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Archive for October, 2014

Rock Island, Texas

Posted by graywacke on October 29, 2014

First timer?  In this formerly once-a-day blog (and now more-or-less a once or twice a week blog), I have my computer select a random latitude and longitude that puts me somewhere in the continental United States (the lower 48).  I call this “landing.”  I keep track of the watersheds I land in, as well as the town I land near.  I do some internet research to hopefully find something of interest about my landing location.  To find out more about A Landing A Day (like who “Dan” is and what the various numbers and abbreviations mean in the first paragraph), please see “About Landing,” (and “Abbreviations” and “Cryptic Numbers”) above.

 Landing number 2129; A Landing A Day blog post number 557.

 Dan:  Another USer, another record low Score, thanks to this landing in . . . TX; 148/187; 6/10; 4; 146.4.   As frequently happens, it took a while for me to finally land in TX:  First, I “landed” three times in the Atlantic Ocean, once in the Gulf of Mexico and once in Mexico.

Here’s my regional landing map:

 landing 1

My local landing map shows some small towns (similar to my last landing in north-central SD):

 landing 2

But, as you can tell by my title, I’ve decided to focus on Rock Island.  Obviously, more about that later.  

My watershed analysis needs no special map.  You can see that I landed close to the Colorado River (25th hit), which discharges to the Gulf of Mexico.

Here’s a Google Earth (GE) Street View shot of the Colorado just a few miles south of my landing:

 GE SV Colorado R

My GE shot (rather than the usual agricultural setting) shows proximity to what looks like a sand & gravel operation:

 GE 1

Zooming back, you can see what may be the sand & gravel pit mostly filled in with water:

 GE 2

I have no clue what all of the canals are.  Oh, well.

Moving right along, Rock Island caught my eye because of its name.  I mean, really —  there’s no island nearby, let alone a rocky island.  Here’s what TexasEscapes.com “History in a Pecan Shell” has to say:

The town had been named Crasco after the nearby creek in the early 1890s but was renamed Rock Island in 1897 after the former home of Charles Petersen, an area landowner who became the town’s first postmaster under the new name.

OK, so I assume that Charles Petersen was from Rock Island, Illinois.  Here’s a GE shot of the real Rock Island:

 GE Rock Island Illinois

It’s quite the metro area, eh?   FYI, Rock Island is the largest island in the Mississippi River, and is the home to the Rock Island Arsenal:

 GE the actual rock island

From Wiki:

The Rock Island Arsenal comprises 946 acres, located on Arsenal Island, originally known as Rock Island.

[Are you kidding me?  They changed the name from Rock Island to Arsenal Island?  I protest.]

The island was originally established as a government site in 1816, with the building of Fort Armstrong. It is now the largest government-owned weapons manufacturing arsenal in the United States.  About 250 military personnel and 6,000 civilians work here.

I understand that the U.S. Military needs places to build weapons. But wouldn’t it be way cooler if this island was a park rather than an arsenal?  Oh, well. 

Returning to Rock Island,Texas (and History in a Pecan Shell):

Dueling realtors intent on outselling each other recruited land-buyers from Illinois, Iowa and Missouri and promised a “tropical paradise” near the Gulf of Mexico. Many investors sold their nothern farms to buy the cheaper Texas acreage.

A good many of the new settlers felt duped when they arrived, but they stuck it out and within a few years they were making a go of it.

[“The beach is 75 miles away!!  Are you kidding me?   Where are the palm trees?  Where are the cool sea breezes?  They never said how hot & muggy it is all summer!”]

The influx of northerners (and their out-of-state money) helped Rock Island prosper and gave it the nickname “The Northern City on the Gulf Coast.” Sixteen extended northern families moved here by 1904 and together with a few local residents they made up a population of 367.

Its current population is somewhere around 150 (it doesn’t get its own census count, unlike Hillsview SD with an official population of 3).

From TexasExcapes.com, here’s a back-in-the-day Rock Island shot from 1918, looking pretty damn lively:

texas escapes 1918 main street

And from the same website, here are some proud members of the Rock Island High School Class of ’25:

 texas escapes - some members of the hs class of 25

So, here’s a GE shot of Rock Island (TX) today:

 GE 3- RI

I was looking for “downtown,” and pretty much couldn’t find it.  I noticed these two old buildings along the central north-street (with Street View coverage):

 GE 3- RI 1

Here’s one of them:


And the other:


A little further north on the same street is this:


Obviously, this town has seen better days.

See Eagle Lake southwest of my landing?  I’ll close with this Panoramio shot of the lake by Kimmy0128:

 pano kimmy0128

That’ll do it.




© 2014 A Landing A Day




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Hillsview and Numerous Other Towns in North-Central South Dakota

Posted by graywacke on October 24, 2014

First timer?  In this formerly once-a-day blog (and now more-or-less a once or twice a week blog), I have my computer select a random latitude and longitude that puts me somewhere in the continental United States (the lower 48).  I call this “landing.”  I keep track of the watersheds I land in, as well as the town I land near.  I do some internet research to hopefully find something of interest about my landing location.  To find out more about A Landing A Day (like who “Dan” is and what the various numbers and abbreviations mean in the first paragraph), please see “About Landing,” (and “Abbreviations” and “Cryptic Numbers”) above.

 Landing number 2128; A Landing A Day blog post number 556.

Dan:  I guess that the landing god just couldn’t see his way to three record low Scores in a row, so he decided that an OSer was in order . . . SD; 59/54; 6/10; 3; 147.0.  Here’s my regional landing map:

 landing 1

My local landing map shows a 40 mile by 40 mile area with numerous small towns:

 landing 2

Here’s the population rundown:

Artas                   9
Eureka             868
Hosmer            208
Bowdle           502
Roscoe            329
Herreid            438
Mound City      71
Selby               642
Java                 129
Hillsview            3

Don’t see HIllsview?  And Hillsview got top billing?  How did that happen?  Well, more about that later.  Anyway, add ‘em up and you get 3,199.  I’ll up it to 5,000 for the entire region, assuming that a couple of thousand folks live even further out in the country.  So, a 40 x 40 area is 1,600 square miles, and the population density is 5,000/1,600 = about 3 people per square mile.  This comes to 0.005 people per acre (or 1 person for each 200 acres).  Wow.  M-T!

