Recommended reading / viewing / listening

This week: Nature’s false beauty / Lupita: The Mayan voice / Reading Thucydides in 2021 / When happy hour changed forever / How teeth evolved

This week: Nature’s false beauty / Lupita: The Mayan voice / Reading Thucydides in 2021 / When happy hour changed forever / How teeth evolved

Most of these great items come from my social media networks. Follow me on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, LinkedIn, and Facebook for more fascinating videos, photos, articles, essays, and criticism. Learn more about my academic background here.

1. The Nature You See in Documentaries Is Beautiful and False
By Emma Marris | The Atlantic | April 2021
“Nature documentaries mislead viewers into thinking that there are lots of untouched landscapes left. There aren’t.”

2. In Appreciation of Rihanna Smoking Weed, and Looking Hot While Doing It
By Ernesto Macias | Interview | April 2021
“Being a bad girl isn’t easy, and Rihanna knows it”

3. Lupita
By Monica Wise | The Guardian | January 2021
“Twenty years after Lupita lost her family in the Acteal massacre in southern Mexico, she has become a spokesperson for her people and for a new generation of Mayan activists.”

4. America ruined my name for me
By Beth Nguyen | The New Yorker | April 2021
“I cannot detach the name Bich from people laughing at me, calling me a bitch, letting me know that I’m the punch line of my own joke.”

5. A Chinese ‘Auntie’ Went on a Solo Road Trip. Now, She’s a Feminist Icon
By Joy Dong and Vivian Wang | The New York Times | April 2021
“Her main appeal is not the scenic vistas she captures, though those are plentiful. It is the intimate revelations she mixes in with them, about her abusive marriage, dissatisfaction with domestic life and newfound freedom.”

6. What It’s Like to Read Thucydides in 2021
LitHub | April 2021
“How did literature develop? What forms has it taken? And what can we learn from engaging with these works today?”

7. Vesuvius eruption baked some people to death — and turned one brain to glass
By Robin George Andrews | National Geographic | January 2020
“A pair of studies reveals more details about what happened to the victims of the infamous event in A.D. 79.”

8. The 40 Acres During World War I
By Christopher Rose, Joan Neuberger and Henry Wiencek | 15 Minute History :: UT Department of History | 2014-2020
Also see: The Bolshevik Revolution at 100 | The History of Sexual Orientation Conversion Therapy in the U.S. | Beatlemania and the 55th Anniversary of the First Beatles Tour to the US | The Legacy of World War I in Germany and Russia

9. Fifty Years Ago a Texan Changed Happy Hour Forever
By Patricia Sharpe | Texas Monthly | May 2021
“Here’s to Mariano Martinez, the inventor of the world’s first frozen margarita machine.”

10. The Evolution of Teeth
By Melvyn Bragg | In Our Time :: BBC 4 | 2009-2019
Also see: Calculus | Sunni and Shia Islam | The Augustan Age | The Whale

Loreta’s Civil War: This kind of life

Velazquez, now a mother to a baby boy, moves on to Colorado and New Mexico Territory, and the natural beauty takes her breath away.

Throughout 2016 and 2017, Stillness of Heart shared edited excerpts from the extraordinary memoir of Loreta Janeta Velazquez, who chronicled her adventures throughout the Civil War — either as herself, as a Confederate spy, or in disguise as Confederate Lt. Harry T. Buford. She fought and led men in terrible battles, fell in love, bore and lost children, and traveled throughout the U.S. and Europe, ultimately fulfilling her childhood dream of a rich and adventurous life.

You can read the entire 1876 memoir online here. Learn more about Velazquez (and the incredible documentary film Maria Agui Carter made about her) here.

Read previous chapters of her incredible story here.

Part 69: Velazquez, now a mother to a baby boy, moves on to Colorado and New Mexico Territory, and the natural beauty takes her breath away.

