It had been about five years since Wilbur and Orville Wright made history with their airplane flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. During the following years, the brothers developed their flying machine into the first practical fixed-wing aircraft, the Wright Flyer. And in 1908, Orville took the Flyer flyerto Fort Myer, Virginia, to demonstrate it for the US Army Signal Corps division.

     Lieutenant Thomas Selfridge arranged to be a passenger on the demonstration flight while Orville piloted the craft.  Selfridge might be considered one of the first frequent flyers. Selfridge took his first flight in 1907, a flight that took him 168 feet in the air above Bras d’Or Lake in Nova Scotia, Canada. He also piloted a Canadian craft that flew three feet off the ground for about 100 feet.  He next took to the air in Hammondsport, New York, traveling 100 feet on his first attempt and 200 feet on his second. The next day he added another 800 yards to his mileage credit. A successful flight with Orville would no doubt have given him an upgrade if not a free flight.

     On September 17, 1908, Selfridge and Orville circled Fort Myer in the Wright Flyer 4½ times at 150 feet. Halfway through the fifth go-round, the right propeller broke, losing thrust. A nasty vibration ensued, causing the split propeller to hit a guy wire bracing the rear vertical rudder. Luggage flew out of the overhead storage compartments; the wire tore out of its fastening and shattered the propeller; the rudder swiveled and sent the Flyer into a nose-dive. Orville ordered Selfridge to return to his seat and fasten his seat belt. Then he shut off the engine and managed to glide to about 75 feet, but the Flyer hit the ground nose first — not a smooth landing.

     Orville was bruised and quite embarrassed.  His passenger was unfortunately dead, the first ever airplane fatality.  If Selfridge had been wearing a helmet of some sort, he most likely would have survived the crash. The fatality also saddled the fledgling flying industry with a pretty poor safety track record – one death per 2,500 passenger-feet,  just slightly better than traveling on the back of a hungry lion.

Dinner with Pearl and Barney

Last night for dinner our cats, Vinny and Pearl, had Red Snapper and Ocean Whitefish in a Delicate Sauce.  We had Hamburger Surprise.  For breakfast they had White Meat Chicken and Egg Soufflé with Garden Greens.  We had cereal.  Their cat food cans rival the menu at any Michelin five-star restaurant: New England Crab Cakes Entrée, Filet Mignon with Meaty Juices, Tender Turkey Tuscany in a Savory Sauce with Long Grain Rice and Greens, Red Tuna Topped with Shrimp, White Meat Chicken Primavera with Garden Veggies and Greens.  I’m not making these up.

Of course, Pearl and Barney are unimpressed by the haute cuisine we so lovingly provide for them. You see, the marketing minds who work overtime to create these fanciful foods are not targeting the ultimate consumer, i.e., Pearl and Barney. Pearl and Barney don’t see this stuff advertised on TV, then come running to us, whining that every other cat in the neighborhood gets this food every day because they live with people who love them.

No, Pearl and Barney don’t shop; they send us to the supermarket to do their dirty work for them. Those marketing minds are targeting us, rightly surmising that we would never buy what Pearl and Barney really want – Purina Mouse Parts, Fancy Feast Dead Birds. Friskies Mole Chunks in Muddy Water.  Instead the marketers parade before us:

Succulent Tidbits from the Seven Seas, dainty morsels of exotic seafood species personally prepared by steel-jawed fishermen whose yellow slickers hide hearts of gold.

Pate pour le Chat Celebre, power food for important cats, cats who do lunch.

Lite and Healthy Wholesome Feline Fare, a delicious but dietetic, low-fat, low-cholesterol, high-fiber entrée that will demonstrate your concern for their well-being.

Sure, go ahead and buy these feel-good cat foods. But just be aware that unless they smell truly evil, your cat won’t touch them.






It may be every kid’s dream to run away and join the circus. Not many do, but Jack Carlton Moore, born September 14, 1914 did at the tender age of eight. It may also be every kid’s dream to grow up to be the Lone Ranger. Jack did that too. With his new name, Clayton Moore, he donned a black mask, picked up a Native American buddy and rode into television history.

