Sunday, June 30, 2013

Brick Burn June 2013 at CW

Recently the kids and I got to visit our first brick burn!  We visited on two different evenings, Friday and Saturday night of UTR. When the brickyard is ready to fire bricks, they work the night through and allow guests to visit in the early evening,  until they close at 10pm.  However they continue to work through the night, to stoke the fires and keep an eye on the clampe, until the morning shift arrives to take over the job.  Being an evening event, we followed the lit cressets...

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to the clampe.  This was about night 3 of the brick burn.  The heat from the fires worked out the remaining moisture from the bricks, resulting in seeing steam coming out the top of the clampe.  By now the moisture was gone and the crew was ready to put the doors onto the clampe, scheduled for 10pm after we left, so we'd have a chance to see the fires and the bricks.

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We must have spent an hour there, then left for our hotel.  We came back Saturday night to see the progression of the burn.  This time we arrived before sunset, so we could see the display of bricks of various colors, indicating the different temperatures at which they burned, because of where they were placed. Those located nearest the fire will be a different color from those on top. The salmon colored bricks are my favorites.

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This is the clampe.  It's a small one, with only two tunnels. 

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At 7pm we watched them stoke the fires.  They used a piece of wood that had been soaked in a giant tub of water, to open the door.

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This is an especially fearsome job, especially by the final evening of the burn, when the temperatures rise to 2000 degrees.  Yes, that is two thousand degrees. They have to do this four times.  With two tunnels going all the way through the clampe, they have two doors on this side and two on the opposite side.

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They push some ashes to the back and some to the front.Then they put in 8 pieces of wood of various sizes to feed the fires.

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Afterwards we could see the dark smoke rising to the sky due to the addition of more wood.

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Even from the dance my kids did with the Hessians, the fires from the brickyard can be seen in the distance.

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After dancing, we returned to the brickyard, since we had been invited to come back to see the difference in the glow of the fires at night, versus daytime.

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They expected to be done with the burn by Sunday evening, the next night. By the next morning, I found in my facebook newsfeed a picture of the entire kiln glowing.  The temperatures had finally gotten hot enough for everything to glow.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

My Son's Interaction with Benedict Arnold at Colonial Williamsburg

While we were at Colonial Williamsburg during Drummer's Call weekend, we had a wonderful opportunity to meet with Benedict Arnold in a public audience.  I've seen this program on the schedule for the last year or more, but this was the first time we had a chance to see it. I couldn't imagine what it would be like.

To begin with, we met at the Playbooth Theater. No Palace Garden or Charleton Coffeehouse Backyard for the infamous traitor.  Arnold has the unique distinction of meeting with the public under a water laden tent that is most often used for a traveling group of thespians. You will see the roof is sagging under the weight of the collected rainfall from the previous day.  Fortunately our audience was not interrupted by mishap.

As we sat awaiting his arrival, I wondered how would Benedict Arnold arrive?  On horseback? 
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By walking?  Wrong on both counts.  He limped heavily with his cane!  Of course, his leg was wounded in two battles when he fought for the patriot side. He'll never let us forget that! Then he stood at the gate talking to passersby and those who were entering the program. I wish I was there to hear how those conversations were going!

Finally General Arnold limped up to the stage and audaciously but politely laid out the ground rules for the discussion, knowing that we were not loyalists.  He would extend respect to us and in return he expected respect from us. This was to be an open discussion where we were allowed to politely pose our queries.

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Then he called my son to the stage!

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General Arnold wanted my son to help him with the program opening, by testifying to some things for our benefit as he sought to prove his authenticity. 

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As General Arnold apologized for turning his back to us, he asked my son to state to the audience whether or not he (Arnold) had a tail growing out of his back.  My son said, "No."  Arnold exclaimed, "Don't tell me, direct your answer to the audience, loud and clear."  My son faced us and clearly announced, "He does not have a tail."  (We were definitely enjoying this!)

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Then General Arnold turned around and took off his hat and asked my son if he (Arnold) had any horns growing out of his head.  My son exclaimed to the audience, "He does not have  any horns growing out of his head!"  "See!" General Arnold triumphantly exclaimed.  "I am not the dev*l that you may have read about in the gazettes!"  We were all laughing! This was great!