******

With my little baby boy — born during my sojourn in Salt Lake City — in my arms, I started on a long journey through Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas, hoping but scarcely expecting to find the opportunities which I had failed to find in Utah, Nevada, and California for advancing my pecuniary interests. Apart, however, from profits that might result from it, the journey would be worth making for its own sake, for, from what I had heard of this section of the Western country, great things were to be expected of it in the near future, and the satisfaction of seeing and judging of the nature and extent of its resources would amply repay me for the trouble of making a trip through it.

After leaving Salt Lake City, the first place of importance reached was Denver, Colo., on the Platte River. This I found to be a well built and very thriving town of about eight or ten thousand inhabitants. Among its public institutions were a branch of the United States Mint and several hotels, churches, and banks. Denver was, until the completion of the Pacific Railroad, the chief trading center in this region. Since the completion of the railroad, however, its importance in comparison with other places has in some degree diminished but as the country becomes settled, it may be expected to increase in wealth and population, and it will probably, ere a great many years, be one of the finest cities in the whole West.

Among the new towns which have recently sprung up in Colorado is Pueblo, nearly two hundred miles south of Denver and the terminus of the narrow-gauge railroad which taps the Pacific Railroad at Cheyenne. This town takes its name from the Pueblo Indians, who are much farther advanced in civilization than most of the aborigines and who deserve much credit for their industrious habits and their efforts to prosper.

Trinidad, still farther to the south, is an old Mexican town and is the center of an extensive cattle and sheep raising country. There is a constant war going on in this region on the subject of stock between Americans, Mexicans, and Indians. Cattle thieves, who steal stock from Texas and Mexico, rendezvous near Trinidad, and, as they are not particular whom they plunder so long as they are able to do it with impunity, their presence is anything but agreeable to people who desire to live reasonably peaceable lives and to get along by minding their own business.

Some distance from Trinidad is Stockton’s Ranch, in the midst of a wild, unsettled country, and the only house within a circuit of many miles’ ride. This is a noted headquarters of the desperadoes who infest New Mexico and Lower Colorado. The building is two stories in height, is quite large, and contains a store and drinking saloon. On a mound above the house is a graveyard, in which twenty-one people have been buried. Only three out of this number had died natural deaths, the others having been shot down like dogs for some real or fancied offenses. Stockton has killed several men himself, while many more have fallen by the hands of his confederates.

Stockton was a small man, restless in his movements and with a fierce black eye. He had a wife and a very interesting family for whom I felt much sympathy when I learned what a desperate character he was. His wife, who seemed to be a very nice, clever woman, was much troubled with regard to him. She told me that she was always uneasy about him when he was away from home, and that, at times, even when he was sleeping in his bed, she was harassed with fears lest someone should come and take him for the purpose of shooting him.

While I was at the Ranch, Stockton sent out some of his men to get some cattle at Maxwell’s Ranch, which he claimed as his. His instructions were to take the cattle at all hazards and to capture the men who were supposed to have stolen them, dead or alive. The herders were generally selected for their utter recklessness, and as a rule they cared neither for God nor man but would shoot down anyone who offended them, without pity or remorse. Most of these herders are very young men and are generally athletic and handsome. Some of them, from their appearance and conversation, appear to have been well-reared, and if asked why they have come to the frontiers to lead such a wild life as this, they will frankly say that they are trying to make their fortunes, and that they expect to do it in a couple of years. They are usually disappointed in these expectations, and those who do not give up in disgust and return to civilization fall into the habits of the country and soon become as finished desperadoes as those who have been born and brought up there. Some of them, however, engaged in this kind of life because they really like it and because they feel a certain freedom and unrestraint in roaming about in the open air.

