Dirt, burgers, and sheep-shearing: Notes from the road

We have snowbird friends who invite us to their cottage in Arizona for a week or so every February so we can become reacquainted with sun and warmth.  That’s normally a good thing although this year Arizona was in the 30s at night and barely cracked sixty during the day while Missourians were doing at least as well or better.

We find that road trips like these give us a chance to ruminate on various things we encounter along the way and ponder some differences and similarities beyond weather conditions at home.

Seen on the back of a gravel truck near Bowie, Arizona: “Keep back at least 200 feet. Not responsible for broken windshields.”  We were about thirty feet away before we could read it.

Most jarring message on another truck: “Catholics aren’t Christians.”   We sensed it would not be prudent to stop the driver and ask what that was about.

From columnist Argus Hamilton in the Albuquerque Journal: “Late Monday night, President Trump woke up in a cold sweat after a nightmare involving the most serious crisis of his presidency. He dreamed that Twitter had resigned.”

Something in Casa Grande, Arizona that we will not likely see in Jefferson City: Four gas stations in two blocks selling self-service regular for $1.95, $1.98 $2.14, and $2.44.   It made us recall the time we were in a Missouri gas station one night and the clerk at the cash register told the clerk at the next register to go out and change the sign because the station across the street had hiked its price by two cents a gallon and they wanted to keep up.

Looking for a hobby or maybe a second job?  Be in Claremore, Oklahoma April 13-15 for the sheep shearing school.  Among other things you will be taught how to catch a sheep, a fairly essential element to learning to shear one.

Checked my horoscope on February 22nd—well, it was actually “Horoscopes by Holiday”—in a newspaper and it sounded like a long version of a fortune cookie message.  But it probably works for everybody and every day: “When things get more colorful and dramatic and life is uncomfortable, be grateful for it.  Were you to be limited to a very confined and unvarying society, you would be quickly bored to tears.”

A thought at a lunch stop in Lordsburg, New Mexico:  Would we have been better off getting our food at the drive-in window and then going inside to eat it than going inside, ordering, and waiting while several window deliveries were handled before we got our order?

Lordsburg and Bowie, Arizona reminded us of what happens when the interstate replaces the highway through the town. When you see an antique store boarded up, you know things have gone bad since the stagecoaches of today bypassed towns like Lordsburg.   Incidentally, there’s nothing that we saw in Lordsburg noting that it was the destination of the Ringo Kid, Dallas, Buck the stagecoach driver, the alcoholic Doc Boon and others on the stagecoach (that started out in Tonto, Arizona Territory, by the way) in the famous “Stagecoach” movie.

Sometimes when you are travelling you see a sign that you must photograph.  This was just outside Deming, NM

Somewhere in our photo collection we have a picture of the scariest intersection in Missouri.  Roads EE and K.  The sign on I-70 east of Kansas City kind of looks like EEK.  Wonder if anybody ever thought of going out one night and spray-painting an exclamation point on it.

They call the New Mexico capitol “The Round House” because it’s round, like the kivas in the ancient pueblo communities.  A House committee has recommended a $6.1 billion dollar state budget AND a $285 million tax increase to pay for it.  Governor Susana Martinez calls the bill a “political ploy” and threatens to veto a budget bill that raises the money to pay for the things in it.  She apparently has not been reading Missouri newspapers about something called “withholding.”

There were a couple of times when we were reminded of Missouri while driving across country on Interstate 40.  There are two places between Albuquerque and Tucumcari that reminded us of I-70 across Missouri, America’s ugliest stretch of highway.

For a few hundred yards approaching a couple of places that sell all kinds of touristy stuff there are billboards shoulder to shoulder.  One big difference is there’s more distance between the big trucks.

It is hard to drive across Oklahoma and not be conscious of its red earth, so red that some lakes or ponds are red.  Cows don’t seem to mind but we’re not sure we’d want to spend a day swimming in that water and we sure wouldn’t want to see it coming out of our kitchen tap or our shower.  The observation allowed us to reflect that Oklahoma has a state symbol that Missouri has not adopted yet—although we fear that we might inspire somebody to do something silly by commenting. Oklahoma has an official state dirt.  It’s not called “dirt” (it’s Port Silt Loam, or in Latin, Cumulic haplustolls) but that’s what it is.   Missouri has manufactured more than two dozen official state symbols but so far we haven’t decided what our official dirt should be.

A television station in New Mexico was reporting on efforts to create there another state symbol that Missouri does not have. Again, we have some trepidation about bringing this up.  A proposal would designate the green chile hamburger as New Mexico’s official state hamburger.

We hope no school teacher in Sedalia decided to teach their young students about how government operates by having their state legislators introduce a bill designating the Goober Burger as Missouri’s version of the New Mexico official patty.

And that brings us to the story of the cone, the kid, and the reporter.

In 2008, a thirteen-year old Ballwin schoolgirl induced her legislators to introduce the bill designating Missouri’s Official Dessert—the ice cream cone.   When the bill passed and I wrote a story saying the legislature had designated a crumbly and tasteless piece of pastry as the state’s official dessert, the fearless Elise Kostial fired back.  I was wrong.  I was ignoring the ice cream component!!!   No, I wrote back, read your bill.  There is no mention of ice cream.  The bill just specifies the cone.   She and I traded messages a few times including once a year or so later after the bill had been signed and had gone into effect.  In the closing weeks of the legislative sessions, there are times when ice cream is served in the rotunda by some group wanting to curry last-days favor with lawmakers.  After one of those occasions, your ice-cream-–affectionate correspondent sent Elise an email telling her that I had enjoyed the state’s official dessert that day—and I had even put some ice cream in it.

Umbrage was taken.  And noted.  To this day, our differences remain unresolved and, I fear, mediation is out of the question.  In May, 2011, when we were doing a book signing in the rotunda of the Capitol art book, Elise happened to be in the building, too.  She came over and said hello.  But we continued to suffer, I fear, from good-natured but irreconcilable differences.  Perhaps if I had buckled and accepted her position, she would have bought a book.

Elise, by the way, was and is an extraordinary person.  She’s a grownup now, a college graduate from Stanford. She’s been active in a number of conservative political organizations and is, as she was in our ice cream fight days, a very sharp lady.

But our official state dessert is still a crumbly, tasteless pastry—-the bottom of which has a tendency to get soft and mushy and leak the ice cream that is put into the top of it if the consumer waits too long to consume the ice cream.  Always have at least one napkin when you are having one of our official state symbols with ice cream.

