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Archive for November, 2018

Alpine, Fort Davis and Marfa, Texas

Posted by graywacke on November 28, 2018

First timer?  In this formerly once-a-day blog (and now pretty much a once-a-week blog), I use an app that provides 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 or towns 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) please see “About Landing” above.  To check out some relatively recent changes in how I do things, check out “About Landing (Revisited).”

Landing number 2423; A Landing A Day blog post number 857.

Dan:  Today’s lat/long (30o 25.919’ N, 103o 33.413’) puts me in West Texas:

Here’s my local landing map, with my various titular towns highlighted:

My streams-only map shows no detail, but I suspect that my drainage heads north to the Pecos, or south to the Rio Grande:

My GE Hydrographic Features app shows me much more:

You can see that I landed in the watershed of Musquiz Creek; on to the Paisano Ck.  (Note that creeks are labeled at their downstream ends.)

Things got a little vague headed north from here, but I found Street View coverage on my drainage pathway about 50 miles north of my landing:

And the good ol’ Texas DOT comes through again!  So, Paisano Creek ends up in the Coyanosa Draw:

And here’s a shot of the Draw itself:

And, because I wanted a shot with a little water in it, here’s the Pecos (18th hit) not far from where the Coyanosa Draw discharges:

The Pecos (of course) ends up in Rio Grande (51st hit).

There’s really no hook for Alpine, but it is far and away the largest town in the area (pop 5900), and it’s also the town closest to my landing.  So, here’s a little history (from Wiki):

The area had been a campsite for cattlemen tending their herds between 1878 and the spring of 1882, when a town of tents was created by railroad workers and their families. Because the section of the railroad was called Osborne, that was the name of the small community for a brief time.

The railroad needed access to water from springs owned by brothers named Daniel and Thomas Murphy, so it entered into an agreement with the Murphys to change the name of the section and settlement to Murphyville in exchange for a contract to use the spring.

The town’s name was changed to Alpine in 1888, following a petition by its residents. At this time, a description of the town mentioned a dozen houses, three saloons, a hotel and rooming house, a livery stable, a butcher shop, and a drugstore, which also housed the post office.

I wonder what was wrong with Murphyville (or, more likely, what was wrong with the Murphy brothers) . . .

But Alpine?  I could find no discussion as to how Alpine was selected.  I’m sorry, but the Big Bend area of West Texas is hardly alpine (meaning Alp-like, I presume) – although one of the generic definitions of “alpine” is simply mountainous.

Here’s a Welcome to Alpine shot, looking rather mountainous:

So, what about Fort Davis (pop 1,200)?  Well, it’s the county seat of Jeff Davis County, so we can guess how the fort got its name.  But it wasn’t named after Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy; it was named after Jefferson Davis (the same guy, but before the Civil War) when he was the Secretary of War under President Franklin Pierce. 

A quick bit of Franklin Pierce history (from Wiki):

Franklin Pierce (1804 – 1869) was the 14th President of the United States (1853–1857), a northern Democrat who saw the abolitionist movement as a fundamental threat to the unity of the nation. He alienated anti-slavery groups by championing and signing the Kansas–Nebraska Act and enforcing the Fugitive Slave Act; yet he failed to stem conflict between North and South, setting the stage for Southern secession and the American Civil War.

So Fort Davis is a town that was named after the fort, built in 1854 due to the “Indian Wars.” The fort (abandoned in 1891) has been restored.  Here’s a GE pic by Louis Jaffe showing restored barracks:

Fort Davis National Historic Site, 1854, US Army outpost in Indian country (21 miles from Marfa)

Buffalo soldiers were stationed here.  From TexasAlmanac.com:

The Buffalo Soldiers comprised one of the most interesting military aggregations in post-war Texas. On July 28, 1866, the U.S. Congress authorized six regiments of black troops to be added to the U.S. Army.

The nickname “Buffalo Soldiers” was given by Indians, who thought that the tightly curled hair of the black soldiers resembled the curly hair on a bison’s face. Since the bison was revered by the Indians, the nickname was considered a term of respect, and the Buffalo Soldiers proudly featured a bison on their regimental crest.

Lt. Henry Flipper, the first black graduate of West Point, served with the 10th Cavalry in West Texas and was stationed for a time at Fort Davis in the late 1870s.

Check out the map of Fort Davis:

Now it’s time for Marfa.  Wow.  I hardly know where to start, so what I’ve settled on is a .tour of internet articles about Marfa.  Just reading the blurbs will give you a feel for this crazy little town.

From Vogue, entitled “A City Dweller’s Guide to a Magical, Mystical Weekend in Marfa, Texas:”

Blurb:  Ah, Marfa, Texas. The small town of about 2,000 residents has achieved almost mythic status in the past five years thanks to an influx of art institutions, stores, and New Yorkers and Angelenos who have decamped there looking for something simpler. Snuggled in a vast expanse of desert, nearly 20 miles from the next town and some 200 from the nearest major airport, the place is the subject of much modern lore—people return awestruck from the tours of the Chinati Foundation, filled with wonder from the desert landscape and starry nights, and amped up on their great Instagram snap in front of Prada Marfa. Needless to say, Marfa has amassed a lot of hype.


From the Vogue article (in case you didn’t click on the link), here’s a photo (by Jonathon Becker) of the famous Prada Shoe Store sculpture, located along a highway outside of Marfa.  That’s right.  It’s not a Prada shoe store, it’s a sculpture.

From The New York Times, entitled “Marfa Road Trip:  Thelma and Louisa, with a Happier Ending:”

Blurb:  When you escape your life at 45, as in a Thelma and Louise-level escape, you go to the desert. My best friends of 25 years joined me.  We picked Marfa, the artist hub in the middle of the West Texas desert as the destination of our road trip last winter. The quirky art community was part of the reason we landed on Marfa. We wanted to fade into the weirdness of the town, with our identities washing away into the artist Donald Judd’s concrete blocks, the dry landscape and the big sky. We knew it would be the kind of place you might forget to call your family. (Indeed, it was.)


