Nick Russell

Sharlot Hall Museum

 Posted by at 12:11 am  Nick's Blog
Aug 102020
 

Visitors to Prescott’s Sharlot Hall Museum are treated to a fascinating look at life in central Arizona, from the days before the first white prospectors and settlers arrived, to the present. The Museum’s nine buildings and four special gardens, including the famous Territorial Women’s Rose Garden, hold a wonderful collection of artifacts, photographs, and exhibits that tell the stories of Indians, soldiers, pioneers, and politicians, all of whom left their mark on the region.

The museum’s roots date back to its namesake, Sharlot Hall, a self-educated but highly literate child of the frontier. Sharlot Hall was born on October 27,1870, and her family came to Arizona Territory two years later, homesteading on Lynx Creek near Prescott.

With few opportunities for formal schooling, Sharlot managed to attend a few classes in the old log and adobe schoolhouse located four miles from her family’s ranch. She also boarded with a family in town for a school year, her longest stretch of education. But she had a fascination for art and history and loved reading and hearing the tales told by the local old timers. Early in life, Sharlot began collecting everything from Native American artifacts to prospector’s tools, along with paintings, drawings, and other works of Western art.

In 1909, Sharlot became the first woman to hold Territorial office, when she was appointed Territorial Historian. In 1927, she agreed to move her extensive collection of artifacts and documents into the old Governor’s Mansion and open it as a museum dedicated to Arizona history. This was the beginning of the world famous Sharlot Hall Museum. In 1981, Sharlot Hall became one of the first women elected to the Arizona Women’s Hall of Fame. She was an accomplished writer, with more than 500 published articles, stories and poems to her credit by the time she died in 1943.

We began our visit to the museum at the Museum Center, which had a gallery of Western artwork and a theater where we viewed a movie on the history of central Arizona. From there, we toured the original Arizona Territorial Governor’s Mansion, which stands in the same place where it was built, in 1864.

The “mansion” is actually a sprawling log building that may look rather Spartan by today’s standards, but compared to the crude cabins, tents, and other cobbled-together shelters that most people lived in at the time, it was quite impressive. Arizona’s first Territorial Governor, John Goodwin, lived in one side of the building with his family, and the Lieutenant Governor and his family lived on the other side.

The Sharlot Hall Building, located behind the Governor’s Mansion, is the museum’s primary exhibit hall, with two galleries of exhibits and dioramas on early Arizona history. Here we saw Native American pottery and baskets, military weapons, and pictographs carved into stone by early Native peoples.

A small log building called Fort Misery is the oldest log building associated with Territorial Arizona. It was originally built on the banks of Granite Creek, two blocks south, in 1863. Over the years, the cabin served as the first law office in Arizona, the first general store in central Arizona, the first Protestant church, first boarding house in the region, and the first courthouse in Arizona. Nearby is a small one room schoolhouse and a ranch house built in the 1930s.

The Fremont House, built in 1875, was the home of John Charles Fremont, the fifth Territorial Governor of Arizona, who held office from 1878 to 1881. Nearby, the beautiful Bashford House is an excellent example of the Victoria homes Prescott is famous for. Built in 1877 by merchant William Coles Bashford, the house serves as the museum’s store, with an excellent selection of books and souvenirs.

Next to the Bashford House, the Transportation Building was originally built in 1937 as an auto repair shop. It now houses the museum’s collection of antique cars and bicycles, including Sharlot Hall’s personal 1927 Durant Star Four touring car. There is also an 1867 Modoc twelve passenger stagecoach and a covered wagon on display.

The museum’s library and archives, located across the street at 115 S. McCormick Street, has a huge collection of rare books, original documents, photographs, maps, and oral histories that provide in-depth research opportunities for historians and researchers.

Besides the buildings and their exhibits, the four-acre museum campus features gardens with diverse plants and trees which form a genuine arboretum with few equals. At different times of the year the museum features living history presentations by costumed interpreters demonstrating old time skills, as well as arts and craft festivals, a folk music festival, and Native American art market.

The Sharlot Hall Museum is a wonderful place to explore Arizona’s history, learn about the people who carved a state out of the raw frontier and to come to appreciate the sacrifices and hardships of those men and women.

The museum is located at 415 W. Gurley Street, just a block or so from Prescott’s historic Whiskey Row and courthouse square. The museum is operating under limited Summer hours during the current pandemic and is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m.

Due to their age, some of the museum’s buildings are not handicapped accessible. Admission to the museum is $5 for adults, and those 18 and younger are free. Because it is located in downtown Prescott, parking is unavailable for large RVs. Visitors are advised to stay at one of the many local RV parks while visiting the museum and other Prescott attractions. For more information, call the Sharlot Hall Museum at (928) 445-3122, or visit their website at https://www.sharlothallmuseum.org/

Congratulations Marcy Krauss, winner of our drawing for an audiobook of Free Ride, the thirteenth book in my pal Ben Rehder’s excellent Blanco County mystery series. If you like small town mysteries that come with a chuckle or two (or more), you really need to try Ben’s Blanco County series. We had 54 entries this time around. Stay tuned, a new contest starts soon.

Thought For The Day – It’s okay if you don’t agree with me. I can’t force you to be right.

No Time To Be Bored

 Posted by at 12:54 am  Nick's Blog
Aug 092020
 

In a blog a couple of days ago, I wrote about someone saying that she and her husband were bored and getting on each other’s nerves being cooped up all the time due to COVID-19. What’s that like? I don’t know what it’s like to be bored. I don’t think I have ever been bored.

I’ve always got more to do than I have hours in the day as it is. Yesterday, I started out trying to upload the print edition of Tinder Street to Amazon, but there was some glitch in the system that kept kicking me out. I could sign right back in, I could check my sales data and everything else, and I could even upload all the book details into my author’s bookshelf. But every time I tried to upload the book, it would throw me back out. And even though I had saved everything as I went along, when I signed back in, it was gone every time, and I had to start all over from the beginning. After fooling with that for an hour or two and repeating some words I learned from a sailor years ago, I finally gave up and decided I would try again today.

Then I got to work and cranked out another 6,200 words in my next Tinder Street novel, which is tentatively titled The Good Years. That puts me at almost 45,000 words total. There is a lot of research involved in these books, as I’ve said before, and part of yesterday was finding cars made in the early 1920s that are no longer available, and getting information on them. After all, not everybody can drive a Model T, right?

Someone told me early in my newspaper career that if you’re not making somebody mad, you’re not doing your job very well. Apparently, that applies to blogging, too. After reading yesterday’s blog post about the Cornwall Iron Furnace in Pennsylvania, someone sent me a nasty email telling me that I was propagating slavery because I said that slaves were used at the furnace. I think she meant perpetuating, not propagating, but I guess either word works.

Either way, the reality is that just because we don’t like things that happened in our nation’s past, including the horrible institution of slavery, pretending it never happened doesn’t make it go away. And writing about historical places that used slaves, as well as indentured servants, does not mean that I am a racist, that I support slavery, or that I have a rebel flag hanging on the side of my house. I don’t do any of that.

Speaking of things hanging outside of our house, I mentioned the other day that we were thinking about building a deck but were running into all kinds of red tape with the County about a building permit. They are definitely not user-friendly. When I finally got to talk to a real person, he said we would need a land survey, a floodwater survey since there is a small drainage canal on one side of our property that is no more than a ditch, and engineered drawings of the planned deck.

Several readers suggested a floating deck, which is not physically attached to the house and is positioned an inch or so away from the house. I spent some time reading the county building codes, and from what I understand, they say that a building permit is not required for anything that is not attached to the home or over 200 square feet.

Of course, it would have to be anchored into the concrete of our parking apron so it doesn’t decide to blow away during a hurricane. Or maybe not. I came up with what may be a harebrained idea, but I’ve had plenty of those before. I thought about constructing the deck in two 6’ x 12′ sections and not attaching them to the concrete. If a hurricane was coming, we could put a couple of flat dollies like we use to move my pontoon boat around inside the garage under the sections, and wheel them inside the garage, safe and sound.

Even with the boat, the Mustang, and the Pacifica in the garage, we could make them fit without any problem. It’s something to think about. I ran it by the voices in my head, and they are going to hold a meeting to discuss it and are supposed to get back to me in the next day or two. I’ll let you know how that works.

***

I am trying to build up my presence on the BookBub website, and I would appreciate any of my readers going to my author’s page and following me there. And If you have reviewed any of my past books on Amazon, cutting and pasting the review to my BookBub page would help me tremendously. https://www.bookbub.com/profile/nick-russell?list=author_books. Thank you.

