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Research & Thoughts

History + Theater = Life

One of the history lessons I wrote contained information about the female black abolitionist Sojourner Truth. I'd never heard of her except in one glancing statement somewhere so I went to look for more information. I fear I may have shared her caricature, rather than the truth.


That brings us to understanding truth in history. So much disagreement today in what needs to be taught in schools. Critical Race Theory? Someone says that's just another term for the truth. But to some, is it going to put the emphasis on US wrongness? Is it going to teach our students to hate the US?


Truth in history is elusive. It's stories we tell ourselves. Some are meant to make us feel better. Others to erase that feeling in the name of truth. If I blame President Grant for Custer's death and of all those men at the Little Bighorn, is that the truth? If we see President GW Bush as having turned a blind eye to 9/11, is he then guilty of killing over 3,000 people by allowing it to happen? If we say that the assassinations in the '60s are all part of a conspiracy, what kind of nation does that make us?


All these things -- all theatrics. We can't get to the truth because as human beings we all see things with a different, sometimes unpenetrating, perspective. As God-seekers, we believe what we want, what reassures us, what makes us feel whole. We laugh at things that happen, seeing "all the world's a stage and people only players." Those who hated Aaron Rodgers before his "lie" hate him even more now without seeing his humanity. Those who had admired him admire him less, but understand the reasons why. Those who felt no way about him wonder why he's getting all the attention.


We live in a divided country now, divided because, like with Sojourner Truth, we cannot accept the humanity of everyone. If they live outside our perspective, they don't really exist. An anti-vaxxer goes home, feeds his kids, laughs at his TV. But like with Sojourner's experience, she is forced to prove who she is. That's she's human, and a woman. When accused of being a man during one of her speeches, she bared her breasts, to "their shame, not mine."


We are all looking for a piece of the limelight these days. TikTok, Instagram, YouTube -- we're taught that we can all be stars. We self-publish because we can be the next "Shades of Gray" (heaven forbid). We don't want to have to work at our talent, we just want to BE our talent. We see all the stars falling from the sky, every day, people we've grown up with, more renowns than have ever been known before this "babyboomer generation" came along. And though we may not have heard of them in years, we mourn this or that 88 year old as though their life was cut too short.


We are what we believe. We don't seek truth. We eye theatrical performances as though that gave us the truth. We shun history books because even historians don't agree on what really happened. I accepted what I first found about Sojourner Truth because I never heard of her before and I figured a little information was better than none. Now I read that she did not have 13 children sold into slavery, that she had a Dutch accent, not a southern one. But this is another perspective. Can I believe it? For me, yes, because I want that perspective to be true. I will never meet the lady.


If we all feel the way I do, is real truth in history even possible? I still like to believe it is, because the way I write history is not to share my perspective, but to follow events in history as they happen and let their attitude emerge. We cannot understand history if we accept someone's analysis of it as the real thing. We have to dig deeper. I made the mistake of not doing that with Sojourner Truth, and for that, I apologize to her.


This history lesson is provided courtesy of an article in American Scholar, November 2021.

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Trial by Miscommunication: The Canadian Border

There I am, sitting in a little room facing a glass screen, waiting for the immigration official. What did I do wrong? Why do I appear suspicious to them?


The whole exciting (to me) reason for coming to Thunder Bay, Ontario, was because finally I got someone to say, yes, he could use my help in logging in the copper material and coming in person would be the only way I could see what he has, because he doesn't have the help he needs to input the copper artifacts and email it to me.


Basically what I offer when I go to museums is to photograph what they have, find the locations associated, come up with a type, enter the material into my database, and then return to them a larger database of materials around where their materials were found so that they would have what they have in context with the bigger picture.


I've done this around the US without problem or issue, and now have over 66,000 (now over 85,000) copper artifacts logged in. It's taken over a decade because I don't do this exclusively. Nor do I get paid to help them out. It's all in return for logging in the material.


Seems like a no-brainer, that any museum should want this kind of help. But because I had a job, it took me a while to make the commitment to Thunder Bay, Ontario.


This was a 9.5 hour drive from where I live, but I made my reservations, checked my passport—four months from expiring, which made me nervous. But nervous or not, I was finally going to get this done.


I didn't expect to be refused entrance into Canada.


I love Lake Superior. The whole route up Minnesota from Duluth toward border crossing is heavenly—60 mph all the way, kind of like visiting Door County. I wished I could have stopped any number of places along the way, but no. Stay on target. Stuff to do in the room that night to get ready for tomorrow. I didn't have any Canadian money nor did I know even if my laptop would work on the plugs in the motel room there. Or if my phone would work. But I'd work it out.


 What was important was getting into Canada, getting that material logged in and making a video somewhere to talk about Ontario data for the documentary.


The gas prices edged up to $3, but you don't mind because you're happy to find a gas station. Two Harbors is a good place for that. And there's a lovely rest area just before there that I didn't get to stop at. I found a small beach to wander on but it appears the beach rock here isn't as nice as the south shore of Lake Superior in upper Michigan. Took a few photos of the wonderful scenery. Almost impossible to do with a cellphone I had.


And then I got to the border. Not expecting trouble crossing. It appears most people have to pull over so that their "stories" can be looked at a little closer. The people I saw ahead of me were all approved to go.  But I was sent to talk to an immigration officer who took me into a little room with a glass partition between us. Did he think I was going to hit him?


"I don't get your story? What do you mean you're going to help the museum with their collection?"


"I'm going to log in their artifacts into my database. I have a master database and they said they didn't have anyone who could compile their data so they could email it to me. So I offered to do it for them."


"So they're paying you?"


"No, I'm doing it for free."




"Well, it's how I get data from museums. I've visited over 300 so far and have 66,000 in the database. But this is my first time in Canada and I'm very excited."


"So you're cataloging their collection for them?"


"Well, I'll be giving them the data I compile. I always give back better than what I get."


"And what are you going to do with this?"


"Well, eventually, I'll put together some resource manuals."


"So you've come here to do work for this museum. I need to see the email you got from them."


So I run out to my car and got it. I waited quietly while he read it.


"Yeah, the way this reads, he would have used summer help to do this. So basically you're coming to Canada to do something that could have been done by a Canadian."


I began to tense even more than I was just sitting in this little cubicle. "No one can do what I do."


"You said you're cataloging. A summer intern can do that."


It all went downhill from there. He couldn't let me in Canada to take a job away from a summer intern. Never mind that I tried to point out it was already mid-August, nor did he care about my logic that they admitted they couldn't find any intern.


He told me my option—get the guy to rewrite the email so it doesn't sound like I'm working for him.


I would lose a night's hotel because it was too late to cancel – of course my phone didn't work at that point anyway.


I finally said, I don't know what more I can tell you. He wouldn't listen to more detail about the CAMD, didn't care. That seemed not to matter.


I left the room in tears, and went back out to wait for him to finish processing the paperwork, or so he said, so that I could be ejected from Canada.


I waited and waited, tried to stop crying, went to the bathroom. Finally asked how much longer. He waved at me and disappeared. I finally figured he wanted me back in that ugly little room.


"So what you're doing, are you working on their computer system?"


"Heavens no. I don't have that kind of time. I'm entering his data into my database, my spreadsheet, and then I give him a copy with his materials entered and all of Ontario, to put his material into context."


"So it'll still have to be entered into his system?"


"I suppose so."


"Well, why didn't you say so?" Finally he says, "I understand now. You can go."


"What? Into Canada? Don't you stamp my passport or give me a paper or something?"


"No, just go. You're free to go."


No apologies for the 45-minute delay or working me into such a frenzy.  Just go. So I left. Watching my back for miles, thinking I might have misunderstood.


Because no one said Welcome to Canada.

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Night Court, Halloween Tarot and Cards Against Humanity

I felt like an actress who'd studied her lines for two months and no one showed up. The whole Night Court event was rigged. We don't get a chance to show our humanity. We are only a number. I fretted for two months after Chief Lefebre told me that I shouldn't just pay the ticket. He said he didn't want to give me the ticket, because I had a clean record, but he had to because I was over 15 over the limit (60 instead of 45). If I wanted to keep the insurance from knowing about the point reduction on my license, I should go to court, and tell the judge what I told him about why I was speeding. He seemed truly sympathetic.


So for two months I worked to figure out what of my three "excuses" would have the most impact on a sympathetic judge. Now I did this while hating the idea of not accepting blame for speeding. I know I was speeding. I had let up in the gas before I saw the blue reds flashing behind me. This was only four days before my doctor gave me the nausea medication and I really was afraid I was going to be sick after two hours behind the wheel. This was not a good situation for someone with a stress disorder, who came to believe she had a panic attack which landed her in ER and nothing more. A panic attack because for me, going to Seattle is always stressful, made worse by the higher level of responsibility this year. But once you puke, you do not forget that sensation. I just had to have the rotten luck of getting caught on top of everything else, right?


So finally the day came and I felt horrible the whole day stressing over this. I wondered if I'd make it. When we got there - yeah, Joe came because he'd never been to Night Court before, goodie for him - I had to sign in on a sheet of paper if I wanted to talk to an attorney. Right. My only experience with Night Court was the TV series. I didn't expect to see Harry Anderson, or Bull the Bailiff, and thought Markie Post the attorney was just for show. Here the attorney looked like she patterned her career after the show. I had to talk to the attorney? I asked about that and she (the bailiff) said, yeah, that's what I had to do. Not the judge, the lawyer.


So I was fifth on the form, and she started calling people into the conference room. After the third was called, I saw him. Chief Lefebre. I didn't know him, had barely glanced at him during the traffic stop, but saw his name on his shirt. He was gorgeous. I mean he belonged in Hollywood, not little town of Turtle. Tall, lean and gorgeous. He was wearing his uniform, and I'm not sure why he was there. He seemed to act as guard for the attorney because he took over her role of calling us into conference.


I waited for his sympathetic nature to emerge, but I got not even a nod from him. I don't know how many grannies he's arrested, I was one of two there. But I sat down in front of the attorney and she said I wanted to plea bargain my points away so it doesn't affect my insurance? I said yeah, I was told to mention how I was feeling ready to puke, and that BT is an easy street to feel disoriented on because it's so dark and no businesses or …


"Well if you're disoriented, do you think you should have been speeding?"


"I wanted to get home before I puked. And I did know I was speeding, I let up on the gas before I saw the cop lights. I have a clean record …"


"We can erase your points, make them not count toward your license and insurance, for a total fine of $187."


I think I must have stared at her, blinked once. The ticket was $124. What was this? "Yeah, sure, fine, okay."


She handed me the folder and told me to give it to the judge. The Chief said nothing. I got up.


"And don't speed anymore."


I looked back at her. And restrained myself with stammers. No one mentioned the fact that I drive a hybrid, and we drive slower for better gas mileage. By that point, I thought, what's the use. I don't even get to talk to the judge.


So I brought my folder to him, he asked if I agreed to pay $187 to keep my points, and I said yes. You plead no contest. No sir, I plead guilty, I know I was speeding.  But I wanted to explain. Deal is acceptable, see the bailiff before you leave.