Here’s a shot from the NY Times article by Stacy Sodolak of El Cosmico, a trailer hotel and campground:

From a Houston Culture website (It’s Not Hou, It’s Me), entitled “A Houstonian’s Guide:  24 Hours in Marfa Texas.

Blurb:  This past week, I went to a little town in the middle of nowhere Texas to look at art in the desert. It was awesome. If Marfa isn’t on your radar, it should be. It’s a fantastic little art haven in West Texas, spitting distance from Mexico, that’s the perfect addition to any road trip down I-10 or trip to Big Bend State Park.


From the website, a Marfa trashcan:

From The Atlanta Journal Constituion, entitled “The Mysterious Allure of Marfa.” 

Blurb:  Most city slogans are kind of dumb. Even if they sound clever at first, they begin to annoy over time. I’d be happy if I never heard, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas,” again. Or “Keep Austin Weird.” If you’ve been to Austin lately, you know that battle has been lost. But whoever came up with the slogan for Marfa, Texas, nailed it: “Tough to get to. Tougher to explain.”


From the website:

From Vanity Fair, entitled “Lone Star Bohemia.”

Blurb:  The tiny West Texas border town of Marfa is 200 miles from anywhere, but after the late minimalist artist Donald Judd acquired dozens of its buildings, filling them with everything from Rembrandts to light sculptures, art-world pioneers and pilgrims made it their playground. Sean Wilsey and Daphne Beal channel the mix of tumbleweeds, talent, and iconoclasm that is key to Marfa’s mystique.


From the website, with this caption:  “A Union Pacific freight train whistles past a collection of cars – a 1964 Pontiac Bonneville convertible, 1963 Plymouth Belvedere, 1962 Plymouth Valiant, 1965 International Travel-all, 1967 Pontiac Tempest station wagon – artfully parked by Food Shark impresarios Adam Bork and Krista Steinhauer, on the outskirts of Marfa Texas:”

From The Dallas News, entitled “Marfa Unvarnished:  Why a Visit is Worth the Epic Trek – and Why Maybe You Shouldn’t Bother.”

Blurb:  You may have read, or more likely heard, all kinds of things about Marfa. That it’s super cool. That it’s a foodie destination. That it’s right next to Big Bend. That it’s completely overrated. I’m here to give you Marfa, unvarnished.

First, a few things to get out of the way: The fake Prada store is not in Marfa. It’s 26 miles out of town, but ART (with a capital A-R-T) and artifice are everywhere in town. Even the tumbleweeds look curated.

Most people you see on the street (and in the galleries and boutiques and dining rooms) look wealthy. Bearded hipster dads and tattooed moms push babies in expensive strollers. Cool-looking older couples (she with beautiful long gray hair, he with fabulous turquoise jewelry) sip espresso in front of the new boutique hotel, the Saint George. Everyone over 60 has exquisite taste.

Does it sound like I hated Marfa? I didn’t. I loved it. Friends told me to stay a day and a half, two days max. After spending three days and three nights, I still felt there was plenty more to see and do.


From the website, here’s a shot of sunset over Hotel Paisano by Guy Reynolds:

From The Huffington Post, entitled “Goodbye, Marfa, Texas.”

Blurb:  When we love something we inevitably ruin it with our enthusiasm. The pleasure turns passé, the charm fades, we move on to the next shiny thing.  Marfa, Texas, is a city on the brink of proving this rule.  For those new to Marfa: it is a beautiful, odd, art-filled place at the western edge of Texas, three hours from the nearest airport. This is only its latest incarnation. Starting in the late 19th century, it was a rail stop for oilmen, then a watering hole for ranchers. Today, because of a man named Donald Judd, local Marfans are losing ground to transplants from New York City and Seattle, the kind of people who thought they’d never set foot in Texas.

Judd, a native of Missouri, died of cancer in 1994. But his legacy lives on in the one-stoplight city he made his home. An artist who came to define American minimalism, he left the energy of early 1970s Soho in search of an asset he considered better than paint on a flat surface: in his words, “actual space.” He was a doer and a thinker — an artist who started his career as an art critic. He looked like a slimmer, kinder Hemingway. Perennially bearded, shimmering between sleek and gruff. The type who could build a table and just as easily analyze its aesthetics.


A shot of “Judd’s legendary sequence of concrete blocks, on the Chinati property south of Marfa:”

Trees in Field, Marfa, Presidio County, West Texas, Texas, USA

And another trailer from Los Cosmico:

Moving along (but staying in Marfa), check this out from Wiki:

Apart from Donald Judd and modern art, Marfa may be most famous for the Marfa lights, visible on clear nights between Marfa and the Paisano Pass when one is facing southwest (toward the Chinati Mountains).

According to the Handbook of Texas Online, “… at times they appear colored as they twinkle in the distance. They move about, split apart, melt together, disappear, and reappear. Presidio County residents have watched the lights for over a hundred years. The first historical record of them dates to 1883.

Presidio County has built a viewing station 9 miles east of town on US 67 near the site of the old air base. Each year, enthusiasts gather for the annual Marfa Lights Festival. The lights have been featured and mentioned in various media, including the television show Unsolved Mysteries and an episode of King of the Hill and in an episode of Disney Channel Original Series So Weird. A book by David Morrell, 2009’s The Shimmer, was inspired by the lights.

The Rolling Stones mention the “lights of Marfa” in the song “No Spare Parts” from the 2011 re-release of their 1978 album Some Girls.

Really, the Stones?  Of course, I checked out the song.  It’s about a love-lorn guy driving to visit his girl.  My guess is, he starts in California (although not mentioned); then:

I take the 10 to Phoenix, be in Tucson by the afternoon
Get some shut eye in Benson [on I-10, about 40 miles east of Tucson] and a bite at the greasy spoon

And now for the Marfa part:

Took a turn off 90 [actually, onto U.S. Rt 90], I should have stayed on the interstate [I-10]
I was lost in the real, my map was kind of out of date

I saw the lights of Marfa, I guess it was a scenic route
When I had to change a tire, I’m glad I wore my western boots.

