Category Archives: The South

Stating the Obvious

_MG_7951

Do you ever get annoyed by people who state to obvious? Or do you make it a habit of stating the obvious yourself? For example, “Wow! That was loud!” (Whoever you are talking to heard it, too.) Or, as in the case of Little Red Riding Hood talking to the wolf, “My, what a big nose you have!” (As if the wolf didn’t look down his long nose every single moment of every single day!)

The sign that I shot for today’s picture is of a similar ilk. And, in a way, it goes along with the meme I introduced in my post yesterday about the sign with the beer on it: maybe if people in the south have to be warned that trains sometimes use railroad tracks, there may be something to the common (mis)perception about those of us who do live here in the southern United States. Still, it’s home now, and we love it. More southern-isms in the next few days!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1870, while visiting Marathon, Greece, Lord Muncaster of Britain is kidnapped by brigands, almost resulting in war. The pirates, led by Takos Arvanitakis, were experienced in kidnapping and had used it as a lucrative source of income for many years. However, their capture of Lord Muncaster and a group of English tourists proved to be more difficult to pull off than they anticipated.

Arvanitakis and his gang demanded £50,000 for the release of the captives. King George of Greece refused their ransom demands, offering instead to exchange himself for the hostages in an attempt to appease England. However, before any further negotiations could take place, a confrontation between the brigands and Greek troops resulted in the death of just about everyone involved, including Muncaster. Arvanitakis was one of the few who managed to escape the battle with his life.

The incident caused England to threaten war, but Russia interjected by siding with Greece. The crisis was averted after Greece conducted a major crackdown on the bandits. Although few of the people they arrested had actually played any role in the kidnapping, it eased the international tensions and greatly reduced the number of subsequent kidnappings in the country.

Arvanitakis was shot and killed two years later.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Elvis Presley was famously a fan of the “Sleeping Beauty Diet,” or a diet where a person is sedated for days at time. The reasoning behind the diet was that a sleeping person wouldn’t eat.

Do the Math

_MG_7934

I know not everyone is good at math. I am OK, but I quit after taking calculus. I don’t like math. I think back now to all the algebra, trigonometry and calculus that I took and I can honestly say that other than some of the more simple things about algebra, I’ve never used any of the rest of it. Perhaps that’s because I chose fields of work where I didn’t have to do lots of math or formulas. I don’t regret that one bit.

Now, it’s true that many people think of folks who live in the south as being rather, well, uneducated and simple-minded. I haven’t personally found that to be true at all. I think by and large it’s the accent that makes people have that belief. But then you come across a sign like the one in today’s photo and then you have to wonder.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1834, a fire at the LaLaurie mansion in New Orleans, Louisiana, led to the discovery of a torture chamber where slaves were routinely brutalized by Delphine LaLaurie. Rescuers found a 70-year-old black woman trapped in the kitchen during the fire because she was chained up while LaLaurie was busy saving her furniture. The woman later revealed that she had set the fire in an attempt to escape LaLaurie’s torture. She led authorities up to the attic, where seven slaves were tied with spiked iron collars.

After Delphine LaLaurie married her third husband, Louis LaLaurie, and moved into his estate on Royal Street, she immediately took control of the large number of slaves used as servants. LaLaurie was a well-known sadist, but the mistreatment of slaves by the wealthy and socially connected was not a matter for the police at the time.

However, in 1833, Delphine chased a small slave girl with a whip until the girl fell off the roof of the house and died. LaLaurie tried to cover up the incident, but police found the body hidden in a well. Authorities decided to fine LaLaurie and force the sale of the other slaves on the estate.

LaLaurie foiled this plan by secretly arranging for her relatives and friends to buy the slaves. She then sneaked them back into the mansion, where she continued to torture them until the night of the fire in April 1834.

Apparently her Southern neighbors had some standards when it came to the treatment of slaves, because a mob gathered in protest after learning about LaLaurie’s torture chamber. She and her husband fled by boat, leaving the butler (who had also participated in the torture) to face the wrath of the crowd.

