October 23, 2021

I ran across a post by Audubon that noted weird migratory patterns being recorded by GPS tagged geese beginning September 2020.  The tule is one of a protected population of Greater White-fronted Geese (Anser albifrons elgasi) that nests in Alaska and winters in California marshes.  The US Geological Survey has been keeping tabs on the bird as part of a waterfowl-tracking project since 2015.  The tags allowed researchers to track the bird’s location by computer.  Rather than stopping at Summer Lake in central Oregon, one bird was 300 miles off course in the Idaho Panhandle.  This was the first time anyone had ever confirmed the Tule Goose in Idaho.  The other three tagged Tule also following offbeat migration routes.  The team realized the unusual flight paths lined up with areas of dense wildfire smoke during one of the worst US fire seasons in history.

When I looked online, I found that according to Brian Wolfer of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, wildfires can be both destructive and beneficial to local wildlife.  Essentially, the fires create, “a disturbance on the landscape that changes habitat.”  Species like raptors who hunt rodents running from the flames benefit from wildfire, as do beetles that move into dead wood and lay eggs, and woodpeckers that feed on the beetles and nest in hollow trees.  Fire exposes new grass, shrubs, and vegetation that feed elk and deer and plentiful food means more milk and fawns grow faster.  The flip side is animals that depend on old growth forests can struggle for decades trying to find suitable habitat and if the sagebrush burns, the sage grouse won’t have food in winter or a place to hide from predators and raise their young.  The hotter and faster the fires burn, the harder it is for less mobile animals to find suitable habitat.  Those caught in the flames often die.

Corey Overton of the Western Ecological Research Center published an analysis last week of the Tule Geese’s response to wildfire smoke.  The findings add nuance to the story of last year’s fall migration bird die-off in the Southwest and clarify the risk birds face from wildfires.  The wayward geese tried to avoid the smoke, and in the process doubled their migration time and wasted precious energy, and other migratory birds face similar or worse consequences.  Things went wrong for the Tule as they encountered smoke off the coast of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula and all four birds began deviating from their previous migratory paths.  Three of the birds touched down separately on the Pacific Ocean looking to conserve energy but unable to eat.  The fourth goose continued south over land but turned around when it reached the Oregon border to escape the thickening smoke.  The birds generally fly just a few hundred feet above the ground, but three of the geese climbed to more than 13,000 feet at various points trying to rise above columns of smoke.  There were additional pauses in farm fields and more turnarounds before the birds finally reached their stopover destination.

Thoughts:  Overton explained, “There’s three main options to avoid air pollution (smoke).  Go around it, go over it, and decrease your energetic use.  And these birds tried to do all three.”  They did not always succeed.  While the trek from Alaska to Summer Lake usually takes about 9 days, it took more than twice as long trying to evade the smoke.  Since the Tule fly in large flocks, the four birds tracked each likely represents hundreds of flock mates.  Like the geese, humans devise ways to avoid the pollution and smoke caused by climate change.  Unlike the geese, we could do something to resolve it.  Follow the science.  Change is coming and it starts with you.


October 22, 2021

I mentioned how excited I was last week to be able to drive to Kansas for some vacation time.  I also had high expectations of scoring several new birds while I was there.  I mentioned the bust I encountered while visiting the wildlife refuge in Oklahoma.  The marshes were dry, and the birds scare, even though I was able to spot a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus).  Having lived in Kansas I was confident I could identify an Eastern Meadowlark (Sturnella magna) since this is the Kansas state bird.  I also knew the pigeons are rampant in Wichita’s downtown section.  Even driving downtown and through the prairies I saw neither.  While I was able to id several different hawks, they were all too quick to get a picture.  At least I saw three different pair of parakeets at my mom’s new location.

When I looked online, I found that a parakeet is any one of many small to medium-sized species of parrot comprising multiple genera.  The name parakeet is derived from the French word perroquet, but is a pseudo-francism, as perroquet means parrot in French, while the French for parakeet is perruche.  The parakeet comprises about 115 species of birds that are seed-eating parrots of small size, slender build, and long, tapering tails.  The Australian budgerigar, also known as “budgie” (Melopsittacus undulatus), is the most common parakeet and was first described by zoologists in 1891.  It is the most popular species of parakeet kept as a pet in North America and Europe.  Budgies are the only species in the genus Melopsittacus.  In the wild, the species is green and yellow with black, scalloped markings on the nape, back, and wings.  Coloration varies in captive colonies. 