And then later in the song:

When I got to Sonora, the sun was shining in my eyes
With the air-con busted, the windshield full of flies
In just a few hours, you’re going to fall in my loving arms.

 Here’s a map of the road trip so far:

And then, he had “just a few hours” to get to his honey.  My guess is San Antonio:

OK.  So here’s the song, with the words following:


Your daddy drank himself half to death when he was 39 years old
But I hope you don’t think I feel like a father to you
But I want to tell you I miss you so much, you’re a thousand miles away
I’m at the wheel of my car and I’m coming on home to you, yeah

Lonely hearts, they’re not made to break
I got no spare parts, got no oil to change

Honey, I ain’t accustomed to lose
If I want something bad enough, I always find a way to get through
If I want something bad enough, I always find a way to get through

I take the 10 to Phoenix, be in Tucson by the afternoon
Get some shut eye in Benson and a bite at the greasy spoon
Took a turn off 90, I should have stayed on the interstate
I was lost in the real, my map was kind of out of date

I saw the lights of Marfa, I guess it was a scenic route
When I had to change a tire, I’m glad I wore my western boots

Lonely hearts, they’re not made to break
I got no spare parts, got no oil to change

Honey, I ain’t accustomed to lose
If I want something bad enough, I always find a way to get through
Honey, I ain’t accustomed to lose
If I want something bad enough, I always find a way to get through, yeah
If I want something bad enough, I always find a way to get through, yes

When I got to Sonora, the sun was shining in my eyes
With the air-con busted, the windshield full of flies
In just a few hours, you’re going to fall in my loving arms
I’ve been so hot to see you, I set off the fire alarms, yeah

Lonely Hearts, they’re not made to break
I got no spare parts, got no oil to change

Honey, I ain’t accustomed to lose
If I want something bad enough, I always find a way to get through
If I want something bad enough, I always find a way to get it, baby
If I want something bad enough, I always find a way to get through
If I want something bad enough, I always find a way to get through, yeah

Lonely hearts, they’re not made to break
I got no oil to change, yeah
Lonely hearts, they’re not made to break
I got no spare parts, got no oil to change

A quick personal story:  My son Ben was visiting while I was doing the above Marfa write-up.  I showed him the picture of the pink trailer at Los Cosmico, suggesting that he’d enjoying staying there.  His response was that he might be going to Marfa to visit his old college buddy Phil Boyd, who bought a house in Marfa.  Phil was a Pittsburgh native (he and Ben both went to Pitt) and a “punk blues” musician, the lead guitarist of the band Modey Lemon (check ‘em out on YouTube if you’re inclined).  He moved to Austin because of the music scene, but lo and behold, ended up in Marfa. 

I’ll close with this, from Jeff Lynch photography, a shot of a storm over Fort Davis:


That’ll do it . . .




© 2018 A Landing A Day






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Washburn, Stanton, Fort Clark and Hensler, North Dakota

Posted by graywacke on November 21, 2018

First timer?  In this formerly once-a-day blog (and now pretty much a once-a-week blog), I use an app that provides 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 or towns 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) please see “About Landing” above.  To check out some relatively recent changes in how I do things, check out “About Landing (Revisited).”

Landing number 2421; A Landing A Day blog post number 854.

Dan:  Today’s lat/long (47o 20.261’ N, 101o 7.848’) puts me in Central North Dakota:

Here’s my local landing map, showing my various titular towns:

It looks like there’s no need for a streams-only map.  Obviously, I landed in the watershed of the Might Mo (432nd hit); on to the Mighty Miss (938th hit).

When I slipped over to Google Earth (GE), I found that in fact, I landed adjacent to a stream, albeit totally ignored by Street Atlas:

And just to confirm, you can see that this stream does indeed head due south to the Missouri:

As is my wont, I looked up the local USGS topo map.  Bingo!

Although I covered the “C” in “Coulee,” you can see that I landed in the watershed of Coal Lake Coulee.

I found Coal Lake on Street Atlas, but I thought I’d use GE to take a look:

See the two large disturbed areas (west and north of my landing)?  Guess what?  They’re coal mines!  More about them in a minute.  But first, I wasn’t able to get Street View coverage of Coal Lake Coulee.  But I could get a look at a similar, nearby stream:

And here’s what the Orange Dude sees:

There’s a bridge at Washburn; here’s the Street View of the MIghty Mo from there:

Mighty indeed!

Back the coal mines, here’s a closer look at the western mine:

The huge crane is removing the overburden (non-coal soil and rock), exposing the coal seam.  Overall, they’re working right to left.  The coal is being mined by the Falkirk Mining Company.

Once the coal seam is exposed, here’s a shot of where they’re actually removing the coal. 

There are five or six of these lines of mining going on as I type and as you read.

In between the two mining operations is this:


Stretching two miles east to west, this is North Dakota’s largest power plant.  Guess what?  It’s coal-fired!  Here’s the entrance to the plant:

I bet the locals call my landing creek “Coal Creek” rather than “Coal Lake Coulee.”

The coal here is “lignite.”  From Wiki:

Lignite, often referred to as brown coal, is a soft, brown, combustible, sedimentary rock formed from naturally compressed peat. It is considered the lowest rank of coal due to its relatively low heat content. It has a carbon content around 60–70 percent.  It is mined all around the world and is used almost exclusively as a fuel for steam-electric power generation.

It doesn’t sound like the cleanest burning coal . . . and a little research indicates that it’s not . . .

Let’s start with a very quick trip to Hensler.  Wiki has nothing to say.  But there was a link to ADM-Benson Quinn, a company that operates grain elevators.  Here’s the Hensler facility:

And here’s part of their homepage:

Note the concern about “Tame Buckwheat.”  I wonder what’s so bad about tame buckwheat!?!  Well, buckwheat, although grown as a grain crop, is generally considered a weed in North Dakota.  I assume that tame buckwheat was derived from wild buckwheat, because of commercial properties like yield, hardiness and flavor.

From Field of my Own blogspot, here’s a picture of tame buckwheat, with the caption beside.

