Archive for September, 2021

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A family heirloom — In 1856, my great-grandfather Luke Parsons moved from Ohio to Kansas, where he went to work as a clerk at the Free State Hotel in Lawrence. Kansas at the time was still a territory, and Congress had decided to let Kansas residents vote on whether to allow slavery when it became a state.

Parsons arrived  in Lawrence just in time for two terrorist attacks by pro-slavery “Border Ruffians” from Missouri.

A report by the Kansas Historical Society notes, “The first attack took place on May 21, 1856, when approximately 800 pro-slavery advocates descended upon the Kansas town and proceeded to destroy anti-slavery forces. The second attack, led by William Clark Quantrill on Aug. 21, 1863, resulted in the death of nearly 200 people and the burning of many business and homes within the community.”

“Notably, only a few of the ordinary border ruffians actually owned slaves; most were too poor,” notes Wikipedia. “What motivated them was hatred of Yankees and abolitionists, and fear of free Blacks living nearby.”

The ruffians’ violent attempts to get free staters out of Kansas ahead of the vote was known as “bleeding Kansas.” Abolitionist leader John Brown formed his “army” to protect the abolitionists, and Parsons joined John Brown’s Army. As part of the “Army,” Parsons on Aug.30, 1856, took part in the Battle of Osawatomie, in which members of the opposing militias lost numerous men. Out of such battles, the Civil War (1861-65) erupted.

 

Parsons (above) did not take part when John Brown’s Army attacked the federal arsenal in Harper’s Ferry, hoping to get weapons to arm slaves for a revolt. It was fortunate Parsons didn’t take part because the attack failed; Brown and other followers were subsequently executed.

During the war itself Parsons led a company of Native American soldiers in the Oklahoma territory as they hunted for “bushwhackers,” who ambushed Union soldiers.

After the war, Parsons took up life on the prairie in Salina, Kansas, where he eventually mail-ordered the clock that inspired this posting.

My father was born in Salina and inherited his grandfather’s clock, which I in turn eventually inherited.

However, the clock long ago stopped working, so in April, I took it to Tim Eriksen, The Clockmaker, in Novato. Eriksen got it working, but within a month its chiming on the hour and half hour stopped. Soon afterward, the hands of the clock stopped turning, so this week I took it back to The Clockmaker.

I was worried how much further repairs would cost, but Eriksen quickly figured out why the bell wasn’t chiming. The spring that drives the striking mechanism needed to be wound more tightly, as did the spring that drives the hands of the clock. Somehow I missed that.

Inside the clock.

 

Within minutes, Eriksen had the clock working as well as it presumably did 125 years ago, and on the mantel behind our woodstove, it again seems worthy of great-grandfather Parsons.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My father was a good photographer, and when he travelled, he was constantly shooting pictures of the landscape. I, in turn, got in the habit of photographing the signs I saw along the way since many of them represent different communities and values. I started doing this back in the 1970s and 80s. This posting is a representative sampling from that era.

The line is catchy, but ‘My shirt for a beer!’ didn’t seem to catch the attention of this housemaid lugging food to work in Paris, circa 1976.

‘All for the Country Defending Justice — the Junta, the People, & Armed Forces.’ A 1982 billboard in San Salvador, El Salvador, supported the government in its battle against an insurgency led by leftist guerrillas.

‘Death to the Ears.’ This threatening guerrilla graffiti in San Agustin, El Salvador, was a warning to any would-be government informants. (1982)

San Salvador’s election center with its large Coca Cola ads received military protection after it came under fire one morning in 1982.

‘With the murder of Ana Maria, the Salvadoran revolution will not stop.’ This declaration strung across a rural highway let travelers know they were entering guerrilla-held territory.

Paris, 1983.

In 1982 guerrillas blocked a Salvadoran highway by felling trees across it. Because the government had previously barred local residents from cutting timber in the area, the locals put up a sarcastic sign of appreciation: ‘Thanks for the firewood, guerrillas, mules and sons of a whore.’    

 

Guatemala — The country’s military strongman, Gen. Lucas Garcia, in 1981 took advantage of his position to have a large sign put up along a new highway, giving him credit for it: ‘Another public work by the government of General Lucas.’                                                                                  

‘I was his home for nine months. Now it’s provided by Clayeux [diapers.]’ A billboard in Paris, 1983.

 

Caveat lectorem: When readers submit comments, they are asked if they want to receive an email alert with a link to new postings on this blog. A number of people have said they do. Thank you. The link is created the moment a posting goes online. Readers who find their way here through that link can see an updated version by simply clicking on the headline above the posting.

