Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Asking for a Little Help


I can hardly believe it's time to head back to school.  Where did the summer go?

I went to the school yesterday to get my classroom ready; got all the computers and projector plugged back in and checked out to be sure everything works properly.  The waxing crew had come in and the parquet floors are gleaming!  We are polished up and ready to go!

Three years ago I used my blog to appeal for help for some supplies; I teach in a high poverty school and my kids seldom have the supplies they need.  I like for my classroom to be a comfortable, welcoming place where students feel like something good can happen at any moment.  I don't ever want them to dread coming to class or to feel unprepared because they don't have what they need.

I have already spent close to $100 of my own money on supplies: yesterday I went to WalMart and bought hand sanitizer, notebook paper, pencils, colored pencils, rubber bands, staples, paper clips, basic things that run a classroom.  I do this every single year.

When I asked for help on this blog three years ago, the response was stunning.  For almost two months the school secretary would call my room to tell me I had "another" package from Amazon.  I always sent a different student to the office to pick up our new package. The supplies from that appeal lasted three years!  We received reams of notebook paper, boxes of tissue, boxes of spiral notebooks and even class sets of novels that we still read.

I need help again.

I'm so excited to begin this year - year number twenty for me.  I'm teaching a new course this year (English III) along with my regular English II classes and I have some really wonderful things planned for my students to keep them engaged and enthusiastic about learning.

If you can help us, please look at the links below I've posted from Amazon of the things we need.  Every pencil, every book, every package of paper helps - nothing is too small.  You can order direct from Amazon and have your purchase shipped directly to the school: it should be addressed:

Bossier High School
Attn: Pat Becker
777 Bearkat Drive
Bossier City, LA 71111

If you'd rather make a cash contribution, you can use the PayPal link in the upper right sidebar.

As needs are filled I will update this post so you know you aren't ordering something that we've already received.

My students are really good kids and they are grateful for everything anyone does for them.  We take advantage of "Stuff the Bus" campaigns and I've used Donors Choose and other similar sites.  This direct appeal is what has worked best for us - I mean, last time I appealed to my readers I got enough supplies for three years!

We all appreciate your help!  Truly!

Added:  Huge thanks to Political Clown Parade for the generous cash donation!  Thank you so much!



Monday, July 18, 2016

Gypsy is a Hit at Shreveport Little Theatre


The Shreveport Little Theatre has a huge hit with its summer musical, Gypsy, based on the life of Gypsy Rose Lee.

We took in the Sunday matinee yesterday and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves as did the rest of the packed house.

The story follows Mama Rose, played by Linnea Fayard Allen, as she raises her two daughters in show business.  Working the vaudeville circuit is tough and Rose is a tough stage mother.  The dreams of being on stage seem to be Rose's of course, but eventually daughter June runs off to be an actress and daughter Louise becomes the famous Gypsy Rose Lee.

The musical is huge - it's long and the cast is large, and SLT handles this beautifully; I was amazed at the numerous set changes that the crew had to navigate, but it all flowed seamlessly.

The music was of course wonderful; the orchestra sounded great and there are many familiar tunes in this play such as Gypsy's signature "Let Me Entertain You," "Everything's Coming up Roses," and "Together," to name but a few.

Linnea Fayard Allen was stunning as Mama Rose; everyone around here knows she's a fantastic singer, but as Mama Rose she belted out these sometimes challenging tunes with the flair of the true professional that she is.  Her facial expressions and movements were adorable and she was able to make Mama Rose such a sympathetic character.  I'm not a theater critic so forgive my ignorance, but it seems to me that in the wrong hands, Mama June could be seen as an overbearing and unlikable figure, but of course she is not.  Ms. Allen's performance of "Rose's Turn" was outstanding and emotional.

Tessa Anderson as Louise was wonderful and she has a lovely voice.  She makes the transition from innocent Louise to sultry Gypsy both heartbreaking and exciting.  Giddy about her mother's imminent marriage to Herbie, Louise's heartbreak is palpable as all of her dreams of a normal family and a settled home are shattered.  She takes the satin gloves from Rose and the transformation is done, her confidence as a burlesque performer increasing with each performance.

Speaking of Herbie, Pat Maxie did a fine job as the candy salesman/agent who fell in love with Mama Rose.  His own heartbreak was tragic when he finally realizes she will never marry him, she will never change, and she will never stop micro-managing her daughter's life.

A wonderful surprise for me was the performance of Dwayne Durham, Jr. as Tulsa.  His big scene when he tells Louise of his dreams was just stunning.  He's a young man with a lot of talent that I hope to see more of in future productions.

Truly this is a huge cast and there are so many great performances.  Just treat yourself and try to catch one of the remaining performances - you won't be sorry.

Call the SLT office for tickets at 318-424-4439, or go online to order.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Confession: How I Got Addicted to Pokemon Go

Duck Pond: Kings Highway 
I caved.

I downloaded Pokemon Go.

I didn't mean to do it, but I did.

Yesterday afternoon my 24-year old son and I had some errands to run and we started talking about the game while driving out to BPCC to get him registered for his last semester there.  He collected the cards when he was a little kid although I don't think he ever really played the game.  We just liked collecting them and looking at the pictures...finding "rare" cards, that kind of thing.

The phenomenon of this game has just been amazing and so he went ahead and downloaded it while we talked.  Once on campus, he engaged the game and caught a couple of Pokemon.

Our next stop was the dentist and while he was with the doctor I downloaded the game...I was just sitting in the waiting room and thought, "Well, why not.  Let's see what all the fuss is about...".

And there you have it.

The game, as you know by now, is designed to get pasty, puffy kids off the couch and out into the sunshine.  They have to walk to play the game -- you can't do it while driving.  You can get from one Pokestop to another while driving, but just collecting Pokemon, or hatching eggs, you have to walk.