Here's where it got interesting for me. As I was filling out the paperwork to pay by my debit card, the next one got up there and I heard the same thing. We'll let you keep your points for $187. I wasn't the only one being offer plea bargains. We all were encouraged to be there, just to get more money out of us. Like pay the fine or go to jail, this is pay a bigger fine or lose your points.


In Summary: That Chief Lefebre was not sympathetic at all. He knew if I came in I would be offered this plea deal and nothing I said about why I was speeding made any difference at all. I rehearsed and stressed for two months for nothing. It was a set-up, a scam. And now I feel so very much less human for it.




I'm going backward in time here, but this entire blog relates to living in Beloit. As soon as Joe began to be abused by the school system, I had a sinking feeling about living here. He didn't want to work every day. He just couldn't see no to them. And in some ways he enjoyed being needed. The problem arose that he wasn't allowed - or felt he was allowed - to have a decent lunch. All he took was crappy energy bars, and didn't listen to me when I told him that wasn't a good idea.


So now he's disabled, I want to leave here, move back to Madison (even talked to a former co-worker at Easter Seals) and told him the house goes up for sale as soon as he can't do his share. Well, that's a good move on my part because it keeps him active. Carrie said that I should hire someone to mow and shovel snow (he has an electric thrower but it's not something that needs doing every week either). I said no, we sell the house if he can't. And I told him that if he thinks of hiring to get that done, I will hire for housework. Oh, he says, we tried that once and it didn't work. Ha. It's absolute agony scrubbing the floors in this open concept.


Anyway, there we are, doing a Tarot reading. I thought I could do it of the two of us at once, but I quickly learned these are individual readings. His first card was of "Perfect Contentment," and that's exactly how I'd describe the way he feels in this house. He loves it here. I don't. I whacked my ribs the other day on that darned wooden stairs barrier that I whacked other parts on two previous times, and believe me, you think you've broken a bone for how long it hurts afterward.


As I continued his reading, the same trend continued: "Plenty in all things - material well being." And here's my favorite: "If you allow future influence this will lead to agitation, trouble, embroilment." In other words, don't let anyone take you away from your contentment. Which of course means he has to come to that decision on his own. Goodie. He also got "Hold yourself to what you have, keep current possessions." He also got the Fool card, which I was deign to interpret for him, but could have. His final message was that a page was coming to render you service, with news, a message. This could relate to the phone therapy he's been having. I think that lasts for eight weeks. He never tells me what they talk about, except that he's been told to think about moving to assisted living. That's where you go if you live alone! He doesn't mention me at all. Like I don't even exist in his life. And that's probably the truest statement of all.


So then I shuffled the cards, because there are upside down readings too, and he didn't get any. So I turned some over, shuffled, turn some over, shuffled again. Until I felt they were ready.


Here's my first card: "Imprisonment, doubt, reasonable fear, shame." Oh goodie, I could see where this was going. And all cards proceeded to project misery on me, and here's the thing - ALL of mine were upside down. Now I've always said Joe and I were opposites, but I never expected the cards to say so. "Goal was to be recognized as the one with the answers although I have no authority over them." Says I fantasize about having a higher intellect but instead reach only mundane royalty.


I really don't think we could have gotten more accurate readings by a professional! I did get one card I really liked: "Daughter of Heaven & Earth, meant for much beyond this, above all things material." One that said he reads the law but I give it meaning (my Night Court experience, obviously).  I got several that made me a conduit between heaven and earth, which I found fascinating, but in the end I am filled with inner emotions, reflective of disputes in marriage, a stinging of conscience, facing calamity.


Couple this with the Goddess reading I had earlier, and I am to just accept this fate, because, after all, I'm not really meant to be anywhere on this Earth. Explains, I suppose, why my head is always in the clouds.




If you live where you have no one to play cards with, what do you do? Oh sure, we can play cribbage, or gin. But what about a game that even ghosts can play? This past Halloween, we did this for a second time: invited Mom and Ramon to play with us. (Ramon isn't dead but lives in Fort Worth with his daughter.)  Here's how you can play four when two people are not there to choose which card to put down.


First, the one who reads the black card (Reader), of course, doesn't get to see any ghost cards. The other player picks up one card from their pile, reads it and puts it in front of the Reader. This way that person will always know who gave each answer, because the winning answer then gets to keep the black card. If you get 10 black cards you win, right? (I'm assuming you know how to play this game.)


One of the issues that we discovered is it can be hard to read yours and the two ghost cards and remember whose is whose. The other suggestion is the person who is giving the Reader the cards reads only one of the ghost cards, the same one each time. Joe opted to read Ramon's, for instance, and I opted to read Mom's. I found it easier to remember just one other person's card, and then the one that isn't familiar belongs to the one you didn't read.


Now remember, this makes the game skewed in favor of the ghosts, because they never become the Reader. So it is easier for them to win. But when you think about how hard you work to choose the right card in each round, and you see these random choices you pull from the ghosts fit the black card better than your choice, you begin to wonder!


For instance, we read this card: "What made my first date so awkward?" Ramon's card read "Masturbation." I mean, that's hilarious, and that was the result of just pulling a card from his hand blindly.


That's the key. You do not look at the Ghost's hand to choose a card. You just pull one blind. The winner that night? Ramon. The time before when we played, Mom won. I didn't not get my answer chosen, even once, but I think Joe skewed his choices against me!


A few other things to think about -- put your card down first, before choosing theirs. You do get to look at theirs, and you don't want that to skew what you put down. Also, you might want to avoid those confusing black cards that have two blanks on them. We did.


Why live, as we do, without friends and no way to have a laugh once in a while?

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Vampires -- Reality Behind the Myth Part II

Have you ever wondered about the phrase "God rest his soul?" How about "Rest in peace?" Where do you think they came from? One online site noted that it meant "May this person find peace in the afterlife." Why would a dead person's soul need peace? From stuff they did when they were alive, supposedly.  Another site noted that "In spiritual terms rest means primarily to cease from one's works with the idea of release from anxiety, worry and insecurity." So yes, we can rest now that we're dead, but isn't that a given? The phrase was found on some tombstones before the 5th Century, back when many were superstitious. Today, we just have fun with superstition on Halloween (well, most of us).


I would interpret that phrase as a restless soul, in Judeo-Christian terms, would belong to the devil. Since the vampire myth is nearly completely Christianized, then, the term "God rest his/her soul" simply means do not let the devil get hold, do not welcome that body back into life. Do not become vampiric. Rest in peace is the same. It's giving a blessing over the grave to keep them from coming back to life. Let none of what has happened to you anger you in the afterlife realm. I'm not the only one who thinks so. Here's from another source: "It possibly reflects the old superstition that if you said the deceased's name three times you could summon them from the grave - so you add the phrase to make sure they rest in the grave." This is probably due to how conversations at funerals would result in the deceased's name often being said. Remember that at the next funeral you attend.


Anyway, I use that kind of restless idea to show how and why Mikos returned from the grave and became Arabus Drake. But don't expect Journal of an Undead to hold any Christian connotations. What Arabus shares about the afterlife includes the fact that vampires do not fear crosses or holy water.


So I picked, to create Arabus Drake, which parts of the myth that would be the most interesting and unique for his development. You'll see some of the myths in Part One reflected in my short story "So the Legend Goes," coming soon.


With Arabus, burning is only effective if the corpse is completely burned. Because demons possess the corpse to make it rise and walk about and imprisoned the soul, any part of that corpse can reanimate. A walking skeleton is a half-burned vrykolakas. Whatever rules authors create, they need to be faithful to them; be sure to know the legends before creating or adding to them. If you didn't know burning killed a vampire you wouldn't use it. Fire didn't kill Lestat in Interview with a Vampire, the movie. If you do not treat a vampire as a physical creature you stretch credibility, and risk turning the vampire into a ghostly or non-corporeal figure, rather than a physical corpse. 

The Serbian vampire myth, where the word vampire comes from, became very real for local townsfolk, as shown in this story:


"In late 1731, Austro-Hungarian Regimental Field Surgeon Johannes Flückinger journeyed to the Serbian village of Medvegya (around 120 miles from Kisiljevo, on the Ottoman border) to investigate another series of mysterious deaths. This time the suspected "Vampire Zero" was an Albanian named Arnaud Paole. When he was alive, Paole claimed he had protected himself from a vampire's bite by eating dirt from its tomb and cleansing himself with its blood. Unfortunately, these precautions didn't prevent him from breaking his neck when he fell off a hay wagon. Forty days after his demise, four villagers declared the deceased Paole had returned "to torment them"— and then those four promptly expired. The local elders (advised by their administrator, or hadnack, who clearly had past experience in such matters) disinterred Paole's corpse and found it "complete and incorrupt," while "...completely fresh blood flowed from his eyes, ears and nose." Satisfied by the evidence, the locals drove a stake through the torso, "whereupon he let out a noticeable groan and bled copiously."


This reference to "on the Ottoman border" has significance for my own vampire creation. It might make its way into one of my future novels.


Hollywood and literary depictions of vampires are vastly different than of historical myths. Vampires were widely believed to be very old, tall, attractive, intelligent and aristocratic, sleep in coffins on native ground, have an insatiable thirst for blood, and must be staked through the heart to be killed. Think Bela Lugosi, Barnabus Collins, and the Christopher Lee versions. Folkloric vampires (before Bram Stoker) were usually peasants of low intelligence, recently dead, do not need their native soil, and were often cremated with or without being staked.


Note the Serbian myth and others demonstrate that the stake is driven through the body in order to pin it to the ground so it can no longer move. These myths do not specify the heart.


By the end of the twentieth century, over 300 motion pictures were made about vampires, and over 100 of them featured Dracula, name taken from a historical king of Wallachia who treated his Turk enemies in a very cruel way. Over 1,000 vampire novels have been published, most within the past 25 years (as of 2014). There are around a dozen new variations coming out in 2022.


Here are a few to look at the literary writings and the rules they utilized.


Vampyre – John Polidori (1819)

This is the first full work of fiction about a vampire in English. John Polidori was Lord Byron's doctor and based his vampire on Byron - in other words, turning Lord Byron vampiric. 


"His peculiarities caused him to be invited to every house; all wished to see him, and those who had been accustomed to violent excitement … In spite of the deadly hue of his face, which never gained a warmer tint … many of the female hunters after notoriety attempted to win his attentions, and gain, at least, some marks of what they might term affection."


Even here we see evidence that the man (and Byron) has this sexual attraction. Where did that come from? Did you see any of that in Part One?


"There was no color upon her cheek, not even upon her lip; yet there was a stillness about her face that seemed almost as attaching as the life that once dwelt there. Upon her neck and breast was blood, and upon her throat were the marks of teeth having opened the vein—to this the men pointed, crying, simultaneously struck with horror, "a vampire, a vampire."


Dracula by Bram Stoker

"It is the eve of St. George's Day (this is a bastardizing of the real day in April when all evil spells will be broken). Do you not know that to-night, when the clock strikes midnight, all the evil things in the world will have full sway?"

"I could hear a lot of words often repeated, queer words, for there were many nationalities in the crowd. So I quietly got out my poly-glot dictionary from my bag and looked them out. I must say they were not cheering to me, for amongst them were "ordog" – satan, pokol – hell, stregoica – witch, vrolok and vlkoslak – both of which mean the same thing, one being Slovak and the other Servian for something that is either werewolf or vampire."


