Sunday, January 31, 2016

The fustrating nature of biographical snippets.

Yesterday, an event occurred meriting this update on our Today In Wyoming's History blog:
Today In Wyoming's History: January 30: 2016.  Kenny Sailors, inventor of basketball's jump shot while a student at the University of Wyoming, died at age 95.  Sailors had a spectacular university basketball career and went on to play professional basketball after graduating from US.   Sailors went on to become an outfitter in Alaska before returning to Wyoming in retirement.  He was living in Laramie, where his fame commenced, at the
time of his death.
I had to hunt for the details on his post basketball career, although I think I've posted that on that particular blog before.

Okay, even a non sports fan like me knows that the jump shot is a big deal.  But even Wikipedia doesn't  detail Kenny Sailor's 35 year career as an Alaskan outfitter. That's interesting, darn it, and says a lot about the man.

This sort of neglect of the post "big event" careers of people is aggravatingly common.  A person will show up in an obituary of this type, or in a book, as a snippet, as though their entire lives are that event. They aren't.

I'm always interested in what came after, and before.  We often get the before, but we often do not get the after, which quite often defines a person more than the singular big event does.  It's sad that such details are so commonly omitted.

Sunday Morning Scence: Churches of the West: House Of Our Shepard, Powder River Wyoming

Churches of the West: House Of Our Shepard, Powder River Wyoming:

Friday, January 29, 2016

The rise and fall of the Standard Oil Refinery in Casper. . .and an observation on the lack of personal observation to contemporary events.

 The Standard Oil Refinery at its peak.

Recently I posted this item on our website dedicated to memorials, even though I was admittedly not really sure if it belonged there. The text and the photos for that entry appear below, but as noted following that, this caused me to ponder another topic.

Some Gave All: Standard Oil Refinery Building, Casper Wyoming:

Headquarters for the former Standard Oil Refinery in Casper Wyoming. 
This building, with additional new construction is now a branch of
branch of tbe University of Wyoming's Wyoming
Technology Business Center.
Every once in awhile I'll have some of these photos, taken for one of my blogs, that I end up not being sure what to do with. This is an example of that.
I took these sometime during the summer of 2015, while down on the Platte River Commons pathway.  I was probably riding my bicycle down there.  After that, I didn't put them up as I wasn't quite sure where they belonged.  My original thought was that they should go on Painted Bricks, our blog dedicated to signs painted on buildings, but there aren't any signs painted on this building, and the old Standard Oil sign has been removed.  Having said that, there is a major sidewalk feature here, and I do put sidewalk features on our Painted Bricks blog, so there will probably be an entry there after all.

Instead, I decided to put this up here because of this somewhat sad memorial at this location.

Now, there were people who died one way or another at the refinery over the many years it was in operation, but this monument is simply to people who worked there from 1913 up until it closed in 1991.  When it closed, it came somewhat close to being a mortal blow to the city, which was already really hurting at that time.  Having said that, the decline of the refinery, which had at one time been enormous and one of the prime economic engines of the city, was obvious for years.

When the refinery was operating, this building was on the edge of the refinery, along the old Yellowstone Highway, prior to that highway being moved across the river. As a kid I must have ridden as a passenger in my parents vehicle past it countless times.  I can remember it quite well, and frankly it looks newer now than it did then.

I don't know when the building was built, but as the refinery opened in 1913, chances are that it was right around then.  The substantial refinery, now a golf course, was a major Natrona County employer and its closure really nearly ended an era in the town.  The town had three refineries up until about that time, but only one of them, the  Sinclair refinery, remains today.  The Standard Oil refinery was the largest of the three.

Okay, that's all well and good, but in re-reading this, what it made me realize is the strange phenomenon of not really noticing the importance of something while it is actually occurring.  That is, I was a witness to the last days of the refinery, but it didn't make the impression on me that it really should have, given that it had been such a major feature of the town's existence up until then. And I was an adult at that time.

Now, part of that was due to the long, slow and fairly apparent decline that was in fact going on with the refinery. And it was also due to the fact that it came at a point in time during which we were already in a decade long slump here and all economic news was by default bad news.  But not everyone was similarly lacking in reaction to the event.  Indeed, I can recall some people being quite mad.  It's an interesting situation to look back on it.

 The Franco American Refinery in Casper, waste oil from which was handled as late as the 1980s.  It was closed by 1910.

The Standard Oil Refinery was not the first refinery in Casper. The Franco American Refinery, which is located near where the city recreational facilities are now located, has that distinction.  That refinery was already closed, although barely so, when Standard built its refinery in 1913.  That refinery went on to be a large refinery, by Wyoming standards, and in its heyday it had facilities on both sides of the North Platte River.  

It's odd to think that I've missed mentioning this so far, as the refinery was a really big deal in town, and it was a really big deal in the era which this blog was formed to study. So this is a pretty significant omission to date.  We've dealt with a lot of Western themes here, but this refinery was already here in the end final area of the "Old West" here in Wyoming, keeping in mind that the Old West in Wyoming kept on later than in other areas, and arguably into the 1920s really.  Suffice it to say, the era that this blog supposedly focuses on, 1900 to 1918 or so, includes the opening era of the Standard Oil Refinery.

And indeed, Casper has always identified more with the oil industry than with agriculture, which most people think of when they think of the West.  It can be a bit irritating to some stockmen, and I've heard them comment on it.  Ranching was part of the local economy here starting in the 1880s and it still is.  Wool production for the county was, at one time, simply enormous.  Beef production was so significant that the county had a packing house at least as early as the 1930s, located in Evansville, and it continued to have one until the 1970s.  My family owned it during the 1940s, up until my grandfather Lou Holscher died in his late 40s, at which time the family had to sell it.  

Be that as it may, the county has always heavily identified with oil, rather than livestock, in terms of its identity.  The newspaper used to claim, on its front page, that Casper was "The oil capitol of the world".  Casper's nickname is "The Oil City" (although leaning on the cartoon there are also many businesses that use "Ghost Town" as a reference.  The new internet news source for the town is called The Oil City News.  The local hockey team and the teams for the town of Midwest are called "The Oilers".  On maps featuring drawing references for the town or the county, as tourist maps and the like will do, the county always has something that reflects oil production.  

And at one time it was indeed refined production that was a major industry here, as opposed to crude production and exploration, which remains significant.

