Ancient cooking methods and ways of storage and preservation.

14 03 2011

Take a look at some cooking tips handed down the ages and the philosophy of food!

  • Small, mud plastered ovens closely resembling present-day tandoors have been excavated at Kalibangan and the Indus Valley site.
  • The earliest known recipes date from Mesopotamia in the second millennium B.C.
  • There is evidence that as early as 12,000 B.C., Egyptian tribes in the lower Nile dried fish and poultry using the hot desert sun. Herodutus, writing in the fifth century B.C., describes how the Egyptians and their neighbors still dried fish in the sun and wind and then stored them for long periods.
  • Fish preserving, depicted in the tombs of ancient Egypt, was so highly regarded that only temple officials were entrusted with the knowledge of the art, and it is significant that the Egyptian word for fish preserving was the same as that used to denote the process of embalming the dead.
  • For thousands of years the survival and power of a tribe or country depended on its stocks in grain. Harvesting, processing, and storing grain stocks was of huge importance, and war was declared only after harvest. One of the earliest records of large-scale food preserving was in ancient Egypt, where it was enormously important to create adequate stocks of dried grain to insure against the failure of the Nile to flood seasonally. Huge quantities of grain were stored in sealed silos, where they could be kept for several years if necessary.
  • 16th century London theatres evolved from the tradition of innkeepers offering street entertainers a place to perform.
  • Archaeological evidence confirms that yeast was used, both as leavening agent and for brewing ale, in Egypt as early as 4000 B.C. Food historians generally cite this date for the discovery of leavened bread and the genesis of the brewing industry.
  • In about 1300 A.D., Amir Khusrau notes that naan-e-tanuk (light bread) and naan-e-tanuri (cooked in a tandoor oven) were being served at the imperial court in Delhi. Naan was in Mughal times a popular breakfast food, accompanied by kheema or kabab.
  • In the third-century Macedonia the earliest evidence of the use of a flat loaf of bread as a plate for meat is seen. This is a function which bread continued to perform in the pide of Turkey, the pita of Greece and Bulgaria, the pizza of southern Italy and the trencher of medieval Europe.
  • The bagel is a Jewish bread, apparently originating in South Germany, migrating to Poland and thence to North America where it has become the most famous and archetypal Jewish food. Its name derives from the Yiddish word ‘beygal’ from the German dialect word ‘beugel’ meaning ring or bracelet. Because of their shape -with no beginning and no end -bagels symbolize the eternal cycle of life.


14 03 2011

You have heard from a great many people who did something in the war, is it not fair and right that you listen a little moment to one who started out to do something in it but didn’t? Thousands entered the war, got just a taste of it, and then stepped out again permanently. These, by their very numbers, are respectable and therefore entitled to a sort of voice, not a loud one, but a modest one, not a boastful one but an apologetic one. They ought not be allowed much space among better people, people who did something. I grant that, but they ought at least be allowed to state why they didn’t do anything and also to explain the process by which they didn’t do anything. Surely this kind of light must have some sort of value.

Out west there was a good deal of confusion in men’s minds during the first months of the great trouble, a good deal of unsettledness, of leaning first this way then that, and then the other way. It was hard for us to get our bearings. I call to mind an example of this. I was piloting on the Mississippi when the news came that South Carolina had gone out of the Union on the 20th of December, 1860. My pilot mate was a New Yorker. He was strong for the Union; so was I. But he would not listen to me with any patience, my loyalty was smirched, to his eye, because my father had owned slaves. I said in palliation of this dark fact that I had heard my father say, some years before he died, that slavery was a great wrong and he would free the solitary Negro he then owned if he could think it right to give away the property of the family when he was so straitened in means. My mate retorted that a mere impulse was nothing, anyone could pretend to a good impulse, and went on decrying my Unionism and libelling my ancestry. A month later the secession atmosphere had considerably thickened on the Lower Mississippi and I became a rebel; so did he. We were together in New Orleans the 26th of January, when Louisiana went out of the Union. He did his fair share of the rebel shouting but was opposed to letting me do mine. He said I came of bad stock, of a father who had been willing to set slaves free. In the following summer he was piloting a Union gunboat and shouting for the Union again and I was in the Confederate army. I held his note for some borrowed money. He was one of the most upright men I ever knew but he repudiated that note without hesitation because I was a rebel and the son of a man who owned slaves.

In that summer of 1861 the first wash of the wave of war broke upon the shores of Missouri. Our state was invaded by the Union forces. They took possession of St. Louis, Jefferson Barracks, and some other points. The governor, Calib Jackson, issued his proclamation calling out fifty thousand militia to repel the invader.

I was visiting in the small town where my boyhood had been spent, Hannibal, Marion County. Several of us got together in a secret place by night and formed ourselves into a military company. One Tom Lyman, a young fellow of a good deal of spirit but of no military experience, was made captain; I was made second lieutenant. We had no first lieutenant, I do not know why, it was so long ago. There were fifteen of us. By the advice of an innocent connected with the organization we called ourselves the Marion Rangers. I do not remember that anyone found fault with the name. I did not, I thought it sounded quite well. The young fellow who proposed this title was perhaps a fair sample of the kind of stuff we were made of. He was young, ignorant, good natured, well meaning, trivial, full of romance, and given to reading chivalric novels and singing forlorn love ditties. He had some pathetic little nickel plated aristocratic instincts and detested his name, which was Dunlap, detested it partly because it was nearly as common in that region as Smith but mainly because it had a plebian sound to his ears. So he tried to ennoble it by writing it in this way; d’Unlap. That contented his eye but left his ear unsatisfied, for people gave the new name the same old pronunciation, emphasis on the front end of it. He then did the bravest thing that can be imagined, a thing to make one shiver when one remembers how the world is given to resenting shams and affectations, he began to write his name so; d’Un’Lap. And he waited patiently through the long storm of mud that was flung at his work of art and he had his reward at last, for he lived to see that name accepted and the emphasis put where he wanted it put by people who had known him all his life, and to whom the tribe of Dunlaps had been as familiar as the rain and the sunshine for forty years. So sure of victory at last is the courage that can wait. He said he had found by consulting some ancient French chronicles that the name was rightly and originally written d’Un’Lap and said that if it were translated into English it would mean Peterson, Lap, Latin or Greek, he said, for stone or rock, same as the French pierre, that is to say, Peter, d’ of or from, un, a or one, hence d’Un’Lap, of or from a stone or a Peter, that is to say, one who is the son of a stone, the son of a peter, Peterson. Our militia company were not learned and the explanation confused them, so they called him Peterson Dunlap. He proved useful to us in his way, he named our camps for us and generally struck a name that was “no slouch” as the boys said.

That is one sample of us. Another was Ed Stevens, son of the town jeweller, trim built, handsome, graceful, neat as a cat, bright, educated, but given over entirely to fun. There was nothing serious in life to him. As far as he was concerned, this military expedition of ours was simply a holiday. I should say about half of us looked upon it in much the same way, not consciously perhaps, but unconsciously. We did not think, we were not capable of it. As for myself, I was full of unreasoning joy to be done with turning out of bed at midnight and four in the morning, for a while grateful to have a change, new scenes, new occupations, a new interest. In my thoughts that was as far as I went. I did not go into the details, as a rule, one doesn’t at twenty four.

Another sample was Smith, the blacksmith’s apprentice. This vast donkey had some pluck, of a slow and sluggish nature, but a soft heart. At one time he would knock a horse down fro some impropriety and at another he would get homesick and cry. However, he had one ultimate credit to his account which some of us hadn’t. He stuck to the war and was killed in battle at last.

Joe Bowers, another sample, was a huge, good natured, flax headed lubber, lazy, sentimental, full of harmless brag, a grumbler by nature, an experience and industrious ambitious and often quite picturesque liar, and yet not a successful one for he had no intelligent training but was allowed to come up just anyways. This life was serious enough to him, and seldom satisfactory. But he was a good fellow anyway and the boys all liked him. He was made orderly sergeant, Stevens was made corporal.

These samples will answer and they are quite fair ones. Well, this herd of cattle started for the war. What could you expect of them? They did as well as they knew how, but really, what was justly expected of them? Nothing I should say. And that is what they did.

We waited for a dark night, for caution and secrecy were necessary, then toward midnight we stole in couples and from various directions to the Griggith place beyond town. From that place we set out together on foot. Hannibal lies at the extreme south eastern corner of Marion County, on the Mississippi river. Our objective point was the hamlet of New London, ten miles away in Ralls County.

The first hour was all fun, all idle nonsense and laughter. But that could not be kept up. The steady drudging became like work, the play had somehow oozed out of it, the stillness of the woods and the sombreness of the night began to throw a depressing influence over the spirits of the boys and presently the talking died out and each person shut himself up in his own thoughts. During the last half of the second hour nobody said a word.

Now we approached a log farmhouse where, according to reports, there was a guard of five Union soldiers. Lyman called a halt, and there, in the deep gloom of the overhanging branches, he began to whisper a plan of assault upon the house, which made the gloom more depressing than it was before. We realized with a cold suddenness that here was no jest–we were standing face to face with actual war. We were equal to the occasion. In our response there was no hesitation, no indecision. We said that if Lyman wanted to meddle with those soldiers he could go ahead and do it, but if he waited for us to follow him he would wait a long time.

