Friday, December 23, 2011

Today In Wyoming's History: December 23. A Plague of Rabbits

Today's Today In Wyoming's History: December 23:has a couple of interesting items related to hunger. those being:

1926 1,000 rabbits show near Medicine Bow and sent to Rawlins, Wyoming, to feed the hungry.

1935 5,600 jackrabbits killed in Natrona County in one of the periodic Depression Era rabbit drives that were designed to help feed hungry families. Amongst the numerous natural disasters inflicted on the nation during the Dust Bowl years were plagues of rabbits. Attribution. Wyoming State Historical Society.

The 1920s entry surprises me, but the 1930s one does not. These events were amazingly common in the 1930s.

The Great Depression, of course, threw millions out of work, and desperation set in for many. Oddly enough, at the same time that the country was hit by one of the worst depressions it had ever seen, an event that was global in its scale, the environment seemingly went after people as well. Summers in the 1930s were very warm, and very dry, rivaling some of the worst of that type we've seen recently. Winters were warm and dry as well. This created the dust bowl conditions that are so strongly associated with the Dirty Thirties. But beyond that, farming entrants onto the Federal domain in the teens and twenties, sparked by a wheat boom caused by World War One, farmed areas with "dryland" farming that were never suitable for it. This turned the fields into fields of weeds by the early 30s, and the wheat boom caused a rabbit boom in regions that had only recently been prairie. Plagues of rabbits were the result. By the 1930s, addressing rabbits was a major concern in the West, which in turn oddly coincided with the hunger of the Great Depression, leading to winter rabbit drives.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Histories, early and late. Was :Today In Wyoming's History: December 20

Today's Wyoming history entry presents us with the troubling and interesting question of how history can sometimes be a bit skewed, depending upon who is looking at a topic, and when. That entry appears below:

Today In Wyoming's History: December 20: 1812 One of the dates claimed for the death of Sacajawea. If correct, she would have died of an unknown illness at age 24 at Fort Manuel Lisa, where it is claimed that she and her husband Toussaint Charbonneau were living. If correct, she left an infant girl, Lizette, there, and her son Jean-Baptiste was living in a boarding school while in the care of William Clark. Subsequent records support that Charbonneau consented to Clark's adoption of Lizette the following year, although almost nothing is known about her subsequent fate. Jean-Baptiste lived until age 61, having traveled widely and having figured in many interesting localities of the American West.

The 1812 death claim, however, is rejected by the Shoshone's, to which tribe she belonged, who maintain that she lived to be nearly 100 years old and died in 1884 at Ft. Washakie, Wyoming. A grave site exists for her, based on the competing claim, in Ft. Washakie, the seat of government for the Wind River Reservation. This claim holds that she left Charbonneau and ultimately married into the Comanche tribe, which is very closely related to the Shoshone tribe, ultimately returning to her native tribe This view was championed by Grace Hebard who was discussed here several days ago, and it even presents an alternative history for her son, Jean Baptiste, and a second son Bazil. It was later supported by the conclusions reached by Dr. Charles Eastman, a Sioux physician who was hired by the Bureau of Indian Affairs to research her fate.

While the Wyoming claim is not without supporting evidence, the better evidence would support her death outside of Wyoming at an early age. The alternative thesis is highly romantic, which has provided the basis for criticism of Hebard's work. The 1812 date, on the other hand, is undeniably sad, as much of Sacajawea's actual life was. Based upon what is now known of her story, as well as the verifiable story of Jean-Baptiste Charbonneau, who had traveled in the US and Europe, and who had held public office in the United States, the Wyoming claim is seriously questionable. That in turn leaves the question of the identify of the person buried at Ft. Washakie, who appears to have genuinely been married into the Comanche tribe, to have lived to an extremely old age, and to have lived a very interesting life, but that identity is unlikely to ever be known, or even looked into.

Now, quite frankly, I do not hold to the view that the "victors write the history", or that all history is written with the view of justifying the views of the writer. Quite the opposite is generally true, and for the most part, most good histories get things right more often than wrong. That, however, may be part of the problem here. The early history on the Wyoming claim was promoted by Grace Hebard, and as remarkable as she was, she not only was not a trained historian, but it would appear not a perfectly unbiased one. And it would also appear that her research did not benefit from delving into the existing sources much. So she concluded that a woman who likely was a very interesting long lived Comanche-Shoshone woman was Sacajawea, when in fact she almost certainly was not. Beyond that, Hebard went on to make Sacajawea sort of a feminist icon, which perhaps does not really do justice to a person who was an unfortunate girl at the time she was ripped away from her home in a raid, and who was later married as the second bride in the polygamist household being then maintained by Toussaint Charbonneau (what happened to Otter Woman, the first Shoshone bride of Charbonneau, I do not know). Dying from illness at 24 years old was a bad fate, but one that was pretty common at that time, so the truth appears to also have a pretty unfortunate ending to a pretty hard short life.

