Journey west

Example of conveniences developed for western travelers. (Display at Wyoming Welcome Center)

Can you imagine the journey west as the pioneers and settlers traveled thousands of miles from the eastern U.S. to explore the west, looking for further freedom to claim land, pursue their dreams and establish homes with families?

Native American lives were impacted greatly as the frontier was being explored by those seeking better lives. Let’s not forget their struggles and desires to live peacefully and pursue their dreams as well.

Tipi at the Wyoming Welcome Center

Imagine the hardships, rocky terrain, streams, wildlife and challenges along the way. Many lost their lives. Many fell short of their dreams. Many arrived. Many fulfilled their dreams.

Persevere!

Blessings along the Way!

Ron

Settling or camping?

Wagon on display at Wyoming Welcome Center

Isn’t it interesting how years ago when the western part of the United States was being settled, they had their share of camping. Do early settlers compare with modern campers?

Settlers must have been mobile campers for sure. Wagons filled with commodities, sleeping in the open wild; exploring ever-changing terrain, using gifts of strong and mild.

Camping display at Wyoming Welcome Center

Campers may come and go, explore on foot, motor – through heat and snow.

One is necessary to begin new life, the other for pleasure, to ease the strife.

Explore if we will, love the land, embrace life around, protect life with a zeal.

These thoughts were generated from visiting the Wyoming Welcome Center during a recent visit there.

Blessings along the Way!

Ron

A large prairie place

Apparently a “large prairie place” is what the word Wyoming is based on – by the Algonquin Indians, according to Ben’s Guide to U.S. government Kids pages (and https://statesymbolsusa.org/wyoming/name-origin/wyoming-state-name-origin). 

Wyoming is the 10th largest U.S. state by area, the least populous, and the second most sparsely populated.  It became the 44th U.S. state in 1890. 

StatessymbolUSA also mentions that according to the Wyoming Secretary of State, “The name Wyoming is a contraction of the Native American word mecheweamiing (“at the big plains”), and was first used by the Delaware people as a name for the Wyoming Valley in northeastern Pennsylvania.”

If one is traveling from Colorado to Wyoming, toward Cheyenne, I recommend stopping at the welcome center.  It has excellent information on Wyoming. 

Wyoming is a wonderful place to visit.  I’ll post photos and information during my next several posts.  I’m glad to have you along with me on the journey.  Let’s explore the area, shall we?  I’m amazed. 

Partial photo of mural in Wyoming Welcome Center

By the way, some of the history of Wyoming can be found at https://www.wyohistory.org/

Blessings along the Way!

Ron

Different drum beat

Metal drum ends provide wall art at Hampton Inn, Mulvane, Kansas.

When I saw these metal drum ends with rust mixed with color in Kansas I thought of our Native Americans in North America.

Not knowing much about Indian culture, I have become more interested during travels across the United States. It is amazing how many various tribes were populated across this vast land. I suppose many of the generations are scattered now and it’s more difficult to determine pure tribes aside from reservations.

As I pondered these pieces of art I wondered if they were made and painted by Native Americans, or even if this artwork is indeed similar to the Indian culture in this area of Kansas. From my own simple analogy, this area is where the Kiowa Tribe was predominant, and a remnant still remain.

So, does the different type of “drum” that is painted trigger any particular thoughts with you?

Blessings along the Way!

Ron

Reach en pointe

Ballet en pointe demonstrates dedication, hard work, strength and grace to achieve to the highest point. (Ballet Cinderella and Fairy Godmother)

Dance recitals are upon us,

Behold the beauty, grace and flow

Of the rhythm, steady movement,

Labor of love, satisfaction, persistence that only family may know.

Reach above – focus, draw strength from the one who loves.

En pointe desired by one

Who yearns, grows, prepares to reach,

Upward toward the highest,

Rise up, reach for the dream, achieve – I beseech. 

(Images from 2019 “Cinderella” production by Heather Loveland Dance Academy portraying “Cinderella” and the “Fairy Godmother.”)