There has been voiced from time to time in the Missouri legislature that students and teachers who think the way to teach and learn how the legislature works is to get a new state symbol bill introduced should learn words such as “filibuster” and “defeat.” Failing those two things there is always a third word: “veto.”   And a fourth: “override attempt.”  And “failed override attempt.”  But the key word some legislators think should survive is “defeat.”   Enough is enough, and no, we don’t need a new state symbol that is a hamburger made with peanut butter.

To set the record straight

For years, there have been incorrect stories told about the original name of Jefferson City, the capital city of Missouri.   Our research has confirmed the original name of Jefferson City was:

                               The City of Jefferson.

Not Howard’s Bluff.  Not Lohman’s Landing.  We’re not sure where those ideas originated but they are not true. 

When Missouri became a state, Congress passed a law giving the state four sections of land on which to locate the permanent seat of government, the temporary seat being in St. Charles where you can visit the building that was the first state capitol.   The legislature appointed commissioners to select a location that was on the Missouri River within forty miles of the mouth of the Osage River, as specified in state law.

The commissioners looked at three sites: Cote Sans Dessein, a French village located in then-Montgomery, now Callaway, County; Howard’s Bluff in Moniteau County; and an unnamed area that was available but was considered a poor possible site because the land was not good for farming.   Cote Sans Dessein, across the river from the Osage River mouth, was favored by the commissioners but rejected by the legislature because of questionable land ownership caused by significant land speculation. 

The second site, Howard’s Bluff, was about where the community of Marion is in western Cole County. It was Cole County’s first county seat before the western half of Cole County became Moniteau County. That area, however, already had settlers on it with legitimate land claims.  So it was out.   

That left the least acceptable site.  When the legislature ordered a town be laid out there, it said in the law that the town would be named the City of Jefferson. There were only two or three cabins in that area at the time.  

We came across a map in an 1823 Gazeteer of Illinois and Missouri that pretty clearly shows Howard’s Bluff was not the original name of the City of Jefferson.

 

As far as Lohman’s Landing is concerned—-the Lohman family wasn’t among the early settlers of Jefferson City and did not become a prominent name in the town until it bought what had been known as Jefferson Landing in the early 1850s. By then the City of Jefferson had been in existence for a quarter-century. 

By then Cote Sans Dessein had been washed away by the Missouri River.  By then, Moniteau County had been split away from Cole and the county seat had shifted to the City of Jefferson and Marion today is mostly an access point to the river.

Jefferson City wasn’t much of a city when the seat of government moved to it—only about thirty families.  It survived several political and legal attempts to move the seat of government or to claim the community for private ownership.  But it is still what it was designated to be in 1822—the City of Jefferson, the permanent seat of state government. 

Just had to get this off the chest after running across the Howard’s Bluff/Lohman’s Landing thing too many times in recent days. 

Big government comes to Missouri

The State Planning Board in 1937 did a study of office space requirements for state departments in Jefferson City.  Your specialist in the archaeology of forgotten information uncovered it at the State Archives during research on the next Capitol book and thought it offers context for the discussions about what government should be these eight decades later.

In this era when “big government” has become a charged phrase, this report does at least three things:

  1. It gives us a history of big government’s early development.
  2. It explains why the phrase became a necessity.
  3. It explains why shrinking “big government” is easier to say than it will be to do.

We offer this to you as a prelude to later discussions of Donald F. Kettl’s Escaping Jurassic Government: How to Recover America’s Lost Commitment to Competence, a book that says big government is here to stay but today’s political approaches to it might be only  aggravating its shortcomings at a time when enlightened, practical steps should be taken to bring a 19th century system that worked for decades into a workable system in the 21st century. It can be interesting for those of us who are served by government programs but it might be even more useful for those who determine the directions those programs take.

The 1937 study concluded, “A new building is necessary for economy and efficiency in the operation of the State government.”   Here’s the history lesson from that report:

When the Capitol building was still under construction, the state government functions were increasing and the demand for office space likewise increased.  During the last fifty years or more, great changes have taken place in our social and economic structure.  Extensive alterations have occurred in transportation, communication, means of production, trade and commerce, and manners and customs.  New standards of civic and social responsibility have arisen and state government in Missouri, as elsewhere, has been affected and has had to keep pace with the influences of the changing world.  Today, the state occupies a different place in society than it did fifty or even twenty years ago.

Gradually, the emergency of railroads, the industrial system with its thriving cities, the automobile, corporate financing, public utilities and other products of the period confronted the state with problems of regulation and control which it had never before known.  An increase in the material wealth of the population produced a rising standard of living which, in turn, demanded a greater number and better quality of governmental services in the field of education, health, sanitation, and hospitalization of the insane and tubercular.  The awakening of a new social responsibility established institutions for the blind, the deaf, and the delinquent minors.  The automobile placed the state in the road-building business.  Problems arising from industry and urban life demanded that the state inspect mines and manufacturing plants and establish health and sanitary standards.  Decade by decade, as our society has grown in size and complexity, new services and functions have been demanded of our state.  In short, then, the state has developed into an agency for promotion of the well-being of its citizens.

The report noted the number of permanent administrative government employees in Jefferson City (excluding the legislature and the Supreme Court) had grown from fewer than 100 in 1900 to about 1,400 in 1936 because of that half-century of change in American, and Missouri, society and economy.

The first state agency to reflect that trend in an obvious way was the Highway Department. In 1907, the office of Highway Engineer was created within the State Board of Agriculture (not a department yet).  The position became that of State Highway Commissioner in 1913 and just four years after an entirely new department, the State Highway Department, was created—all in response to the rapid growth of the use of automobiles and the need for the roads for them.  In 1920, Missourians approved a $60 million dollar bond issue that started the Missouri Centennial Road Program, the state’s first major effort to create a coherent highway system.  The report reminds readers that in the space of less than fifteen years, the agency for developing the state road system had grown from one person in the office of another state agency into a “huge department” that finally had to move out of the Capitol and into its own building in 1928.

When the 1937 survey was done, twenty-two departments or parts of departments (not including highways) were housed in the capitol.  During legislative sessions they had to find temporary quarters in other buildings in Jefferson City.  Two agencies—the Public Service Commission and the now-Department of Agriculture’s laboratory, had moved full-time into the old post office/federal building that was across High Street from the present main post office.

