…Looking Up

Double click for a larger size image.
Double click for a larger size image.

I am fortunate to be able to travel to some different places fairly regularly…mostly here in the United States.  In addition to my work with Medical Ambassadors International and with Polymath Innovations, I do some work for an organization called Stephen Ministries – they teach people how to help those who are experiencing some kind of crisis in their lives.

I travel about 10 weekends a year for them and now that I’m living in Georgia, I mostly travel from the mid-west eastward, though I’ve flown to Colorado from here, too.  On occasion, I wind up in a spectacular church setting, such as the one in today’s photo.  I took this picture at First Presbyterian Church in downtown Atlanta in 2014.  The sanctuary was spectacular…the stained glass was Tiffany glass!!!!  (Very expensive…and very beautiful!)

While there’s not much stained glass in this photo, I must say that the entire edifice was beautiful in encouraged the occupants to lift their eyes heavenward to the One who lives there.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY:  in 1804, President Thomas Jefferson attended a public party at the Senate and led a diverse crowd in consuming an enormous loaf of bread dubbed the mammoth loaf. The giant bread was baked to go with the remnants of an enormous block of cheese.

Two years earlier, a group of Baptist women from Massachusetts had sent Jefferson a 1,200- pound hunk of cheese in gratitude for his support of religious tolerance. The cheese, they said, illustrated Jefferson’s claim that North America’s superior natural resources would one day enable the U.S. to outstrip all of Europe in agricultural production.

Early Americans’ use of the descriptive term mammoth arose from the discovery of a giant woolly mammoth skeleton in New York in 1801. Jefferson, fascinated with the natural sciences, was a member of the American Philosophical Society and helped the organization raise funds to complete the archaeological project. Jefferson’s Federalist opponents ridiculed the president’s scientific side projects as frivolous. In an attempt to embarrass the president, they dubbed the giant dairy product the mammoth cheese. To the Federalists’ surprise and disappointment, the general populace embraced the term with nationalistic zeal. Almost immediately, butcher shops and markets advertised mammoth-size products from sides of veal to pumpkins and loaves of bread.

The unveiling of the mammoth loaf occurred at a Senate-sponsored March 26 party to rally support for a naval war against the Barbary States. At noon, a Navy baker wheeled in the mammoth loaf along with the remnants of the Baptist women’s mammoth cheese, an equally enormous side of roast beef and copious amounts of alcohol. President Jefferson stepped up, pulled out his pocketknife and cut the first slice of bread. According to written observations, the party quickly degenerated into a noisy, drunken affair.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  Men find women who wear red more attractive. In fact, a woman in red is more likely to be asked on a date and have more money spent on her. Coincidentally, the rear ends of some animals turn red when they are ready to mate.

…that Georgia sense of humor!!!

Double click to see a larger version.
Double click to see a larger version.

It seems to be the case that different areas of the country not only have difference accents and scenery, but different senses of humor, too.

For example, in California, where it is very important to be politically correct in one’s jokes.  So, you mighty not hear jokes about people groups.  But in Texas – well, people laugh about things that Californians might find offensive.

I suspect that the same is true here in Georgia, too.  Today’s photo was taken in Dahlonega and is a giant statue of a carved wooden bear…but with what appears to be a raccoon hanging out of its mouth!  That would never fly in California where people are willing to protect a moth at the expense of the benefit of species that are, shall we say, higher up the ladder of complexity and intelligence!  But, here in Georgia, it’s all good-natured fun.  (There are many hunters here, to be sure…but come on…I thought this was funny!)  Oh, and no raccoons were harmed in the making of this picture!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY:  in 1911, the Triangle Shirtwaist Company factory in New York City burned down, killing 145 workers.

The Triangle factory was located in the top three floors of the 10-story Asch Building in Manhattan. It was a sweatshop in every sense of the word.  At the time of the fire, there were four elevators with access to the factory floors, but only one was fully operational and it could hold only 12 people. There were two stairways down to the street, but one was locked from the outside to prevent theft by the workers and the other opened inward only. The fire escape, as all would come to see, was shoddily constructed, and could not support the weight of more than a few women at a time.

The owners had a history with tragic fires: the Triangle factory was twice scorched in 1902, while their Diamond Waist Company factory burned in 1907 and 1910. It seems the owners deliberately torched their workplaces before business hours in order to collect on the large fire-insurance policies they purchased. While this was not the cause of the 1911 fire, it contributed to the tragedy, as Blanck and Harris refused to install sprinkler systems and take other safety measures in case they needed to burn down their shops again.

