Thursday, October 27, 2016

Labyrinth and Mazes

by Linda Farmer Harris

My first experience with a labyrinth was a circular corn field in Star City, Arkansas. The stalks towered over my head. The paths seemed confusing and complicated to a six-year-old. After I made it to the center, I climbed to the top of the observation platform and got a bird's eye view. It took the mystery out of the twists and turns leading to the center, and made a fan out of me.

Later I saw a labyrinth in a church yard. I began to watch for them as I took pictures of tombstones for Find a Grave.
courtesy of
Mount Tabor Presbyterian Church, Portland Oregon—Photo by Rev. Carley Friesen
Anglican Church on Harris Street, Quairading
The labyrinth in Quairading is a Chartres 11 ring/circuit—11 paths from the edge to the center—patterned after the labyrinth embedded in the stone pavement of the Chartres Cathedral near Paris.

Labyrinths are often in-doors, too.
courtesy of Princeton Vision
According to Greek mythology, Crete's King Minos had Daedalus construct a labyrinth to conceal the half-human, half-bull offspring of his wife Pasiphae. Legend says that Daedalus and his son Icarus were confined in the labyrinth with the Minotaur. They constructed wings of feathers and wax to escape by flying above the walls of the labyrinth. Icarus flew too near the sun and drowned in the Icarian Sea when his waxy wings melted.

In English, Labyrinth and Maze are often interchanged, but they are vastly different.

"A labyrinth is unicursal, i.e., has only a single, non-branching path, which leads to the center then back out the same way, with only one entry/exit point." [English Language & Usage]
courtesy of the Labyrinth Society of Edmonton
"A maze is a complex branching (multicursal) puzzle that includes choices of path and direction, may have multiple entrances and exits, and dead ends." [English Language & Usage]
courtesy of the Labyrinth Society of Edmonton
Have you walked a spiral walking course in a garden and followed the path to the center and back out again? That's a labyrinth. It can be calming and centering—one way in and one way out. Labyrinths supposedly free the right brain.

You can get lost and become disoriented in a maze. It is said that mazes engage the left brain. It's designed to test your problem-solving skills, memory, and tolerance for frustration.

Anastasia at Lawsagna said that labyrinths and mazes are "a good metaphor for the learning process." She asked the questions, "Do you feel like you are in a maze, disoriented and trying to find your way out as soon as possible? Or are you a labyrinth, focused, enjoying the process and making progress at your own pace?"

I wonder if I should make a sign for my writing office door—one side with a maze and the opposite side a labyrinth. Anastasia's metaphor may apply to writers also.

Our Sunday newspaper had maze puzzles. They came in all shapes and sizes, and all levels of expertise.
courtesy of MazesToPrint
courtesy of Enchanted Learning
Some folks have made a business of elaborate mazes.
courtesy of the Great Vermont Maze

courtesy of Mike's Maze—Julia Child
courtesy of Mike's Maze—Andy Warhol's Soup Can
Are you a maze or labyrinth fan?

Linda Farmer Harris
Transplanted six years ago to Chimney Rock, Archuleta County, Colorado, from Austin, Texas, she and her husband Jerry celebrated their fiftieth anniversary this year on their hay and cattle ranch.

She is currently writing a four-book series set in New Mexico 1926-1932. Visit her website

Her novella, The Lye Water Bride is included in The California Gold Rush Romance Collection (Barbour Publishing, August 2016, print and eBook).
The Lye Water Bride, page 197

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

History, Light Station, and Shipwrecks of Whitefish Point Michigan

This summer my family and I vacationed in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. We visited the Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society and the Museum complex at Whitefish Point. This museum is a treasure trove of history, tragedy, beauty, and stories of heroism.
Whitefish Point

Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum
Situated in Michigan’s beautiful Eastern Upper Peninsula, Whitefish Point is a gateway to Lake Superior. It is a dangerous point for shipping and marks the eastern end of an infamous 80-mile stretch of shoreline known as Lake Superior’s Shipwreck Coast. Of the 550 known major shipwrecks on Lake Superior, at least 200 of them are in the surrounding area of Whitefish Point. The primary causes of shipwreck here are stress from weather and collision. In November 1975 the loss of the steamer Edmund Fitzgerald and her entire crew of 29 is a worldwide legend. The wreck of the Fitzgerald lies just 15 miles northwest of Whitefish Point.
Lighthouse perspective