Any questions?

My watershed analysis ended up being simple.  Here’s a streams-only map:

landing 3

I landed in one of those glacial “prairie pothole” regions (click HERE to go to my Grenville SD post, which talks all about prairie potholes).  Anyway, my drainage generally follows the yellow line, hopscotching from lake to lake.  In reality, rainfall that lands on my landing just about never really makes it all the way to Lake Oahe (the damned up Missouri River), but because I couldn’t figure out a particular lake as an endpoint, my watershed analysis is simply Missouri River (386th hit); to the MM (834th hit).

Here’s my GE shot, showing (of course), an agricultural scene:

 GE 1

See the north-south road to the west?  It’s about a third of a mile from my landing, and yes, it has Street View coverage.  Here’s the view towards my landing:

 GE SV one third of a mile

Of course, I googled each and every town.  Think I could find a hook?  Well, I found nothing (OK, except for Hillsview, nearly nothing).  Making this a unique A Landing A Day post, I’ll feature one (count ‘em) one photo from each town (except Hillsview).++++++++++ioooooooooooooooooooooooooo]-\weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeesxzc[LORENZO THE CAT JUST WALKED RIGHT TO LEFT OVER THE KEYBOARD, HITTING THE CAPS LOCK KEY ON HIS WAY OUT].

I’ll start with Artas, and this photo by William Flood, entitled “deserted brown prairie church:”

 Artas  William Flood _Deserted_Brown_Prairie_Church_-_Ackerman_St_-_Artas_So_Dakota_-_02_-_proof

Moving to Eureka, here’s a picture from the North Dakota State University library, part of the  Germans from Russia Heritage Collection.  The caption is below the photo:

 eureka ndsu

Seven coaches of German-Russian emigrants arrive in Eureka, SD., 1892. Photograph from the book, Eureka: 1887-1937.

And now, Hosmer.  Here’s a great auto graveyard photo by Martha Mehlhaff:

 hosmer martha mehlhaff

Oh my.  Check out this tornado near Bowdle, from World news (wn.com):


And then in Mound City, we have this shot of the Albrecht clan (from the same NDSU Germans from Russia website):

 mound city the albrecht clan - germans from russia ndsu

The next three photos are from the same source, starting with this turn of the century shot from Selby:

 selby same old ndsu  turn of the century

This shot of a threshing machine from Herreid:

 herried - a threshing crew germans from russia ndsu

And this shot of the Java marching band:

 java band same old ndsu

And, from Roscoe, this absolutely outstanding photo (credits in the caption):


So that covers all of the towns except Hillsview.  So, here’s the HIllsview story.  While on Google Earth, I noticed this:

 GE 2 - Hillsview

So, GE shows a town not shown on my Street Atlas map.  And yes, Hillsview has a Wiki entry (please read the entire piece):

Hillsview is a town in McPherson County, South Dakota. The population was 3 at the 2010 census.

As of the census of 2010, there were 3 people and 1 household residing in the town. The racial makeup of the town was 100% White.

There was 1 household of which 100% were married couples living together. 0% of all households were made up of individuals. The average household size was 3 and the average family size was 3.

The median age in the town was 53.5 years. 0% of residents were under the age of 18; 33.3% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 0% were from 25 to 44; 66.7% were from 45 to 64; and 0% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the town was 33.3% male and 66.7% female.

So, there’s one family in Hillsview.  Mom and Dad are between 45 & 64 years old.  Their daughter (aged 18 – 24) is still living at home.  Here’s a GE shot, showing what appear to be two areas of civilization in Hillsview:

 GE3 -  closeup hillsview

Remarkably, note that the blue lines indicate Street View coverage, and yes, the GoogleCam actually covers both areas!

Here are a couple of shots from the southern road:

 GE sV hillsview south 2


GE sV hillsview south 1

I don’t think anyone lives here.

Moving north, here’s a shot of what appears to be a more lively spot (including streetlights!):

 GE sV hillsview north 1

There’s actually a house behind the trees on the right side of the above photo (where I assume the three people live).

But wait!  I actually stumbled on a newspaper article about Hillsview!  The Bismark Tribune published a 2006 article by Dirk Lammers (an AP writer!), entitled:

Hillsview Enjoys Status as S.D.’s Smallest Town

Here are some excerpts:

HILLSVIEW, S.D. – This McPherson County town just south of Eureka once was home to a couple hundred people and boasted its own butcher shop, bank and ZIP code.

Today its residents can fit around a kitchen table.

Welcome to Hillsview – the smallest incorporated town in South Dakota.

Jim Imberi, 76, is one of Hillsview’s three residents and serves as president of the trustees. His wife, Helen, and son, Cletus, round out the population.

“Except ours, there are no houses here that are livable and nobody’s going to move a house here,” said Helen Imberi, who serves as Hillsview’s treasurer.

Cletus Imberi sits on the town board as an alderman.

Eight streetlights paid for through the town’s treasury illuminate what’s left of the village. The Imberis live on property dotted with several structures on the north side of the town’s only county road. An abandoned schoolhouse and hardware store sit across the street.

In the 1940s, Hillsview’s creamery, grocery store, blacksmith and liquor store were kept busy by residents and visitors who made their livings from the railroad, the town’s feed mills and surrounding farms.

Children such as the Imberis’ oldest son, Gervase, learned the three Rs in the town’s schoolhouse.

But a town can’t survive without young people, and young people can’t make it without good jobs, Jim Imberi said.

Asked about Hillsview’s future, Cletus Imberi said he doesn’t see much hope. Jobs are scarce, and people no longer can afford to farm off the land. He thinks most land eventually will wind up in the hands of big-city hunters.

Hillsview doesn’t levy its own tax, so the only money that comes into the town treasury is through small transportation allotments that cover such things as street maintenance.