Pokestops are GPS landmarks or sites in your city or neighborhood.  From the dentist office yesterday, for example, the game identified several nearby Pokestops, like the giant strawberry on the back of Strawns Eat Shop, the Dental Arts building by George's, the Centenary gold dome and soccer field, and several on Centenary campus.

The lure is this: once you're at the Gold Dome for example, well the soccer field is right there, just a few yards away, and Strawn's is right there, across the street, and Centenary, is right there, right across the street!

It's easy to find yourself a fair distance from where you began.
Photo courtesy of KSLA

We walked the Centenary campus -- first time my son had ever been on campus -- and looked at the Jack London bust, the band shell, the memorial garden and other various sites.  It was beautiful and interesting.  While walking down a shaded asphalt drive, the boys' soccer team returning from practice came up the hill, red-faced, hot, laughing, with gear strung over their shoulders.

"Y'all looking for Pokemon?!"  one boy asked.  We exchanged pleasantries with them then went on our way.  It was nice.

Okay so it's a dumb game.

But look, after a week of watching BLM protests and listening to hate filled rhetoric all over the news and social media, I kind of needed a dumb game yesterday.

We went to the duck pond on Kings Highway and it was there that I saw the social impact of this dumb game.  There were dozens, maybe a hundred, people there.  The usual moms with little kids were there, but now I saw clusters of teenagers and college kids, adults in their twenties, thirties, staring at phone screens but also talking to each other.  One cluster would join another cluster and off they would go.

We sat under the pavilion with our phones and just listened to the conversations around us.  Everyone was talking about the game: where they found certain Pokemon, something funny that happened while searching, some cool landmark they had seen, different game strategies.  More adept players were explaining strategies to newbies.  People were interacting.

That should not seem like such a weird phenomena but in today's world, it sort of was.

I could hear one guy talking about all the people around and how cool it was; "The only way the duck pond could get better today is if they had a power source out here -- my battery is dying!"  His friends laughed and they all looked around at all the people in amazement.

Couples walked by staring at phones.  Small groups.  Individuals. Some people looked very serious, others sheepish.  Everyone was having fun.

One twenty-something guy sitting on a plastic whale looked up and said, "This game is bringing world peace!"  I'm not sure about that, but I knew what he meant.  There was a cool, fun, vibe there.  People were meeting each other, bonded through a common thing, talking to each other, walking around in the fresh air, enjoying life.

At one point the game prompted me to choose a "team" - I said to my son, "It's asking me what team to join - what do I do?!" Some guy walking past me said, "Team blue - choose team blue." So I did.  He gave me a high five.

There are a lot of stories out there about how dangerous and stupid this game is, and it may be.  But for that moment, it was really cool.  It's going to be important for people not to mess it up, though; stay off of private property -- you don't have to do that to play.  Don't try to play while driving -- there's no point.  Pay attention to your surroundings all the time -- don't walk across parking lots staring at your phone (whether you're playing Pokemon or not, ever!) and don't go into dark places at night.  No need to.  As with anything in the world, ever, use common sense; I know that's in short supply lately, but use common sense.

Is it going to bring world peace?  Nah.  Will it get kids outside?  Yep.  The novelty will fade and in a few weeks it will probably not be such a thing, but for now, it's pretty cool to see people doing this.

Before you denounce it as stupid, give it a try.  You might find yourself having fun!

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Related:
Pokemon for Progress (KSLA)
What is Pokemon Go and Why is Everyone Playing It? (Slate)
Pokemon Go Tips and Tricks (TechInsider)
Everything You Wanted to Know About Pokemon Go but were Afraid to Ask (CNN)
Pokemon Go App Sends ArkLaTex into a Frenzy (KSLA)
34 Essential Tips for Pokemon Go

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Take a Trip to Natchitoches and Tour the H.A. Cook Guesthouse

With the world unraveling this past week, and dreadful news at every turn, I needed a little mental break yesterday and so Steve and I hit the road and drove down to Natchitoches for the afternoon.

From Shreveport, Natchitoches is seventy minutes away on I49 and we make fairly frequent day trips there because it's a lovely little escape.  There is so much history there and much to see.

You can check the links at the end of this post for previous trips; I don't want to be overly redundant and post the same old pictures here.

We arrived around noon and lunch was in order.

We started out with lunch at Lasyone's; in my opinion, it's the best meat pie there is.



There are many imitations, but Lasyone's is my favorite.



I had my usual meat pie with a side of red beans and rice while Steve did the platter with salad bar, dirty rice, and vegetable.

We like to walk along Front Street and window shop; we have a few shops we always go to on each trip though.  We never miss Kaffie-Frederick.



Where else can you get a key made, a cast iron skillet, rubber rain boots, copper weather vanes...



...tiny terrarium plants and cypress Santas, all under one roof?



We also like to visit Tres Bien Antiques on St. Denis.  At present, I believe it's the only antique store in the Historic District; the one on Front Street (where The Book Merchant used to be) is closed. The fellow that runs Tres Bien has recently opened the H.A. Cook Guesthouse right next door.  He graciously gave us a tour and all I could say as we went through it was "oh my gosh..."  Simply gorgeous.

The guesthouse is available to rent and would be perfect for a group because there are three large bedrooms.  Family reunions, wedding parties, or just a group visiting the Christmas festival would be perfectly comfortable here.

The website has many more pictures but here are a few that I took yesterday:

This is the living area:


And another view:


One bedroom:



And another:



Both of those bedrooms have a little alcove with a child's bed (and their own wall-mounted tv) and bath.  The bedrooms all open onto a balcony overlooking St. Denis.  The balcony has tables and chairs where you can sit and have coffee in the morning and watch the town wake up.

This is the third bedroom, also with a full bath.