Whenever a freight train, either American or Mexican, passed, Stockton would buckle on his belt of six-shooters, and, with a big negro armed in a similar manner as his bodyguard, step out into the road with a roll of brands in one hand and a pistol in the other and inspect the brands on each head of cattle. Should the brands compare with his, he would take them from the train and let the freighters make out the best way they could. He has many times stopped and broken up freight trains bound for Sante Fe and the interior, to the infinite injury of the merchants who depend upon the freighters for their goods. The traders, however, appear to be powerless before this and other desperadoes, and the government which takes their taxes under the plea of affording them protection ought certainly to do something to prevent them from being at the mercy of men who recognize no laws but their own fierce wills.

On one occasion Stockton, through some of his employees, duped two men from Maxwell’s Ranch, who, he asserted, had stolen cattle from him. When he had them in his power he started off, leaving the impression on the minds of their friends that he intended to take them to Trinidad for the purpose of delivering them up to the sheriff. Instead of doing this, however, he carried them into a side road and there shot them, leaving their bodies to be devoured by the coyotes, or, perhaps, buried by some casual passer-by. For this deed he was arrested and lodged in jail. He was liberated, however, almost immediately, without even the form of a trial, the officers being too much afraid of him and of his confederates to detain him.

The occurrences which I have related will illustrate the kind of life that is led in the cattle-raising country of Colorado, New Mexico, southwestern Kansas, and Texas. I named this place Bandit House and the ford in the stream nearby Dead Man’s Crossing — which are expressive and appropriate, if not poetical.

Beyond Stockton’s is General Maxwell’s Ranch. Maxwell is the wealthiest American in southern Colorado. I believe he got his start in life by marrying a Mexican woman who inherited an extensive Spanish grant. Maxwell has quite a large family, and he bears a better reputation than do most of the old settlers. He is a great gambler and is much interested in horse-racing but is disposed to be kind and hospitable to strangers.

Crossing quite an extensive piece of country, the Dry Cimmaron is reached. Here some enterprising Englishmen, headed by a Mr. Read, have taken up a large tract of land and have established a colony. They have built a very neat little town, and when I passed through there, their affairs seemed to be in a thriving condition. The town is located on a rather high and dry elevation, which takes its name from the scarcity of water in the branch of the Cimmaron River, which runs by it.

Dry Cimmaron was for a time a stopping-place for the stages from the Elizabethtown mines, which connected with the Southern lines. It is on a more direct route for the cattlemen and freighters but, although it has plenty of wood, it is open to objection as a cattle and freight station on account of the insufficiency of the water supply.

The next point of interest is Fort Union, in New Mexico, about sixty miles south of Dry Cimmaron. This fort, which, at a distance, looks like a small city, is built of adobe, or white bricks, and is plastered inside and out with gypsum, which gives it a rather dazzling-white appearance. The garrison consists of five companies of infantry and one of cavalry. Fort Union is the central supply depot for the frontiers and is a very important position. Some distance off, in the mountain, is a steam saw-mill, which supplies all the lumber used in and about the fort. This saw-mill is protected by an armed guard of soldiers. There is also a blacksmith shop, a wagon shop, a carpenter shop, and a post office. Each company has a garden and several cows, and the men seem to take a great deal of pride in keeping everything in the best possible order. This fort and its surroundings do much credit to the officers who planned them and who have succeeded in making such a nice-looking place out of a frontier military post.

From Fort Union to Santa Fe the traveler passes over some rough country. Santa Fe is the oldest city in New Mexico and one of the oldest in the country. It has been, and undoubtedly for a long time will be, an important center of trade between the United States and Mexico. The ground in and about the city is all owned by Mexicans or people of Mexican descent, who refuse to sell on any terms, but who will lease to Americans. The houses are chiefly one- and two-story structures, built of adobe, and covered with tile or thatch. They are cool, pleasant, and comfortable in summer. The hotel, which is kept by an American, but which is owned by a Mexican, who has refused to permit any alterations or improvements to be made, stands on the corner of the plaza, or great public square, which was laid out by the founders of the city. During the war, the Union soldiers insisted on erecting a monument on the plaza to the memory of their fallen comrades. This gave great offense to the old residents, who regarded the structure as an injury to the appearance of their public square but as they were powerless to prevent its erection, they were compelled to submit with the best grace they could. As the monument is not a very elegant-looking affair, it is not surprising that those who were not interested in it could not bring themselves to admire it.

