Wednesday, November 18, 2015


The real name for Booted Goats is Stiefelgeiss.  They are mountain goats from the highlands of St. Gallen, Switzerland, which is why they have a German name.  Lots of people used to breed Stiefelgeiss goats, but starting in the 1920s, they stopped breeding them, for some reason.  By the 1980s, this type of goat was almost extinct.

That's when a Swiss foundation called Pro Specie Rara began trying to save the booted goat breed.  They encouraged livestock farmers to start breeding the goats again for agricultural use. At this point, they are still considered endangered, but their numbers are growing.  The Booted Goat Breeders Club of Switzerland has taken over the conservation efforts.  By 2001, there were about 600 goats spread among 87 breeders.  Most of these breeders live in eastern Switzerland, but there are also some breeders in central and western parts of the country.

Both male and female Stiefelgeiss goats have horns.  Coat color ranges from light grayish brown to dark red, with black or brown boots.  The animals are not as shaggy as some types of sheep, but they have long beard hairs on their hind end, which are called Mänteli.  These hairs grow much longer and are often a different color from the rest of the coat.  Some booted goats also have beard-like hairs on their chins.

This is a robust breed of goat that adapts well to extreme conditions such as those found in mountainous terrain.  They are used mainly for their milk, meat, and fleece.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015


Salem was a puppy who was adopted by the 13 Regiment Illinois Volunteer Infantry.  The nickname of this regiment was "Fremont's Grey Hounds," which is a good reason for them to have a dog in their ranks.  They were mustered into state service at Camp Dement, Dixon, Illinois, on April 21, 1861.  About a month later, they were signed into Federal service for a 3-year term.

The regiment was first ordered to Caseyville, IL, which is 10 miles east of St. Louis.  Then they went on to Missouri and stayed at Rolla until the spring of 1862.  Their job at Rolla was to keep guerrilla bands from raiding General Lyon's supply trains.

The 13th Regiment Illinois Infantry at Helena, Arkansas
posed for a photo taken during the summer of 1862,
several months before participating in the Union victory at the Battle of Arkansas Post.

In 1862, the regiment joined General Curtis' army at Pea Ridge, MO and marched from there to Helena, Arkansas, which is on the Mississippi River.  On the way south, the soldiers camped for one day in the town of Salem, AR.  When they began their march again, it turned out that an Irishman named Peter Dougdale had hidden a puppy under his shirt.  

They named the little dog "Salem" for the town where he was born.  The other members of the regiment were happy to have a mascot, and they all promised to help take care of him.  Soon Salem had a place to ride in the feed box of one of the wagons.  Everyone loved his puppy antics and enjoyed watching him grow.  One of the men described him in this way:  He was shaggy about the head and shoulders But his color, aye, there's the rub, he was not a yaller dog, neither was he a red dog, one need not be offended if he was called a reddish brown, but he certainly did not have a terra cotta color.  In fact one would not be far out of the way to say that his color was something like the worst painted house in town.

Salem grew to be medium in size, and he was tough and smart.  He was very loyal and soon learned who belonged in the camp and who didn't.  If you told him there was a stranger in camp, he would go drive the person away.  He thought battles were exciting events, and he liked to snap at the bullets as they zipped by.  

There is no record of what became of Salem.  It's possible that he failed to board the boat with the men during one of their many steamboat expeditions.  The 13th Illinois mustered out on June 18, 1864.  Six of their officers and 61 enlisted men were killed in action or died of their wounds.  Five officers and 123 enlisted men died of disease, for a total of 192 fatalities.  

Tuesday, November 3, 2015


Here's a card that dates back to the time of World War I.  It shows a very long mule train, and the caption reads "Ready for Review, Camp MacArthur, Waco, Texas."

The camp was located on 10,699 acres of land in northwest Waco, and it was named for General Arthur MacArthur, Jr. on July 18, 1917.  Construction began on July 20, 1917, and the camp cost $5 million to build.  In September of that same year, 18,000 soldiers from Michigan and Wisconsin arrived.  The camp had an officers' training school, demobilization facility, infantry replacement and training camp, hospital, administrative offices, and a tent camp.

Between 1917 and 1919, 45,074 troops were stationed in Waco.  The 32nd (Red Arrow) Division based at Camp MacArthur took part in combat in France in 1918.  On March 7, 1919, the camp closed, and the land became part of the city.

This next postcard shows a very popular attraction in Kansas City known as Electric Park.  It was built by Joseph Heim, who was president of the Heim Brothers Brewery.  His brothers, Michael and Ferdinand Jr. ran the park.