McPherson County Auditor Steve Serr said Hillsview received $127 in the second quarter of 2005 and $260 in the third quarter.

“The only thing we really spend it on is lights, and we had our road graveled about two years ago,” Helen Imberi said. “That’s about the extent of it.”

Jim Imberi said staying incorporated allows Hillsview to keep some control.

“Dissolve it and the county gets the money, and they cut off the lights and stuff,” he said. “It’d be stupid.”

There you have it!  I think the Imberi’s are smart not to collect any taxes . . .

I’ll close with this lovely Pano hale bale shot by Keita202033, taken about 5 miles southwest of my landing:

pano keita2020333 hale bails 5 mi sw

That’ll do it.




© 2014 A Landing A Day




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Gallatin, Missouri

Posted by graywacke on October 19, 2014

First timer?  In this formerly once-a-day blog (and now more-or-less a once or twice a week blog), I have my computer select a random latitude and longitude that puts me somewhere in the continental United States (the lower 48).  I call this “landing.”  I keep track of the watersheds I land in, as well as the town I land near.  I do some internet research to hopefully find something of interest about my landing location.  To find out more about A Landing A Day (like who “Dan” is and what the various numbers and abbreviations mean in the first paragraph), please see “About Landing,” (and “Abbreviations” and “Cryptic Numbers”) above.

 Landing number 2127; A Landing A Day blog post number 555.

Dan:  Wow.  Four USers in a row (and 5/6).  Of course, a new record low Score, thanks to this landing in . . . MO; 47/48 (Watch out!  Approaching PSer-land); 6/10; 2; 146.6.

Here’s my regional landing map:

 landing 1

My local landing map shows many small towns, including my titular Gallatin:

 landing 2

Here’s my Google Earth (GE) shot:

 GE 1

I’m only about 250 yards from I-35!  Let’s see what Street View looks like:


Doh!  (Of course, spoken in Homer Simpson’s voice).  This entire stretch of I-35 is recessed such that I can’t see my landing.  I decided to feature the big tower that you can see on the GE shot above.  My landing is just behind the tower.

Here’s Phase 1 of my watershed analysis.  You can see that I landed in the Lazy Creek watershed, which flows on to the Grindstone Creek:

 landing 3

Which flows to the Grand River:

landing 4

The Grand flows to the Missouri (385th hit), on, of course to the MM (833rd hit):

 landing 5

Of course, I checked out Winston, the town closest to my landing.  No hook.  I checked out Altamont, Weatherby, Maysville, Kidder and Jameson.  No hook.  That leaves Gallatin, and that leaves (of all things) the Mormons.  From Wiki:

Gallatin (pop 1800) was founded in 1837 and named for Albert Gallatin, America’s longest-serving Secretary of the Treasury (1801–1814).

The Gallatin Election Day Battle took place in 6 August 1838, when about 200 people attempted to forcibly prevent Mormons from voting in the newly created county’s first election. The skirmish is often cited as the opening event of the 1838 Mormon War.

Gallatin is important in the Mormon religion for another reason: nearby is a place known to Mormons as Adam-ondi-Ahman, believed by Mormons to be the site where Adam and Eve lived after being expelled from the Garden of Eden.

You’ll have to trust me here.  I don’t seek out Mormon story lines.  I seek out interesting hooks that I can feature in my blog posts.  But I’ll tell you – it seems like over and over again, it’s a Mormon story that catches my interest. 

Anyway, I recalled featuring the Mormon War in a previous post, and it turned out to be a December 2009 post on Independence Missouri.  Sufficeth it to say that the Joseph Smith-led Mormons settled in Missouri, but were booted out after the 1838 Mormon War.  They headed back east across the Mississippi and settled in Nauvoo, Illinois (featured in my May 2013 “West Point, Illinois” post).  Joseph Smith was killed in Illinois.  Brigham Young took over the reigns of leadership (in spite of a splinter group led by James Strang, featured in my August 2014 Charlevoix Michigan post), and led the crew out west to Salt Lake City.

Enough of that.  But how about Adam-ondi-Ahman, believed by Mormons to be the site where Adam and Eve lived after being expelled from the Garden of Eden?

Here’s a GE shot showing the location:

GE a o a

Here’s what MormonWiki has to say:

Adam-ondi-Ahman, a settlement in Daviess County, Missouri, received its unusual name from the Prophet Joseph Smith in 1838 when Latter-day Saints were moving into the area. In May 1838 Joseph Smith led surveyors to a horseshoe bend of the Grand River, seventy miles north of present-day Kansas City, and proclaimed a new community, which he named Adam-ondi-Ahman because, said he, “it is the place where Adam shall come to visit his people, or the Ancient of Days shall sit, as spoken of by Daniel the Prophet.” Orson Pratt interpreted the name to mean “Valley of God, where Adam dwelt.”

Smith’s revelations indicated several things about the area:

(1) the Garden of Eden was located in Jackson County, Missouri, and after Adam was expelled from the garden, he went north to Adam-ondi-Ahman;

(2) three years before Adam’s death, he gathered the righteous of his posterity to Adam-ondi-Ahman and bestowed upon them his last blessing;

(3) this site would be the location of a future meeting of the Lord with Adam and the Saints, as spoken of by the prophet Daniel.

While Joseph Smith and his militia were in Adam-ondi-Ahman during October, the Church members assembled to witness the dedication of the public square by Brigham Young. At this time, Joseph Smith pointed out a location where Adam had once built an altar. In May the Prophet had identified this same site as one that had also been used by early American Indians.

After the October plundering and burnings by the mobs and retaliatory actions by the Latter-day Saints, who were intent on defending themselves, the state militia forced them to surrender their arms on November 7, 1838, and gave them ten days to move to Far West [ a Mormon town about 20 miles south of Adam-ondi-Ahman].

Adam-ondi-Ahman was abandoned and fell into the hands of non-Mormon settlers.

