Today’s Kipling – King Henry VII and the Shipwrights

(Since I quoted part of it in a comment, I thought I ought to put in the whole thing.)

King Henry VII and the Shipwrights

Rudyard Kipling

HARRY, our King in England, from London town is gone
And comen to Hamull on the Hoke in the Countie of Suthampton.
For there lay the Mary of the Tower, his ship of war so strong,
And he would discover, certaynely, if his shipwrights did him wrong.

He told not none of his setting forth, nor yet where he would go,
(But only my Lord of Arundel) and meanly did he show,
In an old jerkin and patched hose that no man might him mark.
With his frieze hood and cloak above, he looked like any clerk.

He was at Hamull on the Hoke about the hour of the tide,
And saw the Mary haled into dock, the winter to abide,
With all her tackle and habilaments which are the King his own;
But then ran on his false shipwrights and stripped her to the bone.

They heaved the main-mast overboard, that was of a trusty tree,
And they wrote down it was spent and lost by force of weather at sea.
But they sawen it into planks and strakes as far as it might go,
To maken beds for their own wives and little children also.

There was a knave called Slingawai, he crope beneath the deck,
Crying: ” Good felawes, come and see! The ship is nigh a wreck!
For the storm that took our tall main-mast, it blew so fierce and fell,
Alack! it hath taken the kettles and pans, and this brass pott as well l”

With that he set the pott on his head and hied him up the hatch,
While all the shipwrights ran below to find what they might snatch;
All except Bob Brygandyne and he was a yeoman good.
He caught Slingawai round the waist and threw him on to the mud.

“I have taken plank and rope and nail, without the King his leave,
After the custom of Portesmouth, but I will not suffer a thief.
Nay, never lift up thy hand at me – there’s no clean hands in the trade.
Steal in measure,” quo’ Brygandyne. ” There’s measure in all things made!”

“Gramercy, yeoman!” said our King. “Thy council liketh me.”
And he pulled a whistle out of his neck and whistled whistles three.
Then came my Lord of Arundel pricking across the down,
And behind him the Mayor and Burgesses of merry Suthampton town.

They drew the naughty shipwrights up, with the kettles in their hands,
And bound them round the forecastle to wait the King’s commands.
But ” Sith ye have made your beds,” said the King, ” ye needs must lie thereon.
For the sake of your wives and little ones – felawes, get you gone!”

When they had beaten Slingawai, out of his own lips
Our King appointed Brygandyne to be Clerk of all his ships.
“Nay, never lift up thy hands to me – there’s no clean hands in the trade.
But steal in measure,” said Harry our King. “There’s measure in all things made!”

God speed the Mary of the Tower, the Sovereign, and Grace Dieu,
The Sweepstakes and the Mary Fortune, and the Henry of Bristol too !
All tall ships that sail on the sea, or in our harbours stand,
That they may keep measure with Harry our King and peace in Engeland !

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TOTD 23 May 2018 – A Century-long Experiment

During the twentieth century the industrialized world was engaged in three major conflicts: World War I, World War II, and the Cold War. In all three wars one side contained a coalition whose nations favored authoritarian  governments running command economies. The other side was dominated by nations who favored representative governments with free-market economies.* In all three wars the coalition which was more representative and more free-market won and the coalition which was more authoritarian and with more centralization of the economy lost.

In all three cases before the war the authoritarian, command economy nations were viewed as more efficient with a more effective use of resources. The representative-government, free-market economy nations were viewed as messy, inefficient, and weak.

It was almost as if gods in Olympus were running a century-long debate on the issue of “Resolved: authoritarian government with command-controlled economies produce better results than representative governments with free-market economies.”  And those holding the pro position got their heads handed to them three times running.

So, what do we hear from today’s elites? You know, socialism (authoritarian with command economy) is really the way to go. Like the Bourbon kings of France, they learn nothing and forget nothing.

* Yes, there was at least one authoritarian, command-controlled economy nation in that coalition, but the bulk of the economic power was held by the representative, free-market partners.

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This Week’s Book Review – The Vanishing Woman

I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) My review normally appears Wednesdays. When it appears, I post the review here on the following Sunday.


Book Review

Father Gabriel solves the mystery of Edith Jennings


May 15, 2018

“The Vanishing Woman: A Father Gabriel Mystery,” by Fiorella De Maria, Ignatius Press, 2018, 246 pages, $16.95

Edith Jennings is the meanest person in her small English town. Many hate her, all fear her, no one loves her, even her two children.