So old a city as Santa Fe, of course, has an interesting history, but a recital of the events which have made it famous is scarcely called for in such a narrative as this. It is, in its peculiar way, a handsome place and has a venerable appearance, which is quite imposing. Santa Fe contains about twenty thousand inhabitants.

It was in the month of November that our little party started down the fertile valley of the Rio Grande from Santa Fe, but the weather was warm and pleasant, the great elevation giving this region a deliciously dry and healthful climate. There were seven of us in all, and for the sake of companionship and mutual protection we engaged a large wagon drawn by six mules.

It was about ten o’clock in the morning when we rolled out of Santa Fe, and our first camping-place was an Indian village, where we found a neat little adobe house, of which we took possession while resting ourselves and preparing our supper. One of the gentlemen made the coffee, while the others employed themselves in cooking the provisions, or in roaming about, looking at, and trying to converse with the Indians, or viewing the scenery. My traveling companions were all pleasant people, and we enjoyed ourselves hugely. Mr. McKnight, the owner of the wagon and mules, was an exceedingly gentlemanly man, and I shall always bear him in kindly remembrance for his attentions to me and to my little boy during this journey.

Kate Stone’s Civil War: The dirtiest people

Stone hated and pitied the people of Texas. She gagged at the sight of unshaven men sitting at her dinner table. The seeming normality of violence horrified her. But the natural beauty of Texas gradually entranced her.

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From 2012 to 2015, Stillness of Heart will share interesting excerpts from the extraordinary diary of Kate Stone, who chronicled her Louisiana family’s turbulent experiences throughout the Civil War era.

Learn more about Stone’s amazing life in 1861, 1862, 1863, 1864, 1865 and beyond. Click on each year to read more about her experiences. You can read the entire journal online here.

(Photo edited by Bob Rowen)

Stone hated and pitied the people of Texas. Barefooted women, evidently ignorant of the latest Southern fashions, still wore outdated “hoops.” The roads all the looked the same. She gagged at the sight of unshaven men sitting at her dinner table. She lost her appetite when she witnessed dusty slaves washing dishes “in the duck pond” before dinner. The Texas heat was punishing. The seeming normality of violence horrified her.

But the natural beauty of Texas gradually entranced her.

July 12, 1863

Lamar County, Texas

We made our first visit in Texas yesterday. We went to a protracted meeting being carried on nine miles from here at an old schoolhouse called — it must be in mockery — “Paradise.” After the meeting we went by invitation to spend the evening and night with some real nice people, settlers from Virginia, the McGleasons. They are a pleasant family and exceedingly hospitable. We came back this morning after a ride of nearly eighteen miles, having missed our road three times. The prairie roads are so much alike it is impossible for strangers to distinguish the right from the wrong.

The congregation was much more presentable than the Gray Rock crowd. We saw several nice-looking families, but all were in the fashions of three years ago. If they would only leave off their tremendous hoops, but hoops seem in the very zenith of their popularity. Mamma and I were the only women folks without the awkward, ungraceful cages. No doubt the people thought us hopelessly out of date. We have not worn them for a long time. Nothing looks funnier than a woman walking around with an immense hoop barefooted.

Mamma and I went several days ago to Tarrant in Hopkins County. The road ran part of the way over a lovely rolling prairie, dotted with clumps of trees and covered with the brilliant, yellow coreopsis in full bloom and gemmed with countless little mounds of bright green, like emeralds set in gold. Tarrant is the hottest looking, new little town right out in the prairie not a tree.