***

Today is your last chance to enter our  Free Drawing for audiobook of Free Ride, the thirteenth book in my pal Ben Rehder’s excellent Blanco County mystery series. If you like small town mysteries that come with a chuckle or two (or more), you really need to try Ben’s Blanco County series. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn this evening.

Thought For The Day – I don’t think outside the box. I don’t think inside the box either. I don’t even know where the damn box is.

Cornwall Iron Furnace

 Posted by at 12:18 am  Nick's Blog
Aug 082020
 

Located a few miles south of Lebanon, Pennsylvania, the Cornwall Iron Furnace is a fine example of the early industrial activity that helped make America a world power. Typical of the furnaces which dotted the Pennsylvania countryside in the 18th and 19th centuries that supported the thriving local iron industry, Cornwall Iron Furnace is the only surviving intact charcoal cold blast furnace in the Western Hemisphere.

Established in 1742 by Peter Grubb, Cornwall Iron Furnace smelted iron ore into molten metal, which was poured into forms to create heavy iron bars, known as pigs. The next steps in the iron making process involved heating the iron pigs on a forge and beating them into shape with a hammer. The Cornwall operation also included a foundry where molten iron was poured into molds to create cast iron products ranging from cannon barrels and bells to frying pans.

 

All of the raw materials necessary for the smelting process; iron ore, limestone, and wood to make charcoal were found locally. A highly skilled laborer, known as a founder, blended ore and charcoal in the furnace and maintained the correct temperature until the molten metal was ready to pour off, which usually took about twelve hours. The founder’s work was critical and must be precise. Any error in judgment could ruin a batch of metal, damage the furnace, or even result in an explosion that could kill or injure furnace workers. An idle furnace did not make any money, and ironmasters kept their furnaces working (known as being “in blast”) 24 hours a day for months at a time.

Wood does not burn hot enough to smelt iron in a blast furnace, so ironmasters used charcoal, which burns faster and twice as hot as wood. Charcoal also provided carbon, necessary for the chemical process of making iron. When he established Cornwall Iron Furnace, Peter Grubb acquired 10,000 acres of surrounding woodland to provide wood for making charcoal.

A large workforce was required for the furnace operation – woodcutters to provide wood, colliers to make charcoal, and men to labor in the furnace. Just as southern cotton planters owned plantations, Cornwall was an iron plantation, using slave labor, indentured servants from Germany and Ireland, and hired workers. By 1779, the furnace had 23 workers, fourteen of whom were slaves. Slaves worked at both skilled jobs and as unskilled laborers such as woodcutters, miners, and teamsters. While most of the slave labor was male, five women slaves were also listed in the furnace’s records, most making charcoal. Indentured servants were mostly unskilled laborers who agreed to work for room, board, and clothing for a certain number of years in exchange for passage to America.

Cornwall Iron Furnace was the centerpiece of a small community of artisans’ shops, stores, churches, schools, and the home of the wealthy ironmaster who owned the operation. By 1754, the ironworks included a general store, shoemaker’s shop, blacksmith shop, and gristmill. Farm laborers raised crops and cared for the animals, while domestic servants cooked, did laundry and worked as maids. In addition to the workforce at the ironworks, jobs listed in the Cornwall timekeepers record book include corn huskers, reapers and cradlers, butchers, apple and potato pickers, flax pullers, mowers, haymakers, dung spreaders, cider makers, and sheep shearers. In June 1827, eight of the 32 workers listed were women.

Peter Grubb came to Pennsylvania from Connecticut in the 1730s and discovered a rich deposit of iron ore. After establishing his iron furnace, Grubb leased it to the Cornwall Company, a consortium of twelve Quaker businessmen. The furnace produced 24 tons of iron a week, while the foundry produced stove plates, cast iron kettles, and frying pans to be sold locally. Cornwall’s pig iron was sold to blacksmiths and other local foundries, and shipped to foundries as far away as England.

Peter Grubb had died by the time the Cornwall Company’s lease on the furnace expired in 1765, His two sons, Curttis and Peter, continued the operation, and when the call came for iron for George Washington’s army, Cornwall Furnace was ready, producing 42 cannon, more than 86 tons of cannonballs and shot, shot pans, and stoves to support the American struggle for independence.
Robert Coleman had come to America as a 16 year old Irish immigrant in 1764. Curttis and Peter Grubb hired him as a clerk, and Coleman began investing his wages in the iron industry. Leveraging his wartime profits, Coleman created an iron dynasty, and by 1798 he had purchased the Cornwall Furnace.

Coleman was an astute businessman, and he doubled the production of Cornwall Furnace. Coleman died a millionaire in 1877. Eventually, competition from anthracite furnaces, many of them owned by the Coleman family, caused the charcoal-fired Cornwall Furnace to lose money, and on February 11, 1883, the operation ceased. The ore mine, located just south of the furnace, operated until 1973.

In 1932, Robert Coleman’s great-granddaughter gave Cornwall Furnace to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Today the furnace is administered by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.

Today visitors can tour a small museum about the iron furnace’s history in the 19th century Charcoal House, and take a guided tour of the elegant Gothic Revival furnace buildings, where the iron smelting process took place. Other outbuildings and equipment on the property include the roasting oven, coal bins, blacksmith shop, wagon shop, stable, manager’s house, open pit mine, paymaster’s office, miner’s village, and the beautiful mansion Curttis and Peter Grubb built in 1773.

Cornwall Iron Furnace is open to visitors Thursday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. The facility is closed on major holidays. The admission fee to tour the furnace is $8 for ages 12 – 64, $7 for age 65 and older, $4 for ages 3 – 11, and children age 2 and under are free. Parking is limited to passenger vehicles, as the parking area will not accommodate most RVs. For more information on Cornwall Iron Furnace, call 717-272-9711 or visit their website at https://www.cornwallironfurnace.org/

***

I am trying to build up my presence on the BookBub website, and I would appreciate any of my readers going to my author’s page and following me there. And If you have reviewed any of my past books on Amazon, cutting and pasting the review to my BookBub page would help me tremendously. https://www.bookbub.com/profile/nick-russell?list=author_books. Thank you.

***

Be sure to enter out latest  Free Drawing. This week’s prize is audiobook of Free Ride, the thirteenth book in my pal Ben Rehder’s excellent Blanco County mystery series. If you like small town mysteries that come with a chuckle or two (or more), you really need to try Ben’s Blanco County series. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.


Thought For The Day – Relax, we’re all crazy. It’s not a competition.

Aug 072020
 

Definition of potpourri – 1: a mixture of flowers, herbs, and spices that is usually kept in a jar and used for scent. 2: a miscellaneous collection. The second definition above pretty much describes today’s blog, a collection of miscellaneous thoughts and info that I’m sharing because I don’t have anything else to talk about today.

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Yesterday we completed our mail-in ballots for our local elections. It was quick and easy and sure beat standing outside in the heat in line with a bunch of other people who may or may not have been wearing masks.

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Somebody asked me if the recent close call from Hurricane Isaias had us rethinking our decision to settle down here on the Central Florida coast midway between Daytona Beach and Cape Canaveral. I replied no, not at all, and asked if she rethinks her decision about living in Indiana every time there is a tornado warning. Natural disasters happen, and everyplace in the country has something. At least a hurricane gives you enough warning to get out of Dodge if you need to. When we were traveling in our motorhome, we were exposed to all kinds of possible natural disasters, from hurricanes to forest fires to landslides. During the last summer we spent on the Pacific Northwest coast, everyone was talking about the fact that it was going to fall off into the ocean. The last time I checked, it was still there.

***

The other day I heard from someone saying that if she and her husband couldn’t get away from each other for a while, one of them may have to murder the other, because being cooped up all the time, they are on each other’s nerves every minute of every day. They live in a four-bedroom house, and she said the walls are closing in. I’m sorry, Terry and I just cannot relate to that. For 18+ years, we lived in motorhomes that measured somewhere between 280 and 320 square feet, and we never felt that way at all. We genuinely like to be together 24/7. Some people have described us as being codependent, but I like to think tht we are very much in love and best friends. But call it what you want, nobody is getting shot around here.

***

When we switched from Verizon to Consumer Cellular, two or three friends told us we were going to regret it because the service would be terrible. It has been well over a year and that has not been the case at all. We had our choice of using Verizon or AT&T towers, and since Verizon service is terrible here at our house, we chose AT&T. Since then we’ve been in a lot of places, from Florida to Michigan to Arizona and the Carolinas, and have no complaints at all. The one place that we had a problem with connectivity was in our old hometown of Show Low, Arizona. Telephone service was fine, but data was almost nonexistent. Then again, we had that same issue in Bowling Green, Kentucky when we were teaching for Life on Wheels and using Verizon. We could make telephone calls, but we could not get data service.

