Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Maybe it was and maybe it wasn't

Hans spoke deferentially to his boss, “We have built better cabins so we can at least be warmer this winter. But we need to be more careful about the smoke from the chimneys. It attracts much too much attention.”
“You are in charge of the encampment. You take care of the daily life problems. I haf more important things to think about. If you had gotten ze maps and charts from ze greasy little man, ve would be digging already! Ve must begin before the winter snows.”
The younger man promised “I will ride to the Trading Post and purchase some supplies. And try to get some gossip. Maybe there is someone who is getting suspicious.”
“Go! Go! Off with you now, Hans. Your constant talking is disturbing my calculations.”
“Yes sir!”

The younger man was accustomed to being berated and did not respond to the stream of accusations. He might even have enjoyed his job if only he had been left alone to do it in peace. Sadly, that was not the case. Hans’ face was furrowed with worry as he rode the dirt trail to the Trading Post. No question, the Shawnee were becoming increasingly suspicious of the “settlers” to whom  they had given permission to farm the mountain valley. Hans was uncertain how much longer he could maintain his cover and he increasingly regretted being drawn into the project.

During the weeks in between the Sandflea’s time in the mountains and the present spring had come to the mountain valleys. It was not the Charleston spring of azaleas and Palmettos but rather a cool, mountain spring. The trail was muddy but at least all the icy patches had melted and the horse was able to walk without a mis-step even if Hans didn’t dare try a faster pace.

The Trading Post was housed in a wooden cabin as was typical for the mountain region. The bench outside the front door was empty due to the spring chill and indeed the entire area seemed somewhat neglected. Indoors there was a wood-burning stove to give warmth and plenty of goods from which to choose.
“I need to buy more flour.” said Hans. “Ten large bags.”
“Really?” The shopkeeper raised his eyebrows. “Weren’t you just in here a few weeks ago with a big order? Must be a powerful lot of biscuits you’re bakin’.”
“No, we are not baking so much.” Hans said carefully. “The other flour, it was spoiled. Got spoiled I mean. I need new, fresh flour.”
The shopkeeper nodded. “Yeah, that happens sometimes. Mealy bugs get in the bags and eat-up the flour. Or maybe it was weevils?”
“Ja, ja, it vas de veevils I tink.” Hans was rapidly losing his grip on the language due to his increasing nervousness.
The Shopkeeper glanced up and back down again. One of the other customers in the Trading Post rose-up silently and went out the front door without even saying good-bye.
“Is there anything else you need, fella? Some coffee maybe? Sugar?”
“No tank you. Ve come to fetch the bags of flour in 2 or 3 days? Is that ok?”
When the shopkeeper nodded assent, Hans practically threw the money on the counter and hurried out the door. So much for playing it cool!


Captain Willie was, as was his wont, enjoying his time-off and intended to continue enjoying it for as long as humanly possible. At his family’s home his mama served him up delicious, home-cooked meals during the days.  And at night there was dance halls with cold beer to drink and lovely ladies accompanying him as he drank it.

Therefore he was not in the least pleased to receive a summons to visit the Shipping and Receiving Office in the middle of an otherwise fine afternoon. The crew had only been home for about 3 weeks so far and there was still the need to refuel the Sandflea as well as load on fresh provisions. Surely no one could be thinking about sending them out again so soon! 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Native American Tribal Nations Map

Native American Tribal Nations Map: Our Original Names and Locations

This fantastic resource is best described by the words of its creator:


These maps present every documented, known Native American and First Nations tribes that were here in the United States and Canada in Pre-Contact times. All of the tribal nations documented here are in their original locations before the European Invasion affected their movement and displacement. Most of the names of tribes are in their own language, and are  not the names given to them either by the invading Europeans or even other tribes. For example, we correctly use the name Numinu for what most Americans would call the Comanche Nation. The Sioux are referred to here in their own language as the Lakota. Unfortunately, many of the tribes here are indeed listed by their given name. Their original names were lost in the War against the Indians which left many tribes numberless, or forced remnant bands to amalgamate into larger, stronger tribes. We seek here to honor those hundreds of tribal nations who existed in their respective territories for millennia unscathed until the encroachment of Europeans. This is a tribute to all of those forgotten tribes whose names had been lost to the wind, but who live in the hearts and minds of modern-day Native Americans who managed to survive the largest full-scale holocaust in Man's history. We also honor the Indigenous Nations of this land by giving them ownership of their own names for themselves.

