1890, Alternate History, Early American History, Finger Lakes, FLX, George Washington, History, NY, Public Art, Removing Statues, statue, Uncategorized, Upstate New York

Walks Around the Finger Lakes. Yates County ~ ~ ~ Gu-Ya-No-Ga, The Seneca Chief


Gu-Ya-No-Ga, Seneca Chief, Friend of the Revolution, and Close Personal Friend of Geo. Washington


People have asked me with surprising frequency, about the inspiration for these history posts.

I say surprising, because that frequency, 91.3 MHz, is usually reserved for public radio stations.

Maybe that has something to do living one block from the WITI Tower, which for a time, was the tallest radio/TV tower in the world.   (On humid days, I’ll suddenly start receiving 88.9 Radio Milwaukee, crystal clear, on my toaster.  When they’re playing soul, I don’t mind, the toast comes out great, golden-browned and tasty.  But when it picks up heavy metal, everything gets charred, and when it’s streaming alternative art-rock bands, the bread stays pale, limp, and apathetic.)

And as for how inspiration strikes, well lately, inspiration has been on strike more than a French trade union.

Actually, no one has ever asked where these ideas came from, they just express a wish that they’d stayed there.  Well, the process is simple – I just flip through old photos, and try to remember why I took them.

This photo, for example.  I saw this bow & arrow oddity, at a little crossroads in the country, not far from Keuka Lake, surrounded by corn fields and pastures.  I guessed, the highly inaccurate brave was originally an advertising emblem, or an old tin weathervane, that blew off a barn roof one night, and the thrifty local farmers repurposed it for this memorial.  (Turns out, that might be exactly right.  Or it may have been a decoration from an old steamboat.)

I wouldn’t call this a “totem,” although that’s derived from a native word. Probably we can call it an effigy (from the French “effigie,” and the supporting post is called a “chicanerie.”)


So one rainy day, I looked it up, and that’s what this post is about.

First off, what are we to call this bit of homely roadside whimsy?

There’s a substantial stone obelisk, but the tin Indian is two-dimensional, and it seems like, it doesn’t really qualify as a “statue.”

So let’s call it a “Folk Art Effigy,” or “Naïve Tribute to Indigenous Peoples.”

Yep, I’m just a self-appointed roving rural art critic.  We, the editorial staff here at UpState & Away, are all about sounding pretentious, artsy,  and serious-minded.

Like those little dots on naïve.  How cool!  My imaginary editor seizes upon any chance to use umlauts, diaeresis, dipththong, all that fancy-schmancy stuff.

(Doesn’t diaeresis sound like an unpleasant digestive disorder?)

(and dipththong??  an abbreviated swimsuit, for someone with a lisp??  I have no idea.)


sample of Iroquois weaving


According to the blue sign next to it, which is an official 1932 New York State Department of Education Commemorative Plaque, that tin Indian is meant to be a “Chief of the Seneca Nation, and a Friend of the Revolution.

“Seneca” is kind of a big deal in this part of the world.  It seemed odd that I’d never heard of this chief, Gu-Ya-No-Ga.

During colonial days, the Iroquois Confederacy was the most powerful alliance of natives in the northeast, feared and courted by the Dutch, English, and French.  In 1776, the Seneca tribe was the largest in the alliance, in fact, larger that all the others (Mohawk, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, Tuscarora ) combined.


Famous leaders included Cornplanter and Red Jacket, who fought with the British during the Revolution, and then negotiated with George Washington afterwards.  And Half King, who helped George kick off the Seven Years’ War by ambushing  some French-Canadian soldiers.  Col. Ely Parker, General Grant’s wartime aide and later Commissioner of Indian Affairs, was also a Seneca sachem.


The size of the “peace medal” may look greatly exaggerated, but some of the ones given out by Washington were quite large, 5″ x 7″.


After the Revolution, the tribe was eventually pushed onto reservations in the western part of the state, and fragments ended up in Oklahoma and Canada.  But the name still plasters the area. Town of Seneca, County of Seneca, Seneca Falls, Seneca Lake, Seneca Castle, Seneca Army Depot, Seneca Mills, Seneca Point, Seneca Foods Corp, and innumerable streets.

For many decades, “Seneca Chief” was the brand name for the most popular sweet corn in the region.  One of the largest razor and cutlery manufacturers in the world was once in Geneva, NY, and many of their old “cutthroat” straight razors were stamped with “Seneca Chief” and an (inaccurate) image of a Native American.


The “Seneca Chief,” first boat to travel the entire Erie Canal. This is a 1935 mural at SUNY Albany, and I don’t think the boat is accurate, but I like this anyway.


And the first packet boat to travel the length of the Erie Canal, in 1825, with bands playing and cannons firing, was the Seneca Chief.  (A replica boat is now being built in Buffalo.)

The name wasn’t always so popular in some circles.  For European settlers, during the colonial times, it was loaded with menace.   All during the Revolution, Seneca warriors terrorized the borderland towns of New York and Pennsylvania, a long ordeal of mostly-forgotten skirmishes, raids, ambushes, and massacres.


“Portage Around the Falls of the Niagara at Table Rock” George Catlin, 1847/1848. Nat’l Gallery of Art.  These are Iroquois, schlepping their canoes around the Falls.  Do you see the large ship’s anchor in the foreground? Don’t you think, that thing would drop right through the bottom of a birchbark canoe? This had to be long portage, the rapids above and below the falls are pretty wild, with thousands of tons of water going by every second. If they continued to camp there just a couple of months, until March of 1848, they could’ve watched the construction of the Niagara Falls Suspension Bridge. Which began with some kid flying a kite to the other side, and then pulling heavier and heavier strings across the river. Seriously. I think the Iroquois would’ve loved that, who wouldn’t?


So anyway, this memorial to Gu-Ya-No-Ga puzzled me – – a leader of a tribe that fought a bitter and bloody war against the colonists, who somehow was a “friend of the Revolution,” and then somehow, forgotten.