Added to this delinquency were notorious anti-worker policies. Employees were paid $15 a week, working 12 hour days, every day. When the International Ladies Garment Workers Union led a strike in 1909 for better pay and hours, the company was one of the few who resisted, hiring police as thugs to imprison the striking women, and paying off politicians to look the other way.

On March 25, a Saturday, there were 600 workers at the factory when a fire broke out in a rag bin on the eighth floor. The manager turned the fire hose on it, but the hose was rotted and its valve was rusted shut. Panic ensued as the workers fled to every exit. The elevator broke down after only four trips, and women began jumping down the shaft to their deaths. Those who fled down the wrong set of stairs were trapped inside and burned alive. Other women trapped on the eighth floor began jumping out the windows, which created a problem for the firefighters whose hoses were crushed by falling bodies. Also, the firefighters’ ladders stretched only as high as the seventh floor, and their safety nets were not strong enough to catch the women, who were jumping three at a time.

The owners, Blanck and Harris, were on the building’s top floor with some workers when the fire broke out. They were able to escape by climbing onto the roof and hopping to an adjoining building.

The fire was out within half an hour, but not before 49 workers had been killed by the fire, and another 100 or so were piled up dead in the elevator shaft or on the sidewalk. The workers’ union organized a march on April 5 to protest the conditions that led to the fire; it was attended by 80,000 people.

Though Blanck and Harris were put on trial for manslaughter, they managed to get off scot-free.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  It’s illegal to ride an ugly horse in Wilbur, Washington.  (I wonder who decides if a horse is ugly????)

…Windy, Rainy Day


Right now, the state of California is in a historic, very serious drought.  Some projections say that there is only enough water for one more year if something doesn’t change – and fast!  The really bad news is that the rainy season is typically over with by the end of March or middle of April, though sometimes it can linger a bit longer. But here’s the really bad news: most of California’s water comes not in the form of rain, but as melt-water from the snow pack in the Sierra Nevada range.  The most recent statistic I’ve heard said that the snow pack is only 12% of normal – meaning the water situation is only going to get worse!

If only we could ship some water from the Amazon to California!  Today’s photo was taken on one of the peque-peque’s (their word for a water-taxi) that ply the Maranon and other waterways in Peru.  We happened to be on one, heading upstream, when I took this picture.  It was raining, it was windy, the boat was heavily loaded and the sides didn’t extend all that far above the water with the load we’d put in it.  And to top it off, there weren’t enough life jackets for everyone (folks don’t worry about that kind of stuff in most of the world)…and then I learned that the young lady seated next to me didn’t know how to swim!  (I then started picturing scenarios where I’d grab a life jacket and share it with her if necessary…not very heroic, eh?)

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY:  in 1989, the worst oil spill in U.S. territory began when the supertanker Exxon Valdez,owned and operated by the Exxon Corporation, ran aground on a reef in Prince William Sound in southern Alaska. An estimated 11 million gallons of oil eventually spilled into the water. Attempts to contain the massive spill were unsuccessful, and wind and currents spread the oil more than 100 miles from its source, eventually polluting more than 700 miles of coastline. Hundreds of thousands of birds and animals were adversely affected by the environmental disaster.

It was later revealed that Joseph Hazelwood, the captain of the Valdez, was drinking at the time of the accident and allowed an uncertified officer to steer the massive vessel. In March 1990, Hazelwood was convicted of misdemeanor negligence, fined $50,000, and ordered to perform 1,000 hours of community service. In July 1992, an Alaska court overturned Hazelwood’s conviction, citing a federal statute that grants freedom from prosecution to those who report an oil spill.

Exxon itself was condemned by the National Transportation Safety Board and in early 1991 agreed under pressure from environmental groups to pay a penalty of $100 million and provide $1 billion over a 10-year period for the cost of the cleanup. However, later in the year, both Alaska and Exxon rejected the agreement, and in October 1991 the oil giant settled the matter by paying $25 million, less than 4 percent of the cleanup aid promised by Exxon earlier that year.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  Holes drilled as deep as 5 miles into the Earth’s reveal that the rock temperature increases about 37 degrees Fahrenheit per 320 feet. Even on the deepest sea floor, rock remains slightly above freezing.

…River Front Home?