***

While my new book Tinder Street is getting a lot of good reviews and sales are very strong, people keep asking me if I have abandoned the Big Lake and John Lee Quarrels series. As I’ve said before, no, not at all. I’m about 40,000 words into the second book in the Tinder Street series, and then I’ll be jumping back into my other two series. I’ll have at least one out by the end of the year in one series, and hopefully a new book in both.

***

A new RVer contacted me the other day in a panic because the second time they dumped their holding tank, the hose popped off of the connection to the RV, and they got the dreaded brown bath. She didn’t know how to handle that and was totally grossed out. I told her that you’re not a real RVer until you’ve had a brown bath at least once. Then I reminded her to make sure that the hose connection was tight on both ends, at the RV, and going into the sewer before they dump. I don’t think that’s a mistake they will be making again anytime soon.

***

I am trying to build up my presence on the BookBub website, and I would appreciate any of my readers going to my author’s page and following me there. And If you have reviewed any of my past books on Amazon, cutting and pasting the review to my BookBub page would help me tremendously. https://www.bookbub.com/profile/nick-russell?list=author_books. Thank you.

***

Be sure to enter out latest  Free Drawing. This week’s prize is audiobook of Free Ride, the thirteenth book in my pal Ben Rehder’s excellent Blanco County mystery series. If you like small town mysteries that come with a chuckle or two (or more), you really need to try Ben’s Blanco County series. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.

Thought For The Day – He who robs you of your dreams robs you of your life.

Aug 062020
 

In an early Newspaper Days blog post titled Shortchanged, I mentioned an advertising salesman who worked for me at my paper in Grays Harbor, Washington. Steve was a very good salesman, but also cheap and always looking for a way to get something over on me. I had no doubt he inflated his expense account whenever he thought he could get away with it, but he routinely brought in double the sales of any of my other salespeople.

Besides being an advertising salesman, Steve also happened to be a minister. He did not have his own church but regularly filled in at area churches when their pastors were sick or otherwise not able to be there.

One evening Steve got a call from the pastor at a local church, asking if he could help him out. He was scheduled to perform an outdoor wedding ceremony in a local park the next afternoon, but a family emergency came up and he had to leave town.

Steve said of course, and quickly jotted down the details. But he had forgotten that we had an appointment the next afternoon with a large real estate developer who wanted to place some advertising with us at his office in Long Beach, Washington, 75 long, twisting miles south of us on U.S. Highway 101.

As it turned out, we would be able to do the wedding and then drive down to Long Beach. We got to the park and Steve introduced himself to the couple and their parents and explained the situation and why he was there. Then he made a quick trip across the park to the restroom to relieve himself.

I’m not sure exactly what happened next, maybe it was a missed communication in the schedule, or maybe the Little League kids who had just finished their game were all in line ahead of him. But at any rate, Steve was about halfway through his business when he heard the Wedding March playing over the PA system. Now, I’m not sure there is a delicate way to put this, but a man cannot just “stop the flow” on demand. Though I’ll give Steve credit, he tried.

The bride’s father had already walked her down the aisle to her waiting groom, and there was no minister there. Everyone looked confused until we heard a shout of “Hold on, I’m coming!” and a breathless Steve came flying across the park and joined the happy couple at the front of the assembled guests.

Yes, it was a wonderful wedding. The bride was radiant in her hand-sewn gown, the groom was handsome in his rented tuxedo, and everyone tried not to notice the big wet stain in the crotch of the minister’s light gray suit, and the fact that his zipper had apparently broken and was gaping open.

As soon as Steve pronounced the couple man and wife, we made a beeline for my car, rushed to his house so he could change clothes, and then sped south to our appointment. Neither of us said a word for the first few miles, and then Steve said, “Well, that was awkward.”

I’m glad that there was not a police officer following me that day, because we were laughing so hard I’m sure I strayed over the centerline and then onto the shoulder a time or two before we got it out of our systems.

I am trying to build up my presence on the BookBub website, and I would appreciate any of my readers going to my author’s page and following me there. And If you have reviewed any of my past books on Amazon, cutting and pasting the review to my BookBub page would help me tremendously. https://www.bookbub.com/profile/nick-russell?list=author_books

It’s Thursday, so it’s time for a new Free Drawing. This week’s prize is audiobook of Free Ride, the thirteenth book in my pal Ben Rehder’s excellent Blanco County mystery series. If you like small town mysteries that come with a chuckle or two (or more), you really need to try Ben’s Blanco County series. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.

Thought For The Day – Preschool and bar rules are the same. You pee your pants and you go home.

The Thin Blue Line

 Posted by at 12:06 am  Nick's Blog
Aug 052020
 

Note: This is an updated blog post from 2011 about an often overlooked Florida attraction.

When we first heard about the American Police Hall Of Fame & Museum in Titusville, Florida I knew it was a place we had to visit. and I’m so glad we did!

Located five miles from Interstate 95, the museum honors our nation’s law enforcement officers and the difficult jobs they do to keep us all safe and to protect and serve.

Police Hall of Fame outside

At the entrance to the museum, a monument honors the canine officers who have been killed in the line of duty, or who have retired after a career in law enforcement.

K9 Memorial

The lobby holds a collection of police cars, from the 1950s to the most modern cruiser.

Police Cars

There were also three police motorcycles on display.

Police Motorcycle

Two of the cars on display during our visit were memorials to the officers who drove them and were killed in the line of duty. One car, which was driven by Fort Worth, Texas police officer Henry Nava, is covered with handwritten messages from the people of Fort Worth and his fellow officers as a tribute to the veteran officer, who was killed while trying to arrest a suspect on a parole violation in November, 2005.

Fort Worth car 5

Fort Worth car 3

Fort Worth car 7

The Fallen Officers’ Memorial is reminiscent of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., and lists the names of hundreds of police officers who died in the line of duty over the years. And just like they do at the Vietnam Wall, friends and loved ones come here to leave tributes and mementoes at the memorial.

Prison memorial

The museum’s various galleries tell the story of law enforcement throughout history, with displays of police equipment, weapons, investigative tools, and even a full size prison cell.

Prison cell

Before we had jails, those who broke the laws might find themselves locked in wooden stocks in the town square, where the citizens often came by to hurl insults, eggs, and even rocks at the prisoner.

Stocks

This is a metal tramp chair, which was used to house vagrants and minor lawbreakers in the Old West. It didn’t usually take more than a day and night in this uncomfortable contraption to convince a saddle tramp to move on down the trail.

Tramp chair

Of course, some crimes are so horrendous that they merit the maximum punishments. The museum has a noose, gas chamber, and electric chair on display.

Electric chair

But the most gruesome is the guillotine, which was developed during the French Revolution, in 1792. Dr. Joseph Guillotine, who invented it, believed that it was a quick and less painful way to carry out an execution. He should know, since he was executed on his own machine!

Guillotine

One display explains crime scene investigations, something we all are familiar with, thanks to all of the CSI-type shows on television.

Crime scene

There are all kinds of guns on display, from old single action revolvers to modern handguns, shotguns, and even a display of toy guns that look so real that more than one foolish criminal has been shot for pointing them at police officers. When the adrenalin is flowing and things come down to the wire, an officer does not have the time to determine if a gun is real or a harmless toy.

Police handguns

Toy guns

There is also a collection of homemade weapons that have been confiscated from criminals; everything from vicious knives and clubs to crudely made guns that are just as deadly as any production firearm.

Homemade weapons

Besides the museum and memorial, the complex also includes an indoor shooting range, where visitors can rent all manner of guns and try them out under the tutelage of trained instructors, as well as a small gun shop, with a nice collection of guns and accessories.

Located at 6350 Horizon Drive in Titusville, next to the Astronaut Hall of Fame and close to the entrance to the Kennedy Space Center, the American Police Hall Of Fame & Museum a great stop when visiting Florida’s east coast, and it will help you appreciate the job our police officers, past and present, do to make our communities safer places to live.

The museum is open Tuesday – Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $13 for adults, $8 for kids ages 4-12, and $10 for senior citizens and military members. Law enforcement officers are $5 and surviving family members of fallen officers are $2. The large paved parking lots at the museum will accommodate any size RV, unless they are very busy. For more information, call the museum at  (321) 264-0911 or visit their website at www.aphf.org

Thought For The Day – Never ask a starfish for directions.

Aug 042020
 

Have you ever met somebody who seemed like they were born to succeed? Beautiful babies that grew into beautiful children and then beautiful adults? People blessed with naturally wonderful personalities, intelligence, athletic skills, and the ability to always be in the right place at the right time so that fortune smiles on them?