I was recently asked how many birds I had in my bird count.  The first year I was able to identify (and photograph) 32 different species.  This year I am up to 51 different species (with 2 ½ months left).  It is not that I have traveled more as much as I have been more attentive when I do travel and stop to photograph the birds.  Even though I saw three different variations of parakeet at mom’s, I knew I could not add them to my bird count.  The count is designed to identify the existence and range of wild birds, not captive birds. 

Thoughts:  Less than a century after being discovered by Europeans, parakeets were being kept as pets. British sailors returning from the east coast of Australia reported seeing huge flocks of small green birds, later identified as budgerigars.  According to legend, the merchants marketing parakeets in the early 20th century decided that the word “budgerigar” was too weird for Americans, so they marketed the bird as a “parakeet.”  The Carolina parakeet (Conuropsis carolinensis) was once a common bird known to people in in the East and Midwest America but had been hunted to extinction by 1918.  Extinction was the result of deforestation in the 18th and 19th centuries, combined with hunting for their feathers (women’s hats) and to reduce crop predation.  Much like the European beaver, the Carolina parakeet fell prey to the insatiable human need to “display.”  Do the work.  Follow the science.  Change is coming and it starts with you.


October 21, 2021

When I walked into the kitchen earlier this week, I noticed a large wolf spider on the floor.  While I realize it is the fall and the spiders are more active trying to get their egg sacs set before the winter, it still surprised me to see her indoors.  We spray our yard quarterly to keep down the ants and slugs that infest the green space (primarily for moles) and place a barrier around the exterior of the house.  I mentioned that while the black ants are still rampant in the yard, they have not been seen inside the house since we started spraying.  I know I brought the false widow from my mom’s yard last week.  I am certain Melissa brought the wolf when she began moving her succulents off the front porch and inside.  I put a glass over the wolf and moved it outside.

When I looked online, I found the Carolina Wolf Spider (Hogna carolinensis), is commonly found across North America.  It is the largest North American wolf spider, typically measuring .4-.8 inches (18–20 mm) for males and about 1-1.4 inches (22–35 mm) for females.  The wolf spider is mottled brown with a dark underside and males have orange coloration on their sides.  Wolf spiders live in either self-made burrows or ones they find.  Like all wolf spiders, H. carolinensis does not make a web to catch prey but instead hunt by ambushing prey from their burrows.  These spiders are particularly known for the females carrying their egg sacs on their bodies during the incubation period (note the white sac in the picture).  The Carolina wolf spider also has a unique type of venom that both paralyzes their prey and helps prevent microbes from their prey from infecting them.  Unlike the insects it preys on, the wolf spider can thermoregulate, which is important for animals that inhabit desert ecosystems or locations with large temperature swings.  That would include Arkansas.

When I was researching the False widow, one of the sites had suggested the way to capture and release a spider was to put a glass over them, then slide a ridged piece of paper under the glass, and then pick the captured spider up for release.  I had read this previously, and even practiced it on occasion.  I have always liked wolf spiders and thought this would be a good way to preserve the wolf.  Since we spray and granulate the yard, I thought it would be best to move the wolf to another location to help ensure its survival.  I placed it on the ground just off our spray boundary.  I noted there were already two small spider borrows in the bare ground I set it on.  I did not know what was in them but assumed it was other wolf spiders.  I hope this female and her brood will make it until next year.

Thoughts:  After I picked the wolf spider up in the glass, I offered to show it to Melissa.  Oddly, Melissa did not want to see the spider when I offered.   While Melissa may not have been impressed, others have been.   Hogna carolinensis was voted as the state spider of South Carolina in 2000 after an initial suggestion by a third-grade student.  While there is not a significant difference in the sprint speed of the Carolina wolf spider between males and females, there is a difference in chances a male or a female will flee from a threat.  Researchers believe that this is because male spiders do not own burrows as often as females, so they are not able to find a safe escape in their burrows as their female counterparts.  In humans this is known as the fight or flight response.  The response is triggered by the release of the hormones that prepare your body to either stay and deal with a threat or run away to safety.  There are some threats that we cannot run from.  That is why we develop vaccines.  Follow the science.  Change is coming and it starts with you.


