THE GREYHOUND BUS


During the years I was busy growing up in Long Beach, CA, my maternal grandfather came to celebrate each holiday with us. Having been long divorced from my grandmother, with whom we made our home, he lived alone in the tiny town of Tujunga, nestled in the arid foothills of the San Gabriel mountains east of the city of Los Angeles. He moved there sometime in the 1930’s, taking advantage of the dry mountain climate as a palliative for his asthma.

I remember the long hot, infrequent drives we made when we visited him. Upon arrival, we asked for him by name, and were directed to the clump of large oak trees in the park, where card tables with other old men seemed to play unending cribbage games. But our best visits were when he came to stay with us.

It never occurred to me to wonder how he got to our house. He had no car, yet there he would be standing on our front porch; a small grey man, dressed in a grey suit and wool cap, carrying a battered cardboard suitcase and a jolly smile. To my knowledge he never owned a car, so he took the bus whenever and wherever he wanted to travel.


“GO GREYHOUND AND LEAVE THE DRIVING TO US”

Aptly named, the Greyhound bus has been in operation since 1914, thanks to a young entrepreneur named Carl Eric Wickman, who came from Sweden in 1905 to work in the mines in Minnesota. When he was laid off in 1914, he went to work as a Hupmobile salesman. Failing as a car salesman, he took his own vehicle, a seven passenger car, and transported mine workers from Hibbing, Minnesota to Alice, Minnesota, (which also happened to be where the saloons were) for 15 cents a ride.

In 1915 he joined forces with a similar service going as far as Duluth, Minnesota. By the end of World War 1, Wickman had 18 buses, and saw a profit of $40,000. Four years later, he purchased a West Coast operation and began the first national intercity bus company.

The Greyhound name had its origins on the inaugural run from Superior. Wisconsin to Wausau, Wisconsin, when the operator, Ed Stone, saw the reflection of his 1920’s bus in a store window as they passed. For some reason it reminded him of a greyhound dog, so he changed the name of that segment of the route from the Blue Goose Lines to Greyhound. The name became popular, calling to mind the speed of the greyhound dog, and later applied to the entire network.

After my father retired from the Navy, he and my mother moved to Grants Pass, Oregon, my father’s hometown. In order for me to visit, I had to drive or take the bus, as there was no airport, and the railroad only went as far as Dunsmuir, CA. So gathering my two daughters aged four and six, the three of us set off on our first Greyhound bus ride. My husband drove us to the downtown station in Oakland, CA for an overnight adventure. And an adventure it was.

A big city bus station at night was seemingly a gathering place for people who had no place else to go. As I look back on it, it brings back memories of the depressing Marilyn Monroe movie “Bus Stop” But a night trip with small children seemed a better option for us,.

Once on the bus, we found it to be large, spacious and clean, with enough room to spread out. I had packed enough snacks to last the night, but the convenience or inconvenience of bus travel is that it stops at every small station along the way to pick up or drop off passengers. Greyhound operates 2,700 stations across America, but in small to mid-size cities, an agent can operate from a convenience store or a roadside stop.

It seemed that just as we fell asleep, we were awakened by the bright lights of a new stop, and the voice of the driver telling us to get off and stretch our legs, drink coffee, or get a bite to eat. Luggage is stored in an enormous cavern under the bus, which sends bangs and crashes throughout the night as it is loaded. Then we were back in the bus and on our way again.

The long night over, in bright sunshine with dry mouths and sleepy eyes, we were met at the Greyhound bus station in Grants Pass by happy grandparents. A successful journey.

The Greyhound bus can take you anywhere, anytime.

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BIRTH OF THE AMERICAN COWBOY


“RUSS ANDERSEN, Cattleman ” Watercolor by kayti sweetland rasmussen

“CORRALLED” watercolor by kayti sweetland rasmussen

In the mid to late 1800s, some 10 million cattle would be driven north out of Texas, in the greatest forced migration of animals in human history. It was the birth of the American cowboy.

Though romanticized in book and movie, the life of the men and boys who drove cattle was dirty and hard, sweating in the heat of the day and freezing at night. The miserable conditions in rainstorms bear no description, and certainly take the romance out of the working cowboy.

Cattle had been trailed from Texas to Missouri as early as 1842, and to California as early as 1854. Although the maps depicting these routes suggesting an orderly branch of roads, on the ground the paths taken were often circuitous as the drovers needed to provide water and grass for the herd along the way. This meant following rivers and creeks and tracing the routes of old Indian and buffalo trails.The earliest endpoints were the railheads of the Union Pacific and the Missouri Pacific railroads, which were gradually extending their tentacles of track westward now that the Civil War was over and capital was available for their expansion.

