Current Event Friday #80

Eve isn’t the only woman who’s had trouble with snakes

If there’s something strange in the neighborhood, who you gonna call?—The Indiana State Police. This time of year you’d think the answer of Ghostbusters would make more sense, but thanks to an odd story here in the Hoosier State, they might be less helpful. Today’s #CurrentEventFriday is all about what the strange Indiana State Police discovered.

On October 30, Benton County Police responded to a report of an unresponsive woman. As police arrived at the home, about 25 miles West of Lafayette, Indiana they discovered the homeowner being constricted by a python.

Image result for reticulated python

Medics attempted to save the woman’s life but eventually pronounced the woman dead at the scene. The Benton County Police working with Indiana State Police and discovered well over 100 snakes and other reptiles in the house.

The woman involved visits the house several times a week, to help care for the snakes. Interestingly, the house is owned by the local sheriff. The sheriff had previously sold snakes and other reptiles. Indiana State Police are investigating to what extent the sheriff was involved. An autopsy is scheduled later today.

A brief look at this story looks somewhat like the tailing moments of Snakes on a Plane. The film depicts an amateur herpetologist (snake guy) is bitten by a snake at his snake house when FBI agents raid the building to find the list of snakes on the plane and collect antivenom for the snake-bitten victims on the plane. Working with loads of snakes is probably best left to professionals such as zoologists, veterinarians, and biologists in their respective settings.

Snakes can be helpful in dealing with pests around the house and don’t necessarily need feared. Much of the herpetophobia is likely due to historic attitudes about snakes from the Bible particularly references in Genesis and Revelation.

Maybe I’m not as scared of snakes thanks to growing up in a small town in a wooded setting, plus I’m a guy.  We all know little boys are made of snakes and snails and puppy-dogs’ tails while little girls are made of sugar and spice and everything nice.

I can appreciate a person wanting to have a pet snake, but the number and types of snakes in the house were not merely pets and should be in the wild or in a professionally approved setting for them. I’d guess that the larger snakes, including the alleged murderer the python will be moved to one of those settings.

Was this woman being smart in handling these snakes?

Current Event Friday #73

Incidents of racism are making the rounds in the news

There’s only one race, and that’s the human race. We all like to believe that this is true and so many others believe that in our country. While it’s true that at our founding as a nation we had an untenable relationship between White Europeans and people of color, but we have progressed since that time. Sadly, some insensitive people have proven we could do better. Three such incidents of racism in the news recently are today’s topic of #CurrentEventFriday.

Image result for race relations

Locally, the most obvious incident was the Ku Klux Klan’s Labor Day Kookout in Madison, IN. A quaint little small town famous for the Independence Day regatta attracts several dozen Klansmen who dare to proclaim the superiority of the white race. As the group has waned in influence, the numbers have dwindled while the counter-protestors have grown significantly. This is a promising sign that more are opposed to racism and refuting it. Madison overlooks Trimble County, KY so there is at least some historical tendencies of ‘copperheads’ in the area. During the Civil War, ‘copperheads’ were Southern loyalists living in Union states in the North. Hopefully there will come a time when the Kookout gets cancelled from lack of interest.

Not as local, but somewhat nearby is an arrest of a University of Illinois student. The alleged perpetrator is a sophomore at the campus. After this student and another left a noose in an elevator in a residence hall, the other student came forward and confessed that their friend had indeed placed a noose in the elevator. After the student was arrested and charged with a hate crime for leaving the noose, the university dismissed the student. A similar story occurred during my own undergrad when parts of a pig carcass were found near an African-American fraternity house because another fraternity discarded the carcass carelessly after a hog roast. No hate crime charges were filed since no malicious intent was able to be assigned to the guilty parties.