This a Tame Buckwheat plant.  It is related to Wild Buckwheat, the number one annual weed in Alberta in agricultural settings. 

I did a stupid amount of research trying to figure out what’s so bad about tame buckwheat (and why it’s worse than wild buckwheat).  I don’t have a clue.

Moving right along to Stanton, (located where the Knife River meets the Missouri) the home of the Knife River Indian Villages Historic Site.  From Wiki:

At the Knife River Indian Villages National Historical Site, there are the visible remains of earth-lodge dwellings which can be seen as large circular depressions in the ground. These dwellings were as large as 40 feet in diameter. Many were once large enough to house up to 20 families, a few horses, and dogs. A replica has been built at the Site:

Sacagawea lived in one of the villages of the Knife River. The presence of Sakajawea and her son on the Lewis and Clark expedition was extremely crucial to the safety of the party and the success of their mission. In addition to her ability to translate for them, tribes who encountered the party believed that the presence of the young woman and child indicated they were not a threat. This is due to the fact that war parties did not allow women and children to accompany them.

The Knife River villages thrived until 1837-1840, when a series of smallpox outbreaks nearly wiped out the population.

The two Mandan villages that had been in contact with Lewis and Clark (1804-05) suffered the worst effects of the virus.  Out of 1,600 Mandan villagers, 31 survived. The smallpox epidemic was largely spread through the trading business (and had nothing to do with Lewis & Clark).

Despite warnings of outbreaks, Native Americans still visited trading posts and became exposed to the virus. Once the infected Mandan villages were empty, neighboring peoples raided the village for goods, but suffered after carrying back the virus via blankets, horses, and household tools.

The suffering of the Indians is unimaginable and beyond words.

Fort Clark (see my local landing map) isn’t a town; it is the name of a former Indian trading post.  From Lewis & Clark Road Trip:  Fort Clark, by Frances Hunter:

Our next stop on the Lewis & Clark trail was Fort Clark, once the site of a major American fur trading outpost and a Mandan village. Fort Clark was named after William Clark and was situated very near the site of Lewis & Clark’s original Fort Mandan (1804-1805).

The fur trading fort was set up adjacent to the village in the early 1830s; American trade goods and liquor arrived by steamboat each year and were exchanged with the Indians for beaver pelts and bison robes.

Here’s a picture of the former Mandan village adjacent to Fort Clark (from the ND State Historical Society).  It contains the circular scars of the dwellings discussed above:

Washburn (pop 1,250; far and away the largest town around) has two hooks.  From Wiki (first hook):

Washburn is home to the North Dakota Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center which focuses on the Expedition’s winter with the Mandans and houses a full-scale replication of Fort Mandan, where Lewis and Clark wintered in 1804-05.

Here’s a shot of the replica of Fort Mandan, a screen shot from a GE 360 panorama by DeVane Webster:

From Wiki:

Fort Mandan was the name of the encampment which the Lewis and Clark Expedition built for wintering over in 1804-1805. The fort was built of cottonwood lumber cut from the riverbanks. It was triangular in shape, with high walls on all sides, an interior open space between structures, and a gate facing the Missouri River, by which the party would normally travel.

Storage rooms provided a safe place to keep supplies. Lewis and Clark shared a room.

Here’s a shot of the replica of their room:

The men of the expedition started the fort on November 2, 1804. They wintered there until April 6, 1805. According to the journals, they built the fort slightly downriver from the five villages of the Mandan and Hidatsa nations.

The winter was very cold, with temperatures sometimes dipping to minus 45 degrees Fahrenheit.  Several of the men of the expedition suffered frostbite due to the severely cold conditions, which affected them even with brief exposure.

No frostbite for Lewis or Clark.  They must have sent their lackeys out on the coldest days to go hunter and collect and cut firewood.

Back to Washburn for the second hook.  Wiki’s list of “Notable People” includes Clint Hill, “Secret Service agent assigned to Jacqueline Kennedy.”  His name is wiki-clickable, so click I did.

Hill is best known for his notable act of bravery while in the presidential motorcade on November 22, 1963 when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas.

During the assassination, Hill ran from the car immediately behind the presidential limousine, leaped onto the back of it and shielded Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and the stricken president with his body as the car raced to Parkland Memorial Hospital. This action was documented in the Zapruder film.




Since the death of Nellie Connally in September 2006, Hill is the last surviving person who was in the presidential limousine that day.

Hill was riding on the left front running board of the Secret Service car immediately behind the presidential limousine. As soon as the shooting began, Hill began running to overtake the moving car in front of him. He climbed from the rear bumper, crawling over the trunk to the back seat where the President and First Lady were located. In the moments immediately after the fatal shots Mrs. Kennedy was seen climbing out of the back seat towards the trunk. Hill pushed her back into the car and covered her and the fatally wounded president with his body.

Hill grabbed a small handrail on the left rear of the trunk, normally used by bodyguards to stabilize themselves while standing on small platforms on the rear bumper. According to the Warren Commission’s findings, there were no bodyguards stationed on the bumper that day because

…the President had frequently stated that he did not want agents to ride on these steps during a motorcade except when necessary. He had repeated this wish only a few days before, during his visit to Tampa, Florida.

The notion that the President’s instructions in Tampa jeopardized his security in Dallas has since been denied by Hill and other agents. Regardless of the Warren Commission’s findings, photos taken of the motorcade along earlier segments of the route show Hill riding on the step at the back of the car.


As an alternative explanation, fellow agent Gerald Blaine cites the location of the shooting:

We were going into a freeway, and that’s where you take the speeds up to 60 and 70 miles an hour. So we would not have had any agents there anyway.

Hill grabbed the handrail less than two seconds after the fatal shot to the President. The driver then accelerated, causing the car to slip away from Hill, who was in the midst of trying to leap onto it. He succeeded in regaining his footing and jumped onto the back of the quickly accelerating vehicle.

As he got on, Mrs. Kennedy, apparently in shock, was crawling onto the flat rear trunk of the moving limousine. He crawled to her and guided the First Lady back into her seat. Once back in the car, Hill placed his body above the President and Mrs. Kennedy. Meanwhile, in the folding jump seats directly in front of them, Mrs. Connally had pulled her wounded husband, Governor John Connally, to a prone position on her lap.