Congress established the Whitefish Point Light Station in 1849. Since then, its life-saving beacon has continuously illuminated these treacherous waters. In 1861, during Abraham Lincoln’s administration, the present light tower was built. Today, the Whitefish Point Light is the oldest operating lighthouse on Lake Superior. When visiting the museum, for a small fee, you can brave the narrow stairwell to the deck of the light. The view from the top is breathtaking.
My husband and I at the top
of the lighthouse

The Light Station was operated exclusively by the U.S. Lighthouse Service from 1849 until 1923. Then the U.S. Coast Guard established a Lifeboat Rescue Station at the point. In 1939, the Lighthouse Service and the Coast Guard merged. Lifeboat Station ceased operation in 1951, and in 1970 the Coast Guard removed all personnel from the site.

Even with the help of the light station and the Coast Guard
Inside and outside of a lifeboat 
Lifeboat Rescue Station the area is wrought with shipwrecks. What is it about a shipwreck that’s so fascinating to us? Perhaps because the ship is a testimony to the lives of those who perished, or because of the sheer terror the thought of a ship sinking in the middle of a vast body of water invokes in us. Whatever the reason, my deepest sympathies and reverence go out to those lost at sea. 

Due to Lake Superior’s extreme depths, most shipwreck sites remain undisturbed. Explorations leave wrecks and artifacts as they lay with only professional documentation of the site taking place.

There are over 6,000 shipwrecks in the Great Lakes with an estimated loss of 30,000 mariners’ lives. Most of the estimated 550 shipwrecks in Lake Superior go undiscovered. At least 200 of those wrecks are along Lake Superior’s Shipwreck Coast.

The SS Comet is one of the more fascinating shipwrecks in the area. She is
known as the only treasure ship of Lake Superior. Built in 1857 as a wooden-hulled steamship, propeller-driven cargo vessel, the Comet was soon adapted to carry passengers. In 1875 she went down with a crew of ten. She carried 70 tons of Montana silver ore when she sank. The first attempts to salvage her cargo came in 1876. Then again in 1938 both attempts were unsuccessful. In the 1980’s the Comet was finally salvaged. Though apparently the salvagers illegally removed the ships artifacts, they now belong to the State of Michigan and are on loan to the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum. The fate of The Comet’s silver ore cargo is still unknown. Her resting place at the bottom of the lake is protected by the Whitefish Point Underwater Preserve as part of an underwater museum which is frequented by deep-water divers.

The most famous of all Great Lakes shipwrecks has to be the November 10th, 1975 sinking of The Edmund Fitzgerald. The ship was 729 feet long, 39 feet high, and had a breadth of 75 feet. Empty, the vessel weighed 13,632 tons. The Edmund Fitzgerald broke records for the amount of cargo it could haul, and while many factors played into the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald. Some of the theories include the ship’s size and weight in addition to the fierce November storm on that fateful night. Winds were clocked at 45 knots and waves as high as 30 feet were undoubtedly a significant aspect in the ultimate demise of the Edmund Fitzgerald. There has even been speculation that a rough wave pulled the ship under water. Though the actual cause may never be known the tragedy of the death of The Edmund Fitzgerald’s crew of 29 will forever be immortalized in the Gordon Lightfoot song, The Wreck of the Edmond Fitzgerald.

The day we visited Whitefish Point the skies were clear and blue. The water calm and cold, and the wind warm and light. The area is saturated with a long history, rich with the heroics of the Coast Guard’s Lifesaving Station, the hope of the beacon of light shining from the Light House Station that still burns brightly today, and the horrifying heartbreak of many shipwrecks along its coast. If you ever have the chance to venture to Whitefish Point, be sure to stop by The Shipwreck Museum and take a moment to remember those who will never leave. 

                      All photos are copyright by Michele K. Morris and may not be used with permission of the author.