I posted a short blurb and a news story that followed on my Facebook earlier in the week, but it’s still worth discussing. A couple in Mississippi looked into renting an outdoor event space for their wedding but were refused as the groom was African-American while the bride is white. When the owners of the event space were questioned about the refusal, they argued that both gay marriages and interracial marriages were against their Christian race, or Christian belief. As word broke about the event space and Social Media critics attacked the ratings of the venue and commented on the Facebook page, the owners quickly deleted the business page. I know that gay marriage is a hot-button issue and religious freedom bills allow business owners not to violate their conscience, the argument for these bills is seemingly about endorsing behavior not natural traits. That’s at least my interpretation of homosexuality, and I would suspect many others. Sadly, the argument about a Christian Race alludes to rhetoric of Klansmen that the White Christian Race is under attack. It’s also not completely surprising that Mississippi is still struggling with racism. The site of the Emmitt Till Murder as well as the 1963 Civil Rights murders the state is seemingly the poster child for racism. The state is making at least some progress as the mayor and town council in the town where the venue is located condemned the venue and distanced themselves with the racist undertones. Yet, the state representative for the district including the town of Boonville where the venue is located has not issued a statement. This same representative co-sponsored the latest religious freedom act in Mississippi that protects business owners from being penalized for refusing gay marriage ceremonies. Pretty safe to assume that pressure will be brought to bear on the state representative, and he’ll have to make some sort of statement.

I for one think that we have made progress as a nation since the Civil Rights Era, but we are still divided by race. Electing an African-American man as president not once but twice is to me fruit of diversity appreciation in our country following the tumultuous Civil Rights Era. Seemingly, groups like Black Lives Matter that notice a racist devil around every corner tend to undermine progress while alt-right and White pride folks also give fuel to those determined to promote unity of will with diversity of thought and race.

Hopefully, as everyone can recognize actual acts of racism perpetrated with evil intent rather than naivete about race relations that leads to misunderstanding will move us where we should be as a country. If we are a nation where all people are created equal regardless of race, gender, age, or religion then we need to be able to agree on what is prejudice, bigotry, and discrimination. Even more hopefully acts of racism also fade away and we do become the nation we aspired to be from our founding.

Are we improving with race relations in America?

History Monday #66

Let’s get it started!

I’m back from my continuing education program, and glad to be back to writing for pleasure rather than for classwork. So, without any further ado, I’m revved up for writing again. Speaking of being revved up, today’s #HistoryMonday is all about how folks in Indiana have gotten revved up for over a century.

Image result for indianapolis motor speedway

On this day in 1909, the first race is held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway—home of the world’s most famous motor racing competition, the Indianapolis 500.

The construction of a racetrack and races to be featured at the venue were conceived by Indianapolis businessman Carl G. Fisher. Fisher saw the appeal of a racing speedway in 1905 after attending a race event in Europe.

Fisher realized that automobile racing was a means of testing cars before consumers took delivery of them. He also argued that race spectators were only able to perceive a glimpse of the cars on a linear track. Fisher believed that a 3 to 5-mile oval track would allow many more to view the abilities of the automobiles featured.

With dozens of automakers located in Indiana, Fisher proclaimed, “Indianapolis is going to be the world’s greatest center of horseless carriage manufacturer, what could be more logical than building the world’s greatest racetrack right here?”

indianapolis_motor_speed-20000000008396001-500x375

Construction of the track began in March 1909. Built on 328 acres of farmland five miles northwest of Indianapolis, Indiana. Laid out in a rectangle configuration measuring two-and-a-half-miles with four turns with two long and two short straight sections. The track’s surface was originally comprised of crushed rock and tar, a decision that would soon be regretted.

Fifteen  teams arrived on the first day of racing on August 19 for a three-day event. Fifteen to twenty thousand spectators showed up, paying at the most $1 for a ticket. In that first five-mile race Austrian engineer Louis Schwitzer won with an average speed of 57.4 miles per hour. But the track surface broke up in a number of places and caused the deaths of two drivers, two mechanics and two spectators.

Eventually, the surface was soon replaced with 3.2 million paving bricks, laid in a bed of sand and fixed with mortar. The new paving brick surface led to the speedway being dubbed “The Brickyard,” after it reopened in December 1909.

fast forward

Since 1911, the Indianapolis 500 has been held every year, with the exception of 1917-18 and 1942-45, when the United States World Wars 1 & 2. The decision to host the Indianapolis 500 proved to be more successful after the speedway owners realized an annual long-distance event rather than multiple short-distance races throughout the year.

With an average crowd of 400,000, the Indy 500 is the best-attended event in U.S. sports. An asphalt paved surface would eventually replace the original brick surface by 1961. Speedway owners chose at that time to preserve a one-yard line of bricks left exposed at the start-finish line as a nostalgic reminder of the track’s history.