By 1937, government had so outgrown the capitol that office space on the building’s first floor occupied 48% more space than the building’s designed capacity, the study commenting, “This has been accomplished by using as office space the cafeteria, vestibules, vault space, etc.  The second floor is seriously overcrowded.  In some rooms typists are working in such close quarter that they cannot freely operate their machines.  In one case, the fixtures in a toilet were removed and the space converted to offices.  The need for office space is so acute that it is planned to make use of other toilets for offices in the near future.

“While the legislature is not in session, certain departments expand their activities into legislative committee rooms and the Senators’ private offices.  Each time the legislature convenes, it is the same story. Departments occupying legislative quarters have to move, and each time the legislature adjourns the persons occupying rooms are besieged with requests to let this or that or other departments use the space.”  In those days, the legislature met every other year, not annually.

The Federal Works Progress Administration occupied “extensive space” on the legislative floors, including the Senate balcony.

About 2,600 square feet of space in the basement was improvised into offices that had no ventilation and no natural light.  Between sessions, ten departments or parts of departments rented space elsewhere in town.  During sessions, fifteen departments had to rent space.   More than 200 employees worked in a basement that became so polluted by exhaust gases of delivery trucks that many workers developed “sick headaches” that force them to take time away from work.

Missouri was not alone in dealing with the development of big government.  The Oklahoma State Planning Board had reported late in 1936 that Missouri was just one of 28 states considering new office buildings.

Big government had arrived—out of necessity.  It remains and it is a fact of life.  The result of that 1937 study was the Broadway Office Building.

In later entries we’ll review Kettl’s call for realistic thinking about the focus  of discussion about the direction of government.  In short, he argues without saying it: The goal is less about making government smaller than it is about making American government competent again.

Stay tuned.

The stripes

We’ve been thinking more about our Missouri Bicentennial license plate, particularly about the wavy lines at the top and the bottom of the plate.  As the designers have noted, they represent the rivers that have been and remain important to our state.

The Mississippi River that became the eastern boundary of Missouri was for many years the western boundary of the United States, the line that separated the nation from Spanish territory.  Failure by the British to gain control of the river during the American Revolution (thanks in no small part to the 1780 Battle of St. Louis) was key to the nation’s survival and development.

The Mississippi and its tributaries—the Wisconsin, the Illinois, and the Ohio, for example—brought the first explorers and settlers to Missouri.  Father Jacques Marquette and his voyageur partner Louis Joliet followed the Fox and Wisconsin Rivers in 1673 to the Mississippi and followed the it until they encountered a “dreadful” river flowing into the Mississippi, “an accumulation of large and entire trees, branches and floating islands issuing from the mouth of the river Pekitanoui with such impetuosity that we could not without great danger risk passing through it.”  It was the Missouri, of course.

LaSalle and Tonty came down the Mississippi in 1682. It was LaSalle who envisioned a string of French settlements that would control trade with the Indians and exploit the land with mining.  He took control of the area and named it for his monarch, Louis the Great, Louis XIV.  In 1720, Phillippe Renault set up lead mines and brought the first slaves to Missouri to work them.  Etienne de Bourgmont (sometimes spelled “Bourgmond”) built the first fort in western part of the state when he put up Fort Orleans on the north bank of the Missouri a few years later in response to French concerns that Spain was coveting the territory and might mount an expedition from Santa Fe.

The Ohio brought George Morgan and his settlers to New Madrid to establish the first American settlement in this area—on the Mississippi.

Another Mississippi River tributary, which defines our northeast corner, caused thirty years of disputes about where the line should be separating us from Iowa.  The northeast corner was defined as a line that reached the rapids of the Des Moines River.  But nobody knew where those rapids were. Or are.   The dispute triggered by that search almost led to Missouri going to war with Iowa, the famous “Honey War.”   The U.S. Supreme Court finally decided the issue.

The St. Francis River, which flows from Iron County into the Mississippi about 425 miles south, was instrumental in shaping Missouri’s southern border.  When John Hardeman Walker wanted his farm in Missouri, not in Arkansas Territory. the St. Francis River became the eastern border of the Bootheel created to include Walker’s land.

Missouri’s original western border was the western side of Worth, Gentry, DeKalb, Clinton, and Clay Counties until 1836 when the federal government convinced the Indians living in the area between there at the Missouri River to move west.  The Platte Purchase added six counties in an area abut the size of Rhode Island and Delaware combined and extended our northwestern border to the Missouri River.  That’s how the Missouri became part of the border of—Missouri.

Most of the founding settlements of Missouri were on the rivers: Ste. Genevieve, where some accounts say people were living as early as 1722 although other accounts date the founding at 1735 and permanent settlement at 1752; St. Louis, 1764; St. Charles, 1769; Portage des Sioux, 1779, New Madrid, the first American settlement, 1789; Cape Girardeau, 1793.  When lead mining developed in eastern Missouri, one of the biggest challenges for the miners was hacking a road through the forests to get to the river to ship their lead out.

Up to the start of the Civil War, the ten most populous cities in Missouri were all along the Mississippi or Missouri Rivers.  St. Louis, located near the junction of the two greatest rivers, was the largest city in 1860 with 160,773 people. The population of the other nine combined equaled only one-fourth of the St. Louis number.

The importance of rivers is emphasized by the location of the state capital city.  The first state legislature determined the capital should be centrally located.  And how did those lawmakers define central location?  On the Missouri River within forty miles of the mouth of the Osage.  On a principle river not far from an important secondary river that linked central Missouri with the southwest, a capital city that was accessible by a network of rivers that in those days linked all areas of the state, including the northwest corner added a decade after government moved to the City of Jefferson.

The Missouri River gave us, in addition to St. Charles and Jefferson City, the now-vanished communities of Cote Sans Dessein and Franklin, as well as Hermann, and Boonville (which tried in 1831 to take the seat of government away from Jefferson City), Lexington, and eventually Westport and Kansas City, then St. Joseph—and Omaha, and Council Bluffs.

By 1820, some settlers had moved up the Osage and formed what became Warsaw and by 1831, Lewis Bledsoe was running a ferry operation on the river, near the present Truman Dam.

The great rivers brought us legends, mechanical and human—Mike Fink, the fur traders and trappers like Hugh Glass and Jim Bridger, Jed Smith, Thomas Fitzpatrick and the men of Ashley’s Hundred; of the Natchez  and the Robert E. Lee and their epic race to St. Louis,  and great pilots such as Joseph LaBarge, who never lost a boat in fifty years, or Joseph Kinney, whose magnificent home called “Rivercene” is now a B&B across the Missouri from Boonville, or Grant Marsh and his steamer Far West, best remembered for setting a downstream record on the Missouri when he carried survivors of Custer’s fight on the Little Big Horn 710 miles down the treacherous river in 54 hours, and with them brought the first news to the outside world of Custer’s fate.  It’s the river of Stephen H. Long and his Western Engineer that started an epic trip west that led to the Great Plains being called “The Great American Desert” for decades.