But nothing about this trail driving scheme turned out to be quite as easy as it looked on paper. The first challenge: a cattle drive required horses, but freely roaming mustangs needed to be roped, corralled and broken by a skilled broncobuster.It typically took five to six days to properly break a wild mustang. And to trail cattle north, a journey that could take three to six months, drovers needed four to six months, drovers needed four or five horses per cowboy.

Cattle drive

The second challenge: the behavior and temperament of the wild Texas Longhorn itself. It was a challenge for cowboys to round up these wild cattle. Texas Longhorns hid in the brush during the day and did most of their foraging during the night. Only briefly in the summer, when the tormenting mosquitoes were out in force, did they spend the daylight hours in open areas, where they hoped to find a breeze. Most of the time the cowboys were compelled to ride into the thorny brush to flush the cattle out. But a cow with a young calf was prepared to gore a horse to protect her offspring and the Longhorn bull was notoriously ornery, sullen, morose, solitary and pugnacious, as one cattleman put it; “The longer he lived the meaner he became.”

“HOME ON THE RANGE” oil painting by kayti sweetland rasmussen

Once a herd was assembled, the profit-seeking Texan faced his most grueling challenge: the trail drive itself, since railroads throughout the south had been badly damaged during the Civil War and had never ventured far into Texasl It required a minimum of eight men to drive a thousand head of cattle. The trail boss usually rode a few miles ahead, scouting out water holes and good places to graze the herd. The cook followed on the mess, or chuck wagon. Two cowboys were positioned at the point of the herd, and two along each swing, or flank. The two most junior cowboys brought up the rear and were known as drag riders. Their job was to keep the slow and lame cattle moving along. They were constantly subjected to dust and spatterings of the herd’s manure. They took the full brunt of its noxious odors. One staple of the diet was known as son-of-a-bitch stew, concocted from leftover cattle parts.

On a good day, a trail drive would cover fourteen or fifteen miles, usually with a break at midday for lunch. The greatest threat facing the drovers was a stampede. It didn’t take much to spook the jumpy Longhorns: lightning, the appearance of a wolf, the snap of a towel.

In the spring of 1867, some 35,000 headed up the trails,the next year, 75,000, the year after that 350,000, and in 1871, some 600,000. The great migration of Texas Longhorns, the largest forced migration of animals in human history, had begun in earnest. In all, some ten million cattle would be driven north out of Texas, accompanied by half a million horses and some 50,000 cowboys.

Exerts from “Cattle Kingdom” by Christopher Knowleton

PUNCH AND JUDY


Since earliest times people have used puppets or marionettes to deliver the wisdom or insults we are afraid to say ourselves. Imagine the Thai shadow puppets, the Muppets, or even Edgar Bergen’s wooden son, Charlie McCarthy, whose sole purpose is to entertain while delivering a punch to the gut.

To the continuing delight of children and adults alike, the Punch and Judy show remains popular and mostly unchanged since it was introduced in 1662, in Covent Garden, London. It has always seemed a fearsome play to me, but children being children, roar with laughter when Judy gets her licks in.

Played in a small wooden theatre by a single puppeteer, the story is traditional and mostly violent. After capturing the attention of Charles 11, the show was performed on a 20 x 18 foot stage after which the King gave the Italian puppeteer a gold chain and medal worth $3,000 today. Today the show is a popular boardwalk seaside attraction in England. As a child I watched the shows on the boardwalk in Long Beach, California, alongside the merry-go-round, pony rides, games of chance, and other seaside attractions.

The story revolves around Pulcinella (Mr. Punch) and his wife Judy who have an eternal noisy quarrel resulting in one or the other being whacked over the head with some sort of mallet. There are several stories which can be played, with a changing cast, all in the confines of the small theatre. The puppeteer keeps something in his mouth to give the main chracter the weird raspy voice and cackle of Mr. Punch when it’s his turn to speak. He often screams out “That’s the way to do it!” after hitting someone.

The original characters were marionettes, operated by wires attached their limbs and to a bar from overhead. Today they are mostly glove puppets operated by one person.

Another facet of the ancient Art of Theatre.

THERE’S MAGIC IN A TOWN


Ibecame familiar with Palo Alto, California while my father’s cousin worked at Stanford University. We were occasionally gifted with tickets to art exhibits and concerts there, and made the trip over the bridge from our island of Alameda. Years later, when I had the decorating business, Palo Alto was a source of much of the material I used in store design.

