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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo has seen a great many tee-vee commercials recently for the 23 and Me DNA genetic testing outfit.  You know, the people who, if you send them some of your spit, can peg your historickal tribal roots.  I’ve also seen a running ad for Ancestry.Com in which people are invited to plug their names (and, presumedly, other personal info) into a data port sit up in some random public place, to be regaled by revelations of the existence and achievements of their immediate ancestors.

Ol’ Robbo doesn’t know about all this.  On the one hand, the history geek within me applauds such research.  On the other, the innertoobs Luddite in me warns that, as with things like GPS and EZ-Pass technology, if you know this data, somebody else does, too.  Big Brother, anyone?

And that, frankly, makes me jumpy.

Speaking of ancestral research (here, the old-fashioned kind), I mentioned in my post-Thanksgiving post below the fact that my indefatigable elder cousin had established Robbo Family gunnegshuns to what is now western Virginia during colonial times.  Whelp, the woman actually did a road trip detour on her way home from the turkey feast and sent me the following on-the-ground report [interpolations in brackets are mine]:

I found several family sites in Rockbridge Co., VA, on 11/25/16.

1) The Kerr’s Creek Massacres are commemorated by a State Highway Historical Marker (title: Kerr’s Creek) about five miles west of the Washington & Lee Law School on Route 60, where there is an entrance to I-64. [Ol Robbo went to Dubyanell for law school and first met Mrs. R in an apartment complex on Route 60 just west of town.]

Kerr’s Creek was the southern border of the 1748 Borden grants of John and James Gilmore. Rt. 60 runs parallel to Kerr’s Creek, on the north side of the creek.  I must have been traveling across 18th century Gilmore property. It is pretty creek bottom land.

Our direct ancestors, John and Agnes Gilmore, Sr., were killed there in the First Kerr’s Creek Massacre in 1759. Their son Thomas was killed in the Second Kerr’s Creek Massacre in 1763, with the family kidnapped. [According to another of my cousin’s emails, Thomas’s wife and son were eventually repatriated by the French, who had bought them from the Shawnees.  The two daughters of the family were never heard of again.  In 1818, surviving members of the family [led, I recall, by Thomas’s brother James] joined a migration to Ohio, in large part over the question of slavery.  Another branch of my family ran a station on the Underground Railroad in southwestern Ohio and, as I’ve mentioned before, my great-great-grandfather was an officer in the 10th Ohio Light Artillery Battery during the Civil War who saw action in the Atlanta Campaign.]

2) The site of the 1746 New Monmouth Presbyterian Church, where the Gilmores attended, is marked at Whistle Creek on Rt. 60. The newer building of New Monmouth, still operating, is three miles further west.  [As I have mentioned before, the Old Gentleman’s family were just about pure-bred Scots Presbyterians.  Ol’ Robbo’s great-grandfather was a minister, in fact.  I chuckle at the idea that they are all turning in their graves over the fact that Ol’ Robbo has gone back to the Old Religion.]

3) High Bridge Presbyterian Church, where our direct ancestors Thomas and Agnes (Leech) Lackey are buried, is still operating on High Bridge Road (county route 693, at an overpass of I-81) off Rt. 11, just south of Natural Bridge, VA.  [This is another family branch. Without the chart in front of me, I can’t recall where they fit in, but I think it’s the next generation after the Gilmores mentioned above.]

4) The ruins of our direct ancestor James Gilmore’s 18th century mill can be seen by following Gilmore’s Mill Road off Rt. 130, at Natural Bridge Station. Gilmore’s Mill Road (Rt. 708) descends to and parallels the west bank of the James River. The ruins are where Cedar Creek runs into the James at the intersection of county routes 708 and 608.

5) James Gilmore’s c. 1780 brick two- story house View Mont, now Sydney Vale, is across the James from the Mill but is on private property and inaccessible.

I’ll give her credit: It’s all cool stuff, all the more so because my cousin does these things the old-fashioned way – through pouring over archives and getting out into the field.