October 20, 2021

Over the weekend Melissa and I decided to do some fall cleaning on our yard.  The cool temperatures meant the grass was slowing down, but the leaves had begun to fall.  I am not a raker, and instead prefer to mulch the leaves into the ground.  This is not a gardening thing but is based on pure laziness.  Melissa set to weeding her succulent beds while I tackled the rose bush bed.  Since it was late in the year, I took the weed eater to the bed and then spread the last three bags of mulch that I had purchased last summer on the bed.  When I went to the back patio, I noticed there were several wildflowers growing through the fence.  I have not been as diligent in weed eating the back of the house as I have the front (no one sees the back, right?).  As I grabbed the invasive aster Melissa told me to stop.  She had enjoyed seeing this plant as she worked from her office nook.  I left it alone.

When I looked online, I found the Frost Aster (Symphyotrichum pilosum), is a flowering plant in the family Asteraceae that is native to central and eastern North America in both Canada and the US.  The aster is a perennial, herbaceous plant that may reach 8 to 47 inches (20 to 120 centimeters) tall.  Its flowers have white ray florets and yellow disk florets.  It is widespread and common throughout its range, and its natural habitat includes prairies, open woodlands, and outcrops.  In general, asters respond positively to disturbance, and often occupy sunny, weedy habitats.  The Frost Aster can be used to extend the floral season in gardens, as it blooms for about six weeks in autumn.  The common name derives from the tiny white hairs that sometimes lend its leaves a hoary appearance.  Frost Aster is aggressive, spreading by seeds and rhizomes.  Apparently, it also likes yards that are not weeded.

Members of the Symphyotrichum genus were originally classified in the genus Aster, which contained over six hundred species.  All 600 have all been reclassified into ten different genera.  The genus name Symphyotrichum is from the Greek sýmphysis, meaning “growing together,” and thríx, or “hair.”  The scientific naming of plants (botanical nomenclature) gives every plant a two-part name called a binomial.  The first name is the genus, and the second name is the species (taxonomy).  Since both names are (usually) derived from Latin roots, they are italicized to indicate a foreign origin.  Taxonomic systems were initially based on superficial relationships like similar reproductive features and other easily visible traits and did not take evolutionary ancestry into account.  As DNA technology advances botanists are reclassifying plants by their genetic relationships.  This has resulted in a flurry of recent name changes that have caused gardeners headaches as they try and keep up with the scientific names.  I find it a struggle to remember the common names.

Thoughts:  It is interesting to note that an Aster is identified as a perennial weed and a wildflower.  The Oxford Dictionary defines a weed as “a wild plant growing where it is not wanted and in competition with cultivated plants.”  Weeding then is “removing unwanted plants from an area of ground.”  The various Aster/Symphyotrichum species grow wild throughout North America.  In pastures they are called wildflowers.  In cultivated fields, they are called weeds.  When the same species is found in a flower garden, they are called perennial flowers.  Our understanding of the species is based on how it relates to our wants and needs.  While this may work for plants, we cannot allow this to be how we relate to people.  People need to be understood on their own merit and sense of place, not what is convenient to us.  Do the work.  Change is coming and it starts with you.


October 19, 2021

We received a good rain last week and the field behind our house still had standing water as the sun began to go down.  When Melissa looked out our back window, she called me over to see the eerie fog which had formed over the field.  The fog layer was very thick, but only extended a few feet above the ground.  Since this is October and near Halloween, I was reminded of the scary slasher films where the antagonist would appear within the fog and proceed to carve up the residents of the small town.  I was glad I could see above the low fog bank.  I did not feel in the mood to be carved up.

When I looked online, I found that fog forms when the difference between air temperature and dew point is less than 4.5F (2.5C).  Fog begins to form when water vapor condenses into tiny water droplets that are suspended in the air.  Water vapor normally begins to condense on condensation nuclei such as dust, ice, and salt to form clouds.  Fog, like its elevated cousin stratus, is a stable cloud deck which tends to form when a cool, stable air mass is trapped underneath a warm air mass, and normally occurs at a relative humidity near 100%.  This can occur from added moisture in the air or falling ambient air temperature.  Fog may also occur at lower humidity’s and can sometimes fail to form with relative humidity at 100%.  I think that explanation left me in a fog.