So what does this whole story tell us now? Well, perhaps it says something about the very early written histories of places like Wyoming, where a lot of the very early writers were very dedicated and energetic, but not always unbiased, and sometimes over enthusiastic. Perhaps this also points out why new histories are sometimes needed, and sometimes more objective than earlier ones. The first on the scene sometimes have an agenda or a viewpoint that can't help but dictate the outcome of their work, and they may not even be able to recognize that their work is so influenced. And it may also say something about holding on to a myth against all odds, as Wyoming still claims the 1884 death, in spite of the best evidence all being to the contrary. I suppose it also says something about drafting works of history without adequate research as well.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Old Picture of the Day: British Imperial Airways

Recently we posted the British Airways television advertisement that features their old aircraft. Here's another example of aircraft from the dawn of commercial aviation.

Old Picture of the Day: British Imperial Airways:

Quite the plane. I'd frankly be afraid to fly in it, but in its day it was no doubt quite the advancement. Of course, flying in those days was a real rarity for most travelers.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Painted Bricks: Occidental Hotel, Buffalo Wyoming

Painted Bricks: Occidental Hotel, Buffalo Wyoming: This depicts Main Street, downtown Buffalo Wyoming. The building in the foreground is the Occidental Hotel, a very old Buffalo Hotel that ...

Today In Wyoming's History: December 14. Grace Raymond Hebard

Today In Wyoming's History: December 14: 1914 Grace Raymond Hebard became first woman admitted to state bar.

This was a remarkable achievement in and of itself, but it only one of a string of such accomplishments made by Hebard. She was also the first woman to graduate from the Engineering Department of the University of Iowa, in an era when there engineering was an overwhelmingly male profession. She followed this 1882 accomplishment by acquiring a 1885 MA from the same school, and then an 1893 PhD in political science from Wesleyan University. She went to work for the State of Wyoming in 1882 and rose to the position of Deputy State Engineer under legendary State Engineer Elwood Mead. She moved to Laramie in 1891 and was instrumental in the administration of the University of Wyoming. She was a significant figure in the suffrage movement, and a proponent in Wyoming of Americanization, a view shared by such figures such as Theodore Roosevelt.

She was an amateur historian as well, which is what she is best remembered for today. Unfortunately, her historical works were tinged with romanticism and have not been regarded as wholly reliable in later years. Her history of Sacajawea, which followed 30 years of research, is particularly questioned and would seem to have made quite a few highly romantic erroneous conclusions. On a more positive note, the same impulses lead her to be very active in the marking of historic Wyoming trails.

While she was the first woman to be admitted to the Wyoming State Bar, she never actually practiced law. Her book collection is an important part of the University of Wyoming's American Heritage Center's collection today.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Old Picture of the Day: Travel by Old Car

Old Picture of the Day: Travel by Old Car: Travel week continues today with this picture of travel by old car. The picture was taken in 1939 in California. This would have been towa...

Friday, December 9, 2011

Judge Skavdahl sworn in.

share, Judge Skavdahl sworn in.

Judge Skavdahl was a year behind me in law school and was sworn in as a Federal Judge for the District of Wyoming. What amazes me about this article is that he's only the eighth lawyer to hold that position, which includes the other three presently holding it, and Judge Downes who recently retired. That means 50% of those holding that office are still living

Really amazing thing to think of.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Today In Wyoming's History: December 7

Today In Wyoming's History: December 7: 1890 The subject of sermon at the Rawlins Presbyterian Church was “Choosing a Husband.” 1898 Battery A, Wyoming Light Artillery, arri...

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The caged tiger isn't happy?

Heard in an interview of a doctor regarding depression:

"Major depression is unheard of in hunter gatherer societies".

Monday, December 5, 2011

Early Days In St. Lambert

An interesting article, with interesting photographs, about my mother's family when they lived in St. Lambert, Quebec.

Thanks go out to my uncle Ed for forwarding this link to me.

Note the "Notary" sign on the porch, which has a different connotation in most Common Law jurisdictions than it does in the United States.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Old Picture of the Day: Shoveling Snow

Old Picture of the Day: Shoveling Snow: Today's picture is from the early 1900's. It shows men shoveling snow. The picture was taken in Washington DC. It looks like the men are l...

Old Picture of the Day: New York Snow Scene

Old Picture of the Day: New York Snow Scene: December is here, and I am hoping for snow. So, this will be snow week here at OPOD. We kick off the week with this snowy scene from New Y...

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Culture of Careers and the Pursuit of Degrees

The other day I ran across a webiste called "JD Underground".  I was actually trying to research a legal topic at the time.  I don't frequent the legal blogs, and don't feel there's much of a reason to, and that would include that one, which seems sort of snarky and whiny. 

