It’s the Thanksgiving weekend and I’m feeling a bit lazy. I think I’ll just ramble on for awhile instead of writing a real article. Those of you reading from countries without a similar holday may not understand much about Thanksgiving. In the United States it involves several days of overeating to the point of immobility, and sitting on a couch watching (American) football games all day. I’m not motivated to put the necessary research into writing something mentally stimulating. You might want to skip today and come back next time.
A slightly more athletic Thanksgiving activity formed in recent years, a "traditional" running race known as the Turkey Trot. Races tended to start early on Thanksgiving morning before culinary indulgences could sideline potential participants. They covered short distances, like maybe 5 kilometres or 5 miles. That way people could pretend they were behaving in a healthy manner when, in fact, they were simply getting ready to stuff themselves silly in a few hours.
My local Turkey Trot a couple years ago. I didn’t take any photos this year.
Our local neighborhood began its Turkey Trot about a decade ago. My wife took great pride in signing me up the last couple years. I think she enjoyed tormenting me. There I stood on the start line once again this year at precisely 8:00 am, ready to hit the pavement with 3,000 of my closest friends. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that I finished in first place for my age bracket. That should never happen. I’m not that fast. Then I noticed that she’d accidentally signed me up as a woman. For a few brief moments I claimed to be the fastest middle-aged woman in town. Once corrected however, I fell down to fourth place for my age bracket. That still sounded impressive although it also included participants dressed as pilgrims, or with plastic turkeys on their heads, or in full Santa Clause outfits, or walking dogs. My effort wasn’t all that notable in that context. Then I spent the rest of the day eating, as expected and customary.
That reminded me. I’ve just started planning for the next marathon race series. Longtime readers probably remembered several previous trips. I don’t run those distances, I simply drive my favorite runner from state-to-state for each event in sequence and count counties. We’re looking at the Heartland Series for 2017. That event will arrive before I know it even though it won’t happen until late May. Races will be held in Bryan, Ohio; Niles, Michigan; Portage, Indiana; Fulton, Illinois; Clinton, Iowa; Sparta, Wisconsin and Albert Lea, Minnesota. Seven races, seven days, seven states, beginning May 28, 2017. We probably won’t do the last two races. I can only take a week off from work and it would put us too far from home to get back in time.
Anyone knowing about interesting things to see along the way can let me know in the comments. I’d also love to meet anyone who wants to race one or more races (they do have shorter options all the way down to 5K). I’ve noticed there doesn’t seem to be much of an intersection between the 12MC audience and this activity, though. Nobody took me up on similar offers in previous years, and that’s fine too. I’ll put it out there just in case.
Since I’ve called this article Ramble On, feel free to take a break and listen to Ramble On.
Finish West Virginia
When last I left West Virginia, only six counties remained on my county counting list before I could finish the state. I spent a few moments sketching out what it would take. The result, above, demonstrated that I should be able to complete West Virginia during a long weekend. Inauguration Day falls on a Friday in 2017. I’m thinking that might be an ideal time to get away from the Washington, DC area if the weather cooperates. It will happen sometime in the next few months if it doesn’t happen then.
Blog spam largely disappeared when Google changed its algorithms to penalize websites referenced by spam links. However, it seemed to make a bit of a resurgence in the last couple of months. That meant I could start tweeting the best examples again on the 12MC Twitter account: "I such a lot indisputably will make sure to don’t put out of your mind this website and give it a look on a relentless basis."
The Political Graveyard
Grave of US Senator Zachariah Chandler – Elmwood Cemetery – Detroit, Michigan. Photo by Michael Noirot on Flickr (cc)
I’ve enjoyed a slightly morbid site called The Political Graveyard lately. Want to know the final resting place of practically any politician in the history of the United States? The Political Graveyard probably catalogued it. As an example, for my recent article on Winfield Scott (who ran as the Whig candidate for President in addition to his long military career), could have noted his burial at the United States Military Academy Cemetery (map). I’m not sure what that would have added although I still found it addictive.
