Pioneer Necessity

Water. It’s basic for life. Many of today’s cities and towns owe their location to the nearness of fresh water. Lakes, rivers, and streams have served humanity in the past and continue to do so in the present day.

The American pioneer sometimes fetched water from such a source. And sometimes they dug a well. The visible part was often constructed of wood or a combination of stone and wood. For when your water is deep, you need a method to bring it to the surface.

This well is located in a village reconstructed to depict life in the 1830’s.   Use your imagination to picture a rope winding around the windlass and a wooden or leather bucket fastened to the end.

This was taken on a warm, summer day — good conditions. I hesitate to imagine fetching water on a blustery, cold day with ice pellets or snow flakes swirling.



Ancient Attraction

One of the past nicknames for St. Louis was Mound City.

This moniker referred to the building practices of the Native Americans in large portions of the Mississippi River valley.

One place remains to view these mounds in the metro region — east of the river at a venue called Cahokia Mounds.

Centuries ago, the Mississippian people had a thriving trading and cultural center on this land. And as one might expect — they build mounds. Some were gravesites. Others were the base for homes and worship areas.

At this time, some of have been excavated by professionals and other remain, quietly waiting for a future generation to unlock their secrets. And at least one has been modified for the modern tourist.

Welcome to Monk’s Mound.

Your climb to the top – over 100 steps — is rewarded with a fantastic view, including the Gateway Arch on the St. Louis waterfront.



Pioneer Lighting

Man tamed fire long ago. At least to the extent it can be tamed. It still gets out of man’s control on occasion — consuming forests, grasslands, or man-made structures.

Cooking. Light. Heat. Our ancestors were concerned with the same basics we continue to require. The method or fuel may have changed, but the desired result remains the same. Safe food. Safety to move at night. Warmth to protect our bodies.

And from an early time, man developed portable light sources. Torches were fueled by pitch or oil. Candles provided light and were used in ceremonies for centuries — and then there was this.

It’s easy to imagine a farmer ancestor lighting this at the cabin fireplace and using it to light his way to the barn. Then he will hand it from a hood on a sturdy beam and mild the family cow.



Hometown Attraction

Cities tend to be proud of past accomplishments and favorite sons. St. Louis joins that group with several of the displays at the Missouri History Museum.

As you might expect from the name — the past is celebrated in this building. Some of the displays are permanent (or of several years) while others have life spans measured in months.

Two features in the large entrance hall fit well in the old and new portions of the building.

The gentleman seated with his back to us is Thomas Jefferson, a president very instrumental is putting St. Louis into the United States. He’s facing the former main entrance.

The plane is a reproduction of “The Spirit of St. Louis”. It’s an apt symbol of the city in the 20th century when financing Lindbergh and then the manufacture of aircraft helped to keep St. Louis on the minds of Americans.


Kitchen Progress

Fireplace cooking is cumbersome. And heats the kitchen (sometimes the whole house) as much in summer as in winter. What felt good in January can drive a person from the room in July.

The cast iron cook stove solved some of these problems. And the companion piece — the parlor or heating stove — solved others. A stove uses less fuel. The flat cooking service accommodated any cast iron  or metal pan with a flat bottom. Gone was the hook to hang the kettle. Thanks to a small, but well placed, oven, baking became easier. And what farmer or worker doesn’t appreciate some fresh bread after a day’s labor?

A great step forward for 1850’s cooks.


Artful Attraction

One of several nice things about sculpture is the option of the viewer to see all sides of a piece. However, this also leads to one of the problems with sculpture. Some works need a large display space.

Some bright person devised the idea of a sculpture park (or garden) to facilitate the positive and minimize the negative.

At the St. Louis facility the displayed pieces run from a traditional bust of a historic figure to the largest deer you’re likely to ever see. Some you can walk right up to and touch. But be nice, and obey the signs on others. The materials vary from metal, to stone, to fiberglass — or a mix.

A sculpture that hugs YOU!



Kitchen Past

On the American frontier houses were small and families were large.

And the frontier continued to move West. At one time it was Western Pennsylvania or Western Virginia. Then it became Ohio and Tennessee. The future states on either side of the Mississippi took a turn. And then the Great Plains — after a short interruption for settlers taking the Oregon Trail or heading for California gold fields.

But no matter which future state the pioneers settled, a few things were constant. The cabin, or house, or soddy needed a kitchen. And until well into the 1840’s that meant the heating-lighting-cooking all-purpose fireplace.

It what is now the American Midwest in the 1830’s you could get an idea of where the newcomers hailed from by where they put their fireplace. Those from the south put them on one end of the cabin. Families from New York and Pennsylvania put them in the center, opened both sides, and heated the bedroom.

Remember I said the houses were small. It follows that storage was limited. Forget knick-knacks or “prettys”. The mantle was for practical things — platters, candles, the clock, and hooks or pegs for tongs and ladles.

Can you smell the stew in the pot?  Bread is in the Dutch oven.



Charming Attraction

They flutter. They fly. They sip. They light for a second or few on you hat. Or shoulder.

Within the confines of the topical climate Butterfly House all of the above can happen within a minute or two.

It’s enchanting from the moment you step on the path between lush plants.

Some are excellent in the art of camouflage. Clinging to a tree trunk, the dull, brown side of their wings exposed, they appear as a leaf at first glance. A nice trick in the wild where hungry predators lurk.

Others remind a person of flying flowers. They skim through the air in flashes of blue, or orange, or yellow. Speed and agility are in their favor to live long enough to mate and find a proper place to lay eggs.

Does your city or community have a Butterfly House or Dome?

In St. Louis it is located in a suburban park and charges an admission fee.


My Library Shelf – Z

We’ve reached it — the end of the alphabet. And the book of the day…

the zookeeper’s wife

by Diane Ackerman

This was the second letter which sent me shopping for a book to fit. And I’m glad I selected this one.

We’re ending with non-fiction. The story centers around the director of the Warsaw and his family during WWII. It puts the emphasis on a different group of people than previous Poland during WWII books I’ve read.

The director’s home, still functioning after the initial bombing raids, becomes a refuge with a rotating population. All of whom must be protected, sheltered, and fed. Not an easy task during Nazi occupation.

Available from on-line retailers, bookstores, and libraries. Also watch for the movie.

Thank you for roaming around my home bookshelves on a jaunt through the alphabet. I hope that you’ve found at least one new read to enjoy among the history, biography, classic fiction, and romance fiction featured in recent months.