Be that as it may, I ran across this interesting, perhaps stark, comment on a thread which principally dealt with lawyers looking back at having entered the law, and people entering the law:
The brainwashing is so thorough. It cannot be undone. It was drilled into our heads since we were little, and no amount of contrary evidence can eviscerate the persistent belief that education leads to improvement.

I have a relative in a very lucrative police job. He makes, conservatively, 170k a year with overtime. His pension will be a minimum of 90k a year when he retires (before 50). He will also have healthcare paid in full for life.

Now, said person did not go to college, and said person dodged the bullet. In fact, he specifically decided against going to college and/or LS because the work was boring to him.

As you may suspect, this person knows 2 successful solo attorneys who make 250k a year (these guys also came from money). (Let’s forget about the fact that if you factor in his total compensation, he beats these guys hand over fist). Urgo, he tells me I am lazy and not working hard enough. He attributes all my problems to a lack of experience, and he tells me my problems are due to laziness and a lack of experience.

I could try to tell him all day that, despite my f’ed up situation, I am in a better position than most young grads, that I make more money, that I have better hours, etc. Not penetrating. Even when I point out OWS, all the newspaper articles, all the statistical and anecdotal evidence, it doesn’t matter.

I asked him if he would try to put his kids on the same path if they did not excel in school, and he almost bit my head off. He is going to send his kids to college no matter what else he sees because of those 2 solo attorneys he knows, and a handful of other successful professionals he knows. I suspect by that time, not only will being a lawyer be a bad bet, but being a doctor will not be a good idea as well.

This guy cannot say to himself that his superiors probably make close to and over 250k (they do, it’s a fact), and that the chances of that happening are better for someone than entering white collar America, particularly LS because he has been brainwashed since birth. Even though he built a great life for himself by receiving mercy from society in the form of collective bargaining and a strong union, he will never acknowledge it, which will serve as a detriment to him and everyone else.

Similarly, we all received the same brainwashing, it will stick for life, and we cannot kick it even though we know better, and even though we did not dodge the bullet. It’s a fact.
That's a pretty bitter comment, but although its extreme (I don't recall any brainwashing in law school at all) there some truth to it.  This fellow has a close relative who can't stand the idea that his lawyer relative makes less than he does, works more, and has a much less assured future.  And that fellow is making sure that his own kids do not follow his easier path in life.

I see that all the time.  And it is very similar to what this fellow notes.  People just don't believe that lawyers actually work, and that most of them don't get rich. And if they want to talk to you about your job, they'll reject any suggestion that their preconceived notions aren't wholly correct.  It might even make them mad.

Oddly enough, even before I stumbled into this comment, something akin to it was sort of on my mind anyhow, due to a Christmas Card we received this past week.  A relative of my wife sent her their annual card.  In it was the report that her daughter, a second year law student, was "working hard but it will be worth it".

Now, by way of background, when this girl suddenly announced her intention to go to law school to her parents, her mother emailed me about that career choice purporting to seek advice.  I was extremely reluctant to reply at all.  I don't like to give career advice in that context, I don't really know the girl, and it puts me in a spot that I don't really want to be in.  How would I know what she wanted to know and how would I know if I thought she was well suited for the law or not?  Still, given the relationship, I did reply.  Basically my advice was that she should speak to a trusted lawyer she knows about the actual practice, that it involved very long hours, very hard work, and there was no glamour to it.  This provoked a response as it obviously wasn't what she intended to hear.  She assured me that she had spoken to some lawyers she knew, and then had some questions about "International Law", the intended major.

Now, International Law doesn't even exist.  Oh, I know it exists as a theoretical law, but international law is now, and always has been, the policies dictated by the strongest nations on the globe.  Can Costa Rica sue China and expect success?  Hah!  No, that's a fiction, and no doubt most law students specializing in International Law meet the same fate that those who expect to practice Environmental Law do, they end up practicing what ever law they can when they first get out of school.

And that's becoming a problem, as the US has a glut of lawyers.  There are a lot of unemployed lawyers right now, even taking into consideration that attrition of new lawyers is over 25%.  It's a flooded field.

I again pointed these things out, and she politely cut off the conversation at that point, to my relief.  I later learned that the mother was encouraging law school, so no doubt my gentle suggestions to investigate the actual nature of the practice, which wasn't dissuading her or encouraging her to to anything other than become informed, was completely unwelcome.  I was supposed to glamourize it.

Oh well.  To a large extent people are going to to what they want to do, until they do what they have to do, a state in life that arrives distressingly soon.  But in part what we think we should do is dictated by societal norms and culture, one of which says, in this day and age, that a university career must be pursued and certain jobs are good jobs that pay very well no matter what the reality of that situation may be.