It was interesting to find that fog can form in several different ways, and that each type of fog has a different name assigned to it.  I found 10 different types of fog, and these types were broken further into other names given depending on where it forms, how it forms, and the conditions in which it forms. The ground fog that we had encountered is fog obscuring less than 60% of the sky and does not extend to the base of any overhead clouds.  The term is usually a synonym for shallow radiation fog.  Radiation fog is formed by the cooling of land after sunset by infrared thermal radiation in calm conditions with a clear sky.  The cooling ground then cools adjacent air by conduction, causing the air temperature to fall and reach the dew point, forming fog.  In perfect calm, the fog layer can be less than a meter thick.  Radiation fog is most common in autumn and early winter.  This was the type of fog we had.  For me, rather than all the different names, it was just fog.

Thoughts:  When I took a linguistics class in college, I found the Inuit Indians of Alaska have dozens of words to refer to snow and ice.  Anthropologist John Steckley, in his book White Lies about the Inuit (2007), notes that many often cite 52 as the number of different words for snow in Inuktitut (the Inuit language).  This belief in a high number of words for snow and ice has been sharply criticized by many linguists and anthropologists.  Regardless, Inuktitut has a far superior ability to distinguish between the different types of snow than most languages.  The point being made was language is used to distinguish between things that are important in your life.  For the Inuit, the different types of ice and snow mean survival.  While fog may not be important to me, I do use other words to differentiate between valued things (Nana vs. Grandma).  We need to recognize the important things in our lives and keep them dear.  Do the work.  Change is coming and it starts with you.


October 18, 2021

The trending news last week concerned the Arkansas boy who won USA Mullet Championships.  Allan Baltz is a 12-year-old sixth grader who was adopted out of foster care when he was about 4-years old.  Baltz had already faced trials as he had been born with a rare genetic syndrome.  His mother, Lesli, heard about the USA Mullet Championships and told Allan he should enter.  Allan had no desire to enter until he heard there was prize money, with the top prize of $2,500.  Allan decided that if he won, he would donate the money to organizations which help foster kids find their forever homes.  USA Mullet Championships announced the winners on its Facebook and Allan won the title in the kid’s division by nearly 900 votes over the next closest competitor, with 25,178 votes.  Lesli Baltz said, “He has a ridiculous mullet now.  The boy we adopted through foster care instantly wanting to give back.”  Allan is all business there.

When I looked online, I found there are currently more than 400,000 children in foster care in the US. They range in age from infants to 21 years old (in some states) but the average age of a child in foster care is more than 8 years old.  There are also slightly more boys than girls.  Children and youth enter foster care because they have been abused, neglected, or abandoned by their parents or guardians.  All these children have experienced loss and some form of trauma.  In other ways, foster children are no different from children who are not in foster care.  They are learning and growing, playing, hanging out with friends, and they need the love and stability a permanent home provides.  Allan was provided his permanent home, and his mullet became his expression of acceptance.

The USA Mullet Championships Facebook page says the history of this business-in-the-front, party-in-the-back style has been around way before it was popularized by actors and rock stars in the 1980’s. According to some historians, the mullet has been around since at least Ancient Greece, where the style was as much for function as it was for fashion.  Cropped hair around the face with longer locks in the back allowed for both visibility and a protective layer of hair for your neck.  Homer even described a haircut that sounds eerily familiar in The Iliad: “their forelocks cropped, hair grown long at the backs.”  The Greeks weren’t the only ones sporting the mullet.  There is evidence that Neanderthals and our oldest ancestors would wear this ‘do’, as well.  Divisions in the mullet championships included kids, teens, men, and lest the women be left out, femullet.