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My son was allowed to return to his seat next to us, while General Arnold told a bit of his story and answered the queries that we posed. Not all of the questions were as polite as Arnold preferred and there was quite an exchange of words at some points!  He was especially upset when insinuations were posed about his wife, causing him to go into a bit of a tirade.

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This was a wonderful and humorous program where we learned a lot!  It was a great program to dig deeper into the enigma of Benedict Arnold.

Friday, June 21, 2013

John Wayne, McClintock, and Lafayette

Tonight we watched a movie that my parents introduced to us, McClintock, starring John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara. They watched it when it first came out in 1963, on their first date, so with that memory it has developed into a family favorite. Set in 1895 Oklahoma, it is a "Taming of the Shrew" meets the old West style of movie. We've always watched it along the line of that theme, but we keep picking up new themes in the storyline, which is always fun.

A recurring phrase in the movie is, "No one gave it to me. I earned it!" This has become a common phrase I apply to conversations around here because I agree with it.

There is also a bit of an Irish theme, which I'm sure is a tribute to O'Hara's Irish heritage and the fact that previously she and Wayne made the 1952 movie, The Quiet Man, set in Ireland.  There's a bit of Irish music in one of her scenes. She mentions "paddyfingers" which is a courting phrase used in The Quiet Man. Then the climax is a remake of the climax of The Quiet Man.  This is quite a bit of fun to all John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara fans.

Tonight I picked up on another theme for George Washington and Lafayette fans.  John Wayne portrays George Washington McClintock, who is the highly respected cattle baron of the Oklahoma Territory in 1895. He basically leads the territory even though he is not the governor, or mayor or sheriff. Even the town is named after him. He earned it.

That much I was familiar with but had forgotten about Wayne's character name when we pulled the movie out. As the movie went on, I started thinking, "Too bad there isn't a Lafayette, but it is impossible to realistically incorporate a French name into a Western movie."  The I started thinking, "Wait a minute!  Wayne's real-life son, Patrick Wayne, portrays Devlin Warren, who previously attended college.  No one elses' college is mentioned in the movie but didn't Devlin attend Purdue?"  I listened intently. The scene came. I was not disappointed!  Devlin indeed attended two years of college at Purdue. Do you know where Purdue is located?  West Lafayette, Indiana! (By the way my grandfather attended college there so that makes it even more fun!) Then as I watched more of the storyline, I realized that Devlin was basically portraying McClintock's "adopted son."  Lafayette is known as being Washington's adopted son. I wish I knew what prompted the writer to include all this. It was great!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

A Blast from San Antonio's Past

This 1977 KENS5 newsclip came up in my facebook newsfeed today, bringing back lots of memories of growing up in San Antonio.  It features the Hemisfair Arena and talks about how the roof was raised to allow more basketball fans to watch the Spurs play. I vaguely remember all of the construction that project entailed on our trips downtown.  Also seen is the old monorail, that once encircled Hemisfair Park

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

On Brunswick Stew

Tonight some research my son and I were doing led to further research on capitalization rules, which led us to an interesting grammar page that dug into a bit of history regarding Brunswick Stew.  I've never heard of the stew until I came to Virginia.  I confess it hasn't appealed to me although my son likes it. However we both got a great laugh about an explanation of the history and perspective of Brunswick Stew at this web site about grammar.  It contains territorial answers, most properly considering both sides of the territory. To be humorously noted is that a university from one of those territories is responsible for this web page.  The item of interest can be found about midway down the page.  Enjoy!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Gilded Age Rhetoric History Presentation

Presenting Rough Rider David Leahy, Mrs. George Washington Vanderbilt, and Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt from the Gilded Age, at the end of the 19th century.

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Here are many of the books we studied and movies we watched.

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First we met Rough Rider, David Leahy.

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The bandana is a reproduction I purchased while at the Sagamore museum when we visited Theordore Roosevelt's home at Oyster Bay, Long Island a few years ago.  Rough Riders is one of our favorite movies. Of course this became the regimental of choice for this era of history.  The Rough Riders even became the centerpiece of our presentation and we incorporated much of what we learned from our studies to every aspect of all three interpretations.   