Following his stint in the circus, Moore worked as a model, a stunt man and a bit player in western movies. In 1949, his work in the serial Ghost of Zorro brought him to the attention of the producer of the Lone Ranger radio program. He was signed to play the ranger in the television series, along with Jay Silverheels as Tonto. The series was the first Western written specifically for television. It aired for eight seasons — 221 episodes.

tontoAfter the series ended, Moore refused to give up his mask, wearing it in public appearances. This rather dismayed the owner of the rights to the character who in 1979 secured a legal ruling preventing Moore from wearing his mask in public. In response, the daring and resourceful masked rider of the plains began wearing oversized sunglasses. The ruling was eventually reversed.

Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear. The Lone Ranger rides again!

We Come in Pieces

Back in 1957, the Soviet Union had stunned the rest of the world with the success of Sputnik. In the United States this was viewed as a major crisis, triggering a catch-up effort. The Space Race, the scientific side of the Cold War, was on. And two years later, on September 14, 1959, those pesky commies did it again. Luna 2 landed on the moon.

Luna 2, son of Luna 1, was the first spacecraft to reach the surface of the moon, and in fact the first man-made object to land anywhere in space.

It certainly wasn’t the last. Since then, the moon has become somewhat of a landfill for us Earthlings. Crash landings, the preferred method of landing for unmanned spacecraft, have left the remains of more than 70 vehicles spread across the moon. Other spacecraft, just passing by, have jettisoned junk of all sorts, it too finding a home on the lunar surface. And visiting moon1astronauts rarely practiced “carry in, carry out” when visiting. Estimates suggest the moon is home to over 400,000 pounds of man-made castoffs.

A highly selective inventory: Rovers, modules and orbiters; a dozen pair of boots; hammers, rakes and shovels: cameras; javelins: objets d’art; barf bags; golf balls; a silicon disc with the words “Man has reached out and touched the tranquil moon. May that high accomplishment allow man to rediscover the Earth and find peace there. –Pierre Elliot Trudeau;” a plaque that reads “we came in peace for all mankind.”

And left you our garbage.



Shortly after noon on September 10, 1897, on Bond Street in London an electric motorcar began to behave erratically. It swerved this way and that, then veered sharply and slammed into a wall. The gentlemen driving the vehicle, a taxi, was 25-year-old George Smith. George was quite drunk.

A police constable who witnessed the incident asked George to step down from the driver’s box. George complied, and the constable, seeing his silly grin and inability to walk straight, hauled him off to a nearby police station. At first George denied being drunk, but when a police surgeon certified his inebriation, he admitted to having had “two or three glasses of beer.”

“How fast was I going?” George asked.

“I should think about eight miles an hour,” answered the constable.

“I was going up an incline and could not have been going six miles an hour,” George argued. “The fastest these cars will travel is eight miles an hour.”

“You are not charged with driving furiously, but with being drunk. What about that?”

“I have nothing to say to that.”

George apologized, was fined 20 shillings, and found his way into the history books as the first man ever arrested for drunken driving. Today well over a million Georges are arrested every year for driving while intoxicated.

Do Do That Voodoo

Get a lover, keep a lover, get rid of a lover. She could do it all. “She could keep anybody from harming you and she could do anything you wanted done to anybody. How she used to do it, I don’t know. She used to say prayers and mix different things to give people to drink, to rubMarieLaveau with, to throw over your shoulder, to throw in the river. Oh! She had a million things to do but everything would happen just like she would say.” (Aileen Eugene, 1930)

For most of the 19th century, Marie Laveau was the most famous and powerful Voodoo Queen of New Orleans. Rich and poor, black and white, they all respected and feared her. She was born a Free Woman of Color on September 10, 1794. A devout Catholic, she attended Mass daily. She worked as a hairdresser and a nurse before becoming involved in the practice of voodoo, a religion that draws freely from both West African ancestor worship and Catholicism.

Even after he death in 1881, she continued to influence the people of New Orleans. People still visit her grave in the city’s St. Louis Cemetery, leaving money, cigars and rum with the hope she will fulfill their wishes.