He did his research here. Those are words for the vrykolakas.


"Having answered the Count's salutation, I turned to the glass again to see how I had been mistaken. This time there could be no error, for the man was close to me, and I could see him over my shoulder. But there was no reflection of him in the mirror!"


This is a literary addition; how could a physical body not have a reflection? Perhaps this is more related to what we learned of the poltergeist spiritual demon, how they grow stronger the longer they exist until they become corporeal. 


"But my very feelings changed to repulsion and terror when I saw the whole man slowly emerge from the window and begin to crawl down the castle wall over that dreadful abyss, face down with his cloak spreading out around him like great wings … I saw the fingers and toes grasp the corners of the stones …"


Here is a rule he's made that he will need to be consistent on. The vampire's unusual mode of travel. Arabus Drake has another that I illuminate in my short story being published, called "So The Legend Goes."


"Yes, I too can love, you yourselves can tell it from the past. Is it not so? Well, now I promise you that when I am done with him you shall kiss him at your will … one of the women jumped forward and opened (the bag) …if my ears did not deceive me, there was a gasp and a low wail, as of a half-smothered child. The women closed round, whilst I was aghast with horror, but as I looked they disappeared, and with them the dreadful bag."


Dracula here was talking to women he turned into vampires, and they needed to feast so he gave them a victim. But human emotion makes Dracula sound like a vrykolakas. I believe this was also the legend of the vampire in the movie Dracula where Gary Oldman was the vampiric legend -- oh the bad makeup!


"There, in one of the great boxes, of which there were fifty in all, on a pile of newly dug earth, lay the count! He was either dead or asleep, I could not say which—for the eyes were open and stony, but without the glassiness of death—and the cheeks had the warmth of life through all their pallor; the lips were as red as ever. But there was no sign of movement, no pulse, no breath, no beating of the heart. I bent over him … but when I went to search I saw the dead eyes, and in them, dead though they were, such a look of hate, though unconscious of me or my presence, that I fled from the place" … (almost Poe-like isn't it?)


Doesn't describe it as a coffin but all movie versions show it that way. So perhaps our more current vampiric literature is more due to inspiration from movies. Arabus Drake was actually conceived from my love of Barnabas Collins, in the original Dark Shadows—so intense and piercing and yet so human-like. So desiring to be human again.  What as the first movie vampire? Nosferatu, and I've never seen it so I don't know if they use a coffin for him. Roger Ebert noted that this was played more appropriately, without the cliches: "The vampire should come across not like a flamboyant actor but like a man suffering from a dread curse."



I never liked this one. I've read bits and pieces, and watched the movie. There are some differences in the legend, but Louis allowed Lestat, the vampire, turn him because he was despondent. The author made it a religious reason; the movie changed that. I have to believe, though, that the method of turning was the same in both – he drained Louis near to death and then fed him his blood. Where did we note this? Yeah, it was that Greek myth with Ambrogia. I also watched Lost Boys and they had the same turning method there. But until that new vampire killed someone, he was only half-vampire.


This idea that Lestat was not an ordinary vampire but a demon himself is another myth that might apply here. He simply could not be destroyed, not by burning or burying in a swamp. The demon inside a human corpse body could probably not be burned, but if that corpse is destroyed will "move on" to another.


TWILIGHT – Stephanie Meyer (2005)

Bella's viewpoint, after prologue:

"They were sitting in the corner of the cafeteria, as far away from where I sat as possible in the long room. There were five of them. They weren't talking, and they weren't eating, though they each had a tray of untouched food in front of them. They weren't gawking at me, unlike most of the other students…"


"And yet, they were all exactly alike. Every one of them was chalky pale, the palest of all the students living in this sunless town. Paler than me, the albino. They all had very dark eyes despite the range in hair tones …"


"I'd noticed that his eyes were black—coal black. He continued to sit so still it looked like he wasn't breathing. What was wrong with him?"


Obviously this is young adult with the setting of a high school. We see the white skin and dark eyes and stereotypical features of a vampire. They weren't eating, as well they can't, and not breathing. If they can eat and/or breathe, they are not dead. That's gotta be at least one rule we all follow.


VLAD: The Last Confession (2011) CC Humphreys

"You repeat gossip, gleaned from tales of one Dragon—Vlad Dracula, your former prince. Yet part of what you say is true—it is his dark deeds that have tainted the Order to which he swore his oath. Tales that have all but destroyed it … until it is slain by St. Mihail's magic lance, a Dragon cannot die. It sleeps only. Sleeps perhaps one day to awaken…"


"On its front page a crude woodcut depicted a nobleman eating his dinner among ranks of bodies twitching on stakes. Before him a servant hacked limbs, severed noses and ears. "The story of a bloodthirsty madman."

"You asked me to accompany you on this journey, Count. You said I was needed to judge something …was it to listen to the tale of a monster? Was it to see if we can rehabilitate Dracula? And all this? Was it so that the secret fraternity he led, and buried with his horrors, can rise again? For the record … who cares?"

"He as the one who last rode under the Dragon banner against the Turks. And under it, nearly beat them. Would have beaten them, perhaps, if the Pope, my King and yes … his fellow Dragons had not forsaken him."

Yes, much of their research is from King Vlad Dracula. This one might deserve a further read for its historical references.


MIDNIGHT BITES (2016) by Rachel Caine

"What Guy was asking was whether I intended to pick myself a protector of my very own. It was traditional to sign with your family's hereditary patron, but no way in hell was I letting Brandon have power over me. So I could either shop around to see if any other vampire could, or would, take me, or go bare—live without a contract."


"Which was attractive, but seriously risky. See, Morganville vampires don't generally kill of their own humans, because that would make life difficult for everybody, but free-range, non-Protected humans? Nobody worries much what happens to them, because usually they're alone, and they're poor, and they disappear without a trace."


A common theme for vampires with souls is to go after those who are either criminal, or homeless, or who otherwise won't be missed. In her novel the vampires are dominant and treat humans like chicken. As long as your chicken gives you eggs – or blood – you're not going to eat it, right?


"That was the thing about Morganville. Nice place to visit, but you wouldn't want to live here. And honestly, Shane couldn't exactly define why it was he did live here. He could have left, he supposed. He had, once, and come back to do a job for his father, Fearless Frank the Vampire Hunter. But now he stayed because … because at least in here he understood things. He knew the rules, even if the rules were crappy and the game of survival was rigged."


Yeah, in this book the rules ARE crappy. It felt like anything goes. I did not sense that there was much that stopped these vampires. Like a universe without boundaries. For some reason that's not at all clear, the humans don't move away; cowards here forge a more or less normal way of life. The book is well written and enjoyable enough for its young adult audience. It's pretty hard to find a serious adult vampire novel, which is what mine is.


"Vampires, as Hannah well knew, had religion—often the same one they'd been born into. There were Catholic vampires and Jewish vampires and Muslim vampires. A couple of religious institutions in town catered to vampires as well as humans with night services. Still, it was unusual to see a vampire attending any kind of daytime human religious ceremony, except funerals."


This kind of ideology reflects the author's religious stance. If we were to analyze this, we'd say that since vampires are dead people who refuse to stay dead, then their souls remain trapped so they could arise with their religious beliefs intact. There's nothing in the original myth folklore that talked about religion in this way, but we can see religion developed as a way to fight them. How can a cross fight a vampire who wasn't Christian to begin with? Does the demon in him fear anything related to the Christian god?


"Maybe she didn't know. Maybe she'd never looked into the heart of the red and black tormented thing that lurked deep inside me. But looking at her now, at her utter sincerity and fearlessness, I couldn't help but think that maybe she did, after all. Know me and love me."


The author refers to something inside the human turned vampire that made them that way. Obviously the human still had the soul from their mortal life, as this character talking in first person had been mortal in the series and was turned, and retained many of his mortal traits.


There are elements that are not explained in history, and that I've had to create for Arabus. I call them my vrykolakas rules. For instance, the body does not decay once possessed by demons, as long as blood intake is sufficient in dead veins. The skin of a corpse cannot heal. When Mikos came back as Arabus, he still had the spear hole in his gut. Blood kept leaking out, making him always thirsty until he found a way to seal his wounds. Blood is taken specifically to keep the corpse in a human appearance, so that he can get close to its victims and relatives; that's a demonic talent. That he is able to get close to humans leads him to also seek acceptance in a world not of his choosing, and can choose who and when to kill with his trapped soul, but also destroys his victims to keep them from arising. This give the myth a more realistic feel to make the legend even more disturbing.


SANDS OF TIME: Fate of the True Vampires (2017)

"Father! Your ability to startle me has not waned in five-hundred years. One would think in all this time I would learn to sense you."


"And what of loving a mortal—watching them grow old … die. If I stay, how long shall we have to share life together?"


"One of few raised to recall a time when my people were seen as gods from the sky. When offering their blood to us was an honor."


"I have heard rumor that many thousands of years ago gods in human form emerged from the night desert, that they were, and gave birth to, a new race—blood drinkers. Night stalkers with superb strength and a lethal demeanor. Killers who fed on others."


And the origin?


"Perhaps one day humans will understand the concept of journeying beyond the stars, but for now it is too far a reality to grasp."


This is delicious material that is also used in some form in my legend of Arabus Drake. But it's also unrealistic, because if you keep creating new blood drinkers, eventually there will be no one left to drink from. This makes vampires no better than zombies. I believe those two worlds need to be completely separate. You could do a vampire/zombie legend, however.


VRYKOLAKAS: Book 1 (2017)

There was no mention of the vrykolakas anywhere in the sample, which, if you use a word or concept so foreign, you need to introduce it early in your book.



So yes, you can do all this historical research and find things still don't necessarily make sense or even great story. The nice thing about fiction? We do get to make things up, but if you're creating a new "universe" of creatures, you might want to write your bible of rules first. It will help you to understand what your characters, can, can't and shouldn't do.


Let me leave you with this story:


"I've been a vampire for some seven-score years now, ever since that fateful night when I was drained of my humanity by a beautiful dark Goddess of the night. I left my mundane life behind and now I do great things like helping old ladies cross the street and then watching them shriek in horror as I empty their worthless veins and leave their lifeless husks in alleyways. Yes, being a vampire is all you've heard it is. Except for the part where nobody will hire me because I can only work at night and I can only kill people who are stupid enough to invite me into their homes. Do you know how hard it is to convince someone you're a Jehovah's Witness at two in the morning? Anyway, if you would like to become a vampire please send two dollars to this address …


What some people will conjure.  


Additional Sources:






Karina Wilson, "Decomposing Bodies in the 1720s Gave Birth to the First Vampire Panic: How superstition collided with public health concerns to create a modern monster," https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/decomposing-bodies-1720s-gave-birth-first-vampire-panic-180976097/?utm_source=smithsoniandaily&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=20211029-daily-responsive&spMailingID=45861171&spUserID=MTA2NzA5NTYyMDU3NQS2&spJobID=2103219954&spReportId=MjEwMzIxOTk1NAS2  

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Vampires -- Reality behind the Myth

The most famous vampire is, of course, Bram Stoker's Dracula, though those looking for a historical "real" Dracula often cite Romanian prince Vlad Tepes Dracula (1431-1476). The characterization of Tepes as a vampire is a distinctly Western one; in Romania, he is viewed as a national hero who defended his empire from the Ottoman Turks. His name means "Son of Dracul, who was his father. Dracul means Dragon.


