23.2.12

Doctor's Excuse

Thursday, 23 February 2659 - Cambridge, UK

I must apologize to everyone on Twitter for ignoring you the last couple of days and not reporting on Henry’s operation. I told you last Monday that his surgery would be the next day. I had every intention of being with him even if I could do little more than wear out the waiting room rug. Still a friendly face is nice when you come out of surgery.

That evening however, IT hit. IT hit hard. I came down with the absolute worse bout of diarrhea and vomiting--at the same time. Thank heavens I could reach the sink from my seat. Soon it was just dry heaves from one end and nothing but liquid from the other. (Do pardon my crudeness. It was even cruder living through it!)

I decided it must be food poisoning, uncommon in the 27th century, but common enough in the 19th when they were just discovering what caused it. I recalled a bit of beef I hadn’t scanned properly back in 1872, although the reaction hadn’t been this violent. I knew once out of my system it would go away.

It didn’t go away. After a sleepless night of running to the loo, I barely managed to get dressed in the morning. As I sat--all right, lay on my chair trying to gather my strength, Mum came in to take me to London to catch a transport across the pond. She took one look at me and took me to the clinic.

The clinic took one look at me and wanted to know what play I was in. (I was wearing my usually top hat and frock coat.) When I told them I was a temporal anthropologist all bedlam broke lose. There is the fear that one day one of us will bring back an extinct disease the world will have to cure again. The Institute of Time Travel is very careful about that sort of thing, so it has never happened. Still there is that one in quadrillion chance. I told them I had been home for over a week. Surely some bug from the field would have shown up before now.

Not good enough. I was rushed off to the University Hospital by large burly men in hazmat suits and tossed into an isolation unit. They did give me an IV. Apparently I was dehydrated because I did make me feel a little better. Still nothing was staying down. I was given nausea medicine and a diet of plain rice, toast and other exotic treats. Most of Tuesday and Wednesday were spent running to the loo, and then sleeping off the exhaustion brought on by the excursion.

It turns out that several people who attended my lecture Saturday in Pullman at Washington State University came down with the same illness I had. At first they thought I might be the culprit, but I assured them my lectures only put audiences to sleep. I don’t recall every making anyone actually ill. They were already calling it the Wazoo Flu, although there was talk of calling it the Howe Heebee-jeebees.

My reputation was saved when the illness began popping up off planet. Apparently it originally came from Radconia. There was in fact several scholars recently arrived from that planet attending my lecture. For those who never get off-planet (like me) Radconia is a small rock that wasn’t good enough for colonizing but was situated in a spot midway between everything. It became a trading post where goods and ideas are exchanged.

I understand they have a Temple of Debate, where holy men, philosophers and scholars come to debate religion, politics and the like--all done in a polite manner. It was only after humans showed up that there was a real need for strict ground rules and weapon frisking. (So far, we are the most dangerous creature in the galaxy bright enough to throw a switch.) Currently the topic at the Temple of Debate is who is the idiot that brought this species-jumping disease to share with everyone. There is a lot of finger and other digit pointing.

I’m still considered a carrier of what is now called the Radconian Runs. I’m locked in a sterile room with a robot nurse. The University, the city of Cambridge and everyone in the British Isles doesn’t want me passing this virus around. I’m not allowed visitors, although I have gotten a lot of calls from family, friends, colleagues wanting to know if I’m still alive. When their face pops up on the screen the first thing they do is grimace and say “Good God, Wendell! You look awful.” Even Henry thought I looked awful, and he just had a leg attached.

As if my luck wasn’t bad enough, one of the faces to grace the screen was Dr. Warwick! Normally I would be thrilled to see Matilda, but I certainly didn’t want her to see me looking like this! Unbathed, unshaved, looking half dead, I did not cut a dapper figure, I fear. On top of that we hardly ever get to see each other. She’s in some Medieval convent while I’m in some Victorian city. Now we are in the same time, and I can’t even give her a hug.

Thankfully Matilda was with Henry, so he came out of surgery to a face much prettier than mine. She offered to come to Cambridge, but I told her to stay with Henry. No one was allowed to get near me without a hazmat suit. It would be a wasted trip. She did a wimple strip-tease for me, shaking her loose hair most alluringly. It was all the excitement I could take right now. (Get your mid out of the gutter. A wimple is medieval head wear.)