There were actually two Electric Parks.  The first one was built in 1899, next to the Heim Brewery in the East Bottoms.  Later, a second, bigger Electric Park was built at 46th and The Paseo.  It opened in 1907.  I'm not sure which park this postcard is from, but I think maybe it's the second one.

The second park, like the first one, was easy to get to on the city railway.  In 1911, it attracted one million people, with an average of 8,000 paying customers per day.  The park featured band concerts, vaudeville, a natatorium, an alligator farm, a German village, chutes, a roller coaster, penny parlors, boat tours, ice cream shops, a shooting gallery, outdoor swimming, a carousel, clubhouse cafe, 5-cent theater, and many other things.

Walt Disney and his little sister used to visit the park often when they were children.  Many of its features inspired Disney when he was later planning Disneyland.

In 1925, Electric Park caught fire, and much of it was destroyed.  In spite of this, the park's theater and aquarium stayed open the rest of the season.  The Heim family decided to sell the land, so on September 1, the park closed with a huge fireworks display.

In the next postcard, we can see The Thornton & Minor Sanitarium at its 10th and McGee St. location.  This medical facility was limited to "the special treatment of Piles, Fistula & Diseases of the Rectum & Pelvis including Rupture and Diseases of Women."

The clinic was started by Dr. T.W. Thornton in 1877 and was located in a small building at 111 W. 10th St.  Dr. W.E. Minor joined the practice in 1885.  The organization moved twice before reaching its final home on the corner of Linwood Boulevard and Harrison St.  By this time, more than 65,000 people had received treatment.

In 1957, the Thornton & Minor hospital merged its facilities with the McCleary clinic and moved to Excelsior Springs.  Their Kansas City building became the regional office facility for the Veterans Administration.

This is a flour mill owned by the Central Kansas Milling Company.  I couldn't find out much about them or about Gold Bond Flour.  The company might have been located in Wichita, but maybe not.  Anyway, Gold Bond Flour is not the same thing as Gold Medal Flour, which is made in Minnesota.

Thursday, October 15, 2015


Mom has always wanted to go for a ride in a hot air balloon, and Tuesday she finally did it!  It is kind of expensive to buy a ticket for a balloon ride, and Mom wants me to tell everybody that she bought the ticket back when she actually had a part-time job and was making a little money.  Also, she used a Groupon.  The company that does the balloon rides is called Old World Balloonery.  There are probably some other companies around here, but that was the closest one, so that's the one Mom used.

Mom's group of balloonists.  The pilot (in front) took this selfie.
Mom is in the back, with the blue shirt.
After Mom got her ticket, she didn't make a reservation right away because she was sort of savoring the fact that she had the ticket.  And then when she did make a reservation, she kept getting rescheduled because there was too much wind or whatever.  She got rescheduled 5 times, but finally she got to fly on Tuesday.  It's a good thing she was able to go then because her ticket was supposed to expire on November 1.

Anyhow, the way the ride went was that everybody met at the Johnson County Executive Airport, which is a place for small, private planes.  Then they all got in a van and drove about 10 minutes to where the balloon was going to be launched.  And the place chosen for the launch turned out to be near The Great Mall of the Great Plains, which used to be a very busy mall where lots of people went to shop.  But now it is just a ghost mall, with only Burlington Coat Factory still open.

So in a field near the mall, the balloon got blown up and launched.  First, the crew unrolled the balloon and opened it up.  Then they started some fans so that it would get filled with air.

After that, they turned on the hot air burner, which made the balloon start wanting to go up.  Then all the passengers had to climb into the basket one by one, very quickly, when the pilot told them to.  There are holes in the side of the basket where you put your feet to climb, but Mom said it was kind of hard for people with short legs, like herself.

When everybody was in and situated so that the weight was mostly even, the crew unfastened the balloon, and it took off.  It was lots smoother than taking off in an airplane, or at least that's what Mom told me.  The only part she didn't like was how noisy the burner was.  Almost every time it came on, Mom jumped because she was busy looking at the scenery, and she didn't expect it.  Also, it was hot being so close to the burner, but there was no way to get farther away from it.  The balloon had 6 passengers plus the pilot, which was all it would hold, so you just had to stand still in one place.

The scenery in the area where the balloon was flying was not really very special.  If you looked very hard, you could see downtown Kansas City, but mostly all you could see was an industrial part of Olathe.