Now, I avoid personal religious musings on this blog, but I’m a science guy, and science tells us with great certainty that Homo Sapiens originated in Africa.  So, traditional Christians have their myth, and the Mormons have theirs . . .

Also –  I just saw the Off-Broadway (Philadelphia) version of “The Book of Mormon,” which certainly casts the religion in an . . uh . . . interesting light.

Here’s a picture of the specific site where Adam had once built an altar (from Wiki):


And this, from Wiki:

Today, 3000 acres of Adam-ondi-Ahman is owned and maintained as a historic site by the LDS Church and remains largely undeveloped farmland.

Here’s a GE shot:

 GE a o a (2)

All of the Panoramio photos (the little dots) are associated with Adam-ondi-Ahman (likely taken by Mormons).  I think that pretty much the whole area east and north of the river in the above photo is owned by the LDS Church.

I found a couple of pretty shots by Peter Clegg.  First this, out along the road:

 pano peter clegg 2

And then this:

 pano peter clegg

I’ll close with this shot of the Grand River just north of Adam-ondi-Ahman (by LatinGal):

 pano latin gal of the river north of aoa

That’ll do it.




© 2014 A Landing A Day




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Santa Fe Baldy, New Mexico

Posted by graywacke on October 14, 2014

First timer?  In this formerly once-a-day blog (and now more-or-less a once or twice a week blog), I have my computer select a random latitude and longitude that puts me somewhere in the continental United States (the lower 48).  I call this “landing.”  I keep track of the watersheds I land in, as well as the town I land near.  I do some internet research to hopefully find something of interest about my landing location.  To find out more about A Landing A Day (like who “Dan” is and what the various numbers and abbreviations mean in the first paragraph), please see “About Landing,” (and “Abbreviations” and “Cryptic Numbers”) above.

 Landing number 2126; A Landing A Day blog post number 554.

Dan:  A couple of posts ago, I mentioned that three USers in a row would result in a new record low Score.  Well, it happened!  And I landed in the same USer twice in a row, thanks to today’s landing in . . . NM; 76/86; 5/10; 1; 147.2

Two NMs in a row is my 53rd double, the 5th for NM.  Surprisingly, I had four NM doubles by landing 572 (November 2004).  And then, it took 1,554 landings to get one more NM double.  Strange the way the Landing God works, eh?

Here’s my regional landing map:

 landing 1

My local landing map shows my landing’s proximity to Cowles (more about Cowles later) and some other small towns in the greater Santa Fe area (I landed about 15 miles from Santa Fe):

 landing 2

You can tell from the post title that I must have landed near something called “Santa Fe Baldy.”  Well, it’s a mountain, and here it is:

landing 6

More about Santa Fe Baldy and Lake Katherine in a bit.   My streams-only map shows that I landed right in a stream, with the peculiar name of Rito Oscuro (more about the peculiar name later).  The Rito Oscuro flows to Panchuela Creek, on to the Pecos River (14th hit):

 landing 3

You can see that I landed just east of the watershed divided between the Rio Grande and the Pecos.  Stepping back a little, you can see that the Rio Grande and the Pecos pretty much split up Central New Mexico between them.  And yes, the Pecos runs down through Texas and ends up in the Rio Grande (41st hit).

 landing 4

So, what about Rito Oscuro?  In Spanish, Rito means rite or ritual, and oscuro means dark, gloomy or sinister.  All righty then.  We have a dark ritual going on here.  I can’t imagine why a stream would be named that. 

It turns out that rito oscuro means exactly the same thing in Italian, and you can collect (and trade!) Rito Oscuro cards, and maybe play some strange game.  Here’s a sampling:

 rito oscuro


And an English version . . .

 english version dark ritual


Here’s a Google Earth (GE) shot, looking east right down the Rito Oscuro:

 GE 1

Zooming back just a little (and looking north), you can see the dramatic ridge line which divides the Rio Grande watershed (to the left) from the Pecos River watershed (to the right).

 GE 2 ridge

The mountain in the middle distance is known as Santa Fe Baldy (el. 12,632).  It marks the southern end of high peaks (>12,000 feet) that are part of the Rocky Mountains.  Here’s a GE view from near the top of Santa Fe Baldy, looking down the Rito Oscuro valley:

 GE 3 view down cirque towards landing

Notice how it looks like an amphitheater?  We geologists call this landform a cirque, which was carved out by a mountain glacier.  The glacier tends to dig out an area at the base of the steep slope, which often ends up with a lake (known as a tarn, which you can see in the above picture).  Here’s a better shot of the cirque, looking up the valley:

 GE 3 view up to cirque

Checking back to my landing map – see the road that dead ends just north of Cowles?  I figured, no way – it probably just peters out to a dirt road.  So I took a close look on GE.  Here it is:

 GE 2 deadend

Son of a gun, the road winds up the valley and does just end – although as a series of campgrounds.  GE Street View takes us there:

 GE SV deadend

Anyway, back to Santa Fe Baldy and the cirque at the head of the Rito Oscuro valley.  It turns out that there’s another cirque (and another tarn), just south:

 GE 4 lake katherine

The lake – er, I mean tarn –  you can see is Lake Katherine, and there’s an interesting story on how the lake got its name.  I found this in a Discover Magazine blog by George Johnson:

As I read Ray Monk’s new biography of Robert Oppenheimer, which I reviewed for the forthcoming issue of the New York Times Book Review, the parts that affected me most deeply were about northern New Mexico. I’d long known the story of Oppenheimer and Los Alamos, the secret atomic city he presided over in the Jemez Mountains. But it was on the opposite side of the Rio Grande Valley, in the Sangre de Cristo range [right where I landed] that he fell in love with the wild beauty of this land. He was 18 years old.

He had grown up in luxury on the Gold Coast of Manhattan’s Upper Westside. Holidays were spent at a mansion on Long Island and sailing on the family yacht. The boy’s life changed when, before he left for Harvard, his parents arranged for him to spend the summer of 1922 in New Mexico.

