Down Day and Some Books


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Published: May 15th 2018
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Dunewood Campground/Michigan City, IN

After a certain amount of time the piled up dirty clothes begins to take on a certain aroma and our tiny little house starts to smell like a high-school gym. At that point we know it is time to do laundry. Couple that with some of the disappointments of the weekend, and the stresses of moving campgrounds, and, well, it was time for another down day. So we slept in and then kind of planned the day.

We had an additional problem to deal with too. I think I mentioned earlier that we were having problems getting refills with a couple of Joan’s prescriptions. Joan had called Humana last week telling them about the problem with the ‘refill dates’ and all that and, three times, she told them not to ship the pills to our home address because we weren’t there to pick them up. Of course, they did it anyway and nicely sent Joan a text message saying her pills had shipped. That, of course, complicates the picture immensely because now there is another ‘do not refill before date’ that is way out in August sometime.

So Joan’s first task this morning was
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Dunewood Campground in the National Lakeshore
to call them and she spent nearly an hour on the phone talking to supervisor after supervisor. (It doesn’t help that with the new Apple iOS, and her phone being an iPhone 6s, that her battery drains very quickly and, since we are dry camping, we don’t have power to recharge it). Anyway, she finally managed to cut through all the crap and convinced Humana that we were, indeed, on vacation and that there was no way we were driving back to Questa to pick up her pills! So they set all the computer flags so she could go to Walmart and get them renewed.

First stop yesterday morning was to Walmart where, thankfully, everything worked and she got her pills. From there we asked Google for the nearest laundry and went there to do that chore. That took a little more than an hour, but at least we’re good on clothes for a while - and the trailer doesn’t stink any more.

As a reward for getting our chores done, and compensation for the less-than-satisfactory weekend, I took Joan to a restaurant for a late afternoon supper. It was a sports bar type place in Michigan City that had great wings, but I can’t say the pulled pork sandwich was anything spectacular. I had a ‘black and tan’ beer (Guinness and Bass Ale) that was tasty.

After returning home, we took a nap, and woke up just in time for the evening rain to start up again. After a game of cards, and little else we wanted to do, we retired for the night. Later in the evening, a very violent thunderstorm came through with the thunder loud enough to rattle the trailer. Needless to say, Smoochie spent most of the night cuddled up next to me and shaking. Poor girl.

So not really anything to talk about yesterday, I wanted to comment briefly about the books I’ve finished. Generally, I try to buy a good book at each park that talks about something relevant to the park. At Homestead National Monument, I bought Homesteading the Plains, by Edwards, et al. This book re-examined the received academic wisdom about the effects of the Homestead Act on helping to settle the West. Unbeknownst to me, apparently most historians hold the opinion that the homestead act had little impact on settling the west because there just weren’t that many homesteaders, compared to the total farm population and the supposed fact that homesteaders generally failed to ‘prove-up’ their holdings. That wisdom was based on analysis done in the 1950s by a guy named Shannon and then were never really re-examined.

When this team looked at his original data, and added some more of their own, they discovered that his conclusions were based on faulty analytical assumptions. Specifically, Shannon looked at the number of homesteads compared to the total population of farmers across all of America, based on census data at the time. The new analysis suggested, quite rightly, that the comparison should have been made to just the farms in the western states where homesteading was really occurring, not to include all the farms in New England, the South, and the corn-belt plains of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. If you look at the analysis that way, homesteaders accounted for as much as two thirds of the growth in farms, instead of just 20% or so. A two-thirds effect is clearly a substantial one. Looked at that way, the success rate of homesteaders moves up from a disappointing low, to a much higher number suggesting that, in the Western States, homesteading was a significant player in expanding agriculture across the country and with it, spreading the population.

He also looks at whether the Homestead Act encouraged the displacement of Native Americans from their land. Generally it has been assumed that it did that to a large degree. However, if you look at Native American land ownership trends, as expressed in terms of acres of land under control, most of the dispossession of Indians occurred BEFORE the Homestead act was even passed and so, the effect has to be seen as negligible.

Except that is only true in the swath of states immediately west of the Mississippi. If you look at Oklahoma and the Dakota territory, then the story is dramatically different with the Homestead Act definitely contributing to the drive to remove Native Americans from their own territory. That part of the story remains a decidedly negative one.

As a final note in the last chapter, the authors point out that Daniel Freeman, the first Homesteader and the person whose homestead is preserved at the monument played another, somewhat surprising role later in history. In the late 1800s, he took a case all the way to the Nebraska Supreme Court, and won. His case was that teaching the Bible in public schools was a violation of the constitution’s provisions separating church and state. My take-away from that: Not all Homesteaders were Trumpers!

The book I picked up at Effigy Mounds was Indian Mounds of Wisconsin by Birmingham and Eisenberg. I finished that one last week, so here’s a short report. Although the Effigy Mounds National Monument is in Iowa, almost all of the known effigy mounds, and there are thousands of them, are to be found in southern Wisconsin. Iowa, in fact, is the westernmost boundary of where you can find them. This book does a terrific job of placing the ‘effigy’ mounds in the context of Native American mound construction across the country. It looks at the different styles of mounds including those at Ocmulgee (which we saw last year), and the entirely different (and much larger) mounds found at Cahokia Illinois, and at Hopewell in Ohio (which we are going to see later on this trip). Although I am still most impressed with the Native American culture of the Ancient Puebloans, especially at Chaco, I am learning to appreciate the work of their Eastern relatives who were building a substantial civilization, with different materials, at about the same time.

Indian Mounds also sheds light on the origins of the symbolism of the mounds. Effigy mounds tend to take the forms of birds, bears, and ‘water spirits’, and there is even a pattern of distribution of these symbols with birds being more likely towards the western side (which has higher elevations) and water spirit mounds being found closer to Lake Michigan. The authors suggest that this is all part of a wider cosmology reflecting the overworld and underworld which make up their understanding of reality. It too is fascinating book, especially if you are interested in Native American culture.

Although I looked for a good book on Pullman and the Pullman Porters to help understand that story, the monument is too new to have a book store yet and so I didn’t get one. As for the Lakeshore, I am reading two books. The Living Great Lakes, by Jerry Dennis is from 2003 and tells his story of exploring the Great Lakes, weaving together all kinds of interesting information about them. Additionally, my sister, Jennifer, sent me an electronic version of The Death and Life of the Great Lakes by Dan Egan. I haven’t had the band width yet to download that, so am awaiting an opportunity. But should be picking up good information. Joan is reading the Egan book on her own iPad and she shares some of his quotes with me.

So that about does it for this morning’s post. Not sure what we are doing yet today, so best get with Joan and decide.

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