Speaking of Voodoo . . .

I got your voodoo.  It’s all in this fun little novel — charms spells, magic, romance, danger — all sorts of things that go bump in the Caribbean night.  Take a look.  I’ve been known to stick pins into little dolls to get what I want.




When little Billy Bligh, born on September 9, 1754, joined the British Royal Navy at the tcirca 1817: English naval officer and victim of the celebrated mutiny on the bounty William Bligh (1754 - 1817) is cast adrift. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)ender age of seven, he certainly never thought he’d grow up to haul breadfruit around the world. At sixteen, he became an able seaman, then a year later a midshipman. And in 1787, Bligh became Captain of the Bounty.

The Royal Society was offering special prizes to those who would travel to Tahiti, pick up a bunch of breadfruit trees and haul them back to the Caribbean as a source of cheap high-energy food for slaves. It sounded simple enough on paper, but getting there was far from half the fun. First, there was Cape Horn. The Bounty tried to get round it for a month before giving up and taking a longer route. Then Bligh and his crew had to sit around in the tropical sunshine for five months waiting for the little breadfruit babies to get big enough to travel. And when finally they set off for the Caribbean, didn’t Fletcher Christian and his cohorts, having grown fond of the Tahitian ambiance, up and mutiny.

Bligh and his loyalists were loaded into a launch with nary a breadfruit tree and set adrift. Amazingly, they survived and sailed over 4,000 miles to Timor, from where they returned to England. And two years later Bligh headed another expedition and this time successfully carried a load of trees to the Caribbean. However, the slaves refused to eat the breadfruit, wanting no part of a fruit that tasted like day-old bread.

The Ballad of Breadfruit

Once upon a time, according to Hawaiian legend, Kū , the war god, for reasons known only to Kū, decided to live secretly among the common folk and pass himself off as a mortal. He posed as a farmer and even went so far as to marry and have a family. Kū and his family lived quite happily, but being a war god Kū wasn’t such a hot farmer, and famine struck (as famine will). When everybody got pretty darn hungry,

Ku posing as a farmer

Kū realized it was time to shed his disguise and do some god thing. One would think his action would involve a battle of some kind, his being the god of war and all. Instead he disappeared into the ground right before his astonished family’s eyes. They were quite distressed by this, so they stood around where he had last been seen and cried day and night, thus watering the ground until a tiny green sprout emerged. The tiny sprout grew into a magnificent tree heavy with fruits that looked like big ugly green footballs. After tossing one around for a bit, they wondered if they might eat it since they were starving. They tried it, and it tasted awful. But they ate it anyway, saving themselves from starvation, and always remembering that this tree was their beloved Kū, finally providing for his family.


The Wisdom of Charlie Chan




Daniel Sharp Ford was a bit of a flag-waver. He thought the country needed a little more patriotism, and so launched a crusade to get flags into every school in the country. As the owner of the magazine Youth’s Companion he had a ready-made platform for the promotion of his ideas. As part of his patriotism package, he asked a socialist minister, Francis Bellamy, to create a pledge to the flag of one’s country, a pledge that could be used throughout the world.

Bellamy came up with a pledge that was simplicity itself, and Ford published it in the September 8, 1892, issue of his magazine. The Pledge of Allegiance, as it was called, read:

“I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

The pledge was incredibly popular, repeated in schools, public gatherings, government meetings, in Congress. However, Ford and Bellamy found it awkward that folks just stood there while pledging, so they came up with a nifty salute. Pledgers would face the flag, extend their right arm forward and slightly upward — the Bellamy Salute.

Years passed and folks were happily pledging, but then the tinkering began. In 1923, the words, “the Flag of the United States” were added, thanks to the efforts of the American Legion and the Daughters of the American Revolution who fretted that immigrant children might be confused about just which flag they were pledging allegiance to. A year later, the worriers added “of America.”

Then the Bellamy Salute came under fire; it looked a little too much like the German Nazi salute.

Come 1954, Congress got into the act, adding the words “under God” as a way of thumbing their noses at those godless communists, and giving the pledge its current form.