I give some background information on King Vlad in Journal of an Undead: Love Stories (formerly Adventures in Death & Romance), now being edited with more history from a Great Courses I got on the Ottoman Empire. Turning him vampiric was for good reason, as you'd see in studying about him.


The vampires most people are familiar with are human corpses that return from the grave to harm the living; these have Slavic origins only a few hundred years old.


One of the earliest accounts of vampires is found in an ancient Sumerian and Babylonian myth dating to 4,000 B.C. which describes ekimmu or edimmu (one who is snatched away). The ekimmu is a type of a spirit or demon who was not buried properly and has returned as a vengeful spirit to suck the life out of the living.


Folklore vampires became vampires not only through a bite, but also if they were once a werewolf, practiced sorcery, were an illegitimate child of parents who were illegitimate, died before baptism, ate the flesh of a sheep killed by a wolf, child of a pregnant woman who was looked upon by a vampire, a nun who stepped over an unburied body, had teeth when they were born or had a cat jump on their corpse before being buried (England and Japan); a stillborn; a bat flying over a corpse (Romania); being excommunicated by the Orthodox Church (Greece); being the seventh son of the seventh son; a dead body that has been reflected in a mirror; red heads (Greece); people who die by suicide or sudden, violent deaths; and people who were improperly buried.


There are suggestions that the vampire was born out of sorcery in ancient Egypt, a demon summoned into this world from some other. There are Asian vampires, such as the Chinese jiangshi (chong-shee), evil spirits that attack people and drain their life energy; and the blood-drinking Wrathful Deities that appear in the "Tibetan Book of the Dead." Another who teaches on the subject calls the Eastern Europe "upir" the first recognized vampire.  An Old Russian term, it was thought to appear at festivals of the dead around 1054.


Female vampires were also often blamed for spreading the bubonic plague or Black Death throughout Europe in the 1300s. I suppose this led to a fear of female witches in general, but why did they blame women?  Women and cats have long been associated, but it was the lack of cats to kill rats that led to the outbreak of that disease, or so legend goes.


Vampire legend today says they can turn into bats or wolves. Some don't cast a reflection. Holy water, garlic and sunlight are said to repel them. All drink blood. Vampires are successful because of their rich history. Writers play with the "rules" while adding, subtracting or changing them to fit whatever story they have in mind. Many don't follow some of these rules, like sleeping in a coffin. You'll see Arabus Drake breaking all of them, by sticking more closely to what was real myth in history.


The first recorded accounts of vampires follow a consistent pattern: Some unexplained misfortune would befall a person, family or town — perhaps a drought dried up crops, or an infectious disease struck. Vampires were one answer to the age-old question of why bad things happen to good people. They were responsible for disease, especially those where no explanation or cure could be found. Rabies was one, causing all sorts of odd behavior such as fear of water and foaming at the mouth that was at first attributed to a bite from a vampire. Pellegra was another, making you extra sensitive to sunlight.


Villagers combined their belief that something had cursed them with fear of the dead, and concluded that perhaps the recently deceased might be responsible, having come back from the graves with evil intent. Graves were unearthed, and surprised villagers often mistook ordinary decomposition for supernatural phenomenon. Laypeople assumed that a body would decompose immediately, but if the coffin is well sealed and buried in winter, putrefaction might be delayed by weeks or months. Intestinal decomposition creates bloating which can force blood up into the mouth, making it look like a dead body has recently sucked blood.


Because the vampire craze had such a profound effect on European culture, religion provided one of the solutions to how we can fight against vampires. In the original myth of Count Dracula, he was cursed by the god for twisting his faith and slaughtering thousands in god's name. This religious aspect of the story caused vampires to be repelled by holy ground, holy water, crosses or any other religious objects.


Then there's Judas Iscariot, thought to be a red head. There are many beliefs as to how exactly Judas becomes a vampire, the first belief and most common is that god cursed Judas and his family to walk the earth until the second coming of Jesus, and until that time he would thirst for the blood of Jesus, which of course he could only receive through Christians. The second belief is not as common, but goes along with the Last Supper, in that during the last supper Jesus was being quite literal when he said to drink of his blood and eat of his flesh. There are people who believe Jesus himself was a vampire. In reality, most vampire beliefs were created by the Church to keep people from robbing graves, roaming the streets at night, and to generally instill fear in a relatively ignorant people.


Another myth is of Cain and Adam's first wife, Lilith. She supposedly showed Cain the power of blood—also thought to be the tree of life. It is said that this is why the Jewish people drain all blood from their meat before cooking and eating it. From this union between Cain and Lilith came forth a host of demons and vampires in myths across the globe.


Before Christianity, methods of repelling vampires included garlic, hawthorn branches, rowan trees (later used to make crosses), scattering of seeds, fire, decapitation with a gravedigger's spade, salt (associated with preservation and purity), iron, bells, a rooster's crow, peppermint, running water, and burying a suspected vampire at a crossroads. It was also not unusual for a corpse to be buried face down so it would dig down the wrong way and become lost in the earth. Garlic has been used as a form of protection for over 2,000 years. The ancient Egyptians believed garlic was a gift from God, Roman soldiers thought it gave them courage, sailors believed it protected them from shipwreck, and German miners believed it protected them from evil spirits when they went underground.

Stake through the heart comes from the medieval times when medical knowledge did not account for the presence of gasses in the decomposing corpses. After driving a stake in a corpse's heart, people could witness the moans coming from the corpse's mouth and deflation of body, all providing proof that something unnatural was present.


In folklore, the vampire's first victim would often be his wife. In some cultures, when a husband died, the wife changed her appearance; she would cut her hair and wear black for the entire period of mourning. These things were done to deceive the vampire, should he return. A vampire may engage in sex with his former wife, which often led to pregnancy. This belief provided a convenient explanation as to why a widow, who was supposed to be celibate, became pregnant. The resulting child was called a gloglave (pl. glog) in Bulgarian or vampirdzii in Turkish. The child was considered a hero who had powers to slay a vampire.


Modern literature often states that vampires have many powers, from telepathy and mind control to the ability to communicate with and/or transform into animals. There is no historical lore that corroborate these concepts and seem to be recent developments in vampire mythology. Modern writers have literally pushed the coffin aside.


How I formed the Character of Arabus Drake

Vrykolakas is Greek for an undead or unnatural spirit. It was believed that a person could become a vrykolakas by living an immoral life, being excommunicated, die a violent death, buried without proper church rites, or being buried in unconsecrated ground. It was also thought that if you ate sheep that had been previously wounded by a werewolf, you would become a vampire.


Early accounts of these beings described those who arose from the dead to attend unfinished business, usually with a relative or close associate. There also were stories of those who stayed with family for long periods of time, and even one who went off and got married, and fathered children.


The word vrykolakas is derived from the Slavic word vǎrkolak, and can be found in other languages such as Lithuanian vilkolakis and Romanian vârcolac. The term is a compound word meaning "wolf" and (strand of) hair" and originally meant "werewolf." In the mid 17th century story Vrykolokas by Pitton de Tournefort, he refers to the revenant as a "werewolf" which may have also been translated as bug-bears, a strange word that has nothing to do with bugs nor bears, but is related to the word bogey, which means spook, spirit, hobgoblin. Pitton wrote about his experience witnessing the exhumation and slaying of a deceased individual suspected to be a vrykolakas.


Some archaeological excavations in Mytilene have uncovered what have been called "vrykolakas" burials, though the 20cm spikes placed through the ankles, groin, and neck of each body is reminiscent of Balkan folkloric burial processes used to prevent vampirism.


The word in the form vukodlak has been used in the sense of "vampire" in the folklore of Western Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro. Apparently, the two concepts have become mixed. Even in Bulgaria, original folklore generally describes the vârkolak as a sub-species of the vampire without any wolf-like features.


The first "typical" vampire that might be traced to Greek mythology is the story of a young Italian man named Ambrogio and love of his life, Selena. According to the myth, Ambrogio fell in love with Selena after visiting the legendary Oracle in the temple of Apollo, the sun god. He asked her to marry him, but little did he know the jealous Apollo wanted her for his own. Apollo cursed Ambrogio by causing his skin to burn whenever it was exposed to sunlight.


In desperation, Ambrogio turned to Hades, the god of the underworld, and then Artemis, the goddess of the hunt, for help. After stealing Artemis's silver bow to fulfill a deal made with Hades, Artemis cursed Ambrogio so silver would burn his skin. She later took pity on him, though, and gave him super strength, immortality, and fangs to kill beasts to use their blood to write love poems to Selena.


Eventually, the mortal Selena escaped Apollo's grasp and reunited with the immortal Ambrogio. Artemis told Ambrogio he could make Selena immortal by drinking her blood which would kill her body but make her spirit live on. Their combined blood could then turn anyone who drank it into a vampire.


The Island of Santorini became especially fertile ground for vampire beliefs, considered the home of the vrykolakas, because the volcanic soil preserves bodies, slowing decomposition, in case you're ever up for a vampire vacation.


Originally, when the dead came back, they weren't really malicious. There's a story of a shoemaker who came back and helped his family out by making shoes. Other dead people who were thought to have returned from the grave were seen out in the fields eating beans. But those are ancient-vintage legends, before the evil Slavic vampire overwrote them. But they demonstrate the legend of how a vrykolakas longs to be with family again after coming back to life.


Their bodies have the same distinctive characteristics as the bodies of vampires in Balkan folklore. They do not decay; they have a ruddy complexion when they are, according to one account, "fresh and gorged with new blood".   

One myth says that the creature is believed to knock on the doors of houses and call out the name of the residents. If it gets no reply the first time, it will pass on without causing any harm. If someone does answer the door, he or she will die a few days later and become another vrykolakas. For this reason, there is a superstition present in certain Greek villages that one should not answer a door until the second knock.


Since the vrykolakas becomes more and more powerful if left to roam free, legends state that one should destroy its body. According to some accounts, this can only be done on Saturday, which is the only day when the vrykolakas rests in its grave. This may be done in various ways, such as exorcising, impaling, beheading, cutting into pieces, and especially cremating the suspected corpse, so that it may be freed from living death and its victims saved.


END OF PART ONE: See part two coming October 30th.


Sources for both parts:

Vampires, Burial, and Death-Folklore and Reality by Paul Barber (1988) Vali-Ballou Press, Birmingham, NY

Matthew Beresford, "From Demons to Dracula: The Creation of the Modern Vampire Myth" (Reaktion, 2008).











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Unraveling The Myth

I changed my domain after a long and thoughtful process. First question you might ask is why. Although maybe you'll just say, about time! Seriously, what the heck is Grimm2etc anyway? Well, once it was GrimmsEtc, but I lost control of that one, thanks to GoDaddy and me being unable to figure out how to migrate it over to a new web builder.


