Search Results for "potterville"
Wow–my sweet, quiet, former-utopian-colony town made the big-time today in a “Road to November” video featured on the front page of the New York Times. (Permalink to the video is here–check it out; h/t to reader K.N. for alerting me.) I think it’s a fair overview of what’s going on here. However, I don’t see a battle over yard signs–yet anyway–which has concerned me. Four years ago, people had their Kerry/Edwards signs out in force in September, and there was a lot of intensity among Democrats and Independents because of their rage and frustration about George W. Bush. Here in Potterville, I don’t think there’s as much positive intensity for Obama, as the first (and still majority of) yard signs I saw were McCain signs, even in my neighborhood, which has more liberalish intellectualish people because of its proximity to Moo Moo U. (also featured in the video).
Although I’m a Democrat (and on every local and national candidate’s fundraising list), no one from the Barack Obama campaign has yet contacted me to ask me to put out a yard sign. I understand the focus is on registering new voters (and firing up the kids with a visit from Eva Longoria Parker), so maybe longtime Dems, regular voters, and homeowners aren’t high on their list right now. (Still–I think it would do the Obama campaign some good to get off of the college campuses once in a while. I remember that we all though the college kids with their cell phones would put Kerry over the top–and I’m reluctant to swallow that line again until the kids deliver like middle-aged and senior voters do for the Dems.)
Here in Potterville, Colorado, it’s the most beautiful two weeks of the year. The many crabapple, apple, plum, peach, and cherry trees are in full bloom, as are the tulips; if the forsythia holds on, just about every flowering tree and bush in my yard will be abloom at the same time.
What, you say? Historiann lives in the High Plains desert? What the hell is she doing with a veritable fruit orchard in her garden? Trees are integral to the history of (the pseudonymous) Potterville, which started out in 1870 as a Utopian experiment called the Union Colony, and was organized around the principles of teetotalism, anti-capitalist communitarianism, and bringing trees to the Great American Desert. Well, one of out three goals outlasted the first decade, and it makes for a spectacular show of blossoms in late April and early May.
According to Enduring Roots: Encounters with Trees, History, and the American Landscape by Gayle Brandow Samuels (1999), town founder Nathan Meeker spent the princely sum of $1,490.00 on bringing Eastern trees west–apple trees, maples, and evergreens–and in the first season, watched most of them wither and die (pp. 97-99). They were replaced by trees that were given much more water and attention, hence the odd landscape Potterville presents today: when you cross the town line and kick the tumbleweeds out of the front grille of your car, you’re greeted with flora that recall the Delaware and Ohio River valleys.
I’ve heard it suggested by local house museum docents that Meeker’s death was an indirect result of his sumptuous budget for trees. Before coming to Colorado, Meeker was the agricultural editor of the New York Tribune, and the newspaper’s publisher, Horace Greeley, encouraged him to “go west, young man,” and provided a great deal of financial backing for the fledgling Union Colony. When Greeley died and his estate called in the loans, Meeker didn’t have the money, and legend suggests that it had gone to his profligate tree budget. (I can’t verify that yet, however.) So, in 1878 he took a job as an Indian agent on the Western slope at the White River Indian Agency, where he annoyed the Utes so much with his utopian reformist zeal (especially his insistence that they adopt his farming techniques) that the following year they rose up and killed him and took his wife Arvilla and youngest daughter Josephine captive, along with the other U.S. women and children in the settlement. Their captivity was short lived–only 23 days–but Josephine had time enough to stitch together a fitted, fashionable dress made of Indian blankets, which is on permanent display at the local museum. It was rumored that when released, she was pregnant by a Ute man, a rumor that gained credence when she was sent to Washington, D.C. to work for a Colorado congressman. However, she died of pneumonia shortly thereafter, before any putative child would have been born. (Source for the verified information in this paragraph is here.) Was Meeker doomed by his commitment to importing an Eastern landscape to the high plains desert?
Rumors of pregnancy resulting from captivity are an occasionally recurring theme in the history of North American Indian captivity. There was a suggestion that 170 years earlier and 2,400 miles away, Esther Wheelwright conceived a child in captivity. (I haven’t written about Wheelwright here for a while–to recap, she’s the topic of the book I’m writing now.) In The Unredeemed Captive(1994) on p. 92, John Demos quotes the one letter I’ve ever seen with that suggestion that “mr whellrites dafter is with child by an indian.” The letter, dated February 28, 1710, was written by former captive Esther Williams, who received the intelligence about “whellrites dafter” and other captives from another local ex-captive, John Arms, who returned home in the winter of 1710. I’ve never credited the report–because at the time, Esther was enrolled at the Ursuline convent school, and had been since January 1709. Moreover, she was a month shy of her fourteenth birthday in late February 1710, and far, far too young to have been considered sexually mature or marriageable in either Abenaki or colonial French society. And because the goal of both cultures was to include her in family life and persuade her to remain by gentle means, I think it’s highly unlikely that she was raped. Finally, there is no other evidence that corroborates this one account, suggesting to me that Esther Williams was either misinformed or she misreported information about another captive.
Last week, someone found their way to Historiann.com by googling the phrase “Esther Wheelwright pregnant by Abenaki.” If you’re still out there, the above paragraph is my two cents. As for the connections between crabapple trees and Esther Wheelwright–I dunno. Something about captives thriving in a new environment? The challenges of “going native” in a new environment? The perserverence of Esther Wheelwright, Josephine Meeker, and the flowering almond in my back garden that will not die?
