Archive for July, 2014

WE’VE COME A LONG WAY

July 25, 2014

I am in awe. I’m going in to have a pacemaker placed on Monday. Unlike a decade ago, this is requires an overnight stay in the hospital and a two week check. Wow! Are you old enough to remember when this procedure took a long involved surgery and several weeks in the hospital to adjust the device? Medicine and medical procedures have really evolved.

Now think back to a century ago. At the beginning of the 20th Century, if you had heart problems there was only one given – you were going to die. Arrhythmia was detected by doctors but there wasn’t a cure or a prevention. You were just a freak whose heart occasional kicked into high gear and there were certainly no procedures to prevent it.

Mankind has progressed at lightning speed. Where once leeches and brain augers were the norm, now tiny computers and microchips now prevail. Medicine is definitely more precise and “modern.”

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THE ROAD MOST TRAVELED

July 18, 2014

My apologies to Robert Frost for messing up his wonderful poem. Today they are re-paving in front of my house and the constant beeping is getting to me. Despite the squeaking of wagons, Conestoga or otherwise, I’m sure travel on the Smoky Hill Trail was much quieter than today.

Traveling the 687 miles from Missouri River along the Smoky Hill River into Colorado Territory was an arduous task. Depending on the type of animal you chose, the trip could take weeks or months ending in that first peek at Pikes Peak or maybe the entire front range of the Rocky Mountains. The hot, dry trip across Kansas seems difficult in an air-conditioned car, but imagine the trip behind two odiferous oxen or mules. A cool shower or bath was out of the question. Even bathing in the river or a small creek could be hazardous to your health, since those who traveled ahead of you weren’t careful about waste disposal.

Water carried in barrels on the wagon became brackish before the trip was over and sometimes was more dangerous than what could be found in the streams. Most of the fresh game originally found along the trail could have disappeared due to over-hunting, leaving little to eat. Edible plants were different in the western states than the east; so most travelers weren’t able to identify any available food.

Yes, the roaring and beeping are giving me a headache, but I’ll take the paved road and a car any day.

SUMMER HEAT

July 11, 2014

Everyone seems to groan when the weatherman announces that the day’s temperature will be in the high 90’s. Most modern houses have built-in air conditioning and other than occasional trips from the air-conditioned house to the air-conditioned car to the air-conditioned mall, we really don’t have much to gripe about. Visualize the pioneer “hot day”. Granted a sod house was considerably cooler than a wooden shack or cabin. A great many homestead cabins had tin roofs. The prairie sun beat down on the tin roof making the inside of the cabin equivalent to at least an Easy Bake Oven.

Added to the tin roof, due to the lack of refrigeration, most food needed to be cooked to discourage lunch from turning into ptomaine poisoning. Cooking required firing up the old cook stove. The cook stove, which provided welcome heat in winter now, became a built-in sauna. No wonder pioneers were rarely overweight.

Before the addition of electricity, which didn’t come to much of Colorado’s eastern plains until the 1950’s, the cook stove was the only reliable source of cooking and canning winter vegetables and fruit. Imagine firing up the stove, placing a water bath canner filled with water on the stove, and boiling the canning jars for twenty to thirty minutes. Large pots were used to cook jams, jellies, and preserves in preparation for winter. These activities were never reserved for a cool fall day; the fruit and vegetables were of course ready to be preserved in the hottest part of the summer—July and August.
As a child I remember watching my mother drag bushel baskets full of peaches, pears, apricots, and tomatoes into the kitchen in the morning knowing the house would be sweltering by lunch—and we didn’t live in a sod house. So enjoy your air-conditioning.

A FOURTH OF JULY STORY WORTH REMEMBERING

July 3, 2014

Parker is a small town on the eastern plains of Colorado. Unlike the town by the same name in Arizona, Parker has always been far removed from the hustle and bustle of city life, and therefore July 4th celebrations were filled with local parades, perhaps a baseball game, and picnics. The 4th of 1899 was an exception. It was the year of the $10,000 Horse Race.

I’m going to take the liberty of quoting directly from the Weekly Mascot newspaper because it would be considered the most accurate account of the race.

“The next match between horses owned by N. D’Arcy (who owned the local grocery store) and J.S. Parker (owner of the 20-mile house a hotel), owners to ride. As the flag fell they were on even terms and went away like the wind, with both riders working hands, knees, and spurs, Sloan style. As they neared the wire a single bullet could have furrowed each horse’s brow without drawing blood. The tape was crossed and none were able to tell who had won until the judges announced that D’Arcy’s horse by sticking out its tongue had ‘won by a lap.’’

A humorous and unique story of life on the plains in the 1800’s.