Blessings along the Way!

Ron

Monarch struggles

Maybe I haven’t taken time to notice but it seems like the butterflies are not as plenteous this year.  I enjoy seeing these graceful forms of creation, and their struggles to become what they were destined to become. 

I’m thinking of what we did for the monarch butterflies during the past two years to help them populate. I prepared a little information and gathered some of our photos as well as video clips. 

Since the lizards enjoy the caterpillars so much I built a crude little vertical, rectangular, screened-in house for the monarchs to munch on milkweed. And, WOW, did they munch. It was amazing how they multiplied. I had a challenge keeping sufficient milkweed plants in their house.

I stopped by Ace Hardware one day and happened to notice this nice, larger, butterfly house. They weren’t selling it but it sure posed some ideas of expansion. Well, back to the growth process.

I think you’ll get a laugh out of the video piece as one monarch can’t get a little piece of leaf off its antennae (tentacles), and the challenge of finding a place to “hang out.” 

We can learn from the butterfly – to not give up but persevere through the challenges.  That’s what I thought when I looked back over my photos and video clips.

The monarchs really enjoy feasting on the milkweed plants, and then they mate.  Females lay their eggs . Caterpillars hatch, feast, chrysalize, and metamorphose into new butterflies, which set off northward toward yet new breeding grounds.

Come fall, the great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren of the original migrants head south, returning to trees that neither their parents nor even their grandparents ever knew.  https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2019/06/monarch-butterflies/590908/

Apparently many believe the monarch butterflies are the most beautiful of all butterflies, and are considered the “king” of the butterflies, hence the name “monarch.”

Monarch butterflies go through four stages during one life cycle, and through four generations in one year.

The four generations are actually four different butterflies going through these four stages during the year until it is time to start over again with stage one and generation one.

Here is some neat information from https://www.monarch-butterfly.com/.  In March and April the eggs are laid on milkweed plants. They hatch into baby caterpillars, also called larvae. It takes about four days for the eggs to hatch. Then the baby caterpillar doesn’t do much more than eat the milkweed in order to grow.

After about two weeks, the caterpillar will be fully-grown and find a place to attach itself so it can start the process of metamorphosis. It will attach itself to a stem or a leaf using silk and transform into a chrysalis. Although, from the outside, the 10 days of the chrysalis phase seems to be a time when nothing is happening, it is really a time of rapid change.

Within the chrysalis the old body parts of the caterpillar are undergoing a remarkable transformation, called metamorphosis, to become the beautiful parts that make up the butterfly that will emerge.

The monarch butterfly will emerge from the pupa and fly away, feeding on flowers and just enjoying the short life it has left, which is only about two to six weeks. This first generation monarch butterfly will then die after laying eggs for generation number two.

The second generation of monarch butterflies is born in May and June, and then the third generation will be born in July and August. These monarch butterflies will go through exactly the same four-stage life cycle as the first generation did, dying two to six weeks after it becomes a beautiful monarch butterfly.

Let’s enjoy life all around us and take time to think about the butterfly.  They can help us relate to life a little better.

Blessings along the Way!

Ron

We complicate life

Life is simple when we choose,

Accepting things as they seem to be,

Yet wondering if we win or lose,

That which we can, and cannot see.

We walk; sometimes run

To that we desire, and want;

Not thinking of the other,

Struggling through life, and others haunt.

Let go; life is short, but we can’t see clearly;

Pushing, pulling, complicating, not looking above,

Realizing one who loves us dearly,

Let’s keep it simple, led by the one who loves.

These were my thoughts when I read a devotional by Chuck Swindoll on Wednesday. He provides excellent insight and wisdom for today’s living. /insight.org/resources/daily-devotional/individual/keep-it-simple1

We all believe differently but let’s consider the Love that abounds, for us and others.

Blessings along the Way!

Ron

Missionaries and Military

As the new world project that would eventually become the United States of America continued to develop roots, much of the development of La Florida is attributed to the Spanish military and the missionaries.  Let’s take a look at the St. Francis Barracks in St. Augustine, Florida as an example.