Were they thinking of Gu-Ya-Su-Ta (aka Guisuta, Kayasota, etc. ) who guided Washington to a meeting with the French, in 1753, just before war broke out?  But during the Revolution, that chief fought against the colonists, as did most of the Iroquois.

(The Oneida and Tuscarora tribes were the exceptions, and provided the rebels with scouts, guides, messengers, and warriors, even aiding the 1779 Sullivan Campaign, when Washington sent an army through this region on a scorched-earth mission, burning Iroquois villages, crops, orchards, and food supplies.)


A pipe tomahawk given to Cornplanter by Geo. Washington, during peace negotiations  (photo from NYS Museum)


The Iroquois were often given more that one name during their lifetime, and these names were often mangled by translations through French-to-Dutch-to-English, etc..  Others are known by  nicknames applied by the colonists, which also might have variations, so it’s easy to get confused.*

But I’d read a lot about the Iroquois, as an undergrad history major, writing my senior project about them.  And it surprised me that I’d never heard of this particular chief, who broke with his people to aid the revolutionaries.  And the first description, when I googled him, claimed he was a close personal friend of Geo. Washington!  How could I have read so many books and period documents, and missed this guy??


Well, here’s a clue.  The old house in back of the monument, was once a tavern.




And as one version tells it, one night in the 1880’s, the locals were drinking hard cider, and made the whole thing up.  As you likely have guessed by now, there was no such Seneca chief.

But in 1910, hundreds gathered to see this goofy monument go up.  Were they all in on the joke, or had they started to believe the story?  Another twenty-two years goes by, and the state education department puts up an official plaque, further legitimizing the tale.  How a bunch of back-of-beyond farmers managed all this, I have no idea, but they’re kind of my heroes.

If you do a search, there’s several article about the hoax online, I think this one may be the best:



This state has always produced and attracted all kinds of hoaxes, jokesters and con men.  At the Farmer’s Museum in Cooperstown, you can still see the “Cardiff Giant,” a ten-foot-tall fossilized man, dug up by a farmer, south of Syracuse.  Which is where his cousin had buried it, a year earlier, after having a stonecarver create it.  (There was a copycat “Taughannock Giant” which they dragged up to Cornell to study.)


photo from the Farmers’ Museum (Cooperstown, NY) website


P.T. Barnum (“There’s a sucker born every minute”) was a Connecticut Yankee, but he knew just where to open his museum/circus/menagerie – – NYC, right on Broadway.  Where he displayed the “Fiji Mermaid” (in reality, a hideous mashup of taxidermied monkey and fish), an old lady posing as George Washington’s 161-year-old nanny,  Tom Thumb’s baby, and other con jobs.

Farther back in time, 1823, in the midst of an epidemic/depression, a couple of guys hired some fife & drum bands, and organized a parade of 1,000 workers, who paraded up Manhattan, with shovels, picks, saws, etc. for an emergency, massive operation.  The workers had been persuaded, by a stirring speech and a barrel of whiskey, that to save their city from sinking, they needed to cut the island in half, and anchor it with massive iron chains.

Except…the story, which I’ve seen mentioned in a number of books and magazine articles, is itself baloney, and never happened.


I suppose Washington Irving qualifies as a hoax-ster for his Knickerbocker “history” of early New York, but it’s harmless, good fun, has some real history blended in, and is a wonderful and charming piece of writing.



More recently, in the 1980’s, George Plimpton wrote a Sports Illustrated article, and eventually a book, about Hayden Siddhartha “Sidd” Finch, who studied yoga in Tibet, played French horn, and pitched 168 MPH fastballs for the Mets.

New York has also produced some less charming cons, like Bernie Madoff and Clifford Irving (who not only wrote a fake bio of Howard Hughes, but after he got out of jail, had the brass to peddle another book about his deception, The Hoax.)  And what’s-his-name, who left NYC for Washington, always tweeting gibberish from his bathroom.

In the old days, sometimes it took a cast-iron plaque, bronze statue, or carved stone tablet to create a persuasive myth.  And those were simple country folk, pre-Internet.  Apparently, all us modern-day sophisticates can be cozened & bamboozled with something as ephemeral as a tweet —  a tissue, or rather, toilet paper of lies.

So…this little monument.  Misinformation?  Propaganda?  Thou shalt not bear false witness, etc.?  Let us ponder this, deeply.

Nah.  This is Upstate New York, and it’s November – – so chill out.  I guess some people might find this folk art/fake memorial, to be offensive and disrespectful, but personally, I’m filing Gu-Ya-No-Ga under the “mostly harmless, and kinda funny” category.  It’s really not about Native Americans at all, it’s about some rural types, indulging in a bit of storytelling, maybe putting one over on the local newspaper editor.  And the story, and strange little monument, have been hanging around long enough, they’re historical items in their own right.

I’m going to write more about these blue history markers, which are getting to be antiques themselves, that’ll be my next post.  So far, scanning through hundreds of them online, the Go-Ya-No-Ga plaque is the only one I’ve found, that is simply baloney-on-a-stick.



This illustration is from “The Pilgrims’ Party” (1931), one of a series of histories for children by Sadyebeth and Anson Lowitz.

More of a fable, a bubbe-meise (grandmother’s tale) than real history.  The sanitized Disney/Hallmark version of Thanksgiving may stick in your craw, but perhaps it’s a way to get kids interested in history, and real Native Americans, maybe not such a bad place to begin telling the more complex tale, about the reality of what happened between the Puritans and Wampanoags.

Well, like Squanto in the children’s book, it’s time to go prepare the traditional holiday pop corn, or parched maize.  Maybe they didn’t really have popcorn at the first Thanksgiving, but Native Americans, including the Iroquois, did cultivate a number of varieties of corn, and some of it really was popped in heated clay vessels.

I’m feeling grateful, relieved, and thankful for quite a number of things, this Thanksgiving, and glad we have this holiday, cheers.



