Monthly Archives: March 2020

My niece, Liz Masterson is a teacher of Journalism and English at Kelly Walsh High School in Casper, Wyoming. She is a dedicated teacher, who loves her job and her students, and they love her too. She isn’t an easy teacher, but the students learn from her, and they work hard for her, because she draws the best out of them.

This school year began normally, but as we all know, it has progressed in an anything but normal manner. Due to the COVID19 Pandemic, the schools have been closed since March 13th. Spring Break was supposed to have started on March 30th, but of course, it has been closed for two weeks already. In reality, the teachers and administration are working very hard, albeit at home, to prepare to finish this seriously unconventional school year. Since moving into the new part of Kelly Walsh, Liz’s students have been using Google Classroom for parts of their classes. That is most definitely a good thing, because it is Google Classroom that will be put into action to finish the school year. It will, however, be used differently than they are used to. Still, it is a form of remote learning, and it will allow the students and teachers to finish the school year. It has to be done, because you can’t just pass a generation of students with three months less class time than they should have.

For Liz, this unique situation is like being on hold or in limbo. Teachers are used to having their summer off, so two and a half months of no school feels normal, but summer is planned for…prepared for. This is nothing like that. She feels at loose ends. She misses her students and the classroom discussions they had. She misses the co-workers she had. She misses the sports, which she took pictures of for the annual, mostly because she is the biggest sports fan ever!! I think they were happy to have Liz take pictures of the sports, because she caught the essence of the plays. That’s because she saw the game from the mind of the players.

There are so many regrets that come with an unfinished school year, especially for the Seniors. This is their last year. so many things that they will never be able to do again…prom, graduation, the last part of being the top class. In sports, they miss the scouts, and possible chances at sports scholarships. For teachers, there are regrets too. Teachers are destined to teach, and to suddenly not be able to be stand before the class and see their faces as they get what is being taught, to see their smiling faces…it defeats the whole concept of classroom teaching. This generation of students and their teachers can never get back the last three months of the 2020 school year, and that is a loss indeed. Nevertheless, today is Liz’s birthday, and I know that her students wish her the best, as do we, her family. And while this is a strange school year, I hope it will still be rewarding. Happy birthday Liz!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Not many people these days have heard of Hedy Lamarr, but I have heard of her, because she was an actress in my parents’ era. It goes without saying that Hedy Lamarr was beautiful…by any standard. Hedy Lamarr was a star in the 1930s and 1940s, starring in some well known movies including Boom Town with Clark Gable and Samson and Delilah with Victor Mature. While she’s certainly famous because of her acting career, she didn’t make any big world changes because she starred in some old movies. Instead, Hedy Lamarr had a pastime that did change the world. You wouldn’t know it…or certainly you wouldn’t expect it…but in her spare time Hedy Lamarr liked to work on her inventions. Seriously, who would have thought that?

World War II began in 1939, but after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the United States entered the war. By 1942, Lamarr was at the height of her acting career. Still, like many patriotic Americans, she wanted to help in the war effort. She could have gone in as a nurse, or something, but she had something else in mind. Hedy Lamarr wanted to help the Allies come up with a communications system that couldn’t be intercepted by enemies. Now, I can only imagine how that would have gone over in an era where woman were thought not to understand the ways of war. So she and her friend, composer George Antheil, patented an idea for something they called the “Secret Communications System.” It was a system that would change radio frequencies in a per-programmed method. I hadn’t heard of such a method, although I suppose others have. If someone was listening…and the enemy was always trying to listen, they would only hear snippets before it changed to a different frequency. It sounds logical, but ultimately, the military didn’t end up using the system.

Flash forward a few decades, and you will find that Lamarr and Antheil’s patent became really important because it was a cheap and effective way to create security in new emerging technologies like military communication, cellular phones, and WiFi. What the military couldn’t use effectively in World War II, became important part of modern-day communication, and something most of us couldn’t do without…especially in the an middle of a global pandemic. To look at her, Hedy Lamarr would have instantly been classified as a pretty girl, but most likely with out a head for mathematics or science…especially not in the field of electronics, but that classification would have proved very wrong. Hedy Lamarr had it all…looks and brains. Her contributions to modern-day technology prove that. As for Lamarr, her film career cooled down in the 1950s and her last movie was released in 1958. She became reclusive in her later life and passed away on January 19, 2000. She was 86.