The good news about Radconianinitusviriticus (now you know why they call it Radconian Runs) is it seems to be a short run virus. I’m still weak as a kitten, but I now feel like a very much alive and not half-dead kitten. However, I’m not being released from my prison until they are convinced I’m no longer a carrier. God forbid I take this to the Victorian Age. Louis Pasteur already has his hands full.

17.2.12

The Man Most Responsible for Washington State

Friday, 17 February 2659 - Long Island, New York

In my last blog I told you how Dr. Henry Darrel cut off his foot this week back in 1857. He was suppose to be at Washington State University tomorrow to present the footage he collected on pioneer George Washington Bush. I agreed to take his place since I am also studying the 19th century.

I spent most of today going over the vids and asking Henry questions, which wasn’t easy. The hospital has him so pumped up with pain medication, his sharp mind is a bit mushy. It’s hard to interview a man who keeps giggling. Still the history of Mr. Bush has proved quite fascinating. Why had I never heard of this chap?

George Washington Bush
George Washington Bush was born around 1778 in Pennsylvania. His father was a former sailor of African descent and his mother an Irish maid. They both worked for an English merchant named Stevenson living in Philadelphia. Mr. Stevenson never married so when he died he left his fortune to his servants. So unlike most African-Americans of the time, Bush had never been a slave or lived in poverty. Indeed, Bush was very well off.

However, Bush had an adventurer’s soul. He fought in the War of 1812, then headed for the Pacific Northwest to work for the Hudson Bay Company as a fur trapper for several years. He eventually settled in Missouri. There he met Isabella, the daughter of a German preacher.

Missouri however proved to be a bad choice. It was a slave state and Bush was treated with little respect. One of the few neighbors that was friendly was Michael Troutman Simmons, an illiterate but intelligent man. Simmons liked listening to Bush’s tales of the Oregon Country. Then they both began to hear stories of the lush land in the Willamette Valley at the end of the Oregon Trail. In 1844 they decided to head for the Northwest.

Michael Troutman Simmons
Simmons was a big likable chap so he became the Wagon Master. Bush was the Scout, since he knew the country. Together, with four other families, they headed out. At first the others were leery of having a “Negro” lead them. Between Simmons assurance and Bush’s knowledge, they were quickly convinced they needed Bush.

While at Fort Vancouver, occupied by Brits, French, Hawaiians, Native Americans, Bush had been treated as an equal. Now that the Oregon Country was opening up to settlers, perhaps his family could escape the prejudice of the east.

While the group had been on the trail, the territorial government of Oregon had past the Exclusion Act, also called the Lash Law. It stated that any black person in Oregon Country would be whipped every six months until he left the territory!

Bush’s heart sank when he heard the news. Simmons and the rest of the wagon train said they would stick with him whatever he decided to do. Not only was Bush’s knowledge invaluable, but he had proved himself both generous and helpful to everyone. Isabella had training as a nurse. These were definitely the sort of people you wanted as neighbors in the wilderness.

Someone suggested they head south to California and hope the Mexican government was more liberal. Bush however remembered a place up north called Puget Sound. It was verdant land, but unpopulated. The vast majority of Americans were settling in the Willamette River Valley, south of the Columbia River. The Oregon Country was still jointly claimed by America and Britain. There was an unwritten agreement that north of the Columbia was British territory.

Dr. James McLoughlin
They went to Fort Vancouver to get permission to head north. The fort was a Hudson Bay Company outpost run my Dr. James McLoughlin. He was a company man, but he saw beyond immediate profit. He knew this area had potential for farms. He went against company policy and helped the settlers who showed up. North of the Columbia, though was off limits. Bush, however, was a special case. McLoughlin knew Bush and sympathized with his problem.

The wagon train headed for the south tip of Puget Sound and settled what would one day be called Tumwater, Washington. Simmons and Bush built a grist mill and sawmill there in the first permanent American settlement north of the Columbia. If not for this foothold, the land north of the Columbia might well have stayed British.