Although charges were never filed against LaLaurie, her reputation in upper-class society was destroyed. It is believed that she died in Paris in December 1842.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: the horse head in the famous horse scene in The Godfather was actually a real, decapitated horse head.

Dancin’ Daffodils

_mg_7747

Not far from where we live (maybe 20-25 minutes away) is a place called Gibbs Gardens. It is the creation of a many by the name of Jim Gibbs, who for over 40 years owned and operated a landscaping company in the Atlanta area. As one might anticipate, he loves gardens and desired to create a world-class gardens in north Georgia. By all accounts, he has succeeded grandly!

The property where the manor house stands covers 292 acres, and 250 of those acres have been converted into gardens for others to come and enjoy (there is a fee for entrance). There is a wide variety of different plants and types of gardens so that something is likely to be blooming at any time of the year (almost!).

Over 50 acres are planted in daffodils. Their signs advertise that there are 20 million daffodils on the property, and I believe it after my first visit there a bit over one week ago! This year, because of the warmer weather than usual, the daffodils have bloomed early and we wandered around the area where the daffodils were blooming shooting photos. The picture today was one that I shot a week ago this past Saturday. It was a fairly windy day, but I believe you’ll still get a good sense for the place and how beautiful it is. I am eager to go back to the gardens several times this summer to see the other sights as different plants and trees leaf out and bloom. I suspect it will be spectacular. And yes, we did by an annual pass so we can go year round!

THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1963, the Hula-Hoop, a hip-swiveling toy that became a huge fad across America when it was first marketed by Wham-O in 1958, was patented by the company’s co-founder, Arthur “Spud” Melin. An estimated 25 million Hula-Hoops were sold in its first four months of production alone.

In 1948, friends Arthur Melin and Richard Knerr founded a company in California to sell a slingshot they created to shoot meat up to falcons they used for hunting. The company’s name, Wham-O, came from the sound the slingshots supposedly made. Wham-O eventually branched out from slingshots, selling boomerangs and other sporting goods. Its first hit toy, a flying plastic disc known as the Frisbee, debuted in 1957. The Frisbee was originally marketed under a different name, the Pluto Platter, in an effort to capitalize on America’s fascination with UFOs.

Melina and Knerr were inspired to develop the Hula-Hoop after they saw a wooden hoop that Australian children twirled around their waists during gym class. Wham-O began producing a plastic version of the hoop, dubbed “Hula” after the hip-gyrating Hawaiian dance of the same name, and demonstrating it on Southern California playgrounds. Hula-Hoop mania took off from there.

The enormous popularity of the Hula-Hoop was short-lived and within a matter of months, the masses were on to the next big thing. However, the Hula-Hoop never faded away completely and still has its fans today. According to Ripley’s Believe It or Not, in April 2004, a performer at the Big Apple Circus in Boston simultaneously spun 100 hoops around her body. Earlier that same year, in January, according to the Guinness World Records, two people in Tokyo, Japan, managed to spin the world’s largest hoop–at 13 feet, 4 inches–around their waists at least three times each.

Following the Hula-Hoop, Wham-O continued to produce a steady stream of wacky and beloved novelty items, including the Superball, Water Wiggle, Silly String, Slip ‘n’ Slide and the Hacky Sack.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: The hula was originally a form of worship performed by highly trained men who were supposedly taught the dance by the Hawaiian god Luka.

Don’t Worry…Big Brother Is Here

_mg_6567

The town of Mt. Pleasant, SC, is across the river/estuary from Charleston, SC. It is a fairly small suburb, containing both the old, historic houses near the waterline and newer structures in other places. It is a blend of old and new…a study, if you will, in contrasts.

I took today’s photo when we were on our way aboard a ship to visit Fort Sumter. The boat left from Mt. Pleasant and headed around the nearby marina to make its way to the fort in the middle of the bay that leads to Charleston.

The ferry started from a dock that was right by the USS Yorktown, a carrier that is retired and is now a floating museum of sorts. It contains aircraft on its flight deck, the Congressional Medal of Honor museum on the hanger deck and various other photographic and video displays about the ship and where she served.