His stay began in Albuquerque, where he met Katherine Chaves, the daughter of one of the most prominent of New Mexico’s old families. She was 28 at the time.  The Chaveses had a guest ranch, Los Pinos, in the Sangre de Cristos, near the headwaters of the Pecos River and the village of Cowles.

Oppenheimer learned to ride a horse there, and on a trip high among the tall pines and aspens, he came upon a jewel of a lake he named Lake Katherine.  It is one of my favorite spots on Earth.

Seems amazing (and unlikely) that an 18-year old kid names a lake after love interest, and it sticks.  I’d have to guess that Katherine’s family (being prominent and all) embraced the name.

Anyway, my very last post (White Sands NM) was very near Alamogorda NM, which is very near where the first atomic bomb was exploded.  I almost used that hook as a reason to feature Robert Oppenheimer, but decided to feature White Sands instead.  Well, with this landing, I had no doubt that now was the time to feature Mr. Oppenheimer.

Obviously, I knew that he is known as the “Father of the Atomic Bomb,” and that he was in charge of the Manhattan project.  But with a little research, I discovered that he was quite fascinating guy – not just a nuts and bolts scientist/engineer type of guy.

From PBS.org:

Robert Oppenheimer’s name has become almost synonymous with the atomic bomb, and also with the dilemma facing scientists when the interests of the nation and their own conscience collide.

His early education was at the Ethical Culture School in New York. He took math and science classes, but also enthusiastically studied Greek, Latin, French, and German. He had a feel for languages and often learned one quickly just to read something in its original language. He learned Dutch in six weeks in order to give a technical talk in the Netherlands. He also maintained an interest in classics and eastern philosophy throughout his life.

He was always an intense person, tall, thin, contemplative, and probing. He obtained his PhD from Harvard in 1925 and studied at Cambridge University under Ernest Rutherford. In 1929 he returned to the United States and positions at Berkeley and Cal Tech. He was an extraordinary teacher and an excellent theoretician. His analyses predicted many later finds, such as the neutron, positron, meson, and neutron stars.

Absorbed in his studies and the theoretical world of physics, he was often somewhat distracted from the “real world.” But the rise of fascism in the 1930s caught his attention, and he took a strong stand against it. By 1939, Niels Bohr brought news to the U.S. that Germans had split the atom.

The implication that the Nazis could develop extremely powerful weapons prompted President Roosevelt to establish the Manhattan Project in 1941. In June 1942, Robert Oppenheimer was appointed its director. Preliminary research was being done at Columbia University, the University of Chicago, and in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, but Oppenheimer set up a new research station at Los Alamos, New Mexico. There he brought the best minds in physics to work on the problem of creating an atomic bomb. In the end he was managing more than three thousand people, as well as tackling theoretical and mechanical problems that arose.

On July 16, 1945, Oppenheimer witnessed the first explosion of an atomic bomb in the New Mexico desert.  He was said to exclaim:  “It worked!” and “The world will not be the same.”

Within a month, two atomic bombs were dropped on Japanese cities. Japan surrendered on August 10, 1945.

After the war, Oppenheimer chaired the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. He opposed developing an even more powerful hydrogen bomb. When President Truman finally approved it, Oppenheimer did not argue, but his initial reluctance and the political climate turned against him.

In 1953, at the height of U.S. anticommunist feeling, Oppenheimer was accused of having communist sympathies, and his security clearance was taken away. He had, in fact, had friends who were communists, mostly people involved in the antifascist movement of the thirties.

This loss of security clearance ended Oppenheimer’s influence on science policy. He held the academic post of director of the Institute of Advanced Study at Princeton, and in the last years of his life, he thought and wrote much about the problems of intellectual ethics and morality. He died of throat cancer in 1967.

Wiki has more to say about his leftist leanings:

When he joined the Manhattan Project in 1942, Oppenheimer wrote on his personal security questionnaire that he had been “a member of just about every Communist Front organization on the West Coast”.

Years later he claimed that he did not remember saying this, that it was not true, and that if he had said anything along those lines, it was “a half-jocular overstatement”.

He was a subscriber to the People’s World, a Communist Party magazine.  From 1937 to 1942, Oppenheimer was a member at Berkeley of what he called a “discussion group”, which was later identified by fellow members, Haakon Chevalier and Gordon Griffiths, as a “closed” (secret) unit of the Communist Party for Berkeley faculty.

Throughout the development of the atomic bomb, Oppenheimer was under investigation by both the FBI and the Manhattan Project’s internal security arm for his past left-wing associations.  Brigadier General Leslie R. Groves, Jr., the military director of the Manhattan Project, thought Oppenheimer was too important to the project to be ousted over this suspicious behavior. On July 20, 1943, he wrote to the Manhattan Engineer District:

In accordance with my verbal directions of July 15, it is desired that clearance be issued to Julius Robert Oppenheimer without delay irrespective of the information which you have concerning Mr Oppenheimer. He is absolutely essential to the project.

Wow.  Very interesting stuff, eh?

Here’s a PBS YouTube clip:



And another (with perhaps his most famous quote, which I’ve included below:


“We knew the world would not be the same. A few people laughed, a few people cried, most people were silent. I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-Gita. Vishnu is trying to persuade the Prince that he should do his duty; and to impress him takes on his multi-armed form and says, ‘Now, I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.’ I suppose we all thought that one way or another.”

It seems appropriate to include some pictures of Lake Katherine.  Here’s one from MyLifeOutdoors.com:


And another, from Santa Fe.org:

 Lake-Katehrine santa fe.org

I’ll close, not with a picture, but another Robert Oppenheimer quote.  This is an answer to a student at Rochester University who asked if the bomb exploded at Alamogorda was the first:

Well — yes.  In modern times, of course.

Just give it a little thought  . . .

That’ll do it.




© 2014 A Landing A Day




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White Sands, New Mexico

Posted by graywacke on October 9, 2014

First timer?  In this formerly once-a-day blog (and now more-or-less a once or twice a week blog), I have my computer select a random latitude and longitude that puts me somewhere in the continental United States (the lower 48).  I call this “landing.”  I keep track of the watersheds I land in, as well as the town I land near.  I do some internet research to hopefully find something of interest about my landing location.  To find out more about A Landing A Day (like who “Dan” is and what the various numbers and abbreviations mean in the first paragraph), please see “About Landing,” (and “Abbreviations” and “Cryptic Numbers”) above.