The lovely, spacious kitchen:



And bar area which adjoins the living area - all very open.


The dining room:



There's even a huge laundry room:



The back balcony:



There's a downstairs courtyard with full kitchen as well.  The condo is completely handicapped accessible; there is also off-street parking and you're within walking distance of everything you might want to do in historic downtown Natchitoches.

I could totally live there.  Forever.  It's beautiful.

It was too early for dinner so we headed down to Melrose to visit; I'd heard they had some storm damage recently was curious to see how things looked.  The barn is still roped off and repairs upcoming but the Clementine murals in the Africa House look beautiful and I was glad to see them. My creative spirit is always infused after a trip to Melrose and to my mind there is no more beautiful spot along the Cane than Miss Cammie's plantation.

We returned to Front Street and hit the Pioneer Pub for a cold beverage (that's a Hay Ryed from Red River Brewing) and some fried alligator (my favorite!).



We always meet the nicest people there - either locals, employees, or tourists, and it's easy to spend the afternoon there.

Before we left, I had to stick my toes in the Cane River because you know the legend: once you dip your toes in the Cane you can never leave it.  And I never want to.


There's just something about Natchitoches and the Cane that brings peace to my soul.


(If you want to see more of Natchitoches and of Melrose, there are several links below, as well as a post on Oakland Plantation.)


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The SIGIS Take a Trip Series:
Take a Trip to the 2012 Defenders of Liberty Air Show at BAFB
Take a Springtime Trip to Second Hand Rose Antiques in Minden, LA
Take a Trip to Logansport, Louisiana
Take a Trip to the Lock and Dam on Red River
Take a Trip to the 2012 Barkus and Meoux Parade
Take a Christmas Shopping Trip to Second Hand Rose in Minden
Take a Trip to the Fourth Annual Barksdale AFB Oktoberfest 
Take a Trip to Grand Cane's Fifth Annual Pioneer Trade Day
Take a Trip to the 2011 Highland Jazz & Blues Festival
Take an Autumn Trip to Jefferson, Texas
Take a Fall Trip to Second Hand Rose Antiques in Minden
Take a Trip to the 8th Air Force Museum at Barksdale Air Force Base
Take a Summertime Trip to Grand Cane
Take a Trip to Desoto Parish
Take a Summer Trip to Second Hand Rose Antiques in Minden
Take a Trip to Natchitoches and Melrose Plantation 
Take a Trip to Ed Lester Farms and a Random Antique Stop
Take a Trip to the Norton Art Gallery and the Masters of Cuban Art Exhibit
Take a Trip to Natchitoches to See the Christmas Lights
Take a Trip to the Third Annual BAFB Oktoberfest 
Take a Trip to Natchitoches and Oakland Plantation

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Epperson Demands UDC Remove Confederate Monument Within the Year

Detail: Caddo Parish Confederate monument
The attack on the Caddo Parish Confederate monument continues.  This post updates his latest shenanigans and attempts to pull recent events together into one post for anyone just getting up to speed on this nonsense.

Caddo Commissioner Ken Epperson is apparently not content to abide by the decision of the Long Range Planning Committee of June 9 which decided to form a subcommittee to address his protest against the Confederate Monument standing outside the Caddo Parish Courthouse.

Last week Mr. Epperson slipped an item on the agenda for the Work Session held yesterday which said "Item relative to the removal of Confederate States Monument from the Caddo Parish courthouse property."

CPC Agenda July 5, 2016, page 4


No other explanation was given which left little room for public comment should anyone have wanted to address it in the comments portion of the meeting.  Most of us thought the matter had been settled when Mr. Epperson agreed to the citizens subcommittee on June 9.

After the June 9 meeting, on June 22, Mr. Epperson published a column in The Shreveport Times which consisted primarily of the text of a 2002 title search of the courthouse property which found no title ever conveyed.  In the words of historian Gary Joiner: "They're squatters."

KTBS reporter Gerry May investigated the title issue and reported on June 27:
Epperson cites a title search that was done in 2002 to determine ownership of the courthouse land.  
While the title company wrote, "our records do not disclose a deed," it went on to say "acquisitive prescription would have long since prevailed over any flaw in the dedication of the subject tract." 
And what is "acquisitive prescription?" 
"It's a method of obtaining title to property by use and possession over a certain period of time," explains Caddo Parish Attorney Donna Frazier.
So, we can conclude that the parish does have rights to the land on which the courthouse sits, but here is where Mr. Epperson finds fault: in 1903 the Caddo Parish Police Jury, predecessor of the Caddo Commission, donated a part of that land to the United Daughters of the Confederacy as well as $1,000 to construct a monument to the Confederate dead.  The grant gave them use of the land in perpetuity and it has not been contested in over 100 years.

Here is a copy of the original minutes making that donation.  These minutes can be found on microfilm in the Shreve Memorial Library:

Caddo Parish Police Jury Minutes, 1903

According to esteemed local attorney Arthur Carmody, the land upon which the monument sits belongs to the Daughters of the Confederacy.  Mr. Carmody had a guest column in The Shreveport Times this week in which he says:

There is a pertinent legal doctrine called estoppel which squarely fits this case. It means that when one party acts, and the second party accepts that act and relies upon the representations of the first party, that the first party cannot later repudiate those acts to the detriment of the second party.
Clearly, what Mr. Epperson is attempting to do is contradict and repudiate the actions of his predecessor by which he and the Commission are bound. 
There are further arguments which support the continued honored place of the monument on Texas Street. That relates to the good faith possession of this site by the UDC for some 115 years without any adverse claim of possession or ownership by any other person or party.