P.S. about complicated names:

  • You’ll find George Washington’s affectionate nickname, “Town-Destroyer,” which is still used by the Haudenosaunee (“Iroquois”) can be rendered as Conotocarius, Conotocaurious, Caunotaucarius, Conotocarious, Hanodaganears, and Hanadahguyus.  If you search for these on the web, you’ll find history websites using all of those examples.  And despite their centuries-old alliance, each Iroquoian tribe in NY had it’s own language, which also complicates things.  (If you want to hear a bit of Onondaga, you could watch the children’s movie “The Indian in the Cupboard” (1995), when the character Little Bear is singing in that language.)
  • There were quite a few leaders, from different tribes, called “Half King,” for example, not to be confused with “Half-Town,” who was Cornplanter’s brother.  A chief called Tah-won-ne-ahs (or Tenh-Wen-Nyos, or Thaonawyuthe)  was known to the colonists as Chainbreaker, or Governor Blacksnake.  OK, you get the idea. Confusing.





“…after the second sexton’s disappearance, in 1908, the burial ground fell into disuse, and was slowly smothered by undergrowth.”















The first shot is from the Beddoe-Rose Cemetery, which in real life, is a bit battered by the years, and probably falling tree limbs, but isn’t spooky in the slightest.  It was a burial plot for two families, that began farming along Keuka Lake after the Revolution, and dates back to 1815.  The last burial was over a hundred years ago, and about seventy years ago, the state purchased the land for a park.  The farmhouse was torn down, and the little hillock is now surrounded by woods.

The scratches on the sign board, from a state forest near Naples, NY, are just rust or something.

And not blood-stained claw marks.

Pretty sure.

Looking for these shots, however, I did find some genuinely scary stuff:



Portapotties, chemical toilets, whatever you call them, these things make your blood run cold.  Some time this century, we need to gather all the villagers, with pitchforks and torches, and chase these horrors from our public places and gatherings. They’re like little plastic museums of the Dark Ages. We’re a couple centuries overdue for well-ventilated, self-cleansing versions.



Moby Grape meets Black Sabbath


Two old-time horrors in this shot.

On the top left, a wreath made of hair. Indescribably creepy.

And in front, in all its splendiferous horribleness, is an 1862 “half-mourning” dress.

The Civil War was bad enough, without this kind of assault.

Imagine some poor vet, having survived Antietam and Gettysburg, limping home from Appomattox, his brain teeming with battlefield horrors, running into this thing.  Hadn’t he suffered enough?

Maybe this dress is a widow’s  expression of pent-up rage, over Victorian strictures – some book of etiquette specified a schedule, when it was deemed seemly to only be half-sad about someone’s death.  And this widow took her revenge, with this lilac & black attack.



Who the heck would give creepy coin banks like this, to a kid??





When your name is Dillman, I guess it’s natural to take an interest in pickling. Back in my hometown, in 1902, the Dillman brothers founded this company, which perfumed the area for many years. Seriously, Kraut Juice??   I just know, that if this health drink was still around when I was a kid, my parents would’ve made me drink it.

A Seneca headdress, as you probably know, did not remotely resemble this “Plains Warbonnet” on the label.


Bonus Ghost Story

Well, here’s a short ghost story, of sorts.  It’s been told to me by my dad, many times.  Many times.  Many times.

On the wall of my bedroom, in my parents’ home, hang four old swords.  One is a Civil War non-com’s, and was given to my father when he was a boy.

A little while after it was given to him, he walked up to the hardware store, bought some fancy brass hooks, and hung the sword on his bedroom wall.  Even though my grandmother had told to not do that, because it might fall off somehow, during the night, and stab him.  Once it was hung, he then went downstairs, to feed the dog, a large, very sweet Newfoundland.

The dog, as soon as he was in the house, ignored his dinner, and ran upstairs, which was very unusual, since he was always hungry, and knew he wasn’t allowed in the bedrooms.  He then stood in the doorway of my dad’s bedroom, and began to bark and growl.

Now, my dad says, that dog only growled four times in his entire life.  The other three times, he’d taken a dislike to the UPS van.  Otherwise, and this dog lived nearly twice the typical lifespan for that breed, he simply never growled.  He was a big dog, 150 pounds, and when he growled, it was impressive.  It scared the living crap out of the UPS man, and he stopped driving up to the house, and often just hung the parcels on the mailbox by the street.

But that afternoon, the dog stood in the doorway, looking into the bedroom and growled and growled.

My father, with complete composure, acted quickly and decisively, the way he always does in these situations.

He ran outside.

The dog followed, and together, they sat on the front lawn, until it started to get dark, and the folks came home to make dinner. At the time, neither of them said anything about the growling to my grandparents.

Now, it’s possible there was a bat in the room.  It wouldn’t be the first time – my father often left the screens open, so he could throw things out the window, fiddle with the wire antenna to his radio, which he’d strung out to a fencepost, or shoot his BB gun at tin cans on the driveway, even though he’d promised never to load the gun inside the house.  But he says, the screen was closed, and he didn’t see any bats.  He believes it was something to do with hanging up that sword.

Now it’s been on my bedroom wall for quite a while, and nothing’s happened, so far.



Halloween in the Woods

Autumn, Nature

Autumn leaves ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ A purposeless partial peck of pictures




None of these snaps are stellar examples of photography.  They’re meant for a quick flip through, to enjoy the autumn colors.

I didn’t have much free time this autumn, to walk through the woods while the leaves were doing their amazing color transformation.


Sugar maples are my favorites – – creating an incredible number of variations in shades and patterns.

I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch, to compare the loose leaves, to leaves of books – – like a visit to a big library, there’s always going to be just too many to look at and take in.

And the maple leaves are already coming down and fading – – we need some clever tree botanists to improve their shelf life.  Keep the colored leaves on display longer.

Arboriculturist is the term for a tree botanist, I think, making me a humble arboricultourist.

The leaves get stamped by librarians, and anyone else walking, Expired, and turn to brown, way too quickly.  The show is done, and the woods are dun.

When the pages of old documents and books have begun turning brown, the librarians and archivists call them “foxed.”