“The Vanishing Woman: A Father Gabriel Mystery,” by Fiorella De Maria opens with Edith Jennings demonstrating why she is so disliked.

The time is the early 1950s. Father Gabriel has been temporarily transferred from his beloved Saint Mary’s Abbey to serve at the Church of Saint Patrick while its priest recovers from a heart attack. While there he attends a talk at the town’s bookstore. The speaker, Dr. Pamela Milton, will speak about her latest book and signing books the next day.

Edith Jennings attends the lecture. She verbally attacks the speaker who grew up in the town. Jennings to have been libeled by Milton in a magazine article where Milton criticized antiquated teaching methods. Jennings was headmistress of the town’s school. Jennings threatens to ruin Milton’s life.

The next day, Edith Jennings literally disappears. Her daughter Agnes sees her mother walking down the path to their house, returning after Mrs. Jennings visited her sister. Agnes turns away for a few seconds. When Agnes looks out the window again her mother has vanished.

Initially, the local constabulary discounts Agnes’ story, assuming Agnes imagined the whole thing. After Edith’s body turns up in the waters of Port Shaston, 50 miles away, Agnes is suspected of complicity in Edith’s murder.

Agnes is known to be truthful, but what she claims to have seen was impossible. Some in town assume she is mad.

Not Father Gabriel. Using Thomas Aquinas for his logic, Father Gabriel decides if Agnes is not lying and not mad, something happened. He then sets out to find out what. During his investigation he uncovers long-buried secrets of the town and its inhabitants, some dating back to World War II.

De Maria’s second Father Gabriel mystery is another gem of a mystery novel. It is a fun detective tale, offering light entertainment. “The Vanishing Woman” captures echoes of Britain’s golden age mystery writers like Agatha Christie and G. K. Chesterton, while presenting an original story.

Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, amateur historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is

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A Question for the Lawyers Among the Ratburghers

The question: Can someone be tried as an adult for a crime committed as a juvenile, especially if being a juvenile mitigates the crime if the crime is not discovered until well after the perpetrator becomes an adult?.

The specific case – someone at age 15 apparently participated in the gang rape of a 14-year-old. The incident was taped, but the tape disappeared. Later, the individual was caught in another crime (a murder) and sentenced to a juvenile facility. He aged out of that at 26. Soon afterwards a copy of the rape-tape appeared with a demand for blackmail or the tape will be sent to the police.

The implication is the individual will be charged with rape as an adult, with the charge aggravated because the victim was a minor.

If you read mysteries, you will recognize this as the McGuffin in Sue Grafton’s last novel, “Y is for Yesterday.” Kinsey Milhone is hired to find the blackmailer. The blackmail victim is terrified that he will go back to prison, as an adult, for his actions eleven years earlier.

Not excusing the seriousness of the crime, but can he be charged as an adult? The crime was committed in 1979 and he was released from the California Youth Authority prison in 1989 (for a murder committed later that year). He was fifteen when the asexual assault took place. (There is stuff in the book about the encounter being consensual, but let’s assume it was a real rape.)

If the tape had surfaced in 1979 he would have been tried as a juvenile, and would have been released by 1989. Assuming the statute of limitations has not expired by 1989 he could be charged – but could he be tried as an adult? He was not an adult when the crime was committed even if he is an adult when it is discovered. Additionally, since he was underage when he committed the sexual contact does the aggravating condition of having sex with an underage individual apply?

This is curiosity on my part rather than sympathy for the blackmail victim. If he could not be tried as an adult, the blackmail threat goes away. If he can be tried as an adult a lot of the justification for the juvenile justice system seems to go away. (Especially that juveniles lack the maturity and judgement of an adult.)

Note that none of this contains spoilers, as all of this is laid out in the opening of the novel. (I am only a third of the way into the book as it is my current automobile audiobook.)

For purposes of this discussion, assume the blackmail victim is guilty as sin. What say the lawyers? Can he be charged as an adult for a crime committed as a juvenile? Under the California Justice system of 1989 could he have been charged as an adult in 1989 for a crime committed as a juvenile in 1979?