As with any aircraft carrier – it is impressive in size. It isn’t as large as the carriers being built today, but it’s not of a size that you could put it into your bathtub, either!  And so, as we rounded the marina on our way out to the fort, I looked back toward where we’d come from and caught today’s photo. All the smaller boats in the marina stood in start contrast to the sheer size of the Yorktown. I couldn’t help but thinking of a bunch of baby ducklings or goslings swimming along behind a much larger parent…and feeling comforted that big brother was nearby. Oh, and just in case you’re wondering, the other large ship toward the right in the photo is a destroyer…again dwarfed by Big Brother.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: In keeping with today’s photo, on this day in 1941, the day after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war on Japan in perhaps the most memorable speech of his career. The speech, in which he called Japan’s act a “deliberate deception,” received thunderous applause from Congress and, soon after, the United States officially entered the Second World War.

The day before, Japanese pilots had bombed the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, decimating the majority of U.S. warships in the Pacific Fleet along with most of the Air Corps and Navy aircraft stationed on the island of Oahu. The bombing raids killed 2,403 people, including 68 civilians, and wounded almost 1,200.

Although Roosevelt and his advisors had received intelligence reports indicating an imminent attack by Japan days before, he had hoped that Japanese and American diplomats, then negotiating in Washington, would come to a peaceful solution. He was incensed to realize that while American and Japanese diplomats engaged in negotiations (over Japan’s recent military actions in China and elsewhere in the Pacific), Japanese aircraft carriers had been steaming toward Hawaii intent on attack. His words on December 8 relayed his personal indignation and fury.

Roosevelt had already proven his oratorical skills during the Great Depression when his “fireside chats” rallied the nation’s morale. The same president who once said “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself” declared with equal conviction that the nation “would never forget the character of [Japan’s] onslaught against us” and vowed that the “unbounding determination of our people… will gain the inevitable triumph—so help us God.”

The stirring speech was hardly necessary—Congress and millions of Americans, who had been hearing details of the attack in the news, shared the president’s outrage and commitment to defending the nation. Young men flocked to armed forces recruiting stations the next day and both houses of Congress quickly voted to declare war on Japan, with only one dissenting vote, that of Montanan Jeanette Rankin, the first woman elected to Congress and a dedicated lifelong pacifist. She was the only member of Congress to vote against U.S. involvement in both World Wars, having been among those who voted against American entry into World War I nearly a quarter of a century earlier.

Rankin, however, believed that Roosevelt deliberately provoked the Japanese to attack because he wanted to bring the U.S. into the European war against Germany; she was determined not to cooperate with the president’s plan. After a 40-minute debate on the floor of the House, a roll call vote began. When her turn came, Rankin stood and said, “As a woman, I can’t go to war and I refuse to send anyone else.”

Rankin was vilified in the press, accused of disloyalty, and called “Japanette Rankin,” among other impolite names. She stood her ground, however, and never apologized for her vote.

When her term neared completion two years later, Rankin was certain she would not win re-election and chose not to run again. She continued to be an active advocate for pacifism, and led a campaign against the Vietnam War in 1968 when she was 87 years old.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: the decapitated head of a dead snake can still bite, even hours after death. These types of bites usually contain huge amounts of venom.

From the Inside Lookin’ Out…

_mg_6777

It isn’t every day that you get to visit what was once a working cotton plantation here in the south. You can’t hardly find any cotton growing in the south anymore because it is being grown more cheaply overseas and there isn’t as much demand for it as there used to be. But the Boone Hall Plantation near Charleston, SC was once a booming cotton plantation.

Because of its location, there were no roads that they could use to get the cotton to the docks in Charleston. Instead, there were waterways that were plied by barges and boats that would carry the product from the cotton fields to the mills or ships for shipping.