First they flew over The Great Mall of the Great Plains.  I think it is a shame this mall has become so abandoned and will probably be torn down, because its name is lots of fun to say.

Another thing they saw was a train.

At Olathe South High School, football practice was going on.

The highest the balloon went was 2,200 feet.  It flew very slowly, or that's what Mom said it felt like. After 45 minutes, they finally got back to the airport where they had started from in the van.  As they started getting closer to the ground, they went over a bunch of houses, and all the dogs were barking. Mom was pretty sure they were barking at the balloon and at the sound of the burners.

When they landed, the basket hit the ground and bounced several times.  Everybody had to hold on in two places and keep their knees bent.  And even when they did that, they all piled into each other.  The ground crew grabbed the basket and held it down while the passengers climbed out.  As each person got out, he or she had to help hold the basket down.  Finally, as the air in the balloon started cooling down, it gradually collapsed.

While the crew were getting the air out of the balloon and rolling it up, the balloonists had champagne, crackers and cheese, and chips and salsa.  It seems to be a tradition to have champagne to celebrate a person's first balloon ride.  Personally, I would have been more interested in the cheese than in the champagne.

Mom did not stay a long time to chat because she had started feeling guilty -- finally! -- about leaving all of us dogs and cats at home with no supper.  By the time she got back here, it was TWO HOURS past our supper time!

I thought maybe I should have got to go on the balloon ride, but Mom said I wouldn't have liked it because of the hot, noisy burner.  Also, I might have fallen out of one of those holes that people use to climb in and out of the basket.  Well, I wouldn't want that to happen, so I've decided it was better just to stay home and have a late supper!

Monday, October 12, 2015


The official name for this event was The Louisiana Purchase Exposition, but lots of people just called it the World's Fair, probably because that was an easier name to remember.  The Fair was meant as a celebration of the centennial of the 1803 Louisiana Purchase, but it got delayed a year to allow more states and countries to participate.  The opening date of the Fair was April 30, 1904, and it closed on December 1 of the same year.  During that time, 19,694,855 people attended.

The architect who designed the master plan of 1,200 acre site was George Kessler.  The Fair was located in what is now Forest Park and the campus of Washington University.  It was the largest exhibition up to that point, with over 1,500 buildings and 75 miles of roads and walkways.  Just the Palace of Agriculture by itself took up about 20 acres of land.  People said you needed a whole week just to go through the whole fair and glance at everything quickly.  Luckily, there were season passes for people who could come back several times during the Fair.

Aerial view poster detail

The fairground was meant to represent America's expansion westward since the Louisiana Purchase, along with the country's cultural and economic progress.  All the latest achievements in technology, fine arts, manufacturing, science, civics, foreign policy, and education were represented.

Postcard showing Festival Hall

Sixty-two foreign nations had exhibits in the Fair, along with the United States government and 43 of the 45 states that were in the union back then.  There was also a long arcade called "The Pike." This was considered the carnival part of the Fair, and it included amusements such as contortionists, reenactments of the Boer War, babies in incubators, the Dancing Girls of Madrid, and Jim Key the Educated Horse.

The Pike

Another popular feature of the Fair was the Observation Wheel, which was 265 feet tall and offered an excellent aerial view of the entire Exposition.

Observation Wheel

Most of the buildings created for the Exposition were meant to be temporary and to last only a year or two, at the most.  They consisted of a wood frame covered with something called "staff," which was a mix of plaster of Paris and hemp fibers.  As buildings deteriorated during the months of the Fair, they had to be patched.

Entrance to the exhibit "Creation" on the Pike, a spectacle portraying the first  6 days
in the Book of Genesis.  This exhibit was dismantled and moved to Coney Island's
Dreamland amusement park at the end of the fair.

A few structures were built to last.  For example, the Palace of Fine Arts now serves as the home of the St. Louis Art Museum.  The Fair's Administration Building became Brookings Hall, and is part of the campus of Washington University.

The St. Louis Art Museum, formerly the World's Fair Palace of Fine Arts

A building called Festival Hall, which was designed for large musical pageants, contained a pipe organ that was the largest in the world at that time.  After the Fair, it was placed in storage, and eventually bought by John Wanamaker for his Wanamaker's Store in Philadelphia.  The bronze eagle at the store also came from the Fair.  Later on, Wanamaker's became a Lord & Taylor store, and more recently, Macy's.

