction novels (Shadows in the Sun, The Winds of Time, Unearthly Neighbors, and Giants in the Dust, among them) are considered classics.  His western novel The Wolf is My Brother won the Golden Spur Award from the Western Writers of America.  His novel Broken Eagle won the Western Heritage Award of the National Cowboy and Western Hertiage Museum.   He also won several awards for his undergraduate teaching.  

Chad Oliver, though best recognized for mixing anthropology with his fiction, was far more than that.  As Howard Waldrop explained, "Many of his stories concern the relations of men and women, men and men, men and aliens, and the continuation  of traditions, whether of the small tribe or the local star system."  Oliver's stories are often told with warmth and love for the land and its people.  His detailed sense of history and anthropology are welcome bonuses.

To read Chad Oliver should be considered de riguer for any science fiction or western fan.


  • Megan Abbott, The Turnout.  Mystery/Suspense novel.  "With their long necks and matching buns and pink tights, Dara and Marie Durant have been dancers since they could remember.  Growing up, they were homeschooled and trained by their glamorous mother, founder of the Durant School of Dance.  After their parents' death in a tragic accident nearly a dozen years ago, the sisters began running the school together, along with Charlie, Dara's husband and once their mother's prized student.  Marie, warm and soft, teaches the younger students; Dara, with her precision, trains the older ones; and Charlie, sidelined from dancing after years of injuries, rules over the back office.  Circling around one another, the three have perfected a dance, six days a week, that keeps the studio thriving.  But when a suspicious accident occurs,  just at the onset of the school's annual performance of The Nutracker -- a season of competition, anxiety, and exhilaration -- an interloper arrives and threatens the sisters' delicate balance.  Taut and unnerving, The Turnout is Megan Abbott at the height of her game.  With uncanny insight and hypnotic writing, it is a sharp and strange dissection of family ties and sexuality, feminity and power, and a tale that is both alarming and irresistable."  Megan Abbott is an award-winning and best-selling author.  "There is not a writer alive who is better investigating the tension and threat of violence at the center of women's lives than Megan Abbott." -- Attica Locke  (Megan is also the daughter of our talented friend Patti Abbott.  The apple did not fall far from the tree.)
  • Michael Crichton, Travels.  Non-fiction.  "Fueled by a powerful curiosity and the need to see, feel, and hear firsthand and close-up, Michael Crichton experienced adventures as compelling as those he created in his books and films.  When Crichton -- a Harvard-trained physician, bestselling novelist, and successful movie director -- began to feel isolated in his own life, he decided to widen his  horizons.  He tracked wild animals in the jungles of Rwanda.  He climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro and Mayan pyramids.  He trekked across a landslide in Pakistan.  He swam amid sharks in Tahiti.  This is a record of those travels -- an exhilarating quest across the familiat and exotic frontiers of the outer world, a determined odyssey into the unfathomable, spiritual depths of the inner world.  It is an adventure of risk and rejuvenation, terror and wonder, as exciting as Michael Crichton's many masterful and widely heralded works of fiction."  I've always found Crichton to be either very readable orvery  apt to make me toss a book against a wall in disgust.  He could also be very much full of himself.  I do not have high hopes for this book, but I hope I am proven wrong.
  • Elizabeth Thomas, Catherine House.  A modern Gothic.  "Catherine House is  a school of higher learning like no other.  Hidden deep in the woods of rural Pennsylvania, this crucible of reformist liberal arts study has produced some of the world's best minds:  arists and inventors, prize-winning scientists, Supreme Court justices, presidents.  For those lucky selected, tuition, room, and board are free.  But acceptance comes with a price.  Student are required to give Catherine House three years -- summers included -- completely removed from the outside world.  Family, friends, television. music, even their personal clothing must be left behind.  In return the school promise its graduates a future of sublime power, and that they can become anything or anyone they desire.  Among this year's incoming class is Ines, who expects to trade her blurry teenage nights of parties, pills, cruel friends, and dangerous men for rigorous intellectual discipline -- only to discover an environment of sanctioned revelry.  Even the school's enigmatic director, Viktoria, encourages the students to explore their minds and bodies, to find themselves and their place behind the formidable gates of Catherine.  For Ines, the house is the closest thing to a home she's ever had.  But its strange protocols soon make this refuge with its worn velvet and weathered leather, feel increasingly like a lavish prison.  And when tragedy strikes, Ines begins to suspect that the school -- in all its shabby splendor, hallowed history, advanced theories, and controlled decadence -- might be hiding a dangerous agenda within the secretive, tightly knit group of students studying its most promising and mysterious curriculum."  This novel has garnered some great reviews.  And since Kitty's given name is Catherine, this one was a must-have.

Agora vou ser feliz:  The Beatles song "I Want to Hold Your Hand" rendered in Portuguese by the Angolan duo Duo Ouro Negro.  Enjoy.