How about somebody completely obscure. I selected Zachariah Chandler (1813-1879) somewhat randomly. He served as mayor of Detroit, U.S. Secretary of the Interior, and U.S. Senator, amongst other offices. He "Died, from a brain hemorrhage, in his room at the Grand Pacific Hotel, Chicago, Cook County, Ill., November 1, 1879 (age 65 years, 326 days). Interment at Elmwood Cemetery, Detroit, Mich." (map). See what I mean by addictive? It served no practical purpose. Maybe that’s why I liked it.
Stuff from Readers
Reader Joe sent a couple of interesting article links. One in particular might apply to the 12MC audience: The Sun Has Set on Barrow, Alaska for the Final Time… Ever. Barrow, the northernmost town in Alaska went dark on November 18. The sun will rise again on January 22. However, its name will change to Utqiaġvik on December 1. They’ve ditched their English name for an Inupiat Eskimo name to better align with their culture. Native speakers pronounced it something like "Oot KHAH’-ghah veek." It reminded me of the recent change of the Wade Hampton Census Area to Kusilvak in another area of Alaska a few months ago.
Reader Rowland wondered what the U.S. map would look like if states were redrawn with equal populations. I’m still pondering that one. What would be the best way to do that? Would we also have to change boundaries, I wondered, after every decennial census?
Twelve Mile Circle felt like playing games. More to the point, I’d collected a few town names tied to games that I wanted to share. I did something similar awhile ago with the sport of Lawn Bowls, a particularly popular choice for names. Atlantic City also made the cut with Monopoly although the town inspired the game rather than the other way around.
Show Low got me thinking. I’d spotted the town in eastern Arizona’s Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest. I figured it hid an interesting story given its strange name and indeed it did. Two ranchers, Corydon Cooley and Marion Clark, owned a large property jointly in 1876. They discovered, however, that it wouldn’t support both of their families. Neither wanted to leave so they let fate pick the winner with a poker game. As the Town’s website explained,
Show Low was named after a marathon poker game played between two early settlers. They decided there wasn’t enough room for both of them in the community and agreed to let a game of cards decide who was to get the 100,000 acre ranch and who was to move on. According to the story, one of them said, "If you can show low, you win." The other one turned up the deuce of clubs and replied, "show low it is."
Nothing could go lower than the deuce of clubs so the game ended. Cooley won. He renamed the ranch Show Low to commemorate his victory and the town later adopted it. That seemed fitting in the Old West where stories like those abounded. The town embraced its history too. They called their primary road, a segment of U.S. Route 60, Deuce of Clubs (map). Lots of local businesses used the name and the town logo featured an appropriate playing card.
The map said Truth or Consequences although locals called it T or C (map). Either way, it definitely seemed like an odd name for a town. I thought I’d mentioned this one before, however it seemed that it never actually made it into a 12MC article. Loyal reader Peter did mention T or C in a comment about a year ago referring to its old name, Hot Springs. Well, Hot Springs certainly sounded normal, so what happened?
I supposed with a relatively common name like Hot Springs, the town wanted to try something a little bit more unusual. A radio program popular at the time, Truth or Consequences, offered a contest. Its host, Ralph Edwards, would broadcast the show’s 10th anniversary episode live from any town that would change its name to match the show. Hot Springs jumped at the chance and the broadcast took place on April 1, 1950. The town impressed Edwards so much that he returned every May for the next half-century for an Annual Fiesta. T or C returned the love, naming an auditorium and a park for Edwards.
Poker Flat and The Shores of Poker Flat, California
Bret Harte wrote colorful stories of the California Gold Rush in the second half of the 19th Century. He published one his most famous short stories "The Outcasts of Poker Flat" in Overland Monthly magazine in 1869. Go ahead and read it. This shouldn’t take more than about ten minutes. I’ll wait for you until you get back.
A community called The Shores of Poker Flat claimed to be the inspiration for the story. It even included a Bret Harte Drive (map). However, evidence seemed to point to another Poker Flat found elsewhere in California (map). That one became a ghost town many decades ago.