Wanamaker organ; photo uploaded by Megodenas, Wikipedia
There are claims that several new foods were invented and first sold at the Fair.  These include the waffle-style ice-cream cone, hamburgers, hot dogs, peanut butter, iced tea, and cotton candy.  It is more likely that these foods were already known, and that they just became more popular because of the Fair.  On the other hand, Dr. Pepper and Puffed Wheat really were first introduced at the Exposition.

The Missouri State Building burned down in November,
a couple of weeks before the Fair was scheduled to close.  It was not rebuilt.

After the Spanish-American War, the United States had acquired several new territories, including Guam, the Philippines, and Puerto Rico.  Some natives from these areas were brought to the Fair to be on display, as were other dark-skinned people such as Apaches from the Southwest U.S. and Pygmies from Africa.  By contrast, the Japanese pavilion promoted the idea of an exotic culture that was modern, even though unfamiliar to the Western world.

Over 1000 Filipinos were coerced into leaving their homes so they
could be put on display at the Fair.  The Filipinos were shown in various stages
of "cultural revolution" from primitive tribesmen to more "civilized" city-goers.

John Philip Sousa's band performed on opening day and several times during the Fair.  Other famous visitors included Thomas Edison, Theodore Roosevelt, Helen Keller, T.S. Eliot, and Jack Daniel, whose whiskey won the Fair's Gold Medal for the best whiskey in the world.  Novelist Kate Chopin attended the Fair on a hot day in August, suffered a brain hemorrhage, and died two days later.

Postcard of the Palace of Education

Mom's grandfather, Charles Brooks, went to the Fair when he was 18 years old.  My mom grew up with some souvenirs that he brought back from St. Louis, but the only one she has now is an Indian head penny.

I think I would have liked going to the World's Fair, especially if I could have a hamburger or a hot dog there.  They probably didn't allow dogs, though.  Most fun places don't.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015


Mom likes old signs, and sometimes she takes pictures of them.  She is getting a big collection of these pictures, and they are cluttering up our computer, so maybe it is time I put some of them in a blog.

This is a sign we see often because it is on a street very close to us.  The sign is about a flea market and antique shop, but it's hard to read because it is such an old sign.  The flea market is only open on weekends, and there aren't very many vendors there now.  The antiques part is open every day except Monday.  Sometimes Mom goes there to shop for antiques.  The man who owns the place likes to bring his dog to work with him.  The dog is a Boston Terrier named Boston.

This sign is on a business close to the Humane Society.  We don't know why it says "Good morning!" in German.  "Bell" does not seem like a German name, but what do we know?

Here are some other signs near the Humane Society:

Here's a license plate holder that is pretty funny.

This one is not exactly a sign.  It was made by a museum visitor on a magnetic board when Mom was working there.  We are not sure if it is a philosophical statement or if it is a threat.

Here's a sign about popcorn and Coca Cola.

This is a dry cleaning place on Shawnee Mission Parkway.

And finally, this sign was in a shop in a flea market in the West Bottoms.  It shows some places in New Mexico that you might want to visit.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015


Young bird, male, female

If you are waiting for a passenger pigeon to come and roost in your back yard, you might as well forget about it because passenger pigeons are totally and completely EXTINCT.  The last passenger pigeon, who was named Martha, lived in the Cincinnati Zoo, and she died of old age on September 1, 1914.  She might have been 17, 18, 19, 20, 27, 28, or 29 years old when she died, but it is usually said that she was 29.

Martha in her enclosure, 1914

After Martha died, her body was sent to the Smithsonian, where she was mounted.  She was scheduled to be on display through September 2015 at the National Museum of Natural History as part of an exhibit called "Once There Were Billions."  A memorial statue of Martha stands on the grounds of the Cincinnati Zoo.

Martha at the Smithsonian, 1956

It is true that there used to be billions of passenger pigeons in North America.  They were the most abundant bird on this continent and maybe in the whole world.  Their name came from the French word passager, which means "passing by."  They were very social birds who lived in huge flocks that migrated from place to place, mainly in northeastern and north central North America.  One flock in 1866 in southern Ontario was described as being 1 mile wide and 300 miles long.  It took 14 hours to pass over, and it included more than 3.5 billion birds.

Painting by Walton Ford; Photographed by Butcher Walsh

Passenger pigeons lived in deciduous forests east of the Rocky Mountains.  They nested in places with lots of oaks and beech trees that provided "mast," which means acorns and nuts and other such edible stuff that trees produce.  In a "mast year," there is more mast than usual, so the pigeons migrated to the places where there was the most mast for them to eat and feed their young.