The refinery was joined over time by two others, those being the Sinclair Refinery and the Texaco Refinery. Those refineries were built next to each other, in what is actually Evansville Wyoming, east (and downwind) of where my family had its packing house, and east and downwind of any of the local municipalities.  The Standard Refinery was west, and upwind, of Casper itself.  It's being upwind contributed to the very common petroleum smell that the city had when I was a kid.  Smelling "the refinery" was pretty common.  "That's the smell of money", people use to say.

And I suppose it was. The refinery was a major employer from the point at which it was built up in to the 1980s.  It was such a factor in the town's economy that one addition to the city was known as The Standard Oil Addition, either because the titles went back to Standard Oil or the company participated in getting the subdivision rolling so that its workers would have a place to live.  My parents house, built in the 1950s, bordered the Standard Oil Addition.  And it was a fair distance from the refinery.

But not so far that if you gained any height you could see it.  But that would be true of any refiner in Casper from any height.  But the Standard refiner was a big one.

It never seemed impressive to me as a kid growing up that the town was basically surrounded by refineries.  That was normal.  Now, you wouldn't think that normal.  But we did.  And anyone my parents age knew people who worked at the refineries.  I did, but they were people my parents age.

And that was because nobody my age worked there. Which must say something about how the refineries were going.  Not one person I knew in school ever worked at any of the refineries.  The only people I knew who I didn't know by way of my parents were older soldiers I knew in the National Guard. A few of them worked at the refineries.  It's odd to think of, given as they were such major features in the town's economy.

Oil collapsed as part of the economy here in the early 1980s.  Standard's refinery already didn't look like something they were keeping up.  In my memory, I thought the refinery must have closed around 1983 or so, and was surprised in these photos to see that it kept on until 1991.  That means an institution that I could see from the window of some of my classes in high school died almost without my noticing it.  I must have been pretty distracted when I first came back from law school and started working, or its death was predicated, known and inevitable by that point. That's more likely it.

Or maybe I was influenced by the large number of people around here who were somewhat mad at Standard Oil.  Not much notice was given when things started going bad, and we felt that there should have been. By the time the refinery closed it was a run down eyesore and while that didn't equate with people being mad at the oil industry, it did lead to a certain "well good riddance to you then" feeling about Standard Oil.  And of course, I'd just been through a lot of college, and being an outdoorsman and a geology student I may have picked up a bit of that anti industry feeling that's common amongst young outdoorsmen and young geology students (who ironically have only the industry to look to for employment).  Perhaps, but I don't really think so.  Maybe it just seemed inevitable, the way that the decline of coal feels right now.  An inevitability, being that, can be lamented or endured.

I can recall the effort to clean it up, as well as the legal battle (which we were not part of) that developed after British Petroleum, then the owner, closed it.  I've always felt a bit odd about the post refinery legal battle as it well know that when we were growing up you knew that smelling the oil, and seeing the grit that would end up automobiles, meant you were breathing stuff that was bad. But you accepted it.  A person could simply look at the grounds of a refinery that had been producing petroleum for 80 years and know that a lot of stuff was under that ground.  But that is probably neither here nor there.

Now, it's a golf course.  That came about in part by way of the settlement of the legal woes left by the long presence of the refinery.  It took a long time to establish, and for quite a while I could watch the heavy equipment reshaping the old grounds from our front conference room window, followed by watching the dust rise off the shaped grounds in the wind. But the grass did take, in spite of what skeptics thought (and I was skeptical that it would) and it looks very nice now. The walking paths within it are nice, and it's a nice park, really, next to the North Platte River.  Probably oddly, the visage would now be more familiar to the departed spirits of Frontier cavalrymen now, who were stationed at nearby Ft. Caspar, than at any time since 1913.

So, from major industry, employing more here locally than anything else in its heyday, to a golf course that costs a lot for its operators to run.  

And from an economic anchor of the town to a non entity, in that fashion, in a town that has only one surviving refinery.

A real change.  You would have thought that I would have paid more attention to it.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Results of the Storm of January, 1916

LOC Title:  RESULTS OF STORM OF JANUARY, 1916; VIEW TO SOUTH FROM NEAR SOUTH END OF PLANT. NOTE SANTA ANA CANAL TUNNEL PORTAL. SCE negative no. 3505, January 28, 1916. Photograph by G. Haven Bishop. Lower photo: SAR-2, RESULTS OF STORM OF JANUARY, 1916; VIEW OF PLANT SITE FROM THE HIGH ON CANYON WALL. SCE negative no. 3506, January 28, 1916. Photograph by G. Haven Bishop. - Santa Ana River Hydroelectric System, Redlands, San Bernardino County, CA

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Wyoming Fact and Fiction: The Diet of a Mountain Man

Wyoming Fact and Fiction: The Diet of a Mountain Man: We read and watch daily opinions about our overweight society, “Americans are too fat,” we are continually told. Maybe so, today anyway, bu...

Confessions of a Writer of Westerns: Now How Is This Supposed To End?

Confessions of a Writer of Westerns: Now How Is This Supposed To End?: I see so many posts lately about writers block. Writers who get stuck and cannot seem to go on. Seems like I have so many projects going on...

Monday, January 25, 2016

The Big Picture: Some Gave All: Bridger Trail, Wyoming

Some Gave All: Bridger Trail, Wyoming

Monday at the Bar: Courthouses of the West: United States Post Office and Courthouse, Oklahoma...

Courthouses of the West: United States Post Office and Courthouse, Oklahoma...:

This is the 1912 vintage Federal courthouse and post office in Oklahoma City.  This classic courthouse is no longer used for civil or criminal ntrials, having been replaced by a new courthouse nearby, but it is still used for bankruptcy proceedings.  I've been told that the most famous trial to have been held here was the criminal trial of Machine Gun Kelly.

The courthouse was a courthouse of the Western District of Oklahoma, and for a time was used by the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals prior to Oklahoma being reassigned to the 10th Circuit.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

The United States Supreme Court upholds the Income Tax: January 24, 1916

The United States Supreme Court upheld Federal Income Tax in Brushaber v. Union Pacific Railroad.

Chilly weather in Browning Montana, Januaryy 24, 1916

In Browning Montana the temperature dropped from 44F to -56F in one day, the greatest such temperature change ever recorded for a 24 hour period.

And more proof that I'm out of the national stream of thought on national sports.