Bush, Isabella and their five boys (eventually six) homesteaded 640 acres. Bush proved to be a very successful farmer growing more food than he needed. As others pioneers followed the trail they blazed to Puget Sound, they would arrive in Tumwater penniless and half-starved. Bush gave them food, telling them they could just repay him once they got established. Not only neighboring Olympia owes a debt to Bush, but Tacoma and Seattle came into being with his help.
Bush Prairie Farm in 1967
Then in 1848, America and Britain decided to split the Oregon Country rather than fight over it. Bush suddenly found his home in Oregon Territory and no longer on semi-British land. The Lash Law was in effect. Fortunately his neighbors ignored it. Indeed they didn’t like a lot of the territory laws, so they pushed for self-government and their own territory. In 1853 Bush’s farm was now in Washington Territory.

Still the old Oregon exclusion law clouded Bush’s legal ownership to his land. One of the first actions of the territorial legislation in Olympia was to ask Congress to give the Bushes unambiguous ownership to their land.

William Owen Bush
George Bush’s six sons followed in their father’s footsteps as farmers and civic leaders. In fact his eldest son, William Owen Bush, served two terms in the Washington State Legislator, including her first session. In 1890, one year after the state was admitted to the Union, William introduced a bill establishing an agricultural school that would become Washington State University. And that is why “Wazoo” is so interested in George Bush and his family.

A website dedicated to George Washington Bush

Why Do We Still Call It Thurston County?
Thurston County, where Bush settled, was named for Samuel Thurston the very man who wrote the Exclusion Act (Lash Law) that forced Bush north!

George Washington Bush was not Washington State’s only African-American founding father. George Washington (1817-1905) was the founder of the city of Centralia.

15.2.12

A Friend in Need

Wednesday, 15 February 2659 - Long Island, New York

This afternoon while walking across the campus of University of Hartford, I received a call.

“Howdy, fancy-pants.” The voice on the other end drawled in a Western accent. I recognized it as once as Dr. Henry Darrel.

Cowboys (that's Henry in the middle with the white shirt)
“Henry, old boy!” I said, “How nice to hear from you. Where are you?”

“Long Island.”

“Really? I’m just across Long Island Sound in Connecticut. I’m practically in the neighborhood. Would you be available to share supper?”

“Sounds good.” Henry words sounded a little slurred.

“Are you all right? Debriefing a bit rough? How much beer have you had?”

“Feeling no pain. Uh, I gotta a favor I wanna ask you.”

“We can discuss it over dinner. Where would you like to meet?”

Miners (Henry's in the back)
“Saint Hugh O’Flaherty Hospital.”

“Hospital? Why do you want to eat at a hospital.”

“Because they won’t let me leave the bed.”

I stopped walking. “What? Are you making a joke?”

“Do you hear me laughing?”

“Good Lord! Are you all right, Henry?”

“Yeah, I’ll be fine. Oh dang, there’s that nurse again. Gotta go. See ya.” Henry then hung up.

It was then I realized Henry wasn’t drunk, but on pain medication. What the blazes had the man done now?

For those of you who don’t know Henry, he is a Temporal Anthropologist for the University of Wyoming. We are both studying the 19th century, but in our own way. I’m a mere tourist compared to Henry.

He started out studying his cowboy ancestors by working beside them. Since then he has taken all sorts of jobs: railroad engineer, fur trapper, factory worker, miner--to name a few. He is studying the working man of the period. Unfortunately safety standards in 19th century were sorely lacking . Life in the Victorian Age is dangerous enough without looking for trouble!

Edison's First Lamp Factory (that's Henry in front)
I took a hover-taxi to St. Hugh OFlaherty’s, hang the expense. I was quite flushed and gasping for breath by the time I found Dr. Darrel’s room. There sat the twit in bed grinning at me like a Cheshire cat.

“Howdy, Wendell. You look like you been rode hard and put away wet.”

“What in the name of heaven have you done now, Henry? Did you loose another finger?”

Henry held his hands up and wiggled them at me. “Nope. Got eleven like everyone else.”

He doesn’t really have eleven fingers. “Are any of those original? You keep getting them caught in machinery and then have to have them cloned and reattached.”