On the other hand, her level of energy curiously exhausts me, especially when she hunts me down at family gatherings (armed with maps, genealogy tables and local historickal pamphlets) and proceeds to drill me in her most recent finds.  I mean, Ol’ Robbo is a history geek, but not that much of one. (The Gels, by the bye, have learned to flee my cousin’s very presence for fear of getting quizzed on family history.)

 

 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I hope you all had a joyful and stuff-a-licious Thanksgiving holiday! Certainly the Family Robbo did: As per usual, we went down to visit my brother’s family in North Carolina.  (He and his wife have a son and two daughters, all of whom are roughly of age with Robbo’s three gels.  The Boy, for example, is a sophomore at Virginia Tech, while Brother’s gels are in high school.)  Much merriment was had by all.  The cousins get on very well among themselves, Bro and I found much reason to stand guard over the outdoor grill while the turkey was cooking (constant monitoring of the thermometer is crucial, you understand, and adult beverages only aid in concentration), the wimmynfolk confab’d to their hearts’ desires up in the kitchen,  and all in all, everything was hunky-dory.

Robbo’s older cousin was there as well.  As regular friends of the decanter may recall, said cousin has a passion for genealogy.  This time, she trapped ol’ Robbo in an extended monologue on our ancestors of seven or eight generations back – Scots-Irish Presbyterian stock with names such as Gilmore and Paxton – who had settled the upper Shenandoah Valley in the 1730’s.  Curiously, given that I went to law school at Dubyanell, several of my ancestors of those generations were killed, kidnapped and/or enslaved in Indian raids in 1759 and 1763 during the French and Indian War not more than a couple miles from where I lived and studied.  Small world, ain’t it?

On the one hand, the inner history geek in me loves this sort of thing.  On the other? Well, is Thanksgiving Dinner really the time to spread out reproductions of 1734 land-grant maps and superimpose current Rand-McNally counterparts in order to assess streambed shifts in the Maury River and Kerr’s Creek for purposes of locating precise boundary lines?

We Didn't Go There

We Didn’t Go There

And speaking of my cousin, it has become her custom to challenge us to bring Virginia wines to each of our regular meet-ups (Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter), there to compare and contrast the many labels available (all of which are complete dreck, if you ask me).  This year, the Devil whispered into ol’ Robbo’s ear that Trump Wine might be appropriate, both since it is bottled at Monticello and also since said Cousin is a proud Lefty.

I showed my brother said bottle ahead of time and asked his advice.  His opinion? Nyet!

On reflection, I concluded he was right and hid the bottle until our cousin left.   (We drank it later.  Truth be told, it wasn’t awful, but I wouldn’t buy it again.)

The only other things to say about the holiday are travel-related:

Downbound, Ol’ Robbo found himself in the lee of the smoke of several forest fires blowing across Nelson and Amherst Counties.  It’s corny to say, but it really did feel like twilight at noon as we made our way through, thus seriously messing about with Ol’ Robbo’s internal clock.  Coming home, everything seemed to have cleared up to a great extent, thank goodness.

Upbound, just south of Altavista, Virginia on Highway 29, Ol’ Robbo suddenly spotted a dog on the median: It was a young bloodhound (or some sort of hound, anyway) lying curled up in the grass and looking around in a confused way.  There was no place to stop just there, the formulation of what I had seen took a couple minutes to congeal in my braims, and what the hell could we have done with another dog anyway?  Anyhoo, after a couple minutes, I told Mrs. R what I had seen.  Being the far more practical and hands-on of us, she immediately called teh local animal control dispatcher and related to them what I had spotted.

I dunno if there was any follow-up.

One thing Mrs. R and I agree on: People who dump dogs (or other animals) at the side of the road ought to be shot.

UPDATE:  Ol’ Robbo completely forgot to relate an aspect of this trip that is sure to add many, many demerits to his Man Card.  You see, barring unforeseen complications, it is no more than a 5 1/2 to 5 3/4 hours’ journey from Port Swiller Manor to my brother’s house.  Not exactly a short hop, but hardly an all day excursion either.