Award winning author, Michele K. Morris’s love for historical fiction began when she first read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House book series. She grew up riding horses and spending her free time in the woods of mid-Michigan dreaming of days-gone-by and knights-in-shining-armor. Therefore, it only makes sense that she now writes historical romance with a touch of suspense. Married to her high school sweetheart, they are living happily-ever-after with their children, in-loves, and grandchildren in Florida, the sunshine state. When not spending time with her large brood or writing, Michele enjoys photography, genealogy, and cooking.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Grand Canyon Railway

by Jennifer Uhlarik

Last month, I shared some of the amazing history of Grand Canyon National Park, which I learned on my summer road trip to the park. This month, I thought I’d share about The Grand Canyon Railway. It provides a great way to see an absolutely awe-inspiring piece of nature and one of our national treasures.

After the end of the Civil War, more and more people traveled to the West, but the journey was long and difficult. It became somewhat easier when, in May of 1869, the Transcontinental Railroad was complete. In the decades after this milestone, railway lines began to crisscross the vast western states and territories, and a main line eventually connected Chicago, Illinois to Las Angeles, California, passing through a little place called Williams, Arizona. Williams is a mere 64 miles from the South Rim of Grand Canyon, and there was a rail line that turned north from Williams toward the iconic landmark. The Anita mines also sat about 45 miles north of Williams.

William "Buckey" O'Neill
In the late 1800’s, Buckey O’Neill, sheriff of Yavapai County, saw that there was a need for a rail line
from Williams up to the mines in order to make it easier to move the heavy ore. He went to New York and got the support of the investment firm, Lombard, Goode, and Company, which in turn began negotiations with the Santa Fe Pacific Railroad to build a train line north of the town. To sweeten the deal, O’Neill and the investment firm talked up the awesome beauty and possibilities for tourism of the Canyon. O’Neill also courted local investors for the project, and by 1897, the Santa Fe and Grand Canyon Railroad Company was born. Construction of the new line began immediately and was completed in 1901, with the first passengers traveling to Grand Canyon via the train on September 17, 1901.

Passengers on the inaugural ride to Grand Canyon.
Train Depot at
Grand Canyon's South Rim
The Santa Fe Railroad put much effort into developing the South Rim into a wonderful mecca for visitors. Employing the services of a female designer by the name of Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter, they built several iconic hotels and lodges which are still in use today. In addition, they hired the Fred Harvey company to manage the hotels and restaurants to make the visitors’ experiences top notch.

(c) Jennifer Uhlarik

But as so often happens, time marched on. Automobiles became more accessible for American families. With the opening of Route 66 in November 1926, people found an easy and scenic way to travel the country. Road trips grew in popularity, which had a very negative effect on train travel. Eventually, the Santa Fe Railroad was forced to make a difficult decision. Since so many travelers were choosing their own vehicles rather than the rails, the company stopped providing rail service to Grand Canyon in 1968.

You’d think that this was a very sad ending to a piece of American history, but there’s good news. Eighty-eight years to the day after the first passenger train carried visitors to the national park, The Grand Canyon Railway made another “first trip.” Entrepreneurs Max and Thelma Biegert realized that this important piece of history was about to disappear completely when a company began pulling up the tracks to salvage the materials. In a last-minute decision, the Biegerts bought the Grand Canyon Railway, stopped the salvage attempts, and declared that the railroad would once again provide passenger service to the South Rim. They rebuilt the tracks, restored the train engine and cars, and reopened for business on September 17, 1989, twenty-one years after their last trip.

Engine of Grand Canyon Railway train.
(c) Jennifer Uhlarik
Today, the train makes daily trips to and from the Canyon. You can catch the train at the original Williams depot, which sits beside the stylish Grand Canyon Railway Hotel. To add to its historic charm, they provide a short Old West reenactment before you board the train for your two-hour ride into the park. Some of the period characters come along to provide musical entertainment for the journey. It truly is worth the time to experience this little piece of Americana.

It’s your turn. Have you ever ridden a train? Where and when? Did you enjoy it? If you haven’t, would you like to? Where would you like to go?

Jennifer Uhlarik discovered the western genre as a pre-teen, when she swiped the only “horse” book she found on her older brother’s bookshelf. A new love was born. Across the next ten years, she devoured Louis L’Amour westerns and fell in love with the genre. In college at the University of Tampa, she began penning her own story of the Old West. Armed with a B.A. in writing, she has won five writing competitions and finaled in two other competitions. In addition to writing, she has held jobs as a private business owner, a schoolteacher, a marketing director, and her favorite—a full-time homemaker. Jennifer is active in American Christian Fiction Writers and lifetime member of the Florida Writers Association. She lives near Tampa, Florida, with her husband, teenaged son, and four fur children.