I took today’s photo from inside the re-built cotton warehouse where they would store the cotton before carrying it out on the dock and loading it into the boats. As I stood inside the warehouse looking out through the window to the end of the dock, I could imagine how it would have looked to have a boat tied up there, I imagined the heat inside the warehouse and how even the slightest breeze coming through the windows would grant welcom relief to those laboring inside the wooden building. Sometimes, I think that I can almost imagine something so clearly that it is as if I were there. I had that feeling when I shot a series of pictures from inside the place.

I think that those working inside the building on those hot southern days were envious of those who were outside in the breeze, loading cotton onto the barge.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1964, the first Medal of Honor awarded to a U.S. serviceman for action in Vietnam was presented to Capt. Roger Donlon of Saugerties, New York, for his heroic action earlier in the year.

Captain Donlon and his Special Forces team were manning Camp Nam Dong, a mountain outpost near the borders of Laos and North Vietnam. Just before two o’clock in the morning on July 6, 1964, hordes of Viet Cong attacked the camp. He was shot in the stomach, but Donlon stuffed a handkerchief into the wound, cinched up his belt, and kept fighting. He was wounded three more times, but he continued fighting–manning a mortar, throwing grenades at the enemy, and refusing medical attention.

The battle ended in early morning; 154 Viet Cong were killed during the battle. Two Americans died and seven were wounded. Over 50 South Vietnamese soldiers and Nung mercenaries were also killed during the action. Once the battle was over, Donlon allowed himself to be evacuated to a hospital in Saigon. He spent over a month there before rejoining the surviving members of his Special Forces team; they completed their six-month tour in Vietnam in November and flew home together. In a White House ceremony, with Donlon’s nine surviving team members watching, President Lyndon B. Johnson presented him with the Medal of Honor for “conspicuous gallantry, extraordinary heroism and intrepidity at the risk of his own life above and beyond the call of duty.” Donlon, justifiably proud of his team, told the president, “The medal belongs to them, too.”

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Brains are unhealthy to eat because they are high in cholesterol and fat. For example, a single serving of a 140 g. can of “pork brains in milk gravy” contains 3,500 mg. of cholesterol, 1170% of the USRDA.

 

Walking into Holy Ground

_mg_6640

There are some places that just feel special. Then there are others that feel like holy ground. I had that kind of experience recently aboard the USS Yorktown in Charleston recently.

The night we checked into our hotel, I saw that there was a Medal of Honor Museum in the area. I didn’t realize it was onboard the Yorktown itself. Right after entering through one of the large hangar bays off to the left of the reception desk that was staffed by docents is the Medal of Honor Museum. There are apparently several around the country…but this one was designed and apparently somewhat managed by recipients of this honor themselves.

The Congressional Medal of Honor is the highest military honor that can bestowed by the United States. It is given to very, very few who have acted with incredible heroism and selflessness. Few live to receive it because they gave their lives to save others.

_mg_6645

And so, as I saw the entrance to the museum behind glass doors, I was almost afraid to go in. I hold those who have served in the military in such high regard in general, but the Medal of Honor recipients are deserving of an even higher position and honor in the esteem of every American. I finally opened the door and stepped inside…and I felt that I was on hallowed ground. We made our way through, reading some of the stories, watching some of the video clip interviews of those who knew these brave men and women. It was sobering to realize the bravery and sacrifice of those who received the honor. It was deeply moving. I felt so small and undeserving of the price they paid for my freedom.

ON THIS DAY IN  HISTORY: in 1864, legend holds that on this day in 1864, President Abraham Lincoln composes a letter to Lydia Bixby, a widow and mother of five men who had been killed in the Civil War. A copy of the letter was then published in the Boston Evening Transcripton November 25 and signed “Abraham Lincoln.” The original letter has never been found.

The letter expressed condolences to Mrs. Bixby on the death of her five sons, who had fought to preserve the Union in the Civil War. The author regrets how “weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming.” He continued with a prayer that “our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement [and leave you] the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours, to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of Freedom.”