R.I.P. Harry Turner:  Harry Turner died on this day 107 years ago.  He was 27, the first professional football player to die from injuries sustained from the game.

He was born in Canton, Ohio, on March 5, 1887.  He began his career with the Canton Indians in 1907.  The following year he was with the Canton Cohen Tigers and a year later, with the Canton Simpson Tigers.  Sometime around 1911 Turner went with the Canton Professionals, which was the pre-Natipnal Football League version of the Canton Bulldogs who played in the Ohio League.

The main rival for the Canton team was the Massillon Tigers, which had won the Ohio League championships in 1903, 1904, 1905, and 1906; with a name change to the All-Massillons, they also took the title in 1907.  Their captain had been George Watson "Peggy" Parrott, who threw the first legal forward pass in football while with the Massillon Tigers in 1906.  After the All-Massillns, Parrott went on to captain the Shelby Blues.  Parrott himself was likely the player most hated by the Professionals, including Turner.

In 1911, Turner pulled his entire team from a game in protest to a referree's call in favor of Parrott's Blues.  Turner vowed never to play football again.  But vows are made to be broken and Turner continued to play for another three seasons.  

In 1912, Parrott moved to the Akron Indians as player, coach and owner-manager.  The Indians defeated Canton twice that year but lost the championship to the Elyria Athletics, a team made mostly of former Shelby Blues players who had left after Parrott went to Akron.  By the next season, Parrott had hired most of the Elyria team to play for his Indians.  Parrott also hired such former Notre Dame legends as Knute Rockne.  Although the  most powerful team in the league. the Akron Indians lost to Canton on November 15, 1914, 6-0.  The game was marked by tragedy when Harry Turner fractured his back and competely severed his spinal column when he tackled the Indian's Joe Collins, another former Notre Dame star.  According to the Canton team manger, who was with Turner when he died, the footballer's last words were, "I know I must go, but I'm satisfied, for we beat Peggy Parrott."  (Believe that, if you wish.)  The following week after the tragedy, Parrott's Akron Indians wiped the Canton Professionals' clock, 21-0, winning that year's championship title.

Canton is the home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Native American Sign Language:  From 1940, this 8-minute film from the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology and Anthropology film archive shows various words and phrases in the Plains Indians sign language.  Because the film is silent, the viewer may not know what is going on.  If you follow the description, the meaning of the signs is transcribed by Ron Garritson of the University of Wyoming.  I think the whole thing is very cool.

Happy Birthday, F.P.A.:  Newspaer columnist and Algonquin Table wit Franklin P. Adams (November 15, 1881-March 23, 1960) would have been 140 years old today.   Here is his Women I Am Not Married To, which details seven of that species whom he had evaded in one way or another.

Ganna Walska:  Ganna who?  She was an opera singer whose escapades caused a scandal when a wire serice story about her was published on October 30, 1921.  Ganna was born Hanna Puacz in Brest-Litovsk, Poland (then part of the Russian Empire) on June 26, 1887.  If she had any talent at all, it was not as an opera singer; she was consistently off-key.  On the bright side of things, she was a passionate beauty who had married six times, four of them to extremely wealthy husbands.  (As the old joke goes, she may have had more husbands but none of them were hers.)  She was the inspiration for Charles Foster Kane's second wife in Orson Welles's Citizen Kane.

Her marriages were as follows:
  • Acardie d'Eingron, a Russian baron and officer, 1904-06.  The marriage was dissolved.  Walska has been described as the child victim of an unhappy marriage.
  • Dr. Joseph Fraenkel, a New York endrocrinologist.  They married in in 1916 and he died in 1920.  Walska had come to America with just a bandbox and a letter of introduction from Anna Held to Diamonod Jim Brady.  Eventually she met and married Fraenkel, who left her a healthy sum (about $4.2 million in today's dollars) when he died.
  • Alexander Smith Cochran. a multimillionaire carpet tycoon, who married Walska just five months after Fraenkel's death.  He was worth about $1.16 billion in today's money.  They divorced in 1922.  While married to Cochran she purchased the Theatre de Champs-Elysees in Paris with her own money, vowing never to appear there until she had "gained recognition based solely on my merits as an artist."
  • Harold Fowler McCormack, the heir to the International Harvester company.  McCormack was married to the daughter of John D. Rockefeller and took on Walska as his "protege."  McCormack strongly supported Walska in her operatic career and lobbied for her to be cast in the title role in the Chicago Opera's presentation of Ruggaro Leoncavallo's  Zaza.  It was while they were on an ocean liner traveling to Europe for rehearsal that Walska met Cochran, who was a fellow passenger.  Walska's performance in Zaza was not a stunning success.  The first conductor quit after vainly trying to convince Walska to "sing out;" the second conductor had to silence his orchestra after Walska complained that they were drowning out her voice. Walska then had a meltdown and after denouncing everybody she went back to Paris and annnounced she wished to divorce Cochran.  At the time she was staying in McCormack's hotel, setting tounges a-wagging.  McCormack had by then been separated from his wife for eight years and she was now running a psychiatric hospital in Switzerland,  Walska divorced Cochran in the spring and married McCormack in the summer of 1922.   McCormack was married to Walska from 1922 until their divorce in 1931.  McCornmack heavily promoted his wife's singing career, but the reviews remained terrible. Her voise was "thin, sharp, wiry, metallic...She is unskilled and insensative in the arts and means of song -- line, phrase, modulation, transition, climax.  With pace and rhythm she exhibits neither intelligence intuition nor the fruits of study."   In 1926, Walska purchased a Fabrege egg that later belonged to Malcolm Forbes.
  • Harry Grindell Matthews, the English inventor of a "death ray," which he was never able to show a functioning model or display to the military.  (Others who have claimed to have invented a death ray included Marconi and Tesla.)  Matthews had also claimed to have invented the first talking motion picture.  He married Walska in 1938, who by then was also a perfumer and feminist with a worth of over $125,000,000.  Matthews died of a heart attack in 1941.
  • Walska's final husband was Theos Bernard, a student of yoga and Tibetian Buddhism.  They married in 1942.  At his urging she bought the 32-acre "Cuesta Linda" estate in Montecito, California, renaming it "Tibetland" in hopes to have Tibetian monks come and stay.  Since this was during World War II, that dream was impossible.  When they divorced in 1946, Walska renamed it "Lotusland," and turned it into a world famous botanical garden.
Lotusland is probably what Gamma Walska is best noted for today.  She died in 1984 at the age of 96, having lived a turbulent and somewhat scandalous life.