Lyman urged, pleaded, tried to shame us into it, but it had no effect. Our course was plain in our minds, our minds were made up. We would flank the farmhouse, go out around. And that was what we did.

We struck into the woods and entered upon a rough time, stumbling over roots, getting tangled in vines and torn by briers. At last we reached an open place in a safe region and we sat down, blown and hot, to cool off and nurse our scratches and bruises. Lyman was annoyed but the rest of us were cheerful. We had flanked the farmhouse. We had made our first military movement and it was a success. We had nothing to fret about, we were feeling just the other way. Horse paly and laughing began again. The expedition had become a holiday frolic once more.

Then we had two more hours of dull trudging and ultimate silence and depression. Then about dawn, we straggled into New London, soiled, heel blistered, fagged with out little march, and all of us, except Stevens, in a sour and raspy humour and privately down on the war. We stacked our shabby old shotguns in Colonel Ralls’s barn and then went in a body and breakfasted with that veteran of the mexican war. Afterward he took us to a distant meadow, and there, in the shade of a tree, we listened to an old fashioned speech from him, full of gunpowder and glory, full of that adjective piling, mixed metaphor and windy declamation which was regraded as eloquence in that ancient time and region and then he swore on a bible to be faithful to the State of Missouri and drive all invaders from her soil no matter whence they may come or under what flag they might march. This mixed us considerably and we could not just make out what service we were involved in, but Colonel Ralls, the practised politician and phrase juggler, was not similarly in doubt. He knew quite clearly he had invested us in the cause of the Southern Confederacy. He closed the solemnities by belting around me the sword which his neighbour, Colonel brown, had worn at Beuna Vista and Molino del Ray and he accompanied this act with another impressive blast.

Then we formed in line of battle and marched four hours to a shady and pleasant piece of woods on the border of a far reaching expanse of a flowery prairie. It was an enchanting region for war, our kind of war.

We pierced the forest about half a mile and took up a strong position with some low and rocky hills behind us, and a purling limpid creek in front. Straightaway half the command was in swimming and the other half fishing. The ass with the french name gave the position a romantic title but it was too long so the boys shortened and simplified it to Camp Ralls.

We occupied an old maple sugar camp whose half rotted troughs were still propped against the trees. A long corn crib served fro sleeping quarters fro the battalion. On our left, half a mile away, were Mason’s farm and house, and he was a friend to the cause. Shortly after noon the farmers began to arrive from several different directions with mules and horses for our use, and these they lent us for as long as the war might last, which, they judged, might be about three months. The animals were of all sizes all colours and all breeds. They were mainly young and frisky and nobody in the command could stay on them long at a time, for we were town boys and ignorant of horsemanship. The creature that fell to my share was a very small mule, and yet so quick and active he could throw me off without difficulty and it did this whenever I got on. Then it would bray, stretching its neck out, laying its ears back and spreading its jaws till you could see down to its works. If I took it by the bridle and tried to lead it off the grounds it would sit down and brace back and no one could ever budge it. However, I was not entirely destitute of military resources and I did presently manage to spoil this game, for I had seen many a steamboat aground in my time and knew a trick or two which even a grounded mule would be obliged to respect. There was a well by the corn crib so I substituted thirty fathom of rope for the bridle and fetched him home with the windlass.

I will anticipate here sufficiently to say that we did learn to ride after some days’ practice, but never well. We could not learn to like our animals. They were not choice ones and most of them had annoying peculiarities of one kind or another. Stevens’s horse would carry him, when he was not noticing, under the huge excrescences which for on the trunks of oak trees and wipe him out of the saddle this way. Stevens got several bad hurts. Sergeant Bowers’s horse was very large and tall, slim with long legs, and looked like a railroad bridge. His size enabled him to reach all about, and as far as he wanted to go, so he was always biting Bowers’s legs. On the march, in the sun, Bowers slept a good deal and as soon as the horse recognized he was asleep he would reach around and bite him on the leg. His legs were black and blue with bites. This was the only thing that could make him swear, but this always did, whenever his horse bit him he swore, and of course, Stevens, who laughed at everything, laughed at this and would get into such convulsions over it as to lose his balance and fall off his horse, and then Bowers, already irritated by the pain of the horse bite, would resent the laughter with hard language, and there would be a quarrel so that horse made no end of trouble and bad blood in the command.

However, I will get back to where I was, our first afternoon in the sugar camp. The sugar troughs came very handy as horse troughs and we had plenty of corn to fill them with. I ordered Sergeant Bowers to feed my mule, but he said that if I reckoned he went to war to be a dry nurse to a mule it wouldn’t take me very long to find out my mistake. I believed that this was insubordination but I was full of uncertainties about everything military so I let the matter pass and went and ordered Smith, the blacksmith’s apprentice, to feed the mule, but he merely gave me a large, cold, sarcastic grin, such as an ostensibly seven year old horse gives you when you lift up his lip and find he is fourteen, and turned his back on me. I then went to the captain and asked if it were not right and proper and military for me to have an orderly. He said it was, but as there was only one orderly in the corps, it was but right he himself should have Bowers on his staff. Bowers said he wouldn’t serve on anyone’s staff and if anybody thought he could make him, let him try. So, of course, the matter had to be dropped, there was no other way.

Next, nobody would cook. It was considered a degradation so we had no dinner. We lazed the rest of the pleasant afternoon away, some dozing under trees, some smoking cob pipes and talking sweethearts and war, others playing games. By late supper time all hands were famished and to meet the difficulty, all hands turned to on an equal footing, and gathered wood, built fires, and cooked the evening meal. Afterward everything was smooth for a while then trouble broke out between the corporal and the sergeant, each claiming to rank the other. Nobody knew which was the higher office so Lyman had to settle the matter by making the rank of both officers equal. The commander of an ignorant crew like that has many troubles and vexations which probably do not occur in the regular army at all. However, with the song singing and yarn spinning around the campfire everything presently became serene again, and by and by we raked the corn down one level in one end of the crib and all went to bed on it, tying a horse to the door so he would neigh if anyone tried to get in. (it was always my impression that was always what the horse was there for and I know it was the impression of at least one other of the command, for we talked about it at the time and admired the military ingenuity of the device, but when I was out west three years ago, I was told by Mr. A. G. Fuqua, a member of our company, that the horse was his, that the tying him at the door was a mere matter of forgetfulness and that to attribute it to intelligent invention was to give him quite too much credit. In support of his position, he called my attention to the suggestive fact that the artifice was not employed again. I had not thought of that before.)

We had some horsemanship drill every forenoon, then, afternoons, we rode off here and there in squads a few miles and visited the farmer’s girls and had a youthful good time and got an honest dinner or supper, and then home again to camp, happy and content.

For a time, life was idly delicious. It was perfect. There was no war to mar it. Then came some farmers with an alarm one day. They said it was rumoured that the enemy were advancing in our direction from over Hyde’s prairie. The result was a sharp stir among us and general consternation. Ir was a rude awakening from out pleasant trance. The rumour was but a rumour, nothing definite about it, so in the confusion we did not know which way to retreat. Lyman was not for retreating at all in these uncertain circumstances but he found that if he tried to maintain that attitude he would fare badly, for the command were in no humour to put up with insubordination. SO he yielded the point and called a council of war, to consist of himself and three other officers, but the privates made such a fuss about being left out we had to allow them to remain, for they were already present and doing most of the talking too. The question was, which way to retreat; but all were so flurried that nobody even seemed to have even a guess to offer. Except Lyman. He explained in a few calm words, that inasmuch as the enemy were approaching from over Hyde’s prairie our course was simple. All we had to do was not retreat toward him, another direction would suit our purposes perfectly. Everybody saw in a moment how true this was and how wise, so Lyman got a great many compliments. It was now decide that we should fall back on Mason’s farm.

It was after dark by this time and as we could not know how soon the enemy might arrive, it did not seem best to try to take the horses and things with us, so we only took the guns and ammunition, and started at once. The route was very rough and hilly and rocky, and presently the night grew very black and rain began to fall, so we had a troublesome time of it, struggling and stumbling along in the dark and soon some person slipped and fell, and then the next person behind stumbled over him and fell, and so did the rest, one after the other, and then Bowers came along with the keg of powder in his arms, while the command were all mixed together, arms and legs on the muddy slope, and so he fell, of course, with the keg and this started the whole detachment down the hill in a body and they landed in a brook at the bottom in a pile and each that was undermost was pulling the hair, scratching and biting those that were on top of him and those that were being scratched and bitten scratching and biting the rest in their turn, and all saying they would die before they would ever go to war again if they ever got out of this brook this time and the invader might rot for all they cared, and the country along with him, and all such talk as that which was dismal to hear and take part in, in such smothered, low voices, and such a grisly dark place and so wet, and the enemy, maybe, coming along at any moment.