Allied Arts is a lovely group of artist studios and a small tea room where volunteers take your order for lunch, and even sell you the recipes. Shirley Temple Black waited upon us once years ago. I still use their recipe for carrot soup. Our young neighbors were married there in the patio.

The main office for Sunset Magazine was for many years in Palo Alto. The magazine was started after The Southern Pacific Railroad advertised that you could come out to California and buy a lot for fifty bucks. The magazine advertised the ‘good life’ showing how Californians decorated their homes, planted their gardens, and cooked food equal to that of anywhere in the world. Their building was an ideal typically California style, with hand made tile roofs and floors, and a quiet beautiful decor, showing off hand woven pieces, and pottery. It was surrounded by a rough post and rail fence covered with America climbing roses. When we began landscaping our home, we took note of all of it, and planted 125 America roses along the fence. It was a mass of peachy-red color in the spring. Time Magazine bought the magazine and moved their office to Jack London Square in Oakland. The lovely building in Palo Alto has become something else now. I hope they kept the roses.

Dr. A’s cousin worked for the Magazine for many years, and now our next door neighbor works in the testing kitchen a few days a week. She gets first hand knowledge of what goes into a coming issue, and frequently brings us a sample. This Christmas it was a delicious shortbread cookie.

The town itself was charming, filled with lovely old homes and tiny ‘candy box’ cottages, all owned by mega moguls working in San Francisco. As the years have progressed, businesses have begun to fill in the vacant spaces and it has become another busy place to stay away from. The lovely old homes are still there,surrounded by well-groomed gardens, and the tiny cottages sell upward of a million dollars.

Though Dr. A will always support his beloved University of California at Berkeley, we rarely missed a football game at Stanford, Berkeley’s arch rival. It had a lot to do with the country feel of the campus as opposed to ‘middle-of-the city’ feeling of Cal. It didn’t hurt that he took over the insurance for the University years ago. Today it finds itself in the middle of Silicon Valley.

A number of our friends were Stanford graduates and football fans, and we met each morning of a game in the same place for a “tail-gate” party. There were perhaps 10 or 12 people in our group, one who played in the infamous Stanford band, and whose parents and grandparents before him had graduated from the school. Amazingly, though he donated a great deal of money each year to the school, when it became time for his daughter to enroll, she was denied admission because all she had to offer was a 4.0 scholastic score. Stanford wanted someone who also was active in another activity, such as a sport. Stanford, named for Leland Stanford’s son, Leland Stanford Jr., became one of the most prestigious universities in the world and though in the middle of the city it still maintains its over 8,000 acres of tree-shaded beauty.

Football fans can become a bit over the top, and many people set up shop early in the morning with barbeques fired up, and drinks being buzzed in osterizers. Another friend, who was a big football star at Stanford, brought an enormous bus each game day, filled with his friends and fitted out with all the comforts of home, to be partaken of in the few hours before the game. Thankfully, in those sensible days, a game started at about 1 p.m. Today, most games are televised, and begin in the early evening, making it a very late evening before the game ends.
Stanford parking is in the unpaved woods under ancient oak trees. Of course if it rains, the area becomes a giant mudhole. I remember a story my mother-in-law told of being stuck in the mud after a ball game in their youth. Not fun in the mud and in the dark if it were a night game.

Today, our eleven year old great granddaughter has hopes of someday attending Stanford on a soccer scholarship. The dreams of an eleven year old can’t be dismissed. It always begins somewhere.

GET OUT WHILE YOU CAN


It’s strange, but after a certain age people start worrying about who will inherit all the detritus they have accumulated during their life. What they should worry about is who the heck wants it anyway? By the time you are ready to get rid of it, any likely recipients already have a houseful of their own stuff, and none of it is part of the same era as ours. The sad thing is that sometimes the small things which are so important to us get lost in the shuffle.

jansport

A case in point is my purse. It is a prototype from Jansport which I have carried everywhere exclusively for twenty years. I carry this purse to the grocery store, to the beach, on vacation, out to dinner; you name it and it has been there. This may not seem amazing to you, but what else fits that description? It is canvas and leather, with pockets holding my life, and though I have a number of expensive designer type handbags in my closet, I opt to use this purse my daughter gave me twenty years ago.

In 1969, while at the University of Washington, our daughter met Skip Yowell, a fun loving and exciting young fellow who with his cousin had started a small backpacking company a couple of years before. People in Washington state are noted for loving the outdoors and finding out what is over the top of all those mountains. Skip Yowell and his cousin Murray Pletz, had an idea that they could make a better backpack than what was being used. Murray’s girlfriend Jan, used her sewing machine to stitch the canvas, and Murray told her if she married him, they would name the company after her. So three hippie kids with a great idea became Jansport, and the company grew into one of the largest outdoor gear companies in the country. Jansport gear has made it to the top of Mount Everest and its sister behemoths for so long now they should put a retail outlet on the top of the mountain.

