Circus Trip 2018: Carl Sandburg Birthplace State Historic Site

Day 20, Saturday, August 4, 2018

After I visited Knox College, I checked out another historic site in the small Illinois town of Galesburg.  Carl Sandburg’s birthplace home has been preserved and is now operated by the State of Illinois as a State Historic site.

Sandburg was born in 1878, served in the Spanish-American War, and won three Pulitzer prizes (including one for his biography of Lincoln) and the Robert Frost medal for his writing.  He left school at the age of 13 to perform manual labor jobs, driving a milk wagon, a bricklayer, farm laborer, hotel servant and coal heaver.  He did attend West Point for two weeks, and attended Lombard College, but never earned a degree.

Sandburg also worked for a time as a reporter in Chicago, and his writing is often about Chicago.  His poetry focuses on the common man and often features working class themes.  This focus on the themes of the common man allowed much of the American public to relate to his writing.

 

He moved to his estate in North Carolina, named Connemara, in 1945, and lived there and wrote until his death in 1967.  After his cremation, his ashes were interred underneath a granite boulder at his birthplace home – he remains there today.  Connemara is a National Historic Site now and I would love to visit there too!

Even though the Sandburg home was not a place I had on my list, it was certainly a worthwhile stop.  The guide was very enthusiastic about the poet and had a lot of knowledge to share.  I was the only one there when I visited and got to take my time looking at the exhibits.  I let him know when I was ready to visit the home, and he took me over; I got to spend as much time as I wanted looking at the little home.

I left Galesburg after my tour of the Sandburg home to drive even deeper into the Land of Lincoln.  I stopped by a grocery store to replenish my supplies and then I was headed toward Springfield!

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Chenin, by Field Recordings

A few months ago I joined a wine club at our local wine shop.  I love the wines that the owner chooses for his shop, and for years I have asked him to pick wines for me.  I tell him my preferences and my price range, and let him pick some for me – he always knocks it out of the park.

During my divorce, I closed down my non-essential spending in order to replenish the savings that my ex had wasted.  Then once I had savings built up, I went on my big trip and needed to live off of those savings for a bit.  But now, with a paycheck coming in again, I have a bit extra to splurge, so I joined the wine club.  It gives me an opportunity to try some new things.  Each month I get one white and one red, and I opened last month’s white on Monday night.

The wine is called Chenin, and it is a Chenin Blanc from Field Recordings, a winery from Paso Robles, California, that I have been hearing about for years.

This wine is delicious!  It is 100% Chenin Blanc, sourced from the Central Coast of California.  It is a combination of green apple and floral flavors, with a light minerality.  I paired mine with such gastronomic weekday delights as tuna sandwich, cream of mushroom soup, and BBQ pulled pork and rice, which basically means that it tastes good with anything!  The winery recommends pairing it with shellfish, salads or turkey subs, which basically means that I probably love these unpretentious people.

You see that I drank it out of my Dia de los Muertos candy skull stemless wine glass – I got it at the Dollar Store!  Wine is meant to be accessible, and who has the time or money to eat scallops and steak every night, or pull out the fancy wine glasses?

Try this wine – you won’t be disappointed!

Book Review: Furiously Happy

Recently I listened to the audio-book version of Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson.  Lawson, aka The Bloggess, is hilarious. She is irreverent and crass, and has a very macabre sense of humor and interests. She brings her crazy sense of humor to her readers in writings that are laugh out loud funny.

She is generally inappropriate, loves animals and her people, and has a wonderful fascination with all things weird.  She likes visiting strange roadside attractions, collects taxidermied animals and creepy dolls, and dresses up her pets.  She also drops the f-bomb a lot.  I’m pretty sure she would take photos of historic toilets.  I feel like she’s my spirit animal, doing all the things I would love to do but often don’t because I’m a rule follower, and I have a job where a modicum of professionalism is required.