The keg of powder was lost, and the guns too; so the growling and complaining continued straight along while the brigade pawed around the pasty hill side and slopped around in the brook hunting for these things; consequently we lost considerable time at this, and then we heard a sound and held our breath and listened, and it seemed to be the enemy coming, though it could have been a cow, for it had a cough like a cow, but we did not wait but left a couple of guns behind and struck out for Mason’s again as briskly as we could scramble along in the dark. But we got lost presently in among the rugged little ravines and wasted a deal of time finding the way again so it was after nine when we reached Mason’s stile at last; and then before we could open our mouths to give the countersign several dogs came bounding over the fence with a great riot and noise, and each of them took a soldier by the slack of his trousers and began to back away with him. We could not shoot the dogs without endangering the persons they were attached to so we had to look on helpless at what was perhaps the most mortifying spectacle of the Civil War. There was light enough and to spare, for the Mason’s had now run out on the porch with candles in tier hands. The old man and his son came and undid the dogs without difficulty, all but Bowers’s; but they couldn’t undo his dog, they didn’t know his combination, he was of the bull kind and seemed to be set with a Yale time-lock, but they got him loose at last with some scalding water, of which Boweres got his share and returned thanks. Peterson Dunlap afterwards made up a fine name for this engagement and also for the night march which preceded it but both have long ago faded out of my memory.

We now went into the house and they began to ask us a world of questions, whereby it presently came out that we did not know anything concerning who or what we were running from; so the old gentleman made himself very frank and said we were a curious breed of soldiers and guessed we could be depended on to end up the war in time, because the no governor could afford the expense of the shoe leather we should cost it trying to follow us around.

“Marion Rangers! Good name, b’gosh,” said he. And wanted to why we hadn’t had a picket guard at the place where the road entered the prairie, and why we hadn’t sent out a scouting party to spy out the enemy and bring us an account of his strength, and so on, before jumping up and stampeding out of a strong position upon a mere vague rumour, and so on and so forth, till he made us all feel shabbier than the dogs had done, not so half enthusiastically welcome. So we went to bed shamed and low spirited, except Stevens. Soon Stevens began to devise a garment for Bowers which could be made to automatically display his battle scars to the grateful or conceal them from the envious, according to his occasions, but Bowers was in no humour for this, so there was a fight and when it was over Stevens had some battle scars of his own to think about.

Then we got a little sleep. But after all we had gone through, our activities were not over for the night, for about two o’clock in the morning we heard a shout of warning from down the lane, accompanied by a chorus from all the dogs, and in a moment everybody was up and flying around to find out what the alarm was about. The alarmist was a horseman who gave notice that a detachment of Union soldiers was on its way from Hannibal with orders to capture and hang any bands like our which it could find. Farmer Mason was in a flurry this time himself. He hurried us out of the house with all haste, and sent one of his negroes with us to show us where to hide ourselves and our telltale guns among the ravines half a mile away,. It was raining heavily.

We struck down the lane, then across some rocky pasture land which offered good advantages fro stumbling; consequently we were down in the mud most of the time, and every time a man went down he black guarded the war and everybody connected with it, and gave himself the master dose of all for being so foolish as to go into it. At last we reached the wooded mouth of a ravine, and there we huddled ourselves under the streaming trees and sent the negro back home. It was a dismal and heart breaking time. We were like to e drowned with the rain, deafened with the howling wind and the booming thunder, and blinded by the lightning. It was indeed a wild night. The drenching we were getting was misery enough, but a deeper misery still was the reflection that the halter might end us before we were a day older. A death of this shameful sort had not occurred to us as being among the possibilities of war. It took the romance all out of the campaign and turned our dreams of glory into a repulsive nightmare. As for doubting that so barbarous an order had been given, not one of us did that.

The long night wore itself out at last, and then the Negro came to us with the news that the alarm had manifestly been a false one and that breakfast would soon be ready. Straightaway we were light-hearted again and the world was bright and full of life, as full of hope and promise as ever; for we were young then. How long ago that was! Twenty four years.

The mongrel child of philology named the night’s refuge Camp Devastation and no soul objected. The Masons gave us a Missouri country breakfast in Missourian abundance, and we needed it. Hot biscuits, hot wheat bread, prettily crossed in a lattice pattern on top, hot corn pone, fried chicken, bacon, coffee, eggs, milk, buttermilk etc. and the world may be confidently challenged to furnish the equal of such a breakfast, as it is cooked in the South.

We stayed several days at Mason’s and after all these years the memory of the stillness and dullness and lifelessness of that slumberous farmhouse still oppresses my spirit as with a sense of the presence of death and mourning. There was nothing to do. Nothing to think about. There was no interest in life. The male part of the household were away in the fields all day, the women were busy and out of our sight, There was no sound but the plaintive wailing of a spinning wheel forever moaning out from some distant room, the most lonesome sound in nature, a sound steeped and sodden with homesickness and the emptiness of life. The family went to bed about dark every night and as we were not invited to intrude any new customs we naturally followed theirs. Those nights were a hundred years long to youths accustomed to being up till twelve. We lay awake and miserable till that hour ovariotomy and grew old and decrepit waiting through the still eternities for the clock strikes. This was no place for town boys. So at last it was with something very like joy that we received word that the enemy were on out track again. With a new birth of the old warrior spirit, we sprang to our places in line of battle and fell back on Camp Ralls.

Captain Lyman had taken a hint from Mason’s talk, and he now gave orders that our camp should be guarded from surprise by the posting of pickets. I was ordered to place a picket at the forks of the road in Hyde’s prairie. Night shut down black and threatening. I told Sergeant Bowers to out to that place and stay till midnight, and, just as I was expecting, he said he wouldn’t do it. I tried to get others to go but all refused. Some excused themselves on account of the weather, but the rest were frank enough to say they wouldn’t go in any kind of weather. This kind of thing sounds odd now, and impossible, but there was no surprise in it at the time. On the contrary, it seemed a perfectly natural thing to do. There were scores of little camps scattered over missouri where the same thing was happening. These camps were composed of young men who had been born and reared to a sturdy independence and who did not know what it meant to be ordered around by Tom, Dick, and Harry, who they had known familiarly all their lives in the village or the farm. It is quite within the probabilities that this same thing was happening all over the South. James Redpath recognized the justice of this assumption and furnished the following instance in support of it. During a short stay in East Tennessee he was in a citizen colonel’ s tent one day talking, when a big private appeared at the door and, without salute or other circumlocution, said to the colonel;

“Say, Jim, I’m a goin’ home for a few days.”

“What for?”

“Well, I hain’t b’en there for a right smart while and I’d like to see how things is comin’ on.”

“How long are you gonna be gone?”

“Bout two weeks.”

“Well, don’t be gone longer than that and get back sooner if you can.”

That was all, and the citizen officer resumed his conversation where the private had broken it off. This was in the first months of the war of course. The camps in our part of Missouri were under Brigadier-General Thomas H. Harris. He was a townsman of ours, a first rate fellow and well liked, but we had all familiarly known him as the soles and modest-salaried operator in the telegraph office, where he had to send about one despatch a week in ordinary times and two when there was a rush of business. Consequently, when he appeared in our midst one day on the wing, and delivered a military command of some sort in a large military fashion, nobody was surprised at the response which he got from the assembled soldiery.

“Oh, now what’ll you take to don’t, Tom Harris?”

It was quite the natural thing. One might justly imagine that we were hopeless material for the war. And so we seemed in our ignorant state, but there were those among us who afterward learned the grim trade, learned to obey like machines, became valuable soldiers, fought all through the war, and came out at the end with excellent records. One of the very boys who refused to go out on picket duty that night and called me an ass for thinking he would expose himself to danger in such a foolhardy way, had become distinguished for intrepidity before he was a year older.

I did secure my picket that might, not by authority but by diplomacy. I got Bowers to go by agreeing to exchange ranks with him for the time being and go along and stand the watch with him as his subordinate. We stayed out there a couple of dreary hours in the pitchy darkness and the rain, with nothing to modify the dreariness but Bower’s monotonous growling at the war and the weather, then we began to nod and presently found it next to impossible to stay in the saddle, so we gave up the tedious job and went back to the camp without interruption or objection from anybody and the enemy could have done the same, for there were no sentries. Everybody was asleep, at midnight there was nobody to send out another picket so none was sent. We never tried to establish a watch at night again, as far as I remember, but we generally kept a picket out in the daytime.

In that camp the whole command slept on the corn in the big corn crib and there was usually a general row before morning, for the place was full of rats and they would scramble over the boys’ bodies and faces, annoying and irritating everybody, and now and then they would bite someone’s toe, and the person who owned the toe would start up and magnify his english and begin to throw corn in the dark. The ears were half as heavy as bricks and when they struck they hurt. The persons struck would respond and inside of five minutes everyman would be locked in a death grip with his neighbour. There was a grievous deal of blood shed in the corn crib but this was all that was spilt while I was in the war. No, that is not quite true. But for one circumstance it would have been all.