The earthquake struck at 5:35pm local time on Good Friday, March 27, 1964. Its epicenter was 12.4 miles north of Prince William Sound, 78 miles east of Anchorage and 40 miles west of Valdez. Across southcentral Alaska, ground fissures, collapsing structures, and tsunamis resulting from the earthquake caused about 131 deaths. Soil liquefaction, fissures, landslides, and other ground failures caused major structural damage in several communities and much damage to property. Anchorage was hit very hard, and sustained great destruction or damage to many inadequately earthquake-engineered houses, buildings, paved streets, sidewalks, water and sewer mains, electrical systems, and other man-made equipment, particularly in the several landslide zones along Knik Arm. Two hundred miles southwest, some areas near Kodiak were permanently raised by 30 feet. Southeast of Anchorage, areas around the head of Turnagain Arm near Girdwood and Portage dropped as much as 8 feet, requiring reconstruction and fill to raise the Seward Highway above the new high tide mark.

I came to know of this horrific 9.2 magnitude earthquake when my husband, Bob and I were on a cruise to Alaska. The cruise ended in Anchorage, and we had taken an extra day for exploration of the area. My first notice of this Alaskan earthquake was on a shuttle ride from the airport to Anchorage proper. We had the day before our flight at 10:30pm, so we stored our luggage at the airport and took the shuttle back into town. The shuttle driver took us by the Turnagain Heights neighborhood, the current location of Earthquake Park. She told us that the soil there had liquified and homes were swallowed…some almost completely, leaving only their chimneys above ground, while others were swept out to sea in the ensuing tsunami waves. I couldn’t shake the dreadful feeling of the horror that had happened there. A stop in a museum, including a documentary about the 1964 Alaskan earthquake, told me that the earthquake that happened in the modern-day Earthquake Park, was the 1964 Alaskan earthquake. Of course, I was only 8 years old when it happened, so I guess that it is not so odd that I hadn’t heard of it.

We began a much longer than expected walk along the Tony Knowles Coastal Bicycle Trail. Of course, people were walking on the trail too, but we had no idea how long the walk back to the airport would be. Nevertheless, the walk took us through Earthquake Park, and…well, I have only noticed such an air of heaviness in one other place…Gettysburg Battlefield. There is something about being in a place where so much death and destruction occurred. I takes on an air of being “hallowed ground” somehow. President Lincoln knew what he was talking about when he gave the Gettysburg Address. Walking through Earthquake Park, you could see the rippled ground, where the liquified soil had rolled back and forth during the earthquake. We didn’t get off the trail, so if there were chimneys visible near us, we didn’t see them, but I was moved to think that beneath our feet, there might be houses that people had lived in. I didn’t know if the people who had lived there were there still, or if they had been located and buried after the disaster. Whatever the case may be, I left the area feeling very different than I had just two days earlier. I had been in the exact place where such a devastating disaster had happened, and I have never forgotten that place, just as I have never forgotten the feeling I felt at Gettysburg. Some things just have a profound effect on us…forever.

Our world has changed so much over the past few weeks that it is almost unrecognizable to us…not the landscape itself, but rather our view of it, and everything in it. Most of us figured it would be an election, or a recession that would change things for us, but we could never have expected the change a global pandemic could produce. We’ve learned new words, like social distancing; and words we knew that didn’t seem so daunting before, like essential worker and mandatory shelter-in-place orders, suddenly bring an unwanted wave of emotions. Businesses are closed, as are schools, and suddenly we find ourselves spending an inordinate amount of time at home. The kids might like their new free time, but most adults just want things to be back to normal…and very soon!!

My husband. Bob and I are both retired, and we are used to spending quite a bit of time together, but lately I have noticed that we might be going a little bit stir crazy. It isn’t that we don’t want to be together, but rather that we are feeling cooped up. As yesterday morning progressed, we seemed to be picking at each other more and more. It was then that it hit me. We had to get out of the house for a while. Still, while Wyoming is not under a mandatory shelter-in-place order, we are supposed to be practicing social distancing. I thought about it, and decided that I had a way to get out and obey the social distancing guidelines, because they slow the spread of the disease.

So we jumped in the pickup, and took a drive to Alcova Lake southwest of Casper. We were still social distancing, because we were in the pickup, but part way to the lake, we both breathed a sigh of relief. Suddenly we felt free from all of the stresses of COVID-19 and the locked down feeling it brought with it. The world around us seemed normal. A drive through the countryside showed us that the Earth really took no notice of the “Viral War” raging around it. Earth’s beauty, though currently still mostly hidden under Winter’s brown and white coat, was just beginning to show the green blades of Spring grass peeking out toward the sun. We stopped at a picnic area at Fremont Canyon bridge and got out to have a look. There was no one there, but us. The wind was calm, and the place was so peaceful. We walked to the viewing site, and looked at the rocks below, the white high water lines visible in Winter’s low water season. The sun sparkled on the water of the river. We stood and looked at the peaceful sight, feeling renewed…feeling one with each other again. Then, all too soon, we got back in the pickup for the drive home, and the workout we had delayed, because while exercise is very important, this was important too. We needed this, and we will do it again. We hope that no mandatory shelter-in-place order comes, because a drive would not be possible then, but we are very thankful to have had this drive, and the renewal it brought to us.