We Americans seem to like the idea of a home on the edge of a lake or river.  Water, I suspect, has almost always fascinated, and  yet also frightened, people.  Look at maps from the past 500 years or so and you are likely to see sea monsters drawn in the oceans or at the edges of the map – indicating that horrible, man-eating and ship-destroying beasts lived and awaited the unwary sailor.

I am not fond of the ocean unless I am on the shore looking out at it.  I don’t like to swim in the ocean for there are critters in there with big, sharp teeth that make me look miniscule…but to whom I may appear a tasty morsel!

Today’s photo was taken as I was riding down the Maranon River in Peru on a boat.  It’s a river-front home in Peru.  Not quite what most of us would have in mind for a river front home.  Most of the homes we saw along the river had fewer than four walls…and had to be overrun with bugs and animals and filled with mosquitoes.  Yet, to the people who live in the rain forest, it is home.  And as we are fond of saying, “There’s no place like home” – even if you live on the banks of the Maranon.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY:  in 1944, German occupiers shot more than 300 Italian civilians as a reprisal for an Italian partisan attack on an SS unit.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  Pope Innocent III (1160/1-1216) declared that a waiting period should be observed between betrothal and marriage, which led to separate engagement and wedding rings. The first recorded account of a diamond engagement ring was in 1477 when King Maximilian I of Germany (1459-1519) proposed to Mary of Burgundy (1457-1482) and offered her a diamond to seal his vow.

…Top Golf


I love to do things with my kids.  I remember the Jim Croce song, “Cat’s in the Cradle” about how kids grow up while we’re too busy to spend time with them, and then by the time we have some time on our hands, they are so busy with their own lives that those “get together’s” rarely, if ever, happen.

Well, last night my youngest son and I got together and had some fun.  We work together, so it’s not like we don’t communicate often, but to get together for fun is something that is too rare because we are both quite busy.  But he’d been after me for a while to go with him to a place neither of us had been before: Top Golf.

I like golf.  But after moving from California two years ago (where all my golf buddies are), I’d not swung a club for two years.  I’m sure it had been longer than that for my son.

If you’ve not been to Top Golf, it’s a blast!  You don’t really have to be a golfer.  I shot today’s photo with my cell phone and if you look at it, you can see circles out there with concentric circles inside each bigger circle.  The idea is simple: hit your ball into one of the circles.  The closer you get to the inner circle (just like a bulls-eye) the more points you get.  And, once you score points, you are eligible for double points on your next swing.  The entire thing is monitored by a computer system that somehow follows the flight of your ball and knows where it landed and accumulates your points automatically.  There are a variety of “games” you can play which vary from one another in a variety of ways.  Oh, and they have food and beverages available, too…and the food was GOOD!  I had a turkey burger (no cannibal jokes, OK?) and it may have been the tastiest turkey burger I’ve ever had.

Would I go back?  In a heartbeat!  We plan to do it sometime!  Maybe we’ll see you there!  (They are a chain – there may be one in your neck of the woods!)

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY:  in 1925, the worst tornado in U.S. history passed through eastern Missouri, southern Illinois, and southern Indiana, killing 695 people, injuring some 13,000 people, and causing $17 million in property damage. Known as the “Tri-State Tornado,” the deadly twister began its northeast track in Ellington, Missouri, but southern Illinois was the hardest hit. More than 500 of the total 695 people who perished were killed in southern Illinois, including 234 in Murphrysboro and 127 in West Frankfort.

A tornado contains violently rotating air that develops in climate conditions that, in the United States, are generally unique to the central and southern plains and the Gulf states. The rotating winds of tornadoes can attain velocities of 300 mph, and its diameter can vary from a few feet to a mile. A tornado generally travels in a northeasterly distance at speeds of 20 to 40 mph and usually covers anywhere between one and more than 100 miles.

The Tri-State Tornado of 1925–which traveled 219 miles, spent more than three hours on the ground, devastated 164 square miles, had a diameter of more than a mile, and traveled at speeds in excess of 70 mph–is unsurpassed in U.S. history.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:   Two-thirds of plastic surgery patients are repeat patients, and more than five million Americans may be addicted to plastic surgery. One example of such addiction, 48-year-old Hang Mioku was left disfigured after she injected her own face with cooking oil.