Our scares were frequent. Every few days rumours would come that the enemy were approaching. In these cases we always fell back on some other camp of ours; we never stayed where we were. But the rumours always turned out to be false, so at last we even began to grow indifferent to them. One night a negro was sent to our corn crib with the same old warning, the enemy was hovering in our neighbourhood. We all said let him hover. We resolved to stay still and be comfortable. It was a fine warlike resolution, and no doubt we all felt the stir of it in our veins–for a moment. We had been having a very jolly time, that was full of horseplay and schoolboy hilarity, but that cooled down and presently the fast waning fire of forced jokes and forced laughs died out altogether and the company became silent. Silent and nervous. And soon uneasy–worried and apprehensive. We had said we would stay and we were committed. We could have been persuaded to go but there was nobody brave enough to suggest it. An almost noiseless movement began in the dark by a general but unvoiced impulse. When the movement was completed, each man knew that he was not the only person who had crept to the front wall and had his eye at a crack between the logs. No, we were all there, all there with our hearts in our throats and staring out towards the sugar-troughs where the forest footpath came through. It was late and there was a deep woodsy stillness everywhere. There was a veiled moonlight which was only just strong enough to enable us to mark the general shapes of objects. Presently a muffled sound caught our ears and we recognized the hoof-beats of a horse or horses. And right away, a figure appeared in the forest path; it could have been made of smoke, its mass had such little sharpness of outline. It was a man on horseback, and it seemed to me that there were others behind him. I got a hold of a gun in the dark, and pushed it through a crack between the logs, hardly knowing what I was doing, I was so dazed with fright. Somebody said “Fire!” I pulled the trigger, I seemed to see a hundred flashes and a hundred reports, then I saw the man fall down out of the saddle. My first feeling was of surprised gratification; my first impulse was an apprentice-sportsman’s impulse to run and pick up his game. Somebody said, hardly audibly, “Good, we’ve got him. Wait for the rest!” But the rest did not come. There was not a sound, not the whisper of a leaf; just the perfect stillness, an uncanny kind of stillness which was all the more uncanny on account of the damp, earthy, late night smells now rising and pervading it. Then, wondering, we crept out stealthily and approached the man. When we got to him, the moon revealed him distinctly. He was laying on his back with his arms abroad, his mouth was open and his chest was heaving with long gasps, and his white shirt front was splashed with blood. The thought shot through me that I was a murderer, that I had killed a man, a man who had never done me any harm. That was the coldest sensation that ever went through my marrow. I was down by him in a moment, helplessly stroking his forehead, and I would have given anything then, my own life freely, to make him again what he had been five minutes before. And all the boys seemed to be feeling the same way; they hung over him, full of pitying interest, and tried all they could to help him, and said all sorts of regretful things. They had forgotten all about the enemy, they thought only of this one forlorn unit of the foe. Once my imagination persuaded me that the dying man gave me a reproachful look out of the shadow of his eyes, and it seemed to me that I could rather that he had stabbed me than he had done that. He muttered and mumbled like a dreamer in his sleep about his wife and his child, and, I thought with a new despair, “This thing that I have done does not end with him; it falls upon them too, and they never did me any harm, any more than he.”

In a little while the man was dead. He was killed in war, killed in fair and legitimate war, killed in battles as you may say, and yet he was as sincerely mourned by the opposing force as if he had been their brother. The boys stood there a half-hour sorrowing over him and recalling the details of the tragedy, and wondering who he might be and if he was a spy, and saying if they had it to do over again, they would not hurt him unless he attacked them first. It soon turned out that mine was not the only shot fired; there were five others, a division of the guilt which was a great relief to me since it in some degree lightened and diminished the burden I was carrying. There were six shots fired at once but I was not in my right mind at the time, and my heated imagination had magnified my one shot into a volley.

The mans was not in uniform and was not armed. He was a stranger in the country, that was all we ever found out about him. The thought of hi got to preying on me every night, I could not get rid of it. I could not drive it away, the taking of that unoffending life seemed such a wanton thing. And it seemed an epitome of war, that all war must just be the killing of strangers against whom you feel no personal animosity, strangers who in other circumstances you would help if you found them in trouble, and who would help you if you needed it. My campaign was spoiled. It seemed to me that I was not rightly equipped for this awful business, that war was intended for men and I for a child’s nurse. I resolved to retire from this avocation of sham soldier-ship while I could retain some remanent of my self-respect. These morbid thoughts clung to me against reason, for at the bottom I did not believe I had touched this man. The law of probabilities decreed me guiltless of his blood for in all my small experiences with guns, I had not hit anything I had tried to hit, and I knew I had done my best to hit him. Yet there was no solace in the thought. Against a diseased imagination, demonstration goes for nothing.

The rest of my war experience was of a piece with what I have already told of it. We kept monotonously falling back upon one camp or another and eating up the farmers and their families. They ought to have shot us; on the contrary they were as hospitably kind and courteous to us as if we had deserved it. In one of these camps we found Ab Grimes, an upper Mississippi pilot who afterwards became famous as a daredevil rebel spy, whose career bristled with desperate adventures. The loom and style of his comrades suggested that they had not come into the war to play and their deeds made good the conjecture later. They were fine horsemen and good revolver shots, but their favourite arm was the lasso. Each had one at his pommel, and could snatch a man out of his saddle with it ovariotomy, on a full gallop, at any reasonable distance.

In another camp, the chief was a fierce and profane old black-smith of sixty and he had furnished his twenty recruits with gigantic, home-made bowie-knives, to be swung with two hands like the machetes of the Isthmus. It was a grisly spectacle to see that earnest band practising their murderous cuts and slashes under the eye of that remorseless old fanatic.

The last camp which we fell back on was in a hollow near the village of Florida where I was born, in Monroe County. Here we were warned one day that a Union Colonel was sweeping down on us with a whole regiment at his heels. This looked decidedly serious. Our boys went apart and consulted; then we went back and told the other companies present that the war was a disappointment to us and we were going to disband. They were getting ready themselves to fall back on some place or another, and we were only waiting for General Tom Harris, who was expected to arrive at any moment, so they tried to persuade us to wait a little while but the majority of us said no, we were accustomed to falling back and didn’t need any of Harris’s help, we could get along perfectly without him and save time too. So, about half of our fifteen men, including myself, mounted, and left on the instant; the others yielded to persuasion, and stayed–stayed through the war.

An hour later we met General Harris on the road, with two or three people in his company, his staff probably, but we could not tell; none of them were in uniform; uniforms had not come into vogue among us yet. Harris ordered us back, but we told him there was a Union colonel coming with a whole regiment in his wake and it looked as if there was going to be a disturbance, so we had concluded to go home. He raged a little bit, but it was of no use, our minds were made up. We had done our share, killed one man, exterminated one army, such as it was; let him go and kill the rest and that would end the war. I did not see that brisk young general again until last year; he was wearing white hair and whiskers.

In time I came to learn that the Union colonel whose coming frightened me out of the war and crippled the Southern cause to that extent; General Grant. I came within a few hours of seeing him when he was as unknown as I was myself; at a time when anybody could have said, “Grant–Ulysses S Grant? I do not remember hearing the name before.” It seems difficult to realize there was once a time when such a remark could be rationally made, but there was, I was within a few miles of the place and the occasion too, though proceeding in the other direction.

The thoughtful will not throw this war paper of mine lightly aside as being valueless. It has this value; it is not an unfair picture of what went on in may a militia camp in the first months of the rebellion, when the green recruits were without discipline, without the steadying and heartening influence of trained leaders, when all their circumstances were new and strange and charged with exaggerated terrors, and before the invaluable experience of actual collision in the field had turned them from rabbits into soldiers. If this side of the picture of that early day has not before been put into history, then history has been, to that degree incomplete, for it had and has its rightful place there. There was more Bull Run material scattered through the early camps of this country than exhibited itself at Bull Run. And yet, it learned it’s trade presently and helped to fight the great battles later. I could have become a soldier myself if I had waited. I had got part of it learned, I knew more about retreating than the man that invented retreating.

Warrior Queens

11 01 2011

Queen Tomyris

Tomyris was a Persian queen who had ascended the throne of Massagetai after the death of her husband, who reigned during 530 B.C. Massegetai was an ancient Iranian nomadic confederation.

According to Herodotus, an early classical writer, Queen Tomyris became a legend after the fiery battle with Cyrus II the Great of Persia who waged war on Tomyris’s country. Cyrus II was defeated and killed. A Central Asian folklore is that, Tomyris had Cyrus’s corpse beheaded and kept his head with her all the time.

Queen Artemisia

During 480 BC, after the death of the king of Halicarnassus, his wife, Artemisia took over the throne and became a loyal subject of Persia. Her major claim to fame was her bravery in the Persian wars especially in the naval Battle of Salamis in which she was one of the allies of the Persians under King Xerxes.

In the battle, Artemisia rose to fame by sinking an enemy vessel and playing a clever trick to save her crew. She was later praised for her bravery by Xerxes.

Queen Boudicca

Queen Boudicca was a warrior queen in the Celtic Icenic tribe. She has left a mark in the British history for her bravery against the Romans. She led a revolt after the death of her husband, the king of Iceni, Prasutagus. The main cause behind the revolt was the humiliation heaped on them by the Romans, who stormed into Boudicca’s kingdom.

Boudicca and both her daughters were flogged and ill treated. As a result, the queen gathered a force of around 120, 000 men and fanned the flames of a revolt. The rebellion lasted for several months, destroying major towns and killing thousands of citizens. Towards the end, when Boudicca suffered a major defeat, both her daughters and she chose to drink poison rather than fall into the hands of the Romans.