We tried to eat dinner at the roughest house and with the dirtiest people we have met yet. The table was set on a low, sunny gallery and half a dozen dirty, unshaven men took their seats in their shirt sleeves at the dirtiest tablecloth and coarsest ware. We saw the Negro girl wash the dishes at the duck pond right out in the yard. That was too much for me, but Mamma and Mr. Smith managed to swallow down something. …

The prairie we are living on is called a thicket prairie. There are clumps of dwarf dogwood, spice trees, and plums, tangled together with wild grape and other vines and alive with snakes. The plums are just in season, a sour, red variety just like the swamp wild plums, and are nice for jelly. The prairie is a mass of flowers, one variety covering it at a time. Before you realize it, that color has faded away and another has taken its place, and this succession of flowers and colors goes on until frost comes and spreads a brown sheet over all. There are many familiar garden flowers: blue salvia, coreopsis, verbenas, larkspur, standing cypress, and now as far as the eye can reach the prairie is a mass of waving purple plumes, “French pinks,” the natives call them. …

We hear no news now but accounts of murders done and suffered by the natives. Nothing seems more common or less condemned than assassination. There have been four or five men shot or hanged within a few miles of us within a week. No one that we have seen seems surprised or shocked, but take it as a matter of course that an obnoxious person should be put to death by some offended neighbor. A few evenings ago a captain in the army had just reached home on a furlough three hours before when he was shot at through his window. He was killed and his wife dangerously wounded. The authorities are trying to find the men who did it. It is supposed to be one of his company who had vowed vengeance against him. The other miscreants go unwhipped of justice.

Kate Stone’s Civil War: On the road for Texas

At last, the Stones moved for Texas. Along the way, Kate Stone enjoyed wild fruits, natural beauty, and the occasional generosity of strangers.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

From 2012 to 2015, Stillness of Heart will share interesting excerpts from the extraordinary diary of Kate Stone, who chronicled her Louisiana family’s turbulent experiences throughout the Civil War era.

Learn more about Stone’s amazing life in 1861, 1862, 1863, 1864, 1865 and beyond. Click on each year to read more about her experiences. You can read the entire journal online here.

(Photo edited by Bob Rowen)

At last, the Stones moved for Texas. Along the way, Kate Stone enjoyed wild fruits, natural beauty, and the occasional generosity of strangers.

June 15, 1863

Near Monroe, La.

Visiting and visitors, blackberry parties, and long walks over the hills have occupied the time since Wednesday. Julia Barr and I took tea with Mrs. Dortch and were agreeably entertained. We have been since to see Mrs. Waddell, who is a charming pretty lady.

Mamma and Johnny are busy making arrangements for us to get off. Will start on Wednesday. All busy this afternoon making a tent of some carpeting, the only thing to be bought in Monroe and it was $4 a yard. From Jimmy’s letter, received today from Titus [Texas], think we will be on the road two weeks. He does not write encouragingly. The country is not more abundant than this, and Billy, another Negro man, is almost dead. But Mamma hopes to find it better than Jimmy paints it.

Our delightful sojourn at this place is nearly over, and it will be many a weary day before we are so comfortable again. They are the very kindest people we ever met, and Mr. Wadley, who returned a few days ago, is just as generous and kind as all the others. To crown all her good deeds Mrs. Wadley this morning refused to take a cent for our board all these seven weeks. Mamma insisted on it, but both Mr. and Mrs. Wadley declared they could not think of such a thing, saying Mamma would need every cent she had before she got settled again. Our own relations could not have been kinder, and we were total strangers to them when they took us in out of the goodness of their hearts. May God reward them, we never can.

Tomorrow is our last day here and we will go around and say good-bye to the neighbors. This lovely family and Julia Barr I shall be sorry to leave.

June 19

Between Monroe and Minden, La.