Nonetheless, Ol’ Robbo allowed himself to be cajoled into stopping on this trip no fewer than three times – in each direction!  The most infuriating stop was the last one: 45 minutes out from home, the Youngest – who had been sleeping most of the way – woke up and announced that she needed a pit stop.   And like the sap that I am, rayther than telling her to cross her legs and suck it up, I shamefully pulled over at the next convenience store/gas station.

What can I say?  Mea culpa.

Man Rules, of course, clearly dictate that stops on long drives are determined solely by fuel needs.  Everything else – water, snacks, meals, potty breaks – are supposed to key on that determination, and that determination alone.  You know you’re not stopping again for another three or four hours? Plan accordingly!

Deviate from this plan and you’ll be stopping every freakin’ 20 minutes for one reason or another.

The Family Robbo may need to take a very considerably longer ride some time in the next few months, and I have already made clear to Mrs. R (and directed that she inform our offspring) that I will not display such weakness again.

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, here we are in Thanksgiving Week.  What with all the to-do coming over the next few days, Ol’ Robbo probably won’t get back to the blog much before Saturday.  I know this is hardly crushing nooz to the three or four of you who actually read this thing, but I thought I at least ought to let you know.

So, exit question:  Which was really the “First” Thanksgiving?

Plymouth Colony, Massachusetts, Fall, 1621, which some argue was arbitrarily imposed on the Country because the Yankees won the Civil War and got to re-write the history books;

Berkeley Plantation, Virginia, December 4, 1619, which doesn’t look so good a) because of the above-referenced Yankee bias, and b) because the colony got wiped out three years later by the Powhatans;

St. Augustine, Florida, September 8, 1565, which..I mean….Spanish and Catholic?  Can’t have that as the standard; or

Spanish explorer Juan de Oñate and his expedition, Palo Duro Canyon, Texas, April 30, 1598.  (See immediately above.)

(And, of course, there may be other claimants.)

Have at it, if you like.  But I also will leave you with something on which I’m sure we all can agree:

Courtesy of the Roman Catholic Boys for Art.

Courtesy of the Roman Catholic Boys for Art.

Happy Thanksgiving, friends of the decanter, and I’ll see you on the other side!

 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, now.

Ol’ Robbo had no intention of watching the election returns last evening.  I have learned through long and bitter experience that such things are both repugnant and stressful to me, repugnant because of the yammering of the Talking Heads, stressful because of the suspense and potential for disaster.  So I had planned to watch a movie instead.  (“The Hunt For Red October”, in case you were wondering.)

Unfortunately, Mrs. R got at the teevee before I did, and before I knew it, had flipped on the election coverage.  Perversely, because I hate it so much, I find that once I’ve clapped eyeballs on said coverage, I cannot tear myself away until the issues presented are resolved.  As they say, Keep Calm and Don’t Blink.

So there I was, hopelessly trapped.  And I stayed that way from about 8:30 pm all the way through to The Donald’s victory speech at around 3:30 ack emma.  And I admit that there was some drink taken.

Up again at six this morning, you can imagine how productive a day I actually had.

Not that I was alone: most of the rest of the people in my office also appear to have held out to the bitter end, and while I was just bleary and jaded, they were in full Gotterdammerung meltdown, crying, cursing, and group-hugging.

(Okay, I have to admit that their tears tasted….delicious.)

Eldest Gel reported that very similar things were going on at her school, and that the administration had designated certain “safe spaces” for any student needing some place in which to work out her feelings.  As the Gel so eloquently put it, “What the hell is wrong with these people?”

What, indeed.

Anyhoo, I’m still trying to wrap my head around what actually happened.  I won’t pretend that the Donald is the second coming of the Gipper, but I will note the old tag attributed to Sam Clemens to the effect that history may not repeat itself, but it does rhyme.  And here you have it:  Populist revolt against moribund, rudderless, top-heavy, smothering, progressivist regime.