Well, no good.  Yet another thing that needs fixing.  I think foxes are beautiful, and using them to describe splotches of mold/fungus/rust in dusty old books is highly inappropriate.

I thought of how to replace this term without slandering foxes.

“Warthogged”?  Warthogs are grayish, not brown, so that won’t work.


photo from Earth.com


I think I found the solution in a fish market.

Monkfish.  Delicious, but ugly as homemade sin, it’s amazing the fisherfolk don’t throw them back in the ocean.  They look like dead blobby aliens, that the harbor patrol pulled up, bloated and brown, after a couple weeks underwater.

And as big-mouthed bottom-feeders, perfect for our current times.

So we’re going to call the paper leaves with brown splotches “monk-fished,” and this term works well with old manuscripts.

“Brown” has positive attributes, of course.  People associate it with Earth.

Down-to-earth, soil, wood, wholesome, organic.

Plain, wholesome.  Good ol’ Charlie Brown.

President Reagan used to wear brown suits, I think it helped project an image of reliability.



But perhaps in modern/urban days, brown has a less positive image.  The sky in Atlanta or L.A..  The administration packed with brown-nosers.  Remember in “Reservoir Dogs,” when the robbers are assigned color codenames?  Quentin Tarantino, that arbiter of good taste, objects to being called “Mr. Brown,” which he associates with…organic waste, although he used a different term.  (Tim Roth was “Mr. Orange,” and remained silent, it was good he didn’t ask for “Mr. Taupe,” since that’s French for “mole.”)

Brown is also the color of dead leaves, once this colorful time has wound down, and they’re just a heap of decaying cellulose.  Well, here’s a handful (maybe a peck, certainly not a bushel) of autumn leaves, still dressed up for their last hurrah.
























1963 “Ugly Brown” Lee Hazlewood  https://youtu.be/lRyekqsdgx8





This old Beetle has been rusticating in a back field so long, a tree is growing out of it.

Just for fun, below is a “Woodstock Reunion” version.







1960's, Automobiles, Autumn, Uncategorized


19th century, 20th century, Early American History, Finger Lakes, FLX, NY, Upstate New York

Walks Around the Finger Lakes. Yates County. A one-room schoolhouse



It’s not uncommon to see colonial-era churches, and those from the early days of the republic, surrounded by burial grounds.  In those days, churchyards = graveyards, and no doubt it was a successful business strategy, helping to keep folks on the straight and narrow.   The “rural” or “garden” cemetery movement didn’t begin until the 1830’s.


But it always struck me as odd, driving by this schoolhouse, to see it with its own cemetery, like a perpetual after-school detention for wayward and recalcitrant pupils.

The epitaphs probably have misspellings and tell of fatal miscalculations and deadly grammatical errors, “died of a dangling participle,” etc.


John Smith ~ We’re Just Spitballing Here

“Billy Schmeider ~ Never Added Up to Much ~ And Has Now Been Subtracted” 

“Here Lies Nathaniel Johnson / Under This Slate /  Lies the Late Nate / Always Late / To Class”

Jane Jones ~ Death is a Debt to Nature Due / Which I Have Paid and So Must You / Altho Death / Could Not Thwart / I Still Owe a Book Report




Never send to know for whom the school bell tolls…kind of rang a bell with me, so I never stopped, just thumbed my nose and sped by.

But finally, one autumn day, I pulled over to take a few photos, and found the explanation for the strange combo – – the 1869 building was moved to this site, along Route 14A, in 1991.



After the move and restoration, the county historian wrote “The Baldwin Cemetery directly behind the school…has recently become active again,”  which sounds mildly alarming, if you believe in ghosts, but I suppose it just means, they’d resumed burying people there again.



The new setting seems appropriate, because when I drove out to the original site – – there was another burial ground there, too, the abandoned “West Woods Cronk Cemetery.”

So now I can’t pass by with mentioning  the Cronks, a name I’ve run across before, on farms and roads all around Upstate, and while reading about the early Dutch days of this state, when it was New Netherlands.

When I visited Pixley Falls (north of Rome, NY), there was a historical marker not too far away, for an old-time countryman named Hiram Cronk.

Even though he was a small-scale farmer, in an area that seems like the hind end of beyond, when he died in 1905, Hiram rated a funeral procession through Manhattan, and reportedly 50,000 people paid their respects as he lay in state in New York’s City Hall.

It was not just his extraordinary age.  When he passed away, at the age of 105, Hiram was the last veteran of the war of 1812.  He’d joined the army on August 4, 1814, as a drummer boy.

Another branch of the family kept a longer version of the original Dutch name, something like Krankheyt, and eventually produced a famous newscaster of the ‘60’s and ‘70’s, Walter Cronkite.

And that’s the way it is.


About 20% of people in Yates County are Amish, and many others are Mennonites. Two buggies going up the road in front of the schoolhouse.


































Random shots from Schuyler & Tompkins counties, in the Finger Lakes region of New York.

Autumn, Finger Lakes, FLX, hiking, Nature, NY, Upstate New York

Walks Around the Finger Lakes. September & October, Schuyler & Tompkins Counties



I’m curious why sometimes a particular fern frond, or patch, will turn snow white, instead of brown.






Autumn, Finger Lakes, FLX, hiking, Nature, NY, Upstate New York

Walks Around the Finger Lakes. October, Schuyler County

1300's, Alternate History, History, Revisionist History, Uncategorized

A New Concept in Cruise Lines. Charon’s Ferry


"Charon and Psyche" by John Roddam Spencer Stanhope

Just a quick swab, and you’re welcomed aboard.


History teaches us that every disaster is also a great opportunity.

Starting in grade school, we were taught to regard failure as a “teachable moment,” and every fiasco was a chance to grow and mature.  Boy have we been growing lately.

And it’s true, that a real catastrophe can stimulate reform, societal progress, repentance, and all that kinda stuff.

For example, without the bubonic plague of the 1300’s, The Black Death, which led to much greater freedom of movement for the peasants, we might still be mired in the Dark Ages.