And what would Samuel Clemens had been if the Mississippi River was not so much of his character?

And all along the courses of these great rivers, now greatly changed, there are remains of the boats that didn’t make it all the way up or down stream and took dreams and people with them, sometimes, to the bottom.   Sometimes the ribs of those boats are exposed when the dry times drop the river levels low enough.  A couple of times—with the Arabia  in Missouri and the Bertrand in Iowa—the remains are found incredibly preserved under layers of mud that used to be the river channel and amaze visitors who have never known when these rivers were the highways that developed our state and led to development of the entire western part of our nation beyond the Mississippi.

And there’s more to the heritage of our rivers—in the form of other avenues that sprang from them.  Former Missouri River ferryman William Becknell, in 1821, left Franklin for a cross-country trading expedition that opened the Santa Fe Trail that created Missouri’s first foreign trading partner and created that path that led to American acquisition a quarter-century later of the Southwest.

And from the village of Westport, the great wagon trains set out on the Oregon and California trails that extended the reach of those first river-borne Missourians to California and to the Northwest.

It was to the river town of St. Joseph, then the westernmost point on the nation’s rail network, there came one day in August, 1859 a lawyer for the Illinois Central Railroad who caught a steamboat at the city wharf and went further upstream to the river town of Council Bluffs, Iowa.  There he met young surveyor Grenville Dodge who was finding a cross-Iowa route for a railroad.  Dodge, just back from a Colorado trip, and Abraham Lincoln looked west and discussed the best route for a line to the Pacific Ocean.  Dodge became a Union Army officer, was wounded at Rolla, Missouri, and in the Battle of Pea Ridge that pretty much settled any hopes the Confederacy had of retaining an organized presence in Missouri. When Congress passed an act that led to the creation of a transcontinental railroad, then-President Lincoln summoned Dodge from the field to counsel him on where the line should begin.  Lincoln’s executive order in 1863 setting construction in motion established the legal headquarters of the Union Pacific in Council Bluffs and the operating headquarters across the Missouri River in Omaha.

Rivers brought the pioneers and the pioneering spirit to Missouri, and from the towns on the great rivers, new roads of dirt and steel opened the West.

It’s a small gesture to their significance that all of this is represented by some wavy lines on the Missouri Bicentennial license plate.  But it’s a significant gesture and maybe those wavy lines will encourage us to think more about those rivers that continue to shape us as Missourians and as Americans.

Inaugural Balls

(The last event of a governor’s inauguration is the big dance.  In this tenth, and concluding, segment about inauguration history—Let’s Dance!)

Our new governor might be up late tonight because the celebration will continues well into the night.  After today’s inauguration, there will be dancing.  No matter how late the new governor is up, he’s usually in the office for his first full day of work early, if not bright, the next morning.

Members of the legislature and other important people will get all gussied up, many of them risking their lives (in our view) when they are introduced and proceed down the grand stairway from the second floor to the first floor rotunda.  We have never seen a lady get her toe caught in the hem of her gown as she comes down the stairs but the few times that we’ve jammed ourselves into the crowd and covered the event, we have watched those introductions and parades down the steps with a certain tenseness.

It takes FOREVER to get all of those people down those steps.  And then the new governor and his wife get the first dance before everybody else looks for enough space to approximate a dance.

Here’s a little history of inaugural balls in Missouri:

The first inaugural ball for a head of state in Missouri might have been in March, 1804 when Spanish Governor Carlos deHault de Lassus ran the French flag down the pole in St. Louis and the American flag was first run up, signifying the change of ownership of the Louisiana Territory from France to the United States.  De Lassus was the French-born Spanish Governor, the French never having any government leaders here during the time between the sale of the territory by Spain to France and then the transfer to the United States. Captain Amos Stoddard  represented the United States in that ceremony and was in charge until President Jefferson appointed a territorial governor.

Jere Giffen (who recently died) wrote in her book, First Ladies of Missouri, “De Lassus held a public dinner in Captain Stoddard’s honor.  This was followed by a dinner and ball given by the citizens of St. Louis. The new executive was aware of the requirements of his position and he reciprocated with a dinner and ball open to the public. Captain Stoddard noted in personal correspondence that his entertainment—which might be classed as the first inaugural ball of an American governor in the area of Missouri—cost a total of $622.75.”

There were public dinners that included dancing for succeeding territorial governors but they were not considered inaugural balls as we know them today.

The first inaugural ball of an actual Governor of Missouri might have been January 3, 1853. Giffen wrote that new first lady Martha Price (Governor Sterling Price), who was so sick during the 1852 campaign that some people expected her to die, “was sufficiently strong to move with her children into the executive mansion for the inaugural ceremonies in January, 1853.” The “mansion” in this case was the first house built for a governor, using $5,000 provided by the legislature in 1832.  It was located on the same square or block as the original Governor’s House was constructed in 1826.  The Capitol was originally known as the Governor’s House when state government moved here in the fall of ’26 because it had a two-room suite for the governor to live and work in.  That was fine for John Miller, a bachelor, but not so great for his successor, Daniel Dunklin, who had a family.  Construction was underway in October, 1833 and was ready when Dunklin moved his family to Jefferson City in early ’34. The exact location is unclear, as is the exact location of the original Governor’s House but it apparently was in the area where the present Executive Mansion is located.

Giffen writes, “A large reception, termed by some an inaugural ball, was held by the new first family and attended by hundreds including friends and relatives from Chariton and Howard Counties. One of the first formal entertainments planned by capital city residents for the new first family probably was held in the mansion of Thomas Lawson Price, the first mayor of Jefferson City and a prominent businessman of the time.  According to Jefferson City legend, it was an unbroken custom for many years for the incoming governor and his wife to be received first at the Price home.  Although bearing the same name, the two Price families were not directly related until several years later when the Governor’s son, Celsus, married Thomas Lawson Price’s daughter, Celeste.”   The wedding was at the Thomas Lawson Price mansion.

Thomas Lawson Price was the defendant in an 1846 lawsuit that challenged the legal ownership of the land on which Jefferson City was laid out.  The state, of course, won the suit.  In the early Twentieth Century, the Price mansion was purchased by the state, torn down, and became the site of the present Supreme Court Building.