The Gel used to gripe that ol’ Robbo got to grow up during the Reagan years.  I’m not so sure that she isn’t about to experience a different version of the same ride.  I hope so.  I hope so.

For myself, after much consideration I arrived at the conclusion that the most important thing in this election was keeping She Who Must Not Be Named’s claws off the Supreme Court, and so I voted accordingly.  You may imagine, then, how I feel about the results.

And, obligatory:

 

(Yes, as of yesterday I am not quite so worried about being sent off to the camps or having a bullet put in the back of my head.)

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Eldest Gel is home from college again this weekend, and I just spent about an hour getting an earful from her over the latest doings in her history class.

I b’lieve I had mentioned here some time before that the gel is taking a class surveying various famous historickal figures and comparing the myths that have grown up around them to the actual facts?  Well, this week they got on to Saladin.  Apparently, the prof – whom the Gel actually likes – started off the section with a brief discussion of the history and beliefs of Islam.  And in that discussion, the prof said something to the effect that Christians and Moslems worship the same god.

And that, as they say, is when the fight broke out.

The Gel, from what she tells me, started laying into the prof, beginning with arguments about the mystery of the Trinity, the divinity of Christ, and the utterly antithetical nature of Allah (which arguments actually echoed those of C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton, even though I know she hasn’t read either one), and then proceeded to a detailed, unvarnished  description of the position of Christians (and Jews) as set out in the Koran.  I gather the prof pushed back somewhat, although she didn’t try to shut the Gel down.  As for the rest of the class, the Gel tells me that a few of them looked uncomfortable about the prof’s position, while some of the noisier ones tried to back the prof up with arguments the Gel found utterly contemptuous. (One example: The girl sitting next to the Gel, who professed to be Catholic herself, pointed out that there are some Christian sects that don’t believe in Jesus’s divinity.  The Gel’s response?            ” Well, they’re not really Christians then, are they?”)

Smoke was still coming out of her ears as she relayed all this to me this evening, and even as I blog, she’s upstairs studying up on talking points to argue that the Crusades were defensive wars, rather than offensive ones, in anticipation of the narrative that is going to be served up.

Yikes.

About all I could do was to point out that people who believe the Christian God and Allah are the same thing (and I’ve seen this elsewhere, including among members of my Former Episcopal Church), don’t really believe in either one.

Yeesh.  At least teh Gel goes to a school where she can still take a stand against P.C.ism in relative safety.  Also, from what I gather, she is fast developing a reputation for her plain-spokenness, and not a bad one by any means.

By the bye, she’s already signed up for another course with the same prof next semester.  It’s a study of Tudor and Stuart England but begins with Richard III and the end of the Plantagenets.   From what the Gel tells me, the prof is very interested in the modern movement to reestablish Richard’s reputation.  That ought to make our Maximum Leader very happy.

UPDATE: Since the comments seem to have steered in the direction of my last tack-on thought above, an obligatory oldie but goody:

 

troy_sack_19232_mdGreetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo may or may not have mentioned it here already, but Eldest Gel is participating in her school’s fall theatre production (which we will be going to see in the near future).  They’re doing “The Trojan Women” by Euripides.  The Gel is one of the Chorus, so she spends the entire production on stage.

It so happens that Ol’ Robbo read this particular play many years ago, and that it stuck somewhat to his braims because it was Euripides’s commentary on Athens’ savage treatment of the little colony of Melos in the run up to the Peloponnesian War.  (The Melian Dialogue, as set out by ol’ Thick-Sides, was a study of mine several times during the course of my undergrad and graduate education.  The last time was in a rhetoric class I took my third year of law school.  For the final, I argued that the episode illustrated the limitations of persuasive argument insofar as it didn’t matter buppkiss how well the Melians stated their case for being excused service in the War since the Athenians were holding a metaphorical gun to their heads.  Realpolitik, so to speak.  My prof was not amused.)

Anyhoo, in the course of a chat this afternoon, I asked the Gel something or other about the dialogue between Poseidon and Athena that opens the play.