Yeah, I’m not one of those people. I’ve never seen a baby picture of myself, probably because my parents were poor and didn’t want to break their only camera taking a picture of my ugly mug. My personality can best be described as “does not play well with others.” I’ve always been just smart enough to know what not to say in a given situation, but too dumb to keep my mouth shut. The closest I ever came to being any kind of athlete is having a body roughly shaped like a football standing on end. And as for being in the right place at the right time? I’m one of those “You should have been here yesterday, the fish were almost jumping right into the boat” kind of guys. Seriously, if I have a guardian angel, I’m pretty sure he drinks. A lot.

But even so, every once in a while, the gods throw you a bone, and you get lucky.

As I have mentioned before, I spent part of my Army time as a firearms instructor at West Point, which was the perfect job for a guy who loves to shoot but has always been too poor to by a lot of ammunition. I took advantage of my position and burned up a lot of your taxpayer dollars shooting everything in our arsenal that I could get my hands on.

So when I got out of the Army I was a pretty good shot. Not good enough to make anybody think I was Annie Oakley, but I was going bald by then and could not have pulled that off anyway.

One day after I became a civilian again and moved back to Ohio, I was target shooting with my dad, my older brother Jack, and a high school friend named Dan. Now, you have to understand my family dynamics. I was the youngest of eight children and was born late in my parents’ lives. Jack actually had a son older than me. So to him, I was just another kid.

As I said, having just spent two years running a rifle range and shooting just about every day, I was pretty good back then. That day I was shooting a little .22 Ruger 10/22 carbine and nailed every tin can we had. Then my brother stood some empty 12 gauge shogun shells on end and told me to shoot them. The range was only about 25 yards and I was used to routinely shooting targets at 300 meters, so that was no challenge at all. I knocked every one over. Easy peasy. So Jack set up some empty 410 gauge shotgun shells, which were much thinner. And I did the same thing.

Frustrated that I had not missed, Jack pulled a quarter out of his pocket and said, “Hit this, smart ass” as he flipped it in the air. I was standing there with the butt of the little rifle on my hip, and I just pulled the trigger for the hell of it. In some once on a million freak occurrence of time and space, the quarter must have flown into the bullet’s path, and I hit it just slightly off of dead center. It was just pure dumb luck and had nothing to do with my shooting abilities.

It took Jack a few minutes to find the coin, and while he was looking for it, my dad and friend were looking at me grinning, knowing there was no way I actually hit the darned thing on purpose. When Jack finally found it he was amazed. So was I, but I never let that show.

Jack pulled out another quarter and dared me to do it again. Trying to act as nonchalant as possible, I said, “No. You know I can do it, and Dad knows I can do it, and Dan knows I can do it. Why waste another quarter showing off?”

Not much about me ever impressed my brother, but that did, and he talked about it for a long time. And every time, the story got better. To the point that he told one of our uncles that it was almost dark and I was walking away with the rifle over my shoulder and never even turned around, just pulled the trigger, nailed it, and kept right on walking.

Yeah, sometimes you get lucky.

I am trying to build up my presence on the BookBub website, which I mentioned in yesterday’s blog. That being the case, I would appreciate any of my readers going to my author’s page and following me there. https://www.bookbub.com/profile/nick-russell?list=author_books

Thought For The Day – I read that one of the first symptoms of COVID-19 is a lack of taste. Based upon my exes, I think I’ve had it for most of my life.

Aug 032020
 

We had not expected much from Hurricane Isaias, and as it turned out, we were right. When we went to bed about 2 a.m. Sunday morning, they were still calling it a Category One hurricane. But when we woke up yesterday morning, it had been downgraded to a tropical storm.

We got a little bit of rain in the early afternoon, and it was breezy, but by 5:30 p.m. there wasn’t really much to talk about.  Looking out the window after dinner the light was yellow. We decided to go outside and the clouds overhead were dramatic.

The wind picked up again about 11 p.m. but was nothing to worry about. As I write this at midnight, we are still getting some wind gusts, but that’s about it.

Not that I’m complaining, mind you. I’ve had enough adventures in my life without being in a hurricane. Of course when you live on the Florida coast, they are a fact life, and sooner or later I’m sure we will have one come by that isn’t nearly as nice as Isaias was.

I spent much of the day writing, knocking out another 4,000 words in the sequel to Tinder Street. This puts me about a third of the way done. As with the first book in the historical family saga, I spent some time researching as I wrote, double-checking some facts.

For some reason, I always assumed that CPR had been around for a long time, and was surprised to find out that it was only in 1960 that resuscitation doctors first combined mouth-to-mouth breathing with chest compressions to create cardiopulmonary resuscitation to save someone felled by a heart attack or injury.

I also spent a couple of hours on my BookBub author’s page. I had heard it before but had forgotten that authors can list all of their books there until my friend and fellow author Mona Ingram reminded me. It took me a while to figure out how to get all my books added to it, and two or three hours more before they all showed up on the site. Hopefully, they will start to get some more reviews. You can look for them at my author profile on BookBub at this link.

My friend Patrick O’Donnell, a recently retired police officer and the author of Cops and Writers – From the Academy to the Street, posted this graphic on the Cops and Writers Facebook page the other day, and I wanted to share it here.

When we were living and traveling in an RV fulltime I saw lots of rigs in campgrounds with signs saying Protected By Smith & Wesson. What a great way to let criminals know you have guns. They will wait until you get in your car and go exploring to come and rip you off. And yes, criminals do cruise through campgrounds. And for that matter, what do you know about the guy parked next to you?

I have to laugh when I see people on social media warning people that getting a vaccine is going to put an imaginary microchip into their body so the government can track them, but they tell the whole world everything about themselves on Facebook and with the stickers plastered on the back of their cars. But yeah, let’s worry about a microchip.

Congratulations Robert Moritz, winner of our drawing for an audiobook of Dead Letter by Catherine Bender. We had 61 entries this time around. Stay tuned. A new contest starts soon.

Thought For The Day – I’m going to cut out a bunch of newspaper articles about one unsolved murder and keep them in a box in my closet to mess with my kids’ heads after I die.

Aug 022020
 

Several readers have commented on my new book Tinder Street and the historical facts mentioned in it, saying they learned something new. One reader noticed I used the expression “Hun” and was curious where I came up with that, since only a limited contingency  Hungarian regiment was involved in the Western Front in WW I, and he wasn’t sure how much of a chance American troops might have had to face off with them. In actuality, the term Hun was a common derogatory name for the German army during that conflict, just as Krauts was in World War II. Here are pictures of a couple of WW I posters as an example.

I love doing research, and I spent a lot of time on it for this book. Most of a day was spent on studying how to start and drive a Model T Ford. Two readers who are old enough to have owned or driven Model Ts wrote to compliment me on getting it right, saying a lot of people did not know about turning the crank half a turn to prime the engine, or that some of them had an electric ignition besides the old hand crank, or that the “accelerator” was not a pedal on the floor like modern cars, but instead a lever mounted on the right side of the steering column.

In a past blog post, I mentioned that during my time at West Point, I spent a winter cataloging and test firing the guns in the Army Museum there. Among them was also a WW I Springfield sniper rifle with a Winchester telescopic sight and double set triggers, like Lucas used in the book. Very few of them were customized that way, and even fewer original ones still exist.

I also acquired an employee badge from the Toledo Shipbuilding Company with the same number I assigned to Lucas in the book.

Someone did object to my use of the word Negro in the book. But that was the common term used for people of color in these days. Well, at least the most acceptable one.

In other news, CNN recently released a news story dealing with overnight RV parking at Walmart and other places. This is something we did many times during our days as fulltime RVers. The reporter covering the story interviewed my friend Jim O’Briant, who runs the Overnight RV Parking program and mentioned www.OvernightRVParking.com in the article. If you are an RVer, this is a program you really need to be a part of. It lists over 14,000 places nationwide where RVers can park for free, and will save you a fortune. Tell Jim I sent you, he’ll treat you right.

Speaking of RVing, if you enjoy a good mystery story, for the next few days by my friend Jinx Schwartz is giving away the e-book of her RV mystery Just A Happy Camper on Amazon. Jinx is a prolific author with a large following, and I bet you’ll become a fan, too.

And finally, after almost four years, I think we are becoming real Floridians. There’s a hurricane coming? We live 800 yards from the water where the blue dot is. Well, damn, guess I’ll put the garbage can in the garage so it doesn’t blow away.

Today is your last chance to enter our new Free Drawing  for an audiobook of Dead Letter by Catherine Bender. The first book in the M. Falcon mystery series, it’s the tale of amateur detectives in their golden years with a treasure trove of unexpected skills and unconventional tactics, including a sweet wheelchair bound grandmother type who is a master computer hacker, a semi-retired actress who seizes the opportunity to live her dream of being a super spy, a homeless veteran, and other blue hairs who are not content to rock their lives away in boring retirement. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn this evening.