Few things can be more frustrating when we have decided to get in shape, that to have the gym we joined closed down. These days, in the light of the Coronavirus, and it’s many closures, most people find themselves members of a closed gym…not because the gym went bankrupt, although that could happen if this goes on very long, but rather the gyms are closed for “social distancing” for an undetermined time, leaving most dedicated exercise enthusiasts in the lurch. My niece, Amanda Reed is one of those exercise enthusiasts, who joined the gym a while back, determined to get in shape, only to find herself in limbo.

Thankfully the gym is not the only way that Amanda likes to get her workout in. She has always been an outdoor girl, and even decided to hike up to the mountains where she, her family, and friends have spent many a winter day snowmobiling in the snow. The mountain; like the lake where Amanda and Sean have a mobile home so they can spend summer weekends there; is a place that draws Amanda. For years, she might not have been in the physical shape needed to hike the mountain, but now, that has changed, and she successfully made it to the top with her faithful dog. What a thrill that must have been. The snow was deep in some places, but she didn’t let that keep her from the prize she had set for herself. That is the kind of determination an athlete knows well…no matter how long they have waited to become an athlete. Nevertheless, someone who has worked out to prepare, and then hiked up a mountain, no matter how high or not high it is, has truly become an athlete, and can be proud of the accomplishment.

Amanda and her family are planning a trip to Lake Havasu City, Arizona. It may be part of the reason she joined a gym, but then we all need a reason to get started, don’t we? Amanda works at the bank in Rawlins, and like many of us “social distancing” has her working from home part-time. I truly is a different world these days. Amanda…true to her lake-loving self, chose to spend her birthday at their place at the lake cleaning. Spring fever is upon her, and she is feeling the draw of the lake. She just loves it out there. Her partner, Sean is going to take her on a Razor ride over to Miracle Mile while they are out there. Sounds like a great way to spend her birthday weekend. Today is Amanda’s birthday. Happy birthday Amanda!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

In a time of global pandemic, many people are thinking about the Coronavirus, and the impact it is having on all our lives. Of course, there have been a number of pandemics in years past, such as the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918, that killed 50,000,000 worldwide. The pandemic was active from January 1918 to December 1920. So little was known then about how to protect ourselves from these things, or even what a virus was. We learned from that pandemic and others as the years went on.

One such epidemic was the Polio Epidemic in the United States, the 1952 epidemic was the worst outbreak in the nation’s history. It is credited with heightening parents’ fears of the disease and focusing public awareness on the need for a vaccine. Of the 57,628 cases reported that year 3,145 died and 21,269 were left with mild to disabling paralysis. Finally, on March 26, 1953, American medical researcher Dr Jonas Salk announced on a national radio show that he has successfully tested a vaccine against poliomyelitis, which is the virus that causes the crippling disease of polio. Dr Salk was celebrated as the great doctor-benefactor of his time, for promising eventually to eradicate the disease, which is known as “infant paralysis” because it mainly affects children.

Polio attacks the nervous system and can cause varying degrees of paralysis. The disease affected humanity throughout recorded history, and since the virus is easily transmitted, epidemics were commonplace in the first decades of the 20th century. The summer of 1894 brought the United States first major polio epidemic, beginning in Vermont. By the 20th century thousands were affected every year. In the first decades of the 20th century, treatments were limited to quarantines and the infamous “iron lung,” a metal coffin-like contraption that aided respiration. Although children, and especially infants, were among the worst affected, adults were also commonly afflicted, including future president Franklin D Roosevelt, who in 1921 was stricken with polio at the age of 39 and was left partially paralyzed. Roosevelt later transformed his estate in Warm Springs, Georgia, into a recovery retreat for polio victims and was instrumental in raising funds for polio-related research and the treatment of polio patients.

Salk’s procedure, first attempted unsuccessfully by American Maurice Brodie in the 1930s, was to kill several strains of the virus and then inject the benign viruses into a healthy person’s bloodstream. The person’s immune system would then create antibodies designed to resist future exposure to poliomyelitis. Salk conducted the first human trials on former polio patients, on himself, and his family. By 1953, he was ready to announce his findings. The announcement was made on March 25th, on the CBS national radio network, and two days later in an article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Dr Salk became an immediate celebrity.