The scene opened by my reading some of the letters David Leahy had written about the war. The words I read brought back the imagery we had seen of the war in the movie.
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Then David Leahy told his story about what made this war significant. Was it for glory? Perhaps in the beginning, but it became more than that. He clearly and emphatically pronounced the necesities of declaring war and how this war defined the era.


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By trade Leahy was a lawyer. He opened one of his "law" books to read the Monroe Doctrine to press his point.

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Then Mrs. George Washington Vanderbilt gave a reading of the famed poet William Butler Yeats', "The Lake Isle of Innisfree."

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Here is Mrs. Vanderbilt of the famed mansion, the Biltmore Estate, in the foyer to welcome guests to her home.  Biltmore Estate is the largest home in America, modeled after three 16th century French chateaus. This house with "4 acres of floor space, 250 rooms, 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, and 65 fireplaces" sat on 125.000 acres.   
We heard rumors that Mrs. Vanderbilt is a descendant of Peter Stuyvesant and was cousin to Hamilton Fish. We are still verifying that information.
After her presentation, she was asked about the architect of her home, to which she innocently replied, "Which one?" She was so rich, she had more than one architect, an indoor architect and an outdoor architect.

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Then Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt met the guests with flowers in her hands. It has been reported that she held flowers in order to avoid shaking so many hands. She enjoyed people, but was a bit of an introvert.  Can you imagine shaking thousands of hands a day?

Although she was raised in high society, her years before marriage were of the frugal sort after her father died.  She grew up as a neighbor and best friend of Theodore's sister, Corrine.  She was often a guest of the Roosevelt family while they were growing up.

Mrs. Roosevelt shared a bit about her husband's involvement with the Rough Riders.  She particularly talked of Hamilton Fish of the "5th Avenue Contigent," who was the first to fall in Cuba.  She talked about his funeral in New York, describing the crowds of devoted well-wishers as well as fellow Rough Riders who attended.   All the pall bearers were Rough Riders.

Mrs. Roosevelt shared how she and her family were recently vacationing in the Adirondacks when her husband received word that President McKinley had passed away.  He boarded a nearby train so he could take the oath of office as President of the United States.

Mrs. Roosevelt explained that the family was in the process of moving to the White House.  With six highly active children with whom she enjoyed spending time, she was hoping for some help with her social resposibilities at the White House.  With her husband's activity level, she envisioned a White House that might play a greater factor in the social life of government.  She clearly understood the importance of finesse, diplomcy, and social graces while opening her home to important dignitaries, yet her children also called to her.  As familiar as she was with protocol and such, the White House was a most important environment with the most important of guests to host.  Upon whom could she call to aide her with such a task of representing America, socially, in the best light?  This might call for a new appointment, a new position on the White House staff.  Hmmm...

(Stay tuned for our next history presentation because I have my next interpretation excitedly planned out!)

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Then we listened to a partial reading of one of the many sermons of the great preacher of the Gilded Age, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  That was followed by singing a song written during this time, "How Great Thou Art."  As much as certain people were famed for their greatness during the Gilded Age, God is the truly great one.

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Then we enjoyed a cowboy dinner, representative of the age.  Cattle trails reigned in the West to allow cowboys to transport Texan longhorns (and other breeds) to the railroads of the midWest. They were then butchered for steaks to transport to fine restaurants in the east.

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Sparkling apple pomegranate cider to represent California wineries (and not that I'm sure that they had vineyards yet)  at a time when America has reached her borders.  By the end of the Gilded Age the West was considered fully explored.

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Coconut cream pie to represent new American possessions in the Pacific...

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And thus we have closed out our studies of the 19th century.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Significance and History of Flag Day