Queen Zenobia

Also named as the Empress of the East, Queen Zenobia was a third-century Syrian Queen of Palmyra known for her boldness and her brave battles against the Romans. During her reign, the eastern kingdoms of the Roman Empire fell one by one due to the growing power of Palmyra.

Described as a beautiful woman, Zenobia was a character of great ambition. She had broke her friendly relations with the Romans and revolted against them. In 270, she, along with her troops, advanced the Roman-held territories, defeated the Romans and captured Egypt. This success made Zenobia bolder and her army gave her the title as “The most illustrious and pious Queen.”


Penthesilea was the Queen of the Amazones who had accidentally killed her own sister, Hippolyta, while hunting deer. This incident had caused so much grief that Panthesilea decided to die, but die an honorable death.

She joined the Trojan War, and fought for her own city, Troy. This transformed Panthesilea from a gorgeous queen to a strong warrior. She covered her great beauty with an armor and helmet. She mounted chariots and horses, not like a queen but like a soldier. She fought the war with great courage killing many but was eventually killed by Achilles, the Greek hero of Trojan War.

Rani Laxmibai

She was a national heroine and seen as the epitome of female bravery in India. Rani Laxmibai had married the Maharaja of Jhansi in 1853 and became the Queen of the princely state. She is known for her bravery during the first wars of Indian Independence in 1857. She had gathered an army of men and women and fought for the defense of her state. However, in 1858, the British army had entered Jhansi and the fiery conflict ended with the capture of Jhansi. Laxmibai died the same year fighting the British.


At the time of Roman invasion in 43AD, Cartimandua was the queen of the Brigantes tribe in Northern Britain. She had signed a peace treaty with the Romans in exchange for being allowed to retain the control of her own lands. This relationship between the queen and the Romans raised other instabilities. Due to political and personal differences, Cartimandua’s husband Venutius called for a war during AD 69 and seized the kingdom. Though, the queen was rescued from being killed by the Romans, she never regained her throne.

Rani Durgavati

Rani Durgavati was a legendary queen who has left a mark in the Indian history. After the death of her husband, Dalpat Shah in 1550, the eldest son of king Sangram Shah of Gond Dynasty, the young Rani took the reins of the Gond Dynasty in her hands. She fought against the Muslim invasion by Baz Bahadur and succeeded the battle.

This victory gave Durgavati great honor and fame. Her next battle with the Mughal general, Khwaja Abdul Majid Asaf Khan, the ruler of Rewa, was almost successful but the Rani and her son got injured and their defeat was apparent. Rather than leaving the battlefield in dishonor, Rani Durgavati, took out a dagger and killed herself on June 24, 1564.

Strange customs around the world

11 01 2011

Let’s have a look at some of the weirdest customs around world.

Bouncing babies – India

In Sholapur, India, an unbelievable non-religious ceremony takes place every year. Babies are dropped from a 15 m tower without any safety string tied to their bodies. They free fall straight into the hands of the people who wait below with a bed sheet. The people of Sholapur are clueless about the purpose behind this fearful act. Some say, it’s for good health while others say it is for good luck for the future of the child.

Spit to ward off the evil – Greece

In Greek tradition, it is customary for the Greeks to spit three times on the face of a person who give a compliment. The custom of spitting is an attempt to ward off the evil of the eye and bad luck.

Respect to the elders – Bhutan

In Bhutan, when a senior person enters a room, everyone in the room is expected to stand up and sit only when the person is seated. When it is time to leave, until and unless the guest of honor or the elderly person stands, no one should stand or leave.

Foot binding – China

Foot binding was a strange and painful century old custom followed in China. The feet of girls as young as three years were fractured and then tied up tightly with linen strips to restrict and alter their growth. It was a fashionable practice among the wealthy women and it took many years to die out. It is considered barbaric now, but the sufferers as old as 70 years are still seen across China.

Wedding custom – Sweden

The mother of the bride presents her daughter a gold coin and places it in her right shoe while the father gives her a silver coin and places it in the left shoe, to ensure that their daughter will never be poor. The groom presents the bride with three gold rings – the engagement ring, the wedding ring and the motherhood ring.

New Year custom – Spain

When the clock strikes midnight, the Spanish eat 12 grapes, one at every toll. This is done to bring good charm for the 12 months ahead.

Blackening the bride – Scotland

Blackening the bride is a weird Scottish wedding custom where the bride is drenched with a foul smelling mixture of eggs, sauces, flour and feathers. The unfortunate bride is then paraded around the town. Her friends and family make much noise by beating the sticks and banging drums. The custom still exists in the Scottish islands where the inhabitants follow this tradition.

Baby shower – Iran

In some parts of rural Iran, the family members visit on the 10th day after the birth of the child and have lunch with the mother. After the lunch is over, they put the child in the cradle with some money and then crack some sweets above the cradle making a clattering noise. The principle behind the noise is to accustom the baby with the high pitch quarrellings of his/her parents.

Christmas decoration – Ukraine

In Ukraine, it is customary to decorate the Christmas tree with artificial spiders and webs. Seeing a spider or a web on Christmas morning is considered as a good charm.

Hanging coffins – China

In southwest China’s Sichuan province, the ancient ethnic minority group, the Bo people hung coffins of their dead on the sides of the cliffs, a practice that has been in place for nearly 3000 years.

A similar culture was practiced in Indonesia and Philippines.

Top 10 gadgets of the year

11 01 2011

1. Apple iPad

Apple ipad is the biggest hit of the year! It is a tablet computer developed and manufactured by Apple. The ipad runs on the same operating system as iphone and ipod. The functions are almost the same and the phone has a multi-touch screen as a user interface. It has a 9.7 inch, LED IPS display and is just 0.5 inch thin, it’s easy to carry and use anywhere. It’s the best way to experience the web, email, photos and video or so claims, Apple.

2. iPhone 4G

When creating the iPhone 4, Apple designers did not start with a clean paper. They had with them the basics of iPhone 3GS. With a new design and advanced technology, this is Apple’s new iPhone. It has an Apple A4 processor and 512 MB of eDRAM, 5 megapixel camera and a built in three axis gyroscope. It is also equipped with 3.5 inches (89 mm) LED backlit liquid crystal display with an increased 960-by-640 pixel resolution. This is known as the Retina Display.

3. Samsung 9000 series LED

The gorgeous ultra slim LED LCD TV is an integrated and renovated Led TV. It comes with a fancy touch screen remote controller. It renders both 2D and 3D content in real time which gives another new expression to 3D world.
Samsung unveiled its top of the line 9000 series of LED at this year’s CES. Some of its notable features include a built-in 3 D processor, auto conversion technology that renders 2D content into 3D.

4. Alienware M11x

Alienware, which are famous for their powerful computers, has introduced Alienware M11x. It eradicates the idea that gaming laptops have to be very heavy, loud and expensive.

Alienware is configured with 1.3 GHz Core 2 duo processor, 4 GB DDr3 Ram and 500 GB SATAII, which are all expandable. The Nvidia GT 335M graphic processor makes it deal with the new games. It has a user friendly access to exclusive applications. M11x also has an amazing 8 hours and 39 minutes of battery.

5. Sony Alphs NEX 5

The are key to the the world’s smallest interchangeable lens camera till date, comes with 14.20 megapixels, 3.0 inch LCD, 30-1/4000 shutter and is named Sony Alpha NEX 5 While light weight, accuracy, good video qualities, adjustable screen are its high points, it also has a few drawbacks.  It has a limited lens selection option. The AVCHD is not widely supported and the battery life is not long lasting.


The HTC Evo 4G is a smartphone developed by HTC. Launched in June 2010, the phone has a whole host of features. It has a giant 4.3 inch screen. With the first 4G phone on the first 4G network, one can upload, download and surf the net up to 10X faster than ever before. By default, the center home screen panel features a digital clock located on the top of the screen and weather animations of the current conditions in the device’s location, the remaining space in the bottom can be customized to the user’s preference.

7. Motorola DROID II Android Phone

The Motorola Droid is an Internet and multimedia enabled Smartphone designed by Motorola, which runs Google’s Android operating system for mobiles. It is a CDMA phone and will not run any GSM service. It features a 3.7 inch touch screen with a maximum resolution of 480x854pixels. It is configured with Arm Cortex A8 600 MHz under clocked to 550 MHz, graphics as PowerVR SGX 530 with 5 mega pixel camera.

8. BlackBerry Torch 9800

The BlackBerry Torch 9800 is the 2010 model in the BlackBerry line of Smartphone’s. It combines a physical QWERTY keyboard with a sliding multi-touch screen display and runs on the latest BlackBerry OS 6. The device looks similar to the existing BlackBerry devices. Sliding keyboard and 3.2 inch 360×480 screen are the new features.

9. Amazon Kindle

Amazon Kindle is a software and hardware platform developed by for the rendering and displaying of e-books and other digital media. Kindle software applications exist for Microsoft Windows, iOS, BlaclBerry, Mac OS X and Android.

The first generation Kindle was released in the United States in 2007. The latest, which is the third generation Kindle, was launched in2010.

10. Sony PS3

The Sony PlayStation 3 is the third home video game console in the PlayStation series. The PS3 is equipped with the same hardware as PS2 but it is much lighter. PS3 competes with Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and Nintendo’s Wii as part of the seventh generation of video game consoles.