Clicking on the link (at the top of this post) takes you to the website where you can download a free PDF of the map or purchase a larger version, suitable for hanging in a classroom or cultural center.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Dreams and Schemes

Kennia and the Coquettes had enjoyed a truly magnificent meal and were catching-up on all the local gossip as they digested their repast.
“Are y’all going down to the Bath house?
“Gal, you know what that salt water does to my complexion.  And that beach sand! Gets all up in ma bloomies if ya know what I mean.” Carlotta winked.
“And her hair gets all frizzy too, no matter how much Macassar oil she puts on it!” said Sabrietta.
“You mean ole thing!” snapped Carlotta. “You are the last person who should be talking about frizzy hair.” She snapped her fan open in front of her face with a pop and glared over its lace edge at her companions.
“Now y’all, lets not get all upset and spoil my first evening back home,” interposed Kennia.
“Oh, she’s just jealous of me. Like always.”
“Y’all are such a cliché,” laughed said Ermengarde. “I’m off to the dance floor now. You two can have your catfight without me!”
“Well I intend to eat myself silly so I definitely am having pound cake. With ice cream.” said Kennia.  “And a fresh cup of tea.”
 “I’ll fetch if for you Miss Kennia. I know just how you like it, with just a splash of whiskey.”
“Thank you, cherie. I surely do appreciate it.”


Meanwhile on the western side of the Appalachian Mountains, activities of an entirely different sort were underway. . .

 Two men stood in a small valley cutting into the mountainside. Both were dressed in fringed buckskin frontier gear that  somehow not fight entirely right on them.
“Ja, dokter hebben we gevonden wat we nodig hadden.”
“Speak English!” snapped the older man. “Ve do not vant to arouse the suspicions.”
The younger man shrugged since he knew better than to point-out that the older man’s heavily accented English would scarcely fool a small child.
“I am cautiously optimistic that we have found what we need. Now if we can only work in peace.”
“Excellent! Proceed according to plan. Ve need this endeavour to be successful as soon as possible. Much is dependent upon it! Soon the others will arrive und ve must be prepared.”
“Of course sir.” He hesitated before continuing. “There has been some trouble with the camp guards lately. They do not seem to understand the need for secrecy I’m afraid.”
“Then make them understand! I hafe no time for this!” He turned on his heel and walked away, signifying that the conversation was finished as at least as far as he was concerned. 

Friday, September 13, 2013

Charleston Rice Forum

Artist Jonathan Green launches an important forum on local culture

"Jonathan Green wants to start a conversation. It's a conversation about rice and a conversation about history. And more than anything, it's about a vibrant West African-based culture that flourished for over two centuries in the Lowcountry of South Carolina but is seldom discussed today.
The need for that discussion was the impetus for the Lowcountry Rice Forum, a three-day event that kicks off Thursday evening and brings together scholars, artists, educators, and cooks. The larger goal, as Green articulates it, is to get people together "to have a conversation about the landscape of the South and how it came to be."

Friday, September 6, 2013

Indian Child Welfare Act

RavenHawk Radio Presents: Stolen Children

"A conversation about ICWA (Indian Child Welfare Act) and how it effects Native American Children today."

For over 200 years the Settler governments of the US and Canada removed Indian children from their homes and families in an effort to destroy their cultures and force them to assimilate to Settler norms. The idea was that "you must kill the Indian to save the man." Colonized peoples all over this planet no doubt recognize this process and understand the devastation it has caused in Indigenous societies. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Tall Tales and Southern Belles

The Coquettes consisted of Madeleine, Sabrietta, Antoinette, Ermengarde and Carlotta. All five shared a predilection for enormous, over-decorated fans, purses and other accessories as well as an appreciation for a truly well-told tale. They weren’t so particular about the veracity of the tale as long as it was well-told! They had been a fixture of the French Theatre for as long as anyone could remember. Naturally, they joined Kennia as soon as they saw her seated at the bar in hopes of hearing a good story.

“Wanta hit the dance floor,  Miss Kennia?”
“Not this evening, chérie. I am here to relax and rest my weary self. Besides, my last pair of fancy stockings got ruined on a mission and I haven’t had the chance to replace them.”
“How about a tale of daring escapades and risky ventures?” suggested Carlotta.
“Now y’all know that I can’t tell y’all about my missions. Not more than just small bits at least. Most of it is secret.”
“Were you chasing after some wicked miscreants, Miss Kennia?” Sabrietta peeked slyly over her fan.
Kennia laughed. “Just listen to y’all with all that ten dollar vocabulary!” If you must know, there was a fat, greasy ole German fella who did not understand that the word “no” means just that!”
“So what happened?” The assembled Coquettes leaned towards her in expectation.
“Nothing happened, y’all! He tried to lay hands on me and and gave him a good, hard kick. . . or two. Then he fell on the ground hollerin’ and tried to grab my ankle. That’s when my good, patterned stockings got snagged and tore. End of story, y’all! Now can I drink my drink in peace?
There was a collective sigh of disappointment from the assembled Coquettes as they sat up, realizing that no juicy details were forthcoming from Kennia.