In the meeting yesterday, July 5, it turns out Mr. Epperson introduced a resolution to demand the United Daughters of the Confederacy remove the monument within the year:

"I hereby move that the Legal Department of the Parish of Caddo notify the owners of the Confederate monument located on the Texas Street side of the Caddo Parish Courthouse via certified correspondence, giving them a period of (1) one year to remove said structure from the Caddo Parish Courthouse grounds. The Period of time designated for removal shall be effective September 1, 2016, and ending on August 31, 2017. 
This action is based upon the opinion rendered by United Title of Louisiana, Inc., dated March 27, 2002, addressed to Mr. Dannye W. Malone, Esq. the Parish of Caddo attorney.

This proposal is dated June 23; Epperson's proposal was sent to committee.

Victoria Shirley of KSLA news reported on the meeting yesterday in which she says, "Epperson claims the way land was donated wasn't legal because it wasn't done in the way land donations would be handled in present day".

That kind of logic boggles the mind.  Think of all the deals that aren't legal under that premise, to include even the Louisiana Purchase which was in essence done on a handshake and outside of Congress.  It wouldn't pass Constitutional muster today.

Mr. Epperson is getting desperate.

Not to mix apples and oranges, but with shootings in our streets on a daily basis, it would seem he could pick a more worthy cause.  At the June 9 meeting, when one citizen suggested he worry instead about repairing roads, Mr. Epperson boasted that they have $21 million dollars in the roads fund. So why do we still have roads that rattle your undercarriage like cattle trails and with pothole large enough to plant trees in?

In the end, the citizens that spoke at the June 9 meeting, and from what I can tell, the meeting on July 5, are opposed to any action removing the monument.  Most of us realize that the monument has no racial overtones as Mr. Epperson contends, and creates no real division anywhere; in fact, most people don't even pay attention to it.  The only division it incites is that of the race-baiters like Mr. Epperson and his crony Ardis Cash.

Yet, Mr. Epperson wants to continue to waste our taxpayer dollars beating this dead horse.  The United Daughters of the Confederacy own the land, own the monument, and have said they are not going to move it.

That should be the end of the story, but I have a feeling it won't be.

If you'd like to write a letter to Mr. Epperson in support of the monument or perhaps suggesting other avenues in which he should direct his focus, his address is:

Kenneth Epperson
Caddo Parish Commission
P. O. Box 29436
Shreveport, LA  71149

Meanwhile, lets keep an eye on the upcoming agenda items should he decide to sneak in another maneuver.



Previously:
Caddo Parish Monument Under Attack (May 19)
Report From the Caddo Parish Commission Meeting in Which Commissioner Epperson Blasts "Jake-Leg Bloggers" (June 9)
Epperson's Continued Attack on the Caddo Parish Confederate Monument (June 22)
The Caddo Parish Courthouse Remains a Thing of Beauty (July 2)


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Saturday, July 2, 2016

The Caddo Parish Courthouse Remains an Impressive Thing of Beauty

Photo by Amanda Currier
As Caddo Parish Commissioner Ken Epperson slips another Confederate monument removal item on the agenda for the Work Session on Tuesday, perhaps this is a good time to note an article in the Louisiana Bar Association Journal this month which profiles historic courthouses throughout the state.

I drive by the courthouse fairly often and have been inside many times, but seldom have taken the time to learn about the history of the building or to appreciate the beauty of its art and architecture.

(I'm going to quote heavily from the LBA journal which quotes heavily from the official Caddo Parish website. No plagiarism is intended and I'll link you back to sources.)

The Caddo Parish courthouse was designed by Shreveport-born architect Edward F. Neild who was apparently a very busy man who designed many well known local buildings including the Louisiana State Exhibit Building at the Louisiana State Fairgrounds, the Overton Brooks VA Medical Center, the gymnasium and Northwestern State University, and many buildings on the Louisiana Tech campus. Beyond the Louisiana borders, Neild designed the Truman library in Independence, Missouri and was a consulting architect on the rehabilitation of the White House during Truman's administration. He also designed two of the Japanese relocation camps in Arkansas during WWII.

(Photo courtesy of Caddo.org: Historic Courthouse)
For the Caddo Parish Courthouse, which dates back to 1926, Neild used pink and gray Tennessee
marble on the floors with a Belgian black marble border. The walls are Rosetta marble and Art Deco flourishes can be seen throughout the foyer especially, and in the exterior ornaments, carving, and large lamps on each side of the entrance.

Like many buildings around here, the courthouse also has its share of haunted stories.  The seventh floor still has the ominous jail cells that once held prisoners and the eighth floor was where the condemned were hung. KTBS reporter Devon Patton took a tour in 2014 and filed this story:
One the eeriest places in the courthouse include the abandoned jail that sits on the 7th floor. Above the jail is the place where the hangman used to execute criminals. We found the latch where the floor would drop the person from the 8th floor to their death.
Interestingly, and perhaps Commissioner Epperson should read this, the article in the Louisiana Bar Association magazine notes the Confederate monument standing on the north side of the courthouse and the oddity that the land it stands on does not belong to the parish but to the Daughters of the Confederacy:
On the Texas Street side of the courthouse, a Confederate Veterans Reunion Monument honors those who died fighting for the Confederacy.Unbeknownst to many, this small tract of land within the perimeter of the courthouse property is actually private property owned by the Daughters of the Confederacy and not to the Parish.
As it has been noted many times, the small plot of land upon which the monument stands was donated to the Daughters of the Confederacy in 1903 along with a donation of $1,000 for the commission of the monument.  It is theirs for use in perpetuity.