Scholars continue to debate the authorship of the letter, and the authenticity of copies printed between 1864 and 1891. At the time, copies of presidential messages were often published and sold as souvenirs. Many historians and archivists agree that the original letter was probably written by Lincoln’s secretary, John Hay. As to Mrs. Bixby’s loss, scholars have discovered that only two of her sons actually died fighting during the Civil War. A third was honorably discharged and a fourth was dishonorably thrown out of the Army. The fifth son’s fate is unknown, but it is assumed that he deserted or died in a Confederate prison camp. Despite its dubious origins, the letter’s text became even more famous when it was quoted in Steven Spielberg’s World War II film epic Saving Private Ryan (1998).

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: Proportionally, hash browns have more fat and calories than a cheeseburger or Big Mac.

Where it begins/began…

_mg_6608_09_10

There is an old Neil Diamond song from my youth called Sweet Caroline that has these lyrics:

Where it began
I can’t begin to knowing…

In spite of what some think, the words were not inspired by the young daughter of JFK (Caroline Kennedy at the time), but by the woman who was Neil Diamond’s wife at the time. Her name wasn’t Caroline, but he needed something with three syllables and that’s the name he chose.

But that’s beside the point..it’s that lyric that I’m after. He may not have known when his love for his wife started (it is rather hard to pin-point such a thing so I don’t hold that against him), but it is clear when the Civil War started in earnest.

Today’s photo was taken at Fort Sumter in the middle of the bay near Charleston, SC. It was taken from inside the fort and the encasement that was facing in the direction from which the Confederates fired the first shots at the Union held fort on April 12, 1861. (The fort actually figured in two Civil War battles).

On Thursday, April 11, 1861, Confederate general Beauregard sent three aides, Colonel James Chesnut, Jr., Captain Stephen D. Lee and Lieutenant A. R. Chisolm to demand the surrender of the fort. Anderson (the Union commander of the fort) declined, and the aides returned to report to Beauregard. After Beauregard had consulted the Confederate Secretary of War, Leroy Walker, he sent the aides back to the fort and authorized Chesnut to decide whether the fort should be taken by force. The aides waited for hours while Anderson considered his alternatives and played for time. At about 3:00 a.m., when Anderson finally announced his conditions, Colonel Chesnut, after conferring with the other aides, decided that they were “manifestly futile and not within the scope of the instructions verbally given to us”. The aides then left the fort and proceeded to the nearby Fort Johnson. There, Chesnut ordered the fort to open fire on Fort Sumter.

On Friday, April 12, 1861, at 4:30 a.m., Confederate batteries opened fire, firing for 34 straight hours, on the fort. The Union batteries in the fort didn’t fire back until 2-1/2 hour later as they didn’t have the right kind of ordinance for such a battle (they only had solid shot, not explosive shells).  During the attack, the Union colors fell. Lt. Norman J. Hall risked life and limb to put them back up, burning off his eyebrows permanently.

Interestingly enough, not a single soldier in the fort died as a result of the hostile exchange of fire. However, when the fort was surrendered on April 13, 1861, a 100-gun salute was ordered to celebrate the end of the violence. It was on the 47th shot of the 100-gun salute that a Union soldier was killed. His name was Daniel Hough and the death came about as the premature discharge of a cannon. It earned him the dubious distinction of being the first person to die in the Civil War.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY:  in 1864, Union General William T. Sherman began his expedition across Georgia by torching the industrial section of Atlanta and pulling away from his supply lines. For the next six weeks, Sherman’s army destroyed most of the state before capturing the Confederate seaport of Savannah, Georgia.

Sherman captured Atlanta in early September 1864 after a long summer campaign. He recognized his vulnerability in the city, however, as his supply lines stretched all the way from Nashville, Tennessee. Confederate raiders such as Nathan Bedford Forrest threatened to cut his lines, and Sherman had to commit thousands of troops to protect the railroads and rivers that carried provisions for his massive army. Sherman split his army, keeping 60,000 men and sending the rest back to Nashville with General George Thomas to deal with the remnants of Confederate General John Bell Hood’s Army of Tennessee, the force Sherman had defeated to take Atlanta.