 Landing number 2125; A Landing A Day blog post number 553.

Dan:  In my last post, I mentioned that three USers in a row would result in a new record low Score.  Well, this post makes it two USers in a row, thanks to . . . NM; 75/86; 4/10; 11; 147.7 (the record low Score is 147.4).  Here’s my regional landing map:

 landing 1

My local landing map shows the proximity to Valmont and Alamogordo, neither of which, you’ll notice, are my titular town:

 landing 2

I can actually do my watershed analysis very quickly.  Notice Lake Lucero in the above map?   More-or-less, my drainage heads to Lake Lucero.  Trust me on this: if the water makes it there, it ain’t got nowhere to go (besides evaporating or infiltrating down). 

Here’s my Google Earth (GE) shot:

 GE 1

Not much to see, eh?  Let’s back out a little:

 GE 2

Still not much to see, except that there’s a road about a mile east of my landing.  And yes, there’s Street View coverage, so here’s a Street View shot looking west to my landing:


I zoomed back a little on GE, and saw a huge white patch northwest of my landing.  (OK, because of the post title, we all know what this is.  But bear with me, and follow the discovery sequence I did):

 GE 3

What the heck is that?  And then, I turned on the Panoramio photo locations.  Here’s what I saw:

 GE 4 - panoramio locations

So, whatever the big white spot is, plenty o’ folks take pictures of it.  Of course, “it” is White Sands National Monument.  To give you a feel for the place, let me show you a couple of these Panoramio pictures.  First this one, by Ceastes:

 pano 1  ceastes

And then this, by Alex Petrov:

pano 2  alex petrov

 So we have a huge patch of white sand. Big deal.  Or is it really a big deal?  If I were you, I’d ask a geologist.  Oh!  I’m a geologist!  And I am, in fact, the very person you would ask.  And here’s my answer:  Yes, it is a big deal!

This is an example of exactly why I’m a geologist.  I want to know:  Why is there a huge patch of white sand in south central New Mexico?  Not only that, but also consider the fact that this is the biggest similarly-white patch of sand IN THE WORLD!   Excuse me, but that demands an explanation.   It turns out that the White Sands are the result of a very particular sequence of geologic events.

We’ll start with the Permian period, about 250 million years ago.  Way the heck back then, what is now western North America (including New Mexico) was covered by a warm, tropical sea.  The rocks that surrounded this sea were rich in calcium carbonate (i.e., limestone), and rich in sulfate as well.  No big deal, except:

There was a global fall in sea level, and the inland sea started to dry up.  As the sea dried up, calcium sulfate (Gypsum) precipitated out, and was deposited all over the former sea floor.  OK.  Now we got lots and lots of gypsum.  But the story’s just beginning.

When the gypsum deposition was going on, the whole area was near sea level.  It sure as heck ain’t near sea level now.  What happened?  More-or-less 70 million years ago, some of those big-ass tectonic plates started smashin’ into each other, with the end result that the whole area was uplifted.  Not just a little, but more than a mile.  Remember that all of this gypsum also got lifted up a mile.

It turns out that the white sands wouldn’t be there without the Tularosa Basin (more about that later), which is the hydraulically-closed basin (i.e., a low area surrounded by high ground) that is present today.  (Note that Lake Lucero mentioned above is the low point of the Tularosa Basin.)  So how’d we end up with the Tularosa Basin? 

Beginning about 30 million years ago, the area beneath New Mexico and Nevada began to get torn apart by those same tectonic forces mentioned above.  But this time, we don’t have the collision of plates, we have the pulling apart of plates, caused by a massive upwelling of magma under the region.  This upwelling is stretching the whole region, causing large-scale tension cracks (faults) to develop.  Along these fault, huge chunks of real estate began to sink along the faults, causing many basins like the Tularosa. 

So now, we have this enclosed basin, with lots of gypsum rock in the surrounding mountains.  Is this the reason for the white sands?  Not quite.  We now have to move to much more recent time to put it all together . . .

To finish up the story, I’m going to cut and paste some information from the National Park Service website (which I used as a general source for my previous discussions).  Anyway, here’s what they have to say about the end of the story:

The wet climate during last ice age (approximately 24,000 to 12,000 years ago) played a major role in the formation of White Sands. In the late Pleistocene Epoch, the Tularosa Basin (and much of the U.S. southwest) received substantially more rain than it does today. Cooler and wetter conditions enabled a small glacier to form on the north slope of 12,000 ft. Sierra Blanca, and much of the Tularosa Basin was filled with an enormous lake called Otero. Heavy rainfall flushed large quantities of soluble gypsum from the San Andres and Sacramento Mountains down to the Lake Otero. The lake became saturated with dissolved gypsum.

As the ice age came to an end, the climate of the Tularosa Basin became increasingly more arid. Lake Otero slowly dried up, leaving behind enormous crystal deposits of the mineral Selenite (i.e., gypsum).   Following the evaporation of this enormous lake, large stretches of the Tularosa Basin must have been as littered with selenite crystals as Lake Lucero is today.

The forces of nature— freezing and thawing, wetting and drying—eventually break down the crystals into sand-size particles light enough to be moved by the wind.

So there you have it.  A 250-million year old story that results in a huge deposit of gypsum that gets blown around by the wind, forming dunes.  Aren’t you glad you asked?

Time for some more White Sands panoramio shots.  From Harley Photo:

pano 3 harley photo

From Ron Marlo:

 pano 4 ron marlo

From Vadim Balakin:

 pano 5 vadim balakin

I’ll return to my landing spot, and close with this Pano shot taken about a mile south, by Amanda O’Bryan:

 pano 5 amanda o'bryan one mile south


That’ll do it.