…World of Contrasts


One of the things that I am most grateful in my life has been the ability to visit some other countries.  I never thought I’d have been able to travel to so many overseas destinations.  I know that there are many who have gone to far more places than I have and who have done much more adventurous things (I’m not a big adventure freak in the sense of extreme sports or zip-lining 5000 feet from the top of a mountain to a valley below).  Still, I’ve be so blessed to be able to see other parts of the world that are so different than our own.

One of the things I find fascinating about it is to be able to see the differences and contrasts.  I live, obviously, in a first world country – in fact, in the most well-to-do country in the history of the world.  I am extremely grateful for that.  As I write this, I sit in a Starbucks with cars parked outside, tables, chairs, water out of a faucet that is safe to drink, flush toilets, music piped throughout the building on speakers, the sounds of business and friends surrounding me every second.  If I am hungry, I can walk to the counter and get something to eat.  If I am thirsty, I can get something to drink and not fear that it will give me cholera or typhoid or other water-borne illnesses.  Shoot, I don’t even have to worry about contracting diarrhea from the drinking water!

Not so in many places.  The contrasts are stark.  They are often discouraging and heartbreaking.  Many don’t want to see or contemplate such things as poverty, human trafficking, starvation, disease that runs rampant or other such horrible things.  I can understand that.  We don’t want to feel uncomfortable.  We don’t want to be reminded that such things are the norm for the vast majority of the world.  I, for one, am glad that I get to go to some of those places occasionally to be reminded of reality.  I don’t say that to brag or lift myself up – I say it because I need to be reminded of those things because I lose perspective as easily as the next person.  I don’t want to become desensitized to the suffering in the world.  They are PEOPLE for Pete’s sake…people!!!!  And one thing I’ve found wherever I’ve gone: people all have the same hopes and dreams for their families and children and homes and marriages.  They may vary greatly in terms of the magnitude of what they hope for, but they want their kids to grow up healthy and to be at least moderately happy – just like I did.

We are all the same, folks, when it comes to this great experience called life.  We are here to give one another a pat on the back, a hand outstretched and a hand up, an encouraging word, a hug – and to share tears with one another when it is appropriate.

Today’s image was shot on the Maranon River in Peru about 10 days ago.  As I saw the tug and barge heading upriver with the little wooden water taxi boat in front of it, the contrasts came home to me once again.  And I’m grateful for it.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY:  in 461, Saint Patrick, Christian missionary of Ireland, died at Saul, Downpatrick, Ireland.

Much of what is known about Patrick’s legendary life comes from the Confessio, a book he wrote during his last years. Born in Great Britain, probably in Scotland, to a well-to-do Christian family of Roman citizenship, Patrick was captured and enslaved at age 16 by Irish marauders. For the next six years, he worked as a herder in Ireland, turning to a deepening religious faith for comfort. Following the counsel of a voice he heard in a dream one night, he escaped and found passage on a ship to Britain, where he was eventually reunited with his family.

According to the Confessio, in Britain Patrick had another dream, in which an individual named Victoricus gave him a letter, entitled “The Voice of the Irish.” As he read it, Patrick seemed to hear the voices of Irishmen pleading him to return to their country and walk among them once more. After studying for the priesthood, Patrick was ordained a bishop. He arrived in Ireland in 433 and began preaching, converting thousands of Irish and building churches . After 40 years of poverty, teaching, traveling and working tirelessly, Patrick died on March 17, 461 in Saul, where he had built his first church.

Since that time, countless legends have grown up around Patrick. Made the patron saint of Ireland, he is said to have baptized hundreds of people on a single day, and to have used a three-leaf clover–the famous shamrock–to describe the Holy Trinity. In art, he is often portrayed trampling on snakes, in accordance with the belief that he drove those reptiles out of Ireland. For thousands of years, the Irish have observed the day of Saint Patrick’s death as a religious holiday, attending church in the morning and celebrating with food and drink in the afternoon. The first St. Patrick’s Day parade, though, took place not in Ireland, but the United States, when Irish soldiers serving in the English military marched through New York City in 1762. As the years went on, the parades became a show of unity and strength for persecuted Irish-American immigrants, and then a popular celebration of Irish-American heritage. The party went global in 1995, when the Irish government began a large-scale campaign to market St. Patrick’s Day as a way of driving tourism and showcasing Ireland’s many charms to the rest of the world. Today, March 17 is a day of international celebration, as millions of people around the globe put on their best green clothing to drink beer, watch parades and toast the luck of the Irish.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  The English word “girl” was initially used to describe a young person of eithergeneder. It was not until the beginning of the sixteenth century that the term was used specifically to describe a female child.