[I left out a very graphic quote from Mr. Hill about what he witnessed in the car.]

Agent Kellerman, in the front seat of the car, gave orders over the car’s two-way radio to the lead vehicle in the procession “to the nearest hospital, quick!” Hill was shouting as loudly as he could “To the hospital, to the hospital!” En route to the hospital, Hill flashed a “thumbs-down” signal and shook his head from side to side at the agents in the follow-up car, signaling the graveness of the President’s condition.

The limousine then rapidly exited Dealey Plaza and sped to Parkland Memorial Hospital, only minutes away, followed by other vehicles in the motorcade. As the car moved at high speed to the hospital, Hill maintained his position shielding the couple with his body, and was looking down at the President.

As the hospital staff attended to Kennedy and Connally, Hill received a telephone call from Attorney General Robert Kennedy, the President’s brother. Hill declined to tell Robert Kennedy over the phone that his brother was dead, saying in a 2013 interview “I explained to him that both the president and the governor had been shot and that we were in the emergency room at Parkland Hospital. So then he said, “Well, how bad is it?” Well, I didn’t want to tell him his brother was dead. I didn’t think it was my place. So I said, “It’s as bad as it can get.”

Although the Secret Service was shocked at its failure to protect the life of President Kennedy, virtually everyone agreed that Clint Hill’s rapid and brave actions had been without blemish. He was honored at a ceremony in Washington just days after the funeral of John F. Kennedy. Mrs. Kennedy, despite being in deep mourning, made an appearance at the event to thank him in person.

Phew. Let’s head back to North Dakota and close with a couple of GE shots of the Mighty Mo.  First this, by Marilyn Deering:

And this, by Scott Elstad:

That’ll do it . . .




© 2018 A Landing A Day






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Valparaiso, Indiana

Posted by graywacke on November 14, 2018

First timer?  In this formerly once-a-day blog (and now pretty much a once-a-week blog), I use an app that provides 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 or towns 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) please see “About Landing” above.  To check out some relatively recent changes in how I do things, check out “About Landing (Revisited).”

Landing number 2421; A Landing A Day blog post number 854.

Dan:  Today’s lat/long (41.4289o N, 87.0481oW) puts me in NW Indiana:


And yes, I have Street Atlas once again (after my hard drive crash).  I had to pay a ridiculous $160 on eBay for Street Atlas 2010!  Anyway, here’s my local landing map, showing I had little choice but to feature Valparaiso:

My streams-only map shows that I landed in the watershed of Salt Creek, on to the Little Calumet R (first hit ever!); on to the Calumet R (first hit ever!). 

Of course, the big blue blob at the top of the map is Lake Michigan (38th hit); on to the St. Lawrence R (110th hit).

I know that the region encompassing northwest Indiana and northeast Illinois is incredibly flat and low-lying (relative to Lake Michigan).  I also know that we industrialists starting messing around with the rivers and drainageways of this region back in the 19th century. 

So, a little research reveals that the Little Calumet used to be the upstream portion of the Grand Calumet.  I have made some crude erasures (and added a blue line connecting the Little & and the Grand) to recreate the original drainageways:

The river flowed west, made a u-turn, and then flowed east before discharging into Lake Michigan in Gary.  Originally, the Calumet River only drained Calumet Lake.

I have excellent Google Earth (GE) Street View coverage, and was able to look at my landing from two nearby vantage points:

First, from the street in front of the houses:

And then, a look across the field behind the houses:

I also could get a look at Salt Creek not far from my landing:

And here’s what the Orange Dude sees:

Time to look at Valparaiso (pop 32,000).  First, we all must pronounce it correctly:  val-pah-RAY-so.  

From Wiki:

The town was established in 1836 as Portersville, county seat of Porter County.  In 1837, it was renamed to Valparaiso (meaning “Vale of Paradise” in Old Spanish).  It was named after Valparaíso, Chile, near which the county’s namesake David Porter battled in the Battle of Valparaiso during the War of 1812.

There was a battle in Chile during the war of 1812??  Yes, David Porter (who has no particular connection to northwest Indiana), was a naval captain who sailed his ship the USS Essex to the southern Atlantic and Pacific Oceans before the War of 1812 began. 

After war was declared, he was captured two British ships off the coast of Brazil.  He rounded Cape Horn, and headed north in the Pacific towards Valparaiso, Chile.  Once there, he went after British whalers, capturing several.  The British had become aware of his activities and sent a war ship (HMS Phoebe) to Valparaiso.

A battle ensued, and Phoebe kicked ass.  From Wiki:

Phoebe suffered four killed and seven wounded. Essex had 58 dead and 65 wounded. Phoebe had holes below the waterline as well as her rigging severely cut. Essex had been hit with more than 200 shot and had her stern smashed in, a hole in her counter, her wheel and rudder damaged, all three masts damaged, the figurehead shot away, 15 guns disabled, 55 gun crew killed, 60 gun crew wounded, and the upper works and rigging severely damaged.

In his final report, David Porter claimed that the British had violated neutrality, conducted themselves dishonorably and inhumanely, and plundered his personal property after the engagement. He stated that the loss of Essex was simply due to a series of misfortunes. He wrote to Secretary Jones “I hope, Sir, that our conduct may prove satisfactory to our country.” Porter finally claimed that the United States had the right to reclaim Essex from the British.

Herman Melville criticized Porter’s refusal to strike his colors when it became clear that the situation was hopeless.  Instead, Melville accused Porter of seeking to “crown himself with the glory of the shambles, by permitting his hopeless crew to be butchered before his eyes.”  Melville added:  “Nor, by thus continuing to fight, did this American frigate, one iota, promote the true interests of her country.”

Evidently, Valparaiso’s founding fathers bought Porter’s story (and paid no attention to Melville) . . .