After hearing that President Abraham Lincoln had won re-election on November 8, Sherman ordered 2,500 light wagons loaded with supplies. Doctors checked each soldier for illness or injuries, and those who were deemed unfit were sent to Nashville. Sherman wrote to his general in chief, Ulysses S. Grant, that if he could march through Georgia it would be “proof positive that the North can prevail.” He told Grant that he would not send couriers back, but to “trust the Richmond papers to keep you well advised.” Sherman loaded the surplus supplies on trains and shipped them back to Nashville. On November 15, the army began to move, burning the industrial section of Atlanta before leaving. One witness reported “immense and raging fires lighting up whole heavens… huge waves of fire roll up into the sky; presently the skeleton of great warehouses stand out in relief against sheets of roaring, blazing, furious flames.” Sherman’s famous destruction of Georgia had begun.

Interestingly enough, Fort Sumter was finally recaptured from the Confederates as a result of Sherman’s March to the Sea.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: McDonald’s Corporation is the largest owner of retail property in the world. The company earns most of its profits not from selling food, but by collecting rent. McDonald’s Happy Meals have been served since 1979. In the mid-1970s, a Guatemalan woman name Yolanda Fernández de Cofiño invented the happy meal (which she called the “Menu Ronald”) to make it easier for mothers to feed their children. The concept was later co-opted by Bob Bernstein, CEO of an advertising agency, who ultimately named the small meal the “happy meal” and was given credit for the idea.

Strangely Apropos…

_mg_6540

Charleston, SC is on a peninsula that is bounded on two sides by fairly large rivers that dump out into the Atlanta that is visible in the distance. Being a seaport, it has had a colorful history that goes way back.

On the very tip of the peninsula is a park, called Battery Park by some. That end of the peninsula has seen its share of pirates and brigands. Did you know that the fearsome pirate, Edward Teach (or Edward Thatch as some claim) roamed those waters? Edward Teach lived between about 1680-1712 when he was killed in a battle in 1718 after being slashed across the throat when others rushing in and finished him off. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, Edward Teach was better known as Blackbeard.

According to Wikipedia, there are no confirmed accounts of him ever having murdered anyone, but he may have. He certainly had opportunity. But his history with Charleston was fairly extensive. At one point, his ships entered the harbor and held the entire city hostage. What was his demand for ranson? One chest of medicine. Some believe it was for himself (he apparently had an STD), but he didn’t ask for gold or anything else. Once the medicine chest was delivered, he stopped the siege.

But back to the park: when pirates were captured, they would be tried and hung by the neck (if found guilty) from the trees in the park…and they’d be left to rot there hanging by their necks as warnings to any other pirates who might happen to come around.

That’s maybe why I thought the photo of the skeleton on the motorcycle was apropos (that’s one of the rivers in the background). Of course, it was nearly Halloween, but I thought more of the pirates!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1971, John Emil List slaughtered his entire family in their Westfield, New Jersey, home and then disappeared. Though police quickly identified List as the most likely suspect in the murders, it took 18 years for them to locate him and close the case.

John List was an outwardly normal and successful father. A Sunday school teacher and Boy Scout troop leader, List was a strict disciplinarian who insisted his children follow extremely rigid rules.

On November 9, seemingly out of the blue, List shot his mother Alma (above her left eye), his wife Helen (in the side of the head), and two older children in the back of their heads; he shot his youngest child, a son, several times in the chest and face. He then left the murder weapon alongside their carefully laid-out corpses. List had methodically devised a plan so that the bodies would not be discovered for quite a while, cancelling newspaper, milk, and mail delivery to his home in the days leading up to the murder. He then called the children’s schools to say that the family was going to visit a sick relative out of town. By the time authorities discovered the bodies, List had vanished without a trace.

Local law enforcement officials had essentially given up looking for List when the television show America’s Most Wanted began airing in the late 1980s. After a segment about the List murders aired on May 21, 1989, calls began flooding in. Although most of them proved to be unhelpful, one viewer claimed that John List was living in Virginia under the alias Robert Clark.