PS3 features an upgradeable 250 GB or 320 GB hard drive and is 33% smaller, 36% lighter and consumes 34% (CECH-20xx) or 45% (CECH-21xx) less power than the previous models.

Power of Kindness – Paid in Full

1 10 2010

This is an excerpt from The Power of Kindness titled: “Paid in Full”. Enjoy!

One day, a poor boy who was selling goods from door to door to pay his way through school, found he had only one thin dime left, and he was hungry. He decided he would ask for a meal at the next house. However, he lost his nerve when a lovely young woman opened the door.

Instead of a meal, he asked for a drink of water. She thought he looked hungry and so she brought him a large glass of milk. He drank it slowly, and then asked, “How much do I owe you?”

“You don’t owe me anything,” she replied. “Mother has taught us never to accept pay for a kindness.” He said, “Then I thank you from my heart.” As Howard Kelly left that house, he not only felt stronger physically, but his faith in God and man was strengthened also. He had been ready to give up and quit.

Years later, that young woman became critically ill. The local doctors were baffled. They finally sent her to the big city, where they called in specialists to study her rare disease.

Dr. Howard Kelly* was called in for the consultation. When he heard the name of the town she came from, he went down the hall of the hospital to her room. Dressed in his doctor’s gown, he went in to see her. He recognized her at once. He went back to the consultation room determined to do his best to save her life. From that day, he gave special attention to the case.

After a long struggle, the battle was won. Dr. Kelly requested from the business office to pass the final billing to him for approval. He looked at it, then wrote something on the edge, and the bill was sent to her room. She feared to open it, for she was sure it would take the rest of her life to pay for it all. Finally, she looked, and something caught her attention on the side of the bill. She read these words:

Dr. Howard Kelly

*Dr. Howard Kelly was a distinguished physician who, in 1895, founded the Johns Hopkins Division of Gynecologic Oncology at Johns Hopkins University. According to Dr. Kelly’s biographer, Audrey Davis, the doctor was on a walking trip through Northern Pennsylvania one spring day when we stopped by a farm house for a drink of water.

The great English writer, Aldous Huxley, was a pioneer in the study of philosophies and techniques to develop human potential. In a lecture toward the end of his life, he said this:

“People often ask me…what is the most effective technique for transforming their lives?”

He then said, “It’s a little embarrassing that after years and years of research, my best answer is just be a little kinder.”

This is the paradox of the power of kindness. It doesn’t feel powerful at all. In fact, it almost feels too simple to be important. But as Huxley said, it is the #1 thing that can transform your life.

How can that be? Because simply put, kindness is the foundation of a good heart and with a good heart…a good life will follow.


11 08 2009

I don’t mind staying after school,” I says to Professor Herbert, “but I’d rather you’d whip me with a switch and let me go home early. Pa will whip me anyway for getting home two hours late.”

“You are too big to whip,” says Professor Herbert, “and I have to punish you for climbing up in that cherry tree. You boys knew better than that! The other five boys have paid their dollar each. You have been the only one who has not helped pay for the tree. Can’t you borrow a dollar?”

“I can’t,” I says. “I’ll have to take the punishment. I wish it would be quicker punishment. I wouldn’t mind.”

Professor Herbert stood and looked at me. He was a big man. He wore a grey suit of clothes. The suit matched his grey hair.

“You don’t know my father,” I says to Professor Herbert. “He might be called a little old-fashioned. He makes us mind him until we’re twenty-one years old. He believes: ‘If you spare the rod you spoil the child.’ I’ll never be able to make him understand about the cherry tree. I’m the first of my people to go to high school.”

“You must take the punishment,” says Professor Herbert. “You must stay two hours after school today and two hours after school tomorrow. I am allowing you twenty-five cents an hour. That is good money for a high-school student. You can sweep the schoolhouse floor, wash the blackboards, and clean windows. I’ll pay the dollar for you.”

I couldn’t ask Professor Herbert to loan me a dolIar. He never offered to loan it to me. I had to stay and help the janitor and work out my fine at a quarter an hour.

I thought as I swept the floor, “What will Pa do to me? What lie can I tell him when I go home? Why did we ever climb that cherry tree and break it down for anyway? Why did we run crazy over the hills away from the crowd? Why did we do all of this? Six of us climbed up in a little cherry tree after one little lizard! Why did the tree split and fall with us? It should have been a stronger tree! Why did Eif Crabtree just happen to be below us plowing and catch us in his cherry tree? Why wasn’t he a better man than to charge us six dollars for the tree?”

It was six o’clock when I left the schoolhouse. I had six miles to walk home. It would be after seven when I got home. I had all my work to do when I got home. It took Pa and I both to do the work. Seven cows to milk. Nineteen head of cattle to feed, four mules, twenty-five hogs, firewood and stovewood to cut, and water to draw from the well. He would be doing it when I got home. He would be mad and wondering what was keeping me!

I hurried home. I would run under the dark, leafless trees. I would walk fast uphill. I would run down the hill. The ground was freezing. I had to hurry. I had to run. I reached the long ridge that led to our cow pasture. I ran along this ridge. The wind dried the sweat on my face. I ran across the pasture to the house.

I threw down my books in the chipyard. I ran to the barn to spread fodder on the ground for the cattle. I didn’t take time to change my clean school clothes for my old work clothes. I ran out to the barn. I saw Pa spreading fodder on the ground to the cattle. That was my job. I ran up to the fence. I says, “Leave that for me, Pa. I’ll do it. I’m just a little late.”

“I see you are,” says Pa. He turned and looked at me. His eyes danced fire. “What in th’ world has kept you so? Why ain’t you been here to help me with this work? Make a gentleman out’n one boy in th’ family and this is what you get! Send you to high school and you get too onery fer th’ buzzards to smell!”

I never said anything. I didn’t want to tell why I was late from school. Pa stopped scattering the bundles of fodder. He looked at me. He says, “Why are you gettin’ in here this time o’ night? You tell me or I’ll take a hickory withe to you right here on th’ spot!”

I says, “I had to stay after school.” I couldn’t lie to Pa. He’d go to school and find out why I had to stay. If I lied to him it would be too bad for me.

“Why did you haf to stay atter school?” says Pa.

I says, “0ur biology class went on a field trip today. Six of us boys broke down a cherry tree. We had to give a dollar apiece to pay for the tree. I didn’t have the dolIar. Professor Herbert is making me work out my dollar. He gives me twenty-five cents an hour. I had to stay in this afternoon. I’ll have to stay in tomorrow afternoon!”

“Are you telling me th’ truth?” says Pa.

“I’m telling you the truth,” I says. “Go and see for yourself.”

“That’s just what I’ll do in th’ mornin’,” says Pa. “Jist whose cherry tree did you break down?”

“Eif Crabtree’s cherry tree!”

“What was you doin’ clear out in Eif Crabtree’s place?” says Pa. “He lives four miles from th’ county high school. Don’t they teach you no books at that high school? Do they jist let you get out and gad over th’ hillsides? If that’s all they do I’ll keep you at home, Dave. I’ve got work here fer you to do!”

“Pa,” I says, “spring is just getting here. We take a subject in school where we have to have bugs, snakes, flowers, lizards, frogs, and plants. It is biology. It was a pretly day today. We went out to find a few of these. Six of us boys saw a lizard at the same time sunning on a cherry tree. We all went up the tree to get it. We broke the tree down. It split at the forks. Eif Crabtree was plowing down below us. He ran up the hill and got our names. The other boys gave their dollar apiece. I didn’t have mine. Professor Herbert put mine in for me. I have to work it out at school.”

“Poor man’s son, huh,” says Pa. “I’ll attend to that myself in th’ mornin’. I’ll take keer o’ ‘im. He ain’t from this county nohow. I’ll go down there in th’ mornin’ and see ‘im. Lettin’ you leave your books and galavant all over th’ hills. What kind of a school is it nohow! Didn’t do that, my son, when I’s a little shaver in school. All fared alike too.”

“Pa, please don’t go down there,” I says, “just let me have fifty cents and pay the rest of my fine! I don’t want you to go down there! I don’t want you to start anything with Professor Herbert!

“Ashamed of your old Pap are you, Dave,” says Pa, “atter th’ way I’ve worked to raise you! Tryin’ to send you to school so you can make a better livin’ than I’ve made.

“I’ll straighten this thing out myself! I’ll take keer o’ Professor Herbert myself! He ain’t got no right to keep you in and let the other boys off jist because they’ve got th’ money! I’m a poor man. A bullet will go in a professor same as it will any man. It will go in a rich man same as it will a poor man. Now you get into this work before I take one o’ these withes and cut the shirt off’n your back!”

I thought once I’d run through the woods above the barn just as hard as I could go. I thought I’d leave high school and home forever! Pa could not catch me! I’d get away! I couldn’t go back to school with him. He’d have a gun and maybe he’d shoot Professor Herbert. It was hard to tell what he would do. I could tell Pa that school had changed in the hills from the way it was when he was a boy, but he wouldn’t understand. I could tell him we studied frogs, birds, snakes, lizards, flowers, insects. But Pa wouldn’t understand. If I did run away from home it wouldn’t matter to Pa. He would see Professor Herbert anyway. He would think that high school and Professor Herbert had run me away from home. There was no need to run away. I’d just have to stay, finish foddering the cattle, and go to school with Pa the next morning.