Thought For The Day – After years of wanting to thoroughly organize my garage, but always lacking the time, I have now discovered that wasn’t the reason.

Back To My Roots

 Posted by at 12:53 am  Nick's Blog
Aug 012020
 

I grew up in a very different world than the one we live in today. Before I was 10 years old I already knew what I wanted to be. Not a jet pilot or an astronaut or a professional baseball player. No. All I ever wanted to be was a newspaperman and to write books.

Somewhere around my ninth year, as I recall, I convinced our local newspaper publisher to give me a job. But not just any job. I didn’t want a paper route or to stand on the street corner hawking newspapers. I wanted to work in the shop. I wanted to be one of the first to see each new edition come off the press. After I nagged the gentleman enough, he talked to my father, who agreed to let me work a couple of hours after school two or three days a week.

I became what was known as a printer’s devil. This was in the days when printing was done with lead type, and my job was to clean the old handset type with a rag and gasoline, and then put each letter and space into the proper place in the type cabinets. I know that sounds unbelievable now, and even then I’m sure it must have violated some kind of child labor laws, but as I said, it was a different world back then. Besides, who was working? I was having a ball!

I’m not a mechanical person at all, but I fell in love with the old letterpresses the shop used, everything from massive things almost as big as an automobile that printed newspaper pages, down to small hand-operated job presses that were used to print business cards, letterheads, envelopes, and things like that. In those days a big part of a newspaper’s income was from job work like that. Eventually I learned how to set type by hand, one letter at a time in reverse, and to run the job presses. And I went on to own several small town newspapers in my career, and my 41st book came out last week.

A few years ago when Terry and I went to Mystic Seaport in Connecticut, the person who usually worked in their print shop was out sick, and the young man filling in for him had no idea how type was set by hand and was doing a very bad job of explaining it to visitors. So, I offered to show them. It had been close to 50 years since I had set type by hand, but somehow I managed to remember enough to get it done, and I impressed the young man, the people watching, Miss Terry, and even myself!

As I’ve mentioned before, Terry and I like antiques, and we are always looking for something interesting or unusual to add to our collection. So when my neighbor Chris Fisher, who happens to be an auctioneer, called me over one day to show me something he thought I might like, I immediately began drooling. He had acquired an old Baltimorean self-inking letterpress. There was also a cabinet full of lead type, which I didn’t really care that much for as I don’t plan to use any of it, and the cabinet was falling apart. But I definitely wanted that printing press! From everything I’ve been able to research about it, this model was built about 1886 and sold for somewhere around $40 – $60, depending on the market.

Well, the auction ended Thursday night, and this is my new baby. It’s rusty and frozen up, and the rollers are shot, but I don’t care. I have no idea what I’m going to do with this thing, but I’d like to clean it up a little bit and display it somewhere, just a little reminder of my roots.

Besides going to the auction house in Daytona Beach to pick up the press yesterday, we also went to the dealer where we bought Terry’s Chrysler Pacifica minivan. When we bought it, we also got an extended warranty that includes free oil changes, filters, and tire rotations for 100,000 miles. The van has just over 30,000 miles on it now. The dealership lied to us about several things and failed to follow through with things they promised, so even though I have to drive out of my way to get the oil changed instead of using my local shop that does all of my other mechanical work, I’ll be damned if I’m going to let that stop me from getting what I have coming.

I cannot count how many emails and messages I’ve received from people worried about us, with Hurricane Isaias headed our way. We do appreciate your concern, but we’re not too worried about this one, folks. We are 800 yards from the Intercoastal Waterway, and about a 1½ miles as the crow flies from the Atlantic. But the Canaveral National Seashore and the mangrove hammocks of Mosquito Lagoon are between us and the ocean, and they do a pretty good job of slowing storms down. Every weather report says that it’s going to be here sometime early Sunday morning, but they say it will most likely stay offshore.

We will still get some pretty strong wind, lots of rain and things like that, and possibly some power outages. But we are well-stocked with provisions and plenty of bottled water, we have two Honda generators and lots of fuel, sandbags, and everything we need to get by.

Some friends have asked me if we didn’t think it would be a good idea to evacuate. I really think this is going to be a non-issue. Of course, I could be wrong. But lots of hotels are still closed in the places we would want to go, so we will ride it out. Come Monday, we might wish we had made another decision, but that’s where we’re at at this point.

It’s Thursday, so it’s time for a new Free Drawing, and we’ve got another great prize this week. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Dead Letter by Catherine Bender. The first book in the M. Falcon mystery series, it’s the tale of amateur detectives in their golden years with a treasure trove of unexpected skills and unconventional tactics, including a sweet wheelchair bound grandmother type who is a master computer hacker, a semi-retired actress who seizes the opportunity to live her dream of being a super spy, a homeless veteran, and other blue hairs who are not content to rock their lives away in boring retirement. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.

Thought For The Day – Work is precious. Save some for tomorrow.

Shutters And Decks

 Posted by at 12:04 am  Nick's Blog
Jul 312020
 

Living on the coast in central Florida, we have wanted to get hurricane shutters or some type of window protection installed on our house for quite some time now. We first talked to a local company with excellent reviews about it back in November, but then Terry had to have surgery for her Interstim implant, so we delayed having them come out to give us an estimate.

We got busy, and they got busy, and finally, it worked out for the owner of the company to come yesterday. We talked about the different options, from Lexan panels that we would store in the garage and put on and take off ourselves, to motorized covers, and everything in between.

I think we have settled on accordion-type metal shutters that are permanently mounted on the house and fold together and lock into place when needed. He said it would take us fifteen or twenty minutes to close everything up if a storm was coming, instead of a couple of hours of getting up and down off a ladder to install the Lexan panels. As we get older, that might become an issue.

I was hoping to get them installed before the storms start hitting us this year, but they are already booked out through January of next year. He said with people sitting home with nothing to do and not taking vacations, a lot of folks are getting home remodeling projects out of the way.

Another project we have wanted to do was to build a deck onto the front of our house. But I’m finding out that it’s almost an impossible task. Not because of the physical part of doing it, but because Volusia County does not seem to like homeowners doing their own projects. I’ve called four times now to find out what the building code requirements are and can never speak to anybody.

The gentleman who was here for the hurricane shutters is a licensed contractor, and he said the county would require architectural drawings and a lot of other things in great detail, and that we could expect to spend at least several hundred dollars on the plans alone before I could ever start the process of asking for a building permit. So, I guess if I don’t want to hire someone to do the job, we may have to put that on hold for a while.

In other news, Tinder Street is still doing very well, and I appreciate all the reviews people post for it on Amazon and telling your friends and family about it through social media or however. I am closing in on 30,000 words in the next book in this series already and having a good time with it.

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Dead Letter by Catherine Bender. The first book in the M. Falcon mystery series, it’s the tale of amateur detectives in their golden years with a treasure trove of unexpected skills and unconventional tactics, including a sweet wheelchair bound grandmother type who is a master computer hacker, a semi-retired actress who seizes the opportunity to live her dream of being a super spy, a homeless veteran, and other blue hairs who are not content to rock their lives away in boring retirement. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.

Thought For The Day – When killing them with kindness doesn’t work, try a baseball bat. Results may vary.

Jul 302020
 

In my last newspaper days column, titled Cinderella, I wrote about how small town politicians and bureaucrats always tried to avoid me because they knew I would ask questions they didn’t want to answer and print stories they didn’t want the public to read. I also mentioned that the school superintendent in our little Arizona mountain town refused to take my phone calls.

That’s right, in the seven years that he was school superintendent, not once did he accept a phone call from me. Several times I went to his office, and I could see him through the open door when I walked in, but he would quickly close it and the secretary would tell me he wasn’t there. I’d tell her I had seen him and I knew there was no back door, so he had to be there, and maybe she should check. The response was always the same. She would smile sweetly at me and say, “He’s not here.”

I don’t know what they were so afraid of, but they resisted having anything to do with the newspaper. And, of course, being the suspicious kind of guy I am, my immediate reaction was that if you don’t want to talk to me, there must be something you want to hide.

One year there had been a major remodeling project in the primary and middle schools during the summertime. When school started on the first day, the telephones in our office started ringing off the wall with phone calls from concerned parents asking if we knew what was going on at the school campus because there were a bunch of ambulances lined up there, some from towns as far as 30 miles away.

When nobody answered the telephone at the school district office or at any of the schools, I sent a reporter over to check it out. By the time she drove the two or three miles to the campus, they had pulled up several school buses and were loading kids and staff onto them and taking them to the hospital. When my reporter, a very sharp young woman named Tracy, asked what was happening, the school superintendent said. “Nothing. There’s nothing going on here.”