GrimmsEtc is the name of my business, an all-encompassing business that includes my writing, research, editing and transcription work, anything that I get paid for. But do you know what it is to you? Meaningless. I've known this for a while, sorry to say. But with my interests running amok, I couldn't figure what else might encompass all of it.


I have to do a shout-out here to Carrielynn Reinhard, who is having my transcribe her series of lectures on social media and creating products of entertainment, commercials and information and how we present ourselves to YOU that makes all the difference. Sometimes we just need that kick in the butt, and my own daughter gave me one.


So I began to bandy a lot of different domain names about and they had to be available. One person liked HistoryPerspectives, but for me, when I thought about it, everyone who's a historian has one of those. And I'm not just working on history; there's a lot of prehistory there, too.  Another liked TruthInHistory, and that does speak to the heart of my master's in history; with that I could see someone challenging every single darned thing I said, or wrote about, calling it my perspective, rather than truth. Another liked History+Attitude.com, which was going to be it.


Truth in history, with attitude, is definitely how I create my works. I try to find what happened, and I try to relate why it happened. Not always easy, I know. I can't get into everyone's shoes. But we know that even though history is written, while oral mythology was word of mouth for a very long time, there's an element of 'unreal' in written history, too. Because every event was written in its time from a particular viewpoint. So we need several viewpoints of an event to get at what really happened. We can only understand the relating of an event by understanding the attitude that went with it.


Take the Little BigHorn event. So many historians shun the Indian viewpoint, because they vary wildly by participant -- more of them being survivors. But that's what's so real about viewpoints. Everyone does have a different perspective. When I unraveled the Little BigHorn, I took the approach no other historian did, I used that similar idea of perspective to include President Grant's activities up to the Little BigHorn, and during, to demonstrate his involvement and so much more of what happened can now be understood. I unraveled what was commonly held to be true, and answered more questions than anyone else could that way.


All written history has an element of myth to it, which is why high school professors choose only to share the good stuff. Or do they choose? Is that a command that comes from higher up? When you think about your experiences in high school history, you were taught it a certain way so that our country looks good. Right? That's the myth. So unraveling the myth means that there are true things in there, but they don't want you to know what's true when it puts our country in a bad light. We have that recent revolt against teaching Critical Race Theory to demonstrate that.


I had that bad experience in high school. Good old Mr. Russo. An Italian stud. All us girls had a crush on him. But it was my worst subject, because memorizing names, places, dates, was all just so boring. I'll bet Russo would have hated my late '90s campaign to break the myth of Columbus. I had one college professor who hated it, too.


In college we learn that our heroes of high school were flawed human beings, just like the rest of us. If you had been Lincoln, would you have given your life to keep the US from falling apart because you were elected? Probably. And yet there are those people who are afraid to acknowledge the flaws in our country, like in those heroes, because it would make us seem like less of a caring people. You can find lots of examples of how we are a caring people. Knowing the flaws in our history shouldn't change that. Why would it?


Knowing our history is the ONLY way to keep history from repeating itself. And so that's why I dedicated my history master's to finding the truth and unraveling the myth.


Unraveling the myth. I love mythology. I've always felt that there's at least a nugget or two of reality in any myth. You read about those oral myths handed down through the centuries, the millennium. You think, oh, they're about people who used to be animals, they're just parables. But then you find out, hey, we did evolve from animals. Maybe not from bunnies. But if you can look inside that myth, you'll find the realities.


I have a family myth about chicken booyah, and I was seeking its truth while I still lived in Green Bay. I got the library historian really mad at me when I said I wanted to see if someone had an oral story that put the discovery of booyah before my great-grandfather's. Apparently she was fed up (no pun intended) with people claiming their family invented that local favorite dish. But I've done a lot of research on booyahs and no one's is older than the Hannon version. There is an old version that's more popular, that includes tomatoes and noodles. But that's German, not Hannon's, which is Walloon Belgian.


I'd love to hear your myths. What stories do you think are told wrong? Why myths have you unraveled?


This domain also works for my copper research, because it involves pre-contact cultures and there are several myths there that needed to be exploded. One is that these early natives could not have learned to tool in copper without help from Europeans. Another is that they stopped tooling in copper, and then started again centuries later. I'm also trying to demonstrate that no matter how much background a person has in archaeology, when it comes to the attitudes of the past, we will always be guessing. If the natives today have the key, they're not sharing. And why should they?  Maybe someday.


And even my fiction work contains a number of ways I look at real history. Arabus Drake is a product of myth, but in this case, I take myth a step further -- you might say I make it a blend of myth, and myth. My archaeology fiction also explores the myth of how the bow and arrow changed the pre-contact cultures. And I use Greek mythology in "The Last Virgin," with a new take on the age-old feud between men and women for control of the world.


Mythology presents a fascinating, four-dimensional world for those who take the time to delve in. You don't just see the humanity, but you also get a look beyond it into the supernatural.


Unraveling the Myth. Come for the adventure. Stay for the stories.

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Care & Feeding of Substitute Teachers

There's nothing that scares me quite as much as being a substitute teacher. I'm not writing this to scare others off, but with the hopes that we are treated better so that we're not scared off. And yes, this also pertains to those lovely experiences I had as a volunteer reading to kids in the school system. There is no one more overworked than a teacher, and yet, there are paybacks, which keeps them coming back. Kids can and do reward you.  But for me, who had spent every lunch break in total tension while trying to shove down some food and get in a bathroom break, and a husband who resorted to eating bad cereal bars at lunch to sustain him and ended up losing his health permanently, some things are important enough to try and impart.


There are no real standards to becoming a substitute teacher, and no training offered.  All you need is a college degree.  I have a master's in history earned in 2006 and Joe earned his B.S. in botany  back in 1972.  But what made him apply and succeed far longer than me, at the risk of his health, is that he is less likely to get rattled, to worry, or to explode in anger. I stress easily, and now, at this age, stress hurts just about every part of me. He lost muscle tone, his artificial knees have given out, and he can no longer do much more than sit. I can only say, speaking to his experience, was that he wanted only to work part-time, a few days a week. But they wanted him every day, all day long, and he couldn't say no.


The problem with being a substitute teacher is that lack of control.


This will cover five days of substituting I had in my former life in Abrams, and that has informed me enough to give what I would call guidelines for providing the appropriate experience to the classroom for accepting a substitute.  Teachers, I believe, do the kids an injustice by expecting that everything will go the same for the Sub as it does for them.  


Experience No. 1:  a half-day at the 3rd grade. I met with the teacher before she left for the afternoon. She demonstrated what I'd be doing, including showing a movie (yeah!).  The biggest problem I would have, I noted, was figuring out how to also run her "Daily Five," which sounded confusing to me.  One role in this Daily 5 was to listen to kids, one at a time, as they spelled words and if they got them all right, they were allowed to color in the next part of the rainbow.


She had them all sitting at their appropriate desks, but none of them wore name tags, and I spent the whole afternoon wondering if I was going to lose one.


I SUGGEST: all kids make name tags to wear around their necks on Sub Day, with a number that correlates to their position on the attendance chart.  This would work for lower levels.  Upper levels should have name plates added to the place they sit in the classroom.  The hardest thing for this Sub was in knowing who was who.


As a result of not knowing who was who, I took attendance again after recess, which puzzled the heck out of them.  It turned out, too, that the only names I remembered were those of the bad kids, and that gave them an unfair advantage, reinforcing bad behavior.


What happened as a result of the confusing Daily 5 was that one kid did not get to color his rainbow because we ran out of time. He did struggle with the spelling so I told him to look at them again and we can try again.  But I had too many others to do and we ran out of time.  So I told him he could try again tomorrow.  


Before I realized what was happening, it was recess and the kids were pointing to another kid hiding under the desk. I knew that two kids with special needs were taken out for a bit and I thought it was one of them. It turned out to be the kid that didn't get to finish his words, but sadly I didn't recognize him and when an aide came in to help, he finally pointed to me as the culprit. He was very unhappy with me that I didn't let him color his rainbow.


I let the kids go out to recess and I worked with him on his spelling until he got them all right.  I don't know to this day if that was the right thing to do, but it was the only thing I could think of.  Since he didn't get to go out, I didn't either, and we were waiting for the kids to come in.  When the time passed for recess to end I went out and called the kids in.  When I did that, then all the other classes came in, too.  Again, did I do the right thing? I don't know.


 No feedback is ever given, it seems, to a Sub.


The teacher did not want me to write notes about how the afternoon went, but I did anyway.


This was actually the best of the five experiences.  They only got worse from here.  This day, at least, had been structured to a point that I could almost follow.


Experience No. 2.  This is a day I should have turned down.  A full day at the high school in Special Education for Reading and English. Well, I figured I could handle those subjects, anyway.  But five classes, one that was 2 hours long, meant that I was constantly being challenged, and by kids who felt school was boring and they weren't learning anything.


I SUGGEST: Do not put out the teacher's manual and expect the Sub to know what to do with it.  Instead have specific exercises that will give the kids new learning experiences.


Again, not knowing who was who was a disadvantage. But here the added complication was the number of kids who had Iphones and tablets to play on.  There was a sign in the classroom that said they were not allowed to use them in class and that they would be confiscated.  But I was pretty sure, when I tried, that I was going to have to get physical to get them away.  


I SUGGEST: that every teacher, Sub and Regular, say to the kids that if they don't put them away, they will be marked absent.  Detention would be something else to suggest, but I did not know what authority I had.  I just knew a Sub trying to take a student's property away is never the right solution.  In the attempt it could get broken, lost or stolen.


Here taking attendance was a trial because the kids wanted to pretend they were someone else, just to mess with me. I told them they were only doing themselves a disservice and that ended that problem. I also, because I couldn't understand the work assignment and they did not cooperate by putting on the video as instructed, told them I wanted to listen to each of them read aloud to me.  I was told to let them read, but they really weren't doing that as much as just chatting or played with their toys.


I SUGGEST: that NO classroom be equipped with lounge chairs, but all students expected to sit at a desk or table, with their name tag on or taped in place.  The teacher can set this up the day before.


I could not get them to read aloud to me. I was at wit's end, and then I saw a book of fables.  I grabbed that, and read one of the stories aloud to them. I didn't ask for their attention first. I just started reading it. Little by little the noise in the room died. I'm a dramatic reader, and they were listening.  After that when I asked them to read aloud to me, they did so.  This was my only positive experience that entire day.


At other points I would talk to them about their future, about what they didn't like in class, and so on, with only minor success in responses.  Then came the moment when the students wanted the window open. Now it was a fairly pleasant day, but it was November, and there were no screens on the window.  I said okay, until I wanted it shut. When I did, the kid manning the window refused.  I went over to shut it, and he fought me, at one point getting my finger caught.  I swore.  But then I got it shut.


A few minutes later someone poked his head in to look for someone, and I asked him about the window.  He said sure, if they want it open, but that I decided when it was too cold and should be shut.  A few minutes after he left, the fellow who had fought with me left as well. I stood in the hall and watched him, and he saw me and ducked into the bathroom. He never came back.


Another gal asked to be excused because she didn't feel well.  I told her she had to have the nurse call me when she got there.  She never did.