We’d be subject to deadly epidemics, bizarre and ineffective eye-of-newt cures, fickle and thoughtless leaders, chronic conflicts and massed armies, endless labor to erect crenelated walls, crumbling infrastructure, superstitions running rife, distrust of science, …

hey…wait a minute…

Well anyway, suppose for the sake of argument, that we’ve progressed.

But let’s not talk about disasters’ silver linings.

Let’s talk commercial applications. 

Let’s talk how to profit from all this.


A guy who knew how to make an honest buck. And avoided that like the plague.


This train of thought started with an old-time Milwaukee mayor,

Byron Kilbourn

Don’t worry if you’ve never heard of him.  A businessman/politician/crook, the kind we’re all so very, very familiar with nowadays.

Scandals, schemes & scams  – but none too sensational, or clever, so there’s nothing to imitate. Pretty honest, about all the bribes he passed out, and yet was never jailed.  He helped start the city’s “Bridge War,” by making sure the streets in “his” part of town, didn’t line up to connect with the other neighborhoods.

He was Mayor of Milwaukee, back in the 1800’s, and a big-time real estate promoter.  But a whole lot of his investors lost their shirts, and finally, late one night, he thought he’d better develop arthritis and move to Florida, where he raised some oranges and died, in 1870.  And he never came back.  For quite a while.

Back in Milwaukee, a century or so later, he was missed.

The history buffs here, picked three early mayors to be The Three Founders.  The first two were still around town, buried somewhere, but the absent Byron bugged the buffs — without #3, they didn’t have the complete set – the Fab Founding Fathers, the troika, the Merry Milwaukee Musketeers.

So in 1999, a guy named Frank Matusinec, in Milwaukee’s Historical Society, called up a lady in Jacksonville’s Historical Society, and asked if Milwaukee could have Byron back.  Since he wasn’t famous, or a Confederate, she said sure, and they dug him up.

But…he was in a ½-ton cast-iron coffin, and Northwest Air didn’t want to fly him.  A trucking company, and then UPS declined (this is all true).  So, Road Trip!  

Frank flew down to Florida, rented a U-Haul van, and drove back north, keeping the windows cracked open, got a flat tire, etc. but eventually, he and Byron got back to Milwaukee.

The locals popped the lid, like you would, if you bought an old used car at auction, took a few snapshots, some guys played “Amazing Grace” on bagpipes, etc…. and Byron Was Back in Town!  just shy of 129 years after his first funeral.

So, that’s not much of a travel story, really, just one postmortem outing, 1,157.6 miles.

He was kind of a jerk, but he did get the city a working harbor, started a newspaper, founded a railroad, etc

Basically, he got some things moving.  And then continued to move, after he was dead.

And that started me thinking, and that’s never good.

As soon as you start thinking about it, wow, so many dead people, have logged so many miles.


I always try to stick some Shakespeare, or stuff like that, in my posts, to make it seem like I’m well-read. I thought this could be an ad called, “Totally Immersive Experiences.”  But Ophelia is useless for my project, which is “Long Distance Voyages by Dead People.”  I looked at a map of Elsinore (Kronberg Castle) and don’t see any little willowy streams like this, feeding into the Baltic Sea, or into the Øresund, the strait between Denmark and Sweden. As near as I can tell, she must’ve been in the moat, near the Café Brohus and across from the souvenir shop, and couldn’t have traveled more than 1/8 mile. But what a great painting.  [by Millais, in the Tate]

Look at this next restless soul:

Evita had a lot of good qualities, but also suffered from a strange form of kleptomania, as seen in this photo – – a compulsion to steal fancy bedspreads.

Eva Perón

(Better know as Evita, as in “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina.”)  Died in 1952, only 33, but was at least spared from seeing herself played by Madonna in the movie.   After she died, her body was displayed in the Ministry of Labour Building, then the Congress Building, then she was wheeled over to her office in the trade unions’ building.

And there she stayed, in her office, on display, for roughly two years.

Juan Perón believed he had some English ancestors, and thought the British custom of keeping dead, or near-dead, people in office (professors, bureaucrats, politicians, etc.) was charming.

He did plan on a huge monument, bigger than the Statue of Liberty, where Eva could be kept in the base, like hiding a house key under a candlestick.  Oh crap, I shouldn’t have said that, now I have to find another place.  But when he fled after a coup, he not only left all the lights on in the Presidential Palace, but he forgot to pack Eva.

The generals who took over, turned off the lights, and the body disappeared, for sixteen years.  In 1971, she was located in a crypt in Milan, Italy, under a different name, due to some sort of paperwork issue.  These things happen.

Perón had her shipped to Spain, where he was exiling, and kept her in the dining room (seriously?)(and again, this is all true).  He eventually returned to power, and after he died, in office, his 3rd wife had Eva shipped back home, displayed with Juan for a time, and then finally stashed Juan & Wife #1 in a special tomb, under a trapdoor.

And there, as far as I can tell, Eva remains at peace, except of course, for rolling over when they cast Madonna.   By a conservative estimate, that’s 13,931 postmortem miles, and of course that’s just air travel, and doesn’t include parades, side trips, and excursions.


photo credit: NASA/JIm Ross

Gene Roddenberry (Star Trek) must have set some sort of record, because he, or at least, a sample of his cremated remains, went into space twice.  The space shuttle Columbia took him for a spin in 1992, and then in 1997, a Pegasus rocket took him up into space again, and he circled Earth, every 96 minutes, for over five years.  The Pegasus spacecraft burned up on re-entry, May 20, 2002, somewhere over Australia (where they figured, what’s a little more dust).   Probably something like 17,000 mph, so way above 122 million miles for Mr. Roddenberry.

(I checked, and that’s = the total mileage clocked by the Space Shuttle Endeavour, and the yearly mileage estimated for Santa Claus to complete his rounds.  Coincidence?  I don’t think so.)