As Commissioner Epperson has escalated his push for removal of the monument, a recent story by Gerry May of KTBS news indicates that this could create far more problems than Epperson may be willing to bear:
(Photo courtesy of Caddo.org: Historic courthouse)
In a recent guest column in the Shreveport Times, Epperson wrote, "The Confederate monument is placed illegally on Caddo Parish's property and should be removed immediately by the owners." 
Epperson cites a title search that was done in 2002 to determine ownership of the courthouse land. While the title company wrote, "our records do not disclose a deed," it went on to say "acquisitive prescription would have long since prevailed over any flaw in the dedication of the subject tract." 
And what is "acquisitive prescription?" 
"It's a method of obtaining title to property by use and possession over a certain period of time," explains Caddo Parish Attorney Donna Frazier. It's something that goes back to frontier days. If you stayed on a piece of land for 30 years, you became owner.  
And to that, noted historian Gary Joiner says of the parish, "They're squatters."
The Caddo Parish courthouse opened in 1927 and while the metal detectors and the heavy security were never in Neild's plan, the beauty of his design remains.

Both inside and outside, the Caddo Parish courthouse is worth taking a moment to stop and admire.  And no nasty push by any politician with an agenda can spoil that!





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Friday, July 1, 2016

Civil War Era Baseball at Mansfield Battle Park

If your vacation plans this summer include staying around the Shreveport/Bossier area, keep in mind that despite the budget cuts throughout the state, the Mansfield Battle Park and Museum is still open, despite rumors to the contrary.

I checked with Park Manager Scott Dearman who tells me that they are open Wednesday - Sunday, 9:00-5:00 and that they don't expect to be shut down.

In fact, tomorrow, July 2, you can go and enjoy a hands-on program on Civil War era baseball beginning at 11:00 a.m.  Baseball was one of the many games the soldiers would play to break up the monotony of daily life:
A park ranger will begin with a brief talk on the evolution of the 19th-century game known as Town Ball. After this, what better way to learn about the soon-to-be “National Pastime” than to play the game? The rules will be explained to all participants and equipment will be provided to play a 2-3 inning game. So bring your family and friends and a picnic lunch and enjoy a game of baseball! And just a hint, there are no strike outs! 
Here is an interesting article about baseball during the time of the Civil War by Michael Aubrecht:

During the War Between the States, countless baseball games, originally known as "townball", were organized in Army Camps and prisons on both sides of the Mason Dixon Line. Very little documentation exists on these games and most information has been derived from letters written by both officers and enlisted men to their families on the home front. For the hundreds of pictures taken during the Civil War by photography pioneer Matthew Brady, there is only one photo in the National Archives that clearly captured a baseball game underway in the background. Several newspaper artists also depicted primitive ballgames and other forms of recreation devised to help boost troop morale and maintain physical fitness. Regardless of the lack of "media coverage", military historians have proved that baseball was a common ground in a country divided, and helped both Union and Confederate soldiers temporarily escape the horror of war.
And here is another article from the Smithsonian about the earliest baseball game:
Though various forms of baseball were played in England and America for over a century prior to the Civil War, modern rules of the game were not developed and employed until the 1850s. The evolving Knickerbocker Code or rules had its origins in metropolitan New York in 1845. Union soldiers, more familiar with the game, introduced others, including Southerners and Westerners to baseball throughout the Civil War, resulting in thousands of soldiers learning the game. Upon returning home, the game spread to friends and neighbors and soon the sport was played in every region of the country, solidifying its title as “The National Pastime."
If you want to learn more, and play a game yourself, head to Mansfield. You can bring chairs, a grill, and a cooler and spend the day at a fascinating historic site!

Here is an overview of the Mansfield State Historic Site, including directions on how to get there.

Here is their Facebook page.

This would be a great time to support the site and the museum and we are extremely lucky that they are still open given the near constant threats of closure by the governor.


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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The War Horse Memorial: Richmond, Virginia


The War Horse (photograph from The Virginia Historical Society)
Recently a friend of mine handed me a thick, blue folder inside of which was articles, photographs, postcards, souvenir booklets, and magazines all relating to Civil War themed topics.  Because I have recently joined the United Daughters of the Confederacy, she wanted to share some things with me that she knew I would be interested in.  The folder is a treasure trove of interesting topics and now that my Cammie Henry manuscript is in the hands of the publisher for round two of scrutiny, I have a little time to delve into my blue folder.

One of the photographs that caught my eye was of The War Horse memorial which is located at The Virginia Historical Society in Richmond, Virginia.  The monument is a memorial to the horses and mules, both Union and Confederate, that were lost during the Civil War.  It is estimated that between 1,300,000 and 1,500,000 horses and mules were lost during the conflict either through injury or disease. At Gettysburg alone, it is estimated that 3,000 horses and mules were lost.

The monument in Virginia is a life-sized bronze horse who still wears his saddle and bridle.  His head hangs low, his ribs are exposed, and he is exhausted.  His back foot is slightly raised, which according to philanthropist and horse breeder Paul Mellon who commissioned the monument, is "what horses do when they are tired."

In doing a little research on the monument and the artist who created it, I learned that this monument is actually one of three War Horse monuments.  The other two are three-quarter sized and stand at The National Sporting Library and Museum in Middleburg, VA, and at The United States Cavalry Museum at Ft. Riley Kansas.

By the time Paul Mellon commissioned the one for the Virginia Historical Society, he had decided that 3/4 size was not large enough and so the artist's mold had to be enlarged for a life-sized monument.

The artist is Tessa Pullan of Rutland, England. She is well-known for her work in portraying animals and Mellon knew her because she had created a monument for his Kentucky Derby winning horse, Sea Hero, in 1993.  According to "The Origin of the War Horse" by Lisa Campbell of the National Sporting Library and Museum, Mellon was acquainted with artist John Skeaping under whom Ms. Pullan had studied. Skeaping highly recommended Ms. Pullan and so she was hired to do the Sea Hero commission.

In creating the War Horse monument, Ms. Pullan was aided by vast numbers of photographs and input from Paul Mellon.  Mr. Mellon knew exactly what he wanted this horse to look like and had been inspired by this photograph he saw in a book: it is "The American Tommy Atkins in a Montana Blizzard" by Remington.  The horse in that painting is also exhausted, gaunt, and has his back foot slightly raised.