In 1588, Franciscan missionaries settled in northeast Florida around St. Augustine.  For 175 years, the Convento de San Francisco served as headquarters for those who labored on behalf of the Spanish king to bring the Catholic faith to Native Americans who inhabited “la Florida.” 

Following Governor Moore’s siege of St. Augustine in 1702, the destroyed buildings of the mission were reconstructed using coquina taken from the king’s quarry on Anastasia Island. 

Coquina wall at St. Francis Barracks, St. Augustine
Artifacts found at the Franciscan friary location. Some of the original coquina walls still remain today as part of the museum in the St. Francis Barracks.

In 1763, the British took possession of Florida and designated St. Augustine as capital of the colony of East Florida.  A decision was made by military authorities to occupy the former Franciscan mission and convert the chapel originally constructed in the 1730s and 1740s into a barracks.  These barracks were supportive of operations at the Castillo de San Marcos (old fort) almost a mile to the north.    

The friary where the missionaries lived was also renovated, with fireplaces added to the enlarged living quarters. When the Spanish returned to St. Augustine in 1783, the Franciscans initially occupied the site but were soon replaced by soldiers of the Spanish garrison. 

In 1821, Florida was ceded to the United States and the U.S. Army took possession of the military post.  It remained a federal facility until 1907 when the Florida National Guard, and Florida Department of Military Affairs, moved its headquarters from Tallahassee to St. Francis Barracks.  (See https://dma.myflorida.com/st-francis-barracks-frontier-monastery-to-state-arsenal/)

Troops stand guard at the St. Francis Barracks military post, circa 1890.

Who could imagine that the United States military would eventually form with the efforts of the Spanish and British to protect the homeland it was discovering. 

Modern-day St. Francis Barracks

There remains ongoing debate between Florida and Massachusetts concerning when the “First Muster” of troops to protect the homeland began – which was before the federal, U.S. military was formed. 

Painting depicting the First Muster near St. Augustine in 1565. https://www.floridashistoriccoast.com/events/first-muster

Florida claims the first assembly of a military unit began in 1565 when Pedro Menendez formed a band of Spanish troops, along with area Native Americans, to fight against the French who had assembled around Jacksonville.  (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_assault_on_French_Florida; http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WMQC6D_First_Spanish_Muster_Site_in_Florida)

Massachusetts claims the first official muster of troops began on December 13, 1636 as the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony ordered that the colony’s militia be organized into three regiments: the North, South and East Regiments.  The regiments were needed for a growing threat from the Pequot Indians.  The military prepared with weekly drills and guard details.  In 1637, the East Regiment officially mustered for the first time on the Salem Common to mobilize in its defense.  This day is identified as the birth of the modern-day National Guard.  https://www.salem.com/veterans-services/pages/first-muster

I guess it depends on your each person’s perspective concerning who had the “First Muster.”  Regardless, our freedoms are won or lost by those who train, prepare, equip and respond to the needs of the citizenry, whether it is from local citizens, local law enforcement, state military and law enforcement or federal military and law enforcement.

I also reflect on the sacrifices of our Native Americans.  They lost so much as the new world was developed over the years.  The struggles for them to maintain their own freedom were met with much despair and loss as myriads began flowing into the territories.  We owe much to our Native Americans.  

Flags of the United States and Florida wave in sync at the St. Francis Barracks in St. Augustine.

May is military appreciation month and we in the United States are appreciative of those who rise to the occasion to obtain, keep and maintain that which we hold so dear.  

We who serve, and served, consider it a great honor to protect those who long to be free with certain unalienable rights – among them being life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  May we never fail nor falter.  We salute those who continue holding up the torch of freedom with their very lives on the line!

Blessings along the Way!

Ron

#MilitaryAppreciationMonth

#MilitaryAppreciation

Castillo – Fort or Castle

Castillo! Is it a castle or a fort? Both. As a follow-up post about Castillo de San Marcos in downtown St. Augustine, Florida, I want to reiterate that it is the oldest masonry fort in the United States with unique North American architecture. It remains as the only surviving 17th century military construction in the country.