Thoughts:  When I worked for the State of Utah, I sported a mullet for a short while.  What I liked about the style was the business-in-the-front, party-in-the-back aspect.  This allowed me to grow my hair long but keep a trimmed look for the lawyers and businesspeople who came into my office trying to impress me.  I must admit, at the time I did not know the style was called a mullet.  The Mullet Championships page rated Billy Ray Cyrus as fourth on their list of ten iconic mullets.  Cyrus’ achy breaky mullet of the early 1990’s is what caused me to drop the hairstyle.  I found I was neither achy nor breaky enough to sport the style.  Hair styles are often associated with cultural movements.  That is true for both the mullet and the weave popular today and it was true of the long-haired hippies of my youth.  Hair styles can provide instant acceptance into a group, or they can alienate the person from outsiders.  We need to see beyond the image projected and take time to know the person within.  Do the work.  Change is coming and it starts with you.


October 16, 2021

One of the things bequeathed to me by mom during her downsizing was a small clay pitcher pot had gotten while in El Salvador that was about 4 inches high.  This was one of several clay pots that were unceremoniously strewn in her rock garden to add visual contrast.  I picked it up, brushed the dirt off the sides, and then put it in with two larger clay pots I was bringing home for Melissa’s succulents.  When I got home, I noticed there was debris inside the pot so I tried to clean it out with water and even used a straw to scrape out what I could.  Then I left it on the counter to dry.  You can imagine my surprise when I came in the kitchen several hours later and saw a large black spider drying herself on the handle of the pot.  Apparently, I had not gotten all the debris out of the pot when I cleaned it.

While the spider looked like a North American Black Widow (Latrodectus mactans), also known as a southern black widow, it did not have the distinctive red hourglass on its abdomen.  When I looked online, I found the False Black Widow (Steatoda grossa), was commonly mistaken for the actual black widow.  The false widow is a common species of spider in the genus Steatoda.  It is a cosmopolitan species found in many parts of the world, including North America, Australasia, and Europe.  Like black widows, the female false widow is 6-10.5 mm (1/4-1/2 inches) in length and dark colored with a round, bulbous abdomen.  Typical coloration ranges from purplish brown to black, with light-colored markings, but no red hourglass.  The false widow may shed up to six times (instars) before reaching maturity.  According to Charles Hogue (Insects of the Los Angeles Basin, 1993), it reportedly preys on black widows.  This seems like a good spider to have around.

When I checked the pot again, I noticed there was still a lot of debris in the bottom of the pot.  The false widow likes to make her nest in small holes of crevasses and then spins her web around the opening.   The female spiders can live up to six years, while the typical lifespan for the male is 1-1.5 years, as males often die shortly after mating (if not eaten).  The web is so strong that it can catch and hold small vertebrates.  When the spider feels the vibrations in the web, she will rush out and wind her silk tightly around the victim, immobilizing her prey, and then inject her venom.  The false widow is even known to capture and eat the predators that come for her.  I decided while outside may be good, I did not want it in my house.  I flushed it.

Thoughts:  When I was excavating at Petra, Jordan, I worked as the lab artifact curator.  That meant I had to sort what was uncovered, clean the debris from the artifacts, select representative samples, and place them in piles by provenience so they could be analyzed by the Director.  The one caution I was given was not to scrub the dirt off the pot.  A curator on another excavation had roughly scrubbed the pottery and had washed the painted design off the earthenware.  There are times when we are too aggressive and destroy things that are beneficial (spiders and paint).  There are other times when we are too passive and do not take the action needed to save lives.  The trick is to determine what is real and what is false.  As one of our state officials says on nightly promo spots, “get off google and listen to the experts”.  Follow the science.  Change is coming and it starts with you.


October 15, 2021

One of the pleasures I take while driving on trips is to stop and visit the historic sites designated by markers along the highway.  Rather than just rushing from one location to the next, this allows me to take my time, get out of the car and stretch, and usually learn something new along the way.  As I drove down 1-49, I happened to see a brown and white sign indicating an historic site off the next exit.  I waivered as I had planned to fish later in the drive, but my curiosity got the better of me and I pulled off the highway.  As usual, the site was not along the highway, but neither was it too far away.  I followed directions as the signs guided me the five miles and two turns to reach the site.  This was a national battle site, and although there was not a visitors’ center (it would have been closed anyway) there was a flag, picnic area and shelter, and an interpretive kiosk and signs to explain what had happened.