She asked him why there were so many ambulances and school buses there and where they were taking everybody on the first day of school. I swear to God that small town bureaucrat looked Tracy dead in the eye and asked, “What buses? What ambulances? Nothing’s happening. There’s nothing to see, so why don’t you just go away?” It was one of those “Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes” situations.

Getting nowhere with him, Tracy started talking to parents who had come to pick up their children, and they all reported symptoms that included burning eyes and throats, and some kind of minor respiratory distress in staff and students alike. Someone from the school told Tracy she had to stop talking to people and leave, and she told him that it was public property, and she was a news reporter covering the story. He threatened to call the police and she asked him to please do so, because she had her camera with her and she was sure she could get a parent to take a picture of her being escorted off school property.

We never did find out what was happening, even though I filed a Freedom of Information Act request for any records. The school system said there were no records because there had not been a problem. The hospital told us that under HIPPA they could not give us any information. And the same parents who are were picking up their kids and telling us that there was a problem had all clammed up by the next day. A few would talk off the record, but insisted we not identify or quote them.

Unfortunately, sometimes that happens in small towns. People get intimidated because the folks who run the schools and the Town Council and things like that all own local businesses or have connections with people in the business community. And if you’re a working stiff, it’s never a good idea to make waves.

I guess I must be a surfer at heart because I love waves. We didn’t get much out of that story except a good picture of all of those ambulances and school buses on the front page, with the school superintendent standing in front of them with his arms outstretched like he could block Tracy’s view, and some incredible quotes of him denying that what was shown in the picture was actually there.

That didn’t stop us. We were back every time something happened at the school, and just like always, the school superintendent always told us that there was nothing happening. Nothing to see at all. I was glad that my kids went to school in the next town over. Because, just like what we are facing nationwide today with COVID-19 and insane talk about reopening schools, it seems that the welfare of children doesn’t really matter much when it comes to the big picture.

It’s Thursday, so it’s time for a new Free Drawing, and we’ve got another great prize this week. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Dead Letter by Catherine Bender. The first book in the M. Falcon mystery series, it’s the tale of amateur detectives in their golden years with a treasure trove of unexpected skills and unconventional tactics, including a sweet wheelchair bound grandmother type who is a master computer hacker, a semi-retired actress who seizes the opportunity to live her dream of being a super spy, a homeless veteran, and other blue hairs who are not content to rock their lives away in boring retirement. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.

For The Day – If lying was a job, some people would be billionaires.

Jul 292020
 

Traveling down Claremont Road in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, one could easily miss the small cemetery with its rows of uniform white headstones on the grounds of the Army’s Carlisle Barracks, and if you did notice, how many of us would know the tragic story these grave markers tell? For these are not the graves of soldiers who fell gallantly in combat, or veterans whose brave service earned them an honored final resting place.

The stark white gravestones bear the names of children, 186 American Indian children, who were torn from their families and their culture and transported across the country in the government’s great experiment to destroy the Indian culture and turn Native American children into Anglos. These graves are all that remain of the old Carlisle Indian Industrial School.

Located on an old cavalry fort, the Carlisle school was founded by a U.S. Army captain named Richard Henry Pratt, whose goal was the total assimilation of Native American children into the White man’s culture. Pratt, who had commanded a prisoner-of-war camp for Indian captives in Florida, and later a unit of African-American soldiers and Indian scouts in Dakota Territory, was vocal in his belief that it was necessary “to first kill the Indian to save the man.”

To achieve this goal, Indian children from tribes all over the nation were taken from their families and brought to Carlisle, which would become the first of a network of Indian schools around the country. Once they arrived, the children were quickly stripped of their Indian identity and any vestiges of their culture. They were given Anglo names, dressed in the clothing White men wore, their braids were cut off, they were forced to attend White church services, and forbidden to speak their native languages. Harsh punishment awaited any child who dared to utter an Indian word or in any way exhibited any sign of his or her true heritage.

The first Indian children to arrive at Carlisle, 82 children from the Lakota people, known to Whites as the Sioux, were delivered by a train from Dakota Territory on a cold October night in 1879. This was just a few years after George Armstrong Custer led his 7th Cavalry into a massacre at the Little Bighorn, and as the hungry, tired children shuffled onto the station platform they were greeted by a sideshow atmosphere as hundreds of local residents came to see these “wild Indians” they had heard so much about. Typical of any government operation, neither food nor bunks were available for the new arrivals. Marched inside their barracks, the children slept on the floor, their empty stomachs only adding to their misery.

Indoctrination was swift at Carlisle, and it must have been a confusing and traumatic experience for these poor children to be suddenly transported into a world so alien from all that they knew. There was no time for acclimation; they were immediately immersed into a curriculum designed to change their very existence and completely erase their past.

Half of the students’ days were spent learning English, writing, and arithmetic, and during the other half, boys were taught mechanical skills such as blacksmithing, carpentry, and agriculture; girls were introduced to domestic duties such as cooking, laundry, sewing, and housework. English was the only language the Indian children heard or were allowed to use. Boys were dressed in military uniforms, and girls were given dresses typical of White girls. During the summer months, the students were housed with White families to further destroy their ties to home and tribe. Teachers and the headmaster, Henry Pratt, drilled into the children’s heads the need to seek employment in the White man’s world and to build new lives for themselves far away from their homes and families.

Records show how the program affected the children’s thinking. Early on, they drew images of things they knew from home – warriors on horseback and buffalo hunts. Over time, drawings of farms and children dressed in White clothing began to reflect their new lives.

The best-known student from Carlisle was Jim Thorpe, the legendary Indian athlete who is still remembered and worshiped in Carlisle. However, to most of the townspeople, the great majority of the students were considered nothing more than a curiosity and an occasional inconvenience when they would try to run away and make their way home. These flights to freedom never lasted long, and punishment was swift and sure, including being held in solitary confinement for up to a week in the fort’s old stone powder magazine.

Carlisle and the other Indian schools showed some signs of success, as measured by the government, and from 1879 to 1918, approximately 12,000 Indian children from 140 tribes, from Puerto Rico, and even the Philippines, attended the Carlisle Indian Industrial School.

A number of children died while at Carlisle, usually of common childhood diseases and tuberculosis, though it is not hard to believe that broken hearts may have taken their toll. Even the strongest man would find it difficult to summon the will to go on when ripped from home and family and deposited into such a strange new world. Some of the deceased students were returned to their reservations and families, but others who came from too far away were buried in a small cemetery set aside for the Indian children. Today those graves are the only tangible reminder of the shameful experiment that took place here.

For Native Americans, Carlisle’s legacy continues to affect their lives and cultural identity. Most Native Americans living in America today have some link to Carlisle or one of the boarding schools it spawned. While some say it may have done some good in preparing Indian children for a world that was rapidly changing around them, most agree that the benefits are greatly overshadowed by the harsh way much of the Indian culture was erased from so many.

The rising costs of operating Carlisle, a preference for schools closer to Indian reservations, and the government’s focus on World War I led to the closing of the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in September, 1918. After the school closed, the property reverted to the United States Army, and today Carlisle Barracks is an advanced training center for military officers. All that remains today of the old Indian School are these lonely headstones and a sign that gives a brief history of the school. It seems too small a reminder of the great tragedy that took place here.

Thought For The Day – Sometimes I wonder if my brain’s hard drive is full.

A Proud Grandpa

 Posted by at 12:09 am  Nick's Blog
Jul 282020
 

My granddaughter Haley Robinson made this old man proud yesterday when she registered to vote. This will be her first time being old enough to do so, and I am glad to see that the younger generation is willing to be involved in the future of our country. Us old dinosaurs may be nearing the end of our time, but young people who have a say in what will happen are going to change the course of history, just as we did in our own youth.

I remember how much it angered me back when I was a youngster that I could join the Army and be sent to fight a war at 18, but back at home, I wasn’t old enough to vote for the people who made that decision. Nor could I buy a drink.

As a matter of fact, my first wife and I were both 19 when we got married. This was when I was stationed at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Under New York law, she didn’t need anybody’s permission to tie the knot. But even though I was qualified to teach people how to use machine guns and hand grenades and things like that, or to lead a platoon of infantrymen, I wasn’t mature enough to make that decision. I had to have my mother send a notarized letter from Ohio, giving her consent, as well as having my commanding officer’s permission. That makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it?

At any rate, Haley, I’m proud of you.

I received some sad news yesterday. Coleen Sykora, who ran the popular Workers on Wheels website, has passed away. Her husband Bob told me that she died of a sudden massive heart attack. While we never met in person, Coleen and I corresponded back and forth for over 20 years. I always enjoyed her intelligence and her sense of humor and respected how much she did to help RVers find ways to make a living on the road. Rest in peace, sweet lady.