Does it look like a castle? Well … maybe. I think it looks more like a fort though. Opening in 1695, Castillo became a showpiece for military defense engineering.

A monument not only of stone and mortar but of human determination and endurance, the Castillo de San Marcos symbolizes the clash between cultures which ultimately resulted in the unique, unified United States. Still resonant with the struggles of an earlier time, these original walls provide tangible evidence of America’s grim but remarkable history.
https://www.nps.gov/casa/learn/historyculture/construction.htm

Thank you Italy for providing the star shape design from the 15th century. I’m amazed how the architecture fit the technology of the day. Of the major architectural variations, the “bastion system,” named for the projecting diamond or angle shaped formations added onto the fort walls, was the most commonly and effectively used to combat the new weapons – cannons.

The Spanish occupying Florida knew about the coquina rock formations along the coastline, but they were soldiers, not stonemasons or builders. Wood structures would not last against the increasing firepower and technology of invading forces.

The British, settling to the north, edged into the Carolinas. Spanish Florida was only a short sail away. How could the Spanish keep the British from taking over Florida? Apparently, the goal of the British was to set up a base of operations to attack the Spanish treasure fleets and the more wealthy colonies of the Spanish Caribbean.

To help counter this threat, the Spanish began construction on the Castillo de San Marcos in 1672 – using coquina.

Coquina – courtesy of National Park Service

Coquina Rock to the Rescue

Coquina stone was quarried in the area of present-day Anastasia State Park on Anastasia Island (part of St. Augustine). Military engineers and stonemasons were brought from Spain. Convicts and additional soldiers were brought from Cuba. Oyster shells were burned into lime and mixed with sand and water to make mortar.

Coquina rock at Washington Oaks, Florida, between Crescent Beach and Marineland

Coquina rock is a type of sedimentary rock such as limestone. It was formed by the deposits and cementing together of mineral and organic particles on the ocean floor or other bodies of water on the surface.

The coquina rock used at Castillo de San Marcos was likely retrieved from the formation that stretches from St. Augustine to Palm Beach County, Florida.

According to geologists, thousands of years ago, the tiny coquina clam donax variabilis lived in the shallow waters of coastal Florida, as they still do today. These are the small pink, lavender, yellow, or white shells one sees along the beach at the waterline.

As the resident clam died, the shells accumulated in layers, year after year, century after century, for thousands of years, forming submerged deposits several feet thick. During the last ice age, sea levels dropped, exposing these shell layers to air and rain. Eventually, the shell became covered with soil, then trees and other vegetation. Rain water percolating through the dead vegetation and soil picked up carbon dioxide and became carbonic acid, the same ingredient that makes soda fizz. (National Park Service)

By the way, one of the best coquina rock formations is at Washington Oaks, between Crescent Beach and Marineland, Florida, on the Atlantic Ocean. It’s worth a trip to enjoy the beach and see the rock formations. https://www.floridastateparks.org/learn/geology-coquina-rocks

As the weak acid soaked downward, it dissolved some of the calcium in the shells, producing calcium carbonate, which solidified in lower layers, much like how flowstone and stalactites are formed in caves. This material “glued” the shell fragments together into a porous type of limestone we now call coquina, which is Spanish for “tiny shell”.

Given its light and porous nature, coquina would seem to be a poor choice of building material for a fort. However the Spanish had few options. Coquina was the only stone available on the northeast coast of La Florida. The porous coquina actually became an unexpected benefit – with its mixture that contained millions of microscopic air pockets that allowed it to compress.

Coquina “rabbit”?

The walls being constructed for the Castillo would be untested but the coquina was the only way to give the Spanish a fighting chance against the British. The inner courtyard was designed for the town residents to take refuge when under attack.