“The what?” she said.

“Poseidon and Athena.  You know, where they discuss the appropriate punishment of the Greek army because, during the sack of Troy, Cassandra is dragged away from a statue of Athena and raped by one of the Greek commanders.”

Huh? That’s not in the play.  It’s all about Queen Hecuba of Troy and her family and what happens to them when they’re prisoners.  What are you talking about?”

“Yes, that’s the main body, but Poseidon and Athena come first.  She’s outraged over the violation of her sanctuary by the Greeks and is seeking appropriate vengeance.”

“Well, it’s not in the version we’re doing…..”

“Crimminy, it must have been cut from your script.  But that’s the whole point!  The Ancient Greeks, actually (I believe) stumbling across the Seven Deadly Sins without realizing it, were keenly aware that violation of taboos (like sanctuary) tended to bring about Divine Retribution.  Euripides was using the Greeks’ beastliness to the Trojans as a warning to his contemporaries not to let the war against Sparta get out of hand.  And later on, Thucydides and others ascribed the eventual crushing of Athens by Sparta as the Divine result of Athens’ exceeding the proper bounds of civilized warfare, specifically including its treatment of Melos.”

“Well, how was the play a warning?”

“Because a number of the Greek leaders at Troy eventually came to very nasty ends because of their behavior there, specifically including their treatment of Queen Hecuba and her surviving family.  For example, Agamemnon was murdered by his wife Clytemnestra when he returned to Mycene because he brought along Cassandra as a slave-concubine.”

“Well, there’s nothing about that in the play.”

“No, but any member of Euripides’ audience would be perfectly acquainted with Homeric tradition and would know that already.  Didn’t anyone explain any of this?”

“No.  All we know is that we’re a group of “refugees” being maltreated by the Patriarchy or someone because they’re mean.  Your explanation is a lot more interesting.”

Yeah, it is.  Sigh.  But why get into all this  yucky objective Eternal Verities and God-talk in a 2500+ year old historickal context when you can reduce the point to one about non-sectarian feelz over Hatey McHate-Hates who Hate?  And wymmyn?

Incidentally, they’re doing the show in modern dress.  The Gel also told me that her costume makes her look so much like Little Orphan Annie that she went around rehearsal this afternoon singing “It’s the Hard-Knock Life” until she was summarily told to shut it.

Heh.

** Spot the quote

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo  decided to spare you his usual Columbus Day rant about the absurdity of virtue-signalling to which this day has become increasingly subject in recent years.

I will also say up front that I most emphatically did not watch the debate last night.  Nope, nope, and nope.  Instead, I got about half way through “The Longest Day” before dozing off.  (I think I may have a cold coming on.)  And as a general matter of policy, I’m not going to say a single word here about the elections until after they’re done.  (Well, okay, just one:  Yeesh!)

Instead, I’ll just toss out a couple comments on things near and dear to me at the moment.

urn-1First, I may have mentioned it here before a week or two ago, but I sat down this morning to try and puzzle out what to do about winterizing the two boxwood urns out on the Port Swiller patio.  (This is a picture of the one.  And the other is like unto it.)  It would seem that my idea of wrapping them in some kind of insulation has some merit to it.  So my plan is, in the next couple weeks, to drag them into a corner out of the wind and surround them with a double layer of bubblewrap and burlap.

Nats HatSecond, how about ol’ Robbo’s beloved Nats?  Ladies and Gentlemen, we’ve got ourselves a series now!  The Family Robbo will be glued to Game 3 later on this afternoon, praying that Gio can keep it together and that Jayson Werth is right about the monkey.

What else is there to say except:

 GO NATS!!!

UPDATE: FWAAAAAH!!  A hellevah good game! Two shots to go to make it to the NLS.  What possibly else is there to say but:

LET’S GO NATS!!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Filched from Wiki

Filched from Wiki

As I’m sure some of the more history-nerdy friends of the decanter are aware, today is the 445th anniversary of the Battle of Lepanto, the pivotal Renaissance sea battle in which a combined fleet of Spanish, Venitian, and Papal warships beat the living daylights out of a far larger Ottoman fleet, thereby saving the Med from a Muslim takeover.

