Well, I've been absent for a month or two, but not without cause. Not to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but several people, including a woman, have been blocking my attempt to write. That woman is Mother Nature, or more precisely her daughter, Miss Winter. I've spent my days arguing with her from the seat of my John Deere tractor, "blading" snow for a mile or two once a week, which is also part of the joys of living out in the country. The view is great, but rather monochrome.
My wife certainly doesn't complain, as she was praying for a white Christmas. I would have discouraged her if I had known that the word "days" was a euphemism for "weeks," at least it is in the so-called Twelve Days of Christmas. The other joy of living in the country in the midst of timbered lands, is that one must possess a wood stove. It creates great warmth, and with a glass front you can watch flames undulate when the power goes out and watching TV suddenly becomes boring.
The downside is that a wood stove takes fuel. Trekking out in the snow, mumbling like we did last year and the year before that and so on, "Next time we're going to build up a woodpile before Miss Winter shows up," we shift around snow covered tree carcasses, then cut off their limbs without mercy, and finally lumber back to the pick-up to dispose of them.
That's phase one, and the wood has, as they say, already served its purpose of warming us up once. Phase two is chopping, three is stacking, and four is burning. It's so efficient and renewable, warming us up as it does, time and again.
And then there are classes to attend to. That has taken up time, as well it should, but if I didn't live 70 icy miles from work, it would take up less time. And History Day, as I pointed out on page one, does take preparation, but the product is satisfactory. To see high and middle schoolers put together websites better than this one is amazing, and aggravating.
I must admit as well that I did get distracted by books. I'm not a fast reader, but I make up for my slowness by reading several books at once, usually four. Well, actually five but I can't remember what the fifth one is. There's a mystery on Napoleon III, which is in French. There's Married or Single?, an 1857 soap opera novel. There's a Wodehouse one. Can't remember the title, but it's the one where Berty is in trouble with Spode. It's a reread, which doesn't quite explain why I can't remember the title. Anyway, there's that other one I can't remember, and then there's a western I'm reading by Johnson or Johnstone. But I only read it when I'm delivering grain, and my grain truck has been broken down since early January.
If my truck hadn't been made in Brazil my mechanic would have found a part for it. Apparently he did find someone to build the part, but Miss Winter forbids him to approach the truck, and I'm feeling my Brazilian is fairly vulnerable, sitting out in the open, as she is, in a Nebraskan cornfield and surrounded by snow.
But back to books: There is also Eusebius, another reread. But since I read him some twenty years ago, I count it as a first read. Fascinating church history, if it's permitted to put "fascinating" and "church history" in the same sentence together. I did also read Theophanes, Evagrius, and Priscus during the last two months.
I found the most interesting passage when reading these Byzantine histories. It was mentioned that there was a land across the sea with vast forests, where the women and men labored side-by-side, and the women would hang their babies on a tree branch while they worked. I said, "Oh, that's interesting," because I suddenly remembered something. Unfortunately it wasn't the title of that book I'm reading, but something just as important: Native American mothers, unlike European mothers of the day, put their infants on a cradle board, which they would hang in a tree in order to work. As Native American women would do the heavy gardening whilst their men folk smoked tobacco and pondered their next hunting expedition, it would seem to a European that Indian wives did men's work, since European men typically tilled the soil. "Vast forests," I thought. "A mysterious land across the sea," I thought. It couldn't be Britain, because Britain was known, and it couldn't be Iceland because a tree knew better than to send down roots in such a cold and windswept place. Could this be America of which the author spoke? I needed to review the passage again. That's when I discovered something very interesting, and it wasn't that book title. No, I discovered that I couldn't remember if the passage was in Theophanes, Evagrius, or Priscus. At 4AM in the morning, I still didn't know, though I had looked over each page of each book. Maybe it was in Eusebius. If ever you find that passage, and the title of that elusive book, please let me know, so I can get on with preparing my next novel, "Saved by the Bullet."
Newspapers of 1857 carried some very serious stories as well as a column of jokes. Today, it's not always clear which variety amuses us more. In any case, this blog is dedicated to analyzing the pages of the Nebraska Advertiser newspaper of 1857. Chime in if you've run across some interesting stories from the time period.