The proliferation of races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway also led to other automobile racing organizations using the track to feature their cars. In 1994, NASCAR began their annual event at the Speedway originally termed the Brickyard 400. IROC, an all-star event featuring drivers from all automobile racing also partnered with the Brickyard 400 event similar to their companion race to the Dayton 500.

Motorcycle racing predated automobile racing at the speedway by less than a week. Motorcycle GP racing returned to that tradition almost a century later and continued racing at the track until 2015 using a road course configuration during the run.

Open wheel racing was also featured with Formula One using the track for Grand Prix events beginning in 1998 and ending in 2012. The F1 race featured a road course configuration similar to the Moto GP configuration.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s ownership by the Hulman family continued to grow the speedway and its fame. With the Hulman connection to the track, the family also earned enough money to fund colleges in their native Terre Haute.

The speedway and the Indy 500 have also continued to connect young viewers to Jim Nabors. Supported by Purdue University’s marching band, Nabors sang “Back Home Again in Indiana” prior to the start of the event. As Nabors health declined before his death, a capella group Straight No Chaser and Chicago Blackhawks singer Jim Cornelison performed the song.

Current Event Friday #54

The one time I’m not a fan of things that go boom in the night

Kentucky Derby fans start your engines! Tomorrow is the kickoff of the Kentucky Derby season. The day will be marked with an event that’s taken on a life of its own, rivaling the Derby itself—Thunder Over Louisville.

low angle photo of fireworks
Photo by rovenimages.com on Pexels.com

Thunder Over Louisville is a firework show combining popular music selections with thousands of fireworks to begin the season of Kentucky Derby Festival. What began several years ago as a kickoff event focused only on the fireworks has now added an afternoon air show, carnival rides, local restaurant specials, festival food and more starting on a Saturday morning a fortnight ahead of the Kentucky Derby.

Oddly enough, as much as I enjoy fireworks and watching them, I’ve never been. The sheer number of people, heat, and long day just don’t appeal to me. My brother and sister-in-law have gone in the years before my nephews came along. My biggest gripe is the price gouging that inevitably happens on Thunder Saturday. Restaurants in Jeffersonville and New Albany in Indiana along with Louisville offer specials with pricing on par for New Year’s Eve or Valentine’s Day. Not only is the price seemingly inflated outside of rational limits the reservations have to be made more than a month or two in advance. I know they offer use of their restroom facilities as an alternative to the thunder pots which are Porta-Potties but named for the event at hand. If you try to avoid the expensive restaurant trap, you’re relegated to squatters’ rights being in play in the local parks overlooking the bridge and barges where the fireworks will be shot off from. Families are encouraged to leave one unlucky person to stake their personal space out while others seek food and entertainment and then relieve their family member when the shift ends.

Like with watching professional sports teams, I would much rather watch the event from my own home. Why pay $8 for a soda and another $9 for food, fight traffic, and fight to hope to see the event when I can watch on television and pay less for food that isn’t ridiculously priced and stay away from traffic.

I’m probably also more than skeptical of the whole Derby Festival anyways. It’s two weeks of buildup for two minutes of horses running around a track. And if recent HBO specials and news reports about the industry are to be believed, it needs to stop. Horses obviously have ability to outrun people and humans will always be competitive, but there are modern modes of transportation that humans can use to compete with, i.e. race cars. I’m perfectly fine with Speedweeks at Daytona and Carb Days at the Indy 500 as ancillary events to the main races because unlike horse racing those events will last more than two minutes.

I know I’m sounding negative and downplaying tomorrow’s festivities, but inevitably I’ll watch the fireworks show on the local news to have something to talk about Sunday morning at church or with friends and family, but unless something magical like a girlfriend who always goes to Thunder Over Louisville comes in my life, I’ll stay home and enjoy my own way.

What are your thoughts about Thunder Over Louisville?

An Honestly Good Birthday

Hey Blinken, it’s the birthday of Abe Lincoln!

It’s an important birthday today (no, mine is almost two weeks away). It is the 219th birthday of Pres. Abraham Lincoln. Pres. Lincoln was born on this day in modern-day Hodgenville, Kentucky. The holiday is usually co-branded with Pres. George Washington’s Birthday as a singular holiday known as Presidents’ Day.