The Battle of Island Mound took place early in the Civil War during the fall of 1862.  Bates County had become a haven for guerrillas and Confederate recruiters.  One of their favorite haunts was Hog Island, just southwest of Butler, Missouri.  A detachment of 30 men was sent from the 1st Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry to clear out the guerrillas who were stationed there.  The battle took place on the marshy prairie and included an attempt by the “bushwhackers” to burn the Union forces out of their main stronghold at Toothman Farm, which had been renamed “Fort Africa” by the soldiers.  The result of the battle was 8 soldiers killed and 11 wounded.  Southern losses were unknown but were probably about the same.  When Union reinforcements arrived the next day, they proceeded to Hog Island, only to find it deserted.    

The 1st Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry was mostly comprised of escaped slaves from Arkansas and Missouri.  Some had been “stolen” during the Jayhawk raids of Missouri’s slave holding farms.  While the ex-slaves had moved to Kansas in hopes of a better life, they all faced prejudice and bigotry from their white neighbors.  In August 1862, the Union Army began recruiting Black soldiers in Kansas, even though this had not been authorized by President Lincoln.  A prominent Black businessman in Leavenworth, Kansas, recruited an entire company (100 men) and was commissioned as a Captain of Company D of the 1st Colored.  Two other Black men were commissioned as lieutenants for Company D.  When Lieutenant Patrick Minor gained distinction while fighting at Island Mound, he was the first Black officer to serve in combat during the Civil War.  The Company fought in 16 battles and numerous skirmishes before being mustered out of service on October 1, 1865.    

Thoughts:  Since the battle site had been designated a Missouri State Park, I was surprised by the language used to describe the battle and the opposing sides.  The Southerners were “bushwhackers” rather than guerillas, and the signage caried a note of contempt, despite referring to most of the men in the surrounding area.  The signs also pointed out the “surprising ferocity” of the Black soldiers described by the national press, even though everyone had suspected they would be timid and unfit for battle.  Like so many small battlefields, this quarter section of land has now returned to the Tall Grass Prairie it had been before the battle.  The scars of the battle site have been smoothed over by the grass and serene fields of cattle that surround it.  Much of our country’s history has been smoothed over in a similar way.  What was offensive at the time has been rewritten to make it more palatable, or even conveniently forgotten.  We cannot learn from what we cover up or dismiss.  Do the work.  Change is coming and it starts with you.


October 14, 2021

When I was driving into Fort Smith last week, I passed a couple walking east along the highway.  They appeared to be homeless as they were pushing a shopping cart that was loaded with their possessions.  I assumed they had enough of Fort Smith and were moving east.  While I could empathize with their need for a move, I was not sure going east was wise.  They had walked eight miles (nearly 13 kilometers) from town.  My community was the next stop, and it was another seven miles (over 11 kilometers).  The low undulating hills they faced meant a lot of up and down to push the cart.  Frankly, the resources in Fort Smith were far greater than they would find anywhere else until they hit Little Rock, 140 miles (224 kilometers) to the east.  When I passed them on my way home, they had stopped to rest.

When I looked online, I found that homelessness emerged as a national issue in in the US during the 1870’s.  Early homeless people lived in the emerging urban cities.  The Great Depression of the 1930’s caused a substantial rise in unemployment and homelessness.  The Great Recession of the late 2000’s was another major contributor to rising homelessness rates.  Amid the covid crisis, there are now over half a million homeless people in the US.  These individuals live in a temporary shelter, transitional housing, or sleep in a place not meant for habitation (like an abandoned building).  The top four causes of homelessness are the lack of affordable housing, unemployment, poverty, and low wages.  Two thirds of the homeless population of the US is single individuals and the remaining third are families.  In recent years, homelessness has increased by almost 1%.  The large cities of the east and west coast have the largest percentage of homelessness, but this is a national issue effecting all areas.

Seeing the disheveled couple moving their possessions east made me think of a movie I saw during the 1990’s.  Wagons East! was a 1994 Western adventure buddy comedy film directed by Peter Markle and starring John Candy and Richard Lewis.  The plot followed a group of misfit settlers in the 1860’s who decide they cannot live in their current situation in the west.  They hire a grizzled alcoholic wagon master named James Harlow (Candy) to take them on a journey back to their hometowns in the east.  They are eventually captured in Sioux territory where the Chief is sympathetic to the idea of ‘white men heading back east’ and offers them an escort.  The movie ends with a fight between Harlow and the cavalry sent to wipe them out for creating bad publicity for the railroad’s promotion to go west.  The movie was panned by critics and received a 0% rating from Rotten Tomatoes.  I thought it was “cute.”