Indeed, List had assumed a false identity, relocated to the South, and remarried. In 1989, he was returned to New Jersey to face charges for the death of his family. The following year, he was convicted of five counts of murder and received five consecutive life sentences.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY:  Holiday retailers use music to attract potential shoppers. For example,  if shoppers like the type of music retailers are playing, they will be more likely to enter the store and like the products. Additionally, the slower the tempo of the music, the slower people will walk through the store, and the more they will buy. A faster tempo will encourage shoppers to walk faster and, consequently, they won’t buy as much.

Meet My Friend, David

_mg_6453

The very first touristy thing that we did in Charleston was to take a horse-drawn carriage ride through the historic areas of the city. We booked our tour with Old South Carriage Company (and they were great – I highly recommend them!) and arrived for our ride. David, our horse, was waiting for us.

David is a Belgian heavy draft horse. And he’s a real brute of a horse. He weighs in at a nifty 2000 pounds and was rippling with muscles. They told us that a Belgian can pull four times his own weight, meaning David had no problem at all pulling the carriage.

Currently, the world’s tallest horse is a Belgian Draft horse named Big Jake, a gelding born in 2000. He stands 20.2 34 hands (or 82.75 inches tall).  The world’s largest Belgian Draft was named Brooklyn Supreme and weight in at a whopping 3,200 pounds and stood 78 inches tall.

_mg_6411

Well, David was a great horse. The only thing about David is that he sometimes didn’t like to stop, or stay stopped, when at a red light. He’d be itching to get going again, but was easily controlled by the lady who was guiding our tour.

In case you’re wondering, the city of Charleston regulates these carriages and the horses. They have very strict rules about the temperatures in which the horses can work (we went fairly early in the morning). Old South Carriage Company also owns a large farm where they take the horses every week for a couple of days or R&R, and then they get extended vacations there every couple of months as I recall. The horses we saw were all very handsome and in great shape…and David even seemed to enjoy his work!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1895, physicist Wilhelm Conrad Rontgen (1845-1923) became the first person to observe X-rays, a significant scientific advancement that would ultimately benefit a variety of fields, most of all medicine, by making the invisible visible. Rontgen’s discovery occurred accidentally in his Wurzburg, Germany, lab, where he was testing whether cathode rays could pass through glass when he noticed a glow coming from a nearby chemically coated screen. He dubbed the rays that caused this glow X-rays because of their unknown nature.

X-rays are electromagnetic energy waves that act similarly to light rays, but at wavelengths approximately 1,000 times shorter than those of light. Rontgen holed up in his lab and conducted a series of experiments to better understand his discovery. He learned that X-rays penetrate human flesh but not higher-density substances such as bone or lead and that they can be photographed.

Rontgen’s discovery was labeled a medical miracle and X-rays soon became an important diagnostic tool in medicine, allowing doctors to see inside the human body for the first time without surgery. In 1897, X-rays were first used on a military battlefield, during the Balkan War, to find bullets and broken bones inside patients.

Scientists were quick to realize the benefits of X-rays, but slower to comprehend the harmful effects of radiation. Initially, it was believed X-rays passed through flesh as harmlessly as light. However, within several years, researchers began to report cases of burns and skin damage after exposure to X-rays, and in 1904, Thomas Edison’s assistant, Clarence Dally, who had worked extensively with X-rays, died of skin cancer. Dally’s death caused some scientists to begin taking the risks of radiation more seriously, but they still weren’t fully understood. During the 1930s, 40s and 50s, in fact, many American shoe stores featured shoe-fitting fluoroscopes that used to X-rays to enable customers to see the bones in their feet; it wasn’t until the 1950s that this practice was determined to be risky business. Wilhelm Rontgen received numerous accolades for his work, including the first Nobel Prize in physics in 1901, yet he remained modest and never tried to patent his discovery. Today, X-ray technology is widely used in medicine, material analysis and devices such as airport security scanners.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: In honor of today being election day, here’s a story about one of our presidents: John F. “Jack” Kennedy most likely had the most active extramarital sex life of any president. He allegedly slept with Marilyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield, Audrey Hepburn, Angie Dickinson, stripper Blaze Starr, Marlene Dietrich, and many other women including White House staffers, secretaries, stewardess, campaign workers, strippers, and acquaintances of trusted male friends. The FBI taped sounds of him and Inga Arvad making love.