In honor of the day, I recently started reading Niccolo Capponi’s Victory of the West: The Great Christian-Muslim Clash at the Battle of Lepanto.  These days, most people (who have actually even heard of the battle, that is)  seem to believe that the “miracle” associated with Lepanto was the actual victory itself.  Me?  Reading this book about the hot mess that was 16th Century European politicks, I think the real miracle was that the Spanish, the Venitians, the Genoans, and the Holy See managed to cobble together a fleet in teh first place, and that said fleet was able to operate efficiently and cooperatively. (Capponi is very cynical about the horse-trading surrounding this combination.  To his credit, though, he is unflinching in his respect for St. Pius V, the Pope who put it all together.)

And largely based on this victory, today is also the Feast of the Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  On his lunchtime walk, ol’ Robbo stumbled across a group of somewhere between 150 and 175 people praying the Rosary.  It was gratifying to toss in a couple decades myself as I circled round them.

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Second and final day of ol’ Robbo’s employment “retreat” and it was about what I had expected, maybe even worse.  (I won’t go into details, lest I find myself posted to the happy fun reeducation camps quam celereme.  Let’s just say that, according to several speakers at least, I am a very, very bad person.)

Anyhoo, what else is there to do but come home and flush it all out with some serious sound:

I’ve read various bits and pieces on the Great 1938 Carnegie Hall concert, the upshot of which is that by the time they got to this song, Benny and the Boys were in the Zone and just going flat out.  Certainly, none of the studio versions of it I’ve heard are quite the same.

By the bye, no offense to drummer Gene Krupa, but I like to imagine Animal on the skins here.  I may have mentioned it here before, but Mrs. R and I got married at Sweet Briar College, the service being in the school chapel and the reception in the campus center.  For the reception, we hired out a 13 piece big band run by one of the Science Department professors of the day, and the place absolutely jumped.   I ardently tried to get them to finish up with “Sing, Sing, Sing”, but they wouldn’t do it.  Possibly this was because they didn’t know the song.  Alternatively, it might have been because I kept requesting it in Animal Voice.

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers and happy Labor Day!  (Ol’ Robbo celebrated in his traditional manner by spending the day in the ol’ hammock.  Marxist/Collectivist class-warfare “holidays” give me the pip.  Besides, today was the last day of my summah hols.)

Anyhoo, this morning I learned that the Middle Gel had got a gig with a friend of hers today helping out as chaperones/baby-sitters at a 6 y.o.’s birthday party here in our part of the suburbs of Your Imperial City.

She got back four hours later to announce that not only had the family brought in a giant water slide (which caused several injuries, apparently), but that they had also hired out a petting zoo for the celebration.

A petting zoo.  Hired out.  At your own home.

Any friends of the decanter hear of this sort of kiddy birthday entertainment before?

I just googled “petting zoo parties at home” and got something north of 2 million hits so it must be a thing, but such an entertainment option is certainly news to me.  Back in the day we had a few magicians and one-man-bands drop by Port Swiller Manor for various Gel birthdays, but it simply never occurred to me to put a couple cages of rabbits and chickens, plus a staked goat and sheep or two, out on the grounds.

I’m reminded by all this of a friend of my misspent yoot back in South Texas.  His father was a veterinarian and he was big in 4-H.  Their suburban lot was basically a farm yard, with flocks of sheep, herds of goats, and hutches full of rabbits.  (I think he even had a calf at one point.)  My friend would often come to school with long, hideous scratches down his forearms from where the rabbits had got him and big, ugly bruises on his legs from kicks and butts by the goats.   I know he’d been hard at work tending these various beasts since he was a small lad and, although he appreciated them from an animal husbandry standpoint, had no illusions whatsoever about their cuteness or cuddliness.

Wonder what my old friend would make of this kind of entertainment?

 

 

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