The Maître d'hôtel approached Kennia as she sat at the bar, all smiles at seeing one of his favorite customers. “I have your favorite table available, if you are ready to order your dinner Madamoiselle?”
“Thank you, Andre, I would be delighted to have some of your wonderful food.”
“For you, Madamoiselle, I have a vertiable feast!”
Kennia almost purred with contentment. This was the life!
Shortly after she was seated, the waiter brought heaping plates of Boeuf Bourguignon, broiled sweet potatoes, fried mushrooms and gravy.

Out on the dance floor the band played while couples gyrated, lifted their skirts and kicked their legs with enthusiasm. The Cancan dance originated in the working-class dance halls of Paris and  was all the rage in the Francophile areas of the world.  

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


What is Juneteenth?

June 19th or Juneteenth is the day that we celebrate the de facto end of slavery in the United States of America. Click on the link above to read more about it. Meanwhile, I'll be fixin' my black-eyed peas and rice for my celebration dinner.

And if you wish to learn more about "Africa's Botanical Legacy" in North America, I highly recommend In the Shadow of Slavery: Africa's Botanical Legacy in the Atlantic World by Judith A. Carney and Richard Nicholas Rosomoff.


Monday, June 3, 2013

Harriet Tubman and the Combahee River Raid

Clicking on Harriet Tubman and the Combahee River Raid will take you to The Tracing Center's blog post about it. Below is an excerpt:

"First, the raid demonstrated very publicly that black troops were not merely fit as laborers or cannon fodder, but were every bit as capable as their white brethren at executing complex military operations under the most challenging circumstances."

Is anyone surprised that I did not learn about this raid in school? I did learn about Harriet Tubman, the Moses of Her People (as she was called by many), in the 4th grade. Mrs. Green, one of the very first African-American teachers at my elementary school, was the first teacher I had who celebrated Black History Week (now expanded to an entire month) and taught us school children about some of the other stories, the ones not involving straight, white dudes with money and power. 

Friday, May 31, 2013

Ma chérie

Kennia rented a room at Miss Lily’s Respectable Ladies Boarding House. While she often was away from Charleston, she definitely liked her comforts during her time-off. Her room included a favorite over-stuffed armchair covered with a plethora of embroidered pillows as well as an elaborate vanity table with an unusually large mirror. She wished that there was some way she could have her comforts with her everywhere she travelled.

After arriving at the Boarding House she had a long sleep and a change of clothing. When she awoke she considered visiting the Public Bathes for a soak but decided that soap, water and a soft wash-cloth were sufficient for the moment. She’d slept through the rest of the day and now the evening breeze was cooling the sweltering city. Time to go out on the town!

As she headed down the stairs she chanced upon her friend Callie just returning home for the evening.
“Hey gal!. Good to see ya back home safe and sound.” Callie hugged her friend. “What are ya up to now? Ready for a night out?”
“You have got entirely too many questions, gal! I haven’t even unpacked properly!” laughed Kennia while hugging her in return. “I certainly want some decent food and I want it fixed by someone else while I just sit tight and give myself airs.”
“Sweetie, just let me get myself all put together and I’ll join you.”
The two friends went into Callie’s room so that she could change into her best hat and dress bodice with fringe around the hem. The room was a bit larger than Kennia’s but more sparsely furnished. Callie’s job in a factory didn’t pay as well as Kennia’s but it also didn’t involved being chased by (and sometimes shot at by) bad guys!

At 10 pm the evening was young and there still weren’t so many folks out on the town. Nightlife in Charleston didn’t truly come into its own until well after sunset when the ocean breezes cooled the cooking heat of the Charleston day. The city’s nightlife would not be in full-swing until midnight. The women ambled amiably through Tavern Row and onwards to the French Theatre. The French Theatre was quite lavish with an abundance of crystal chandeliers, bevelled mirrors and gilding.  However if one looked more closely, one could see just a touch of distress to the gilding as well as a missing crystal or two from some of the chandeliers. The French Theatre was a proud old lady who wore her years comfortably.

As regulars both women were greeted with cries and waves as they crossed the floor over to the bar.
“Your usual, mon ma chérie?” asked the bartender.
“Oui, Jean-Pierre” smiled Kennia. “il est bon d'être à ma maison!”***

***Author’s note. It has been a loooong time since I studied French in school and I have no one here to practice with so I apologize in advice for being very “rusty” with my language skills even though I am a person of French descent (on my grandmother’s side).

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

In Honor of May Day 2013

I am posting a link to a fantastic blog entry:

Radical Dirigibles- Black Socialists, Anarchists, Reformers and Airships

"The history of black radical political involvement in the US is directly tied to issues of racism, inequity and marginality. In socialism, anarchism, communism and other radical movements, African-Americans found ideologies whose visions sought to deconstruct the rigid hierarchical structures that dominated Victorian and popular Western thought. From the founding of the NAACP to the African Blood Brotherhood, these radicals attacked racism, class-ism, limited gender constructions and sought to overturn the entire global colonialist venture. Even if such political strategies inevitably fell short of their many lofty goals, they remain nevertheless embedded in the political history of black struggle. And our collective political re-imagined past of monocles, gears and airships is all the richer for it. "

(although this is technically April's non-story post!)