A conversation with a Massachusetts lawyer by telephone last week.

Me:  Okay, well thanks for taking my call.

He:  No problem. Go Pats!

Me:  Huh,. . . um heh heh yeah. (thinking, did he say go Pat?  What the crap).

Only later it dawned on me, the Patriots.  They're one of teams in the playoffs somehow.

At home:

Me:  Are the Patriots in the playoffs?

Long Suffering Wife:  Yes, they're playing the Broncos on Sunday.

Me:  Thinking, oh duh. No wonder.  I'm in Wyoming so I'm supposed to be a Bronco's fan.

Sunday Morning Scene: Churches of the West: Immaculate Conception Church, Rapid City South Dakota

Churches of the West: Immaculate Conception Church, Rapid City South Dakota

This particular church, on our Churches of the West Blog, is the most viewed church on the site.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

M26 Pershing

The M26 was really the U.S. Army's first modern tank, and the tank that would establish the pattern for at least three other models. These two videos do a good job of showing the ins and outs of the Pershing.

The M26 saw some use in World War Two, albeit extremely limited.  By the time of the Korean War their teething problems were being noted, but they were already slated for replacement by that time.

The Vietnam War in film

 Infantry in Vietnam.

Having recently created the page on Movies In History, listing all the films reviewed on this site, I found that I hadn't reviewed any Vietnam War movies.  I think that is, in part, as I intended to set them all out in one big list, as I have done for movies about incursions into Mexico and about the Battle of Stalingrad.

Each of the movies listed here deserve their own thread, but they'll all be treated together for one single reason.  There really isn't an accurate, Saving Private Ryan, type film about Vietnam.  Something about the war has just kept there from being one. Every movie about the war is politicized in some ways, so the war, which is our most politicized war since the Civil War, continues on to be colored by debate, even in film, and even after the many  years since the war ended.  So here we treat the films all together.

Chances are, I'd note, that some are missing.

The Big Screen

Apocalypse Now.

This film was really the first big budget movie about the Vietnam War if it's about the Vietnam War, and for that reason it got a lot of attention at the time it was released in 1979  I saw the film at that time, while I was in high school, and liked it.

I can't make it through the film now.

Based on the novel Heart of Darkness, which is actually set in Africa in an earlier era, this film adopts the river trip theme of that novel and follows a Special Forces captain on a secret mission up a river, and into Cambodia, to assassinate another Special Forces officer who has gone rogue.

The plot is absurd and anyone familiar with the war itself would find most of the details absurd.  Why must the officer be inserted by boat?  If a B-52 mission is standing by, and it is, why not just bomb the target rather than do this?  The whole thing is really silly.  Dark and moody, but also very silly.

There are a couple of redeeming features to the film but only a couple.  One is the portrayal of a somewhat unhinged 1st Cavalry officer by Robert Duvall.  Portrayed as a satire on professional military men, the character actually holds up well and seems saner over time than he did at the time the movie was made. 

Helicopter scene are really well done, in part because the helicopters are real Philippine Army helicopters that actually had to roar off on real missions while the movie was made. So, they look authentic because they are.  And the Navy riverine boat is well portrayed. 

The rest of the movie doesn't hold up and it isn't close to being an accurate representation of any real war we've ever fought.

On material details, I will say that they are nicely done.


Nearly a decade after Apocalypse Now was filmed, Platoon was released. 

A moody introspective 1986 film about a moody infantryman and the two rival sergeants in his platoon, this film also appealed to me when it was released but it doesn't hold up well in some ways.

The film attempts to portray the somewhat broken Army of the late Vietnam War, but it goes a bit overboard in depicting that. Still, the depiction isn't without some merit.  Where it fails is that the NCOs are shown as way more powerful in context than they really would have been, and the officers way more anemic, even for this strained period.

In terms of event depictions, the concluding enormous battle is also, quite frankly, incorrect.  Big huge assaults by large North Vietnamese Army units happened, but not very often and the depiction of the NVA in the latter part of this film shows a much more conventional and aggressive army than the NVA really was. The experience shown just doesn't depict an experience a real American soldier would have been likely to have endured.

In terms of material details, there are some weird errors in this film, particularly given that the director, Oliver Stone, was a Vietnam veteran.  For example, NCOs are shown carrying CAR-15s rather than M16A1s.  CAR-15s did make an appearance in the Vietnam War in the hands of Special Forces troops, but not regular soldiers, and the inclusion here is really odd.  The film omits any depiction of designated automatic weapon infantrymen, but that detail isn't surprising as its a military detail that only those with service would note. The film goes overboard in the end (in a lot of ways) in showing the recapture of ground by an armored force that's adopted a Nazi German battle flag and is lead by a really fat soldier.  Not very likely.

So, the movie is only so so.

Hamburger Hill.

Of the big budget well known Vietnam films, this one is both the best and the least well known.

Released in 1987, the year after Platoon, this movie is a fictionalized account of the real battle for Hill 937 in 1969. The battle was a Vietnam War anomaly as it featured almost Korean War like conditions in which the U.S. Army assaulted a fortified NVA held hill, taking it.  While North Vietnamese casualties were nearly ten times higher than American ones, the battle itself became infamous in part because it was easy to focus on.  This movie does a good job of following a single squad in that battle.  Completely enlisted man focused, the film is sort of the Battleground of Vietnam War films.  Material details, additionally, are well done.

Oddly, this film received very little attention when it came out.  Platoon, which was a commercial success, but which is not as good of film, came out only a year prior, so that's a bit hard to explain. This film, which sort of recalls the Korean War film Pork Chop Hill, may just have been a bit too conventional in a time at which the Vietnam War was still recalled in the early 1970s fashion.

The Boys In Company C

This 1978 film  predated Apocalypse Now by a year and is almost unknown today.

This film follows a Marine Corps Company through basic training and on to Vietnam. It's really well done, although it certainly shows its 1970s release in terms of its mood.  A much better film than many of the later Vietnam War films, it's a bit marred by its odd ending.

Full Metal Jacket

Full Metal Jacket, which came out in 1987, is one of the more famous Vietnam War films and it did well at the box office.  It has to be mentioned, however, together with The Boys from Company C.