Thoughts:  While Wagons East! may have been cute, the long-term effects of homelessness are not.  Studies have found that 1 in 30 children and youths in the US experience homelessness.  The problems begin before birth, as homeless women give birth to low birth-weight babies and have a high infant mortality rate.  One in five children have clinically diagnosed problems with anxiety, depression, and withdrawal, and 16% demonstrate severe aggression and hostility.  By elementary age these children are drastically behind in the social skills needed to receive an education, and this is compounded by frequent changes in schools and lack of attendance.  These numbers focus on children in the US where services are available.  Across the world the problem is worse.  We like to read stories of individuals rising above poverty and homelessness.  Like the myth of the “self-made man,” they happen, but the likelihood is infinitesimal.  Do the work.  Follow the science.  Change is coming and it starts with you.


October 13, 2021

I stopped by my brother’s house in Independence on my way home from Wichita (yes, it is over 300 miles out of my way).  That gave me the opportunity to see his wife and two of their grandkids I had not seen in a while.  Dan is in the process of having a new house built and is currently living out of an apartment at his shop.  He had taken the liberty of reserving a hotel room in a quaint inner-city hotel that happens to be next door to the Truman House.  When I went to visit the house the next day, I found that it was closed due to covid restrictions.  Independence is also the site of the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum.  This site is also closed.  So much for being a tourist in Independence.

When I looked online, I found that Harry S. Truman (May 8, 1884 – December 26, 1972) was the 33rd President of the US from 1945 to 1953.  He had previously served as the 34th Vice President from January to April 1945 under Franklin D. Roosevelt, and as a US Senator from Missouri from 1935 to January 1945.  Truman assumed the presidency after Roosevelt’s death and implemented the Marshall Plan to rebuild the economy of Western Europe and established both the Truman Doctrine and NATO to contain the expansion of communism.  He proposed numerous liberal domestic reforms, but few were enacted by the Conservative Coalition dominating Congress.  While eligible for reelection in 1952, corruption in his administration became a central issue in the 1952 presidential campaign and Truman decided not to run.  Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower attacked Truman’s record and easily won the presidential election.  Truman retired, founded his presidential library, and published his memoirs.

I caught I-49 south of Kansas City and took the road all the way into northern Arkansas.  Along the way I passed two more Truman sites.  These were the Truman Birthplace and the Truman Farm (both closed).  The Truman birthplace cited Harry S. Truman as the only Missourian ever elected US President, being born here on May 8, 1884.  The Truman family stayed in the six-room home until he was almost one year old.  The Truman Farm is in Grandview, Missouri.  The farm property was developed in the 1860’s by Truman’s grandfather, Solomon Young.  Truman left his job as a banker and moved to the farm in 1906 and lived there until 1917.  Enlisting at the age of 33, Truman served as a Captain in the 129th Field Artillery during World War I.  He returned to live in Kansas City for a short while and then moved to Independence with his bride, Bess Wallace.  Truman credits his leadership experience during the war as the foundation of his political career.  I wonder why his other residences did not make the cut.

Thoughts:  I often recall the saying my grandfather (an others) used during the Democratic years of the 1960’s.  “I like Ike, Heck, I even liked Harry.”  This was a fond reference to the Republican years of the 1940’s and 1950’s.  Truman did take America from its traditional isolationism into an age of international involvement.  Like most memories, the saying fails to recall the hydrogen bombs dropped on Japan, the scandal that drove Truman from the Whitehouse, and the political cleansing of McCarthyism during the 1950’s, not to mention the stalemate wars of Korea or Vietnam (lost in 1974).  Despite his power, Truman said, “I hope to be remembered as the people’s President.”  While history is generally written by the victors, revisionist history is generally written by the detractors.  It will be interesting twenty years from now and recount the turbulence of 2020-21 (racial unrest, pandemic, insurrection, anti-vaccination).  Hopefully, which is the fake news will be determined by then.  Do the work.  Follow the science.  Change is coming and it starts with you.