Thoughts on the Simple Life and the Good Old Days of Bad Roads

Hate to say it, but I’m running behind. I’m behind in my to-do list, behind in my reading list, both books and blogs (sorry, blogging buddies). I’m even behind in my listening (You should see the number of podcasts backed up in the queue).

This is unusual for me, I need you to know that. Normally my to-do lists end their days with nary a check missing.

Despite this busyness, however, I’m still finding time to read through my family’s Pioneer Memoirs and I remain dedicated to bringing you snippets now and then. Partly because my invented deadline of Wednesdays for my blog posting has seeped into my brain with such ferocity that if I should be 98 and on my deathbed, I dearly hope it’s a Tuesday.

Along with that, reading these Pioneer Memoirs reminds me that however busy my life is at the moment, when all is said and done, I’ve got it pretty good.

On a previous post, one of the comments made mention of how wonderful it was to hear of those simpler times. I agreed at first, but then got to thinking. I wonder if it’s true? What I mean is, did they think their life was simple?

Somehow I doubt it.

Consider when Thoreau moaned on and on about all those men living desperate lives, yada, yada, yada.  That was pre-Civil War! No freeways, no rush hour traffic, no commercial television or Russians in your Facebook.

Makes you wonder what old Henry had to complain about, am I right?

Following this logic, perhaps one day people will look back on 2018 as a simpler time. Just as I might look back on this time and think, “Eh, I wasn’t so busy.”

In any case, the last two weeks I brought you tales spun by my Great-Aunt Clara. Today’s story comes from her father, my Great-Grandfather, Abraham Jacobson.

Old Abe came to the United States in 1848, when he was 12 years old. As you’ll see below, he and his “trusty legs” were rarely idle. He graduated from college, became a Lutheran minister, traveled to Quebec to help newly arrived immigrants, served churches in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa, found some time for farming, and eventually ran for public office.

This particular tale tells us of when he traveled from Decorah, Iowa (in the northeastern part of the State), into the newly formed Dakota territories… by foot. It was a story my dad used to tell us kids, as it was a bit of family pride that our relation was the first Lutheran minister in the Dakotas. (If that should ever come up in a trivia contest, now you know.)

The following was written in 1908, two years before he passed away at the age of 74. I hope you find it a pleasant diversion from your busy day…

In the vast domain of the Northwest there may still be found places where roads are poor, but the ease and facility of present-day travel cannot be compared with conditions fifty years ago.

In the summer of 1850, when I was a boy of fourteen, my trusty legs carried me across the state of Wisconsin from the vicinity of Milwaukee to Prairie du Chien, a distance of more than two hundred miles. This journey was made in company with a large caravan of emigrants who were to settle in Iowa. The day’s journey was short and the roads were good, so the four week trip was an enjoyable one, though it was strenuous enough for many of the older people.

In the eleven years that followed, among many varied experiences, I was ordained into the ministry and served a congregation in Chicago. Circumstances so shaped themselves that a journey to the then new Dakota Territory seemed to me a duty, from a religious point of view. A keen desire for recreation for both mind and body was also an impelling factor in my determination to undertake the trip. An opportunity for the realization of this wish soon presented itself.

In October, 1861, a small party of eight people in Decorah were in readiness to make the trip westward to Dakota. The company had four yoke of oxen and four wagons. Three of these wagons had just been driven in from Dakota by settlers who came to meet some newly-arrived relatives from Norway.

Our wagon was constructed in a practical manner, in true prairie schooner style. The arched bows were covered with canvas and, as an extra precaution, were again covered with oilcloth, so that we were well protected against both wind and rain. We were amply provided with provisions and cooking utensils, and this later proved to have been a wise forethought.

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The first event that occurred on our trip, and which yet remains vivid in my memory, happened near Calmar. Along the main highway to McGregor came a man with a yoke of oxen hauling a load of wheat. A little boy, who was a cripple, sat on top of the load. The weather was warm and the road dry and dusty. The poor draft cattle were undoubtedly both tired and thirsty,  for their tongues protruded far from their throats.

Near the road there was a depression full of water, apparently a little pond, but in reality a so-called “sinkhole,” the opening in the bottom of which was partly closed by a deposit of clay which had been washed in from the road. As soon as the oxen saw the water they became entirely unmanageable, and down into the hole they rushed pell-mell, with the wagon and the whole load. The sides of the bank were steep and the heavy load shoved the wagon so far down that the water reached to the boy’s waist. Fortunately some of us were nearby.

We brought the boy back to dry land, unyoked the oxen, and finally helped the poor man to get the wheat and the wagon out of the water. The man, whose home was near St. Ansgar, was on his way to market his wheat and had taken his ailing boy along to consult a doctor. Now they had to spread the wheat upon the ground and let it dry before they could continue their journey.

To be continued…

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Here’s Abraham with his wife, Nicolina, and their 11 children.
Talk about busy!

Would You Stay Here?

I’m sure this is a fine establishment. A lovely bed and breakfast in the historic downtown area of Glendale Arizona.

All the same, I rather not take a chance.

Gaslight Inn

Good morning, ma’am. How did you sleep? I hope the room was to your satisfaction?