The day is marked by wreath-laying ceremonies at Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site in Hodgenville, Kentucky and at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. The Lincoln Memorial wreath is laid on behalf of the President of the United States an act afforded to every deceased U.S. president on their birthday.

Besides the ceremonies in Kentucky and Washington D.C., recognition of the holiday occurs in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, California, Missouri, and New York. The first observance of Lincoln’s birthday occurred in Buffalo, New York, in either 1873 or 1874 thanks to efforts from Julius Francis. Francis was an avid promoter of memorializing Pres. Lincoln after Pres. Lincoln’s assassination. Francis petitioned the U.S. Congress to recognize the birthday as an official federal holiday, but to no avail. The holiday is an official state holiday in Illinois, Connecticut, and Missouri.

Lincoln’s birthday is also important in regards to Pres. Lincoln’s efforts made on behalf of African-Americans. The creation of Negro History Week [sic] due to the historic birthdays of Frederick Douglass as well as Pres. Lincoln. This week-long celebration of African-American culture and history eventually  expanded to Black History Month.

The holiday is also celebrated in many local Republican Party precincts to kick off early campaign season. The choice of Lincoln’s Birthday is owed to Pres. Lincoln being the first Republican President. The party was founded just six years prior to Lincoln’s first victory and was noted for its strong abolitionist stance.

Luckily at least for me, Pres. Lincoln’s Birthplace and Boyhood Home are within an hour and half drive from my location. Although, I’m unlikely to make a road-trip to either site.

 

How will you celebrate Lincoln’s Birthday?

Happy Indiana Day!

A day of celebration of all things Hoosier

That’s right, today is Indiana Day. It was on this day in 1816 that the Indiana Territory was officially recognized as a state. The granting of statehood to Indiana made it the 19th state admitted to the Union. Each year since 1925, the Indiana General Assembly proclaims this date as an anniversary to celebrate all things of the Hoosier State. Of course, two years ago during the state’s bicentennial anniversary the festivities and acknowledgements were much more impressive and manifold than the usual offerings. Interesting note, the state flag was only adopted more than a century after statehood. By waiting until 1917, Indiana was at that point the only state without a flag. The state did adopt a seal in 1801 and affirmed it again in 1816 during the push for statehood.

800px-indiana-stateseal-svg
State Seal of Indiana

The initial efforts to achieve statehood for Indiana were begun on April 19, 1816 when President James Madison signed an Enabling Act that provided for the election of delegates to a convention at Corydon to consider statehood for Indiana. Forty-three delegates convened June 10–29, 1816, to draft Indiana’s first state constitution.  The location for the convention has been memorialized in Corydon as the Constitution Elm. The memorial is a preserved portion of an elm tree the delegates gathered under for shade during the scorching summer hours of the convention. Corydon would remain the state capital for nearly a decade and was moved to the more central location of Indianapolis in 1825.

Indiana was able to grow even after statehood thanks to the National Road through the center of the state and by its advertised abolitionist leanings. The framers of the first Indiana Constitution included provisions that slavery was illegal in the state and an early session of the Indiana Supreme Court declared that any person purchased for enslavement in the Indiana Territory even before statehood would be considered free. Indiana’s opposition to slavery led to an overwhelming volunteer effort for the Civil War that several prospective men hoping to enlist were turned away.

Indiana’s growth as a state after statehood was also felt in government efforts from the mid-19th Century to the early 20th Century reflected the Hoosier state’s importance in American politics which saw an Indiana resident included in every presidential election from 1880 to 1924, in all but one race. Indiana has seen only one President from their state—Benjamin Harrison, but has seen five Vice Presidents: Thomas Hendricks (Cleveland), Charles Fairbanks (T. Roosevelt), Thomas Marshall (Wilson) , Dan Quayle(George H.W. Bush), and current Vice President Mike Pence.

Indiana was only the second of the several states comprising the Northwest Territory to gain statehood. Ohio earned its statehood 13 years earlier. Illinois would receive statehood just two years after its neighboring state of Indiana had earned theirs. Michigan would take another two decades, and Wisconsin and Minnesota would be admitted in the decade just preceding the Civil War.