Inauguration receptions and dances do not appear to have been held at the Capitol until the present building was erected.  Until then, celebratory events were held at the Executive Mansion built during the administration of Governor B. Gratz Brown.  Jean Carnahan, in If These Walls Could Talk, indicates the first inaugural festivities in the mansion were after the inauguration of Silas Woodson on January 3, 1873.

One writer—not present for the occasion, but hopeful that the Mansion and its residents would serve as a model of Victorian propriety—declared the evening “an assemblage of ladies and gentlemen met for the purpose of rational, intellectual enjoyment.”  However, those in attendance found the evening far more robust as sounds of music from a brass and string band filled the house. Inaugural guests delighted in such rollicking dances as the polka and schottische, which had replaced the minuet after the Civil War.  It was reported that dancers swirled “all through the magnificent parlors, waltzing around, through doors, and from one room to another, galloping over people who came in the way, and schottisching recklessly about…until long after the noon of the night.” 

Joseph Folk, a Democrat, was elected in 1904 when Republicans swept control of government into their column. Carnahan wrote:

Like first ladies before her, Gertrude Folk found the traditional reception and ball “a trying ordeal…and a tax on the hands and feet.”  Still she called the event “great fun” and an opportunity to meet people from all over the state.  As the evening grew longer and the fun gave way to fatigue, Gertrude eased her weary feet by abandoning her “new high-heeled slippers…in one corner of the drawing room after the last hand had been shaken!”

Herbert Hadley was inaugurated during a snow storm on January 9, 1909.  Giffen records, “Snow blew into the Mansion as each of the some ten thousand guests was admitted. Mrs. Hadley recalled how her gloves soon became torn with the prolonged handshaking and when she took them off her hand began to bleed, staining the front of her white satin inaugural gown.”   Giffen seems to indicate the event was more a reception than a ball—surely the only way ten thousand people could have visited the place that night.

The Jefferson City Tribune said, “It is said to have been the largest gathering ever assembled in the mansion. As you came down the grand staircase you would stop and look at the great seeting [sic] mass of human beings and hesitate to make the plunge but finally before you could get courage up to step forth, without a moment’s warning you were lifted off your feet and rushed along at such a rate that if the walls had given way under the pressure you would have rushed pell mell into the Missouri river.”  Music was by the Third Regimental Band of Kansas City but because the house was so crowded that dancing was impossible, “some of the young people repaired to the Madison hall and finished the evening in dancing,” a reference to the Madison Hotel, which burned about thirty years later and was replaced by the Governor Hotel, now the Governor Building.

Inaugurations were held indoors in the chamber of the House of Representatives.  The Capitol that burned in 1911 was not a fit place for any inaugural balls as we know them today—which is why post ceremony celebrations were held at the Mansion.

Things were a little straight-laced, compared to today, in 1913 when Elliott Major was inaugurated.  The inauguration committee issued an edict barring “ragging” at the ball, the playing of ragtime music.  Modern dances such as the “bunny hop” or the “bear cat,” or the “turkey trot,” and “all other of the 57 varieties of the terpsichorean art where swaying of the shoulders and other unnecessary movements” are made.

Governor Frederick Gardner was to have been inaugurated in what is now the Capitol’s Resources Museum in 1917 but that area was still unfinished.  He, therefore, held the first outdoor inauguration, an event not held again until Warren Hearnes began the current custom of outdoor ceremonies in 1965.  However, 1917 was the first time an inaugural ball was held in the Capitol.  Barricades limited participants to certain areas to congregate and dance. And organizers cautioned, “During the inaugural ball, only dancers will be allowed on the main floor in the museum.  Spectators will go up in the gallery.  Thirty policemen from St. Louis and Kansas City supplemented the Jefferson City police force with crowd control, security, and making sure the new building was not vandalized.  Three bands performed and champagne was served although Gardner had decreed earlier that he wanted no alcohol to be served during the ball.  Mrs. Gardner quick discovered the mistake but kept quiet about it. Later that year the House and the Senate met for one day in the new building although their chambers were not yet finished.  But legislators were able to say they had served in the new Capitol.

Receptions still were held at the Mansion on inauguration day but Governor Arthur M. Hyde, in a bow to the age of the building (now fifty years old) and the greatly increased crowds for inaugural events scheduled two inaugural balls—one at the mansion and another at the Capitol.  The first inaugural ball in the rotunda was on January 10, 1921.

Governor Baker was the first governor, in 1925, to have the only inaugural ball of the night in the rotunda.  But there was a post-inauguration reception at the Mansion, a practice that continues today.

By the time James T. Blair was sworn in on January 14, 1957, the crowds were so large that two inaugural balls were held—one in the rotunda and the other one two blocks away at the Governor Hotel.

When Warren Hearnes was sworn in on January 11, 1965, a military reception was held at the Mansion and a third dance was added to the inaugural ball festivities.  The now-traditional ball in the rotunda was joined by another dance at the Governor Hotel with a third one in the ballroom of the newly-opened Ramada Inn.

Inaugurations have continued to be held outdoors except for 1997 when Governor Carnahan felt the weather was too dangerous and the parade was cancelled and the ceremony was moved into the rotunda. Joe Teasdale, however, in 1977, held his ceremony outside although a foot of snow the night before caused the cancellation of the inaugural parade and the windchill at noon was minus-45. The inaugural ball did go ahead that night—in the rotunda.

The first Ashcroft inauguration on January 14, 1985 (and the same would happen four years later at his second inauguration) did not feature the new Governor and First Lady having the first dance in the rotunda.  John and Janet Ashcroft, as members of the Assembly of God, did not take part in dancing. Instead, he sat down at a grand piano in the rotunda and played “The Missouri Waltz.”

The Holden inauguration in 2001 created headlines for months.  It included two additional dance floors in large heated tents on the south front lawn of the Capitol.  There were FOUR inaugural balls—the traditional rotunda event, another dubbed “One Bright Future” in one of the lawn tents, the third—the “One Missouri Ball” in the other tent, and a fourth, at the Capital Plaza hotel, was a Children’s Ball that was for children five to thirteen years old that featured a coloring corner, a photo station, an arcade and a sundae bar.  The final cost of all of the inauguration events was $1,039,917.20 (of which $125,400 was state funds).  It was the second-most expensive gubernatorial nomination among the 17 inaugurations from December, 2000-May, 2001 with only Puerto Rico spending more.  Holden did not pay off a debt totaling about $417,000 until July.  Union donations, mostly in June, constituted $51,000, which drew criticism because Holden issued an executive order later that month giving unions more influence in collective bargaining with state workers.  His spokesman denied any impropriety and noted unions had strongly supported Holden throughout his political career.