If a person watching The Boys from Company C finds it oddly similar to Full Metal Jacket, that's because it definitely is.  Stanly Kubrick was sued for that very reason and settled the suit.  The film is remarkably similar in following Marines through basic training, with the drill sergeant being played in both films by R. Lee Emery, although he's only of the correct age for that role in the first film.  Indeed, in the first film the portrayal of the DI is more realistic and human and less over the top.  The films depart paths after basic training, however.  The basic training portion of the film, while very profane and with a highly exaggerated DI character, is the best part of the film. The later combat portion of the film really fails.

I don't like this film.  It's weird in the Kubrick fashion and too gritty and unseemly for reality.  Skip it and see The Boys In Company C instead.

We Were Soldiers

Mel Gibson's 2002 We Were Soldiers should be the best Vietnam War film as its based on the book, a straight history, and its the most recently done. Still, it isn't.

The film isn't bad, but it seems to almost attempt to make up for the anti army mood of other Vietnam War movies.  Focused on the 1965 introduction of air cavalry into the Vietnam War, the movie does a good job with material details but it is also the most rah rah Vietnam War movie to have been made since The Green Berets.  It's simply too heroic and too one sided.  The American Army depicted in this film is invincible.

The film was a nice effort, but it's simply too much. Sort of the The Patriot goes to Vietnam.

The Green Berets

The Green Berets was released in 1968, when the war was still on.

It's awful.

Based upon a book written by a journalist, which was a series of short stories based on fact, this film is really bad.  Filmed in South Carolina, it looks it.  The characters are all of the super heroic variety found in some World War Two era films.  John Wayne, who was responsible for the film, starred in it, and he's obviously way too old to be serving in a Special Forces unit.

Horrible movie.  In my view, the worst of the Vietnam War movies, and one of John Wayne's worst.

The Deer Hunter

I hate this movie and have never been able to get through it.

I can hardly describe this film other than to note that it is supposed to follow the service of some close friends in the Special Forces, from their pre war life in Pennsylvania through the post war.  It's just bad.

Included in this film, I'd note, for no known reason is a really long Russian Orthodox wedding scene.  It's endless.

I'd skip this one.

Operation Dumbo Drop

It may seem odd to list this small Disney film to the list, but it's about a real event in the Vietnam War.  Its a highly fictionalized account, but the movie is well done.

One of the odder things about this film is that its one of the few that gets the small unit nature of much of the war right.  The war was a guerrilla war, and in this film its shown that way.  Showing a small Special Forces unit, and small NVA and VC units, the film is quite well done.  It's one of the better Vietnam War films.

In terms of material details, this film also, oddly enough, does a good job for the most part.  Uniforms are actually correct, something that tends to be difficult for movies showing Special Forces units.  The film includes a depiction of a C123 Provider, a Vietnam War era transport aircraft that's hardly ever shown in film.  An odd era is the depiction of one soldier carrying a Browning High Power in a shoulder holster, but given the character's role, perhaps that actually makes sense.


A small budget Vietnam War era film, this film is also a surprisingly good one.

This film shows the patrol of a Special Forces squad through the eyes of an Army cameraman assigned to accompany the patrol.  His MOS is 84CMoPic, hence the name of the film.  The cameraman is only scene twice in the entire movie.

This movie is good one in showing the small scale nature of much of the war, which it does well.  It's only so so in material details and makes a few errors, but that doesn't detract from the film overall.  One of the better Vietnam War era movies.

Causalities of War

This gut wrenching film is one of the few Vietnam War movies based on actual events, and horrific ones at that.

This movie is based on a real event in which a squad of infantrymen took a Vietnamese girl from a village, assaulted her, and then murdered her. One of the squad refuses to participate and then attempts to report the event, leading to endless frustration of his efforts and his near murder.

Very well done, this film shows the small scale nature of he war and the late war breakdown in the Army.  It's also another film that's remarkably correct in material details.  It stars Michael J. Fox as the infantryman, and Shawn Penn as his sergeant, which is a nice touch in that they're about the right age for their roles and they portray them well.  If the diminutive Fox doesn't seem well cast as an infantryman, perhaps that's the point as after all this was a conscript army in which most of the soldiers were average men.


This 1970 movie is one that I haven't seen in many years, but I recall it as being a fairly good film.  It depicts the late Vietnam War incorporation of draftees into the Marine Crops and involves a Drill Instructor's efforts to train one.  Its a clash of culture type of film and was well done.

Bat 21

This is an unusual movie, and one of two of which I'm aware involving pilots.  This one follows the efforts of  an Air Force pilot to extract a shot down Navy pilot.  It's really well done and an engaging story.

The other aircraft movie, by the way, is Flight of the Intruder, which I have not seen.

The Killing Fields

The Killing Fields isn't about the Vietnam War, it's about Cambodia, but generally these wars are regarded as part and parcel of each other.

This is a truly gut wrenching true story and this movie may be the absolute best drama about events in Southeast Asia of that period. More of a drama that a war picture, it's justifiably well regarded.

Good Morning Vietnam

This movie involves a fictionalized version of Adrian Cronauer's service as a USAF disk jockey on Armed Forces Radio in Vietnam. Set fairly early in the war, it's well done and showed the late Robin William's dramatic range.

The film suffers in a few material details, but not many, and of course it's not a combat movie.

The Odd Angry Shot.

We're so used to thinking of the Vietnam War that we tend to forget that it wasn't an exclusively American war by any means.  Indeed, the ARVN contributed the biggest combat force in defense of South Vietnam.

A major contributor can be found in Australia.  Indeed, it's often forgotten, including by the Australians themselves, that the Australians urged the US to get into South Vietnam well before the Americans had any intention of doing so and they threatened to enter the fight themselves if the US did not.  

Now, the war tends to be remembered by Australians as something we got them into, which isn't at all correct.  But no matter, the fact that it was a significant Australian war means that it should not surprise us that Australia has produced its own move about the war, The Odd Angry Shot.

I haven't seen this film in years, but I do recall liking it, except for its overly cynical view about American soldiers. The film follows a group of Australian SAS troops on a tour of duty in South Vietnam.  It's a small action film, unlike any major move that the US has produced.  And not a bad one.

The Small Screen.

Perhaps not too surprising, the Vietnam War has made its appearance on the small screen as well as the large.  Some television series set in the war were done, with one being well remembered.

China Beach

Moody in the extreme, China Beach concerned the lives of Army nurses and doctors a the real location of  China Beach, in Vietnam.

I liked this series at the time, but it became moodier and moodier and less realistic as it went on.  Running from 1988 through 1991, the series oddly attempted to incorporate infantrymen into the story line on an individual basis, something that would not have occurred in the same way in real life.  Efforts to explore the lives of the characters post war were well intentioned but bleak.

Tour of Duty

Tour of Duty followed a single infantry platoon in the war during a three year run.

I haven't seen an episode of this since probably 1988 or so, and I didn't seen how the series ended as I was in law school and lacked a television.  But the series was well done to the extent I remember it. 

No television series involving a single combat unit had been done for a long time, and all the prior ones I can recall concerned World War Two, so this series is somewhat unique.  Nothing like it has been done since.  Of interest, it's more of a small action film, rather than a big battle film, which more accurately predicts the experiences of most US troops than the movies tend to in that regards.

Gomer Pyle, USMC


Gomer Pyle isn't about the Vietnam War!  I can hear the exclamations now.

That's right, it isn't, and that's my point.

This series was a spinof of the Andy Griffith Show and it took Mayberry mechanic Gomer Pyle into the USMC as he followed JFK's injunction to "Ask now what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country".  Pyle heeds the President's words and joins the Marines.

Intended to be a charming comedy, it tends to be forgotten that the series ran from 1964 to 1969.  So, the series commences one year prior to the Marines landing at Da Nang and it ended after the Tet Offensive.  None the less, the war just doesn't show up in the series.  Bizarre.  About the only concession to a war actually going on is late in the series when Jim Neigbhors, who played Pyle, and who was an accomplished musician, is seen singing "Blowing In The Wind" with some hippies. By that point, I suspect, the producers of the show knew that it was badly out of sink with the views then held by the American public.

The point of including this here is to issue a caveat about looking at contemporary films as accurately reflecting the events of their time.  In some decades they do, in others they very much do not.  Films of the 1940s never ignore the ongoing overriding event of the day, World War Two.  Films made during the Depression tend to reflect its ongoing existence. But films of the 1960s generally do not tend to reflect the era.  Hollywood was making beach films with the stars of the 1950s well into the late 1960s, for example. And on television, Gomer Pyle was serving in a Marine Corps that looked like the World War Two era Marine Corps, was equipped like it, and it wasn't at war. 

What's not listed here?

I admit, as many Vietnam War films as I've seen, I haven't seen them all. The ones that I know I've missed are The Flight of the Intruder and Tigerland.


Related Pages:

Movies In History:  The List

Friday, January 22, 2016

Meeting the Mental Image: Holscher's Hub: The RG Barn

Holscher's Hub: The RG Barn

This is a link to a thread that I recently posted on Holscher's Hub. The reason I'm posting it here is that not only is this ranch yard exceptionally attractive, it's about the only Wyoming ranch yard I've ever seen that actually meets the Hollywood mental image of a ranch yard.

The barn, with the founding date of the ranch under the brand, is the text book version of a barn. The ranch house, which I negligently failed to photograph, is a huge old fashioned ranch house.  An attractive late 19th Century house, it's a perfect cube in shape (two stories) with a covered porch that goes all the way around the house.  Very nice.  

Even the cows looked perfectly content.

I'm only noting this as the mental impression was so significant, that it really stands out.  I'm not criticizing other Wyoming ranches by any means, but this ranch that borders the town of Burlington (this yard literally is on a Burlington street) is really unique in this fashion.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Distances in rural areas, Churches of the West: Unknown abandoned church, Otto Wyoming

A long time ago on this blog I had a couple of items about local churches, noting the many Catholic churches that exist in downtown Denver serving what had once been distinct ethic neighborhoods. A post I made earlier this week on churches on one of our other blogs; Churches of the West: Unknown abandoned church, Otto Wyoming: calls to mind something similar, if not identical.  The big change in the practicality of distances in rural life.

Those photographs depict an abandoned church in Otto Wyoming, a very small Wyoming farm town in the Big Horn Basin.  I don't know anything about the history of the church at all, other than that it once existed and based on a reference I found to it, it was at there at least as early as the 1920s.

Now Otto is just a few miles from Burlington (eleven miles) and Basin (twelve miles).  Both Basin and Burlington are larger towns, which isn't to say that they're enormous by any means.

General store in Burlington Wyoming.

 Big Horn County Courthouse, Basin Wyoming.

Basin is the more substantial of the two, and is the county seat.  Basin isn't far from Greybull, another fairly small town, and Worland, a much larger town.

Now, Basin and Burlington all have churches.  Burlington, however, is quite limited in those regards, at least at the present time.  It has an Episcopal and a Mormon church.  Basin, on the other hand, has a larger representation of denominations.

St. Philip's Catholic Church & ELCA Peace Lutheran Fellowship, Basin Wyoming, while joint use of a church is unusual, nearby Thermopolis Wyoming has a combined Presbyterian and Methodist congregation  Currently the  Catholic community is being served by the nearby church in Greybull, however, and Masses are apparently not being offered here at the present time.  

Now, their could be a lot of explanations for this, but still you have to wonder when it was that tiny Otto required its own church?  Perhaps the denomination of the church explained it.  Or perhaps 11 or so miles was a long ways not all that long ago, really.  Certainly, eleven miles by horse or cart is a very long ways, particularly if you have to turn around and go back the other way, and that's even if the weather is nice.  And eleven miles by Model T isn't a short trip either.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

And the Economic news gets starker.

Lex Anteinternet: Lex Anteinternet: Lex Anteinternet: Lex Anteintern...: And now the price of oil is down to. . . $29.00 bbl.
Wyoming sweet crude is down to about $19.00 bbl.  Wyoming sour crude is now down to about $9.00 bbl.  It was at $76.00 bbl in June 2014.

Fairly clearly, those are not economically sustainable prices.

Mid Week At Work: English women planing artillery shells. 1915

English women planing artillery shells in a factor in 1915.  Once again, Rosy the Riveter wasn't new to the world in World War Two.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

More proof that I'm clueless on the popular culture

David Bowie (born David Jones, but adopted the Bowie stage name due to Davy Jones of the Monkeys already using that name) died of cancer this past week.

I know very little about Bowie.  I wasn't a fan of his music, but I was as distant casual observer of his transformation from Ziggy Star Dust in to the Thin White Duke. That is, from somebody who affected a weird alien stage personal to somebody who affected, and perhaps genuinely adopted, a personal reflecting the English upper middle class of the 1930s.