So, what about Valparaiso, Chile? (Also pronounced val-pah-RAY-so, but with that difficult-to-pronounce Spanish “r”.)  Here’s a map:

And here’s a GE close-up.  Note that all of the lighter areas are urban:

Here’s the opening section of Lonely Planet’s Valparaiso write-up:

Syncopated, dilapidated, colorful and poetic, Valparaíso is a wonderful mess. Pablo Neruda, who drew much inspiration from this hard-working port town, said it best: ‘Valparaíso, how absurd you are…you haven’t combed your hair, you’ve never had time to get dressed, life has always surprised you.’

But Neruda wasn’t the only artist to fall for Valparaíso’s unexpected charms. Poets, painters and would-be philosophers have long been drawn to Chile’s most unusual city. Along with the ever-shifting port population of sailors, dockworkers and prostitutes, they’ve endowed gritty and gloriously spontaneous Valparaíso with an edgy air of ‘anything goes.’ Add to this the spectacular faded beauty of its chaotic cerros (hills), some of the best street art in Latin America, a maze of steep, sinuous streets, alleys and escaleras (stairways) piled high with crumbling mansions, and it’s clear why some visitors spend more time here than in Santiago.

It’s time for a tour.  I spent some time on GE Street View.  Virtually every street in Valpo has coverage:

I dropped the Orange Dude randomly around town.  Here’s a very typical street scene on one of the hills above the city:

And here’s another:

And then, I happened upon this lovely church:

Which I thought deserved a closer look:

And an even closer look:

Is that cool, or what?

I cheated a little, and researched areas of Valpo that are particularly rich with street art.  I put the Orange Dude in the general vicinity and started looking around.  Here’s one shot:

And another:

And another:

Here’s a particularly amazing piece of street art by Cuellimangui (from the artist’s Flickr photostream).  It’s so long, I had to break it into two photos. First the front:

And then the back:


I then moved over to YouTube.  Here’s a cool video by Henrik Eriksson (good Chilean name):



And then this, entitled  “Amazing Alley” by Michael Melkonian (another not-Chilean name):


Before heading back to Indiana, a personal note:  I work (a little) with a young man named Golky Barrios.  He is Chilean and lived for four years in Valparaiso in his early twenties.  He loved the city and everything about it – the hills, the ocean, the beaches, the nightlife and, yes, the street art.  He said that more than anywhere else in Chile, the city has an anything-goes attitude.  He and his roommate had a 4 bedroom apartment; they rented out the two bedrooms to friends and family who wanted to visit.  He told me he loved being a tour guide for first-timers visiting Valparaiso.

So, let’s head back to good ol’ Indiana in the good ol’ US of A. 

I noticed “Indiana Dunes State Park” along the lakeshore north of my landing (the green splotch):

A childhood memory came flooding back.  Between the ages of 5 and 10, my family lived in Oak Park, Illinois, a Chicago suburb.  One beautiful day (a Sunday it turns out), we decided to visit the Indiana Dunes.  I think my Mom packed a picnic lunch, and we decided that we’d leave right after church, which was presided over by my father, a Presbyterian minister.

After church, we jumped right in the car.  Our route to the dunes included the Indiana Turnpike, a toll road.

When we pulled up to the toll booth to pay the toll, my Dad said to my Mom something like “I must have forgotten my wallet.  Do you have any money?”  To which my Mom answered, “no.”

Here’s the peculiar (and funny) part.  We must have left in such a hurry after church that my father didn’t bother taking off his clerical collar.  As he was explaining to the toll booth collector that we had no money, the collector interrupted and said something like, “No problem, Father.  This one is on me.”

My Dad didn’t correct the perception of him as a priest.  Although one might wonder, who is the woman in the front seat and why are there three kids in the back?.  Anyway, my Dad tried to get the man’s name and address so he could send him the money.  He would have nothing of it.

My father is very practical; he simply said thanks, (I don’t think he said “Thank you, son”) and off we went to see the dunes.

I’ll close with some shots of the Indiana Dunes State Park.  First this of the actual dunes from IndianaDunes.com:


Nearly all of the Google Earth photos are sunset shots over the lake, so I’ve picked a few.  First this, by Helen Q. Huang:

And this, by James Pappas:

By Floyydd Mumford (yes, that’s how he spells his first name):

And Andreas Owen:

I’ll close with this one, by Nathan King:

That’ll do it . . .




© 2018 A Landing A Day






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Wawbeek, New York

Posted by graywacke on November 7, 2018

First timer?  In this formerly once-a-day blog (and now pretty much a once-a-week blog), I use an app that provides 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 or towns 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) please see “About Landing” above.  To check out some relatively recent changes in how I do things, check out “About Landing (Revisited).”

Landing number 2420; A Landing A Day blog post number 853.

Dan:  Today’s lat/long (44.2812 o N, 74.3708oW) puts me in far northern New York:


As you can see above, this was my 7th landing in New York since January 2013, when I lost all of my previous yellow push-pins on Google Earth.  (In spite of my recent hard drive crash, a smart young man from my wife’s office was able to transfer the 400+ push-pins from my damaged hard drive to my new one.)

Going back to the above map with its 7 NY landings.  Don’t be fooled.  The one way down south is landing 2412, my recent Staten Island landing.  Landing 2390 is in PA, not NY.  Funny how my landings have totally ignored the vast majority of the area of New York State . . .

Here’s my (very) local landing map:


I mean, really.  Wawbeek isn’t really a town, as you’ll soon learn.  I’ll zoom back a little.  If you know the Adirondacks at all, you’ll have a clue as to where I landed:

But I am really in the boonies.

Tracing my drainage was a challenge.  Using the Google Earth (GE) elevation tool, I figured this out, close to my landing:

So I landed in Deer Pond Marsh, which drains to Brandy Pond, on to Fish Creek Ponds (not Square Pond) and then to Fish Creek Bay (part of Upper Saranac Lake).

While I’m here, I saw that I could get a GE Street View shot of my drainage pathway, and my landing:

Here’s the “upper” Fish Creek Pond view towards my landing:

Here’s the “lower” Fish Creek Pond view towards the end of the pond where my drainage ends up:

Zooming back, Upper Saranac Lake drains to Middle Saranac Lake and then to Lower Saranac Lake:

Moving east:

Lower Saranac Lake drains to First Pond, to Second Pond, to Oseetah Lake, to Lake Flower, and finally to the Saranac River (2nd hit).