I’ve just driven 2,615 miles over eight days, from Potterville to Minnesota and Wisconsin and back, and I have been wondering about the function of the insult “flat” that’s leveled against much, if not most, of the interior of the United States. After having driven across the prairie states of Nebraska (two different ways), Iowa, Minnesota (two different ways), Wisconsin (two different ways), South Dakota, and tagging Wyoming on the way back home, very little of the land we traversed could accurately be described as “flat.”
I once had a roommate in college who referred to me as a “flatlander” because I was a native of Ohio, one state west of us in Pennsylvania. Most of Ohio is, however, luxuriously green, lush, and hilly, sited as it is on the Ohio River and neighbor to the Appalachian Mountains. I started to wonder more about this descriptor “flat” as I drove from Ohio to Colorado on I-70 nearly a dozen years ago. I had dreaded the drive across Kansas especially because everyone in Ohio had sympathized with me about enduring “flat” Kansas. “It’s so flat,” they all said. But I-70 across Kansas in August, I found, was mostly lovely rolling green hills dotted with round hay bales and sunflower fields worthy of a Vincent VanGogh painting. Continue Reading »
We had a much-needed little Front Range snowstorm yesterday. It was so peaceful and quiet–Sundays are usually pretty quiet days in Potterville, but with the snow swallowing all outdoor sounds, it was even quieter. I had a beef burgundy* in the oven, and we made a fire and watched a Harry Potter movie instead of the Academy Awards.
It turns out that it was a really excellent decision to shut out the rest of the world last night. I keep thinking about the old Monty Python skit about Australian wines: “this isn’t a wine for drinking! It’s a wine for lying down and avoiding.” (Don’t miss Linda Holmes’s review at NPR.) In the end, I think Amy Davidson’s analysis was the best I’ve read today:
Watching the Oscars last night meant sitting through a series of crudely sexist antics led by a scrubby, self-satisfied Seth MacFarlane. That would be tedious enough. But the evening’s misogyny involved a specific hostility to women in the workplace, which raises broader questions than whether the Academy can possibly get Tina Fey and Amy Poehler to host next year. It was unattractive and sour, and started with a number called “We Saw Your Boobs.”
“We Saw Your Boobs” was as a song-and-dance routine in which MacFarlane and some grinning guys named actresses in the audience and the movies in which their breasts were visible. That’s about it. Continue Reading »
Well, friends, la famille Historiann has had a very good year and we have a lot to be grateful for, the first thing being that none of us was injured or killed by firearms. I hope that all of you are happy and safe too, and that if you’re traveling, the winter snows blanketing the Rockies to the midwest aren’t causing you too much trouble or grief. (We are envious–there were breathless reports of snowsnowsnow!!! coming last Wednesday, but here in Potterville, we got nuthin’ but a little dusting that blew away before noon.)
If you have a few spare (or sleepless) moments over the weekend, here’s a round-up of recent news and views that I thought you might find interesting:
- Thank you, Jeffrey Toobin, for reminding us what a revanchist creep Robert Bork (1927-2012) actually was. I was growing tired of reading all of the sanitized obituaries and the commentaries by so-called “liberals” who had deep, deep regrets about the way Bork was treated in his confirmation hearing. You’d think a big, tough conservative guy like Bork would be glad to stand up for his pro-segregation, anti-Civil Rights, antifeminist writings and judicial record, wouldn’t you, and take whatever licking he got as a proud conservative? According to Toobin, no recent SCOTUS nominee in recent years has so richly deserved a borking as Bork.
- Paging Tenured Radical: how ’bout a book club on Bork’s Slouching Towards Gomorrah (1996), like we did with Terry Castle’s The Professor? It would be good for your history of modern conservativism courses, and fun for me.
- Fiscal Cliff Notes: Rutgers University historian Jennifer Mittlestadt writes that although many liberals may be rooting for the military spending cuts that will go into effect if we fall off the “fiscal cliff,” we need to look at the details hidden in the proposal: “Folded into the current military spending cuts is a neoliberal agenda to privatize and outsource the retirement and health care benefits of military personnel and their families. Americans may consider these proposals of minimal concern, and of interest only to military personnel, veterans, and their families. But their implications reach far wider: they are part of a comprehensive neoliberal plan to privatize virtually all government social welfare programs and entitlements.”
- Deconstructing white manhood: Bloggers Werner Herzog’s Bear and MPG (“Unofficial thoughts about discrimination, racial sight, and race”) have some interesting contributions to make to a problem that Respectable Negro Chauncey DeVega has tried to highlight this week, too, given the demography of mass-murderers like Adam Lanza. Continue Reading »
The kerfuffle in the feminist internets that I wrote about yesterday somehow recalls this scene for me. “She advocates dirty books: CHAW-ser. RABBaLAYS. BALL-zac!” Knitting Clio, a historian of medicine who has written about adolescent medicine in particular, has more to say about this–check her out.
While I’m working away at my day job, go read this post by Echidne, in which she discusses the ways in which the media discuss the “fertility crisis” in some European countries without noting the extreme pressure on women who are mothers in said countries to leave the workforce. (Or in one case she cites, pregnant women and mothers are just proactively pink-slipped.) She notes that even with generous maternity leave policies, most mothers do not return to work after the birth of just one child in both Germany and Italy. This sidles up to a point that I’ve made here before (and even in my day job writing recently) about the global and apparently transhistorical resistance to see women as rational economic actors who make decisions about their lives that respond directly to their political, cultural, and economic environments. Continue Reading »