After those events, the legislature decided not to appropriate state funds for future inaugurations, beginning with Matt Blunt.  Since the Holden inauguration, succeeding governors have taken some pains to note how thrifty they have been.  In fact, the first Nixon inauguration, July 12, 2009, was dubbed the “potluck inauguration” because the planning committee decided to hold a potluck dinner at the Capital Plaza with the committee providing hamburgers and the public was invited to bring home-made desserts.  But that part of the day fell through when city health officials warned there was no way to guarantee the safety of the food that was brought in.

If, by the way, you want to see what many of the First Ladies wore at their inaugural balls, you can visit the Cole County Historical Society, across the street from the Mansion, and see several on display.  They don’t have any of the attire worn by the Governors, but as we all know, there are times—most often weddings—when the outfit worn by the man is of no interest at all for the official record.  What’s so interesting about a tux or a suit?

The society is in the row house  where Governor Brown lived while the mansion was being built.

 

Every inauguration has its moments

Sometimes things aren’t as well-organized on inauguration day as they seem.   We’ve covered a dozen of ‘em and we’ve read about several more.  It seems they’re always quirky despite the minute-by-minute planning. 

The inauguration ceremony actually is a joint session of the Missouri Legislature.  The President Pro Tem of the Senate is the presiding officer, master of ceremonies, of the event—except in 1965 when the Speaker of the House presided.  That was the first inauguration of Warren Hearnes, who had run against the so-called “establishment” that ran the Democratic Party, and had defeated Lieutenant Governor Hillary Bush.  Former Senate leader Albert Spradling, Jr., recalled for the State Historical Society that Hearnes tried to gain control of the Senate but conservative senators stopped him by electing John W. Joynt of St.  Louis as the Pro-Tem.  Hearnes recalled in a similar interview that he had tried to get one of his campaign supporters, Senator Earl Blackwell of Hillsboro, elected President Pro Tem although Blackwell had been in the Senate only two years at the time.  The veteran senators also rejected Hearnes’ efforts to compromise by having Blackwell named Chairman of the Judiciary Committee. The resentment caused by Hearnes’ tactics—before he was even Governor—so antagonized Joynt that  he refused to preside over Hearnes’ inauguration a few days later, leaving the job to Speaker of the House Thomas Graham. 

Three times in the last four inaugurals, a wheel has fallen off. 

We listened back to our recording of the 2013 events to put together this chronology.  Governors are usually sworn in at noon as the bells toll the noon hour at a nearby church. Here’s the chronology of how things fell apart at the critical moment:

11:59:56—band finishes playing “God Bless America.”

12:00;20—12:01:20—The bell at St. Peter Catholic Church tolls eight times.

Long pause.  Finally, Senate President Pro tem Tom Dempsey, the MC, approaches the podium, and just as he draws a breath to introduce the judge to swear in the Governor—

12:02:23—ninth bell (crowd and podium guests laugh loudly) Dempsey throws up his hands and retreats to his seat.

12:02:33—tenth bell

12:02:42—eleventh bell.  Then silence. There is no 12th bell for the noon swearing-in.  Voices on the platform (including Nixon’s apparently) are heard confirming, however, that there had been the 12th bell. Nope. Just eleven).

12:04:18—Convinced there are no more bells, Dempsey introduces St. Louis Circuit Judge Rex Burlison to swear in Nixon.

12:04:52—Judge Burlison begins the oath, “I, Jeremy Wilson Nixon…”  Nixon repeats, “I, Jeremiah Wilson Nixon…”

12:05:25—oath completed.   Church bells ring joyously throughout the city. Helicopter flyover.  

                                                           

Nixon’s first inauguration in 2009 was the second time in three inaugurals when the governor was sworn in early. Master of Ceremonies Charlie Shields, the Senate President pro Tem, noted about 11:45 that the event was running early and the band would play some music to fill time. However after one number he announced the swearing in of the new governor would proceed. Shields said the National Guard, which operates the schedule for the inaugurations, told him through his earpiece to go ahead with the oath-giving and taking.  The swearing-in of Governor Nixon began at 11:52 and the church bells rang early.

                                               

The 2005 inauguration went off on time but is remembered by some for the relatively warm weather and for the governor’s attire.

Governor Blunt refused to be sworn in while wearing the traditional tuxedo, which he referred to in an interview with us as a “monkey suit.” 

Blunt used two Bibles.  In his inaugural address he noted that one was the Bible he used each day.  The second one would be given to his son upon his birth. He said it reminded him “that what we do today, tomorrow and across the next four years will help define the future opportunities of every Missouri Child.    

2005 was the second time in recent memory that the new first lady danced in the inaugural ball a few weeks before the birth of the first couple’s first child.  Matt and Melanie Blunt were expecting their first child, Branch, in March.  In 1981, Christopher and Carolyn Bond’s son, Sam, was born a matter of days after the inauguration. 

                                                           

Bob Holden’s inauguration in 2001 was a scrambled affair and the first time in the dozen inaugurations we have covered that the governor was sworn in early. Supreme Court judge Ronnie White, the master of ceremonies called for the swearing-in of Attorney General Jay Nixon right after the invocation.  The schedule called for the inaugurations of the lesser officials to take place AFTER remarks from former Senator Thomas Eagleton and after the introduction of platform guests.  After Eagleton spoke and the guests were introduced, the other inaugurations took place. 

The event, which had started at 11;15 instead of the usual 11:30 saw the inauguration of lower-ranking statewide officials finished by 11:45.  Rather than wait 15 minutes for the traditional noon-time inauguration of the governor, the ceremonies went right on ahead.  Just as the church bell across the street rang once to signal it was 11:45, Governor Holden was sworn in.  Radio and television stations planning to joining the ceremonies just in time for the noon inauguration of the governor found themselves switching to the Capitol after Holden was well into his address, or not switching at all.  The church bells did not strike 12 because it would have interrupted the speech.  In his press conference after the event, Holden explained that he decided to go ahead with the swearing-in because it was 27 degrees and people were getting cold. 