“I think the left pinky came with my birthday suit.”

"What did you do this time?”

Henry pulled back the blanket and I nearly passed out. Below his knee was a plastic case preserving the tissue of a stub. The foot was gone! I sunk down in the nearby chair before I fell over.

I swallowed the bile in my throat. “Again? Is this the same foot you lost last time?”

“Nope. Thought I would make them a matching pair.”

“How did you lose this one?”

“Steamboat ran over it.”

“That joke was bad last time you told it.”

Loading Steamboats (Henry is on the plank--see him?)
Henry just grinned at me, and covered his stub back up. “Okay, I lost it playing lumberjack. After I did the interview and took footage of what there was of the place, thought I’d get my hands dirty and help cut down trees so they could clear land then use the wood to build houses. Like working with my hands.”

I was completely lost. “Where were you?”

“Olympia, Washington Territory, 1857. I went back to do a little job for Wazoo.”

“Wazoo?”

Henry frowned at my ignorance. “Washington State University. You know, in Pullman, Washington. They wanted me to go back and to find George W. Bush.”

That name sounded familiar. I pulled out my pocket computer. “43rd President of the United States? You aren’t allowed in the 21st century.”

“Not that yahoo. George Washington Bush, one of the first pioneers to Washington State. One of the founders of Olympia, it’s capital.”

“Ah! Now it makes sense.”

Henry as a train engineer
“And that’s where the favor comes in.”

“Name it...as long as it doesn’t involve cutting off my foot.”

“I had planned to return today so I could be in Pullman, Washington Saturday to show the footage I took. They already made up posters and invited half the state. And I was wondering--”

“If I could hobble something together and take your place.”

“Yeah, since I can’t even hobble. Cloned foot won’t be ready until next week. Meantime I’m kinda doped up on pain medication to think too straight. I could cancel the shindig, but it would disappoint a lot of folks.”

“I had planned to do some work this weekend, but it’s nothing that can’t wait. I would be happy to help you out.”

Henry gave me a crooked grin. “You’re a real pal. I owe ya one.”

“Some day you can come to Cambridge and give a lecture on 19th century industrial safety, or lack there of.”

“Done. I’ll show off my new foot.”

Of course this means extra work for me, but I don’t mind. Henry would do the same for me. The man would give you an arm and a leg. Erm, I believe they are both cloned, too.

This is as adventurous as I get (that's me in the back)

9.2.12

The Victorian Age's Best Selling Novel

9 February 1891 - Hartford, Hartford, Connecticut

Harriet Beecher Stowe House
Next door to Samuel Clemens house lives another author, another national treasure. Harriet Beecher Stowe, now eighty years old, is a delicate woman with sparkling eyes. I would call her retired, but she wrote a book just last year.

I was fortunate enough to make an appointment to interview her. Here is some of our conversation:

Howe: I understand your book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, was this century’s best seller.

Stowe: No, that would be the Bible, sir. My book was the second best seller.

Howe: It must have made you rich.

Harriet Beecher Stowe
Stowe: Three quarters of those books were pirated, so I received no money. Still I didn’t write the book to get rich. I wrote it to show people the evils of slavery and that it had to be stopped. If those pirated books changed one mind, then I suppose they served a purpose.

Howe: How did you get involved in the abolitionist movement?

Stowe: That would be my father, Lyman Beecher. He was a Presbyterian minister. Several of my brothers followed in his footsteps. Father saw slavery as a sin. What good Christian could treat a fellow human being like an object?

Howe: So that is what inspired your book?

Stowe: That and my work with the Underground Railroad when I lived in Cincinnati. It’s just across the river from Kentucky.

Howe: You were in the Underground Railroad?

Josiah Henson
Stowe: Yes, I and my husband, Calvin, God rest his soul, hid fugitive slaves in our home more than once. The tales they told were heart-breaking. And I heard stories from others in the Railroad. I also read The Life of Josiah Henson, Formerly a Slave, Now an Inhabitant of Canada, as Narrated by Himself. Have you read his book, Mr. Howe?

Howe: No, I will have to.