The birds usually arrived on their breeding grounds in March, April, or May.  Nesting areas could range in size from 120 acres to thousands of hectares in size.  The largest breeding colony ever recorded was in central Wisconsin in 1871.  It was about 850 square miles in size with an estimated 136,000,000 birds nesting there.


There could be more than 50 nests in each tree.  The female chose the site, and the male brought twigs to her to build the nest with.  The twigs were woven together to make a nest about 6" wide and 2.4" deep.  Each female laid a single egg.  It was incubated for 12 to 14 days.  The male sat on the nest for several hours in the middle of the day, and the female sat on it the rest of the time.

The baby bird grew quickly and within 14 days, it weighed as much as its parents.  After 15 days or so, the parents abandoned their nestling.  It begged for a while, then fluttered to the ground.  In 3 or 4 days, it had all its feathers and could fly.  By the following spring, the new baby was sexually mature and could breed.

Hatchling, 1896

Nesting colonies attracted lots of predators such as weasels, minks, martens, raccoons, wolves, foxes, bobcats, bears, mountain lions, hawks, owls, and eagles.  Some of these predators ate the eggs, others ate the nestlings, and some went after injured adults.  In spite of this, there were such huge numbers of passenger pigeons that predation did little damage to the size of a flock.

Passenger pigeons were good fliers and could migrate long distances.  They liked to spend the cold weather in swampy areas.  Sometimes so many birds would roost on one branch that the branch broke.  They often piled on each other's backs to roost and rested in a slumped position that hid their feet.  Under a roosting site, there might be a pile of dung a foot deep.

"Falling Bough" by Walton Ford

The pigeons changed their diet according to the season.  During fall, winter, and spring, they ate mostly beechnuts, acorns, and chestnuts.  In summertime, they ate berries, earthworms, caterpillars, and snails.  They also liked to eat cultivated grains such as buckwheat, when those were available.  Of course, farmers did not like it when the birds ate their crops or even when they ate all the acorns that would have fed domestic pigs.  Another thing pigeons were fond of was salt, which they got from salty soil or brackish water.  Every day the birds left their roost to forage for food, sometimes flying as far as 60 to 80 miles.

So with billions of passenger pigeons, how did they go extinct?  One thing that happened was that people started cutting all the forests down, so there weren't as many places for the pigeons to nest and roost.  Also, there weren't as many nuts to eat.  Portable saw mills, which began to be used in the 1870s to clear-cut forests, speeded up this process.

"Passenger Pigeons" by Louis Agassiz Fuertes

At the same time, pigeon meat became popular.  Native Americans had always hunted pigeons, but they usually only ate juveniles and did not disturb the adults.  Early colonists found pigeons to be an important food source for common people and slaves.

It was hard to know where the pigeons would show up because they were always migrating, but the telegraph solved this problem, and hunters could find out easily where the flocks were.  Also, the railroad provided an easy way to ship pigeon meat back east, where it had become a delicacy.  So hunting the birds became profitable, and hunters found ways to kill thousands of them quickly and easily.  Trees were sometimes set on fire using toxic substances which the birds inhaled and died.  Nets could be set up which were partly open, and a few pigeons were blinded and tied to stools inside the net.  These "stool pigeons" fooled other birds into thinking there was food there, and then they would be caught in the net.

James Pattison Cockburn, 1829

Even larger numbers of pigeons could be killed by shooting them.  A good blast with both barrels of a shotgun could bring down as many as 60 birds.  They could be shot during migration or while they perched in bare trees.  Sometimes a trench was dug and filled with grain.  Then the pigeons were shot when they came to feed.

In 1878, at a nesting site in Petoskey, Michigan, 50,000 birds were killed each day for almost 5 months.  One hunter was reported to have sent 3 million birds to eastern cities during the course of his career.

Eventually, the passenger pigeon population reached such low numbers that the species could no longer survive, even though there were quite a few birds left.  People have suggested cloning the passenger pigeon from existing DNA, but this would probably not work because there would not be a big enough population of birds to keep the species going.  Plus, you would have use other types of pigeons as parents, and they would have different methods of raising their young, so it would all be very confusing for the birds.

A famous naturalist named Aldo Leopold spoke at the dedication of a monument to the passenger pigeon at the Wyalusing State Park, Wisconsin on May 11, 1947, and here's what he said:

Men still live who, in their youth, remember pigeons.  Trees still live who, in their youth, were shaken by a living wind.  But a decade hence only the oldest oaks will remember, and at long last only the hills will know.

Louis Agassiz Fuertes