…a Fiery Redhead


As people we tend to paint in broad brushes.  We make jokes about certain nationalities as if they weren’t as smart as those from another country.  We joke about professions, especially picking on used car salesmen, lawyers and the like.

When it comes to physical characteristics, we do the same thing.  There is an entire line of jokes about those with blond hair.  And then there are redheads.  And redheads, perhaps because of the color of their hair, are often describes as “fiery”.

I took this picture of a fiery redhead just outside of the door of our place about three weeks ago.  (Don’t tell my wife that I’ve been photographing redheads – but then, her hair is rather red right now, too!)

Can you tell me what species it is?  I think I know.  Do you?

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1802, the United States Military Academy–the first military school in the United States–was founded by Congress for the purpose of educating and training young men in the theory and practice of military science. Located at West Point, New York, the U.S. Military Academy is best known as West Point.

Located on the west bank of New York’s Hudson River, West Point was the site of a Revolutionary-era fort built to protect the Hudson River Valley from British attack. In 1780, Patriot General Benedict Arnold, the commander of the fort, agreed to surrender West Point to the British in exchange for 6,000 pounds. However, the plot was uncovered before it fell into British hands, and Arnold fled to the British for protection.

Ten years after the establishment of the U.S. Military Academy in 1802, the growing threat of another war with Great Britain resulted in congressional action to expand the academy’s facilities and increase the West Point corps. Beginning in 1817, the U.S. Military Academy was reorganized by superintendent Sylvanus Thayer–later known as the “father of West Point”–and the school became one of the nation’s finest sources of civil engineers. During the Mexican-American War, West Point graduates filled the leading ranks of the victorious U.S. forces, and with the outbreak of the Civil War former West Point classmates regretfully lined up against one another in the defense of their native states.

In 1870, the first African-American cadet was admitted into the U.S. Military Academy, and in 1976, the first female cadets. The academy is now under the general direction and supervision of the department of the U.S. Army and has an enrollment of more than 4,000 students.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  Osteoporosis fractures cost around $18 billion per year, or $38 million a day. In 2005, fractures related to osteoporosis were responsible for an estimated $19 billion. By 2025, experts predict it will rise to $25.3 billion.

…in Iquitos, Peru


Iquitos is the largest city in the Peruvian rain forest and the fifth-largest city of Peru. It is also the capital city of the Loreto Region and Maynas Province. Located in the Amazon Basin, the city is along the Amazon, Nanay and Itaya rivers. Its name in Iquito language translates to the people. The city proper with its four districts has a population of 422,055; 462,783 live within the Iquitos Metropolitan Area, making it in the sixth-largest metropolitan area of the country. The official city nickname is Capital of the Peruvian Amazon.

During the early 20th-century rubber boom, it attracted many European immigrants who contributed to a period of wealth and great social and commercial development that resulted in its unique urban and cultural identity. The city originally was developed from an Indian Reduction developed by Jesuit missionaries along the Nanay river circa 1757 with the name San Pablo de Napeanos. The town was inhabited by the Napeanos and Iquito people. At the present time, the city has become a destination in the Peruvian Amazon, due to historic architecture, cuisine, landscapes, accent, nightlife and diverse cultural movement. It is a cosmopolitan city with strong Amazonia roots.

I shot today’s photo that shows one of the buildings from the days of the rubber boom, showing the decorative tiles that adorned the outside of some of the buildings along the waterfront.

Downtown Iquitos is considered the starting point for the city tour. The Belén Market is described as the largest traditional market in the Peruvian Amazon. Several neighborhoods and landmarks of Iquitos are prized for their Amazonian, European, and bohemian atmosphere. Over 250,000 visitors came to Iquitos in 2012, a number that is expected to rise since the ranking of the Amazon River as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. In 2012 Iquitos inaugurated international flights with the major hub in Panama City, with shared destination to Miami and Cancun. The city was included, as number 6, on the list of “top 10 cities for 2011″ by Lonely Planet.