Another gal said she didn't feel like doing anything, and one of her friends said I was to leave her alone because she had issues.  All appropriate notes were written up for the teacher.


I SUGGEST: No Sub without prior teaching experience should be called in to take over any special education class.  There are Subs who have been teachers.  Either get one of them, or have one of the regular teachers take over, and get a Sub for their regular classroom.  Few, if any, Subs are going to have the appropriate training for this kind of class.


Late in the afternoon I had given up trying to teach and started a game of Hangman. They gradually lost interest in that as well, but I sensed that one gal, at least, was happy to see I stayed the whole day. Her word for Hangman was "respectful."  It took all I had to stick out the whole day.


Experience No. 3.  This was another half day, this time for Kindergarten in the morning.  Surely these kids would all behave, not having had time to be warped by the system. Here I began to lose faith that I had the resources needed to get the kids to pay attention without yelling. This one had a specific structure but when I was in control, they did not want to behave.  


I SUGGEST: find a way to give people who have never taught before the right kind of persona that makes kids want to pay attention.  Make a video and give new subs some kind of training program.


Here I discovered how the bad kids were bad because it got them attention. There were several who would not stop horsing around, and there was one who couldn't stand noise. There were good kids whose names I didn't learn because I was too busy trying to make the others behave.  Again, the use of name tags would help prevent me from paying more attention to the bad kids than the good.  After this assignment, I decided that bad behavior was to be ignored, and only good rewarded.  Without knowing kids' names, this is not that easy to do, not for someone who does not have a good memory for faces.


I SUGGEST: there should be specific bathroom and water drinking times for the whole class.  It was a continuous problem in all classes with kids all saying they needed the restroom and who was I to argue with that?  But they were given NO time to use the bathroom between classes, which meant a continual disruption during class.  This needs to be addressed on a more consistent basis.


I was able to complete the required assignments with them, but one child pinched his finger in the door and another fell off the chair in the lunchroom, giving me the idea that kids need much closer watching than I was able to accomplish.


The most astonishing part of that day came when I was walking them back from lunch.  Several of them started racing each other and though I yelled, that didn't stop them.  What did was seeing their teacher waiting for them in the classroom.  The line froze solid and they appeared scared to death.  She told them ALL to walk back and learn to walk to class, again, punishing the good with the bad.  


I SUGGEST:  the teacher has to find a way to pass authority to the Sub.  It is the teacher's responsibility to get the kids to mind at all times.  


Experience No. 4.  My first assignment from a phone call at 6:30 in the morning.  The rest had all been pre-scheduled. This was teaching art the place of a Sub who'd called in sick. I was told it wouldn't be hard because they were all in the middle of projects.  I would have three classes at the grade school and then three more at the high school.


I'm a historian, not an artist but I loved my art class in high school and could maybe draw from that experience, especially helpful for kids who also weren't good at art.  Those who were shouldn't be a problem. I got to the art classroom and looked for the list of assignments.  There was only very meager indication of what they were to do for the day, with one of those 'how to draw' kits that I could use to "fill the time." So the first thing I did was look all over the room to see where their projects were stored. Couldn't find them.  Then when the first class attendance had been taken, I asked if they knew where their projects were.  No one did.  That left only the "how to draw" as my option to fill the time.


I chose for the kindergarten classes the toucan, and for the first grade class the velociraptor.  Well, it was included in the packet, and it's not like I was teaching them how to draw blood.  I had to demonstrate what they were to draw by first drawing each step on the board, and asking them to do what I do.  They all participated and the differences in the drawings were remarkable.  


I started each class by telling them that I was no artist, but that didn't matter.  What we drew came from inside us, and that meant that no one could make fun of our drawings.  As a result all kids happily completed their drawings.  By the third class, which was the first grade, they were adding detail to their drawings.  And all wanted to take them home, but I said no, the teacher better see them first, or she'll think we didn't do anything.


I was exhausted and very thirsty by the end of these classes, having talked nearly consistently, but no one acted up.  No one.  Not one bad student in any of these classes.  Why?  Because it was completely structured, and they understood what was expected of them.  I was able to find something that completely filled the 45 minutes.


The high school classes were a little different. The first was four kids in special education. One talked too much, another hated noise, one was in a wheelchair with an aide who did all his work for him and the last was a gal who gave up trying to talk to me and put on her headphones.  I SUGGEST:  Giving all Subs hearing tests to make sure they hear their students at a certain comprehensive level in order to have this job. This was one of my biggest challenges.  I have a hard time understanding mumbling. I was not aware at this time that I, too, was hearing disabled.


But they all had projects, knew where they were, how to get them out and get working on them.  I gave them some encouragement along the way, suggested they give themselves a goal for that day, and even suggested that the handicapped fellow be allowed to make his own markings on the outside of the clay pot.  The one who hated noise reacted very well to conversations about politics and history.  But he refused to cooperate when I tried to give him an extra credit assignment—yes, the same art teacher recommended these same "how to draw" sheets, but they had to try and do them on their own.


But after they put their work away for the day I got paper out and showed them how to follow the steps, and they seemed to enjoy that.  


I SUGGEST:  that in some instances it might be better to give a class an extra study hall rather than bring in a substitute.  I would much prefer monitoring a study hall than teaching a class of uncooperative high schoolers.

The last two classes were structurally the same; they were working on paintings that were to be done the next day.


The first class all worked quietly, except for the one boy in class who was painting close to my desk and chatted while he worked.  He didn't get very far, even though I kept encouraging him to focus.  The rest all worked well and helped each other, and all I had to do was on occasion take a walk around to see how they were doing. That was a very long hour, but I should have enjoyed getting the chance to rest.


The last class of the day was unfocused, un-artistic and just wanted to screw around. One gal refused to take her paints out because she was in a bad mood. I told her art was supposed to help with that and to give it a try.  "Nope."  One gal became incensed by the noise level as she tried to work and I continually reminded everyone that they were disturbing others, but it didn't matter. They got their hands on water spray bottles and sprayed each other, among other distractions -- a typical boy versus girl kind of thing and though I would take the water bottles away, they would get them back again.  


A number of them seemed to think their art wasn't good enough.  I tried to tell them that it didn't matter how good it was compared to others, what mattered was that it was a good as they could do.  But nothing worked.  The few that got done early and had nothing to do but screw around would not do the extra credit exercise, either.


Toward the end of the day I had them all put their materials away and then lectured them about the attitude between wanting a class and taking it for an easy grade, which they found wasn't so easy, and while they were all settling down, somewhat, the principle broke in and started yelling at them. And as he did the kids started pointing fingers, and four were sent to the office.  I then received an apology.  "Oh, they're always like this."


I SUGGEST: if they're always like this, an aide or someone else should be assigned with the Sub to help keep order.

Of course I knew that I could have picked up the phone and had the bad kids kicked out. But I wanted to try and reach them, rather than giving up.  I think this attitude of mine is one of the reasons that kids try to get away with more when I'm around.  It's possible that in time I would learn it doesn't pay to try and reach them, but to eject them immediately so we could get back to work. And maybe they would only be in the office for an hour and would come back all subdued.


A Sub like me has no teacher training.  We cannot be given the same kinds of instructions that a teacher herself would be given to run the classroom for the day.  And yet that is exactly what happened to me on the last day.


Experience No. 5.  I was determined to make this a good day. I was asked weeks ahead of time to cover the full day for a 2nd grade on the day before Thanksgiving break.  So I contacted the teacher and asked to sit in on the last hour the day before.  Here's where I believe the biggest mistake was made.  She introduced me to the class, but refused to say that I was subbing the next day, nor did she give them, in front of me, their assignments for the day or repercussions if they didn't behave.  


After they left, I asked her about this.  She felt it wouldn't be a good idea for kids to know ahead of time that a Sub would be there, because it might encourage worse behavior.  At the time, because I could hardly argue with someone with experience, I didn't.  She showed me the schedule of assignments and though I didn't let on, I had a sinking feeling. She expected me to be every bit the teacher for the day that she was.  


I SUGGEST:  Never expect the Sub to do everything you do.  She asked where I taught before, and I said I never did.  I suppose by that time it was too late for her to change what the plans were for the next day.


When the kids came back the next day, they were only slightly surprised to see me, and the acting up began nearly immediately.  I was told to watch for this one fellow who would on occasion need a time out, but he wasn't nearly as bad as another, who kept egging him on.  Getting them to sit up and pay attention was an exercise in futility.  And I had to follow all the class assignments, beginning to end, as though I knew all there was to know about teaching. I had to raise my voice to keep the class going because of the noise and disruption, not just by those two, although I might have gotten better order if I'd had them removed.  Again, I wanted to try everything I could to reach them first.  I wasn't given any idea of how long to wait before ejecting anyone.


Again, we had bathroom break problems, and kids complaining about stomach aches and getting hurt and needing to see the nurse.  By the end of the day I had three ice packs to return.  I had kids arguing that it was their turn to use the bathroom, when it never proceeded in the orderly fashion the teacher had devised.  The handouts were often missing or there were not enough to go around.  Some of the assignments I couldn't find anywhere.  I couldn't understand how to use the teacher's manual.



1.  The teacher had the opportunity to hand the class off to me before they left the day before.   I expected her to say the following:  "and this is Mrs. Mo, who will be your teacher tomorrow.  I expect that you will treat her exactly the same way you treat me.  I will have a series of things she will give you to complete tomorrow, and if you get done ahead of others you will read quietly or she will send you to the office.  Is that understood?  (At which point she should wait until they all nod.)

2. The teacher will not give me materials to present that I would have no familiarity with.  Since I was assigned this day two weeks in advance, it was her responsibility to see what level I could work at, and not wait until the day before to find out I'm not a retired teacher.

3. Materials should be set up as follows:  A Reading assignment with comprehension sheet to fill out when they're done reading.  A workbook for each of the different areas; geography, spelling, math, etc., that they are all to work in for a designated amount of time and graded on how far they get.

4. A movie to watch in the afternoon when they are getting antsy for home.  Know your students; know that on the day before a vacation they're going to be a little more excited than usual.

5. A substitute often has to listen to kids tell them what they're doing wrong.  "Our teacher doesn't do it that way."  Kids have to be told that when a substitute is there, her way is the right way.

6. Children are NOT allowed to tattle on each other.  I cannot count how many times I heard that someone did something to someone else.  Finally I told them that they could not tattle on someone else without being held responsible for that behavior as well.  That worked for all of 20 minutes.

7. Don't expect a Sub to be able to understand all 17 kids in an instant of time.

8. Don't expect a Sub to know when kids are being extraordinarily bad.  Give the Sub the exact instructions for when to use out of room discipline.

9. Hold the children responsible for their behavior while you're gone.  Make sure they know what the repercussions are if the Sub has to give a bad report on any of them.


I am simply unable to consider being a Sub again.  I know my threshold is not very high for this kind of behavior in class.  I raised three children and they were all the best students.  I'm not holding myself accountable for the worst of them.  I simply didn't know what to do, and that's because I'm not trained to know what to do. And that IS the fault of the system.