The early swearing-in caught the flight of four F-15s from the St. Louis National Guard unit unprepared.  The jets, which usually formed up west of Jefferson City and flew over the Capitol west to east were far from being ready when word went out that the swearing-in was taking place and the 19-gun salute was being fired.  The jets wound up flying over the Capitol, more or less on a north to south route with two jets together and two others straggling behind, well out of formation.

                                                                       

Timing of the events leading to the noon inauguration was a problem, too, in 1965, during the first Hearnes inauguration.  Speaker Tom Graham, about whom we referred earlier, recalled in an oral history interview for the State Historical Society that all of the scheduled events leading to the governor’s inauguration had been finished ten minutes early.  He said, “I introduced everybody in sight.  I introduced Governor Dalton and his wife. I introduced my wife. I introduced the members of the House. I introduced the members of the Senate, and then I introduced the taxpayers.”  That killed enough time for the swearing-in of Hearnes to take place at high noon.

                                                           

The second Carnahan inauguration was moved indoors because of bad weather.  Organizers always have that contingency available, setting up chairs and a special podium in both places.  The move indoors, however, meant less space for people wanting to watch.

The Carnahan inauguration, in 1993, first brought the festival atmosphere which existed in and around the Capitol for the rest of the day after the ceremonies. Carnahan was sworn in using an old family Bible used by his great grandfather, a circuit-riding Methodist minister.  At one time there was a hole in the back cover.  Family tradition held that the hole was worn by the saddle horn of his great grandfather’s saddle.  A new cover was put on the Bible in later years that replaced that worn one. He did not wear a top hat–which is kind of an on-again-off-again tradition for these events.  In 1989, when he was sworn in for his second term as treasurer, Carnahan wore a beaver topper with a long and distinguished history.  But he told us before the inauguration in ’93 that he reviewed the tapes of that event and saw he was about the only person who wore the traditional hat for the ceremony.  Others who had them either left them indoors or carried them. So he decided in 1993 to leave the hat off.  It belonged to his father, former Congressman A.S. J. Carnahan, who served in Congress for 14 years and was the first United States Ambassador to the African country of Sierra Leone, appointed by President Kennedy.

But his father was not the first owner of that distinguished hat.  It originally belonged to Congressman John B. Sullivan of St. Louis, whose wife Leonore became the elder Carnahan’s  successor and served with great distinction in the Congress for many years. 

Some might find a bit of irony in the telling of that story, we suppose.  Anyway, the hat stayed in the box in 1993. 

But—

In 1997, Carnahan wore the beaver top hat—a little bit. We didn’t see him in it in the Capitol. He only wore it for the trip from the Mansion to the Capitol building. 

—As long as we’re speaking of top hats, here’s a little top hat history for you.  In 1969, when John Danforth was sworn in as Attorney General, he was the only one of the state officers who did not wear one.

Thomas Eagleton wore one that day although he refused to wear such a thing in earlier ceremonies.  He had complained that all during his military service his hats had been either too large or too small and he had refused to wear any hats since.

In 1961, when Harry Truman attended John Dalton’s inauguration, he refused to wear a top hat in the parade.  He wore his customary felt hat instead.

The 1961 inauguration as unusual in another respect.  The Lieutenant Governor was not sworn in with the other statewide officials.  Hillary Bush was inaugurated more than two hours later in the State Senate because the Lieutenant Governor is the President of the Senate.  He told the senators he respected the Senate tradition of “orderly and courteous procedure and the most searching examination into each and every law affecting our citizens.”  He promised to support “full and open debate,” saying “Good laws are not enacted after bearing only one side of a question. Minority views are just as important as the views of the majority. Sound debate often results in a decision acceptable to both sides and thus redounds to the benefit of the state”  

However, several of Bush’s friends from Kansas City missed the event.  The passenger elevators were jammed by the large crowd, so a janitor agreed to let them use a freight elevator.  Fifteen to twenty people crowded in—and the elevator stopped about five feet from the third floor.   Several minutes of door-pounding and prying open the doors finally caught the attention of someone in the hallway who got on top of the elevator car and lowered a chair to the interior.  After about five people used the chair to get out, the car rose to the third floor and stopped normally.  But it was too late for those inside to witness the event. 

 

One highlight of the 1989 inauguration of John Ashcroft was the opening of the huge bronze doors on the south front of the Capitol.  The doors had been closed for many years.  They had been opened only for very special occasions for about 40 years.  The state had paid $122,000 to repair and restore the doors.  The hinges and frames were rebuilt and the finish to the doors was restored.  The doors weigh 7,200 pounds, stand more than 18 feet tall and are 12-feet wide. It takes seven minutes to get the things open.  The doors are divided into four panels.  the second and third panels–the center panels–fold inward toward the Capitol and lock against the first and fourth panels, which also fold inward to provide a panoramic view up the 30-foot wide grand stairway to the third, or legislative, floor of the building.   At the time the doors were installed, they were called the largest bronze doors cast since the days of Ancient Rome.  

                                                           

In 1985, Former Governor Hearnes did not attend the ceremonies, saying he had not been invited far enough in advance.  Supreme Court Judge Warren Welliver refused to attend, showing his disappointment that an associate judge of the court was swearing in Governor Bond instead of the Chief Justice.  The Associate Justice that day was Albert Rendlen, former Republican Party chairman (Welliver was a Democrat), who later became a Chief Justice.  While he held that office, he swore in John Ashcroft for his first term.  Ashcroft was sworn in for his second term by Judge Edward Robertson, his former aide that he had shortly before appointed to the Supreme Court.  Robertson, who became the Chief Justice and is now in private practice, did not swear in Governor Carnahan.  In fact, most members of the Supreme Court were absent from involvement in the 1993 ceremonies.  All of them were Ashcroft appointees. 

It is not mandatory that the Chief Justice swear in the Governor.  Circuit Judge Sam Blair swore in his brother, James T. Blair, in 1957.  In 1881, Governor Thomas Crittenden was sworn in by the outgoing Lieutenant Governor, Henry Brockmeyer, because members of the Supreme Court didn’t even show up for the ceremony until Crittenden was giving his inaugural address. 

                                                —–

In 1981, an empty chair was placed on the inaugural platform next to Kenneth Rothman, who became Lieutenant Governor that day.  Rothman had it placed there as a memorial to his father, who had died the year before. 