Clinical trials using the Salk vaccine and a placebo began in 1954 on nearly two million American schoolchildren. It was announced that the vaccine was effective and safe in April 1955, and a nationwide inoculation campaign began. Unfortunately a defective vaccine manufactured at Cutter Laboratories of Berkeley, California, had tragic results in the Western and mid-Western United States, when more than 200,000 people were injected with a defective vaccine, and thousands of polio cases were reported, 200 children were left paralyzed and 10 died.

The ensuing panic delayed production of the vaccine. Still, new polio cases dropped to under 6,000 in 1957, the first year after the vaccine was widely available. So, other than the defective vaccine, maybe it was working. Scientists continued to improve the product, and in 1962, an oral vaccine developed by Polish-American researcher Albert Sabin became available, greatly facilitating distribution of the polio vaccine. These days, polio has been all but wiped out, and there are just a handful of polio cases in the United States every year. Most of these are “imported” by Americans from developing nations where polio is still a problem. Jonas Salk was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977, among other honors. He died in La Jolla, California, in 1995.

I think that many of us have thought about a hidden treasure…probably as kids, but maybe as adults too. In fact, with the number of metal detectors sold every year, maybe there are just as many adults looking for hidden treasure as kids.

Dr John Marsh was born June 5, 1799 in South Danvers, Massachusetts. In college at Harvard, he had intended to study ministry, but changed his mind and received his bachelors degree in medicine. He then studied medicine with a Boston doctor. He then decided to move to California, and became an early pioneer and settle in Alta, California. He was also the first Harvard graduate, the first to practice medicine there. He knew Hebrew, Latin and Greek, and was the first to compile a dictionary of the Sioux language. He became one of the wealthiest ranchers in California, and was one of the most influential men in the establishment of California statehood.

The Reverend William W Smith introduced Marsh to Abigail “Abby” Smith Tuck, a schoolteacher from New England, who also served as principal at a girls school in San Jose. After a brief two-week courtship, they were married on June 24, 1851. Soon after the wedding, the couple moved into the old adobe. On 12 March 1852, she gave birth to a daughter they named Alice Frances. Shortly thereafter, Marsh set out to build his family a home. Abby had picked the spot for their home. The home that was nestled in the foothills of Mount Diablo. The home was located next to a creek that was later named Marsh Creek after the doctor. While the home was stunning, the cost of building it did not exceed $20,000.

Marsh was not only a doctor, but also a rancher, and was very successful, even though he was usually paid for medical services in the currency of the day…cowhides and tallow. Marsh might have been a bit of an eccentric, or maybe he just didn’t trust banks. Whatever the case may be, he was known to bury his money in the foothills near his home. Abby died in 1855, and maybe that was what set Marsh to burying the money. I don’t think anyone knows. It is thought that Marsh buried about $40,000 in gold coins in the area, but the money has never been found. On September 24, 1856, while coming home from Martinez, Marsh was murdered. It happened on the road between Pacheco and Martinez. Riding by, he was ambushed and murdered by three of his vaquero employees over a dispute about their wages. Two of the killers were found ten years later and brought to trial. One man turned state’s evidence and was released without trial. The other was convicted and sentenced to life in prison, though he was pardoned 25 years later. The third man was never caught. A California Historical Landmark #722 plaque still marks the site of the murder. John and Abigail Marsh are buried in Mountain View Cemetery, in Oakland, California.

My nephew, Weston Moore decided last year, after his high school graduation, to take some time off before going to college. He wanted to work, save up some money, and buy a different car. He also planned to save up some money for when he goes back to school. At this point, he is getting close to having enough money for the car, but as we all know, things have changed today’s world. with the Coronavirus Pandemic, people are being told to stay at home, businesses are closing down, only essential workers are allowed to go to work…all in an effort to stop the spread of this virus. That said, Weston still has a job, but not many hours.

In this time, Weston and his family are thankful that he was not away at college, especially since the colleges are mostly closed. Weston is still living at home and his family are all thankful to be together in this difficult time. Thinking back on his graduation, he and his family are glad he graduated last year, because with the pandemic, no school is assured of the ability to hold their graduation ceremonies or parties.