BelafontecalypsoHarry Belafonte is an American singer, songwriter, actor, activist, and of course the King of Calypso. His third album, Calypso, hit the top of the charts on September 8, 1956, and had everyone singing out the chorus “Day-o.” It became the first album by a single artist to sell a million copies. In addition to “Day-o (Banana Boat Song),” the album included such calypso standards as “Jamaica Farewell,” “Man Smart,” and “Will His Love Be Like His Rum?” Discerning readers will note that some of those calypso standards serve as titles for short stories included in Calypso: Stories of the Caribbean.



Her name didn’t exactly come tripping off Hawaiian tongues, but the islands’ last queen, Lydia Kamehameha Liliuokalani was a beloved leader during her short royal stint. She became queen in 1891 upon the death of her brother King David Kalakaua.


Government ministers demanded that Liliuokalani immediately sign an oath to uphold the constitution that had been previously forced upon her brother. It pretty much made her queen in name only. She tried unsuccessfully to form a cabinet several times. She drafted a royalist constitution but it went nowhere. Finally, just two years later, pro-American forces overthrew the government and named as president Sanford B. Dole, a name that lives on in infamy and pineapples.

Liliuo — we’ll call her Lydia — petitioned President Grover Cleveland who said the coup was probably illegal and certainly not very nice. But Dole just thumbed his nose at the pronouncement. Eventually, after an attempted uprising for which she was blamed, Lydia was placed under house arrest. During her confinement, she penned Hawaii’s most famous song, “Aloha Oe” (other than Don Ho’s “Tiny Bubbles” perhaps).

Lydia Kamehameha Liliuokalani was pardoned in 1896 and died in 1917 at the age of 79.



In 1813, Londoners were amazed to see, floating down the Thames River toward London Bridge, a large bowl with a passenger on board — a tortoiseshell cat, quite relaxed and seemingly enjoying the journey. As she approached the fall, onlookers were certain she would be overturned and thrown into the water. But she stayed seated and, to loud cheers, deftly shot the center arch with as much dexterity as a white water kayaker.

A young boy in a boat having observed this feat rowed toward her and lifted her into his boat. He discovered a parchment scroll hanging from a collar around her neck. The note stated that if she should reach London safely she should be taken to a Mrs. Clarke in Highstreet who would reward the person delivering the cat. The boy conveyed the cat to Mrs. Clarke who gave him half a crown. Mrs. Clarke was well aware of the circumstances of the cat’s arrival, the voyage having been the result of a wager between two Richmond gentlemen. With precious little to do, it would seem.

Carry a Big Shtick

Vice President Theodore Roosevelt delivered a speech at the Minnesota State Fair On September 2, 1901 in which he publicly used the phrase with which he would always be associated:  Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.  Four days later, President William McKinley was shot by an assassin and following his death eight days later, Roosevelt became President.

My father always wanted to be the center of attention.  When he went to a wedding, he wanted to be the bridegroom.  When he went to a funeral, he wanted to be the corpse. — Alice Roosevelt Longworth






In Washington DC, on  August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke to a crowd stretching from the Lincoln Memorial to the Washington Monument.

“Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back King_Jr_Martin_Luther_093.jpgto Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.”

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.’ I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave-owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.”

“When we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, ‘Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!'”


Part of that is when they try and demean me unfairly, because we had a massive crowd of people. We had a crowd… I looked over that sea of people, and I said to myself, ‘wow’, and I’ve seen crowds before. Big, big crowds. That was some crowd. — Donald Trump



London’s Bartholomew Fair, a wild celebration on the eponymous saint’s anniversary, died not with bartha bang but a whimper after enduring for more than seven centuries, Although originally established for legitimate business purposes, the fair had become all eating, drinking and amusement (for shame!) and a bit of a public nuisance with rowdiness and mischief.

Serious pursuits, uplifting exhibits, and dramatic entertainments had given way to shows and exhibits catering to the lowest common denominator of British fair-goers tastes – conjurers, wild beasts, monsters, learned pigs, dwarfs, giants. A prodigious monster with one head and two distinct bodies, a woman with three breasts, a child with three legs. A mermaid with a monkey’s head and the tail of a fish. Puppet shows, pantomimes, and coarse melodramas. A pig-faced lady and a potato that looked like King Henry VIII.