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Today’s Kipling – The Ballad of Boh Da Thone

(Today I am in the mood for something that is politically, incorrect, a little gory, and funny.  Something like . . . )

The Ballad of Boh Da Thone

Rudyard Kipling

This is the ballad of Boh Da Thone,
Erst a Pretender to Theebaw’s throne,
Who harried the district of Alalone:
How he met with his fate and the V.P.P.*
At the hand of Harendra Mukerji,
Senior Gomashta, G.B.T.**

Boh Da Thone was a warrior bold:
His sword and his rifle were bossed with gold,

And the Peacock Banner his henchmen bore
Was stiff with bullion, but stiffer with gore.

He shot at the strong and he slashed at the weak
From the Salween scrub to the Chindwin teak:

He crucified noble, he sacrificed mean,
He filled old ladies with kerosene:

While over the water the papers cried,
“The patriot fights for his countryside!”

But little they cared for the Native Press,
The worn white soldiers in Khaki dress,

Who tramped through the jungle and camped in the byre,
Who died in the swamp and were tombed in the mire,

Who gave up their lives, at the Queen’s Command,
For the Pride of their Race and the Peace of the Land.

Now, first of the foemen of Boh Da Thone
Was Captain O’Neil of the Black Tyrone,

And his was a Company, seventy strong,
Who hustled that dissolute Chief along.

There were lads from Galway and Louth and Meath
Who went to their death with a joke in their teeth,

And worshipped with fluency, fervour, and zeal
The mud on the boot-heels of “Crook” O’Neil.

But ever a blight on their labours lay,
And ever their quarry would vanish away,

Till the sun-dried boys of the Black Tyrone
Took a brotherly interest in Boh Da Thone:

And, sooth, if pursuit in possession ends,
The Boh and his trackers were best of friends.

The word of a scout — a march by night —
A rush through the mist — a scattering fight —

A volley from cover — a corpse in the clearing —
The glimpse of a loin-cloth and heavy jade earring —

The flare of a village — the tally of slain —
And. . .the Boh was abroad on the raid again!

They cursed their luck, as the Irish will,
They gave him credit for cunning and skill,

They buried their dead, they bolted their beef,
And started anew on the track of the thief

Till, in place of the “Kalends of Greece”, men said,
“When Crook and his darlings come back with the head.”

They had hunted the Boh from the hills to the plain —
He doubled and broke for the hills again:

They had crippled his power for rapine and raid,
They had routed him out of his pet stockade,

And at last, they came, when the Daystar tired,
To a camp deserted — a village fired.

A black cross blistered the morning-gold,
And the body upon it was stark and cold.

The wind of the dawn went merrily past,
The high grass bowed her plumes to the blast.

And out of the grass, on a sudden, broke
A spirtle of fire, a whorl of smoke —

And Captain O’Neil of the Black Tyrone
Was blessed with a slug in the ulnar-bone —
The gift of his enemy Boh Da Thone.

(Now a slug that is hammered from telegraph-wire
Is a thorn in the flesh and a rankling fire.)

. . . . .

The shot-wound festered — as shot-wounds may
In a steaming barrack at Mandalay.

The left arm throbbed, and the Captain swore,
“I’d like to be after the Boh once more!”

The fever held him — the Captain said,
“I’d give a hundred to look at his head!”

The Hospital punkahs creaked and whirred,
But Babu Harendra (Gomashta) heard.

He thought of the cane-brake, green and dank,
That girdled his home by the Dacca tank.

He thought of his wife and his High School son,
He thought — but abandoned the thought — of a gun.

His sleep was broken by visions dread
Of a shining Boh with a silver head.

He kept his counsel and went his way,
And swindled the cartmen of half their pay.

. . . . .

And the months went on, as the worst must do,
And the Boh returned to the raid anew.

But the Captain had quitted the long-drawn strife,
And in far Simoorie had taken a wife;

And she was a damsel of delicate mould,
With hair like the sunshine and heart of gold,

And little she knew the arms that embraced
Had cloven a man from the brow to the waist:

And little she knew that the loving lips
Had ordered a quivering life’s eclipse,

Or the eye that lit at her lightest breath
Had glared unawed in the Gates of Death.

(For these be matters a man would hide,
As a general rule, from an innocent Bride.)

And little the Captain thought of the past,
And, of all men, Babu Harendra last.

. . . . .

But slow, in the sludge of the Kathun road,
The Government Bullock Train toted its load.