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HISTORY LESSON #15 - Why No Democrat was Prepared Post-Trump

Personally, I did not want Joe Biden to get the nomination. I would have preferred Hillary try a second run, since she was still tough, she was right and she was a little younger. Had Biden run in 2016, he might have stopped Trump right there. But now, thinking about all the candidates along with Biden in 2020, I'm not sure anyone could have been a good follow-up to someone like Trump who made dividing this country his presidential passion. As more than one Biden voter has admitted, when it came to 2020, "anyone but Trump."


None of them, from Amy now struggling with breast cancer, to Yang who has left the Dems to become independent but doesn't seem to realize how few would see someone of Chinese descent as president (considering our ongoing struggles with China now turning back toward communism again) to Warren, who seemed strong but doesn't seem to have a lot to say anymore, to Sanders, not any younger and who seems like a raving lunatic, to Harris, who is not impressing anyone in being a heartbeat from the presidency. Biden seemed the best choice to unite a world divided -- although who counted on Trump further dividing by insisting the election was fraud because he doesn't know how to lose?


Here's Trump's idea: let the country and economy crash so he can say "I told you so, should have stuck with me instead of an illegitimate government." On October 7th he slammed McConnell for offering a compromise to the debt ceiling stalemate. Is there any doubt that he doesn't care about anyone or anything but himself? Having this country crash and burn will save his sorry hide from the January 6th commission and everything else.


Even worse is how Trump tries to make his objection sound: "Looks like Mitch McConnell is folding to the Democrats, again," Trump said in a statement through his leadership PAC, Save America. "He's got all of the cards with the debt ceiling, it's time to play the hand. Don't let them destroy our Country!" Trump doesn't even realize what's at stake, nor does he care if he does.


We do see some GOP reaction against Trump's plans to run again. According to an article in "The Week," we were closer to a constitutional crises in January than we realize. Perhaps to be beaten by "perennial loser" Biden was the last straw, and he would not have challenged a loss to someone else. But I doubt that's the case -- this idea that he couldn't lose was in his noggin all along. We are still IN this crises, do not doubt that. The Republicans are doing all in their power in the variou GOP states to prevent the pandemic style of voting that was used in 2020. They are trying to cover up what happened on January 6th because many of them are implicated, and to uncover that would lead them into a freefall in 2022. McConnell has just now indicated that he will not work with the Democrats in December on the debt ceiling. He would rather allow the US to default on its debts than to work with them again. That's Trump-Speak, even though Trump wants to have him "deposed."


Many of us wonder why DeJoy still has the Post Office in his grip. It appears there are efforts to remove him or get him to resign, but he responded with "get used to me." Here's our answer:


"Louis DeJoy is … facing potential legal troubles. The postmaster general may be the closest thing to former President Donald Trump left in the nation's capital. But there's little President Joe Biden can do about it. The scrutiny of DeJoy, 63, has intensified as the Justice Department investigates him over political fundraising at the North Carolina-based company he ran prior to his work at the post office. DeJoy's proposed overhaul could help the post office operate more like a business than a public service. But he's bristled at suggestions he's a Trump holdover with an ideology that now conflicts with a Democratic administration. "I'm not a political appointee," DeJoy told the House hearing. "I was selected by a bipartisan board of governors and I'd really appreciate if you'd get that straight."

Wisconsin Rep. Mark Pocan, who organized a letter signed by 90 House Democrats in August calling for DeJoy's removal, said the postmaster general "doesn't seem to understand that one of the few services that the federal government does that's in the Constitution is the Postal Service," Pocan said "and we have a higher obligation to do the job correctly."


Sad to say, having him in there is actually the least of our problems. Our country's leadership right now needs youth and vigor, yes; under Biden we also need a committed and dedicated cabinet, a staff around Biden ready to rally to his cause and help him. Is that happening?


Our justice department under Garland has had some positive news, including this commission on investigating who beyond the rioters need to be held accountable for January 6th, and recently they were able to call a halt to Texas's new crazy anti-abortion laws while they are investigation for being unconstitutional.


For me the biggest issue is raising taxes on the rich, BEFORE spending money on infrastructure or anything else. Why push to raise the debt ceiling before you have a payment plan for your infrastructure in place?


It's increasingly clear that Biden's moderate approach to the Republicans was doomed from the start. They don't want him to do well, and will pull out all the stops to make him crush and burn, the same way they obstructed Obama. Many GOP are still afraid of Trump -- heaven knows why, because he could implicate them, I suspect. They are also afraid that, since their voters are the minority, they can never win again unless they pull every nasty trick in the book, while all along saying it's "to save democracy."


Sadly, a lot of Democrats, too, don't see the need to be moderate, but then, it seems that they might be right. Because the GOP doesn't want to work with the Democrats. No matter what. Take this debt ceiling approach. It doesn't matter to the GOP that the Democrats voted three times under Trump to raise it.


The biggest issue to me is that taxes need to be raised on the rich. Why can't this be done? A big deal was made of getting the two Georgia Democrat senators elected in January, because that gave the Senate a 50/50 split with Kamala Harris the tie-breaker. What good has that done the Democrats? None that I can see.


According to one article, however, there are changes coming to the tax code in January. But that will be too late to save the country, if we cannot stop the filibuster and cannot raise the debt ceiling. My hunch, if I can play politics a moment, is that the Republicans will make a deal to raise the debt ceiling in December: Stop digging into the January 6th event. Will the Democrats cave for the supposed "good of the country?" Or will they have the strength to call the GOP bluff?


Unless there's someone brave enough to stand up to the Trump curse plaguing our country, there's a chance none of us will survive him. Someone in the GOP, and there have been several who are willing to stand up to Trump, needs to take the next step. Someone tried to form the Lincoln Party. Do it now, and all the good reasonable GOP need to defect to it, leaving the GOP extreme right alone to continue their love fest with a maniac.


The Democrats need a lot more courage than they've shown lately. First, there seems to be candidates pandering for the White House in 2024 by making Biden's job more difficult. This would not have happened under a young and vigorous president, or where the VP was popular. They need unity to defeat the GOP's desire takeover of our politics, Trump-style. Schumer came out blasting the GOP for their ridiculous response to giving them two months on the debt ceiling before they have to go through that again, and Munchin commented that Schumer just made things worse, a comment that McConnell leaped on. Goodie. Instead of supporting Schumer and maybe understanding the comment, Munchin, you side with the jerks who don't do for Biden what you did for Trump. That's not courage. Stop letting them buy you off.


It may be hard for the Democrats to believe but they still need to defeat Trump. They're not even trying. They're too busy defeating themselves. I'm not the only one observing this. Kaiser-chatzlein noted: "Democrats need to stick together on this issue. The stacks are high because what's on the line is nothing less than who we are as a country."




Robin Kaiser-Schatzlein, The New York Times, as quoted in "The Tax Rule the ultra-rich love most," The Week, October 8, 2021, p. 34.


Business Insider, https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/trump-slams-mcconnell-for-folding-to-the-democrats-by-offering-them-a-temporary-lift-of-the-debt-ceiling/ar-AAPeXT6?ocid=msedgntp 


"The Eastman Memo," The Week, October 8, 2021, p. 6.


"There has been a coup," CNN.com, https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/there-has-been-a-coup-bernstein-reacts-to-new-evidence-on-trump-s-role-in-riot/vi-AAPimK3?ocid=msedgntp 


Amy Wang, "McConnell vows Republicans…" Washington Post, https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/mcconnell-vows-republicans-will-not-help-raise-debt-ceiling-in-december/ar-AAPhQQW?ocid=msedgntp 


"PLanning for Biden's Proposed Tax Changes," August 18, 2021, Coldstream Wealth Management, https://www.coldstream.com/blog/2021/08/18/planning-for-joe-bidens-proposed-tax-changes/ 


There are more sources but a lot of this is just from paying attention to what's going on. You should, too.

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History Lesson #14: Breaking the Myth of the "Drunken Indian"

Whiskey is given as a reason the western American Indians were conquered after the Civil War.  Actually the knowledge that the Indians got easily "hooked" on alcohol goes back much earlier, during colonial times. In 1826 the American Temperance Society formed, as a response to the problems caused by drinking and indigenous contact.


But a year later, a drunken party between white lead miners and Ho-Chunk in Wisconsin led to whites abducting their women, the cause of what's been called "Red Bird's War." But the story of the drunken party was buried, and instead they were referred to as savage, attacking for no reason. 


In 1862, this was noted:


"I remember," said Private Chauncey Cooke, with orders to go after the Sioux, "father saying that the buffaloes and Indians would disappear about the same time … hunters would slay the buffaloes for their skins and the white man's whiskey was as surely slaying the Indian."


In my work on the Indian wars west of the Mississippi River, I discovered issues that give us a more balanced slant on what happened with alcohol, once tribes were introduced to it, one that shows how accurate Mr. Cooke's comment was to his son, and how we can't understand history without attitude.


First, it was believed in the 1800s that whiskey was medicinal. Paste Magazine noted that the consumption of alcohol in the 1800s was almost beyond belief, much of it 45% higher than today. 1830 was the peak of alcohol consumption; likely due to the temperance movement noted above. But that only meant that alcohol consumption began to be controlled.


Here's a quote about an army private's rations:


"One private listed rations consisting of bread, pork, beans, crout (as in sauer?), sugar, dry apples, coffee and whiskey."


This doesn't surprise me; I started having trouble eating pork and fried foods, so I got in the habit of getting whiskey whenever I ordered a hamburger, because it made me feel nauseous otherwise. Then I was put on a low-fat diet because of my gall bladder. Imagine all those aching gall bladders due to pig overconsumption in the 1800s. Indians also were quoted as saying pork made them sick as early as 1868. 


But even if it was medicinal, it still could make men crazy drunk -- and that effect as well-known. Here's what happened during the sacking of Richmond in 1865:


"A police force organized to protect every street. The Confederates started fires and set off arsenals of gunpowder on the way out of town. The City Council members, fearing what might happen if people got hold of whiskey, rolled the barrels to the curbs and emptied contents into the gutters."


Notice it doesn't say which army they worried about; likely both sides had reasons to get drunk at that time.

When the soldiers headed west to protect the frontier, they found that every "pilgrim room," probably the early name for stage stations, had groceries and whiskey for sale. One might suspect the quality of that whiskey, and the going rate for something men learned to crave because it made them feel better. Whiskey dealers could actually be a plague on the army as they marched, indicating that the officers tried on numerous occasions to chase them off.

The following quote indicates that those whiskey peddlars didn't care who they sold (or traded) their rotgut to:


"That summer the Kiowa, Comanche, Southern Cheyenne, and Arapahoe gathered around Fort Larned, as per treaty, to receive their annuities, but because of delays in Congress Wynkoop had to turn many away empty. Traders with whiskey took advantage of this unhappiness, creating an atmosphere of disgruntled and drunken Indians, who would trade a pony for ten gallons of whiskey."


While we cannot say for sure that medicinal is why whiskey was given to Indians as part of their annuities (I found nothing yet to verify this), there is another factor that played into the drunkenness that was noted in tribes after the Civil War.  


When Indians were first given rations from the government in exchange for land, whiskey was included at the treaty signing to make them more convivial to the land deal. Whiskey was used, then, to get them to sign.


