Mystery and History of Condoms

I”ve listened to debates in the romance community over the use of condoms by characters of historical fiction, whether it”s over the historical accuracy of the availability and use of condoms for the era or the opinion that the use of contraception dims the romance.  I”ve read a few westerns where the hero takes such extra precautions and I always found the descriptions interesting, but I honestly didn”t know any history about the material or availability. I”m currently at work on a new series (honest, I”m writing!) and the heroine of the third book in this series is a doctor whose father was a physician who treated many unfortunate women put to work in the “cribs” of New York. Her exposure to her father”s practice has left her with strong views on self-preservation for these women now that she”s starting her own practice in the wilds of Montana. But I needed to know if her views would have been supported by other physicians of the time, and while these days it seems you can”t turn a corner without running into a condom ad, would they have been available to cowboys on the western front? For anyone else who”s curious, here”s the bare bones of my discovery:

The use of condoms has actually been traced back several thousand years. It is believed that around 1000 BC the ancient Egyptians used a linen sheath for protection against disease. The earliest evidence of condom use in Europe comes from scenes in cave paintings at Combarelles in France. There is also some evidence that some form of condom was used in imperial Rome.

The syphilis epidemic that spread across Europe gave rise to the first published account of the condom. Gabrielle Fallopius described a sheath of linen he claimed to have invented to protect men against syphilis. Having been found useful for prevention of infection, it was only later that the usefulness of the condom for the prevention of pregnancy was recognized. Later in the 1500s, one of the first improvements to the condom was made, when the linen cloth sheaths were sometimes soaked in a chemical solution and then allowed to dry prior to use. These were the first spermicides on condoms.

The first published use of the world “condum” was in a 1706 poem. It has also been suggested that Condom

Casanova entertained his women by blowing up his "English overcoats" like balloons (Library of Congress).

was a doctor in the time of Charles II. It is believed that he invented the device to help the king to prevent the birth of more illegitimate children. 18th century condoms were available in a variety of qualities and sizes, made from either linen treated with chemicals, or “skin” (bladder or intestine softened by treatment with sulphur and lye). They were sold at pubs, barbershops, chemist shops, open-air markets, and at the theater throughout Europe and Russia. The first recorded inspection of condom quality is found in the memoirs of Giacomo Casanova (which cover his life until 1774): to test for holes, he would often blow them up before use.

I found this picture and the next tidbit of info on the website of James Marsh–(History of the Condom
” Introduction” by James H. Marsh for the book Hardware: The Art of Prevention, edited by Hugh Rigby and Susan Leibtag)

The promise that the condom could, as Casanova himself wrote, put “one”s mind at rest” about unwanted pregnancy (and heirs) was the second great appeal. A 17th century poem by the son of a prominent English bishop even rejoiced in the liberating effect that the condom would have on young women, now freed from the “big Belly, and the squawking brat.”

Early condoms were made from sheep”s caeca, the large blind pouch forming the beginning of the large intestine. It was steeped in water, scraped and washed. “Superfine” condoms were scented, stretched on a mould and polished with glass. The first known advertisements for condoms, in 17th century London, were handbills carrying the following sales pitch:

“To guard yourself from shame or fear,
Votaries to Venus, fasten here;
None in our wares e”er found a flaw,
Self-preservation”s nature”s law.”

This now familiar claim of reliability resulted in orders from France, Spain, Portugal, Italy and elsewhere. However, they were quite expensive and the unfortunate result was that they were often reused. This type of condom was described at the time as “an armour against pleasure, and a cobweb against infection”. In the second half of the 1700″s, a trade in handmade condoms thrived in London and some shops where producing handbills and advertisements of condoms. In the 1840s, advertisements for condoms began to appear in British newspapers.

It was not until Goodyear invented the process of vulcanizing rubber in 1843-44 that there was a real means of producing cheaper and truly reliable condoms. The use of condoms was affected by technological, economic and social development in Europe and the US in the 1800s.

Condom manufacturing was revolutionized by the discovery of rubber vulcanisation by Goodyear (founder of the tyre company) and Hancock. This meant that is was possible to mass produce rubber goods including condoms quickly and cheaply. Vulcanisation is a process, which turns the rubber into a strong elastic material.