© 2014 A Landing A Day




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Clarksville, Texas

Posted by graywacke on October 4, 2014

First timer?  In this formerly once-a-day blog (and now more-or-less a once or twice a week blog), I have my computer select a random latitude and longitude that puts me somewhere in the continental United States (the lower 48).  I call this “landing.”  I keep track of the watersheds I land in, as well as the town I land near.  I do some internet research to hopefully find something of interest about my landing location.  To find out more about A Landing A Day (like who “Dan” is and what the various numbers and abbreviations mean in the first paragraph), please see “About Landing,” (and “Abbreviations” and “Cryptic Numbers”) above.

 Landing number 2124; A Landing A Day blog post number 552.

 Dan:  Two out of three – I’ll take it, thanks to this USer landing . . . TX; 157/186; 3/10; 10; 148.3.  Hey, if I get two more USers in a row, it’ll be a new record low Score.  We’ll see . . .

Here’s my regional landing map:

 landing 1

My local landing map shows that I landed close to some small, hookless towns, but not all that far from Clarksville (I’m about 20 miles east):

 landing 2

I actually landed in closer proximity to DeKalb, but wouldn’t you know, I featured DeKalb when I landed close by (landing 2002, April 2013):

landing 4

Remember DeKalb?  I featured Dan Blocker (Hoss Cartwright from “Bonanza”) as well as Ricky Nelson, who was killed in a plane crash near DeKalb.  I just reread the post.  Of course, it’s great.  You, too can enjoy it once again – just type “DeKalb” in the search box . . .

Anyway, I landed in the watershed of Young Creek; on to Anderson Creek; on to the Sulphur River (2nd hit); to the Red (57th hit); to the Atchafalya (64th hit).  The Atchafalaya was tied with the Nelson for 9th place on my river hits list.  Thanks to today’s land, the Atchafalaya now stands alone in 9th place.  The Atchafalaya has a long way to go to catch #8 on my list, the Snake River,  with 75 hits.

Here’s a streams-only map.  (You’ll have to take my word for it that the Sulphur discharges into the Red.):

 landing 3

My Google Earth shot shows that I landed behind some outbuildings (out in a pasture?) that appear to be part of a farmette: 

 GE 1

Oops.  I’m in Texas.  Ain’t no way they call it a “farmette” in Texas . . .

Anyway, you can see that GE Street View coverage is available for the little road that runs along the farm.  Here’s the shot:

 GE SV, side road

Amazing that there’s Street View coverage on such a tiny road.  Check this out – here’s a shot of the road itself (where I took the above shot):

 GE SV, side road (2)

If Google drives their GoogleCam here, they’ll drive it anywhere & everywhere!

So, let’s head on over to Clarksville.  Let me start by saying that I desperately hoped that Clarksville was of “Last Train to Clarksville” fame.  ‘Twas not to be.  The famous Monkees’ tune (written by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart) was inspired by Clarksdale AZ (a town Bobby Hart knew), and the name changed to Clarksville because it sounded better. 

Staying with the Monkees for now, I came upon a piece in Cracked.com by Adam Tod Brown entitled “5 Upbeat Songs You Didn’t Realize Are Depressing (Part 2).”  One of the featured songs is, of course, “Last Train to Clarksville.” 

Adam says that the Monkees were professionally light-weight pop stars, and had no choice but to be anything besides upbeat.  Here’s a quote:

They basically got to become one of the biggest bands in the world by looking the part and letting people like Neil Diamond write their songs.

You can’t really blame them for any of this, of course. They were a band built around a television show. This stuff was completely out of their hands. And they didn’t look like they were particularly sad about anything that was happening around them. Why, just check out the video for “Last Train to Clarksville” for proof of that:

Here are the lyrics:

Take the last train to Clarksville,
And I’ll meet you at the station.
You can be there by four thirty,
‘Cause I made your reservation.
Don’t be slow, oh, no, no, no!
Oh, no, no, no!

‘Cause I’m leavin’ in the morning
And I must see you again
We’ll have one more night together
‘Til the morning brings my train.
And I must go, oh, no, no, no!
Oh, no, no, no!
And I don’t know if I’m ever coming home.

Take the last train to Clarksville.
I’ll be waiting at the station.
We’ll have time for coffee flavored kisses
And a bit of conversation.
Oh… Oh, no, no, no!
Oh, no, no, no!

Take the last train to Clarksville,
Now I must hang up the phone.
I can’t hear you in this noisy
Railroad station all alone.
I’m feelin’ low. Oh, no, no, no!
Oh, no, no, no!
And I don’t know if I’m ever coming home.

Back to Cracked.com:

The problem with being a band built for television is that you have to tread carefully when it comes to delivering any sort of message. . . for the Monkees, the joyful antics of the “Last Train to Clarksville” video are hiding something pretty damn dark. Like Vietnam War dark. “Last Train to Clarksville” is actually a song written in protest of the war in Vietnam. It tells the story of a man who’s taking a train to an Army base in the morning and wants to see the love of his life one last time. You know, in case you ever wondered why, in a song so seemingly filled with happiness, this line pops up:

“And I don’t know if I’m ever coming home.”

Vietnam is never specifically mentioned in “Last Train to Clarksville,” but Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, the duo who wrote the song, have a pretty solid excuse for that, saying in an interview, “We couldn’t be too direct with the Monkees. We couldn’t really make a protest song out of it — we kind of snuck it in.”

It’s exactly that kind of subversiveness that gets you applauded in a Cracked article, Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart. Here’s hoping the rest of the songwriting world follows your lead.

Click HERE for the whole Cracked.com article (there’s some pretty funny stuff here).

Notice how I was totally sidetracked (so to speak) by the Monkees, even though Clarksville TX has nothing to do with “Last Train to Clarksville.”  Hey – I was 16 when the song was released, and I really liked it.  I hung around with some kids who were too cool to like the Monkees (only the Beatles and Stones would do for them), but I was a cultural light-weight.  But I was cool enough to disdain the TV show . . .

So, finally getting around to the real Clarksville TX (pop 3,800) – I found that for such a small town, they have quite the list of famous favorite sons.