Half past twelve this sultry June 19 we are sitting under the shade of a spreading oak about halfway between Monroe and Minden eating rosy June apples. …

We are on the road for Texas at last, and I imagine no party of emigrants ever started with sadder hearts or less pleasure in anticipation. If we had gone on at once when coming to Monroe, we would have liked the idea, but we stayed just long enough at Mrs. Wadley’s to spoil us for a trip like this. We find it very lonely, only we four and the servants. If we could have joined another party, it would be so much more enjoyable. … A passing soldier tells us that a Federal force is advancing on Monroe. … We all left home without a tear, the dread of staying there was so great, but we and all the family were in tears when we told them good-bye at Mrs. Wadley’s. Shall we ever meet such kind friends again?

The first long hill halted us. We tried for an hour to get the mules on the wagon to pull up it, but they would not or could not. Mamma had part of the baggage unloaded and sent back to the Wadley’s, and at last we got underway. It was such a dark, rainy afternoon that we thought we would not commence camping that evening but would stay at some house on the road. So we went ahead of the wagon, and before sunset commenced enquiring for lodging. At house after house, dark and uninviting with a host of little towheads and a forelorn-looking woman, generally spinning, amid the barking of a pack of dogs, would come the response, “Naw, we don’t take in travelers,” in a tone of contempt, as though the very name of traveler was a disgrace. We kept this up, the poor tired mules dragging on from place to place, until 10 o’clock at night. Being refused at the last house, Mamma declared we could go no farther. … But [of] three swampers staying there … one of them heard our distressed voices, came to our relief, and induced the owner to allow us to stay. We were glad enough of the shelter, for that was about all it was. Chunks of fat meat and cold, white-looking cornbread with very good water were all the refreshments. This night’s experience satisfied us, and we have determined to camp out for the rest of the way.

The next day we went on as far as Mrs. Bedford’s, about twenty-five miles from Monroe. They gave us a nice dinner, and we had a pleasant little stay there. We went on in the afternoon with a supply of pretty June apples from their orchard, camped out that night for the first time, and found it far better than asking for shelter and getting nothing, nothing but snubs and coarse fare at exorbitant prices. It looked like it would rain every minute. It seemed nothing new to be lying out under the shadow of a tree with the stars looking dimly down through the branches, with the lightning flashing in the North, the sultry night breeze swaying the wildwoods grass in my face, and a nondescript bug attempting to creep into my ear. We have read so many stories of camping it seems like an old song. Shall we have any of the startling adventures that travelers usually have to relate?

June 22

Near Bellevue, La.

We are resting for dinner in a thicket of blackjack and towering pines after a wearisome ride over the worst roads. Now we find we branched off in the wrong direction and are only four miles farther on our way than when we left camp this morning.

We passed through Minden — such a pretty little town with the deepest white sand in the streets, about the size of Monroe. I wish we could have located there. It looked very inviting, but we must go on where [our] Negroes are. We camped near a nice-looking house, and the people were kind in sending us out milk and butter, the first time we have been able to get anything of the kind. We also bought some chickens, a relief after a steady diet of ham and bacon. We get a lot of fruit, apples, plums, and huckleberries, the large low-bush variety — also, the blackberries are ripening. We stop several times a day or whenever we see a tempting thicket and enjoy the fruit. We so often have to wait for the wagon. We need never hurry. No flour yet, but we hear it is plentiful farther on. Some tea bought in Monroe is evidently made of blackberry leaves. Dampened and untwisted they are identical, absolutely without flavor.

Videos I Love: Eggs, babies, and betrayal

I often turn to David Attenborough’s nature documentaries to remind myself of the big, nasty, fascinating world out there. I find them incredibly relaxing.

I’m occasionally sharing some thoughts on a few videos that make me smile, make me think, or preferably do both. Read more from this special series here.

In the too-few instances when I realize how petty I can be or how overly concerned I can become about certain things, I often turn to David Attenborough’s nature documentaries to remind myself of the big, nasty, fascinating world out there. I find them incredibly relaxing.

“But life in the undergrowth,” Attenborough says with elegant foreboding, “is full of surprises …”