And that, and the public outpouring of sympathy over his death, is what makes his death relevant to the historical topic of this page.  In Bowie we see a highly successful example of a modern pop music career, which is in no small part why I'm caught off guard by the massive public reaction to his death.  That he had a stage persona epitomizes modern pop music to me, which is to say that, in its early stages, it was . . . fake.

Now, don't take me wrong.  I'm not condemning Bowie And I'm not even saying that he lacked musical talent, which would not be true, or that his music was bad, which also wouldn't be true even if I don't care for it.  Indeed, I admire the fact that he transformed out of the fake personal into a seemingly real one, when the nutty Ziggy Star Dust one no longer served, or perhaps even in advance of that.  He got away with appearing in regular street clothes after awhile.  But what we see here has become a type of pop norm.  In order to get popular musicians adopt shocking persona's and sport them everywhere.  Female singer often go for the absolutely trashiest ones they can affect, to the point now where they are so personally exposed, figuratively and literally, its questionable if they can go back or forward once their youth wears off.  That tends to be the attempted time line, however. Shocking personal, that grows more shocking, then softens, then morphs into something trying to recall dignity, as the artist popular in part (at least) for appearance yields to time and nature and tries to base a career on music alone.  Not all succeed.

But that this is what is done is very telling.

This wasn't always the case.  Musicians have been around forever, and they've always been on the dicier edge of culture to some extent.  And they often dressed flashier than others. But the adoption of a completely fake persona is something that has only really been around since the 1970s, although the roots of it were appearing by the 1960s.

It's important to keep in mind in this discussion that I'm not claiming that musicians and singers were the models of civic virtue up until the 1970s, or 60s, or 50s.  That would be absurd.  On the contrary, most of the vices we associate with the preforming life today were around at least as far back as the 1920s.  In the 1920s, when Jazz was edgy, and blues fueled it ,there were plenty of songs written reflecting that. And a study of the lives and wrecked lives of musicians would amply illustrate that.  Chances are pretty high that there were as many performers who had messed up wrecked lives then as now, including some whose music I really admire.

But what is different is that there wasn't an attempt to adopt fake persona's as part of the art, until the 1970s.  Or, if a fake personal was adopted, it was adopted to hide a vice, rather than declare it as a virtue.

All through the 1920s through the 1940s we rarely see performers, particularly female performers, adopting a stage presentation that departed hugely from the urban dress of the day. There are some exceptions, including at least one huge one I can think of, but the exceptions tended to be fairly mild, and constitute an exaggeration of high class dress of the day, or in the one exception I can think of it reflected something going on in another culture that was in high society regard.

It wasn't until the 1950s that this began to change very much, and even then the change tended to be an exaggeration of standard middle class dress.   In the early 60s, however, somebody thought to take that one step further with The Beetles and dress them in a fairly infantile fashion, which didn't last long, but which reflected across the musical scene of the time. That yielded, however, pretty quickly to the really funky style of the 1960s, which musicians took up, as well as a really blue collar looking, or something, style affected by some.  

While that change didn't result in many really weird costumes (there were some however) it did lay the ground work for the 1970s.  And at that time the totally fake persona took off, and we've had it ever since.  Musical artist have launched their careers in some instances by appearing as shocking as they could.

Which all makes it pretty darned phony.

If a person goes to a performance in party to look at weird dress, or bizarre makeup, they're really going to a sort of American and English Kabuki Theatre, but without the cultural background and content backing it up.

And that's sad, really.

Which is, I guess, why I'm continually caught off guard by the post death lauding of figures like David Bowie as cultural icons.  I just don't get it.  I don't dislike him, but I'm not seeing the contribution to the arts that others see here.  I just don't.

Indeed, I fear that we've reached the point where this sort of thing truly reflects the culture in some scary ways. . . i.e., maybe a lot of it is now fake.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Lex Anteinternet: Playing Games with Names and Burying Heads in the Sand. The "Gun Safety" Edition.

Recently I posted this item:
Lex Anteinternet: Playing Games with Names and Burying Heads in the ...: Quite some time ago I published this thread, and then later came in to update it: Lex Anteinternet: Peculiarized violence and American s...
The post turned out to be surprisingly popular for a couple of weeks, entering our top ten posts of all time list pretty quickly.  I suspect it got picked up on an email list somewhere or maybe was linked into another forum.

Or its just possible that people were interested in the topic and stumbled across it.  Who knows.  At any rate, the title of that thread was fairly self explanatory, even if perhaps the content is not obvious from the title.

One of the things, but only one of them, addressed by that thread is crime and gun control.  This was also looked at, and in more depth, by Peculiarized violence and American society. Looking at root causes, and not instrumentalities.  As noted, the topic of guns was discussed there, and its really that thread that I'd refer to for that topic.  It was a popular one at one time as well, once being in the top ten posts here, although it obviously no longer is.

Anyhow, the reason I reference both of these now, and in particular the first one, is because we've seen some supposed Presidential action guns and we're accordingly seeing some reporting on it. And the reporting is picking up the use of terms which are, quite frankly, propogandistic.

This isn't a thread on gun control, pluses or minuses, I'd note.  It's on language.  I'll confess that I'm not a fan of control control concepts and I think that rational examination of the entire topic argues against new gun controls schemes, although I'll also note that there are thoughtful people who hold the opposite.  That noted, let's look at the current terms people are throwing around and some of what's being proposed.

One term that's suddenly popped up, and is being used by the national televised press, is "gun safety", as in calling gun control concepts "gun safety" concepts.  I'm calling bull on that.

Gun safety is the safe use of firearms on a personal level.  Love it or hate it, the National Rifle Association has been a big backer of gun safety.  Non gun folks like to think of the NRA as the "gun lobby" (we will get to that), but it's far more than an advocating entity.  It has a huge focus on firearms and range safety and the extent to which it publishes materials on this and is extremely proactive on this is amazing.

Indeed, accidents from firearms in the US have dropped way, way off in recent decades and this is the safest era ever in terms of the use of firearms.  Gun accidents are quite rare, and the NRA deserves real thanks on that.  People who like to go around calling gun control concepts "gun safety" concepts do not and ought to knock it off.  Indeed, we stand to now loose ground on gun safety as people who like to confuse gun control with gun safety are intentionally blurring the lines or convincing themselves of their own propaganda.  Co-opting a term leads to demnishment of it.  The NRA is the gun safety organization, and let's not pretend that Every Town For Gun Safety is as well.  Bull.