You didn’t read the story, did you? Let me synopsize. A gold rush town wished to rid itself of negative influences. They hanged a couple of miscreants and exiled four others. The exiles left town, warned to stay away forever. They trudged into the mountains and met a couple traveling in the opposite direction. Tired, the expanded group set camp in an abandoned cabin as it began to snow. They remained trapped for several days as provisions waned and stakes became increasingly desperate. One of the prime characters, the professional gambler John Oakhurst, was found dead at the end of the story. He’d committed suicide "with a Derringer by his side and a bullet in his heart." There he sat beneath a pine tree, with "the deuce of clubs pinned to the bark with a bowie-knife."
There was that deuce of clubs again. He showed low, his luck ran out.
A last stand didn’t mean that the person subjected to the stand had to die, I supposed. I looked to the modern era and examined the curious case of Ted Kaczynski, the so-called Unabomber, for the final of this series of final stands. His last stand happened at an isolated cabin in the wilderness, ending more with a whimper than a bang. A critical mistake made by the overconfident evil genius led to his ruin.
Before the Bombings
Kaczynski didn’t like modern technology and he blamed it for the ills of society. He lived according to his practices, moving to a one-room cabin completely lacking any amenities in rural Montana, preferring the world of a hermit. He demonstrated remarkable intelligence in spite of his lack of social skills. Kaczynski entered Harvard University at the age of 16 and became an assistant professor at the University of California, Berkeley by the time he turned 25. That lasted only a couple of years and he moved to his cabin in 1971, not yet 30 years old. He didn’t fit in well with society.
A Terrible Turn of Events
His reclusive behavior seemed unusual although it remained legally acceptable. He was simply another loner who preferred a life of solitude. However his distaste for the modern world progressed to a deadlier level. He began to craft homemade bombs that he delivered or mailed to technologists at universities and research facilities. He also managed to slip a bomb onto a passenger jet that would have taken it down except that the device started smoking and failed to detonate. Federal agencies searching for a suspect used the code name UNABOM for University and Airline Bomber. The press changed it to Unabomber.
Kaczynski’s terrorist acts continued for many years, from 1978 to 1995. They involved sixteen separate bombs, three deaths and a score of injuries. His spree could have lasted indefinitely except that Kaczynski actually wanted to change the world. He drafted a rambling manifesto condemning the failings of modern society. Kaczynski said that he would halt the bombings if major news organizations published his beliefs verbatim. Federal officials convinced both the New York Times and the Washington Post to print the document, a hugely controversial decision at the time. They hoped someone might recognize its distinct writing style and turn-in the bomber. That’s exactly what happened. Linda Patrik, Ted’s sister-in-law, had a suspension and convinced her husband David to take a look. David Kaczynski was Ted’s brother and noticed an immediate similarity. That was the break the case need and the FBI arrested Ted Kaczynski at his mountainside cabin.
Twelve Mile Circle couldn’t identify the exact spot of the cabin where the last stand took place. It happened somewhere several miles south of Lincoln, Montana (map). The property was for sale as recently as 2010 however, so I’m sure someone could find the spot without too much effort. It wouldn’t do much good because the cabin was removed. The FBI took it away and loaned it to the Newseum in Washington, DC (map) where it became part of an exhibit.
I recently received a page from the Washington Post, June 19, 2008, page A9. This comprises a full-page, full-color advertisement that features my cabin, which is being exhibited publicly at something called a ‘Newseum,’ … Since the advertisement states that the cabin is ‘FROM FBI VAULT,’ it is clear that the government is responsible for the public exhibition of the cabin. This has obvious relevance to the victims’ objection to publicity connected with the Unabom case.
Ted’s New Home
Ted’s still very much alive even now, so many years later. A judge sentenced him to eight life terms in prison without the possibility of parole. He currently spends his days at the federal Administrative Maximum Facility (ADX) in Florence, Colorado (map). Authorities designed this prison for the worst of the worst criminals, with restrictions a level beyond maximum security, a so-called supermax facility. Here Ted will remain with other notorious villains such as Eric Rudolph (Olympic Park bomber), Zacarias Moussaoui (helped plan the 9-11 attacks on the World Trace Center and the Pentagon), Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (Boston Marathon bomber), Terry Nichols (Oklahoma City Federal Building bomber); and Robert Hanssen (notorious spy for the Soviet Union) until he dies. ADX will truly become Kaczynski’s final last stand.