The city can be reached only by airplane or boat, with the exception of a road to Nauta, a small town roughly 62 miles south. It is the largest city in the world that is inaccessible by road. Ocean vessels of 3,000 to 9,000 tons and 18 feet draft can reach Iquitos from the Atlantic Ocean, 2237 miles away. Most people travel within the city via bus, motorcycle, or the ubiquitous auto rickshaw (mototaximotocarro or motocar). It is a modified motorcycle with a cabin behind supported by two wheels, seating three.  Transportation to nearby towns often requires a river trip via pequepeque, a small public motorized boat.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY:  in 1888, the most severe winter storm ever to hit the New York City region reached blizzard proportions, costing hundreds of lives and millions of dollars in property damage. Although the storm also struck New England, New York was the hardest hit, with the 36-hour blizzard dumping some 40 inches of snow on the city. For several weeks, the city was virtually isolated from the rest of the country by the massive snowdrifts. Messages north to Boston had to be relayed via England. Even “Leather Man,” a fixture of New York and Connecticut history who had walked a circuit of 365 miles every 34 days for three decades, was reportedly delayed four days by the Blizzard of 1888. Leather Man, who walked during the day and slept in caves at night, was known as such because his clothes were made out of large patches of thick leather.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  It is common to hear that the Fresh Kill Landfill in New York and the Great Wall of China are the only two man-made objects that can be seen from space.

…on the Amazon at Iquitos

Part of the Belen District, Iquitos, Peru
Part of the Belen District, Iquitos, Peru

Just upstream from Iquitos, Peru, the Amazon is born.  What you see in today’s picture is the Amazon.  In the foreground is an area of Iquitos known as the Belen District, on of thirteen districts of the Maynas Province. Belen (Spanish for “Bethlehem”) exists at the edge of Iquitos, in the floodplain.  The Belen District consists of 65,000 inhabitants, most of them poor, and many of whom live in extreme poverty, without electricity, none with clean water or sanitation. There also exists an estimated 60,000 people living across the river in outlying areas, also with no electricity, water and sanitation. Most homes will float or are built on stilts, as the river floods some 5-6 meters during February through July. Belen, a unique world community, has been referred to, in travel books, as the “Venice of Latin America”. In Pueblo Libre, a section of Belen on the waterfront, an estimated 14000 people, 30% under age 12, live in a busy river port, where charcoal, bananas, fish, and other goods are brought, mostly by canoe, to be distributed and sold throughout Belen. People there live in overcrowded conditions (90% of homes house 2 or more families; some homes as many as 5) and, in addition to malaria, dengue fever, water-borne illnesses, respiratory illnesses, tuberculosis, and HIV, there are problems associated with severe poverty; alcoholism, crime, prostitution, unemployment, child abuse and domestic violence. Years of deteriorating conditions in Belen have resulted in widespread frustration and hopelessness among Belen residents.  (Wikipedia)

The district runs along the river to the right in this picture.  The homes’ toilets, if they have them, dump waste directly into the Amazon.  Kids swim in the water, people bathe in it and they eat fish from the river.  It is not a pleasant place.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY:  in 1884, Texas gunslinger Ben Thompson died in a San Antonio theater where accomplices of his longtime enemies ambushed and murdered him.

Thompson’s started young. In 1858, at age 16, he wounded a black youth during a quarrel in Austin, Texas. Local citizens demanded action against Thompson, so he served a short jail term and paid a fine. A few years later, he left Austin and tried to make a peaceable living as a typesetter in New Orleans, but gambling appealed to him more than an honest day’s work.

As with  many other gunslingers, Thompson’s education as a killer came from fighting in wars. Although his record as confederate in the Civil War was undistinguished, he apparently often quarreled and fought with his army comrades. After the war, he became a mercenary to the emperor of Mexico, where his talents as a killer were encouraged and rewarded.

In 1872, Thompson traveled to Ellsworth, Kansas, to join his brother Billy as a professional gambler. A year later, a local deputy angered the two brothers when he intervened in a gambling dispute. The Ellsworth sheriff, Chauncey Whitney, came to his deputy’s rescue and tried to calm the brothers. Whitney thought he had defused the situation, but as he walked across the street with the two brothers, the volatile Billy suddenly pulled his gun and shot the sheriff dead. Thompson came to Billy’s rescue by recruiting a gang of Texas cowboys to intimidate the Ellsworth police allowing Billy to escape.

No longer welcome in Ellsworth, Thompson spent the next decade drifting around Kansas. In 1879, he joined Bat Masterson and others as hired gunmen for the Santa Fe Railroad. With the money he earned working for the railroad, he invested in a chain of Texas gambling houses that eventually returned sizeable profits. Using his new found wealth to buy respectability, in 1880 he returned to Austin and made a successful run for town sheriff.