I was often the lucky recipient of a prototype Jansport had made that year, and that was how I came by my very special purse.

Now that you know the story, you can see why it is important to me to know who will treasure this bit of corporate history. Antique Roadshow may someday feature it to the amazement of its future owner.

SEPTEMBER COMES


September comes and lived among us matching the colors of my dreams. Then she quietly slipped away as October unobtrusively turned the page, and began another phase in the cycle of Nature. All in all, she was a courteous and well-mannered guest. The land had absorbed heat in spots foreign to such heat, and plants withered and died without necessary water. But though a hundred things may be wrong, a thousand things are right, and completely in order.

A skein of ducks or geese, intent on answering their age old call to the south, flew high in the sky the other morning. Winter will come, as it has for millennia, in spite of our expectations as to the weather.

Whether it was ducks or geese on their lofty journey, I cannot say, but the sound of their passing was comforting, knowing it as another sign that all is right with the world.

While ducks are thought of as privileged and charming creatures, geese are much maligned by descriptions such as “silly goose”, etc. I agree that geese can sometimes be loud and annoying, but they are useful as guard dogs in many cases. Because of their profound family sense, Penny. our small dachshund, refused to walk again after being attacked by an angry Father Goose protecting his nesting partner. My mother’s geese in Grants Pass, Oregon, lived lively lives across the ditch, and heralded the approach of anyone brave enough to come across the small bridge. A friend was given a few baby geese who instead of bonding with her as hoped, made it necessary to simply throw food over the fence for them.

geese

In spite of these unpleasant qualities, we must thank the goose for its feathers to fill warm duvets and pillows when winter bares its gnarly teeth. As writers we must thank the goose for the quill, which enabled those who came before us to write down their thoughts so that we may wonder at their brilliance, and gain the knowledge which gives a foothold in teaching those who follow us.

Thinking back to my early Latin study, our word pen comes from penne which meant feather or quill. Just think, the lovely Italian pasta penne, really means feather. I guess that would be food for thought.

Goose plumage feathered the arrows which indirectly won the Battle of Hastings, which was a major turning point in English history. Goose feathers on the longbow was as epochal as the invention of the bomb today.

November is just over the hill to the east and will bring a sweet chill.

CHANGING THE KING’S NAME


king_george_v_1911_color-cropGeorge V

When alliances change, there is a period of adjusting values and, in some cases, even names. Divorce is a good example. A certain cousin discarded her married name, and went so far as to change her children’s names as well.

Things become more complicated when you are king. Britain and Germany had long been friends, while Britain and France were perennial enemies. You don’t want the rest o the world think you are still friends with the new enemy, so the best thing to do is to change your name and those of the rest of your family. Many of the British royal family, including the king’s family, were of German ancestry and had German relatives still on the continent. With World War 1, France became the ally and Germany switched places and became the hated and godless enemy. Suddenly it became important for British royalty to dump their German names and get more British-sounding ones.

On July 17, 1917, a mass scramble to change names took place with King George V leading by example, dropping Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (which was actually a title rather than a name.) Nobody knew what his surname was in any case. He adopted the British sounding name of Windsor, and much against their will, the rest of the family were also quickly de-Germanized.

“Prince Alexander of Battenberg became the Marquess of Carisbrooke; Prince Alexander of Teck became the Earl of Athlone; Adolphus, Duke of Teck, became the Marquess of Cambridge. The unfortunate princesses of Schleswig-Holstein were ‘demoted,’ in the king’s words, to ‘Helena Victoria and Marie Louise of Nothing.’ And the poor unemployed Prince Louis of Battenberg would be Louis Mountbatten, Marquess of Milford Haven. ”

Mrs. Lauderback (2)Mrs. Lauderback sculpture by kayti sweetland rasmussen

The former Prince Louis hated his rather inelegant title and the reason for it. ‘I am English’ he told King George, ‘and if you wish me to become Sir Louis Battenberg, I will do so.’ He absolutely dismissed the idea of becoming Mr. Louis Battenberg as impossible. He had hopes of a knighthood, which was not forthcoming, so henceforth, Prince Louis, formerly sporting the original name of ‘Louis Francis Albert Victor Nicholas Prince of Battenberg’, would be a marquess, and Battenberg a cake.

There is no word as to how the rest of the family took to their new names.