Zooming way back (and moving over to Google Maps), you can see that I highlighted three cities:

The Saranac flows from Saranac Lake to Plattsburgh, where it discharges into Lake Champlain.  The Richelieu River (8th hit) flows out of Lake Champlain, and discharges to the St. Lawrence River (109th hit) at Sorel, Quebec.

Geez.  I’m exhausted, and all I’ve done is my drainage!

So I checked out the towns of Tupper Lake and Saranac Lake (see my slightly-less-local map above), but found no decent hook.  I’m sure I could find a Lake Placid hook, what with the 1980 Olympics and the “Miracle on Ice,” when the US college-kid amateurs beat the big bad Soviet Union in ice hockey.  I remember watching the game; I might rank it as the number one emotionally draining and exhilarating sporting event I have ever seen.  But, at 20 miles, it seemed kind of far away.

But Wawbeek?  Like I said before, it’s not really a town.  But I found a definitive Wawbeek article on LocalWiki.org.  I’ve never stumbled on Local Wiki before.  Before jumping into Wawbeek, here’s a little about Local Wiki.  It was started in Davis, California, as “Davis Wiki.”  Local residents are the main contributors and users.  From their website:

In a week, nearly half of residents use it; in a month, nearly everyone uses it. And 1 in 7 residents contribute material to the project. Today the residents of Davis use it for everything from learning about local news and local history to helping return lost pets to their owners.

Some folks associated with Davis Wiki decided to launch LocalWiki (in 2010) to encourage communities across America to use the Davis model.

From their website:

After experimenting with a variety of approaches — and growing LocalWiki to over 300 communities — we re-launced LocalWiki as a global, hosted platform for local knowledge sharing in in early 2015.

One might think that I would have run into LocalWiki before.  Anyway, I did find a Wawbeek Hotel article, part of the “Historic Saranac Lake” LocalWiki series.  From their article:

In 1889, the Wawbeek Lodge, a five story structure on forty acres, with 200 guest rooms and cottages was opened on the southwest shore of Upper Saranac Lake.  The Lodge was purposely located at the historic Sweeney Carry, a portage route between the lake and the Raquette River.

Here’s the original Lodge in an 1891 photo:

“Sweeney Carry” was WikiClickable, so I did, and saw this 1893 article from The Adirondacks Illustrated by Seneca Ray Stoddard:

And here’s the 1888 photograph upon which the above sketch was based:

Here’s my best guess of the route of Sweeney’s Carry:

Speaking of “carries,” there’s an Indian Carry mentioned in the Upper Saranac Lake article:

The Indian Carry is a portage trail that leads from the southern end Upper Saranac Lake to the Stony Creek Ponds.  Canoes could be paddled down Stony Creek (leading south out of the Stony Creek Ponds) and thence to the Raquette River. It dates to the pre-history of the Adirondacks, and is still in use, especially during the yearly, 90-mile Adirondack Canoe Classic canoe race.

Here’s my best guess for the Indian Carry – based on the flattest route between the two lakes:

Its north end was the site of the Rustic Lodge, and later Swenson Camp, and its south end was the site of the Hiawatha Lodge.

Here’s an early 1900s view of Hiawatha Lodge:

You might wonder how I knew where Hiawatha Lodge was located (the yellow push-pin in the Indian Carry map).  It wasn’t shown on any map.  Well, I moved a low-angle Google Earth view around the lake until I could match the mountain in the background (see above picture) thusly:

Well done, Greg!  Back to LocalWiki:

English author Charles Dickens visited the area the summer of 1859, staying at Paul Smith’s Hotel.  Paul Smith himself served as guide, as recounted in Dickens’ periodical All The Year Round, published on September 29, 1860, in which he wrote of the trip from the St. Regis Lakes to Tupper Lake via Upper Saranac Lake: “That night we slept at a loghouse, on the Indian carrying-place.  Next day we crossed the carry at daybreak, took the Stony Creek Ponds, and entered the Racquette, twenty miles above Tupper’s Lake.”

From InAndAroundTheAdirondackPark.com, here’s a reproduction of the beginning of Dickens’ piece:

Here’s more-or-less the route of Dickens’ trip:


The line on the map total 35 miles; the actual trip was surely more circuitous and therefore longer (estimated at 50 miles by Dickens).

Now wait a second!  Hold the presses!  I went to regular old Wiki to read about Charles Dickens’ trip to America, and found that he had two trips.  One in 1842, and a second in 1867-68.  Nothing about an 1859 trip.  In fact, Wiki says:

“While he contemplated a second visit to the United States, the outbreak of the Civil War in America in 1861 delayed his plans.”

I’ll get back to the discrepancy in a bit.  But here are some interesting tidbits about his 1842 trip (from a 2012 BBC magazine article):

On his first visit to America in 1842, English novelist Charles Dickens was greeted like a modern rock star. But the trip soon turned sour, as Simon Watts reports.

On Valentine’s Day, 1842, New York hosted one of the grandest events the city had ever seen – a ball in honour of the English novelist Charles Dickens.

Dickens was only 30, but works such as Oliver Twist and the Pickwick Papers had already made him the most famous writer in the world.

The cream of New York society hired the grandest venue in the city – the Park Theatre – and decorated it with wreaths and paintings in honour of the illustrious visitor.

There was even a bust of Dickens hanging from one of the theatre balconies, with an eagle appearing to soar over his head.

Dickens and his wife, Catherine, danced most of the night in the company of around 3,000 guests.

“If I should live to grow old,” the novelist told a dinner the following night, “the scenes of this and other evenings will shine as brightly to my dull eyes 50 years hence as now”.

But a visit which had started so well quickly turned into a bitter dispute, known as the “Quarrel with America”.

When Dickens’s boat made a stopover in Cleveland, he awoke to find a “party of gentlemen” staring through the cabin window as his wife lay in bed.