Now Available:

Ride into adventures alongside nine determined women of yesteryear whose acts of compassion and bravery attract male attention. Marcy helps displaced Indians. Emmy tends wounds at Fort Snelling. Ronnie stows away on a cattle drive. Daisy disguises herself as a Pony Express rider. Elinor becomes an abolitionist. Mae tames wild horses. Hannah gets help for accident victims. Lucy’s curiosity unnerves criminals. Kate nurses soldiers on the battlefield. Will real dangers douse the sparks of love?

Monday, October 24, 2016

Jobs That No Longer Exist

Recently I came across a list of occupations that some experts say will be obsolete in the next ten years.  Occupations on the line include postal workers, farmers, ranchers (yikes, we’re talking cowboys here!), cooks and cashiers.

Self-service checkouts are slowly taking over the stores and restaurants in my area.  You can even check out your own books at my local library, and meter readers have gone the way of the dinosaurs.  All this got me to thinking about occupations from the past that no longer exist.  Here are a few that caught my eye:

Rag and Boneman

Following the great buffalo slaughter of the 1800s, bleached bones covered the
prairies.  It didn’t take long for homesteaders to figure out what the real money crop was.  Bones were used for cosmetics, glue, lubricants and sugar cane filters. During the height of the bone trade, eastern processing plants purchased an estimated billion-dollars’ worth of bones.   

Icemen made daily rounds in wagons, carts or trucks delivering ice for ice boxes.

Knocker-Upper (it’s not what you think)
How did workers get to work on time before alarm clocks?  A knocker-upper banged on doors or windows to wake people at the appointed time. Some used peashooters aimed at second story windows.  It makes you wonder who woke the knocker-uppers?

Gandy Dancer
This jobs sounds more fun than it was.  Railroad workers or gandy dancers, as they were called, laid thousands of miles of railroad tracks across the U.S.

Leech Collector
Bloodletting was a popular method by which to treat disease or infection. Doctors used millions of leeches during the 19th century and let’s face it; someone had to collect those suckers.

Shyster lawyer (some people might argue that this profession still exists.)

These workers lit gas streetlights with the aid of a long pole. In some communities, the lamplighter also served as night watchman.

Lectors were hired by factories to educate workers and eradicate boredom. They did this by reading newspapers and even novels aloud. Should a lector read anything too radical or controversial, he could expect to be tossed out on his ear.  Hmm. Sounds like some college campuses today.

Do any of you remember milkmen? What about gas station attendants who used to pump gas, clean windows and check the tires? It wasn’t that long ago that people came to the door selling encyclopedias and vacuum cleaners. Most of us could probably do without the salesmen, but wouldn't it be nice to have someone fill our tanks on occasion? I would also miss not having my mail delivered, and can't imagine a world without cowboys. What about you? 
What profession or occupation do you or would you miss?

Left at the Altar

Welcome to Two-Time Texas:
Where tempers burn hot
Love runs deep
And a single marriage can unite a feuding town
…or tear it apart for good.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Grover Cleveland Bergdoll, the Most Hated Man in America

Grover Cleveland Bergdoll (1893-1966) was once described as “the most hated man in America.” What did he do to deserve that moniker in 1918?

He was a slacker.

We don’t use that term much nowadays. We say “draft dodger.” And in 1918, that was about the sleaziest thing you could be.

Bergdoll was an early aviator. At the age of 19, he bought a Wright Model B biplane for about $5,000, or $100,000 or more in today’s money. His father, Louis Bergdoll, was a wealthy brewer, and Grover was considered to be one of the pampered rich.

He made over 700 flights in the plane, and was known as a daredevil. He was one of 119 flyers who trained with Wilbur and Orville Wright at their factory in Ohio. Orville described Grover Bergdoll as one of the best natural pilots he had ever met.

In 1910, Bergdoll and several other American pilots went to Mexico to serve in Pancho Villa’s four-plane air force as he fought a revolution.