Since sex outside marriage or even within it, when it is not for the purpose of procreation, regarded as a sin in Western Christian society, the little apparatus was immediately reviled by the Church as a “filthy” and “nasty” incitement to lust. The attitude was that disease, even death, is just punishment for sexual transgression. Not everyone shared this view, and from the 1820s through the 1870s, popular women and men lecturers traveled around America teaching about physiology and sexual matters. Many of them sold birth control devices, including condoms, after their lectures. They were condemned by many moralists and medical professionals, including America”s first woman doctor Elizabeth Blackwell. Blackwell accused the lecturers of spreading doctrines of “abortion and prostitution”.

In 1861,the first advertisement for condoms was published in an American newspaper when The New York Times printed an ad. for “Dr. Power”s French Preventatives.” “Rubbers” became widely available, but they still needed a means of advertisement. This was provided by 19th century sociology as the Malthusian league persuasively linked overpopulation and poverty and made dire predictions for the future if population was not controlled. The League promoted the use of condoms but made little headway until two of its members were tried and jailed for their activities. Press reports of the trial carried information on contraception further than the League had dared. The spread of this information has been convincingly linked to the decline in the English birth rate in the late 19th century.

In 1873, the Comstock Law was passed in the United States. Named after Anthony Comstock, the Comstock Law made illegal the advertising of any sort of birth control, and it also allowed the postal service to confiscate condoms sold through the mail. State laws banned the manufacture and sale of condoms in thirty states.Incidentally, in the second half of the 19th century, American rates of sexually transmitted diseases skyrocketed. Causes cited by historians include effects of the American Civil War, and the ignorance of prevention methods promoted by the Comstock laws. To fight the growing epidemic, sexual education classes were introduced to public schools for the first time, teaching about venereal diseases and how they were transmitted. They generally taught that abstinence was the only way to avoid sexually transmitted diseases. Condoms were not promoted for disease prevention; the moral watchdogs of the medical community considered STDs to be punishment for sexual misbehavior. The stigma on victims of these diseases was so great that many hospitals refused to treat people who had syphilis.

So, there you have it–like today”s media, more info than you ever wanted, huh? I also had to wonder if “Comstock” was a common name back then (Comstock Load) or one very prominent family–perhaps the source of another topic…  As for relevance to my work, my post-Civil-War series is set during the highpoint of contraceptive distribution and awareness, though my heroine”s views wouldn”t have been supported by popular opinion in the medical community. But then, my heroines tend to go against the grain 😉

Off for some R&R…

Okay, so neither the title or the picture are quite right since I walked about 15 miles today (not exactly REST or RELAXATION, but it was FUN 🙂 ) and someone forgot to pack the fishing gear. But at least we made it out of Dodge earlier this week, minus my cell phone (how is it that I pack for FOUR, and forget my own phone?? Although I did pack the charger 🙁 ), but such is the hazard with a spur-of-the-moment escape plan.

When I was whisked away to the coast I hadn’t yet planned a topic for my Friday blog day. So here I sit at midnight on Thursday, ever so thankful for the neighbor’s generous wifi signal ;-), racking my brain for a topic while trying to ignore the radiating heat of a sunburn…….hey, how about some vacation packing tips?!

  • Tip #1 – Sunscreen is a MUST. For all those pasty cave-dwellers like myself, REAPPLY sunscreen at noon. No matter how thick you slavved it on in the morning–REAPPLY.
  • Tip #2 – When heading to the beach, check to make sure he who said he’d pack all the beach/fishing gear actually puts said gear IN THE TRUCK.
  • Tip #3 – Always take a Swiss army knife—which has already de-slivered, de-twined and fixed a dental retainer emergency 😉
  • Tip #4 – Always pack a flashlight because power-outages happen everywhere….and they’re handy for hunting sand crabs in the dark 😀
  • Tip #5 – Doesn’t matter where you’re going, you can’t pack too much water, paper towel or zip-lock bags.
  • Tip #6 – Always pack a medical kit:
  • Solarcaine Spray
  • Tylenol, Motrin
  • Band-Aids/gauze roll
  • Ice Pack
  • Polysporin
  • Peroxide
  • Benadryl
  • Visine Eye drops

And, yeah, we’ve used about everything in that kit so far! Fun can be hard on the health 😉  But we are having a blast! After today’s marathon of adventure I’m wishing I’d packed a masseuse, and my over-baked, aching muscles are looking forward to spending Friday sprawled in a beach chair while the teenagers run amuck in the surf 😀

Wishing everyone fun & safe vacations and a Happy Friday!!