While on that, let's talk about "common sense gun control".  Every pro gun control politician likes to say "the American public is for common sense gun control".  Well, everyone is for common sense, of course, and for most people, common sense means "the way I think".

That's why "common sense" gun control tends to be whatever the speaker backs.  So, somebody will state that "common sense" gun control argues for the prohibition of "assault rifles".  That speaker probably isn't aware that an assault rifle is a sub caliber (less than the WWII standard rifle caliber) selective fire weapon and, therefore, it's already controlled by the National Firearms Act.  What they mean, probably, is that they don't like semi automatic rifles that look like post World War Two military ones, even if in terms of functioning semi automatic rifles are now over 100 years old.

Whether you back these measures or not, "common sense" has no common meaning, and is therefore actually meaningless.  Indeed, there's strong reason to argue that intelligent deductive reasoning is much better than common sense anyhow, as the common perception of something is often badly in error.

Finally, I'll note the "gun show loophole".  It's not a loophole.

"Loophole" in common political parlance has come to mean "an aspect of the law I don't like", rather than a real loophole.  A loophole is an accidental and technical exception to a law.  I know this, as I'm a lawyer, of course, and I've actually gotten somebody off of a minor criminal matter because of a true loophole (which I'll keep to myself, thank you).  It's something that is technically correct, but the law didn't intend.

In political speech, however, a loophole has come to mean an exception to the law that I don't like, and therefore shouldn't be there. We constantly hear about "tax loopholes". They aren't loopholes, they're written into the tax code on purpose.  Maybe you like them, maybe you don't, but they aren't errors.

Same thing with the "gun show loophole".  What this really pertains to is that only those in the business of selling firearms have to have a Federal Firearms License.  People who imagine a loophole to exist here either imagine that: 1) there's a loophole as if you buy are firearm at a gun show and its not from  dealer, you don't have to go through a background check; and/or 2) there are people who sell a lot of guns at gunshows who aren't dealers.

Both of these things are roughly true, on the Federal level, but not I'd note in every state.  Colorado, for example, requires a background check for every sale of a firearms.  Wyoming doesn't.  But this aspect of the Federal law isn't some sort of omission.  The Federal government never intended to add additional registration at the private level.

That may sound odd (how were we talking about registration?) but it's true. Guns are registered at their point of manufacture or import, registered again at their first point of post factory delivery, registered again at the dealer level, and registered again by the dealer, in his books, when he sells the firearm.  There's never been a provision in the Federal law that something additional had to happen once the end user acquired the firearm, and there's no support for that now.  Just because a guy buys a table at a gun show and sells a gun, doesn't convert him into a dealer.

Now, some will note, and again correctly, that some gun show venders sell a lot of guns.  That's probably true, but they tend to be guys who acquire and trade off a lot of peculiar guns. So, a guy that gets a lot of World War Two rifles in and sells them out, on a continual basis, probably isn't a dealer in the way the law imagined. Whether he should be or not is another question, but it's also the case that he's pretty far from being a danger to the public really.  So the loophole, if there is one, isn't much of one.

So what's the point? Well, this debate has slipped into the bad semantics category, and nothing good ever comes of that.  Indeed, the whole history of gun control tends to be that way. Things get banned here or there that were never a realistic threat to anyone, and weird results occur.  In quite a few European nations you can't own a semi automatic rifle in the same cartridge as that nation's military round. Why?  Well, I can deduce it, but its stupid.  In the US silencers are subject to the NFA, in Europe they are very common.  American politicians convinced themselves assassins were using them in crime battles, Europeans worried about keeping their hearing.  Here the Europeans were right.  Anyhow, thinking this out poorly, and playing games with words, doesn't achieve anything of value.

Sunday Morning Scene: Churches of the West: First United Methodist Church of Tulsa, Tulsa Oklahoma.

Churches of the West: First United Methodist Church of Tulsa, Tulsa Oklahoma.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

How well do we portray an era? Riffing off of Confessions of a Writer of Westerns: Know Your Weapons

Neil Warning, on one his blogs, has posted the following item:
Confessions of a Writer of Westerns: Know Your Weapons: Seems like I see lots of author advertising lately for services offering  expertise in areas that modern writers need. Two particular standout,  one a guide to firearms and then yesterday a guide to bow and arrows. I grew up shooting both and it seems to me that if one is not familiar  with a weapon they should, head out to a range and try it out, or leave  it out of the story.  Or in my case, drive out in the country and shoot  away at a target on BLM land.
I agree, and I'm going to expand this out to a slightly different thought, but let me start  off with that I'd expand the comment "I grew up shooting both and it seems to me that if one is not familiar  with a weapon they should, head out to a range and try it out, or leave  it out of the story." to state that if you aren't familiar with firearms you ought to head out to the range and try it out, and that's whether or not you are a writer.  I'll have an upcoming post related to my (surprisingly popular) Playing Games With Names post that I did recently that somewhat relates to this, but frankly as somebody familiar with firearms I'm pretty tired of the snotty attitude that some who are opposed to them take based on the ignorance inspired by not being familiar with them. That's an easy thing to do, and I probably exhibit that myself in regards to various sports I don't follow and don't care to, although I try not to do that.

Anyhow, the founding post of this blog stated the following:

Lex Anteinternet?

The Consolidated Royalty Building, where I work, back when it was new.
What the heck is this blog about?
The intent of this blog is to try to explore and learn a few things about the practice of law prior to the current era. That is, prior to the internet, prior to easy roads, and the like. How did it work, how regional was it, how did lawyers perceive their roles, and how were they perceived?
Part of the reason for this, quite frankly, has something to do with minor research for a very slow moving book I've been pondering. And part of it is just because I'm curious. Hopefully it'll generate enough minor interest so that anyone who stops by might find something of interest, once it begins to develop a bit.
While not evident from that post, what started this off more than even a curiousity about practicing law in an earlier era, in relation to writing a book, was simply the topic of how people lived in relation to their lives in earlier times.