It’s a good thing the Spanish acted quickly to build a stronger structure. In 1702, Governor James Moore of Charleston led his English forces against St. Augustine and the Castillo. He captured the town and set his cannon up among the houses to bombard the fortress.

What happened? Strangely, instead of shattering, the coquina stone merely compressed and absorbed the shock of the hit. The cannon balls just bounced off or sunk in a few inches. The shell rock worked! I think the bastion, angled system contributed quite a bit too.

A cannon ball fired at more solid material, such as granite or brick, would shatter the wall into flying shards; but cannon balls fired at the walls of the Castillo burrowed their way into the rock and stuck there, much like a bb would if fired into Styrofoam. So the thick coquina walls absorbed, or deflected projectiles rather than yielding to them, providing a surprisingly long-lived fortress (or is it a castle)?

Even when General Oglethorpe attacked St. Augustine in 1740 and bombarded the Castillo for 27 days, the walls held firm. The rock made of seashells turned out to be an excellent building material. When the Spanish decided to fortify the southern approaches to St. Augustine by building Fort Matanzas later that year, they again used coquina stone, and, like the Castillo, this smaller fort was never captured.

What if the Spanish did not have this stone? If not for coquina, perhaps the British would have captured St. Augustine much earlier than 1763, when they finally gained Florida by treaty. If the British gained Florida earlier, it’s possible the course of the American Revolution would have changed. Maybe the U.S. would still be a part of Great Britain. The history of the U.S.A. could have been much different had it not been for little clams, and coquina.

Fort or Castle?

Again, is the Castillo a fort or castle? I guess there isn’t a clear answer. According to Wikipedia,  a castle is a private, fortified residence. Merriam-Webster dictionary says a castle is “a large fortified building or set of buildings; a retreat safe against intrusion or invasion.”  Oxford English Dictionary says it is “a large building, typically of the medieval period, fortified against attack with thick walls, battlements, towers, and in many cases a moat.”

The Castillo de San Marcos fits all of those definitions in one way, or at one time or another. When it was first built, the governor of St. Augustine resided inside the building, which would make it a “private fortified residence.” It is most definitely a large, fortified building that provided a retreat safe for the people of St. Augustine against invasion. At one time it housed about 1,500 people for 51 days while the English laid siege. It also has thick walls, battlements, towers and a moat. 

Most of the fortifications the Spanish built in the new world were named Castillos. Perhaps it is a hold-over from medieval times, meant to inspire their people and instill fear in their enemies? The Spanish were fond of decoration and embellishment in the physical designs of their fortresses; they may have felt the same about their names. As of yet, there has been no documentation found explaining exactly why they chose to use Castillo rather than Fuerte or Fortaleza. However, it is interesting to note that the wooden fort preceding the current stone one was also called Castillo de San Marcos. 

Also interesting is the fact that it does later become referred to as a fort. When the British gained Florida through the 1763 Treaty of Paris, they renamed the building Fort Saint Mark. The United States Army decided in 1825 to call it Fort Marion. Under those occupations, it was indeed used solely for military functions.

The British and the Americans did not plan to use it as a place of refuge for the citizens of St. Augustine. They both used the fort as barracks, for military storage, and a few times as a military prison. The National Park Service and United States Congress decided to restore its original name in 1942, in honor of its unique Spanish history, so it went back to Castillo de San Marcos for good.  I say it’s a fort.

Blessings along the Way!

Ron

Metal scraps, life value

Metal recycling collection point

Thoughts of every day being Earth Day,

As we think of the things we buy and discard.

They have lost their value we say,

Casting them aside, rust and all.

Crane lifts scrap metal at a collection point

Jobs created by things left over.

Forms remade, from what we once knew,

Heated mold accepts all, regardless of strength, shape and color,

Out comes something of value, now brand new.

We think our lives get old – and we rust,

Not wanting to be useful again,

Allowing life to take its own toll.

But the Creator, Master, who designed us all,

Says come to Him, young and old. 

He makes anew, from what we discard,

Life is much worth, even more than we’re told. 

💖

Blessings along the Way!

Ron

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