 

COWBOYS & ALIENS!

I have been waiting over a YEAR for this movie to come out!!! Seriously don’t remember when I’ve been so psyched for a movie to hit the big screen. And that was even before I knew Harrison Ford would be cast as Colonel Woodrow Dolarhyde—*sigh* A western writer whose favorite movies are Independence Day, 3:10 to Yuma, and Wild, Wild West (with Will Smith), this movie is like all those wrapped into one!

Even cooler, I’d read the 2006 graphic novel this movie is based on.  My oldest son likes graphic novels (anything to get teens to read!) and it’s  likely no surprise a title like Cowboys & Aliens would appeal to me.  I really enjoy reading Sci-Fi and Steam Punk, makes me wish my creative brain went in that direction.  Just hearing the buzz that this graphic novel was being brought to the big screen after Comic-Con last year had me going all shrieking-fan-girl  🙂  There’s also an interesting story behind this novel’s progression to the big screen. Seems Scott Mitchell Rosenberg, chairman of Platinum Studios, the comic book company behind Men in Black and Witchblade, came up with the concept and trademarked the name Cowboys & Aliens back in 1997. He then took the name and a cover illustration to the movie studios to try and get them interested before a book had even been written. Universal Pictures and DreamWorks bought film rights based on his concept pitch! The original screen writer hired by the studio became sidelined with other projects and the movie never got off the ground. In 2004 Columbia Pictures acquired the film rights, but again, never made it through story development. Rosenberg rounded up his own writers, Fred Van Lente and Andrew Foley, with penciler Luciano Lima, and published the graphic novel in 2006.  After the huge success of the novel’s release–thanks to an insane funding/promotional campaign by Rosenberg–Universal Pictures and DreamWorks re-acquired the rights and BA-DA-BOOM, I get my movie 😀 

Makes it all sound so easy, huh? The previews look amazing!

Here’s a short synopsis of the movie: In 1873 Arizona, a loner named Jake Lonergan (Daniel Craig) awakens with no memory of his past and a mysterious shackle around his wrist. He enters the town of Absolution where he learns that he is a notorious criminal wanted by many people, including Colonel Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford), who rules the town with an iron fist. Absolution soon faces an even greater threat when alien spaceships attack the town. While his shackle holds the key to defeating the aliens, Lonergan must ally with Dolarhyde and other former enemies to make a stand against them.

For those who haven’t seen a movie preview….enjoy 😀

 

 

Twenty more days!!! Anyone else counting down?

The Outlaw Josey Wales

 

The Outlaw Josey Wales is my favorite western movie classic, and certainly a favorite western read. A gritty western with touches of humor and a slight splash of romance, what I like most about this story is the detail to history and the stark portrayal of good and bad in EVERYONE. At the start Josey Wales is a peaceful Missouri farmer. He’s driven to revenge by the brutal murder of his wife and son by a band of pro-Union Jayhawkers — Senator James H. Lane’s Redlegs from Kansas.

Wales joins a group of pro-Confederate Missouri guerrillas/bushwhackers led by William T. Anderson. At the conclusion of the war, Captain Fletcher persuades the guerrillas to surrender, saying they have been granted amnesty. Josey Wales, still holding a grudge, refuses to surrender. As a result, he survives the massacre of the men by Captain Terrill’s Redlegs, who’ve now joined the Union Army. Wales intervenes and guns down several Redlegs with a Gatling gun.

Senator Lane puts up a $5,000 bounty on Wales. Wales begins a life on the run from Union militia and bounty hunters while still seeking vengeance and a chance for a new beginning in Texas. Along the way, he unwillingly accumulates a diverse group of traveling companions despite all indications that he would rather be left alone. His companions include a wily old Cherokee named Lone Watie, a young Navajo woman, and an elderly Yankee woman from Kansas and her granddaughter rescued from a band of Comancheros.