I would take a bundle of fodder, remove the hickory witheband from around it, and scatter it on rocks, clumps of green briers, and brush so the cattle wouldn’t tramp it under their feet. I would lean it up against the oak trees and the rocks in the pasture just above our pigpen on the hill. The fodder was cold and frosty where it had set out in the stacks. I would carry bundles of the fodder from the stack until I had spread out a bundle for each steer. Pa went to the barn to feed the mules and throw corn in the pen to the hogs.

The moon shone bright in the cold March sky. I finished my work by moonlight. Professor Herbert really didn’t know how much work I had to do at home. If he had known he would not have kept me after school. He would have loaned me a dolIar to have paid my part on the cherry tree. He had never lived in the hills. He didn’t know the way the hill boys had to work so that they could go to school. Now he was teaching in a county high school where all the boys who attended were from hill farms.

After I’d finished doing my work I went to the house and ate my supper. Pa and Mom had eaten. My supper was getting cold. I heard Pa and Mom talking in the front room. Pa was telling Mom about me staying in after school.

“I had to do all th’ milkin’ tonight, chop th’ wood myself. It’s too hard on me atter I’ve turned ground all day. I’m goin’ to take a day off tomorrow and see if I can’t remedy things a little. I’ll go down to that high school tomorrow. I won’t be a very good scholar fer Professor Herbert nohow. He won’t keep me in atter school. I’ll take a different kind of lesson down there and make ‘im acquainted with it.”

“Now, Luster,” says Mom, “you jist stay away from there. Don’t cause a lot o’ trouble. You can be jailed fer a trick like that. You’ll get th’ Law atter you. You’ll jist go down there and show off and plague your own boy Dave to death in front o’ all th’ scholars!”

“Plague or no plague,” says Pa, “he don’t take into consideration what all I haf to do here, does he? I’ll show ‘im it ain’t right to keep one boy in and let the rest go scot-free. My boy is good as th’ rest, ain’t he? A bullet will make a hole in a schoolteacher same as it will anybody else. He can’t do me that way and get by with it. I’ll plug ‘im first. I aim to go down there bright and early in the mornin’ and get all this straight! I aim to see about bug larnin’ and this runnin’ all over God’s creation huntin’ snakes, lizards, and frogs. Ransackin’ th’ country and goin’ through cherry orchards and breakin’ th’ trees down atter lizards! 0ld Eif Crabtree ought to a-poured th’ hot lead to ’em instead o’ chargin’ six dollars fer th’ tree! He ought to a-got old Herbert th’ first one!”

I ate my supper. I slipped upstairs and lit the lamp. I tried to forget the whole thing. I studied plane geometry. Then I studied my biology lesson. I could hardly study for thinking about Pa. “He’ll go to school with me in the morning. He’ll take a gun for Professor Herbert! What will Professor Herbert think of me! I’ll tell him when Pa leaves that I couldn’t help it. But Pa might shoot him. I hate to go with Pa. Maybe he’ll cool off about it tonight and not go in the morning.”

Pa got up at four o’clock. He built a fire in the stove. Then he built a fire in the fireplace. He got Mom up to get breakfast. Then he got me up to help feed and milk. By the time we had our work done at the barn, Mom had breakfast ready for us. We ate our breakfast. Daylight came and we could see the bare oak trees covered white with frost. The hills were white with frost. A cold wind was blowing. The sky was clear. The sun would soon come out and melt the frost. The afternoon would be warm with sunshine and the frozen ground with thaw. There would be mud on the hills again. Muddy water would then run down the little ditches on the hills.

“Now, Dave,” says Pa, “let’s get ready fer school. I aim to go with you this mornin’ and look into bug larnin’, frog larnin’, lizard and snake larnin’, and breakin’ down cherry trees! I don’t like no sicha foolish way o’ larnin’ myself!”

Pa hadn’t forgot. I’d have to take him to school with me. He would take me to school with him. We were going early. I was glad we were going early. If Pa pulled a gun on Professor Herbert there wouldn’t be so many of my classmates there to see him.

I knew that Pa wouldn’t be at home in the high school. He wore overalls, big boots, a blue shirt and a sheepskin coat and a slouched black hat gone to seed at the top. He put his gun in its holster. We started trudging toward the high schoo1 across the hill.

It was early when we got to the county high school. Professor Herbert had just got there. I just thought as we walked up the steps into the schoolhouse, “Maybe Pa will find out Professor Herbert is a good man. He just doesn’t know him. Just like I felt toward the Lambert boys across the hill. I didn’t like them until I’d seen them and talked to them. After I went to school with them and talked to them, I liked them and we were friends. It’s a lot in knowing the other fellow.”

“You’re th’ Professor here, ain’t you?” says Pa.

“Yes,” says Professor Herbert, “and you are Dave’s father.”

“Yes,” says Pa, pulling out his gun and laying it on the seat in Professor Herbert’s office. Professor Herbert’s eyes got big behind his black-rimmed glasses when he saw Pa’s gun. Color came into his pale cheeks.

“Jist a few things about this school I want to know,” says Pa. “I’m tryin’ to make a scholar out’n Dave. He’s the only one out’n eleven youngins I’ve sent to high school. Here he comes in late and leaves me all th’ work to do! He said you’s all out bug huntin’ yesterday and broke a cherry tree down. He had to stay two hours atter school yesterday and work out money to pay on that cherry tree! Is that right?”

“Wwwwy,” says Professor Herbert, “I guess it is.”

He looked at Pa’s gun.

“Well,” says Pa, “this ain’t no high school. It’s a bug school, a lizard school, a snake school! It ain’t no school nohow!”

“Why did you bring that gun?” says Professor Herbert to Pa.

“You see that little hole,” says Pa as he picked up the long blue forty-four and put his finger on the end of the barrel, “a bullet can come out’n that hole that will kill a schoolteacher same as it will any other man. It will kill a rich man same as a poor man. It will kill a man. But atter I come in and saw you, I know’d I wouldn’t need it. This maul o’ mine could do you up in a few minutes.”

Pa stood there, big, hard, brown-skinned, and mighty beside of Professor Herbert. I didn’t know Pa was so much bigger and harder. I’d never seen Pa in a schoolhouse before. I’d seen Professor Herbert. He’d always looked big before to me. He didn’t look big standing beside of Pa.

“I was only doing my duty,” says Professor Herbert, “Mr. Sexton, and following the course of study the state provided us with.”

“Course o’ study,” says Pa, “what study, bug study? Varmint study? Takin’ youngins to th’ woods and their poor old Ma’s and Pa’s at home a-slavin’ to keep ’em in school and give ’em a education! You know that’s dangerous, too, puttin’ a lot o’ boys and girIs out together like that!”

Students were coming into the schoolhouse now.

Professor Herbert says, “Close the door, Dave, so others won’t hear.”

I walked over and closed the door. I was shaking like a leaf in the wind. I thought Pa was going to hit Professor Herbert every minute. He was doing all the talking. His face was getting red. The red color was coming through the brown, weather-beaten skin on Pa’s face.

“I was right with these students,” says Professor Herbert. “I know what they got into and what they didn’t. I didn’t send one of the other teachers with them on this field trip. I went myself. Yes, I took the boys and girIs together. Why not?”

“It jist don’t look good to me,” says Pa, “a-takin’ all this swarm of youngins out to pillage th’ whole deestrict. Breakin’ down cherry trees. Keepin’ boys in atter school.”

“What else could I have done with Dave, Mr. Sexton?” says Professor Herbert. “The boys didn’t have any business all climbing that cherry tree after one lizard. One boy could have gone up in the tree and got it. The farmer charged us six dollars. It was a little steep, I think, but we had it to pay. Must I make five boys pay and let your boy off? He said he didn’t have the dollar and couldn’t get it. So I put it in for him. I’m letting him work it out. He’s not working for me. He’s working for the school!”

“I jist don’t know what you could a-done with ‘im,” says Pa, “only a-larruped im with a withe! That’s what he needed!”

“He’s too big to whip,” says Professor Herbert, pointing at me. “He’s a man in size.”

“He’s not too big fer me to whip,” says Pa. “They ain’t too big until they’re over twenty-one! It jist didn’t look fair to me! Work one and let th’ rest out because they got th’ money. I don’t see what bugs has got to do with a high school! It don’t look good to me nohow!”

Pa picked up his gun and put it back in its holster. The red color left Professor Herbert’s face. He talked more to Pa. Pa softened a littIe. It looked funny to see Pa in the high-school building. It was the first time he’d ever been there.

“We were not only hunting snakes, toads, flowers, butterflies, lizards,” says Professor Herbert, “but, Mr. Sexton, I was hunting dry timothy grass to put in an incubator and raise some protozoa.”

” I don’t know what that is,” says Pa. “Th’ incubator is th’ new-fangled way o’ cheatin’ th’ hens and raisin’ chickens. I ain’t so sure about th’ breed o’ chickens you mentioned.”

“You’ve heard of germs, Mr. Sexton, haven’t you?” says Professor Herbert.

“Jist call me Luster, if you don’t mind,” says Pa, very casual like.