Happy Anniversary to the Crossroads of America and every Hoosier by birth or choice (Yes, this includes you Purdue alumni too)!

“Indiana” by Arthur Franklin Mapes

God crowned her hills with beauty,
Gave her lakes and winding streams,
Then He edged them all with woodlands
As the setting for our dreams.
Lovely are her moonlit rivers,
Shadowed by the sycamores,
Where the fragrant winds of Summer
Play along the willowed shores.
I must roam those wooded hillsides,
I must heed the native call,
For a pagan voice within me
Seems to answer to it all.
I must walk where squirrels scamper
Down a rustic old rail fence,
Where a choir of birds is singing
In the woodland . . . green and dense.
I must learn more of my homeland
For it’s paradise to me,
There’s no haven quite as peaceful,
There’s no place I’d rather be.
Indiana . . . is a garden
Where the seeds of peace have grown,
Where each tree, and vine, and flower
Has a beauty . . . all its own.
Lovely are the fields and meadows,
That reach out to hills that rise
Where the dreamy Wabash River
Wanders on . . . through paradise.

Be sure to eat some Sugar Cream Pie and sing “On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away” to commemorate the event. It’s honest to goodness Indiana if you do.

 

 

 

History Monday #25

Today in 1812, Southern Indiana falls victim to hostility from local Native Americans.

It’s time for #HistoryMonday once again, and today’s topic makes me nostalgic for my 4th and 8th grade social studies classes. For those unfamiliar, Indiana Department of Education requires that students in those grades study Indiana history as part of the social studies curriculum. Admittedly, I don’t remember learning about today’s event though.

On this day in 1812, several Native Americans comprised mostly of the Shawnee tribe attacked settlers in the Indiana Territory at a town known as Pigeon Roost. The town consisted of several houses near the current town of Underwood in Clark County. The town was named for its prevalence of passenger pigeons. This extinct species of pigeon is also the basis for the naming of Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.

Pigeon Roost.jpg

The settlers of Pigeon Roost were technically living in land not legally available until the passage of the Northwest Ordinance. Early American politicians didn’t enforce the legality of the settlement but warned that without official deeds there wouldn’t be guarantee of safety from unfriendly Native Americans and their British allies.

The war party killed many members of the Elias Payne family, and then moved on to kill members of the Collings family. William Collings is alleged to have killed four of the Native American raiders before escaping to the Zebulon Colling’s blockhouse. Mrs. John Biggs, sister of William Collings managed to escape the raiders too, but unfortunately lost a young child who suffocated after Mrs. Biggs stuffed a shawl around his mouth to muffle his whimpers to prevent the raiders from discovering the family’s whereabouts.

As news of the massacre spread, a militia from Charlestown was dispatched to deal with the Native American raiders. The war party escaped before the militia reached their position. Members of the Indiana Rangers, a mounted militia responsible for protecting white settlers from Native American attacks eventually met up with the war party near Bartholomew County and clashed with the war party, sending the Native Americans back to their homes. The Rangers did suffer a casualty, John Zink.

The leader of the raid was believed to be a Shawnee, Missilemotaw.  He claimed to be a confidant of notorious chief Tecumseh, who waged many more raids and battles with Indiana settlers in the pre-statehood era.

fast forward

As far as the impact of what this raid means today, there have been no Native American attacks lately. It’s worth noting that the Pigeon Roost Massacre was the first Indian attack in Indiana during the War of 1812. Missilemotaw confessed upon his capture that the Pigeon Roost Massacre was aided by British forces who hoped to cripple the young United States in the War of 1812.

Today, there exists a memorial placed near the site in 1904. The memorial is an obelisk [Washington Monument-style shape] carved from Bedford limestone and stands 44’ tall. It is dedicated to the memory of the 2 dozen settlers who perished in the massacre. Some 25 years after the memorial was dedicated, Indiana declared the area a state historic site. In 2004, Indiana placed a historical marker along US Route 31 near the site to help tourists find the memorial.

There is also a replica cabin and picnic shelter built in the area. The picnic shelter is host to an annual picnic of the surviving descendants on the Sunday following Labor Day. So, if you’re inclined or can prove your ancestry try to show up and enjoy the food and fellowship.