In the final showdown, Josey and his companions are cornered in a ranch house which is fortified to withstand Indian raids.

The film  was inspired by a 1972 novel by Forrest Carter, originally titled Gone to Texas and later retitled The Rebel Outlaw: Josey Wales.  I’m much more inclined to curl up with a book than turn on the tube–but as far as movies go, this is one that can hold me captive from the first scene to the last. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it! I watched it again last summer on the History Channel.

The script was worked on by Sonia Chernus and producer Bob Daley, and Eastwood himself paid some of the money to obtain the screen rights. Michael Cimino and Philip Kaufman later oversaw the writing of the script. Kaufman wanted the film to stay as close to the novel as possible and retained many of the mannerisms in Wales’s character which Eastwood would display on screen, such as his distinctive lingo with words like “reckon”, “hoss” (instead of “horse”) and “ye” (instead of “you”) and spitting tobacco juice on animals and victims. The characters of Wales, the Cherokee chief, Navajo squaw and the old settler woman and her daughter all appeared in the novel In 1996, the film was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress.

Here’s an original movie trailer:

 

I found a site with favorite quotes from the movie. Here’s a few of my favorite:


Josey Wales: Now remember, when things look bad and it looks like you’re not gonna make it, then you gotta get mean. I mean plumb, mad-dog mean. ‘Cause if you lose your head and you give up then you neither live nor win. That’s just the way it is.

**

Laura Lee: Kansas was all golden and smelled like sunshine.
Josey Wales: Yeah, well, I always heard there were three kinds of suns in Kansas, sunshine, sunflowers, and sons-of-bitches.

**

Josey Wales: When I get to likin’ someone, they ain’t around long.
Lone Watie: I notice when you get to DISlikin’ someone they ain’t around for long neither.

**

Carpetbagger: Your young friend could use some help.
[holds up a bottle of patent medicine This is it… one dollar a bottle. It works wonders on wounds.
Josey Wales: Works wonders on just about everything, eh?
Carpetbagger: It can do most anything.
Josey Wales: [spits tobacco juice on the carpetbagger’s coat] How is it with stains?

***

Josie Wales: You be Ten Bears?
Ten Bears: I am Ten Bears.
Josie Wales: I’m Josey Wales.
Ten Bears: I have heard. You are the grey rider. You would not make peace with the Bluecoats. You may go in peace.
Josie Wales: I reckon not. I got no place else to go.
Ten Bears: Then you will die.
Josie Wales: I came here to die with you. Or to live with you…I ain’t promising you nothing extra. I’m just giving you life and you’re giving me life. And I’m saying that men can live together without butchering one another.
Ten Bears: It’s sad that governments are chiefed by the double tongues. There is iron in your words of death for all Comanche to see, and so there is iron in your words of life. No signed paper can hold the iron. It must come from men. The words of Ten Bears carries the same iron of life and death. It is good that warriors such as we meet in the struggle of life… or death. It shall be life.

Eastwood has called The Outlaw Josey Wales an anti-war film. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, he said:

“As for Josey Wales, I saw the parallels to the modern day at that time. Everybody gets tired of it, but it never ends. A war is a horrible thing, but it’s also a unifier of countries. . . . Man becomes his most creative during war. Look at the amount of weaponry that was made in four short years of World War II—the amount of ships and guns and tanks and inventions and planes and P-38s and P-51s, and just the urgency and the camaraderie, and the unifying. But that’s kind of a sad statement on mankind, if that’s what it takes.”

 

Getting Involved with Relay For Life

Until this year, I didn’t know much about Relay for Life, other than it was an annual event in our little town to raise money for the American Cancer Society. I’ve donated each year, but, being the hermit that I am (classic anti-social writer here), I’ve never attended an event. My youngest (who turns 16 today!) decided to change that, announcing he was going to start a team for this year’s relay. Cancer has become a prominent villain in our family, lung cancer taking the life of my hubby’s brother this past January, his uncle in August, and his father is currently fighting Leukemia and thyroid cancer. Two of my grandmothers also lost their battles with cancer.