I’ll start with Tommie Smith, since amazingly enough I featured him in my most recent post (Doland SD)!  That post features Hubert Humphrey, but also features events that occurred in 1968.  An event that I mentioned was the black-gloved raising of fists on the medal podium by two U.S. sprinters during the 1968 Mexico City Olympics.  The winner of that event (the 200 meters, in a world record time) was none other thanTommie Smith.  John Carlos finished third.  Here’s the iconic photo:


From Wiki:

The 1968 Olympics Black Power salute was an act of protest by the African-American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos during their medal ceremony at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. As they turned to face their flags and hear The Star-Spangled Banner, they each raised a black-gloved fist and kept them raised until the anthem had finished. Smith, Carlos and Australian silver medalist Peter Norman all wore human rights badges on their jackets. In his autobiography, Silent Gesture, Tommie Smith stated that the gesture was not a “Black Power” salute, but a “human rights salute”. The event is regarded as one of the most overtly political statements in the history of the modern Olympic Games.

Smith and Carlos were largely ostracized by the U.S. sporting establishment and they were subject to criticism. Time magazine showed the five-ring Olympic logo with the words, “Angrier, Nastier, Uglier”, instead of “Faster, Higher, Stronger”.  Back home, they were subject to abuse and they and their families received death threats.

Smith continued in athletics, playing in the NFL with the Cincinnati Bengals before becoming an assistant professor of physical education at Oberlin College. In 1995, he helped coach the U.S. team at the World Indoor Championships at Barcelona. In 1999 he was awarded the California Black Sportsman of the Millennium Award. He is now a public speaker.

Carlos’ career followed a similar path. He tied the 100 yard dash world record the following year. He later played in the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles until a knee injury prematurely ended his career.  In 1982, Carlos was employed by the Organizing Committee for the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles to promote the games and act as liaison with the city’s black community. In 1985, he became a track and field coach at Palm Springs High School.   As of 2012, Carlos works as a counselor at the school.

Smith and Carlos received an Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the 2008 ESPY Awards honoring their action.

Norman, who was sympathetic to his competitors’ protest, was reprimanded by his country’s Olympic authorities and ostracized by the Australian media.  He was not picked for the 1972 Summer Olympics, despite having qualified 13 times over.  Smith and Carlos were pallbearers at Norman’s funeral in 2006.

Time heals all wounds, eh?  It also helps that Smith & Carlos went on to lead productive lives.

Next in line on the Favorite Son list is Euell Gibbons.  He was an early (and very public) proponent of eating wild natural foods.  He became quite the celebrity, with appearances on The Tonight Show and Sonny & Cher.  He was also a spokesman for Grape Nuts Cereal, and made many commercials.  Here’s one:


Also from Clarksville was Office J.D. Tippit, the police officer killed by Lee Harvey Oswald during the brief time he was on the run after JFK’s assassination.  From Wiki:

On November 22, 1963, Tippit was fatally shot on a Dallas street approximately 45 minutes after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. According to five federal government investigations, Tippit was shot by Lee Harvey Oswald. Oswald was initially arrested as a suspect in Tippit’s murder but later became a suspect in the shooting of President Kennedy. Oswald was charged with both crimes shortly after his arrest. Before Oswald could be tried for either crime, he was shot and killed by nightclub owner Jack Ruby on November 24, 1963.

On the evening of the assassination, both Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy and the new President, Lyndon B. Johnson, called Tippit’s widow to express their sympathies.  Jacqueline Kennedy wrote a letter expressing sorrow for the bond they shared. The plight of Tippit’s family also moved much of the nation and a total of $647,579 (worth $4,988,470 today) was donated to them following the assassination. One of the largest individual gifts was the $25,000 (worth $192,582 today) that Abraham Zapruder donated after selling his film of the assassination.

A funeral service for J.D. Tippit was held on November 25th, the same day as those of both President Kennedy and Lee Harvey Oswald.

An historical marker was placed at the scene of his murder in 2012:


And finally, also from Clarksville is a novelist John Williams.  He is best known for his novel Stoner.  I was vaguely aware of the author and the novel, but am now determined to read it.  The book (originally published in 1965) was re-released in 2003 and has since become an international bestseller. 

Here’s what Wiki has to say:

In a 2007 review of the recently reissued work, Morris Dickstein wrote that Stoner is “a perfect novel, so well told and beautifully written, so deeply moving that it takes your breath away.”  A 2013 BBC article reported that it was named Waterstones Book of the Year and also said that Tom Hanks called it “one of the most fascinating things that you’ve ever come across” and noted that The New Yorker had called it “the greatest American novel you’ve never heard of.”

Steve Almond praised Stoner in The New York Times Magazine, writing, “I had never encountered a work so ruthless in its devotion to human truths and so tender in its execution.”

John_Edward_Williams  wiki

Other reviews I read are equally effusive.  Unfortunately, Mr. Williams isn’t around to enjoy the resurgence.  He died in 1994.

Update:  I wrote the draft of this post about a week ago, and have since read Stoner.  I might not be as effusive with my priase, but I really enjoyed the book, and recommend it.  I liked it enough that I’m now reading another of his books, “Butcher’s Crossing,”  novel about buffalo hunters in Kansas and Colorado in the 1870s.  I’m really enjoying this (even more than Stoner).  He has another book “Augustus,” (yes, about Caesar Augustus)  which I’m sure will make my list.  The three books are incredibly different from one another.

Back to my original draft . . .

I couldn’t find any GE Panoramio shots up to ALAD standards, so I’ll just close with some back-in-the-day shots (old time post-cards), courtesy of TxGenWeb.org:

First, a picture of “Watermelon Row.”  “Get your watermelons here, get your watermelons . . .”

 back in the day 2 - watermelon

And then, this shot of a Long Staple Cotton wagon (Long Staple Cotton was a business mainstay in the town):


I’ll close with this chaotic downtown marketplace shot from 1910:

 back in the day 1


That’ll do it.




© 2014 A Landing A Day




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