So many of the men and women who return from combat, when many of their buddies didn’t, suffer from a multitude of feelings. Many feel like it should been them killed in the bombing, shooting, plane crash, or whatever it might have been that took their buddy or buddies, and somehow let them alive. No matter that they were quite possibly wounded too, maybe even lost a limb. The point was that somehow they had come back alive, and they carry the guilt of that with them always.
Some of those returning heroes struggle with the loss of their feeling all their lives. Some of them take risks, feeling like they are living on borrowed time, and if their time comes, it will almost be a form of justice. Some feel like it is borrowed time, but look at it more like living a gift. They might try to live up to what they think would make their buddies would be proud of. It doesn’t matter how they live their lives, for some, it will never be enough…in their minds anyway. They feel like their buddy died, and because of that, they can have a family…one their buddy never got to have. And if those buddies who were lost had a family, they feel an even greater burden, because not only did their buddy lose out of being with his family, but the family lost him too.
War is not an easy thing to go through, and those of us who are home, especially those of us with no one in the war, cannot really understand what they go through either in the war, or after the war. It’s impossible. There are other kinds of survivors guilt, and I don’t suppose one is easier than the other, but it seems to me that because of the trust, companionship, and love these men feel for each other; and the idea that in the end, he couldn’t save the buddy or buddies who he felt were somehow his responsibility…well, it would be devastating. I can’t even begin to imagine. And the mind is a tough thing to get past, once it gets an idea firmly ingrained in it. For many soldiers, finally deciding that they aren’t living on borrowed time is a lifelong process, and all their family can do is pray they can make the transition back to living life again. I pray they can too.
In the early years of Wyoming’s history, there was contention between cattle ranchers and sheep ranchers. The cattlemen thought the land was theirs, and they thought the sheepmen were invading their domain, and they weren’t going to allow it. Cattlemen were first to arrive in the Big Horn Basin, trailing in huge herds of cattle in 1879. They insisted their early arrival established a prior claim to the grass on the government land where their herds grazed. But the law said otherwise. The Cattle and Sheep Wars sprung from this dispute in the Western United States, but they were most common in Texas, Arizona, and the border region of Wyoming and Colorado. The cattlemen thought the sheep destroyed the public grazing lands, which they had to share on a first-come, first-served basis.
On April 2, 1909, the range war between the cattlemen and sheepmen in the Ten Sleep, Wyoming area came to a head, when a group of cattlemen decided that they were going to settle this battle once and for all. They headed to Spring Creek seven miles south of Ten Sleep, Wyoming where they knew of a camp. This was to be the last of the sheep raids in the Big Horn Basin. That fateful day, seven cattlemen attacked a sheep camp near Spring Creek, just south of Ten Sleep, in the southern Big Horn Basin. When the raiders attacked, they killed three men, two of whom the burned to death in their sheep wagon. Then shooting the third man, the decided to kidnap two others. Then they killed the sheep dogs and dozens of sheep and destroyed thousands of dollars of personal property. It was the deadliest sheep raid in Wyoming history. I understand killing in war, but this was murder, and it was horrific!!
Wyoming was a territory from July 25, 1868 to July 10, 1890. Early on, there were more cattle ranches than sheep ranches, and the cattlemen felt like they had priority to public lands. Sheep raids began to plague Wyoming since the late 1890s, by which time sheep outnumbered cattle on Wyoming ranges. By 1909, at least six men had been killed, thousands of sheep had been slaughtered, and many thousands of dollars of property destroyed. Nevertheless, there had not been a single conviction for a crime committed during a sheep raid.
It’s really no surprise, given the rising numbers of sheep on the range in those years, that cattlemen were feeling pressured. By 1894 there were 1.7 million sheep in Wyoming and only 675,000 cattle. By 1909, the state’s peak year for sheep, there were more than six million sheep, and only 675,000 cattle. It makes sense that there were tensions, but that did not excuse the men on either side committing murder. Yes, Wyoming was a part of the wild west, and the lawmen were not always readily available, but that did not mean that these men should be able to kill the competition. We are ultimately, civilized people after all, even if we do live in the wild west. After the arrests for the Spring Creek Raid, the cattlemen we reluctant to raid the sheep camps, and with that, a horrific event of the old west passed into history.
