…Swingin’on a Gate

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Double click for a larger version of the image

I was just a little fella when we moved from Iowa…and that was part of the reason we moved…I was too little.  I suffered a lot during my first 8 years or so of life due to chronic respiratory problems that were exacerbated every winter by the harsh Iowa weather.  It snowed more back in those times, and it also seems to have been colder, and from the time of the first cold air of the season until spring arrived, I struggled.  My lungs never had time to fully recover before the next winter would roll in with blizzards and snowfall.  It finally reached the point that the doctors told my folks that if I was going to live, we needed to move to warmer climes so my lungs could recuperate.  Because of all those early years, I didn’t grow normally.  I like to think it still affected me…that somehow, if not for the stunted growth those first 9 years, I’d probably be 6’5″ tall today!

But, oh, how I loved the spring and summer in Iowa!  I was as healthy as I would get while we were still living there and I was outside playing from dawn until after the fireflies went to bed for the night.  It was great…and I have such wonderful memories of those spring and summer days!  We had gates on the farm…plenty of gates!  They divided the animal pens from the barnyard and fields and from the area around the house.  I don’t know how many gates there were, but some were large enough that a tractor pulling a combine could be pulled through them, while others were only large enough for a person to pass through.  One gate in particular, the one that was outside the back door of the house and separated the yard from the hillside, was my favorite gate.  I’ve shared a picture of it before…and today’s photo is NOT that gate.  But when I saw this gate this past Saturday afternoon, the memories came flooding in.  I recall standing on the horizontal supports of that gate, side by side with my sister, watching our dad working the fields or tending to animals or taking the trash to the hillside to burn it (in those days, there wasn’t any garbage pickup – especially on farms!) whil the summer breeze ruffled our hair.

So, I just had to shoot this gate.  It is a reminder of a part of my life that though long ago, is as clear as a bell even to this day!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY:  On March 31, 1889, the Eiffel Tower was dedicated in Paris in a ceremony presided over by Gustave Eiffel, the tower’s designer, and attended by French Prime Minister Pierre Tirard, a handful of other dignitaries, and 200 construction workers.

In 1889, to honor of the centenary of the French Revolution, the French government planned an international exposition and announced a design competition for a monument to be built on the Champ-de-Mars in central Paris (GCD: I suppose since it dealt with the French Revolution, they could have had a contest to design a new guillotine instead!). Out of more than 100 designs submitted, the Centennial Committee chose Eiffel’s plan of an open-lattice wrought-iron tower that would reach almost 1,000 feet above Paris and be the world’s tallest man-made structure. Eiffel, a noted bridge builder, was a master of metal construction and designed the framework of the Statue of Liberty that had recently been erected in New York Harbor.

Eiffel’s tower was greeted with skepticism from critics who argued that it would be structurally unsound, and indignation from others who thought it would be an eyesore in the heart of Paris. Unperturbed, Eiffel completed his great tower under budget in just two years. Only one worker lost his life during construction, which at the time was a remarkably low casualty number for a project of that magnitude. The light, airy structure was by all accounts a technological wonder and within a few decades came to be regarded as an architectural masterpiece.

The Eiffel Tower is 984 feet tall and consists of an iron framework supported on four masonry piers, from which rise four columns that unite to form a single vertical tower. Platforms, each with an observation deck, are at three levels. Elevators ascend the piers on a curve, and Eiffel contracted the Otis Elevator Company of the United States to design the tower’s famous glass-cage elevators.

The elevators were not completed by March 31, 1889, however, so Gustave Eiffel ascended the tower’s stairs with a few hardy companions and raised an enormous French tricolor on the structure’s flagpole. Fireworks were then set off from the second platform. Eiffel and his party descended, and the architect addressed the guests and about 200 workers. In early May, the Paris International Exposition opened, and the tower served as the entrance gateway to the giant fair.

The Eiffel Tower remained the world’s tallest man-made structure until the completion of the Chrysler Building in New York in 1930. Incredibly, the Eiffel Tower was almost demolished when the International Exposition’s 20-year lease on the land expired in 1909, but its value as an antenna for radio transmission saved it. It remains largely unchanged today and is one of the world’s premier tourist attractions.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  In 1815, Captain James Riley and his crew of the Commerce drank camel urine to stay alive after they were shipwrecked off the coast of Africa and had to cross the Sahara Desert to reach home.  (I much prefer Dr. Pepper myself, I think…but then again, I’ve never tasted camel urine!)

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