Ethan and I attended his first relay captain’s meeting last month and I have to say I was shocked, impressed, and,  uhm, a tad overwhelmed by what a huge event this really is, and all that it offers a community. Figured I’d share some of my enlightenment for those who might also live in a writer-like-bat-cave like me.

I hadn’t realized the relay was an event for anyone other than those who’d signed up to beat-feet around a track for 24 hours–but it’s so much more. A kind of community fair to educate, commemorate and raise support for all those affected by cancer.  Aside from those walking, there’s food booths, music, raffles, and games for spectators. We also found out that each teams base camp isn’t just a place for team members to rest and crash throughout the day, but little info centers. Each team has a Fight Back Mission and they chooses a type of cancer, decorate their camp in those Cancer Awareness Colors (click here to see a list of color awareness colors), and create displays or activities to inform and educate visitors to their camp. For team members, every hour of walking also has a dress-up theme (Hawaiian Vacation, Mardi Gras, Crazy Hat, Patriotic, PJs) keeping team members on their toes.

Here’s a YouTube Video I thought gave a cool overview:

Relays are going on all over the States during the next couple months. Our relay isn’t until June, so my boys are still trying to raise donations for their team. Here’s a link to their’ team page–any donations are greatly appreciated 🙂 If you don’t know about a Relay For Life in your area, Google Relay For Life and your town–it’s an amazing way to spend a day. Here in our neck of the woods, it’s not too late to join a team 😉

For those who’ve attended past relays, have any experiences to share?

“Mad As A March Hare”

Having blogged last month about groundhogs and quirky associations to the month of February, my mind automatically turned to thoughts of the March Hare for this months post 🙂

The phrase “Mad as a March hare” has been bumping around in my head for as long as I can remember, but I never took the time to wonder “WHY?”. What is a march hare, where did he originate from and why is he bonkers?

Turns out this turn of phrase has everything to do with the crazy behavior of British bunnies, the European hare to be exact. A long-held view is that the hare will behave strangely and excitedly throughout its breeding season, which in Europe begins in March. This odd behavior includes boxing at other hares, jumping vertically for seemingly no reason and generally displaying abnormal behavior. Early observations of the boxing hares was believed to be between males fighting for breeding supremacy, but was later proven to be the defensive moves of females fighting off advances of overzealous frisky suitors.

An early verbal record of this animal’s strange behavior occurred in about 1500, in the poem Blowbol’s Test where the original poet said:

“Thanne þey begyn to swere and to stare, And be as braynles as a Marshe hare”
(Then they begin to swerve and to stare, And be as brainless as a March hare)

The March hare also has some association with our preferred time period of the 1800’s, as it was author Lewis Carroll’s book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, published in 1865, that truly coined the phrase and popularized (and there by immortalized) the saying with his character March Hare, whom most will recognize as the friend and tea party host of the Mad Hatter. The phrase “mad as a March Hare” was a popular saying of his time and in the early illustrations of Carroll’s book the March Hare wears straw around his head, a common way to depict madness in Victorian times. Lewis Carroll’s most famous writings,  Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking-Glass, as well as the poems “The Hunting of the Snark” and “Jabberwocky“, are all examples of the genre of literary nonsense. He is noted for his facility at word play, logic, and fantasy, and there are societies dedicated to the enjoyment and promotion of his works. The March Hare is Atlantic Canada’s largest poetry festival. The March Hare initiated in the 1980’s and began as an evening of poetry and entertainment in Corner Brook, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, and has evolved into an annual island-wide celebration of words and music. The festival took its name from the character in Carroll’s book. The name is also intended as a pun on the words here, celebrating a sense of place, and hear, since its focus is the spoken word.

So there you have it, the saying “mad as a March hare” originates from the crazy antics of horny Euro bunnies, an English idiomatic phrase which inspired the brilliance behind a genre of literary nonsense! Or is this more proof that love is what really drives us ALL mad? 😉

Wishing everyone a happy March!

The Merry Month of February

Okay, first off, before you read any further…what is the first thing the month of FEBRUARY brings to mind?  Your first thought, feeling or image?

Do you got it?