I spent most of yesterday going over the last few chapters I wrote for the next Tinder Street book, then printed them out for Terry to proofread. As I have said here before, this new historical family saga is so different from my mysteries that I was not sure how my readers would accept it. But based upon the feedback I have been getting, they seem to like it. It really warmed my heart when my mother-in-law called Sunday night to say that she had read it in two days and is already looking forward to the next book in the series. She’s not into mysteries, and I believe this is the first of my books she has ever read. Thanks, Bess. You made my heart smile with your kind words.

And finally, here’s a chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us.

Thought For The Day – There is no better moment to postpone something you don’t want to do than right now.

It’s Off And Running

 Posted by at 12:16 am  Nick's Blog
Jul 272020
 

My new book Tinder Street went live about 9 p.m. Saturday night, and by the end of the day on Sunday, it was already at #32 on Amazon’s Hot New Release list for Historical Fiction. And, strangely enough, at #3 in German Fiction. I guess because one of the main characters has a German last name and is facing discrimination about that just before World War I. Thank you so much to all of you who purchased it and told their friends about it.

 

With the new book out, I spent much of yesterday finishing the latest edition of my author’s newsletter, which includes a sample of the new book as well as a short story by one of my favorite authors, George Wier. After Miss Terry proofread it and I made a few corrections, I sent it out to the subscribers. If you would like to be added to the mailing list for the free newsletter, just send me your e-mail address at editor@gypsyjournal.net I promise never to share your info or to deluge you with spam.

With all of that out of the way, it’s back to writing. I am already over 18,000 words into my next book, and it’s going well. I usually release four books a year, and Tinder Street was my fourth one so far this year. But with COVID-19 keeping us at home, I am taking advantage of the time to get a lot of writing done. I am aiming for two more books by year’s end.

In other news, some people just suck. I talked to the widow of a friend who died a few months ago. He had several guns, all top-quality firearms, and she has no use for them. His brother contacted her wanting to buy all seven of them for $500. Any single one of them is worth twice that. Her husband and his brother never had a close relationship, and he told her that’s all they are worth, and besides, they should stay in the family. Several “friends” also wanted to buy them for next to nothing to “remember him by.”

Knowing I’m into guns, she asked if I could tell her what they are really worth. When I said easily $4,000 for a quick sale, she was so mad that this jerk who is “family” and others who are “friends” are trying to take advantage of her like that. If you need to rip someone off to get something to “remember” somebody, they obviously didn’t mean much to you in the first place.

I live on the other side of the country and have no way to go buy them from her or to try to sell them for her, and I already have more guns than I can shoot, but I referred her to a reputable gun shop that will sell them on consignment for her.

A friend of mine is a retired funeral director, and he has told me more than once that after a death in the family, whether they are well off or just getting by, the vultures quickly show their true colors. I know that to be true from personal experience.

Congratulations Sue Cates, winner of our drawing for an audiobook of Big Lake Blizzard, the fourth book in my Big Lake mystery series. We had 64 entries this time around. Stay tuned, a new contest starts soon!

Thought For The Day – What will happen when the conspiracy theorists find out that they are part of a conspiracy theory to use conspiracy theorists to spread disinformation through conspiracy theories?

Tinder Street Is Live!

 Posted by at 12:36 am  Nick's Blog
Jul 262020
 

If I had any hair I probably would have pulled it all out yesterday. Yeah, it was that frustrating. With all of the final changes made to my new Tinder Street book, I formatted the e-book version to get it ready to upload to Amazon. I’ve done this many times, and it’s not very hard to do. However my other novels do not have a table of contents and this one does. That made a big difference.

There are half a dozen things I can do adequately in this world, but a whole bunch more that I stumble over myself trying to get done. Pretty much anything to do with computers falls in that latter category.

I went to the Amazon Kindle bookshelf page where they have a program called Kindle Create, which is supposed to be quick and easy. Maybe it is for someone with half a brain, but for a lunkhead like me, it was neither quick nor easy, and two hours later I finally gave up in frustration.

Then I went to Microsoft Word’s help page, which is the program I use to create my books, and tried to follow their instructions for setting up the table of contents. That was three hours of my life I’ll never get back.

I’m sure glad that nobody took my blood pressure during that time, because it had to be somewhere in the stratosphere. No matter what I did, I could not get the table of contents links to work, and the more I tried, the more I messed it up. Fortunately, I always save two or three copies of a manuscript in different places when I’m working on it, just because of problems like this.

Sometime in the late afternoon I gave up and sent a message to my friend Scarlett Braden Moss, who formats my print books, asking for help. Scarlett is a wizard when it comes to these things, but unfortunately she was not home and didn’t get the message for another couple of hours. But as soon as she did, she messaged me right back and said to send the file over to her, which I did.

She told me not to be mad at her because it would probably take a half hour to do what I had been trying to do without success all day long. Mad at her? I wanted to crawl through the computer screen and kiss her! Not just because she had my book ready in no time at all, but also because Scarlett is a good-looking lady. Does that make me a male chauvinist pig or just a dirty old man? Probably both.

At any rate, she did her thing and sent it back to me and I uploaded the book to Amazon. It was live in less than an hour later, and you can order Tinder Street at this link.

Speaking of pretty and talented ladies, that pretty lady I live with was busy yesterday, too. She started out by doing a bunch of paperwork, then she made three loaves of her oat and flax bread. She has all kinds of kitchen appliances but prefers to knead her bread dough by hand. She says it helps her work out her frustrations when she is twisting and pounding it. I still can’t figure out why she calls every batch of dough by my name.

And while that was baking, she made a wonderful dinner of Chicken Linguini Alfredo. Yes, I know, I’m a very lucky man. Yes, I know I don’t deserve her. No, none of you can have her. I may be fat, dumb, and stupid, but I know a good thing when I’ve got it

Today is your last chance to enter our Free Drawing for an audiobook of Big Lake Blizzard, the fourth book in my Big Lake mystery series. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn this evening.

Thought For The Day – The CDC says to put disinfectant on the places you touch the most. Don’t do it. It burns like hell!

 

The Long Gray Line

 Posted by at 12:10 am  Nick's Blog
Jul 252020
 

Note: It was a busy day, and I ran out of time and energy, so I am reposting a blog from July, 2016, about one of my favorite places in the country, one that will always hold a piece of my heart.

We spent a couple of hours Monday evening watching the old 1955 movie The Long Gray Line, starring Tyrone Power and Maureen O’Hara. It’s the story of Martin ‘Marty’ Maher, who is a legend at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York.

Maher was an Irishman who immigrated to America in 1898 and found work as a waiter at West Point. He later enlisted in the Army and remained at the Military Academy until he retired from the Army in 1928, after nearly 30 years of service. During that time he served in various capacities, including as an athletic and swimming instructor.

He was beloved by generations of cadets, so much so that he was named an Honorary Graduate of three different classes, the Class of 1912, 1926, and 1928.

He was instrumental in helping train the Class of 1915, known as “The Class the Stars Fell On.” Among the 164 graduates of the Class of 1915, an amazing 59 of them rose through the ranks to become generals. Two members of the class would go on to earn the rank of 5 Star General of the Army; Omar Bradley and Dwight D. Eisenhower, with Eisenhower later becoming President of the United States.

But Marty Maher wasn’t ready to leave the Gothic fortress on the bank of the Hudson River, and after retiring from the Army, he became a civilian employee and put in another 20 years before retiring a second time. In total, Maher spent more than fifty years at West Point!

And he never left. When Marty Maher died in 1961, he was buried at the West Point Cemetery, the final resting place of such luminaries as Winfield Scott, George Armstrong Custer, and William Westmorland.

The Long Gray Line was one of the first movies I ever remember watching. Even then, as a little kid, I was fascinated by the beauty of the Academy, with its beautiful granite buildings and long traditions, and made up my mind that someday I was going to go there and see it with my own eyes.

Of course, back then I had no idea that one day I would actually be a young soldier assigned to West Point and have the opportunity to help train cadets there myself. And it was everything I expected and much more. You can literally feel the history when you walk the same hallowed ground that so many American heroes have. If I could have stayed there throughout my career as Marty Maher did, I would have made a career of the Army.

I’ve been back to the Military Academy a couple of times over the years, and it always feels like I’m coming home. If you ever get the opportunity to visit, do so. You will come away with a whole new perspective on the young men and women who are training to become tomorrow’s military leaders.

Be sure to enter our latest  Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Big Lake Blizzard, the fourth book in my Big Lake mystery series. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.

Thought For The Day – If you find me offensive, maybe you should stop finding me.