Florida Man:
  • Florida Man Kevin Stough, Jr., was finally arrested 25 years after the fact for the murder of Terence Pacquette.   Pacquette's body had been found in a bathroom of an Orange County convenience store in February of 1996.  He had been stabbed more than 70 times and his throat had been slit.  A blood sample from an unknown man had been discovered at the scene.  The casre languished for years and was reopened in 2019; earlier this year, the DNA from the blood sample had been sent to a geneology database.  A hit came back:  the suspect was a relative of someone listed in the database.  A bit of investigation showed the brother of the man flagged has lived next door to Pacquette.  Police needed further proof so they followed Stough.  When he tossed a beer can into a dumpster, police retrieved the discarded can from the dumpster.  The DNA on the can matched the blood sample.  The moral of this story is if you are a Florida Man murderer, don't drink beer.  Yeah, like that would ever happen.
  • Florida Man and veterinarian Preston Madden was sentenced to 22 years in prison for sexually abusing dogs.  Yech!  I won't go into details but this jamook gives Florida Men a bad name.
  • Florida Man Michael Despres confessed to killing his fiancee at his home, then driving her body in a truck to a Walmart parking lot to "stage" the body.  It's Florida Men like Despres who give the  People at Walmart a bad name.
  • Some become Florida Men just because they are unlucky.  Such was an unnamed 25-year-old Florida Man who was crossing a street via a crosswalk when he was hit by a car.  (Cars are supposed to stop when someone is using a crosswalk, not after they hit them whille crossing the sidewalk.)   Then he was run over by a school bus.  The man was taken to the hospital, suffering serious injuries.  The students were transferred to another bus and brought safely to school.  It is rumored that some of the students thought the incident was "cool."

Good News:
  • Cory H. fell down a mountain and reacted by giving her leggings a five-star review on Amazon
  • Firefighter calms a little girl after a car crash by reading her a book
  • Sikh men create a lifeline with their turbans to rescue a stranded hiker
  • HPV vaccine reduced cervical cancer rates in women by 87%
  • Here's a viral and brilliant band-aid lesson that teaches kids about fairness
  • After a seni0r had no candy for trick-or-treaters, the kids returned with gifts for her     

Today's Poem:
A Gotham Garden of Verses


In summer when the days are hot
The subway is delayed a lot;
In winter, quite the selfame thing;
In autumn also, and in spring.

And does it not seem strange to you
That transportation is askew
In this -- please restrain your mirth! --
In this, the Greatest Town on Earth?


All night long, and every night
The neighbors dance for my delight;
I hear the people dance and sing
Like practically anything.

Women and men and girls and boys,
Are making curious kinds of noise
And dancing in so weird a way,
I never saw the like by day.

So loud a show was never heard
As that which yesternight occurred:
They danced and sang, as I have said,
As I lay wakeful in my bed.

They shout and cry and yell and laugh
And play upon the phonograph;
And endlessly I count the sheep,
Endevouring to fall asleep.


It is very nice to think
The town is full of meat and drink;
The is, I'd think it very nice
If my pappa but had the price.


This town is so full of a number of folks,
I'm sure there will always be matter for jokes.

-- FPA

Late Flash:  Christina is headed to Tallahassee to rescue Hokey Pokey, an injured hedgehog.  News at eleven.