I’m just not sure how to count the mileage for Dr. Eugene Shoemaker.  Some portion of whom was aboard the Lunar Prospector in 1998, when NASA crashed it into the Moon (on purpose, or so they said).   OK, that’s roughly 239,000 miles to get there, but…the Moon, and I hope I’m not offending anyone’s beliefs by saying this, is generally believed to revolve around the Earth, so do we count those orbits as travel time?   Or just the miles to get to the Moon, where Shoemaker is presumably firmly planted, dust to dust, and not moving.


“Nymphs Finding the Head of Orpheus” John William Waterhouse (1905). A couple of thoughts on this painting.  First, lax regulation of bottled spring water.  2nd, does it strike you that these two nymphs look more curious than horrified?  3rd, doesn’t that look more like a zither, than a lyre?  4th, how’s a head gonna strum that, either way?


I’ll just mention Abe Lincoln, whose legendary funeral train covered 1,654 miles.  His remains were the object of an attempted kidnapping in 1874, and were famously moved and concealed seventeen times before finally coming to a halt in 1901.  However, this was all in the Springfield, Illinois area, and one of the 17 moves was no more than eighteen inches.

Russell Shorto, in his excellent book Descartes’ Bones, details the complex travels and travails of the skull and bones of René Descartes, but he didn’t include a rule-book on how to score the mileage for people like that.  Heads, etc. off traveling on their own, I mean.  Do we credit the mileage, or pay it no mind.  The Headless Society includes Haydn, Mozart, Mata Hari, and the Marquis de Sade.  Do we credit Albert Einstein with 2892.8 miles, when his stolen brain was removed from a beer cooler, and driven cross-country in a Tupperware bowl??  **

Well anyway, you don’t have to be a genius, to know there’s money to be made here.


If you don’t want to invest in a lengthy cruise, we’d offer day trips, too, just little jaunts around scenic lakes and rivers. Canoeing, kayaking, rowing, paddling…sculling.


So here’s the money-making idea.  All these vacant planes, tour buses and cruise ships companies, could be booking Departures for the Departed.

We can revive the travel industry, without spreading the epidemic, by sending dead people on trips.

It’s a lovely gesture, and expired tickets are so much cheaper than regular fares.  The tour groups can really pack ’em in, don’t have to worry about long lines for the buffet or food poisoning, finding clean restrooms, or getting a room with a view.  You can run the whole operation with a skeleton crew.




“In September for a while / I will ride a crocodile / Down the chicken soupy Nile”


And it’s not some passing fancy, cultures have been doing stuff like this for millennia.    The Pharaohs always had some boats tucked into their tombs, to go cruisin’ in the afterlife.  Canoes were used in funeral rites by ancient Polynesians, some Native Americans, Sarawak islanders, etc.  The British general Pakenham, killed at the Battle of New Orleans, and Admiral Lord Nelson, shot down at Trafalgar, were shipped home in barrels of rum or brandy, 5,060 & 1,300 miles, respectively.  In more recent times, lots of famous people – JFK, H.G. Wells, Neil Armstrong, Robin Williams – and countless others have been scattered at sea.


The Anglo-Saxons and Vikings practiced ship burials, and funeral pyres.

Although, apparently what they didn’t do, is set funeral ships on fire, and then send them out to sea, like they show in the movies.

Too bad.  When I was a kid, I remember asking my grandfather why they stopped doing that, sending people off in ships, it seemed pretty cool.

He said, during the Depression, when he was a kid in the Bronx, there were always guys seeing people off at the pier.  People who were dead to them.  But there were no boats, just a washtub full of concrete.  Farshteyn?  Ya get me?

So we’ve got Tradition, and Hollywood, Vikings, Good Fellas, and the Almighty Buck, what else do we need?


Folks in the U.S. have always been restless, a people in motion.

Movement, of all kinds, defines us, like the Beach Boys, hotdogs, or a rotten healthcare system, Americans Are On The Move.

So…why should a catastrophic pandemic mean you have to settle?  Why should dying mean you have to just lay around?

Before you even get started with objections – – how you hated “Weekend at Bernie’s II” etc. or how the local DMV told you letting dead people drive is a misdemeanor and non-moving violation, etc. — let’s just settle down, take a deep breath, get the historical perspective.  Release the deep breath now, while counting to ten.  Times like this, pard, you want to keep a cool head.  Even if you have to stick the head in a beer cooler, to do that.

This is in the worst possible taste?

Oh yeah?  Really?  After the last 3 years, 5 months, and 28 days, in a pig’s eye, comrade, good luck with that “good taste” argument.  And incidentally, Liberace and Jeffrey Dahmer were from Milwaukee, so we know a thing or two about good taste.  And if you didn’t take a deep breath, shame on you, do it now.  Count to ten while breathing out.  It helps somehow, and think of the all people we’re going to be discussing, that can’t enjoy this kind of thing, so just do it.

My goodness, tut-tut, you’ll see that you’ve known about, and accepted, postmortem travel all your life.


Just think for one sec.  One wordMummies.

(Maybe with mummies, I should’ve said extra-dry or brut, instead of sec?)

I’m sure some of you think I’m “not wrapped too tight,” well, styx and stones – – you must’ve seen a few well-traveled mummies, right?  Pretty much every old museum or art gallery I’ve ever visited has a couple.  The Met in NYC has thirteen, the British Museum has 140, for pete’s sake.  Even the college library near my hometown, kept one in the bottom of a stairwell – when I was a kid, I’d stop by to visit the mummy, all the time.  If I remember right, her toes were sticking out.



I calculate the body in the library stairwell, traveled at least 6,211.18 miles, figuring Abydos necropolis > Cairo > NYC > Geneva, NY.*

The University of Manchester recently sent 8 dead people out to cover thousands of miles.  The “Golden Mummies of Egypt” made it to Buffalo (in February!  brrr, better stay wrapped up!) but I imagine this tour unraveled as things shut down for the epidemic.  They were looking forward to swinging by Raleigh, North Carolina, before returning to the damp gloom of Manchester.  7,829 miles, not bad for dead guys.  And people say my posts wander!