The Panjshir Valley had been the one province of Afghanistan the Taliban had not conquered until last week. When it was conquered, provincial commanders blamed their loss on Pakistani aid to the Taliban. Many residents of the valley are Tajiks, as are many residents of neighboring Iran. As a result, the loss upset Iran, along with Pakistan’s traditional adversary, India.

Craziness. But that seems typical of warfare. As a reporter for The San Francisco Examiner, I first observed combat craziness during El Salvador’s civil war 38 years ago. I was startled by it. As it happened, I told my story to a reporter from The Des Moines Register, which soon put it in print:

Harrowing experiences in war-torn El Salvador

By Jerry Perkins, Register Staff Writer

(Photos by Dave Mitchell added)

SAN SALVADOR, EL SALVADOR — We went looking for guerrillas; instead we found the war. Photographer Rich Rickman and I left the capital city early one morning by taxi and headed east on the Littoral Highway. Our taxi driver, Jose Alvorado, carefully instructed us that we were not to tell the army where we were headed — a small village named San Augustin (45 minutes southeast of the capital) where the guerrillas often come to buy supplies….

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A Salvadoran peasant family in whose front yard guerrillas bombed a utility pole. The railroad sign says, “Stop, Look, and Listen.”

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As we drove up the highway, Salvadoran troops were walking toward the river and came up to the taxi to beg for water. One was carrying a limp iguana, a bullet hole in its head. ‘There’s a war going on, and these guys are wasting ammunition on iguanas,’ I said to Rickman.

Up ahead , we could see the taxicab hired by David Mitchell of the San Francisco Examiner and Cynthia Clark, his translator. Mitchell and Clark, standing beside a tree, were taking pictures of a Salvadoran soldier, his shirt unbuttoned to the waist, his M-16 blazing away. I thought the guy was just showing off for Clark. Another waste of ammo.

But as we drove closer, the leaves in the tree above the group started to disintegrate. Then Mitchell and Clark jumped behind the tree and crouched for cover.

Salvadoran soldiers take cover in the firefight with guerrillas from the Popular Liberation Front.

The reporter in me took over. I was frozen in the front seat, my eyes glued to the tree and the people behind it. ‘Oh my God,’ I remember thinking. ‘I’m watching those people get shot!’ Then Rickman called my name, ‘Jerry,’ he said, ‘get out of the *$@# cab.’ I looked around. Rickman was lying in the ditch. Alvarado, the taxi driver, was beside him. I scrambled out and crouched beside the cab. Mitchell and Clark, who weren’t touched by the shooting, ran to their cab and headed back to the village by the river. We got back in our cab and prepared to return with them….

A Salvadoran guerrilla stops a Toyota jeep belonging to the government-owned phone company. And then lets it pass.

Mitchell, a lanky, gregarious Californian, came up with the best story of the trip. He was taking pictures of guerrillas checking cars at a roadblock when a Toyota jeep was stopped. Mitchell thought the jeep looked like it belonged to ANTEL, the Salvadoran national phone company.

Cynthia Clark, serving as my translator, interviews Combatiente William of the Popular Liberation Front at the roadblock. He’s carrying a raw-pineapple snack.

Mitchell learned that the guerrillas let telephone company employees clear the roadblocks so they can keep the phone lines open in guerrilla-held territory. In return the company lets the guerrillas use the jeep at night for road patrols. The guerrillas return the jeep every morning. It’s that kind of war. — Friday, July 1, 1983 • The Des Moines Register

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For government employees in time of war to loan vehicles to the enemy would seem to epitomize craziness. But so do the Taliban’s hostile relations with India and Iran. If my country were going to war in that part of the world, I’d want those two on my side.

 

A month-long exhibit of paintings by Nicasio artist Thomas Wood opened Saturday at Toby’s Feed Barn Gallery in Point Reyes Station and drew an enthusiastic throng of art lovers.

Wood has been represented in dozens of exhibits, and a review of a show 10 years ago can be seen by clicking here. That review also describes the artist’s impressive background, including the surprising fact that his painting California Hills was on display in the US embassy in Belize from 2005 to 2008.

Thomas Wood with his 36-by-50-inch painting Point Reyes National Seashore, which during the exhibit sold for $3,600.

Audubon Marsh.

Masked (except while sipping wine) a number of folks were particularly fond of this group of paintings.

Inverness’ Chicken Ranch Beach.

Redwoods, Morning. (While the fog is still clearing.)

Black Mountain from Inverness Ridge sold for $1,600. Sales in general were good, and the artist was pleased with the results.