Thompson’s shift to the side of law enforcement, though, did not end his involvement with the shady world of gambling. In 1880, he quarreled with three San Antonio gamblers -Joe Foster, Jack Harris, and Bill Simms – over a debt Foster claimed Thompson owed him. A few years later, the quarrel led to a gunfight in which Thompson killed Harris, further incensing the other two. In 1884, Foster and Simms laid a trap for Thompson at the Vaudeville Theatre in San Antonio. Apparently attempting to make peace with his two old enemies, Thompson approached them in the theatre. The men began to argue, and when the dispute threatened to become violent, a volley of shots rang out. Two hidden accomplices of Foster and Simms killed Thompson.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  Buddha described the mind as being filled with drunken monkeys who jumped, screeched, and chatted endlessly. Fear, according to Buddha, was an especially loud monkey. Buddha taught meditation as a way to tame the “drunken monkeys” in the mind.


…Maranon River, Peru


OK.  I’m back!  You know, it is always wonderful to be back home after being gone!  The trip I took to Peru was to help deliver some training relating to preventing illness.  We were able to present to leaders from six different groups of Peruvian native tribes.  While they all have their own language, most also spoke Spanish and we had translators to help us gringos to communicate.

We flew into Lima, Peru on 2/27 (actually arriving right after 12 midnight on 2/28, had about a five hour layover before flying to Iquitos.  There are no roads to get to Iquitos – you can only get there by air or boat.

Iquitos is located on the Amazon.  I was informed by the locals that the Amazon is birthed just a few miles before it reaches Iquitos by the confluence of several rivers upstream of the city.  One of those rivers is the Maranon river.  The Maranon has been considered the main source/contributor to the Amazon since first appearing on a map in 1707.  The Maranon River continues to claim the title of the “mainstem source” or “hydrological source” of the Amazon due to its contribution of the highest annual discharge rates.  The average discharge rate is 590,037 cubic feet per second.  While we were there, I’m sure it was much higher than that because it was the rainy season and the water was VERY high.

Today’s photo is looking toward the Maranon river in the distance for some property that had been cleared of nearly all the rain forest foliage.  It was early morning and the sunlight was just right to capture reflections, but also not so bright that the shadows weren’t still prominent.

More Peru pictures in coming days.  I didn’t take my Canon 7D, but my Olympus point-and-shoot, so the pictures won’t be as good as if I’d taken the Canon (it was very wet there and I didn’t want to risk it!)

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY:  in 1906, a devastating mine disaster killed over 1,000 workers in Courrieres, France. as an underground fire sparked a massive explosion that virtually destroyed a vast maze of mines.

The Courrieres Colliery in northern France was a complex series of mines near the Pas-de-Calais Mountains. Tunnels into the mines issued forth from several towns in the area and more than 2,000 men and boys worked the mines, digging for coal that was used mostly in the manufacture of gas.

At about 3 p.m. on the afternoon of March 9, a fire began 270 meters underground in what was known as the Cecil pit. Unable to immediately extinguish it, workers decided to close the pit’s outlets and starve the fire of air. The following morning, with 1,795 workers inside the mine’s deep tunnels, a huge explosion issued forth from the Cecil pit. Apparently, fissures in the pit’s walls had allowed in flammable gases that were then sparked by the still-smoldering fire. It was 7 a.m. when debris rocketed out of the tunnels’ openings. Several people on the surface were killed by the blast and the roof a mine office was blown right off the building.

Fires raged from every opening of the mine and many people suffered terrible burn injuries. Since the fires continued to burn, rescuers and family members of the miners were unable to send help down the mine shafts. One rescue party of 40 men paid the ultimate price for their attempt–they were all killed when the shaft they were descending collapsed. Soon, French soldiers were called in to establish order from the mounting chaos outside the mine.

As bodies began to be found, a mortuary was established near the mine. It took weeks for the all of the bodies to be recovered and identified. In the end, the casualty toll from this disaster was 1,060 miners killed, with hundreds more suffering serious injuries.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  Initially, NBC asked Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry to get rid of the “guy with the pointy ears” partly because they were worried about his “satanic” appearance. Luckily, Roddenberry refused to cut Spock.  May Leonard Nimoy rest in peace!

Pictures and Thoughts from a Day in Galen Dalrymple's Life


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