Monday, January 12, 2015

The Wild Wild West

Having recently read Mark Twain's 'Roughing It', my appetite was sharp for more history to verify what I learned from Twain. I found this book 'The Story of the Outlaw - Study of the Western Desperado' by Emerson Hough, written in 1907, and thought it would fit the bill.
Writing about the mid 1800's in the early 1900's gives the author the advantage of interviewing eye witnesses and looking up actual characters that he is writing about. I found the accounts of 'bad men' of the old west most fascinating.
Hough tries to analyse what constitutes a bad man and a desperado and examines what makes some brave, some cowardly, some notorious, and some to acquire legend status during a very short life.
There are numerous stories of train robberies, bank robberies, cattle thieving, gun fights, outright murder and mayhem, and plenty of hangings.
The west was truly wild at that time as the civilised easterners saw the west as a barren wasteland. They did nothing to establish any law and order so there was none. It was truly, in every sense of the word, the law of the gun. No doubt this history of much of the west is the root of the gun culture in the USA today.
When justice did come, it was in the form of vigilante groups and lynch mobs because even the Sheriffs and Marshals were mostly self appointed or hand picked by the criminal elements.
The detailed stories of Billy the Kid, Wild Bill Hickok, The James gang and the Younger Brothers is fascinating. Learning where the expression "Dying with his boots on" came from, is interesting. Stories of just how dangerous the times were in the cities where Mark Twain was prospecting make one wonder how he came away unscathed, although he was robbed at gunpoint one more than one occasion.  
When, in the future, I travel to these locations, I will have a greater understanding of how the country came to be and how the soil was soaked in human blood so often. Knowing the history of a place always makes it all the more fascinating to visit.
This book is a great history lesson and no doubt was the ground work for every western novel and western movie to be made since. What you see in those movies is hardly exaggerated.
3 1/2 stars  

Friday, January 9, 2015

Wild West

I have enjoyed reading Mark Twain and thought I would read a bit of his history in this semi-autobiographical book published in 1872.
It starts with a stage coach journey 'out west' to accompany his brother to a new government posting in Nevada. 
He finds no shortage of adventure and with his sense of humour injected into almost all of his experiences, it is an enjoyable read as well as an historical one. 
He was bound and determined to find wealth one way or another and his stories of mining, gold and silver exploration, land speculation, and sightseeing are more than interesting. 
His adventures lead him to the beginnings of a career in writing as he travels first to San Francisco and later to the Sandwich Islands. (Hawaii)  
Yet in all of these adventures and ventures, he never found substantial wealth until he went on the lecture tour and began speaking about his travels.   
I came away from the book with a renewed interest in the history of the wild west, a rudimentary knowledge of the mining industry and gold rushes, and an appreciation for the rugged and rough way of life that was the norm for living in the west in those days.
I recommend this book as both entertainment and as an education in history. And I guarantee you will get a real chuckle out of his story of getting lost in the snow storm.
3 1/2 stars 

Monday, January 5, 2015

Keeping the Country Going

When one cannot do the things one enjoys while on vacation, one has to then do the things which one does not like to do, but must be done. Case in point is the above photo depicting a sampling of year end paperwork for the self-employed. Every calendar quarter one is required to submit the tax one collects for the government throughout that quarter. The GST has to be recorded as accounts receivable are collected, and the forms filled out which reconcile GST input credits vs. GST collected. Then a nice fat cheque is written to the Receiver General, once again proving that when looking at one's bank balance, one is not as rich as one thinks one is.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Holiday Joy

"And how was your Christmas vacation?" is the common refrain this time of year. It is always a time to look forward to, a time spent with friends and family and a time to relax and do some enjoyable things that are put aside too often during rest of the year.
My gouty foot was finally starting to feel almost normal and the early Christmas with our little family was wonderful. In retrospect, by big mistake was attending the Christmas Eve service at church. We attended the last of 4 services where there had been, to that point, about 3600 people crowded into the worship center, they and all their germs and viruses.
Two days later I was down with one of the worst cases of sore throat and laryngitis that I have ever had. Today my illness is still in full swing, not getting better, not getting worse.
The plans to walk, visit friends have New Years Eve parties, go to some movies, eat out, etc, were out the window. I have not been out of the house since Dec. 27 and I have cabin fever as well as fevers of a viral nature.
I picked up a few jigsaw puzzles before the holidays and I chose the easy one first. Two days later it was done. The above photo shows the painting of two little kids gardening. Very nice, not too easy, but fun.   

This 'Cabin in the Woods' puzzle is not so easy, in fact it made my cabin fever get worse. It is the most difficult puzzle I have ever done with one exception. I once did a competition puzzle to see how I would fare against the winning time of 2 hours and 20 minutes. It was a close up photo of three zebras drinking at a watering hole in Africa. Five days later, I gave up. It was a blow to my ego to realize I could not even complete it when someone actually finished it so very quickly. Almost every piece, except for the eyes, was black and white stripes.
On this puzzle, every second piece is birch bark and autumn leaves. Same thing only easier. As you can see, I start with the easy stuff.

I will eventually finish this puzzle. I am that way. Besides, there are no Zebras in it. Below you can see how I have had to fortify myself with various types of relief for the sore throat, headache, stuffiness, and general feeling of malaise.
This is one holiday I will be glad to see come to an end.