My Rotten Kids

 Posted by at 1:21 am  Nick's Blog
Jul 242020
 

Every parent wants to raise children who become adults they can be proud of. Adults that they can look at and say to themselves with a smile of self-satisfaction, “Yeah, that’s my kid!” Unfortunately, I don’t do that. As much as it hurts me to admit it, I raised two rotten, selfish kids.

My son Travis, the older of the two, lives in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and among his many talents, which includes folding origami and being an amazing photographer, he also has a green thumb. He can grow anything. I think if you gave him a handful of seeds and a garden hose with a sprinkler head and turned him loose in an asphalt parking lot, a week later, he would have a crop of corn, tomatoes, and squash growing. He’s always sending us pictures of his produce, picked fresh from the garden.

My daughter Tiffany, who lives in our old hometown of Show Low, Arizona, also has a garden at her place, and she’s even got chickens. And while she might not be as prolific a gardener as her brother is, she also sends us pictures of eggs and the things that she has grown.

Now, here’s their mom. Can you believe that? While they are eating fresh vegetables right from the garden, Miss Terry is forced to buy her veggies at the supermarket. Yeah, I know. It breaks my heart, too.

But what can you do? You try to raise them right, and then you send them out into the world, and they become what they are. I mean, really, how hard would be for either one of them to uproot their lives and move here to plant their gardens and bring their mom fresh veggies every day or two? Is that too much ask?

By the way, I was only joking. I kind of like my rotten kids. Not a whole lot, but a little bit.

I said in yesterday’s blog that I needed to replace the battery in my Ford pickup and install a battery disconnect. With my bad back, I wasn’t looking forward to lifting it out of the truck, but Chris Fisher, one of my neighbors who is a great guy, saw me with the hood up and came over and disconnected the old battery and took it out of the truck and put it in the back of the Explorer for me. I picked up the new battery and the battery disconnect at O’Reilly Auto Parts yesterday afternoon, and back at home Jesse Bolton another neighbor and a great guy came over and installed it all for me. Thanks again, guys. It’s good to have nice neighbors, even if I do have rotten kids.

There is a little drainage canal that runs alongside our property, and there was a doublewide manufactured home on the other side of it that got torn up when Hurricane Matthew hit our area a few years ago. Yesterday they moved in a new doublewide to replace it, and Terry told me to come and look at how they were doing things. They were using a little tractor to move the two halves into position on the lot, and the cool thing was there was nobody driving it. It was all done by remote control by a man standing there with a joystick. He said he could get within inches of where it needed to be, and then it was a simple case of sliding it on some special wheels to match the two halves and connecting it all together and setting it on the foundation. How cool is that? Isn’t technology amazing?

My last proofreader finished Tinder Street yesterday but ran into difficulty when she was trying to send it back to me. For some reason, there was a problem on her end, and instead of being a Microsoft Word DOCX file, which it said it was when I tried to open it, all I got was some kind of a scrambled hodgepodge of letters, numbers, and symbols. It took us a while to get it right, but after a few attempts, eventually, something clicked and it came through okay. But by then, it was late in the day. So I will start making the corrections this morning before we have to run into Port Orange for Terry to get a couple of ultrasounds in the afternoon. If I push hard enough and don’t run into any difficulties, I still think I’ll have it uploaded to Amazon this weekend. And don’t worry, as soon as I do, I’ll be telling the world all about it

Be sure to enter our latest  Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Big Lake Blizzard, the fourth book in my Big Lake mystery series. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.

Thought For The Day – Enthusiasm changes attitudes and becomes the fuel for change.

A New Lease On Life

 Posted by at 12:16 am  Nick's Blog
Jul 232020
 

Friday will be five weeks since I had three RF nerve ablations done on my lower back, and for those who have asked about the results, it has been nothing short of amazing. I can’t believe how much relief you can get from a relatively simple outpatient procedure.

Since the day of the procedure, I have not needed to use a cane, have not taken a pain pill or the medical marijuana oil, nothing at all except a couple of Tylenol the one time I did something dumb. No more waking up two or three times a night from the pain, no more crying out with pain when I stand up or sit up in bed, or going up the three steps from one level of our house to the other. It’s like I have a whole new lease on life.

The something dumb I mentioned above was picking up a box that came from Amazon that weighed 33 pounds. As soon as I lifted it, I knew it was a mistake. But fortunately, the Tylenol took care of it, and I won’t make that mistake again

They say it may only last six months, or it may be years before it has to be redone. Either way, I don’t care, I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

I still have other back problems, and if I sit or stand for a long time my back begins to ache, but when it does, I get up and move around a bit, and that helps. Fortunately, I can use my Sony digital recorder to narrate my books anywhere, so some days I move from my office chair to my recliner a few times. But I can live with that. Now I can’t wait for it to cool down so we can get back out in our kayaks or on our boat.

In other news, I seem to have an electrical problem with my 1999 Ford pickup. I don’t drive it often, and last summer I had to replace the battery. Since then, it has killed two other new batteries. Killed them stone cold dead. My mechanic checked out the charging system a while back, and it was good, and he could not find a short anywhere in the electrical system that was draining the battery. But as anyone who has tinkered with cars knows, tracing electrical problems can be a bear.

In talking to the mechanic and the nice folks at O’Reilly Auto Parts, who graciously keep replacing the battery under warranty, I think I will install a battery disconnect switch in the negative cable and see if that solves the problem. I have them on my pontoon boat’s twin batteries and they work well.

And finally, it’s Thursday, so it’s time for a new Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Big Lake Blizzard, the fourth book in my Big Lake mystery series. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.

Thought For The Day – Saying “Have a nice day” somehow seems friendly but saying “Enjoy your next 24 hours” sounds threatening.

A Good Report

 Posted by at 12:45 am  Nick's Blog
Jul 222020
 

As I wrote in yesterday’s blog, Terry had an appointment at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville as a follow-up to her Interstim implant. We timed it just right, scoring a parking spot in the often crowded campus just a few feet from the door, stopping in the lobby to have our temperatures taken and answered no to a series of questions about any exposure we might have had to coronavirus, then up to the second floor of the Canady Building building to check-in, and less than five minutes later she was in the room seeing the doctor.

Everything looks good, and they are pleased with how things are going. Terry has to go back in five weeks for another follow-up on some of the other issues she was having when she first went to Mayo, but it’s all good. Every time we go there, we are more and more impressed with the professionalism of the staff, and the fact that they don’t just rush you in and rush you out so they can get to the next patient. They take the time to explain things in terms you can understand, to ask if you have any questions, and to answer them fully.

I also said yesterday’s blog that we were supposed to have some thunderstorms that might impact our travel, and while it was very cloudy when we left the house, about halfway there, the sky cleared up nicely and we had good weather all the way up and back. Well, if you can call 95° and 72% humidity good. Hey, it’s Florida in July. What more could we expect?

When we got back to town, we stopped at Publix grocery store to pick up a few items, and they’ve now implemented a mandatory mask policy, with signs saying that all customers have to wear a mask while in the store. They also make that announcement rather frequently on the store’s PA system. But, of course, a lot of people ignored all of that. There were people walking all over without masks on. I saw a manager we know from shopping there and I and asked him what good it did have a mask policy if they don’t enforce it. He said they try, but some people do what they want anyway. It reminded me of something I was told when I went to NCO school in the Army – rules without consequences are merely suggestions

Back home, we put the groceries away, changed clothes, cleaned up, and had a quick dinner. Then we spent the rest of the evening watching TV. Not a bad way to spend your life, if you have to be an old fart and live in Florida.

I’m having a recurring problem with the blog, and I really don’t know what to do about it. The way it is set up now, when someone makes a comment for the first time, or hasn’t made a comment or entered one of our weekly free drawings in a while, it goes on hold until I can approve it. After that, any comments from that person are automatically approved. But for a while now, I’ve been getting spam comments for investment schemes, Viagra, and comments for things like hot Russian chicks looking for someone to hook up with them, and pictures and links to porn sites. They’re coming in under names that have either entered one of our drawings or made a comment previously, and sometimes names of people I know and who have made comments for years. I even saw one yesterday that said I posted it!

I’m not sure how they are getting that information, or how to stop it. I called Go Daddy a week or so ago about it and their only suggestion was to set it up so that all comments have to be approved each and every time. That’s kind of a hassle for myself and for blog readers, and I really don’t want to do that. But it may come down to it. In the meantime. if you see in an inappropriate post in the blog or on the Free Drawings page, please let me know so I can delete it as soon as possible. And to of those who were exposed to the pornographic images yesterday and Monday, my apologies.

Thought For The Day – Many people die at 25 and aren’t buried until they are 75.