If you wouldn’t mind, type it in down in the comment section before peeking at the rest of the post, because I’d really like know 🙂

While rattling my brain for a blog topic my thoughts kept circling round to what month this is, ticking off points of possible interest and mostly coming back to my personal impression of the second month on our calender, which usually includes an eye-roll and the word *strange*. February has never made much sense to me, with it’s anti-phonetic spelling, disappearing dates, flying cherubs and schizty ground hogs…to me, February is the strangest month of the year, like Mad Hatter Month or something. And for some reason, I’m always surprised by how COLD it is in February–it’s like my mind thinks all the hearts and flowers associated with this month should heat the atmosphere.

So yeah, February has never made a ton of sense to me. To try and makes sense of these oddities, I did some fact finding for our fair month of February.

February was named after the Latin term februum, which means purification, via the purification ritual Februa held on February 15 in the old Roman calendar. January and February were the last two months to be added to the Roman calendar, since the Romans originally considered winter a monthless period. They were added by Numa Pompilius about 713 BC. February remained the last month of the calendar year until the time of the decemvirs (c. 450 BC), when it became the second month. At certain intervals February was truncated to 23 or 24 days; and a 27-day intercalary month, Intercalaris, was inserted immediately after February to realign the year with the seasons.

Under the reforms that instituted the Julian calendar, Intercalaris was abolished, leap years occurred regularly every fourth year (after a few years of confusion), and in leap years February gained a 29th day. Thereafter, it remained the second month of the calendar year, meaning the order that months are displayed (January, February, March, …, December) within a year-at-a-glance calendar. Even during the Middle Ages, when the numbered Anno Domini year began on March 25 or December 25, the second month was February whenever all twelve months were displayed in order. The Gregorian calendar reforms made slight changes to the system for determining which years were leap years and thus contained a 29-day February.

Historical names for February include the Anglo-Saxon terms Solmonath (mud month) and Kale-monath (named for cabbage) as well as Charlemagne’s designation Hornung. In Finnish, the month is called helmikuu, meaning “month of the pearl”; when snow melts on tree branches, it forms droplets, and as these freeze again, they are like pearls of ice.

Most pronounce February “Febyouary” or “Feberwary”. This comes about by a dissimilation effect whereby having two “r”s close to each other causes one to change for ease of pronunciation. As a kid I was sure some evil teacher had come up with the *hidden letter* spelling just to torture us spelling-challenged students 😉

Major events for the month include Ground Hog Day, Valentine’s Day and Presidents Day–Washington and Lincoln both being born in February. Did y’all know Ground Hog day goes back a thousand years? Some ancient traditions marked the change of season at cross-quarter days such as Imbolc when daylight first makes significant progress against the night. Other traditions held that Spring did not begin until the length of daylight overtook night at the Vernal Equinox. So an arbiter, the groundhog/hedgehog, was incorporated as a yearly custom to settle the two traditions. Sometimes Spring begins at Imbolc, and sometimes Winter lasts 6 more weeks until the equinox. Here in the US The holiday it began as a Pennsylvania German custom in southeastern and central Pennsylvania in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Click HERE to see a video of this year’s prediction by Phil, our most famous ground hog in Punxsutwney, PA. Sort of confirms my thoughts that February is the strangest month of the year  😉

Here’s a list of holidays/events for February:

  • Parent Leadership Month
  • Aboliltion of Slavery in Mauritius:February 1
  • St Brigid’s Day: February 1, Ireland
  • Groundhog Day: February 2, United States and Canada
  • Imbolc: February 2
  • Chinese new Year: February 3rd
  • Independence of Sri Lanka: February 4
  • 1917 Constitution of Mexico: February 5
  • Waitangi Day in New Zealand: February 6
  • Vignesh kanna’s birth day in India:February 7
  • Slovenian Cultural Holiday: February 8
  • National Foundation Day in Japan: February 11
  • Abraham Lincoln’s birthday: February 12, United States
  • Lucia dos Santos died on February 13, 2005, at 97 years old
  • Valentine’s Day: February 14
  • Flag Day of Canada: February 15
  • Presidents Day (United States, third Monday)
  • International Mother Language Day: February 21
  • Independence Day in Saint Lucia: February 22
  • George Washington’s birthday: February 22, United States (often coincides with President’s Day, see above)
  • Flag Day of Mexico: February 24
  • People Power Revolution (Philippines) February 25
  • Stacey’s Wedding Anniversary 🙂  February 26
  • Dominican Republic Independence: February 27
  • Leap Day: February 29 (Every four years, with some exceptions)
  • Black History Month (Canada and United States)
  • National Day of the Sun (in Argentina)
  • National Wear Red Day (in the US and the UK)
  • National Bird-Feeding Month