Many things are different now, and it is quite likely that there will be no big gathering for Weston’s birthday. Instead it will be just him, his brother, Easton; and their parents, Machelle and Steve. His mom decides to get a cake last week so she would have one, in case she couldn’t get out as the day drew closer. At this point, they have been hunkering down at the house, leaving only when necessary, and concentrating on staying well. Things are always subject to change…instantly in times of a great pandemic, like we are in the midst of, but Weston always has a great attitude, and that can make his one person who will lift every one else’s spirits. That kind of person is exactly what we need in trying time, and I’m glad that the Moore family has just such a person. These are strange times. Today is Weston’s 20th birthday. Where have the years gone. Happy birthday Weston!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Finding ourselves in the middle of a global pandemic has placed many Americans, and in fact, most Americans, as well as the people of other countries, in a world suddenly changed. Will it be forever changed? Well, that remains to be seen. What we do know is that life as we knew it…just days ago for some of us, is nothing like it was before. We find ourselves being told to “stay at home” unless we happen to be one of the essential workers…doctors, nurses, CNAs and other hospital workers, grocery store employees, restaurant workers (who can only handle pick-up or delivery orders, because the dining rooms are closed), first responders (police, fire, and ambulance), necessary city or town workers (including, of course, government officials), mail carriers, truck drivers and delivery people. The rest of us are supposed to stay home accept for getting food, groceries, medicine, gasoline, medical appointments, and outdoor exercise…all while practicing social distancing (staying 6 feet away from other people). That, of course, means no hugging, hand shaking, high fives, elbow bumps or even foot taps, which had prior become the new normal. Many people are wearing masks and of course, washing their hands and using hand sanitizer, and not touching their faces.

Many of these things are common sense, and some are things we have done for a while now, but other things are so new and very foreign to us. We are a mobile society, and staying home is very foreign to us. Schools and daycares are closed, making it difficult for the essential workers with children to get to work. Parents who never considered home-schooling, are forced to do so, as many schools will not open for the remainder of the school year. Non-essential workers find themselves working from home (if their jobs can feasibly allow that). The streets are almost deserted, and we find ourselves wondering if the few people we see out, have a legitimate reason to be out, or if they had simply gone rogue. Normally we care little for the goings on of other people on the street, and we are used to many people going many places. Most of us hardly notice the people around us going about their daily commutes or errands. We were too busy with our own lives to care about what others were doing. Now, however, we find ourselves looking at the people who are out and about, wondering if they really should be more responsible and stay at home.

As pandemics do, this one too shall pass, but what of our country. Will we start to be more caring for others? Will we work to get closer to our families, neighbors, and friends? Will we suddenly know that we can use a lot less of things that we may have been wasteful with before? Will we continue to pray over people and say things like “God Bless America,” or are these things just something we do because we have been caught up in the moment? Or will we, like so many times before, forget about all this a year from now? It is my hope that we will step up and make some permanent changes in our lives. The people of the earth have maybe been very selfish, thinking only of ourselves and those we care about, but maybe we shouldn’t be that way. Life as we knew it changed with COVID19’s entrance on the world stage. What we do next will determine how history views the generations of people alive today. Will we be viewed as reckless and unfeeling, or will we be viewed as the most amazing generation ever to deal with a global disaster? The outcome really depends on us.

As we head into Spring, the Farmers start planning for the spring planting. In man’s early years, that meant finding a stick to poke a hole in the ground so the seeds could be placed in the hole and covered. While that may have been fine for the small one-family garden, it was ineffective for the large farms we have today. Supplying many people with food, like today’s farmers do, means that plowing and planting has to be more streamlined.

Watching shows like Little House on the Prairie, and others that took in a planting period, most of us have seen the hand plow used by farmers in the Old West. It was hooked up to a horse, and the farmer had to not only follow behind the horse, being careful to keep up, but also to force the blade of the plow into the dirt to turn it over. The plow worked, but it was very labor intensive…and in the heat of the day, a man could get heat stroke plowing his field…literally!!

The wheeled plow, which was drawn by oxen at first, but later by horses, made possible the northward spread of European agriculture. Finally, the farmer could sit and let the horse and machine do the work. It was still hot in the mid-day sun, but the work wasn’t so labor intensive. The 18th-century addition of the moldboard, which turned the furrow slice cut by the plowshare, was an important advance. The black hard-packed soil in the American Midwest in the mid-19th century challenged the strength of the existing plow. That was when American mechanic John Deere invented the all-steel one-piece share and moldboard. The three-wheel sulky plow followed and finally, with the introduction of the gasoline engine the tractor-drawn plow. Further improvements followed until we had the advanced farming equipment we have today. The plow has come a long way, and the work of a farmer has become a little easier, but it is still hard work, and without the farmers we would have serious food shortages. Thank you to all our farmers!! Don’t forget to thank a farmer today.

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