Stowe: Henson was a run away that later helped other runaway slaves settle in Canada. After my book he republished his as The Memoirs of Uncle Tom. Apparently he approved of my book. I was also inspired by the work American Slavery As It Is: Testimony of a Thousand Witnesses. I mentioned them both in my book A Key to Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

Howe: A sequel?

Stowe: No. It was non-fiction. After Uncle Tom’s Cabin came out, many said I made the whole thing up, that slaves were treated kindly by their masters who treated them like family. Poppy-cock! My novel may have been fiction, but it was all based on true stories. I wrote the book to site my sources. So then people started writing anti-Tom stories.

Howe: Replacing the passive figure of Uncle Tom with a hero more assertive?

Dred - first edition
Stowe: No, anti-Tom stories were pro-slavery novels that portrayed slaves as child-like idiots who needed masters to take care of them. In ‘56 I did write another anti-slavery novel called Dred: A Tale of the Great Dismal Swamp. Dred is a slave who runs away and hides out in a swamp, preaching against slavery and helping slaves to escape. Nothing passive about this gentleman. That book wasn’t as popular. I never meant to portray Uncle Tom as a man who gives in to his slavers, but as a good Christian. Simon Legree kills Tom when he refuses to betray the whereabouts of his fellow slaves who escaped.

Howe: Tom doesn’t sound like a betrayer or coward to me. Was there any final event that galvanized you to write Uncle Tom’s Cabin?

Stowe: Yes! It was when Congress passed that dreadful Fugitive Slave Law, making it illegal for anyone anywhere to assist runaway slaves. That was in 1850. I was so angry. It was bad enough these evil men had no Christian charity in their souls, but to try to force others to abandon their fellow men? I wanted people to break the law and help runaways. So I started writing a serial for the abolitionist journal New Era. I wanted to subtitle it The Man That Was A Thing but the editors changed it to Life Among the Lowly. It became so popular John Jewett wanted to publish it in book form. I didn’t believe it would sell that well, but I agreed. I was shocked at how well it sold.

Howe: Everyone agrees the book did spur the anti-slavery movement.

Stowe: Before when you heard about slavery, it was just something that happened to some other people. I wanted to put a face on it. Make people feel what the slaves felt.

Howe: Yes, a bit like the Diary of Anne Frank.

Stowe: Who?

Howe: Erm...Dutch girl in the...erm...war. I say, you must have made quite a bit of money in those stage productions of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

Stowe: Sir, I did not authorize any of those. I refused! Father taught us never to trust drama. From what I understand those shows put on anything they liked. Some made the characters look like clowns, turned it into a farce. Some are even pro-slavery! All right, I will admit I did attend George Aiken's adaptation. It did follow the book somewhat and kept my message intake. I thought Caroline Howard did a marvelous Topsy.

Howe: Yes, Topsy. The ignorant pickaninny.

Stowe: Yes, Topsy was ignorant. She was taken away from her mother so young she doesn’t remember her. She has no family, just herself. She is a tragic figure and shows the disregard slave owners had for the sanctity of family. I hate it when they show her as happy-go-lucky. She is a ragamuffin who was treated little better than an animal. Is it any wonder she is cynical?

Uncle Tom's Cabin by Anna Blunden
showing Eva and Topsy

Howe: Yes, I suppose she is a tragic figure at that.

Stowe: I know many have criticized my book. They say it’s too sentimental. It’s too melodramatic. That the slaves and the women in it are too passive. It may not be perfect...but it made a lot of people think twice about slavery. If I had any hand in its abolishment, then I am very proud.

Howe: I think you also inspired something called protest literature, novels pointing out social problems.

Stowe: That would be good, too

Mrs. Stowe and I talked for awhile more. I could see she was tiring and I did not wish to overstay my welcome. I thanked her for the interview and for the honor of meeting her. She is a most humble and charming woman.

A hundred years from now (1891) a novel like Uncle Tom’s Cabin would have been laughed at for being too melodramatic, for having characters too stereo-typed, for being too preachy. But this is the Victorian Age. The book made people cry and get angry and take action. For that reason alone, Uncle Tom’s Cabin deserved to be this century’s best seller.

Short documentary on Uncle Tom’s Cabin