Oh, and let’s not forget Super Bowl Sunday!  My inlaws are from Wisconsin so we’ll have a house full of cheese heads 😀

Hope I was able to add to your associations with this crazy month 😉  Whatever you are celebrating this month, I hope you have a healthy and happy February!

Billiard Halls & Pool Tables

My dining has recently been converted into a billiard room…so of course I had to look into the history of billiard halls. I’ve never read much about billiard tables in western novels, and while I know their popularity in Europe goes back for centuries, I figured this particular form of recreation had to be around during the old west era. Sure enough, the popularity of “pool tables” here in the States began to boom in the 1800’s. In fact, the Americanized name came about during this era due to tendencies for wages to be placed on the games or gambling pool as it were, and the name “Pool Table” stuck.

As for a general history on billiard tables, no one really knows of the very first origin. Billiards was played as an out door lawn game, resembling golf or croquet, in Northern Europe during the 1500 century.The first actual evidence of billiards was found in the 1470 inventory of King Louis XI of France in the form of a billiard game boards. Historians are unclear about the reasons for the evolution of these games. Whether it was merely for entertainment or served some social or religious functions in ancient times is still an intriguing debate among historians.

Billiards graduated to indoor games and became popular among aristocrats and commoners in France by the mid 1500’s. Billiards a game of subtle physical deliverance, profound concentration and metal agility allowed fair play and equal footage to players of both sexes. By the mid 1600’s, the table version similar to today’s games appeared. Soon, billiards acquired its status as a scientific game with precisely designed equipment, manufacturing plants for tables, standardized rules.

Billiard equipment improved rapidly in England after 1800, largely because of the Industrial Revolution. Chalk was used to increase friction between the ball and the cue stick even before cues had tips. The leather cue tip, with which a player can apply side-spin to the ball, was perfected by 1823. Tables originally had flat walls for rails and their only function was to keep the balls from falling off. They resembled river banks and even used to be called “banks”. Players discovered that balls could bounce off the rails and began deliberately aiming at them. Thus a “bank shot” is one in which a ball is made to rebound from a cushion as part of the shot.

The leather cue tip initially designed by Captain Minguard for protection of the cue added a new dimension to the game. By 1850’s, billiards invaded most of the world. In 1826, England’s John Thurstion changed the wooden game board to slate. By 1797, new fabric replaced cotton or wool to improve smoothness and friction. Balls evolved from wood to ivory to the present Colloidal coated plastic form by 1869.

From 1878 until 1956, pool and billiard championship tournaments were held almost annually, with one-on-one challenge matches filling the remaining months. At times, including during the Civil War, billiard results received wider coverage than war news. Players were so renowned that cigarette cards were issued featuring them. Pool went to war several times as a popular recreation for the troops. Professional players toured military posts giving exhibitions; some even worked in the defense Industry.

Today pool tables come in all kinds of styles and range from seven to nine feet. They have converter tops so you can use it as dining room table…which we will be implementing.

I’ve found shooting a round to be really relaxing…especially when playing against myself *g*, although I have a bunch of nephews who are eager to give their auntie valuable pointers 😉

Anyone else enjoy a game of pool?  What’s in your game room?  🙂

The Heart of Cooking ~ A Charity Cookbook

We love to share recipes here at Wildflower Junction. A few months back I was delighted to be invited to take part in a cookbook featuring recipes from 130 authors, which also includes fellow Fillies Elizabeth, Mary, Vicki, and Cheryl St. John. The proceeds from the cookbook go to Snap-4-Kids. With the holidays coming up I figured this would be a great time to share info about the cookbook and Snap-4-Kids. The Heart of Cooking could be a fun gift idea, and all for a super cause 😀

Snap-4-Kids is an organization established to raise money for families of special needs children. Here is their mission statement: “Our Mission is assisting families of children with special needs, especially the physically challenged, in helping their child reach his/her maximum potential through information, referral, education, and modest grants for medical and therapeutic equipment, not covered by health insurance or in the case of no health insurance, throughout the United States, from birth to age 22.  By helping children with special needs in reaching their maximum potential, we are giving them the greatest gift that we can.”