As banners unfurled against the wind, flags fly in patriotic profusion for Fourth of July celebrations across America.
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Beyond the patriotic red, white and blue, flags are proudly marched across parade grounds with marching bands, representing favored universities (Hook 'em Horns! University of Texas!), or even through a state, like the Lone Star Flag of Texas. (Below is Palo Duro Canyon's story of the Six Flags of Texas.)
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Historically, banners began on the battlefield for the soldiers to be able to identify their units and leadership. Being the source of corps morale, the flag bearer through the ages had a most important job of keeping the flag flying in the midst of flying arrows, smashing clubs, the swish of swords, the shot of bullets, and the roar of cannon. Confusion reigned but the flag, while flying high, kept a unit organized and motivated to keep fighting.
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The flag bearer had a most perilous job, in that one of the goals of the enemy was to seize the flag in order to bust morale and create confusion in the ranks. Most certainly a trophy of honor was to capture the enemy's flag. A few years ago I had the opportunity to participate in an evening program at Colonial Williamsburg, "In Defense of our Liberty." Someone was chosen to be flag bearer. The first sergeant bluntly ensured the flag bearer knew that his job was to keep that flag flying high..."or else." (gulp)  The rest of us fell in place and I happened to be next to the flag bearer. When the line of battle began and our troop advanced, the "enemy" came right at the flag and "killed" the flag bearer and me before those further away! That was a powerful lesson on the significance of the battle flag. After the "death" of the flag bearer and the capture of the colors by the enemy, our troop fell into confusion and disorder. We lost the battle. Here is a replica of one of four flags that British Colonel Banastre Tarleton captured during the American Revolution. It was such a prize of honor that these flags were taken home to Britain with him and remained there until recently when they were loaned to the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation to display in their museum. In 2009 I got to see the three flags before the exhibit ceased. Here is another link on their story. All the flags were utterly gorgeous. This is a replica of one of them.
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Here is a regimental flag from the American Revolution, which looks a lot like the one above, that is going up for auction.

Because America began as British colonies, they flew the British flag for years. Debates between the colonists and Parliament began in 1765 as rights to representation in government began to crumble. After ten years of debate, out of control tempers caused shots to be fired and in 1776 independence was declared. During the opening battles of the American Revolution the flag representing America was most likely one with red and white stripes with a Union Jack in the left field. Being the symbol of Great Britain, the Union Jack caused confusion on the battlefield. Furthermore the flag implied the desire to re-unite with Great Britain. Although that was the goal previous to 1776, by July of that year all ties with Britain had been irrepareably severed. A new flag to symbolize the free and independent states of America was imperative.

On June 14, 1777, Congress wrote, "“Resolved. That the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.”

Technically we do not know who sewed the first American flag. The first mention of the now legendary Betsy Ross story is 1870, nearly one hundred years later, when her grandson revealed the story. However there is evidence that Francis Hopkinson, Congressional representative from New Jersey created various seals for America, American currency as well as the design of the first American flag.

For details of the facts and the legend, read this terrific article from Colonial Williamsburg, complete with the photos of the historic area interpreters, showing us the familiar story of Betsy Ross and General Washington. At the bottom of the page is a slide show called, "The Betsy Ross Challenge." I used these tips to make a perfect 5 pointed star for my son's epaulettes for his first Lafayette costume.

In lesson planning for our history lesson this week, which covers the duration of the American Revolution from 1777 to 1783, I caught the timeliness of teaching about Flag Day. Although I've mentioned this day and its history in the past to the kids, it was an "Oh, okay." moment that was quickly forgotten. Yet teaching it in the midst of the surrounding context of debate for representative government, declaring independence and sacrificially fighting for freedom, brought a greater and more significant meaning to the day. June 14 is not about merely flying the flag. It's about remembering the history behind the flag as we see it flying. Many have shed their blood so that we can have the freedom and the right to fly the red, white and blue, to have a voice in government and to have more freedoms than mankind before us ever had.
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Being Flag Day, there might be special patriotic ceremonies but as my kids said, this is not a major holiday. I think more important to being a "party" day is the remembering of its patriotic symbolism enhanced by understanding its history.
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While growing up patriotism and flag waving was important, which grew in depth of meaning the more I learned about the history of our country.The more we understand our past, the more we understand and appreciate our freedoms. The more we understand our freedoms, the more we understand our responsibilities as citizens so that we can make viably relevant decisions in our government today.
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Remember that our Founding Fathers risked their lives in the American Revolution so that we could have representative government where the government answers to us, "the people."
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Since the American Revolution countless soldiers have shed blood and died in various battles so that  our country could remain free and independent states.

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I appreciate the history behind the flag so much, that I have enjoyed flying Old Glory over the years from our various porches year round. Have you?
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(I originally wrote this June 14, 2012.)