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.
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.
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.
He came from a family of seafaring lawmen in Massachusetts, and a long line of English sailors of the Seven Seas. Nevertheless, David Allen Mather was known as Mysterious Dave, because people weren’t sure if he was a lawman or a killer. Mather was born on August 10, 1851, to Ulysses and Lycia Mather. Mysterious Dave could often be found wearing royal blue and red, as a proud display of his English heritage…even as he got older. Because some of his family members were lawmen in Massachusetts, Mysterious Dave decided that he wanted to become a lawman himself, but he was a small man with square but weak shoulders, dark eyes, and a mustache. Mather was not a talkative man, earning him the nickname of “Mysterious Dave.”
While Mather wanted to be a lawman, he wasn’t always true to his chosen profession. Like so many other lawmen of the Old West, sometimes necessity caused him to operate on both sides of the fence. Sometimes he was on the side of the law, and other times he could be found riding with outlaws. It didn’t instill much confidence in the law. The townspeople might find themselves with out protection, because the local sheriff is part of the gang that is robbing the local bank.
Mather’s parents died before he was 16, so he and his brother, Josiah headed west. By 1873, Mather was cattle rustling in Sharp County, Arkansas. A year later, Mather discovered Dodge City, Kansas, a town he would return to frequently…both as a lawman and an outlaw. He also loved to head into Denver, Colorado, always with twin Colts bulging under his coat, to frequent the saloons there. He was interested in watching the gamblers at the faro, blackjack, and poker tables, but strangely, he never gambled himself.
Mather had made his way to Mobeetie, Texas by 1878, and began hanging out with Wyatt Earp. Before long a suspicious story emerged placing the two men running a con game peddling “gold” bricks to the naïve citizens of Mobeetie. Mather hooked up with outlaw Dutch Henry Born in 1879. Born was the leader of a horse-stealing ring operating in a huge area from Kansas, to eastern Colorado and New Mexico, and the Texas Panhandle. Before long Mather was arrested with Henry Born, but was later released…somehow beating the rap. Next, Mather was picked up for complicity in a train robbery near Las Vegas, New Mexico, but somehow dodged a bullet there too, when he was acquitted. Somehow the people of Las Vegas decided that Mather would make a great Deputy Marshal. Apparently he had mixed emotions on that score, because soon, he became part of the notorious Dodge City Gang that was terrorizing the city of Las Vegas New Mexico. What??? I thought he was supposed to be protecting them!!
On January 22, 1880, T.J. House, James West, John Dorsey, and William Randall terrorizing the town, laughing and looking for trouble. When they entered the Close and Patterson Variety Hall, Marshal Joe Carson asked them to check their guns but they refused. In the ensuing gunfight, Carson was killed immediately, while Deputy “Mysterious” Dave Mather killed Randall and dropped West. John Dorsey, though wounded, and T.J. House managed to escape. The whereabouts of Dorsey and House was learned on February 5. They were at the home of Juan Antonio Dominguez in Buena Vista, thirty miles north of Las Vegas. They formed a posse including J.J. Webb, Dave Rudabaugh, and five other men. They surrounded the home and told the men to surrender. Dorsey and House complied after assurance of protection from the citizens of Las Vegas were given. The assurance wouldn’t mean much, because within hours of the men being placed in the Old Town Jail, local vigilantes charged the jailers, taking the men to the windmill on the Plaza, where they were to be hanged. Mrs Carson opened fire on the men, and the opportunity was lost.
After Marshal Carson’s death, the people decided to appoint Mather as the Las Vegas Marshal, but he couldn’t keep to one side of the law, and soon moved on again after being accused of “promiscuous shooting” in his capacity as marshal. He served a short stint as Assistant Marshal in El Paso, Texas, but an altercation in a brothel caused Mather to be slightly wounded. He decided to return to Dodge City where he was hired as Assistant City Marshal.