Joanna of Castile, Queen of Spain, was expecting her sixth child, when her husband, Philip the Handsome, passed away. She’d just booked a stagecoach ride for two, from Burgos to Granada, non-refundable tickets, so she brought the body along, 413 miles.  OK, the mileage isn’t impressive, but they spent eight months on this journey.  Juana delivered a daughter, and stayed at monasteries and villages along the way, keeping the coffin and un-embalmed Phil close to hand.  This is a snapshot, taken shortly before his death, with the travel agent.  (Notice how everyone is pretending not to notice the huge rats running around the palace?  The Queen was known as Juana la Loca, because she fed them, thinking they were little dogs.)


OK, I see I’ve run long again, so, as the ancient Pharaohs used to say, let’s wrap it up.  Spirit Airlines in Miami has expressed interest, and I’ll let you know when I’ve got Greyhound or a cruise line onboard with the concept.



P.S.   About the name for my new business. 

What do you think of Charon’s Ferry?  I think it sounds pretty upscale.  Don’t think I could get away with Grateful Dead on Tour, so I’m also considering Sic Gloria Transit. 

That phrase is based on an incident from the ’60’s, that would’ve been forgotten, if Van Morrison hadn’t written that tribute song.  Gloria was a street musician, with a cardboard sign “Sic.  Any $$ Helps”  When she finally passed away, some of NYC’s finest couldn’t be bothered to drive her to the coroner’s office, so they just snuck her onto a bus.  Where she rode for several days, before anyone noticed.

No one knew her last name, so the transit authority buried her in the Hart Island potter’s field, under the name “Gloria Transit.”  I think it would’ve been nicer to have her cremated, and send her urn traveling on the bus in perpetuity.  Maybe the S78 route on Staten Island, that always seems interminable.


* The mummy in the Geneva, NY library died around 320 B.C., during the days of the Ptolemaic Kingdom.  Did you know the ancient Greeks, who were running things in those days, didn’t have “silent letters?”

I thought they were supposed to be pretty advanced in science and art and philosophy, and stuff, and were aware of the concept of zero… and yet they hadn’t figured out how great silent letters are??  It’s true, and so without knowing better, they pronounced the “P” in words like “pneumonia” and “pterodactyl,” and “Ptolemy,” and when this Egyptian lady, the mummy in the stairwell, was introduced & tried to say “Ptolemy, Pharoah & Highest-Praised Priest of Ptah,” she got the giggles, and was executed.

**  The preserved body of the philosopher Jeremy Bentham, of course, is displayed at a college in London.   His head was severed from the body, and the preservation process was not cosmetically successful, so they put a lifelike wax head in it’s place, and the real head sits on the floor, like a butternut squash gone bad.  But he’s of no interest to us, because neither he, nor his head, ever get out and about, they’re not a traveling exhibit.










A cellphone snap from a walk around the College of Agriculture at Cornell.

A considerable campus, covering over 800 acres, with its pastures, greenhouses, labs, test plots, arboretum, etc.

so I was glad to see a map on the wall of an old barn.

It turned out to be unlabeled and not much use as a guide to the campus, but still kind of intriguing.

Not roads, I think, but maybe geologic faults?

or pathways only a cow would understand



On ceramic or enamel surfaces, it might be described as “crazed with cracks,”

so maybe this is indeed, a sign of the times, as Dave suggested.

FLX, NY, Uncategorized, Upstate New York

Minimalist Map

1600's, Arrant Nonsense, Colonial History, Early American History, History, New York City, NY, Revisionist History



Elegant al fresco dining & social distancing.



A few days ago, I posted some pictures of a young cardinal, and mentioned that even though the chick had left the nest, its parents would continue their GrubHub deliveries.

That prompted me to look up “grub.” Because reading the big dictionary, that’s the kind of excitement you can have, after months of quarantine.

I’d always thought that grub, in the sense of food, was cowboy slang – kind of surprising to find out, the OED lists its first use as 1659!

I took that as a Sign.

Thinking about 1659 + grub +cowboys . . .

I should write about Old New York, back when it was The Frontier.



Once upon a time, New York (then called New Netherlands) was the Wild West — a rip-roaring settlement, clearly no country for old men.  Like a colonial version of Dodge City – – cattle grazing, land barons, company stores, unprovoked attacks on Native Americans, gullible hayseeds from Weehawken, etc.

“Hayseeds” have been sticking around since 1577 (“hicks,” “yokels,” and “rubes” wouldn’t shamble along until much later), to provide comic relief, and to hire on as Barney Fife deputies (the ones whose only line is “They went thataway.”)

“Comic relief” wasn’t invented until 1783, and people pretty much just scowled all through the colonial era.



“Bandannas” didn’t mosey along until 1741. The Dutch proto-cowboys used to lament “How you gonna look tough / When you’re wearin’ a ruff?”


In those bucolic days of yore, Manhattan was a lush, verdant island, a little slice of Edam.

And the European settlers brought in livestock.

(Out-of-towners might say “Cattle drives?  in New York?!” and the locals reply, “Haven’t you ever been to New York?  They let anybody drive!”)

And I thought, they must’ve had cowboys.

But I was wrong.

It turns out to be an example, of just how badly History is organized.

Because according to the big book, there weren’t any “cowboys” to eat the grub in 1659.  That word didn’t ride over the horizon until 1725.

Before that, those folks were saddled with a lame, generic job description, just lumped together with “herders” (1625, from a Dutch word), and shepherds tending their flocks, sometimes by night (without getting paid time and a half).

So, if there weren’t any cowboys, just who was eating this antique grub?  And prior to 1725, did the cows just wander around, unsupervised and untutored, in the streets?

I checked, often they did.

“Milkmaids” (invented in 1552) had a surprisingly strong union, and refused to do any “herding, wrangling, or bovine guidance of any kind.”

Cattle & swine roamed freely for centuries, rooting around in gutters, eating the nasturtiums out of folks’ flower beds, leaving hoof marks on the Bowling Green, and making the tavern floors quite a mess.