The Heart of Cooking
includes 170 recipes for a variety of food, as well as author pictures and bios. Some of the recipes also include personal stories about the recipes. Click on the cookbook for a list of all the contributing authors, the buy link and more information on the Snap-4-Kids foundation.

It’s likely no surprise my contribution has to do with potatoes (my favorite food!), a recipe I’d been cooking frequently at the time. Now I’m wishing I’d have sent the recipe for YESTERDAY’S MASHED POTATOES, a yummy recipe my mother-in-law turned me onto that could come in handy with holiday leftover mashed potatoes. But since I didn’t, I’ll post it today 🙂

YESTERDAY’S MASHED POTATOES

Ingredients:
6 cups leftover mashed potatoes (or you can use fresh, sometimes I can’t wait for leftovers)
1 pint sour cream (or plain yogurt)
1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 1/2 cup grated Cheddar cheese

Directions:
In a medium bowl mix mash potatoes, sour cream and parsley. Set aside. Spray a casserole dish with non-stick spray. Spread layer of mashed potato-sour cream mixture in casserole then layer of cheddar cheese; repeat. End with topping of remaining grated cheese. Cover and bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees F.

M-m-mmm goodness 😉

Do you have a favorite potato recipe, or perhaps a favorite cookbook we should hunt down?

Before and After a Boom

I absolutely love this picture. This is just the kind of image of that can transport my brain to another era, like falling into the rabbit hole.  Doesn’t it just come alive? Makes me feel like I’m standing right there on the edge of town…a tiny new community popping up in the middle of no where…which is exactly what happened in this historic town of Bodie, California. I came across this picture while looking up info on Montana mining towns, but I marked the site because I was really struck by the contrast in pictures, like I”d been pulled into the bright shiny start of a new gold rush community and then dropped into the aftermath following the boom by the picture below.

Here’s Bodie from another angle, the ghost town I’d expect to see nowadays with a skeletal reminder of its booming heydays. Can you see the church?  Kind of  spooky the difference lighting and angle can make. Bodie was a Quintessential boom town, making a sleepy start in 1859 when prospector W. S. Bodey discovered some gold. He died during a freak blizzard in November of that year, so the town was named in his honor…sort of.  A painter accidentally lettered the stable sign to read “Bodie Stables”, and the new spelling was adopted by the town.

Bodie remained an obscure little mining community with a handful of residents until 1876. A large deposit of gold-bearing ore was discovered and by 1880 the population had exploded to nearly 8,000.  The town grew to more than 2,000 buildings, including two banks, a brass band, railroad, miner’s and mechanic’s unions, several newspapers, and a jail. Over the years Bodie produced nearly $34 million worth of ore and bullion.

At its peak 65 saloons lined Main Street, which was a mile long. Murders, shootouts, barroom brawls, and stagecoach holdups were regular occurrences. “Badman from Bodie” described the town’s rambunctious inhabitants, earning the community a reputation for violence that rivaled Tombstone, Deadwood and Dodge City. Eventually the gold went the way of water in these hills…and the booming town dried up along with it.

Here’s an interesting tidbit I found on Bodie History.com:

The Founder Has His Day

“Bodie’s confirmed status as a gold-producing community inspired its historically-minded citizens to wonder about the unfortunate prospector who had succumbed in a snowstorm some 20 years earlier and become the town’s namesake. They located his shallow grave and dug up his bones. One area pioneer said the remains were those of William S. Bodey from New York, but his presumed widow in Poughkeepsie said his first name was really “Wakeman.” The New York Times printed “Waterman.” Despite uncertainty, which continues to this day, citizens organized a grand funeral procession and formally interred the bones in the town cemetery. But they failed to mark the new grave and quickly forgot its location.

Still, it’s the spark  of life in the first picture that really takes me back.  Do you feel it?  Or maybe that picture really makes me believe in GHOST towns 😉