In Lisa Campbell's article, Tessa Pullan says Mellon "supplied the photographs which were of a horse used for battle reenactments. He also sent a couple of photocopies of prints or paintings to give me an idea of what he was after. One was a horse in a snow storm which is the one I based the sculpture on."  Pullan also studied photographs of abused and starved horses, a process she describes as "horrendous," but that helped her get the effect she and Mellon wanted.

The horse was intended to represent both Union and Confederate sides and a great deal of research went into the gear on the horse so that it could represent either side.  It is also interesting to note that the scabbard is empty, indicating that the rider did not survive the battle.

The monument at the Virginia Historical Society was unveiled in September 1997; at the base of the monument is the inscription:

In memory of the one and a half million horses and mules of the Confederate and Union armies who were killed, were wounded, or died from disease in the Civil War.

Some say that the best time to visit the monument is at night; the lighting on the horse causes a huge silhouette on the wall behind him which is a striking sight.

Related:

Tessa Pullan's website is here.

More about animal mascots of the Civil War.

The War Horse photographs.



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Monday, June 27, 2016

Stitch Fix: How to get Better Fixes

Let's talk about Stitch Fix -- the personal styling box service in which you receive great new clothes selected just for you by a personal stylist.

I signed up for this service in January 2016; compared to those ladies who have received twenty and thirty fixes, or more, I'm a novice.  But in all of my fixes, I've only returned three items: I returned one purse because even though I requested a purse, I didn't care for the color.  I returned one top because even though it was very close to one I pinned on Pinterest, it just wasn't flattering on me, and I returned a pair of distressed jeans. I requested distressed jeans, but after looking at them in person, I decided I liked naturally distressed jeans after all.

Everything else I have received has been great!  That's about a 91% "keep" percentage.

So, what is the secret to getting great fixes?

First, the background: what is Stitch Fix and how does it work?  My standard blurb:

Go to the Stitch Fix site and fill out a personal profile. This is where you can set your price points and provide basic information as to your likes and dislikes.

You can schedule a "Fix" at any time or set up a recurring date if you wish. You pay a $20 "styling fee" for each box which applies to your purchase should you keep anything in the box. If you buy all five items in the box you also get a 25-percent discount on the total. 

The box includes a pre-paid bag for you to return what you don't want to keep. Just drop the clothes you're returning into the bag and drop the bag into a mailbox.  Easy.

 For each referral, or friend you get to sign up, you also get a $25 credit to your account once their "Fix" ships. The service uses your profile that you fill out as well as access to a Pinterest board you give them (optional) where you have pinned styles and clothes you like. 

If you Google "Stitch Fix Review" you'll find lots of blogs with lots of women sharing photos and reviews of their boxes. There are also multiple Facebook pages/groups where people buy/sell/trade and discuss their boxes.

If you look at those Facebook boards, you will probably see a lot of negativity.  Don't read the comments or posts, as a rule.  Just look at the pictures of the clothes, and find what you like.

Rule No. 1:  Create a Pinterest board that you will link to your SF profile.  Before you request a Fix, take some time to pin current Stitch Fix clothes to that board.  If you pin something that is a year old, you probably won't get it.  If you pin something from Zulilly, Nordstrom, Belk, or some other site where you like to shop, you probably won't get it.  Stitch Fix has their own brands, for the most part.

When you pin something, "Edit" the picture to leave commentary for your stylist about what you
like about the pin.  "Pinning this for the purse - don't like the dress but I love the bag!" Or "Love this top but would prefer it in yellow if possible."

Where do you get these pictures?  Check the Facebook boards.  Here is one called Stitch Fix B/S/T and Discussion.  Here is another called Stitch Fix b/s/t Large and XL.  Here's one called Stitch Fix Jewelry and Accessories.  There are lots more.  Follow them, and pin clothes that you like to your Pinterest board.

Where else can you get pictures?  Follow Stitch Fix on Instagram.  Follow the Stitch Fix blog.

The more Stitch Fix clothes you pin to Pinterest the better off you will be.

Rule No. 2:  Leave detailed notes for your stylist.  Once you request your fix, you are prompted to leave a note for your stylist.  Do not underestimate this step.  This is where you tell the stylist what you would like to receive or if you have any special events coming up you'd like to prepare for, if you're pregnant, if you want to receive all tops, if you want a Kate Middleton inspired fix, if you don't want to receive any shoes....leave it in the note.  Leave it in the note even if it's already in your profile.  If you just say "Surprise me!" in your note, do not complain if you don't like what you get.  Be as specific as possible.  If you ask for something you can wear to the office - how formal or informal is your office?  Do you work at a veterinarian's office washing dogs all day or as an attorney?  Be specific.

Rule No. 3:  Leave detailed feedback when you check out.  If you return something, explain exactly why. If it's a fit issue, explain what that is: was it too long? Too tight?  Where?  Wrong color?  Too loose?  This refines your profile and helps your stylist pick better for you in the next fix. If you return something and don't leave feedback, how will your stylist know what to avoid next time?  Don't just say, "It's not me."  Why isn't it?  Leave specific feedback.

Rule No. 4:  Do not confuse Personal Stylist with Personal Shopper.  If you know you want a fringed top you saw at Ann Taylor, go get it.  If you know you want a pair of yellow shorts, go buy them.  Stitch Fix is a styling service and will send you clothes that fit a profile you submit and refine. It's not a personal shopping service.  From time to time you will get something that you initially think is not "you".  Give it a try before you rule it out.  You might be surprised.