With no cowboys to keep order, it was just the Dark Ages, practically, and you really had to watch where you stepped.


“Howdy!” The greeting is derived from the old-time, cheese-loving cowboys of New Netherlands, from their salutation “Gouda!”



Even when History finally had cowboys, and could’ve gotten things organized, it wasn’t that great.  Turns out, the harmonica, which to me, is another essential part of the oater scene, wasn’t invented until 1821, so for almost a century, these old-time cowboys had to lug guitars around, and maybe harpsichords.

And History didn’t think of “chuckwagons” for another forty-five years, so they had to brown-bag it until 1866.

Without chuck wagons, there’s no chance of carrying eggs for a Western Omelette, or ranch dressing for your salad.  “Sandwiches” had been created in 1762, but after hours in a saddlebag, no way they’re going to be in good shape.  Kind of a personal night mare.

If it was me, I’d ride down the interstate until I found a “diner,” but that’s even more recent (1935).  You see what I mean about disorganized history?  Nothing happens in the right order.



If you’re planning on obtaining an animal this size, it would behoove you to actually read the operator’s manual, and go through an approved cow-owners’ training class, run by a professional cowboy. (“Behoove” from the Old English “behōf,” meaning, to not get underfoot or trampled by cows.)



Anyway, despite these obstacles, New Amsterdam had cattle grazing, out there in Big Sky Country (Manhattan), by 1625.

Amazon wasn’t around yet, but the West India Co. offered Free Cow Shipping, if you purchased land in the new colony (seriously).

There were even (honestly) honest-to-heck prairies in those days, in the Hempstead Plains region of Long Island.

And “desperadoes” (1647) roamed – this is a real reward notice from those days:  “And whereas complaints are made that the Gardens of many persons have been robbed and their Poultry taken away, if there be any one who can give information of the Thieves…he shall be paid five & twenty guilders…”  Yes, there were no trains or banks to rob, but chickens lived in fear.



Whoa, take ‘er easy there, Pilgrim. When New Amsterdam was founded, these Puritans had been living next-door in Plymouth for four years already. The Dutch remembered them, living in Leiden for ten or twenty years, and had wondered where the heck they’d gotten to.



New Amsterdam was a company town, just like Durango, Colorado – full of fur traders & colorful eccentrics, a Wild Bunch, on the frontier. Only half this bunch was Dutch (there were Danes, Swedes, Germans, Walloons, Sephardim, Huegenots, Holsteins, etc.), and it was a tolerant place, by the standards of the time — a wrangling, polyglot-trouble-spot of the good, the bad, the ugly.

And there were all those cows – then and now, The Big Apple was all about the bull market and branding.



Each year, more people are killed by cows, than by sharks. Cowboys monitor and prevent gang activity, and keep ’em on the straight ‘n’ narrow.



So by 1659, when people started eating “grub,” New York had all the makings of a good western – prairies, cows, sheriffs (called “schouten” in those days, as in “Fill your hands, and come out schouten!”), soldiers fighting Native Americans, a stockade, and windmills.

As far as I’m concerned, you have to have a clacking, creaking windmill for the right atmosphere, whether you’re filming Hans Brinker or Rio Bravo.




The stockade, along what’s now Wall St, was actually to keep out English & Yankees, not Indians, but again, a great backdrop for a western.  The beer was weak in those days, but a “vaquero” (1519) could have a medicinal shot of Holland Gin, good for arrow wounds, lumbago & sciatica, which you’re gonna get after a long day in the saddle.

But tragically, in its disjointed way, poorly steered, History still lacked chuck wagons, diners, harmonicas, really portable harpsichords, steam locomotives, six-shooters, and cowboys.



Cowboy’s Lament – the end of free range beef and traditional windmills


Sorry to say a discouraging word, pardner, but it’s kinda sad, thinking of those early Dutch herders,  home on the range, making sure the windmills didn’t spook the herd, and yet not considered to be cowboys.  Maybe some of them, who didn’t have horses, would just take the Broadway stage to work.  Glumly setting around the fire, eating their “grub” – probably pickled herrings, maybe a bowl of succotash – washed down by a tankard of warm heiferweizen.


And those colonial range riders, darned if they didn’t feel kinda unappreciated somehow, kinda…undefined, you might say, because they weren’t just herders, they were cowboys…but the word just hadn’t sprang into existence yet.  Dang it.

History is just a mess.


Yep, lose the fancy duds, trade that lace ruff for a bandana, and this Dutch feller’s ready to ride.  That looks to be at least a ten gallon hat.


portrait by Fredric Remington (born in Canton, NY)



Big hats, big boots, horses, cows, prairies, an addictive tobacco habit, windmills, lack of concern for personal hygiene…they were all set for to be cowboys, just didn’t have the right word for it.

But on a happier note, in the morning, there’d be cardinals singing in the trees, beautiful birds which they didn’t have back in Holland – the cardinal chick was what started this whole discussion, remember?  And about exactly the same time in history that people started eating “grub,” the Dutch also started coffee plantations, in Ceylon, India, and then Indonesia, so the 17th c. cow-herders could at least have a cup of Java with their donuts.

They’d sing an ol’ cowboy lament from the Lovin’ Spoonful, accompanied only by guitar, since there weren’t no harmonicas yet:

Hot town, summer in the city
Back of my neck gettin’ dirty and gritty
Been down, isn’t it a pity
Doesn’t seem to be a cowboy in the city


Far as I’m concerned, it ain’t a real western without a few windmills.



When my relatives Out West, roughing it in the Wasatch Range, want to do some real cowboy-style cooking, they build a fire, shovel the coals into a pit, and do Cast-Iron Dutch Oven Cooking


A native New Yorker, and cowboy, of New Netherlands descent.  Teddy Roosevelt, at the chuck wagon. Lookin’ kinder ornery, like a man who spotted a saddle sore on his steak.


Yep, most a these here pictures are from The Nat’l Gallery of Art,
The Met & the U.S. Library of Congress.
I don’t hold with readin’ much, myself.
It’s jest a sight easier to make stuff up.