Speckless and spotless and shining with ghi,
In the rearmost cart sat the Babu-jee.

And ever a phantom before him fled
Of a scowling Boh with a silver head.

Then the lead-cart stuck, though the coolies slaved,
And the cartmen flogged and the escort raved;

And out of the jungle, with yells and squeals,
Pranced Boh Da Thone, and his gang at his heels!

Then belching blunderbuss answered back
The Snider’s snarl and the carbine’s crack,

And the blithe revolver began to sing
To the blade that twanged on the locking-ring,

And the brown flesh blued where the bay’net kissed,
As the steel shot back with a wrench and a twist,

And the great white oxen with onyx eyes
Watched the souls of the dead arise,

And over the smoke of the fusillade
The Peacock Banner staggered and swayed.

Oh, gayest of scrimmages man may see
Is a well-worked rush on the G.B.T.!

The Babu shook at the horrible sight,
And girded his ponderous loins for flight,

But Fate had ordained that the Boh should start
On a lone-hand raid of the rearmost cart,

And out of that cart, with a bellow of woe,
The Babu fell — flat on the top of the Boh!

For years had Harendra served the State,
To the growth of his purse and the girth of his pêt.

There were twenty stone, as the tally-man knows,
On the broad of the chest of this best of Bohs.

And twenty stone from a height discharged
Are bad for a Boh with a spleen enlarged.

Oh, short was the struggle — severe was the shock —
He dropped like a bullock — he lay like a block;

And the Babu above him, convulsed with fear,
Heard the labouring life-breath hissed out in his ear.

And thus in a fashion undignified
The princely pest of the Chindwin died.

. . . . .

Turn now to Simoorie where, lapped in his ease,
The Captain is petting the Bride on his knees,

Where the whit of the bullet, the wounded man’s scream
Are mixed as the mist of some devilish dream —

Forgotten, forgotten the sweat of the shambles
Where the hill-daisy blooms and the gray monkey gambols,

From the sword-belt set free and released from the steel,
The Peace of the Lord is on Captain O’Neil.

. . . . .

Up the hill to Simoorie — most patient of drudges —
The bags on his shoulder, the mail-runner trudges.

“For Captain O’Neil, Sahib. One hundred and ten
Rupees to collect on delivery.”

(Their breakfast was stopped while the screw-jack and hammer
Tore waxcloth, split teak-wood, and chipped out the dammer;)

Open-eyed, open-mouthed, on the napery’s snow,
With a crash and a thud, rolled — the Head of the Boh!

And gummed to the scalp was a letter which ran: —
10th Jan.

“Dear Sir, — I have honour to send, as you said,
For final approval (see under) Boh’s Head;

“Was took by myself in most bloody affair.
By High Education brought pressure to bear.

“Now violate Liberty, time being bad,
To mail V.P.P. (rupees hundred) Please add

“Whatever Your Honour can pass. Price of Blood
Much cheap at one hundred, and children want food;

“So trusting Your Honour will somewhat retain
True love and affection for Govt. Bullock Train,

“And show awful kindness to satisfy me,
I am,
Graceful Master,

. . . . .

As the rabbit is drawn to the rattlesnake’s power,
As the smoker’s eye fills at the opium hour,

As a horse reaches up to the manger above,
As the waiting ear yearns for the whisper of love,

From the arms of the Bride, iron-visaged and slow,
The Captain bent down to the Head of the Boh.

And e’en as he looked on the Thing where It lay
‘Twixt the winking new spoons and the napkins’ array,

The freed mind fled back to the long-ago days —
The hand-to-hand scuffle — the smoke and the blaze —

The forced march at night and the quick rush at dawn —
The banjo at twilight, the burial ere morn —

The stench of the marshes — the raw, piercing smell
When the overhand stabbing-cut silenced the yell —

The oaths of his Irish that surged when they stood
Where the black crosses hung o’er the Kuttamow flood.

As a derelict ship drifts away with the tide
The Captain went out on the Past from his Bride,

Back, back, through the springs to the chill of the year,
When he hunted the Boh from Maloon to Tsaleer.

As the shape of a corpse dimmers up through deep water,
In his eye lit the passionless passion of slaughter,

And men who had fought with O’Neil for the life
Had gazed on his face with less dread than his wife.

For she who had held him so long could not hold him —
Though a four-month Eternity should have controlled him —

But watched the twin Terror — the head turned to head —
The scowling, scarred Black, and the flushed savage Red —

The spirit that changed from her knowing and flew to
Some grim hidden Past she had never a clue to.

But It knew as It grinned, for he touched it unfearing,
And muttered aloud, “So you kept that jade earring!”

Then nodded, and kindly, as friend nods to friend,
“Old man, you fought well, but you lost in the end.”

. . . . .

The visions departed, and Shame followed Passion: —
“He took what I said in this horrible fashion,

“I’ll write to Harendra!” With language unsainted
The Captain came back to the Bride. . .who had fainted.

. . . . .

And this is a fiction? No. Go to Simoorie
And look at their baby, a twelve-month old Houri,

A pert little, Irish-eyed Kathleen Mavournin —
She’s always about on the Mall of a mornin’ —

And you’ll see, if her right shoulder-strap is displaced,
This: Gules upon argent, a Boh’s Head, erased!

– – – – – – – – – –

* V.P.P. Value Payable Parcels Post, collect on delivery.
** G.B.T. Government Bullock Train.
ghi butter
pêt stomach
dammer sealing wax.

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This Week’s Book Review – Between Worlds Never to Return

I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) My review normally appears Wednesdays. When it appears, I post the review here on the following Sunday.


Book Review

‘Between Worlds’ tells of the Engelbachs’ travels


May 8, 2018

“Between Worlds Never to Return,” by Barbara Ortwein, University of North Texas Press, 2017, 320 pages, $25

For as long as Texas was an independent republic or part of the United States those within it have been citizens, not subjects. That was true in the 19th century Germanies.

“Between Worlds Never to Return,” a novel about German immigration to Texas, by Barbara Ortwein illustrates the difference.

Set in the 1840s, the novel follows Karl Engelbach and his son Johann as they abandon their farm in Hesse to come to Texas. The senior Engelbach is a revolutionary. He wants inappropriate things: the freedom to say what you want and to travel without permits. When soldiers raid the political meeting Karl is attending and kill Karl’s brother, Karl must flee. A childhood friend (also present at the meeting, but not caught) is part of an effort to establish a German colony in the Republic of Texas. He sends Karl that way.

The book traces the Engelbachs’ travels through Germany, across the Atlantic by sailing ship to Charleston, S.C., from steamship to Texas, and overland to what becomes New Braunfels and Fredericksburg. On each leg of the voyage the pair faces different challenges.

The tale draws heavily from historical events, both in the German states (a united Germany does not yet exist) and in the Americas. Ortwein also accurately shows what life was like in that era, both in Central Europe and in the New World. She is especially good at showing the culture shock felt by the German immigrants. Father and son are shocked (often pleasantly) at the new freedoms they find in both the United States and Texas.

The author, a schoolteacher from Germany, wrote the book after participating in an educational exchange program that brought her and her students to Texas. The German culture she discovered in Texas inspired her to tell how it was transplanted to the Hill Country during the nineteenth century.

Originally written in German, the novel was translated to English by colleagues of Ortwein who teach in Texas.

“Between Worlds Never to Return” tells a story of multiple cultures — German, Mexican, Indian, and Anglo — in the early years of the Texas Republic.

Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, amateur historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is

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Marriage is a great institution. . . But who wants to live in a institution? – Betty Comden and Adolph Green (from Auntie Mame)

Well . . . I do, for one.

May 7, 2018 marks the 41st anniversary of the day Janet and I were married. May 4 was her birthday. She would have been 60. Normally, when I do a quote of the day I put the quote followed by a few short paragraphs. Since I was planning on writing something to mark our anniversary today anyway, I thought I might as well piggyback this with it.

A year ago I wrote this at Ricochet, about my marriage. Today, I am no longer married – not through any voluntary choice of either of us. Janet died on January 10.

It is nearly four months later. I am still adjusting to being single. In short: being single sucks.

I am not talking about the grief that accompanies the loss of a long-time partner. That is bad, but I am coping. Rather, I am talking about living alone after over forty years of having someone there with you. It is aggravating a thousand different ways.

The house is empty, except for me. It is lonely. I am not the only one who has experience this problem. My sons when through the same thing when they started careers and moved out, living on their own for the first time. My oldest got married last September, and has never been happier – in large part because he is no longer living alone. My middle son fills his evenings with activities – classes and hobbies – to cope. My youngest found a job where he works 60 hours a week.

I, too, fill my hours with work. As a writer and consultant I work from home. That does not really cure the loneliness problem.  An hour at home is an hour alone. I find myself finding excuses to get out of the house or invite people over.

There are the minor things. You have to take care of everything: laundry, cooking, cleaning.  You lack anyone to remind you to do things you forgot to do. If you are stuck in traffic, you can no longer phone home to get your spouse to check road conditions and navigate you around problems. (Jan and I frequently did this for each other. Phone home.  Put the phone on speaker. Listen to the work-arounds.)

I have even lost my best excuse for avoiding invitations. For forty-plus years, when asked to participated in something we wished to skip, both of used the same routine: “You want me to go with you to the local biker bar and watch you insult the colors of the different motorcycle clubs tomorrow night? Let me check with the spouse.” Of course, the answer was always that the spouse had plans for me that night.

If an immediate answer was required, I could call her up and say, “Hey cupcake, so-and-so is asking me if . . .” Since I never called her cupcake, except to signal I was being asked to do something I wished to decline, she would immediately “remind” me of the important engagement I had at that time. (Her code word was to start the question with “Darling husband . . .” Again, she never started a sentence with “darling husband,” otherwise.)

Then there are the major things. Since January I have found myself working without a net. Minor issues escalate to serious quickly. Take changing a lightbulb in a room with a cathedral ceiling. That requires a trip up a ladder. Slips off ladders occur. With someone else in the house, if you fall and hurt yourself someone can take you to emergency care (or simply observe you to ensure you do not need that trip). With no one else about the house, such a slip is potentially life-threatening. I find myself postponing such things until someone comes to visit.

Medical things which are otherwise trivial have the potential to be life-threatening. In February I came down with a sore throat. Saw the doctor. Got antibiotics (he thought it was likely bacterial), and took them. But a week later I had been coughing so much that I decided to see the doctor the next day. That night, after midnight, I woke up with a coughing fit, unable to breath at the end of it. (You want scary? Find yourself unable to exhale. That is panic-inducing.) Called up the 24/7 nurse hotline my insurance offers. The nurse told me to go to the emergency room.

Two years ago I would have woken Jan and she would have taken me. (We did that for each other several times over our marriage.) That night, my nearest relative was 60 minutes away.

I was fortunate. I called a neighbor two doors down, and asked if he could take me to the E-room. After midnight. His first words were “I’ll be right down.” (God bless Texas.) My problem was solved with some topical oral anesthetics and a couple of breathing treatments.  No biggie, really.

Except. It only takes five minutes of not breathing for things to go permanently bad. What if I had not been able to get to the emergency room? What if I decided to go ahead and wait until morning to see the doctor for the appointment I scheduled the previous day? The first thing that oxygen deprivation does is rob you of your good judgement. Without my spouse and living alone, I had no independent check on my decisions.

Mom called last week to let me know my dad was being held overnight for observation. He had had difficulty breathing the previous night, after midnight. He insisted he would be fine until the next morning. She dragged him to the emergency room. They decided he was not fine and kept him.

He was released the following day. When I called, he insisted the only reason they kept him overnight was because they had a treadmill stress test scheduled the next day, and it was more convenient to keep him there. (Yeah, dad, tell me another one.)

I visited my parents in April. Dad is 93, mom turned 88 while I was up there. They still live in the same condo they bought over 30 years ago. Still live independently. It was like watching two tops just beginning to wind down. You can see the wobble start, and know it will not be much longer. As long as they have each other, they will continue on. When one goes, I suspect the other will not be far behind. They have been married over 65 years and would not know what to do apart.

Marriage? I don’t really know what to do without it.

“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This is a profound mystery  . . . each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”

Cross-posted from Ricochet because I do not know if it will be promoted to the main feed, and I know many here would want to read it.

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This Week’s Book Review – A Little History of Archaeology

I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) My review normally appears Wednesdays. When it appears, I post the review here on the following Sunday.


Book Review

‘A Little History of Archaeology’ a study of the past


May 1, 2018

A Little History of Archaeology,” by Brian Fagan, Yale University Press, 2018, 288 pages, $25

Archaeology is the study of the history of mankind through examining its artifacts.

“A Little History of Archaeology,” by Brian Fagan is the study of archaeology through examining its artifacts.

The book is part of Yale University Press’s “A Little History” series. It examines different topics in a short and readable, yet comprehensive manner.

In this book, Fagan, an internationally recognized archaeologist, puts archaeology under the microscope. In 40 brief chapters he takes readers through archaeology’s past, going from the dawn of archaeology through to the present.

Following an introductory chapter, Fagan starts by examining the first attempt to treat the study of the past scientifically: Napoleon’s 1798 expedition to Egypt. Napoleon brought a collection of “savants” (literally “wise men”) from France’s academic community to study Egypt. They examined artifacts from Egypt’s past. Among the antiquities found was the Rosetta Stone. (In a later chapter Fagan describes how that was used to decipher hierogylphics.)

This triggered a fashion for studying antiquities. Fagan’s later chapters take us through archaeology’s three ages: the age of the gentleman antiquarian, the heroic age (think Indiana Jones) and modern archaeology, organized, systematized and using tools like carbon dating and remote sensing.

Fagan follows the history of archeology chronologically. One result is Fagan’s account skips back and forth through human history. Ancient Egypt is followed by Ancient Babylon, and then a skip across the Atlantic to look at the Maya, and back to Stone Age Europe. (There is even a chapter explaining how the three-age Stone Age, Bronze Age, Iron Age division was created.) This works remarkably well. Readers are never bored. Time and place changes kaleidoscopically.

Fagan introduces a vast cast of fascinating characters; Heinrich Schliemann, Howard Carter, and Louis and Mary Leakey are among the most famous, but there are many more. There is even a cameo appearance by Agatha Christy.

He also shows how archaeology evolved from a gentleman’s pastime into a modern science. “A Little History of Archaeology” is aimed at a literate reader who wants a readable, entertaining and accurate introduction to archaeology. Fagan succeeds admirably in all three objectives.

Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, amateur historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is

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This Week’s Book Review – The Downfall of Galveston’s May Walker Burleson

I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) My review normally appears Wednesdays. When it appears, I post the review here on the following Sunday. (Or Monday, if I spent Sunday traveling.)


Book Review

Book captures early 1900s era Galveston perfectly


Apr 24, 2018

“The Downfall of Galveston’s May Walker Burleson: Texas Society Marriage and Carolina Murder Scandal,” by T. Felder Dorn, History Press, 2018, 192 pages, $21.99

There is something distinctive about a society murder when it involves a Texan.

“The Downfall of Galveston’s May Walker Burleson: Texas Society Marriage and Carolina Murder Scandal,” by T. Felder Dorn, demonstrates that. The book tells the story of May Walker Burleson’s murder of her ex-husband’s second wife.

Born in 1888, May Jennie Walker belonged to Galveston’s prominent Walker family. She grew up a member of Galveston’s aristocracy.

In 1908 she married Richard Coke Burleson. It seemed a fairy-tale marriage. Burleson came from of one of the most important families in San Saba County. A 1906 graduate of West Point, he was starting a prestigious career as an officer in the United States Army.

Dorn shows how May Walker Burleson had it all: looks, brains, charm and spirit. In 1913, she was Grand Marshal of the Woman Suffrage Parade of 1913 in Washington, DC. Later, she became an archeologist, noted for her work studying ancient Mexico.

Richard Coke Burleson’s career also prospered. By the mid-1930s he was a colonel. His wife boosted his career; he supported her activities. They seemed the ideal couple.

Yet Dorn reveals cracks in the marriage. Richard wanted children. May did not. She spent more time with her mother and pursuing her other interests than she was spending with her husband. In turn, he began several affairs with other women. Each accused the other of egregious behavior. She claimed he struck her. He stated she threatened to shoot him.

When he decided to seek divorce, she fought. She liked the status and prestige of being an officer’s wife. A bitter three-year legal struggle ensued, blighting his career, and shaking her sanity. Once the divorce was granted Richard Coke Burleson married his current woman.

May Walker Burleson decided to rid the world of the other women — so her husband would return to her. She shot the new wife, was caught in the act, and convicted.

Dorn puts together the tale of two unlikable people in a manner that catches the reader’s interest. A meticulously researched work, “The Downfall of Galveston’s May Walker Burleson” captures its era perfectly.

Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, amateur historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is

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