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Time to relax

Captain Willie, like all good pirate captains, had quite a taste for luxury. Airships, much like their sea-going brethren, were short on comfort although they compensated for this with a gracious plenty of adventure. This fact caused him to feel no end of appreciation for the indulgences freely available at his home port.

With over a century under its proverbial belt the House of Bacchus was a well-respected, if not entire respectable establishment. Not to mention that it was well-stocked with wine, women and song. It was entirely to the Captain’s taste with first-class food, excellent beer and high-stepping dancers. Not to mention that some of the dancers there did seem to be a wee bit sweet on him and he did know the password needed to be admitted through the staff entrance. Add to that the free trays of  food  backstage that were sent down from the upstairs restaurant and his enthusiasm was understandable.

On the other hand Kennia’s favorite haunt was the French Theatre since it had aerialists as well as singers and dancers. The French Theatre was founded in 1794 and was a Charleston landmark whose performers came from all over the world and had a wondrous variety of accoutrements and costumes. She revelled in the decadent atmosphere! It was the perfect contrast to her work which was cramped, dirty and often dangerous. Here she could unleash her frivolous side and revel in a bohemian atmosphere.

As a good Irishman, Harry o’Conall favoured Miss Molly’s Dance Hall and Gaming Establishment. He had once spent an entire month’s pay on a dancer after declaring her the winner of an impromptu dance-contest!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Tira (all gussied up)

Another version of our favorite airship mechanic, this time all gussied-up and ready for a night out in Charleston!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

To mix it up a bit

Here's the support graphic I copied off a Facebook page. As far as I know it is free for anyone's use.

And a BIG SHOUT-OUT to the folks at Columbiana Centre in Columbia, South Carolina for being real-life cool folks and respecting Idle No More last Saturday, 16 February 2013. According to one participant: "We were told by security that "someone" had alerted them. . . they were so very kind and helped us find a good spot and protected us. You can see some Lexington County police who were called out to meet us (again, by "someone") and the mall security told them it was OK and to let us be. We were all very grateful that Columbiana Centre was so hospitable and very thankful to the security guards."

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


Tira stayed with her sister when she was in town. Yolanda was a widow and 3 of her four daughters had grown-up and left home so Tira bunked with her when she was in-and-about Charleston.“Hey y’all, I’m back now” she hollered as she let herself in the front door of the little cottage. But she wasn’t surprised that the small cottage was empty during the middle of the day.  Yolanda was almost certainly at the small café she owned and operated in another part of town and Lord only knew where to find her harum-scarum youngest girl. Almost certainly not in school in any case.

Tira sighed and carried her bags over the threshold and into the hall. Now that she was here she felt at a bit of a loss for what to do with herself. Once thing was for certain, she was too tired to go out to a pub or a public bath house. Instead she took her belongings into the back bedroom and just left them sitting on the floor. Tira decided to make-do with a quick hand and face wash-up in the kitchen.

She hunted through the wardrobe in the bedroom and found a freshly washed nightgown to change into. “Nice to have some peace and privacy for a change” she muttered as she sank onto the daybed. Clean sheets and a genuine mattress, what a luxurious feeling! No wonder her eyes closed and her breathing deepened only seconds after she pulled the bedclothes over her.

She woke several hours later to find a boy of about 12 years of age staring at her.
“Who’re you?” she asked.
“I’m Benjamin. Why are you sleeping in my bed?”
Tira sat up, now completely woken, and stared. “Your bed? This is my sister’s house and this is the bed I sleep in.”
Benjamin ran out of the bedroom and towards the kitchen. He hollered “Aunty Yolanda! There’s a strange lady here and she is sleepin’ in ma bed!”
Yolanda laughed, “Honey, thats just my sista, Tira. You don’t need to be scared about her. She ain’t gonna eat ya fer dinner or nuthin’ like that. She loves children!”
“So how come she ain’t got none of her own with her?”
“I’ve got a son but he’s all grown-up now and on his own.”
Benjamin looked sceptical but slowly nodded his head. Maybe the strange lady wasn’t so scary after all.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Super Ginormous Delux Meta Post

For those who are wondering A. where was the December story post and B. where  in the aether is this month's material:

YES! Your wait will soon be over as I am almost caught-up with my map of Alternate Charleston, SC, "a retched hive of scum and villainy" (much as the real Charleston was!) and the story material that goes with it.

Meanwhile, to whet your whistle while you wait I submit for your perusal an authentic advertisement from 1843: