Monday, February 29, 2016

Book Review - The Black Eyed Susans are Dying Now

The Black Eyed Susans are Dying Now, by David Feist is a short non-fiction diary type book.  I ran across this title while doing research on the black-eyed susan flower and really didn't know what to expect. This short book is from The Prairie Naturalist Notes of the same author. Didn't really have what I was looking for concerning black-eyed susans and was more observations of the birds, wildflowers during one summer, early fall on his Minnesota acreage.  But what I did find interesting, after more research into this book and author - this is a self-published book - not obvious at first.  The author has written many shorts for local schools to educate young children about their state.  So with that knowledge/view - this book could be used in lesson plans in a school setting - providing a starting place for further research into various birds, flowers, seasons, etc, without getting caught up in a story of his property.  For now, I'll keep it on my shelf.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Book Review - The Raft

The Raft, a young adult book by S.A. Bodeen.  I wasn't familiar with this author beforehand, but it was a quick, easy read - no stumbling on sentences, grammar etc.  Obviously from the tag line  "No one knew she as on the plane when it crashed. No one knows to come find her." - you get a good idea of the storyline. The story is of her experiences before, during, and after the crash.  It's kind of a freaky, but believable story, and one that you'll think about after you finish it - mainly what the main character (Robie) goes through.  If I said much more it would give away too much.  The book has references to a few other currently popular novels (Hunger Games, etc). Probably frightening for kids (and many adults), but can lead to great discussions on survival, trauma, PTSD, and how your brain can work to help you mentally survive particularly stressful, life/death situations.  My suggestion - read this before your child does, so you'll be ready to answer the questions they will have while reading.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Book Review - A Weekend in September

Those who enjoy reading about U.S. tropical systems, especially the 1900 Galveston Storm, should enjoy this book as well.  Writing/Researching his book in 1957, author John Edward Weems was able to get first hand accounts from survivors - and not just the prominent citizens (although they are included), but more of the middle class working Galvestonians.

One ugly truth about disasters that isn't often shown or discussed is the deaths of animals - pets, livestock, etc.  This book does touch on a few of those fatalities, but also includes several animal survivor stories.  A quick rundown - just because I like happy endings for animals: 

A horse (owner not named) galloping down Sealy street, ran through the Fred Langben neighbor's open gate, the open front door, and up a flight of stairs.  He weathered the storm on the 2nd story living off the moss inside the mattresses.  A couple of days after the storm, Langben and his servant removed the horse from the house (he didn't go willingly). 

Sydney Love remembers taking refuge in Saint Mary's University and seeing a cow on the second floor.  At the writing of this book he still didn't know how or why the cow was there, but he and a few others were "...lucky enough to have fresh milk for breakfast." (p70)

Although the McNeills were out of town, their servants were doing their best to save the thoroughbred horses - building a ramp and leading the horses into a first floor room to wait out the storm.  A charcoal brazier was placed on the floor to warm the horses up (the brazier left a mark on the floor that stayed for nearly 50 years). 

Kempner's coachman went to release the horses from the stable and after the worst of was over, the coachman and horses were "...found safe on the porch of a nearby house." (p127)

Henry Ketchum discovered a cow had taken refuge in his first floor parlor as well as mules, horses and cows were up on the gallery (porch). 

Others made grand efforts to save their animals, but the author doesn't mention their fate.

Ephraim Moore's family kept chickens in their backyard and when the water started rising, they took "...about 100 frightened chickens, one by one, from roosts... to the safety of a second-floor bedroom." (p76).  That chore completed - their son asked about the dog -- the solution "Put him in with the chickens!" 

Still, many others perished along with their owners that night. 

Ed Ketchum's stables were only able to provide shelter to 25 or 30 horses and mules out of the hundreds he supposedly owned. 

When Daisy Thorne left the island a few days later as Mrs. Gilbert, she took with her one remaining cat that had survived the storm on top of the wardrobe along with 22 people inside her bedroom.

This was a quick read, mentions several of the notable stories that have been retold, and pictures from Galveston.  I do wish the author would have included pictures of the survivors (although I'm not sure any exist) and a detailed map of where certain residences were in relation to others (several pages would be fine with me).    

It was nice to read the stories of ordinary people, many took in neighbors and strangers - anything to save lives.  After the storm many women cooked on any heat source they could while the men had the unbearable task of cleaning up.  The book also includes a timeline of how quickly services were reestablished on the Island - I was surprised that electricity was back as quickly as it was (maybe a week or less).  After hurricane Ike it took 2 weeks for our neighborhood to get back on the grid (and that was 2008).

UPDATE:  Looking back through the book I did find a map of Galveston that included the family residences of those in the book, overlaid by dark of areas that were totally devastated in the 1900 storm.  Other pictures and maps were in the center of the book.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Texas Winter 2016

Seems like every year about this time I post about (rant about actually) winter in Texas.  Don't get me wrong - I'm really thankful to not deal with constant freezing temps and several feet of snow, but many parts of this great state deal with heavy fog, dew that soaks through everything and mud -- lots and lots of slippery mud. Enjoy a few scenes from my very wet, muddy backyard this week (besides don't pictures of happy dogs always make things better?).

The black lab never minds the winter - she has energy to burn. She looks kind of fierce in this image - running at almost full speed - no paws on the ground.

The dog running paths are now mud paths -- those cute little feet always bringing the outdoors inside - mud, dirt, wet... life with pets.

A bright spot (literally) among all the winter browns and grays -- the first wildflower/weed -- spring will come (as it always does), just not soon enough.