This book is a memoir of her adult life and her struggles with depression and anxiety. She is candid and raw and tells the reader about times when she is tempted to self-harm, times she does not want to get out of bed, times when her mental illness tells her the most insidious negative things about herself. She decided that instead of being embarrassed or ashamed, she would use her fame to bring light to the issue.

Lawson’s style isn’t for everyone, but if you can poke fun at your own self and make light of a difficult topic, you have my vote.

4 stars.

Circus Trip 2018: Knox College and The Lincoln/Douglas Debates

Day 19 & 20, Friday, August 3, 2018 – Saturday, August 4, 2018

I spent the night in Galesburg, Illinois, a small town known for, well, being a small town? I camped at the Allison Campground at Lake Storey Recreational Area, a city park with a lot of RV’s and well, me. I was the only tent camper in a huge field of campsites. I paid my $16.00 and drove out into the field to my choice of sites!  There is a lake nearby in the park, maybe one day I will make it back there to check it out!

That evening, I chatted on the phone with friends, and enjoyed one of my Black Tea Infused Ciders from Four Daughters Winery. I also saw my very first cicada! Mind you, I have heard cicadas a lot when I have traveled in the Midwest, as they are a staple of summer. But they tend to be hidden, and not out in the open, or hanging out on the leg of my picnic table!

Galesburg is the site of one of the debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas in 1858. Can you believe it!? They debated on the front steps of one of the buildings of Knox College, which faces out toward the center of town.  The founders of Galesburg and Knox College were staunchly anti-slavery, so it ended up being the perfect place for Lincoln to challenge Douglas’ views on slavery.

It’s an easy place to get to, so after I packed up camp the next morning, I checked it out. There is a plaque on the wall of the Old Main’s exterior, but otherwise you would have no idea of the history that happened here. Old Main is the only building on the Knox College campus that still exists from the time when Lincoln and Douglas debated here.  Fun fact: According to historical accounts, Lincoln climbed through a window of the Old Main building to get to the debate platform, and was reported to have said, “at last I have gone through college.”

It was a good feeling to be standing on this spot, but strangely, there was no one else around on this Saturday morning in early August. Where were all the throngs of tourists wanting to see Lincoln sites? Sigh… I guess sometimes history goes unnoticed…

After seeing Knox College, I headed over to another little visited site in Galesburg; the place where Carl Sandburg was born. Carl Sandburg isn’t exactly a famous author these days, but at one time he was. He wrote poetry, and political discourse, and a giant, fat, multi-volume tome on Abraham Lincoln. So he has to be cool, even though I will admit to never having read his Lincoln biography. One day…  I’ll share my visit to the Sandburg home next!

Book Review: The Man from the Train

What happens when a sports writer tries to solve a series of unsolved murders that occurred over 100 years ago, all across the country? This book.

Between the 1890s and the 1930s, there were numerous ax murders of families occurring across the United States. Not that many, but perhaps more than could be explained by mere coincidence. The Man from the Train details author Bill James’ theory that many, if not most, of these murders were committed by the same man.

 

The book details the facts that are known about each murder, which is often very little after so much time has elapsed. Then he explores the commonalities among the murders, and then determines whether these commonalities fit the pattern. If so, they were part of the series of murders all committed by one man.  Neatly wrapped up – case closed.

Never mind that these murders occurred hundreds, and sometimes thousands of miles away from each other, in a time when most people didn’t travel far from their homes. Never mind that he had absolutely no evidence to tie the murders to the man he accuses, who was only suspected, and never prosecuted, for one ax murder.

Never mind that his murderer would have had to have been murdering families for decades without ever being caught. Or that traveling around the country would have been expensive and time-consuming, and these murders didn’t have money stolen from the scene of the crime.

The book was interesting because it detailed what is known about many of the ax murders of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. However, I don’t agree with his theory about a freight training hopping serial killer who eluded capture for 30 years. Just because the crimes were similar is intriguing, but not necessarily a smoking gun (or bloody ax). I just couldn’t get there…

2 stars.

Book Review: The Good Girl

Sometimes I pick novels because they are available at the library, and they look interesting. This was one of those. I read the description, checked it out, downloaded it on my I-Pod and then promptly forgot about it for several months.