“If I turn into the street, I am followed by a multitude,” Dickens complained in a letter.

“I can’t drink a glass of water, without having 100 people looking down my throat when I open my mouth to swallow.”

In his travel book, American Notes, Dickens describes Mid-Westerners at dinner as “so many fellow animals”, who “strip social sacraments of everything but the mere satisfaction of natural cravings”.

“The longer Dickens rubbed shoulders with Americans, the more he realised that the Americans were simply not English enough,” says Professor Jerome Meckier, author of Dickens: An Innocent Abroad.

“He began to find them overbearing, boastful, vulgar, uncivil, insensitive and above all acquisitive.”

Dickens visited Washington DC later in his trip.  But by now he was in such a foul mood that his enduring memory of the city was the tobacco-spitting he saw in the streets.

“Washington may be called the head-quarters of tobacco-tinctured saliva,” Dickens fumed in American Notes. “The thing itself is an exaggeration of nastiness, which cannot be outdone.”

On his return to England, Dickens published two books about his American trip.

As well as the scathing travel writing of American Notes, he satirised the country viciously in a section of Martin Chuzzlewit, his next major novel.

To the American press, the books were a libel on their country.

“We are all described as a filthy, gormandizing race,” raged an article in the Courier and Enquirer, which was edited by James Watson Webb.

[“Gormandizing” more-or-less equals “glutinous.”]

It described Dickens as a “low-bred scullion… who for more than half his life has lived in the stews of London”.

Many of the friends Dickens had made in America, such as the novelist, Washington Irving, were also outraged and struggled to forgive him for ridiculing their country in print.

“Americans felt they’d welcomed Dickens into their country as a hero,” says Prof Meckier, “and now there was a sense he was a traitor.”

Phew.  One might think he would never come back, right?  Wrong.  So, here’s what Wiki says about his 1867 trip:

Landing at Boston on November 9th, he devoted the rest of the month to a round of dinners with such notables as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and his American publisher, James Thomas Fields. In early December, the readings began. He performed 76 readings, netting £19,000, from December 1867 to April 1868.

[I found a historical pound inflation calculator on the internet.  It says that £19,000 in 1867 would be worth £2,147,000 ($2,730,000) today.  Not bad!]

Dickens shuttled between Boston and New York, where he gave 22 readings at Steinway Hall. Although he had started to suffer from what he called the “true American catarrh”, he kept to a schedule that would have challenged a much younger man, even managing to squeeze in some sleighing in Central Park.

[“Catarrh?”  It means “excessive discharge of mucus.”  Charming.]

During his travels, he saw a change in the people and the circumstances of America. His final appearance was at a banquet the American Press held in his honour, when he promised never to denounce America again.

By the end of the tour Dickens could hardly manage solid food, subsisting on champagne and eggs beaten in sherry.

[Hold on!  AYKM?  Champagne and eggs beaten in sherry??  I’ll have to try that!]

When he boarded the Cunard liner Russia to return to Britain, he barely escaped a Federal Tax Lien against the proceeds of his lecture tour.

This is all information about Charles Dickens that I didn’t know.

So, the question remains:  Why did Local Wiki say that Charles Dickens was in America in 1859, and regular Wiki say nothing about this alleged trip?  Well, I’m coming down on the regular Wiki side:  Dickens was not in America (much less in the Adirondacks) in 1859!  Here’s why:

Quoting Local Wiki:

On September 29, 1860, English writer Charles Dickens published an article in his weekly periodical “All The Year Round”  titled, “Shooting in the Adirondack”.The author is unidentified.  The piece describes a “tramp” [a trek] taken in the Adirondack Mountains with Paul Smith as guide.

On April 25, 2018, we learned from Ted Comstock that the above account was not written by Charles Dickens. Instead, the periodical All the Year Round was “conducted by Charles Dickens.” The article was unsigned, but the details are convincing enough that they seem to be the unknown writer’s personal experience at that early date.

I mean really.  Quoting from the original “All The Year Round” article:

The house, a large frame building, was completed and furnished, and Paul was married and settled, before June.

Does that sound like the prose of a great English writer?  Or:

I should like to describe an Adirondack village, made up of some half-dozen log houses of the rudest description, with sometimes and unpainted frame-house, with the sign “Post-office” on it.

No.  Dickens did not write this.  But he, for some unknown reason, lifted a piece written by someone who, in 1859, traveled from St. Regis Lakes to Tupper Lake.  He didn’t say who it was, and he didn’t say it wasn’t him.  Oh, well…

I guess it’s time for me to get back to the Wawbeek, and back to LocalWiki, starting with this 1890 shot of the Lodge:

Despite its scenic location and lavish appointments, it closed in 1913, a victim of high operating costs and a trend toward shorter hotel stays and increasing private camp and cottage ownership. It was torn down shortly thereafter.

It was rebuilt as a smaller inn in 1922 (or 1930, depending on the source).

Here’s a 1966 brochure:

Seems rather ordinary, eh?  Back to Local Wiki:

The hotel went through a series of owners, but it ended up being donated to St. Lawrence University in 1975. The University leased the inn to Sports Illustrated for the 1980 Winter Olympics.  The weekend after the magazine staff left, a fire destroyed the building.

Here’s a little of what the Adirondack Enterprise newspaper had to say about the fire:

The main lodge at the historic Wawbeek Inn on Upper Saranac Lake was completely destroyed by fire on Saturday night.

The spectacular blaze raged out of control for hours with flames and smoke billowing high into the air. The conflagration was visible against the night sky for miles around.

Spectators were comfortably warm at a distance of well over a hundred feet from the building, despite subzero temperature readings.

So, it’s not clear to me exactly what happened next, but a lodge was rebuilt and then sold in 2008, and then at least partially demolished.  I think it’s just a private residence now, maybe this from the Wall Street Journal:

I’ll close with a couple of Fish Creek Ponds shots.  First, this daytime shot by Karmie Klotz:

And then, this sunset shot by Christopher Lennon:

That’ll do it . . .




© 2018 A Landing A Day






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