Like Neil writes in his post on firearms, an incredible amount of knowledge on just daily living is absent for most of us.  And that started off this blog. In writing a book set in 1915, I wanted to have the details right.  I'm still working on that really.  But it's important, it seems to me, to a book set in history.  What did people eat, how did they heat their homes?  Did they own their own homes?  This and a zillion other details, it seems to me, are frequently done wrong in writing, some times very badly wrong.  

This blog has really strayed from focusing on that mission, to be sure. But the mission it remains.  I hope we all occasionally learn at least a little, myself very much included.

Movies In History: The Godfather

Somehow I managed to review The Godfather, Part II, but not the Godfather.  I think that's because wen I originally started doing these, the criteria was a bit different.  It'll be noted that my entry on the second movie is extremely short (at least right now, it's likely to be added to at some time).

The Godfather, of course, was the first of this three part series of films and perhaps is the best, although the second film is excellent.  The third film The Godfather Part III, is lousy and not worth watching. 

This 1972 film presents the story of a New York mafia family.  Based on some discussion with a friend of mine who knows the mafia quite well, this movie, based on Mario Puzo's novel, is very closely based on real mafia characters and events and presents a highly accurate look into the Sicilian American mafia. 

The film takes place in New York, Sicily and Las Vegas, giving a fictionalized account of the spread of the mafia into narcotics and Las Vegas gambling.  It shows in detail the mafia culture of the time and its activities, including how various mafia families looked at different topics, such as the introduction of the illegal narcotics trade.  Very well done, the film presents 1940s New York so naturally it doesn't seem to be a period piece.  That it is a period piece is more obvious in the portions of the film set in Sicily, but then they'd have to be.

This film is an excellent film in every way, including in cultural and material details.  Its also an acknowledged masterpiece of American film making and worth seeing for that reason alone.


Related pages:

Movies In History:  The List

Friday, January 15, 2016

Lex Anteinternet: Lex Anteinternet: Lex Anteinternet: The economic b...

And now the price of oil is down to. . . $29.00 bbl.

Old Picture of the Day: Feeding Pigs

Old Picture of the Day: Feeding Pigs: Today's picture shows a farmer feeding his pigs. Where I grew up, feeding the pigs was known as "Slopping the Hogs", but...

Old Picture of the Day: Homesteader

Old Picture of the Day: Homesteader: Today's picture shows a Homesteader in Alamosa, Colorado. The picture was taken in 1939. Really a great picture of a hard working f...

Old Picture of the Day: Farm Scene

Old Picture of the Day: Farm Scene: Today's picture shows a farm scene from 1936. The picture was taken in North Carolina. The thing that strikes me about this pictur...

Old Picture of the Day: Iowa Farmer

Old Picture of the Day: Iowa Farmer: Today's picture shows an Iowa Farmer with a team of horses plowing his field. The picture was taken in 1940. This was about the ti...

Old Picture of the Day: Family Farmer

Old Picture of the Day: Family Farmer: This week we will be looking at the small family farmer. Today family farms are quickly becoming a thing of the past, as large corpora...

Lex Anteinternet: Lex Anteinternet: The economic bad news just keeps...

Lex Anteinternet: Lex Anteinternet: The economic bad news just keeps...: From Sunday: Lex Anteinternet: The economic bad news just keeps on keeping on. : The decline in the mineral industries was undoubtedly the...
And following up on that, the Administration announced yesterday that it is putting a moratorium on new coal leases on Federal lands.

This may be less significant than it seems, as existing leases  are pretty big right now and coal production is really falling off, but it's certainly an indication of the direction things are headed in.

Bundy's, go home and go away.

The last thing ranchers need, and residents of the West need, is some ill thought out occupation of Federal property anywhere.

It's going to hurt us.

And it is hurting us.

Okay, for those living in a cave (probably on public land), the Bundy's I'm referring to to are the ranchers in Nevada who were involved with a standoff down there regarding their use of the public domain without compensation to the Federal Government.  One member of that family now figures prominently in a standoff on the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in unwanted support to some ranchers in that locality who got into trouble with the law due to a fire.

I'm not going to go into the background on the underlying incidents, but the thought that some have that occupying Federal property is going to end up with it being "given back" to the states is delusional.  On the contrary, the far more likely result is to bolster those who would kick ranchers off the Federal domain entirely.

Now, there are a lot of ranchers who rely on the Federal domain, and I've gone into the ill thought out nature of this movement before, including just about one year ago.    The entire "take back" the Federal domain movement is a phenomenally bad idea.  And tossing ranchers off the domain would also be a terrible idea, and very unjust.  

But acts like those by the Bundy's serve to boost that sort of idea.

Indeed, it's getting the fires burning again on an idea that seemed to have died down a bit recently, as the economy in the West starts to collapse due to the collapse of coal, gas and oil prices.  That the big bad Federal government isn't stopping oil production and exploration, and that the Saudis are, is now pretty evident.  Also evident is that we here in this state have a budget we can't afford now, and ironically only government spending, in part Federal, is keeping us from having an economic collapse. We weren't hearing much about this movement recently.  Indeed, local sportsmen, who vastly outnumber ranchers, tend to be quite unhappy about this movement in general, and one Wyoming legislator who backed a bill to study it kept that fact out of his annual "this is what I did in the legislature" newsletter.  That legislator is now running for Congress now, I'd note.

And so is one Rex Rammell, a veterinarian who recently relocated from Idaho who is on the "take back" side of things and proclaiming it.  Chances are that he's vastly overestimated his chances of success in a Wyoming election, but the fact that this is now being interjected into a Wyoming campaign is both interesting and bad.  For one thing, if this gets rolling again it'll tend to revive the split in the GOP that was so evident in the last general election, which they don't need, and the state doesn't need either, given that the GOP is effectively the only party here in the state right now (although the split in the GOP has lead to a tiny, but real, slow revival in the Democratic Party).

With the state sliding into an economic crisis and not having any money to spare anyone who believes that "ownership" doesn't turn into "let's sell a few things" is deluding themselves.  Indeed, it's a short step from budget deficit to sale.

It's also a short step from "we're being abused" to looking like spoiled children.  The overwhelming majority of ranchers who lease land from the Federal Government do so without complaint or problem.  But it is public land.  Occupying it goes over as well with most people as occupying an apartment building over a rent dispute would.  I.e., that doesn't engender love from the landlord.

Bundy's.  Go home.  And go away.