Eventually the fair grew less curiouser and curiouser, and on August 24, 1850, when the mayor went as usual to proclaim the opening of the fair, he found nothing to make it worth the trouble. No mayor went after that, and in 1855 the fair rolled over and expired.

I went to the animal fair,

The Birds and the Beasts were there.
The big baboon, by the light of the moon,
Was combing his auburn hair.
The monkey, he got drunk,
And sat on the elephant’s trunk.
The elephant sneezed and fell on his knees,
And what became of the monk, the monk?
The monk, the monk, the monk.

— Minstrel Song



Tagish-Tlingit Packer Keish (Lone Wolf), commonly known as Jim, carried equipment and supplies for early prospectors over the mountain passes from the Alaskan seacoast to the headwaters of the klondike.previewYukon river. He earned the nickname “Skookum” (Chinook for big and strong) for his feat of carrying 156 pounds of bacon over Chilkoot Pass in a single trip. (You don’t pull the mask off the old Lone Ranger, And you don’t mess around with Jim.)

Eventually, tired of of slogging other folk’s bacon, Skookum Jim formed a partnership with his sister Shaaw Tlaa (Kate), his cousin Dawson Charlie (Tagish Charlie), and Kate’s husband George Carmack (no nickname) to go look for the Big G.

On August 16, 1896, the Skookum party discovered rich gold deposits in Bonanza (Rabbit) Creek, Yukon.  Although Skookum Jim is believed to have made the actual discovery, George Carmack was officially credited for the gold discovery because the actual claim was staked in his name. The group agreed to this because they felt that an Indian’s claim would not be recognized because of the rampant racism of the time.

Well, you can just imagine what happened when word of their discovery got out. The Klondike was suddenly a “destination” for every would-be prospector who ever dreamed of the Big G. The exodus known as the Klondike Gold Rush (Yukon Gold Rush) (Alaskan Gold Rush) (The Gold Rush to End All Gold Rushes) was on.

Together our heroes worked what would become known as Discovery Claim (Look What We Found) and collectively earned nearly a million dollars. Skookum Jim built a home for his wife (the little woman) and daughter (junior) in the Yukon Territory (Tagish First Nation) where he spent the winters trapping, hunting and eating lots of bacon hauled in by others. George and Kate moved to California where he deserted her for another woman. You can’t trust anyone without a nickname.





Those folks who think they have it pretty rough in Virginia these days should thank their reactionary stars things are not as they were back in 1619. The very first general assembly got together in Jamestown that year to pass laws that pretty much told everyone how they could and could not behave. The burgesses, as members of the assembly were called, were 30 old white men determined to dictate morality to everybody else, a tradition that hasn’t changed much over the years.

     Nor has the politics. The burgesses passed laws requiring all colonists to attend two religious services every Sunday and to bear arms (pieces, swords, powder and shot) while doing so – just in case religious fervor pushed someone over the edge.  Even those bearing arms were forbidden from gambling, drinking, idleness and “excesses in apparel,” (which probably didn’t mean too much clothing).  Not wishing to overlook any sin they hadn’t thought of, the burgesses also approved a stern enactment against immorality in general. In the eyes of the burgesses, one can imagine, that might cover a lot of territory (and the colonies had lots of territory). The planting of mulberry trees, grapes and hemp was also proscribed, for we all know that that seemingly innocuous flora is the first step on the road to degradation (spelled with a ‘d’ and that rhymes with ‘p’).

     The burgesses had only nice things to say about tobacco however. Colonists were urged to dedicate the times they were not in church to the growing of said crop. The colonists responded with enthusiasm, even to the point of growing tobacco in the streets of Jamestown – 20,000 pounds a year – despite His Royal Stick in the Mud King James calling it “dangerous to the lungs.”

“Adam was but human—this explains it all. He did not want the apple for the apple’s sake, he wanted it only because it was forbidden. The mistake was in not forbidding the serpent; then he would have eaten the serpent.” ― Mark Twain