When World War I started, Bergdoll didn’t want to serve the United States. He offered himself as an aviator to Germany, but was reportedly turned down. Instead, he hid out for two years with the help of his mother. The authorities’ search for him made headlines across the country. His family owned property in several states, and it was rumored that he hid at some of those during the manhunt.

Wanted Poster, circulated circa 1919, Public Domain

He was arrested in 1920 at his mother’s house, after being found hiding inside a window seat, but then escaped after six months in jail to Germany, where he had relatives in Eberbach.

Newspapers said he managed the escape by telling his jailers he had buried a pot of gold somewhere in Maryland. He was willing to take them to recover it. They stopped at his mother’s house in Philadelphia. During the evening, Bergdoll excused himself to take a phone call and climbed out a window. He ran to Canada, and from there to Germany.

Bergdoll home in Philadelphia
Photo By Davidt8 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Rumors circulated about the buried gold, reputedly $150,000, and apparently the government believed it was true. The Washington Times reported on Sept. 18, 1921, that the U.S. Department of Justice was on a treasure hunt to find the cache.

Cartoon 1933, Olean Times-Herald
"Bergdoll killed one of two
assassins found in his room/
Lives quietly, but in constant fear"
In Germany, Bergdoll eventually married and had children, but was always in fear of capture. Several attempts were made to catch him. In 1921, two U.S. army sergeants wanted to size him in Eberbach, but their warrant was only for the U.S.A. Still, after exchanging words with him at a local railroad station, it is reported that Bergdoll fled in his car and they fired at the departing vehicle. A 17-year-old girl was apparently wounded in the hand by one of their bullets, and the Americans had to face charges by the local police.

In 1923, an unauthorized gang of five men attempted to capture Bergdoll at a hotel in Eberbach. Two of them hid in his room. When Bergdoll entered, a fight ensued. Bergdoll shot one of them to death and injured the other. The survivor and the three other conspirators were caught and sentenced to prison terms.

Bergdoll sent pleas to the U.S., hoping for a pardon. Meanwhile, his airplane was in storage. In 1933, it was donated to the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, where it remains. It is said to be the most intact Wright airplane in the world.
Bergdoll's Wright Model B plane
now hangs in Franklin Institute's Aviation Hall

In 1939, Bergdoll returned voluntarily to the United States and was put on trial. At this time, he admitted the “pot of gold,” which treasure hunters had sought for years, was a hoax. He was sentenced to jail, and stayed in prison until 1944 or 1945. Most of his property that had been confiscated by the government was returned to him.

When released from prison, Bergdoll went to live at his farm in Downingtown, Penn. He died in Richmond, Virginia, in 1966, of pneumonia, at the age of 72.

A couple of sidelights to this convoluted tale:

The man drafted next in line after Bergdoll (often said to be the man “drafted in Bergdoll’s place”), Russell C. Gross of Philadelphia, was killed in action in France and posthumously cited for bravery. The media made much of this hero’s sacrifice, sometimes making it sound as if it was Bergdoll’s fault he was drafted and killed.

A Philadelphia newspaper reported, “The man who took Grover Cleveland Bergdoll’s place when the draft evader, now a fugitive in Germany, failed to answer the call, died a hero in the Argonne Forest. . .”
Later in the same article, however, it stated more calmly that Gross “was the first man called by the draft board after Bergdoll failed to respond.”

Bergdoll’s brother, Erwin, was also a slacker. Erwin and Grover both failed to show up for their physical exams when they were drafted in 1917. Best known as a race car driver, Erwin spent time in Leavenworth for draft evasion and apparently moved on with life.

I discovered the story of Grover Bergdoll while researching my World War I-era novel, River Rest. To enter the drawing to win a copy (paperback or e-book), leave a comment and your contact information.

Susan Page Davis is the author of more than sixty published novels. She’s always interested in the unusual happenings of the past. Her newest books include Tearoom for Two, The Seafaring Women of the Vera B., Mountain Christmas Brides, and River Rest. She’s a two-time winner of the Inspirational Readers’ Choice Award, and also a winner of the Carol Award and the Will Rogers Medallion, and a finalist in the WILLA Awards and the More Than Magic Contest. Visit her website at: .