Rule No. 5:  Update your Pinterest board each time you get a Fix.  Take off what you have received.  You might want to shuffle items bottom to top or rearrange them.  I try to put my most current "wants" at the top of my board.  The stylists don't have all day long to work on just your fix, so the easier you make it, the better.  Do not expect them to scroll through your Facebook page and Instagram page to try and figure out your style.  Can I emphasize enough the importance of the Pinterest board?

Rule No. 6:  If you like your stylist, you can keep your stylist.  If you want to keep your stylist, SAY SO in each note when you schedule.  The system is designed to keep you paired with your stylist if you keep a certain number of items, but never assume that it will work that way.  If you request a certain stylist and it by chance goes to another one, your fix will be bumped over to the one you have requested.  Always say so if you want to keep your stylist.  Alternately, if the relationship just isn't working for you, say so.  Ask for a new stylist.

Rule No. 7:  Keep your expectations real.  Inventory is sometimes limited and just because you request a Stitch Fix blouse you saw on Facebook does not mean you will get it, but your stylist will try to pick something similar.  Keep in mind seasonal changes.  They probably won't have shorts in fall.  In fact, they may not be able to send you four pairs of shorts in the summer because everyone wants shorts and inventory is limited.  Be open minded to new things.  So often I see on the Facebook boards, "I requested this top and didn't get it!  My stylist didn't even read my note!"  More likely is that the stylist just didn't have that top in inventory.

That's basically how to get fixes that will be successful.  If you get something that doesn't fit, the company will usually be able to swap sizes with you.  Just email customer service, explain the problem, and wait for an answer.  It's usually within two days.  You can hold off on returning items until you hear from them.  Stitch Fix is known for excellent customer service.

Now, go update your Pinterest board and request a perfect fix!



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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Epperson's Continued Attack on the Confederate Monument


Commissioner Ken Epperson and Lady Justice
Caddo Commission member Ken Epperson has a guest column in The Shreveport Times today - as of this writing it isn't on the website that I can find, but it is in the print edition.

You may recall that Mr. Epperson is attempting to have the Confederate Monument removed that stands in front of the courthouse on land given to the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1903.  I attended the Caddo Commission committee meeting when this was discussed and wrote about it here.  You can watch the video of that meeting here.  If you just want to skip to Mr. Epperson's wandering, profanity laced tirade at the end, it starts at about 1:20 in the video.

In today's column, Mr. Epperson still contends that the monument is located on Caddo Parish Courthouse property, ignoring the 1903 donation by the Caddo Parish Police Jury in which the land was given to the UDC.  He writes:
"This should settle the issue, the Confederate monument is placed illegally on Caddo Parish's property and should be removed immediately by the owners. I am not looking to suppress history only to put it in it's proper place."
He contends that the debate about the monument so far has been "lots of rhetoric, most of which is not factual, but just emotional and misleading comments by the proponents of keeping the monument in place."

Only two people spoke to move the monument at the Committee meeting, beside Mr. Epperson.  Two dozen spoke to keep it.

The bulk of his article is the text of a title search done in 2002 which actually found no deed whatsoever on the property.  Apparently Caddo Parish doesn't even own it.

Historian Gary Joiner noted at the Caddo Commission committee meeting that any attempt to move the monument would likely be tied up in courts for years as ownership of the land is debated and it would open "a can of worms."  He suggests if anyone owns the land it would be the heirs of Indian interpreter Larkin Edwards who was given large chunks of land by the Caddo Indians.

In related news, Mr. Epperson had his portrait removed from the wall of the courthouse, stating that its presence there indicates that he agrees with everything that goes on there.  He wants his picture and name replaced with that of Lady Justice, a request which was honored this week. Before and after pictures can be seen here:
Ken Epperson’s is serving his 20th year as Commissioner in Caddo Parish. This morning his photo was removed from the Caddo Parish Courthouse, at his request. Commissioner Epperson says, “My picture up there now represents that I agree with everything that goes on on that particular ground and I do not.” Epperson gave an ultimatum before having his picture replaced with Lady Justice, asking for the confederate monument outside of the courthouse to be removed or remove his photo from inside the courthouse. Officials chose the latter and removed Epperson’s photo this morning. 
The Caddo Parish Commission Long Range Special Projects Committee will form a sub-committee at a later date to debate the monument issue.

Meanwhile, Mr. Epperson will remain on the Caddo Commmission, apparently now representing the voice of justice.


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Thursday, June 9, 2016

Report from the Caddo Parish Commission Committee Meeting on the Confederate Monument in Which Ken Epperson Blasts "Jake-Leg Bloggers"

The Caddo Parish Commission Special Projects Committee met this afternoon to discuss the issue of removing the Confederate monument that sits on the north side of the Caddo Parish courthouse.

 Proposed Ordinance No. 5587 put forth by Commissioner Ken Epperson intends to provide a $300,000 appropriation to remove the Confederate monument and replace it with a monument honoring the USS Golet.  That there is already a memorial to the USS Golet at the American Legion Post 14 on Cross Lake is apparently of no concern.

The monument stands on a plat of land donated by the Caddo Parish Police Jury to the United Daughters of the Confederacy for use in perpetuity back in 1903. The land was never officially deeded to them, likely because back in those days people did business on a handshake and your good word.

The monument was constructed with a $1000 donation by the Police Jury and funds raised by the UDC.

The issue of moving the monument has been raised before (at least two of those times by Epperson), and always the legal issues over who owns the land opens "a can of worms" as it was referred to today.  No doubt if it ever comes to pass that the monument be moved, it will be tied up in the courts for years and cost thousands of dollars, the beneficiary of which will only be the lawyers.

The meeting room was packed this afternoon with numerous interested citizens who wanted to share their thoughts with the Commission. Almost twenty-five people walked up to the podium to share their thoughts and only two of those supported Epperson's proposal.