But with the growing temperance movement, whiskey could become harder to find. There were also scrupulous fort commanders, like Major Alex Chambers, who made sure there was no whiskey included in their rations at Fort Fetterman in 1871. This demonstrates what we'd expect -- whiskey included with the pork rations.


One belief recently proved patently untrue -- although how can you prove the past on a current population? -- is that Indians could not metabolize alcohol the same way as whites, or had not built up a tolerance. There have been numerous recent studies done on this to demonstrate they react to liquor the same way as whites. It's instead more likely that those times of increased inebriation were a direct result of designed land grab.


One of the things I was able to demonstrate in my book is how President Grant kept looking for proof that the Indians broke the Fort Laramie treaty terms so the government could take the Black Hills. Getting them drunk might have worked; however, by this time, it would seem, the Indians had gotten the drinking among their people under control due to people like Chambers,  Indian Agent Saville, temperance, and their own growing understanding of white ways.


The soldiers themselves were not always a good influence on the Indians: "G.W. Ingals, Paiute Indian agent, testified that soldiers and Indians got drunk together. "There is a great deal of debauchery among [soldiers] in relations with the Indians and a great deal of drunkenness among themselves."


The soldiers, too, tended to overindulge, most because of boredom and lack of fight around the forts. Here's from Fort Larned in Kansas:


"To amuse themselves, soldiers got drunk and stole goods from the commissary. What started as the theft of a few vegetables to ward off scurvy turned into taking whatever they could get their hands on. A Board of Survey, composed typically of the post's captain and two first lieutenants, investigated missing items such as brown sugar, potatoes, green coffee, turnips, ham, tobacco and canned lobster. Yes, lobster. Post trader stores sold alcohol to soldiers, sometimes inferior whiskey at ridiculous prices."


Finally in 1918 alcohol was prohibited on reservations. This was two years before the rest of the US population faced Prohibition.


Soldiers and Indians alike got their hands on too much Kentucky fluid, but the reasons were different; for the Indians, it was a means of control and further degradation, to demonstrate that, see, they're not as good as whites.

The image lingers today of the "drunken Indian," which, as shown in my book, was vastly over-simplified. Here's a statistic that's interesting:


"The results from the first survey showed that the majority (59.9%) of Native Americans abstained. Only a minority (43.1%) of whites did so. About 14.5% of Native Americans were light/moderate drinkers. That compared to 32.7% of whites. The rates of heavy drinking and of heavy episodic ('binge') drinking were almost identical. The results of the second survey were similar."


This article is my attempt to show that there is attitude in history, and no reason ever to stereotype anyone. Don't hate being politically correct. Hate history that doesn't show you the truth.



Author, "Civil War & Bloody Peace: Following Orders," 2nd edition published 2021.

"Alcohol Problems & Solutions," 2016, https://www.alcoholproblemsandsolutions.org/drunken-indian-fact-fiction-native-american-drinking-studied/ .

Robert Miller and Meril Hazlette, "Drunken Indian Myth Distilled into Reality through Federal Indian Alcohol Policy." Arizona State Law Journal, Vol. 28, No. 1, 1996.

"Stereotype of the Drunken Indian, 2012, https://apihtawikosisan.com/2012/10/the-stereotype-of-the-drunken-indian/.

See author's work on Red Bird's War, https://www.westernmagazinedigest.com/2020/02/red-birds-war-what-really-happened-in.html 

"The Ignoble Savage: The Drunken Indian," 2012, https://www.historyonthenet.com/authentichistory/diversity/native/is2-drunk/index.html 

"When Americans Drank Whiskey like it was Water," 2018, https://www.pastemagazine.com/drink/alcohol-history/the-1800s-when-americans-drank-whiskey-like-it-was/#comparing-drinking-rates-1830-vs-2018 .

"From Medicine to Modern Revival," 2015, https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2015/07/09/420970854/from-medicine-to-modern-revival-a-history-of-american-whiskey-in-labels .

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Biking for Fun & Safety

Whether you do it for work or exercise, biking is fun.  Biking helps you stay in shape, saves on the environment, lowers your blood pressure … but for safety sake, we need to train drivers how to watch out for us. The best way to do that is with specific rules, and by watching out for them. My brother recently got hit at a four way stop. He said he'd stopped but then started and so did the car. I guess she just didn't see him. Or maybe she felt he was waiting for her. This is exactly what I'm talking about. Who had the right of way? For that matter, have you ever tried to ride a bike on a roundabout? Here's a tip. Don't. I know of one roundabout I'd ride, and that's in a quiet street, where I could take it like a car.


I have always dreamed of being involved in city bike planning. Maybe if enough people find this guide handy, I can use it as an in to a city council committee here.


This bike/car safety manual is divided into sections designed to help new and experienced bikers learn how to train cars to watch for them—a technique mostly called defensive biking. 



Always test ride your bike before purchase. None of those online bike purchases. You can always find a bike shop where you can test ride your purchase. Get them to adjust the seat. Get them to add accessories, depending on what you'll use it for. Some like saddlebags, others want a front basket. Get your water bottle mounted, a 16 oz is always preferable when you're biking. I recommend city wheels if you're mostly city biking. There are also hybrid wheels which will also carry you off road a little easier. If it's only for dirt biking, get the wide wheels. Know your purpose for biking before you buy.


My bike was purchased in 2012, the first I've owned for more than a couple years, bought at a bike store, not Fleet Farm. In 2019 I had it thoroughly maintenanced, including new tires, and brakes tested. Don't ride it and forget it.



You need to keep yourself alert and attentive so these next tips will help you while you're on the road.


Stay hydrated. Don't just carry water, drink it. If you know a place to refill it, good, otherwise, a few sips every few miles is fine. If you can carry a lightweight back-pack a second water bottle wouldn't hurt. Taking the bottle in your bike carrier may only take you so far, if there's no place to refill. If you get a bottle with a filter you can refill it even in a gas station bathroom.


Do not wear earphones or anything that might block your hearing. You're on wheels now and need to be just as responsible and responsive as if you are driving a car. If you want drivers to respect you, you need to respect them. You have to remain alert to those situations where conflict with cars can happen. You won't always be on a designated bike trail, but even there you have to remain alert for other bikes, and pedestrians. Diverting your concentration makes you an erratic biker.


Learn to ride safely by riding with experienced cyclists who welcome newcomers or by taking a class offered by area bike shops. Parents need to ride with their children (who only belong on a sidewalk bike for so long.) To learn by doing, start with low traffic streets. If you're uncomfortable in a high traffic area, take a sidewalk, and walk the bike.  Cross at crosswalks until you're comfortable with the rules.  Observe other bikers.


There are three hand signals to indicate to cars which way you're turning. Use your left arm because drivers see it easier, because you ride a bike with the flow of traffic (not against). Arm straight out means you're turning left, straight down means you're stopping and straight up means you're turning right. This helps them plan for you, just the way a blinker does in your car.


The most difficult challenge, and the one to do only if you've become an expert and feel comfortable, is to get into the left hand vehicle lane to make a left hand turn. This is perfectly legitimate on busy but slow moving traffic streets, like in any downtown area. Just be sure when you make that left hand turn that you're able to veer as far as possible to the right, avoiding any traffic turning right from the adjacent corner, of course.


Biking in traffic is challenging enough – try and avoid rainy days. But as Cindy Johnson on Facebook reminded me, this is not always an option, because some people depend on their bikes for work. I suspect those folks already pretty well know what to do. She recommends you get small battery-powered red LED flashers that clip to the back of the seat and make bikers highly visible, day or night. "Bike riders, whether motorized or pedal, often have no idea how invisible they are to drivers. They're small, have few if any lights, and they blend in with all the background clutter, especially on city streets." And car drivers don't anticipate them, if they're few in number.


There are a number of authorized trails in the city, but if you need to get somewhere where there aren't any, try a cut-through of a residential neighborhood.


But never ever expect that drivers see you and always exercise caution. Like the person who's a good swimmer is the one likely to drown, an experienced biker is more likely to get hit, or one that doesn't follow safety rules. Don't get so comfortable that you forget caution.



Personally, I play it safe and find a route around one. So I'm not a good one to be advising here because I've never done it. If I have to, here's what I'd try:


Roundabout traffic is typically quite slow and if you remain to the right of the lane, you really shouldn't have any trouble, either being spotted, or getting to the road you need. The biggest problem will be if you somehow end up next to another car, and you're going straight while they're trying to exit right.  Always stay behind or ahead of another car in a roundabout.


The other option, and the preferred one, is to take the lanes exactly as if you are a car.  Do this when you're comfortable with the idea. There are no bike lanes in roundabouts, so you will be expected to take the lane that directs you to where you want to go. All lanes are marked.  Some are just to the right.  Some are ahead with the option to go right.



Sidewalk riding is for bicyclists at the learning stage; you are better off being on the road, obeying traffic laws. It is also illegal for bikers to be on sidewalks unless the community has passed an ordinance specifically permitting sidewalk riding; in some places they've widened the sidewalk for that purpose.


Pedestrians have right of way.  If you have to use the sidewalk, remember to pass pedestrians on the left, but don't assume they know you're there.  Call out "passing on the left" so they don't suddenly step in front of you.  


Even better, if you have to use a sidewalk, walk the bike.



Be especially mindful of parked cars with doors that can open unexpectedly. You can't always tell if someone is in there and they rarely look for bikers. I've never been hit by one and have never hit a biker, but it still scares me to pass them. Authorized bike lanes are often alongside or within parking lanes. Parking lanes are nice to use for bike trails. But weaving in and out of parked cars is not recommended -- remember, there's traffic around them.

If you're in the parking lane, you will have to slow up and look for traffic behind you before you go around the parked car. No swerving.



There are still cars out there, and they rarely go as slow as in the city. In the country, bikers are often in the middle of the back roads. It's easier to see a biker in the country than in a congested city.  If you're riding on a county trunk they will use the other side of the road to pass you, but often they do this in a non-passing zone section of the road. Some drivers will slow down in a no-passing zone and wait for the vehicle coming from the other way to pass, but many won't.  Few country roads have bike trails, and you should have a "rearview" mirror on your bike to see when you might want to travel the gravel or grass side off the road on occasion to allow opposing cars to safely pass each other, and you.



If you break traffic laws and a car hits you, I don't know how you'll be treated in court. You're better off stopping at all stop signs, to be safe. Always be cautious at stop signs if you don't feel like stopping entirely.  At a four-way stop, for instance, you might be able to see ahead of time that you'd beat anyone else to the stop, and decide to just keep going.  But if you have a stop sign and opposing traffic does not, always stop.


Finally, here's a fun tip from PeopleForBikes.Org to get you out on a bike: Go for a type of bike ride that you normally wouldn't. If you're a road rider, try a mountain bike ride. If you've never ridden your bike to work, give bike commuting a shot. And if the ride to work isn't something you can tackle this year, ride your bike to run an errand you would normally do by car, even if it's just a trip to the coffee shop or ice cream parlor. Remember—forty percent of trips Americans take are two miles or less, an easy bicycling distance.




Spratling, Cassandra, "Cycling: Fitness Means Fun," Green Bay Press Gazette, May 15, 2012.

WDOT General Bike Rules

Cindy Johnson, Facebook Friend


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