“All right, Luster, you’ve heard of germs, haven’t you?”

“Yes,” says Pa, “but I don’t believe in germs. I’m sixty-five years old and I ain’t seen one yet!”

“You can’t see them with your naked eye,” says Professor Herbert. “Just keep that gun in the holster and stay with me in the high school today. I have a few things want to show you. That scum on your teeth has germs in it.”

“What,” says Pa, “you mean to tell me I’ve got germs on my teeth!

“Yes,” says Professor Herbert. “The same kind as we might be able to find in a living black snake if we dissect it!”

“I don’t mean to dispute your word,” says Pa, “but I don’t believe it. I don’t believe I have germs on my teeth!”

“Stay with me today and I’ll show you. I want to take you through the school anyway! School has changed a lot in the hills since you went to school. I don’t guess we had high schools in this county when you went to school!”

“No,” says Pa, “jist readin’, writin’, and cipherin’. We didn’t have all this bug larnin’, frog larnin’, and findin’ germs on your teeth and in the middle o’ black snakes! Th’ world’s changin’.”

“It is,” says Professor Herbert, “and we hope all for the better. Boys like your own there are going to help change it. He’s your boy. He knows all of what I’ve told you. You stay with me today.”

“I’ll shore stay with you,” says Pa. ” I want to see th’ germs off’n my teeth. I jist want to see a germ. I’ve never seen one in my life. ‘Seein’ is believin’,’ Pap allus told me.”

Pa walks out of the office with Professor Herbert. I just hoped Professor Herbert didn’t have Pa arrested for pulling his gun. Pa’s gun has always been a friend to him when he goes to settle disputes.

The bell rang. School took up. I saw the students when they marched in the schoolhouse look at Pa. They would grin and punch each other. Pa just stood and watched them pass in at the schoolhouse door. Two long lines marched in the house. The boys and girls were clean and well dressed. Pa stood over in the schoolyard under a leafless elm, in his sheepskin coat, his big boots laced in front with buckskin, and his heavy socks stuck above his boot tops. Pa’s overalIs legs were baggy and wrinkled between his coat and boot tops. His blue work shirt showed at the collar. His big black hat showed his gray-streaked black hair. His face was hard and weather-tanned to the color of a ripe fodder blade. His hands were big and gnarled like the roots of the elm tree he stood beside.

When I went to my first cIass I saw Pa and Professor Herbert going around over the schoolhouse. I was in my geometry class when Pa and Professor Herbert came in the room. We were explaining our propositions on the blackboard. Professor Herbert and Pa just quietly came in and sat down for awhile. I heard Fred Wutts whisper to Glenn Armstrong, “Who is that old man? Lord, he’s a rough-looking scamp.” Glenn whispered back, “I think he’s Dave’s Pap.” The students in geometry looked at Pa. They must have wondered what he was doing in school. Before the cIass was over, Pa and Professor Herbert got up and went out. I saw them together down on the playground. Professor Herbert was explaining to Pa. I could see the prints of Pa’s gun under his coat when he’d walk around.

At noon in the high-school cafeteria Pa and Professor Herbert sat together at the little table where Professor Herbert always ate by himself. They ate together. The students watched the way Pa ate. He ate with his knife instead of his fork. A lot of the students felt sorry for me after they found out he was my father. They didn’t have to feel sorry for me. I wasn’t ashamed of Pa after I found out he wasn’t going to shoot Professor Herbert. I was glad they had made friends. I wasn’t ashamed of Pa. I wouldn’t be as long as he behaved. He would find out about the high school as I had found out about the Lambert boys across the hill.

In the afternoon when we went to biology Pa was in the class. He was sitting on one of the high stools beside the microscope. We went ahead with our work just as if Pa wasn’t in the class. I saw- Pa take his knife and scrape tartar from one of his teeth. Professor Herbert put it on the lens and adjusted the microscope for Pa. He adjusted it and worked awhile. Then he says: “Now Luster, look! Put your eye right down to the light. Squint the other eye!”

Pa put his head down and did as Professor Herbert said. “I see ‘im,” says Pa. ‘Who’d a ever thought that? Right on a body’s teeth! Right in a body’s mouth. You’re right certain they ain’t no fake to this, Professor Herbert?”

“No, Luster,” says Professor Herbert. “It’s there. That’s the germ. Germs live in a worId we cannot see with the naked eye. We must use the microscope. There are millions of them in our bodies. Some are harmful. Others are helpful.”

Pa holds his face down and looks through the microscope. We stop and watch Pa. He sits upon the tall stool. His knees are against the table. His legs are long. His coat slips up behind when he bends over. The handle of his gun shows. Professor Herbert pulls his coat down quickly.

“Oh, yes,” says Pa. He gets up and pulls his coat down. Pa’s face gets a little red. He knows about his gun and he knows he doesn’t have any use for it in high school.

“We have a big black snake over here we caught yesterday,” says Professor Herbert. “We’ll chloroform him and dissect him and show you he has germs in his body, too.”

“Don’t do it,” says Pa. “I believe you. I jist don’t want to see you kill the black snake. I never kill one. They are good mousers and a lot o’ help to us on the farm. I like black snakes. I jist hate to see people kill ’em. I don’t allow ’em killed on my place.”

The students look at Pa. They seem to like him better after he said that. Pa with a gun in his pocket but a tender heart beneath his ribs for snakes, but not for man! Pa won’t whip a mule at home. He won’t whip his cattle.

“Man can defend hisself,” says Pa, “but cattle and mules can’t. We have the drop on ’em. Ain’t nothin’ to a man that’ll beat a good pullin’ mule. He ain’t got th’ right kind o’ a heart!”

Professor Herbert took Pa through the laboratory. He showed him the different kinds of work we were doing. He showed him our equipment. They stood and talked while we worked. Then they walked out together. They talked louder when they got out in the hall.

When our biology class was over I walked out of the room. It was our last class for the day. I would have to take my broom and sweep two hours to finish paying for the split cherry tree. I just wondered if Pa would want me to stay. He was standing in the hallway watching the students march out. He looked lost among us. He looked like a leaf turned brown on the tree among the treetop filled with growing leaves.

I got my broom and started to sweep. Professor Herbert walked up and says, “I’m going to let you do that some other time. You can go home with your father. He is waiting out there.”

I Iaid my broom down, got my books, and went down the steps.

Pa says, “Ain’t you got two hours o’ sweepin’ yet to do?”

I says, “Professor Herbert said I could do it some other time. He said for me to go home with you.”

“No,” says Pa. “You are goin’ to do as he says. He’s a good man. School has changed from my day and time. I’m a dead leaf, Dave. I’m behind. I don’t belong here. If he’ll let me I’ll get a broom and we’ll both sweep one hour. That pays your debt. I’ll hep you pay it. I’ll ast ‘im and see if he won’t let me hep you.”

“I’m going to cancel the debt,” says Professor Herbert. “I just wanted you to understand, Luster.”

“I understand,” says Pa, “and since I understand he must pay his debt fer th’ tree and I’m goin’ to hep ‘im.”

“Don’t do that,” says Professor Herbert. “It’s all on me.”

“We don’t do things like that,” says Pa, “we’re just and honest people. We don’t want somethin’ fer nothin’. Professor Herbert, you’re wrong now and I’m right. You’ll haf to listen to me. I’ve larned a lot from you. My boy must go on. Th’ worId has left me. It changed while I’ve raised my family and plowed th’ hills. I’m a just and honest man. I don’ skip debts. I ain’t larned ’em to do that. I ain’t got much larnin’ myself but I do know right from wrong atter I see through a thing.”

Professor Herbert went home. Pa and I stayed and swept one hour. It looked funny to see Pa use a broom. He never used one at home. Mom used the broom. Pa used the plow. Pa did hard work. Pa says, “I can’t sweep. Durned if I can. Look at th’ streaks o’ dirt I leave on th’ floor! Seems like no work a-tall fer me. Brooms is too light ‘r somethin’. I’ll jist do th’ best I can, Dave. I’ve been wrong about th’ school.”

I says, “Did you know Professor Herbert can get a warrant out for you for bringing your pistoI to school and showing it in his office! They can railroad you for that!”

“That’s all made right,” says Pa. “I’ve made that right. Professor Herbert ain’t goin’ to take it to court. He likes me. I like ‘im. We jist had to get together. He had the remedies. He showed me. You must go on to school. I am as strong a man as ever come out’n th’ hills fer my years and th’ hard work I’ve done. But I’m behind, Dave. I’m a little man. Your hands will be softer than mine. Your clothes will be better. You’ll allus look cleaner than your old Pap. Jist remember, Dave, to pay your debts and be honest. Jist be kind to animals and don’t bother th’ snakes. That’s all I got agin th’ school. Puttin’ black snakes to sleep and cuttin’ ’em open.”

It was late when we got home. Stars were in the sky. The moon was up. The ground was frozen. Pa took his time going home. I couldn’t run like I did the night before. It was ten o’clock before we got the work finished, our suppers eaten. Pa sat before the fire and told Mom he was going to take her and show her a germ sometime. Mom hadn’t seen one either. Pa told her about the high school and the fine man Professor Herbert was. He told Mom about the strange school across the hill and how different it was from the school in their day and time.