Esteemed local attorney and historian Art Carmody was the first to address the Committee and noted several legal defects in the proposal and affirmed that in his opinion, the property on which the monument stands belongs to the UDC.  He pointed out that the proposal as written does not specify what would happen to the monument, whether it would be moved, dismantled, or fall at the hands of a wrecking ball.

The speakers that followed all reiterated the same idea: you can't erase or sanitize history and that to allow removal of this monument opens a slippery slope for the future.  Where does it end?

Notable comments were given by Retired Army Maj. Ron Chatelain who is recognized as the most decorated living war veteran in the State of Louisiana. Ron is a personal friend of mine and is one of the kindest, most gentle men I've ever known.  He thanked the military veterans on the Committee for their service and he pointed out that all races fought for the South during the Civil War.  With emotion quivering in his voice, he also cited the depiction of the muse Clio on the statue to represent the sacrifices and work of women at home.  Chatelain suggested that Shreveport would be recognized as a more progressive city by leaving the monument where it is as a sign that as a community we can unify and work together.

Lane Callaway of the Shreveport Historic Preservation Commission made the point that if the monument is moved it would lose its listing on the National Register.  Part of its historic significance is the site upon which it sits -- Shreveport was the last place that the Confederate flag flew over a public building after the Civil War and the beginning of Reconstruction.  The site itself is therefore historic.  Local professor, author, and professional historian Gary Joiner affirmed this.

Former Shreveport Times writer and military historian John Andrew Prime also noted that Reconstruction began here and pointed out that Union monuments in the north are also under attack.

Benjamin Arnold suggested that balance is the answer.  He suggested that if the Commission wants to create balance they should build a monument on the other side of the courthouse which celebrates civil rights heroes or other black heroes. He proposed citizen contributions for this project with matching funds by the Commission which would make the community more invested in the project.  "Our nation was founded on compromise," he said, and suggested that we need to find a way to do that.

Several speakers called for those who are intent on inciting racial division in our city to remove themselves from office.

Only two people spoke in favor of moving the monument: attorney Henry Walker (who in a previous meeting called the statue just a bunch of concrete) suggested that we dismantle the statue, removing the four busts and placing them in Greenwood Cemetery. It will be "a place of prominence," he said. Oh, and the female figure too, he said, referring to Clio. It was not without notice that Mr. Walker received no applause at the end of his comments.

The other speaker in favor of removal was community activist Artis Cash who insisted, "that monument represents traitors to United States!"  He said that "for people to come here with their melodious voices and talk about how great this was is just wrong!"  He rambled on for his three minutes and said we should "honor some real heroes" in its place.

At the conclusion of his speech, Mr. Cash turned to the crowd and said, "Now y'all clap for ME now."  Nobody did, and a few offered "Boo" in return, prompting him to call them "unchristian."  Childish.

Mr. Cash's speech inflamed SCV member John Long who spoke after him and was furious that Cash called Confederate soldiers "traitors."  "My family members weren't traitors!"  he passionately insisted.  "If you want to talk about traitors, let's talk about Abraham Lincoln," and then went on to quote the Emancipation Proclamation at length noting that Lincoln failed to free slaves where he had the power to.

The high emotion prompted one audience member who had not intended to speak to approach the podium after all.  Andrew Stevenson suggested that the statue should be treated as a tourist site and that we have much bigger problems to deal with such as the steadily climbing murder rate and street violence. "Reverends need to go to their congregations and tell them to quit killing each other," and
Ken Epperson
suggested that the Ten Commandments should be at the courthouse and that we need to "bring God back" into our community, an observation which earned him much applause.

After the public input session, Committee members had 7 minutes to express their thoughts and most it seemed were opposed to moving the monument citing concerns about the cost, other more important issues, and a need for compromise.  Many cited the need for unity rather than division.  Matthew Linn suggested that the vacant top floor of the courthouse be used as a civil rights museum.

Things got interesting when Mr. Epperson had his say.  In a profanity laced tirade, he blasted "jake-leg bloggers" for blowing the issue up and making it all about race, which was "Bullcrap" he said repeatedly.  In a grammatical mess of English he insisted, "Hell, I never said nothing about race." Then he called for members of each military branch to raise their hands. He called next for the Daughters of the Confederacy, then the United Daughters of the Confederacy to raise their hands, apparently not aware that its the same group.  Then he called for the members of Chapter 237 UDC to raise their hands, and the same people put up their hands.

Epperson called for various SCV members to raise their hands as well and then he recited the Pledge of Allegiance.  Following that bizarre turn, Epperson then read the military Oath of Enlistment although he left out the "so help me God" phrase which he said wasn't on his copy because his was the "official version."

When Epperson's time ran out, he asked for an extension then complained that the three additional minutes given him was not enough.  In his additional three minutes Epperson talked about the merit of a USS Golet monument, again apparently not satisfied with the existing one at the American Legion post.

In the end, the Committee elected to table the motion for now and to form a subcommittee of community leaders and historians to discuss, share ideas, and present suggestions to the Commission at a later date.

Although he does not represent my district, as a Shreveport resident, I'm embarrassed for Mr. Epperson's behavior today. Between his profanity laced tirade, apparent attempt at intimidation by calling out groups, and general bully-ish behavior, and then Artis Cash attacking the crowd and accusing them of not being Christians, it's clear our level of government has reached a new low.

Thank goodness for the level heads in that room: Commissioner Chavez was gracious, calm, level-headed and sensible.

Personally, I don't know what the motivation behind Epperson's desire to get rid of the monument are.  Most people today addressed the issue of race although he insists that isn't it.  He said the brouhaha over the monuments in NOLA have nothing to do with it either. I find it hard to believe that he has such a burning desire to memorialize the Golet though.  This "jake-legged blogger" just isn't buying it.

Added:  
KSLA News coverage and video.