If you’d like to read more interesting facts about the presidents, go to this link.

Gotta Watch Out for those Southern Gentlemen!

_mg_6461

The south has a reputation for being genteel and “propuh” (southern accent style). Manners matter here – through I’m sure not as much as they did in the years gone past.

All that brings me to today’s photo and story. Very recently, I took some time off from work and we went on a mini-vacation to the southern city of Charleston, South Carolina. We’d never been there before but we met up with some friends from CA who where there on vacation, too.  We had a great time and I came away very impressed with the history of Charleston!  (I’ll have numerous posts of photos I took there so will save a lot of those stories for later posts.)

One of the things you see on many of the buildings that date back to the 1700’s, etc., are balconies outside of upper floor doors. Those balconies usually face the street. Many of those balconies are semi-circular in shape and are made out of metalwork. Now here’s where it gets interesting: in days gone by, there was, of course, no air conditioning and Charleston gets hot and humid in the summers. One of the things that the southern belles used to do was to come out on the balconies all dressed in their several layers of clothing with their hoop skirts. That’s why so many of the balconies are semi-circular.

But it gets even better. The floors of those semi-circular balconies are typically made of solid metal, not metal grate. Why, you say? Well, the ladies would come out on their balconies and the southern gentlemen would engage them in conversations from the street below. If the balcony flooring was made of metal grate construction, the “gentlemen” could peek up the ladies’ skirts!!! So, the solution was that the flooring of the balconies would be made of a solid construction to maintain the modesty of the young ladies. Bear in mind that this was in the day and age when seeing a woman’s ankle was supposed to lead to a marriage proposal!  How things have changed…

_mg_6457

Today’s photo gives you an idea what I’m describing…but these were fairly small balconies compared to some of them.  And there were a few..not many, but a few…that were made with metal grate for the floors. I suspect those were constructed more recently, but who knows?  Maybe that was where the scandalous ladies met their scandalous southern suitors!

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1983, David Hendricks, a businessman traveling in Wisconsin, called police in Bloomington, Illinois, to request that they check on his house and family. According to Hendricks, no one had answered the phone all weekend and he was worried. When the police and neighbors searched the home the next day, they found the mutilated bodies of Hendricks’ wife and three children, all of whom had been hacked to death with an ax and butcher knife.

Because there was very little sign of a struggle or forced entry, police thought the crime scene was suspicious. In addition, though the killings were brutal, the murder weapons had been cleaned and left neatly near the bodies. When Hendricks returned later that day, police questioned him and checked his clothes and car for bloodstains. But the search was inconclusive, and Hendricks’ alibi—that he had left for Wisconsin just before midnight on November 4—appeared solid.

Nevertheless, with no other leads, police began to examine Hendricks’ story more closely. He claimed that he had taken his family out for a pizza at about 7:30 on November 4. According to him, they then played in an amusement area and returned home at 9:30. Hendricks left for his business trip several hours later.

But after studying the children’s bodies, medical examiners concluded that Hendrick’s story did not quite fit. Ordinarily, food leaves the stomach and moves into the small intestine within two hours. However, in all three children, vegetarian pizza toppings were still in their stomachs, which led investigators to estimate their time of death sometime around 9:30—while Hendricks was still at home.

Police charged Hendricks with murdering his family, but they still lacked a concrete motive. The Hendricks family was devoutly religious, belonging to a puritan-like group called the Plymouth Brethren.Hendrick’s defense attorney hammered away at the only physical evidence against him, pointing out that physical activity or trauma can affect the rate of digestion. Still, the jury found Hendricks guilty of four counts of murder and he was sentenced to life imprisonment on December 21, 1988.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: The bird pictured on the American silver dollar was a real eagle named Peter. From 1830 to 1836, people who worked at the United States Mint adopted him to use as model for the drawings. When he died after getting his wing injured in the coining press, they stuffed him. He is still on display in the lobby of the mint.