By the time Mather returned to Dodge City, gambling, drinking, prostitution, and dance halls, often in open violation of the law, had all but taken over the town. The “Dodge City War” in the spring of 1883 was followed by pressure from the Santa Fe Railroad to clean up the town. David Mather was still at odds with the good people, but accepted the position of Dodge City Assistant Marshal. Before long, he was also the co-owner of the Opera House Saloon on Front Street.
Then a man named Thomas Nixon enter the picture. The city council objected to Mather’s decision to turn the Opera House Saloon into a dance hall and soon passed an ordinance banning all dance houses, mostly because of its prominent downtown location. Still, the council took no action whatsoever against another dance hall owned by Nixon, allegedly because of its remote location. This didn’t set well with Mather, and for several months, he and Nixon battled to put each other out of business. In 1884, the city government replaced Mysterious Dave with Nixon as the Assistant Marshal. With this action, the fight was on. The evening of July 18, 1884 found Nixon firing a gun at Mather, but only sprayed him with a few splinters. Three days later, Mather approached Nixon from behind and fired four bullets into his back, killing him instantly. Mather was later heard to say, “I ought to have killed him six months ago.”
Mather was acquitted of Nixon’s murder, but he killed another man the following year, and was run out of town by Marshal Bill Tilghman. After serving as city marshal in a couple of small towns in Kansas and Nebraska, Mysterious Dave moved on San Francisco, where he took a ship to Vancouver. Some reports say he soon enlisted in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, proving his prowess by showing what he could do with a pair of six guns and a horse. Little is known about what happened to Mysterious Dave after that. I guess he, like old soldiers, old lawmen, they simply fade away.
They say that “necessity is the mother of invention,” and never was that more true than for Ralph Teetor. The circumstances of his invention were of overwhelming necessity…to say the least. Teetor was blind, and because of that, he was forced to accept rides to wherever he chose to go. His friend, Harry Lindsay, who didn’t mind driving Teetor around, but who also had a notoriously “jerky accelerator foot.” Teetor couldn’t figure out why, Lindsay couldn’t keep the car at a consistent speed. When you think about it, a car that is being driven in a jerky manner would be a bit scary for a blind passenger, who has no idea why they might be possible stopping suddenly… or even if it just seems like they are stopping suddenly.
For Teetor, the possibility of things changing was impossible. He was not going to magically get his sight back, so something else had to change. Teetor was no stranger to the idea of inventing things. At the age of five, he endured a terrible accident, which left him in his disabled condition. He was incredibly young age, but Teetor refused to allow an accident to keep him from living a full life. At age 12, he was featured in the December 21, 1902 edition of the New York Herald for building a one-cylinder car to scoot around in his neighborhood. Here is how the Herald described him in 1902: “A constructor of miniature dynamos and other machinery at 10 and thoroughly versed in all that pertains to their operation, and at 12 the builder of an automobile that carries him about the streets of his native town and far out upon the country roads at a speed of from 18 to 25 miles an hour, is the remarkable record of Ralph Teetor of Hagerstown, Indiana.”
Teetor set out to solve his problem. He invented what we know today as the automobile cruise control system, which is an outer control loop that “takes over” control of the throttle…a task normally exercised by the driver through the accelerator pedal. Unlike the driver of the vehicle, the cruise control holds the vehicle speed steady at a set value. The invention worked perfectly on the first try, but being a perfectionist, Teetor spent the next decade tinkering with his design. By 1958, he had finally perfected his invention. Nevertheless, Cadillac began rolling it out in all of their cars by 1950. The only part of his invention that Teetor ever struggled with was the name. At first, the invention was known by “a host of names more suited for the Wiley Coyote: Speedostat, Touchomatic, and Auto-pilot.” Eventually, the designers at Chrysler came up with “cruise control.” It wasn’t flashy, but it was also less likely to be mistaken for “a kitchen appliance.” Teetor decided that sacrifices just had to be made sometimes. So now you know that the cruise control…the gas-conserving savior of long-distance drivers everywhere, actually came from one man’s pet peeve. I would imagine that if you were blind, and being thrown around in your seat because you couldn’t drive yourself, you might be pretty grouchy, too.