Well, yes, only I kept hearing footsteps in the room above me.

That’s impossible ma’am. There is no room above you.

What are you talking about? Of course there’s a room above me. I saw a man walk up the stairs last night.

You must have imagined it.

You bear a striking resemblance to Charles Boyer. Has anyone ever told you that?

Never. Here’s the coffee you ordered.

I didn’t order coffee.

Yes you did.

No I didn’t. I don’t like coffee.

Of course you do. You love coffee.

I do?

Here’s your spinach omelet.

But I didn’t–

Yes you did.

Hey, did the lights just dim?

It’s your imagination. Drink the coffee ma’am. You’ll feel better.

Too Fearful for a Disney Cruise?

She was there to inventory our printers. Or as IT likes to call them, our “copy/print/scan devices.”

She wore a royal blue polo shirt and khaki pants, no doubt going for that classic geek look. But her red lipstick and fussy hairstyle betrayed her. And not that this is in any way related, but her hair was platinum blond.

One day, I shall have the nerve to dye my hair platinum blond.

slava-bowman-161206A coworker knew her and asked about her summer plans.

“Will you be traveling again?” she asked. “I saw your pictures on Facebook last year. You took a cruise, right?”

“Traveling is overrated,” Platinum Printer Gal said. “All that fuss and bother, it’s just not worth it. And with the news lately… you’d have to be out of your mind to travel out of the country. I mean, everyday it’s something, you know? Continue reading “Too Fearful for a Disney Cruise?”

Four Broadway Musicals and the People We Saw There

Screen Shot 2017-06-01 at 9.38.00 AMThis coming Sunday is the Tony Awards. Also known as: The Award Program You Never Watch.

This year my family will be watching, because two of the shows we saw in New York are nominated for best musical.

Oh my gosh! I haven’t told you about the shows we saw! Do you have a moment?

I promise I won’t go on for three hours, speeches will be kept to a 45-second time limit, and there won’t be any ‘who-died-last-year’ montages. But I promise you’ll meet some interesting people along the way, and we’ll have a swell song-and-dance number at the end.

Continue reading “Four Broadway Musicals and the People We Saw There”

Gotta Cure My Post-NYC Blues

Phoenix skylineWe took the light rail to downtown Phoenix last Saturday. No event to attend, nothing we needed to do, no particular sight we wanted to see. We were simply conducting an experiment.

If it took us between 50 to 60 minutes to travel from our Airbnb in Queens to Manhattan, and once there we never lacked for interesting things to do, and after doing said things, we never lacked for good things to eat, we intended to find:

  1. Is the Phoenix Light Rail an efficient and reliable form of transportation for reaching our downtown area?
  2. Is there an interesting assortment of things to do in downtown Phoenix, enough to settle my post-NYC trip blues?
  3. Can we find an eatery with not only good food, but in an interesting building with charming atmosphere like every, single, flippin’ place we ate at in Manhattan?

Here’s what we found:

Continue reading “Gotta Cure My Post-NYC Blues”

How Do You Get to Carnegie Hall?

Carnegie PlaybillPractice helps. But there’s a much easier way, and I imagine a much more common way: You pay for it.

From its beginning, Carnegie was a rental hall.  I looked up the price for renting it, should you feel so inclined. Without putting in a lot of effort, I found the going price in 2014 for the Stern auditorium (the main stage) for a Friday or Saturday evening was $16,000.

Not sure how many hours that covers, but remember you can do anything you want and no auditions required. You could even play your kazoo, if you wanted.

Another option – and this is the one Husband chose – is to join a choir that’s been invited for a special event. Continue reading “How Do You Get to Carnegie Hall?”

That’s Art?! And Why That’s a Stupid Thing to Say

I planned on giving you a tour of the museums we visited while in New York, but then I got distracted by this news story in the Daily Mail:

“A student who left a pineapple in the middle of an art exhibition as a prank was left shocked after curators put the fruit inside a glass case.”

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Funny, right?

About a year ago, Twitter lit up with an account of a teenage boy who left his dirty sneakers in an art museum and watched as patrons took pictures of them.

That was funny too.

But there are a few things I want to point out:

Continue reading “That’s Art?! And Why That’s a Stupid Thing to Say”

New York State of Mind

Screen Shot 2017-04-18 at 9.24.21 AMThis coming Saturday, in the wee hours of morn, I’m boarding a plane for New York City.

The reason?

Hold onto your hats: Husband is singing at Carnegie Hall!

WHOA!!!

To answer the probing questions you haven’t asked yet, it all started about a year ago… Continue reading “New York State of Mind”

A Tale of Two Wineries

It was the best of vacations, it was the longest of vacations…

It was the age of wine-tasting, it was the age of not knowing what the heck you were tasting…

Red wine in glassI always wanted to visit Napa Valley, but when you’re the only wine drinker in the house, it can be a hard sell. The kids were always too young, and Husband’s drink of choice is Coke.

(Although if he feels he’s had too much, he might have a beer instead.)

I needed the perfect moment to suggest a trip to Napa. A time when everything came together – when there was something of interest for everyone – a masterful stroke when no opposition was possible. Continue reading “A Tale of Two Wineries”