Thursday, September 22, 2016

Happy Birthday, Bilbo and Frodo!

This is just a very quick note to remind everyone that it is the twenty-second of September. And as we all ought to remember, that means it is the birthday of Bilbo Baggins and Frodo Baggins, two under-appreciated, steadfast heroes from The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, respectively.

I am almost finished with LotR, so I shall be giving you all a very long, gushing post shortly.

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Monday, September 19, 2016

An Announcement and a Review

Bonjour, mes amis! Having a great deal of school to do, I have but time to deliver an announcement and a brief review.
First, the fleas are GONE, praise the Lord!!! My dear little cat is out and the daily vacuuming is over.
Second, I have just finished Louisa May Alcott’s Hospital Sketches (as I'm wrapping up my study of the Civil War) and, since I mentioned it in my post on Little Women, thought I'd deliver a short review.
It's a very thin volume and her witty, engaging style makes it a quick read (much appreciated by moi, as I'm surrounded by books to be read). Originally published serially as six “sketches” that she adapted from letters she sent home, it was compiled in 1863. Louisa was a nurse for only about a month before she contracted typhoid and went home, but her sketches are a moving, interesting and occasionally amusing glimpse of the nurse’s side of the war. Three of my favorite passages:

(Describing her bedroom at the makeshift hospital) It was well ventilated, for five panes of glass had suffered compound fractures, which all the surgeons and nurses had failed to heal… A bare floor supported two narrow iron beds, spread with thin mattresses like plasters, furnished with pillows in the last stages of consumption… A mirror (let us be elegant!) of the dimensions of a muffin, and about as reflective, hung over a tin basin…

The three meals were “pretty much of a muchness,” and consisted of beef, evidently put down for the men of ‘76; pork, just in from the street [pigs wandered freely in the city]; army bread, composed of saw-dust and saleratus; butter, [salty] as if churned by Lot’s wife; stewed blackberries, so much like preserved cockroaches, that only those devoid of imagination could partake of with relish; coffee, mild and muddy; tea, three dried huckleberry leaves to a quart of water…

(Describing passerby officers) Some of these gentlemen affected painfully tight uniforms, and little caps, kept on by some new law of gravitation, as they covered only the bridge of the nose, yet never fell off; the men looked like stuffed fowls, and rode as if the safety of the nation depended on their speed alone.

The whole book, though, is filled with Louisa’s particular style, which is quaint and pleasant. I especially like the many clever literary allusions she uses. I recommend this to about 8th grade and up.

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Saturday, September 3, 2016

Rancher Artie: Part Two

“Ya really think I could do my father proud, Ginny?”
Artie were settin’ on the young school teacher’s desk as she tidied up the school room.
“Ya shot ain’t bad,” she said with a smile.
“I dun’t think I’d win, o’ course; if I git even ter the second round I’d be might pleased.”
“I’ll come watch with yer parents,” she promised. “Just git off my desk so I can put these things away.”
He grinned and hustled off.

Ray Crawfish had set up some targets in a field, and had one of his hands draw up lists fer the competition order. Artie checked and double checked fer his name ta be sure he knew what time he had ter be ready. His parents sat on the grass with Ginny and waved. He tried ter smile, but he were nervous; he’d never set hisself up against anutter in compertition like this. He hurried back to his sack to git out his pistol and make sure it were in readiness. There was his handkerchief… extrar bullets… an apple… Panicked, he emptied the sack upside down, but there warn’t no pistol inside.
He was supposed ter shoot in near thirty minutes. It was a fair piece ter town and back, too. “I don’t have no other idear,” he muttered to hisseln. “Best make it quick.”
He flung hisself on the horse and set his spurs. Through the fields and along a dirt road into the dusty town. Once at the boarding house, he stopped only ter wind the halter ‘round the hitchin’ post before he charged into the buildin’. It were real quiet inside, since all the folks thereabouts was at the shootin’ contest. Up the rickety stairs that shook with evera step, and into the little room. In a moment o’ horror, he discovered the pistol were not in his box where it ought ter o’ been. He hesitated, befer tearin’ open his father Vin’s box. There were a nice pistol in there; it warn’t his’n, but he didn’t think his father would’a minded, seein’ the siteration. Back down ther stairs, onto his harse, and flyin’ down tha road ter the contest.

He’d never did as nice as he did that day; his shots were perfect with that pistol, which didn’t shoot ter the left as his other’n did. It fit real nice in his hand, with it’s gold-engraved handle, and he wondered how in the sam hill his father had sich a nice thing.
But he warn’t niver as shocked as when he done won the contest. That was a field-shaker and no mistake.
“The winner is Artie—” Ray Crawfish stopped and stared at the gun in Artie’s hand. “Well I’ll be a monkey’s uncle. Where’d you get that there pistol?” he asked.
Artie reddened. “It ain’t mine. It’s my pa’s.”
“Where’s ya pa?”
Vin stood up. “There be a problem, Mr. Crawfish?”
“Sure not!” Ray said enthusiastically. “Kin ya tell me where ya got that pistol?”
“It was giv’n ter me,” Vin said shortly. He looked at Arthur. “Kin we have a piece a’ talk alone, Mr. Crawfish?”
Ray nodded and drew him off.
“It’s like this,” Vin said quietly. “He ain’t no son o’ ours. He were a young’un, not a year old, when his ma brought him to us. She couldn’t take care of him no more. She said that pistol were his pa’s. I ain’t told the boy any of this. Wherever his pa and ma be, they ain’t done him no good turn and he don’t need to get mixed up with them none.”
“On the contrare,” Ray said with a grin, “his pa jist done him one real good turn.”

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