So when I finally started to listen to it, I couldn’t remember a thing about why I had been interested…

 

The Good Girl, by Mary Kubica, is a thriller that documents the kidnapping and disappearance of Mia, the young adult daughter of a judge in Chicago. She is gone for several months before finally making her way home, safe. However, she has no memories of her time with her kidnapper.

The story is told through a series of flashbacks and flashforwards, through the perspective of Mia’s mother, the lead detective on the case, and Mia’s kidnapper. Time is divided into before and after Mia returns to her family. Little by little, the story of her disappearance and time in captivity is revealed.

There are a series of twists and turns, some you might expect and some you won’t.  I won’t give it away, but I’ll just leave you with this – you won’t guess the ending… An excellent keep-you-on-your-toes novel!

Circus Trip 2018: Herbert Hoover Birthplace NHS

Day 19, Friday, August 3, 2018

Herbert Hoover isn’t a President I know much about.  In fact, I didn’t even know about the Herbert Hoover Birthplace National Historic Site, and kind of stumbled upon it by accident.  I saw the road sign as I was driving east after visiting the Amana Colonies and had enough time to stop before it closed for the day; I arrived just before 4pm.  What an unexpected treat!

Hoover was born to Quaker parents in a small two-room cottage in West Branch, Iowa on August 10, 1874.  He was orphaned at the age of nine, when his mother died at age 35 (his father had died in 1880 at the age of 34, when Herbert Hoover was 6).  He and his two siblings were split up after his mother’s death, each living in a different relative’s home; Hoover was sent to Oregon at the age of 11 to live with a maternal uncle and aunt.

The cottage where Herbert Hoover was born

The Herbert Hoover Birthplace NHS preserves the two-room cottage where Hoover was born, as well as several other sites significant to his early childhood.  His father’s Blacksmith Shop (rebuilt a little west of the original site), the Schoolhouse, and the Quaker Friends Meetinghouse, where the family worshiped, have all been preserved.  It is unknown if Hoover attended school in the actual building at the site, although it was being used as the primary school at the time Hoover was in school in West Branch, having been built in 1853.  The Blacksmith Shop was built in 1957, representing what such a shop would have been like in the 1870s.  Herbert Hoover’s older brother Theodore provided sketches of his recollection of his father’s shop as well.

The Friends Meetinghouse is original to the community where Hoover’s Quaker family worshiped; it was built in 1857.  The Quakers held two meetings each week to worship; men and women sat on different sides of a central partition.  They worship with “silent waiting,” a form of silent worship that does not use music or sacraments, or even a paid minister delivering a sermon.  When a Quaker is moved by the “inward light,” they stand and share their insight or prayers.  If you become known for your inspired insights, you become a “recorded minister” and are given a seat on the benches up front with the Quaker elders.  Herbert’s mother Hulda was considered a recorded minister.  Quakers believe in the equality of all people, a value that Hoover embodied when he was President and during his global humanitarian work.

The Quaker meetinghouse Hoover attended

 

The interior of the Quaker meetinghouse

The site also has a Visitor’s Center with a movie about Herbert Hoover and his life, and of course, stamps for my National Parks Passport.  There are also some later homes at the site; although they didn’t exist at the time that Hoover lived in West Branch, they add to the historic ambiance of the site.

A short drive away is Herbert Hoover’s grave site, along with the grave of his wife, Lou Henry Hoover.  Hoover died on October 20, 1964, at the age of 90.  He selected his grave site to look over his birthplace home, and chose a simple design of white marble, with a curved walkway and an American flag.  Lou Henry Hoover died in 1944 and was buried in Palo Alto, CA, but was re-interred here after Herbert Hoover died.  His Presidential Library is also there, although I didn’t have time to visit it that day.  I’ll have to return and learn more!

Herbert and Lou Hoover’s graves

 

The view from Hoover’s grave – his birthplace home

It was a fascinating stop!