 In 1977, when Joseph Teasdale was sworn in on a bitterly cold day, Senator Eagleton was sitting on the platform next to Senator Danforth, so wrapped up in a shawl that Sally Danforth had given him when she went inside to get warm that a University of Missouri reporting program reporter mis-identified him as Senator Danforth’s wife. The wind chill factor that day was 45-below, so you know why he was wrapped up so tightly.  The ceremony started in two-below-zero temperatures.  A foot of snow had fallen overnight, causing the cancellation of the inaugural parade.  Despite abysmal conditions—the pianist suffered frostbite on her fingers–Teasdale decided to have the ceremony outside because of the large number of people who had come to Jefferson City–especially from his home town of Kansas City–to see him sworn in.   Many, if not the majority, of them stayed inside the Capitol, however, while the new governor earned for himself the nickname “Freezedale” from uncharitable critics.

                                                ——

 Eagleton figures in a couple of other odd moments on inauguration day.  On the way to the first Hearnes inaugural in 1965, Eagleton—who was to become Lieutenant Governor that day—was seen hitchhiking, dressed in formal attire.  The car being used to chauffer him around had run out of gas a number of blocks from the Jefferson City First Baptist Church, where an inaugural worship service was held.  Another was held there in 1969.  The Hearnes family was Baptist and Betty often sang in the church choir. 

The year Eagleton was sworn in as Attorney General, 1961, the man administering the oath forgot it.  Former Judge Sam Blair, who had administered the oath to his brother Jim when Jim became governor in 1957, said he had sworn-in thousands of persons before, and the oath is really simple as can be.  But he said he suffered a complete mental block, which lasted about four seconds but seemed far longer and left Judge Sam a little shaken.

                                                ——-

The scariest inauguration might have been in 1913, when Elliott Major was sworn in.   The Capitol had burned in 1911 and a temporary Capitol was erected just east of the present building.  It was made of stucco, lath and wire.  One account says “it was jammed to suffocation and the structure groaned and creaked under the weight of the crowd.”  There were fears it would collapse until the building architect assured officials it would stand. The building was still there when Frederick Gardner was to be inaugurated in 1917 but officials were afraid to use it.  The situation led to the first outdoor inauguration because the new Capitol remained unfinished enough for an indoor ceremony and nobody wanted to go back into the temporary building.

                                       ——

There were fears in 1881 that the inauguration of John S. Marmaduke might have to be delayed because he developed a severe nose bleed in St. Louis a few days later.  The New York Times reported (Jan 11, 1885) that three doctors worked to solve the problem by trying to keep him “perfectly quiet and free from all excitement.”  The newspaper reported the Marmaduke was at a St. Louis hotel “up in his room nursing his well proportioned nose, which has both nostrils solidly plugged up.”  He did recover in time to attend his inauguration.  However he died in pneumonia in 1887 before the end of his term. 

                                                            —————-

When Trusten Polk was inaugurated for what became the shortest gubernatorial term in Missouri history, the large crowd in the House Chamber was puzzled why the ceremony had not started.  What the crowd did not know was that nobody had a Bible for Polk to put his hand on when he took the oath of office.  While the crowd waited, a frantic search was underway in the capitol to find one.  Alas! There was not a single Bible to be found in the entire building.  Someone finally came in with one—located at the State Penitentiary!  One newspaper said afterwards that Jefferson City would be a tremendous field for missionaries, noting, “”We fear that the work of legislation can never go on properly in a place where copies of the Good Book are so scarce, and that it will be necessary for other reasons than the high price of board, to fetch the Legislature to St. Louis where, goodness knows, there are plenty of Bibles, whether we govern our lives by the precepts contained therein or not.”

Polk served less than two months before he was elected to fill a vacancy in the U. S. Senate, from which he was later expelled at the start of the Civil War for disloyalty, an interesting irony for a man who said in his inaugural speech, “It will be a never-failing source of gratification to me if I shall be able to contribute in any degree towards inspiring a more sacred reverence for the Constitution of Government under which the several peoples of all the states are united as one people.”  

                                                ——-.

Let’s see if we get this ceremony right this time. 

 

 

 

 

 

         

          

Addresses

Three addresses are important on inauguration day in Missouri.

The ceremony usually is held on the lawn of 201 West Capital Avenue.  Afterwards, the new governor and his family become residents of 100 Madison Street.

Then there is the inaugural address of the new governor in which themes of the coming administration are usually laid out in general terms although there have been times when governors have been pretty specific. And as we look back at some of those remarks, we find some that could be spoken today.

The address of our first governor, Alexander McNair, was delivered September 19, 1820—in St. Louis.  Congress gave Missouri permission in 1820 to elect a state governor and a legislature and to write a Constitution.  Missouri did not become a state, however, until August 10, 1821 after some problems with the Constitution were worked out.  McNair signed the bill on November 25, 1820 moving the seat of government from St. Louis to St. Charles until a permanent location could be picked. The legislators met there for the first time on June 4, 1821.  McNair’s first address after becoming governor is notable for its brevity—only 443 words.  He talked of the “happy change which has taken place in our political affairs,” meaning the transition from Territory to eventual statehood. And he told the lawmakers, “We shall adopt and put a new government into operation, to act with a degree of prudence and deliberation, comporting with the importance of the duties to be performed, as the future character and prosperity of our country in a very great degree depend upon the measures of the first General Assembly.”

McNair’s successor, Frederick Bates told the legislature on November 18, 1824, only about three weeks after his election that the confidence of the people was clear but, as he put it, “I must acquire the confidence of the general assembly before I can, with decent propriety, or with fair prospects of success, submit to them my views of the leading subjects of legislation.” He put forth a few principles, namely that “Justice should be accessible to all…and delays beyond the due forms and deliberations are denials.” And he warned against political manipulation of the judiciary, saying, “The officers of that department…should be placed, if possible, beyond the reach of those temporary excitements, so often discoverable in other classes of our fellow-citizens. An able and upright administration of the laws, is among the first and greatest of political blessings.”

Frederick Bates died before the seat of government was moved to Jefferson City.  The first inaugural address in Jefferson City was delivered by John Miller, who finished Bates’ term and was elected to a full four-year term.  Miller began the practice of combining his inaugural address with what we would today call the State of the State Address when he spoke in what was called “The Governor’s House,” on November 18, 1826.  His speech was 5,537 words long. It was not unusual for future governors’ inaugural speeches for several decades to continue that trend of combining the two occasions.  The continued population growth of the state led him to comment, with pride, that state government revenue was as much as $55,000 to $60,000 a year without any increases in taxes.

Another part of his speech jumps out of the long text because of the election these 190 years later.  Miller said, “The propriety of proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States, relating to the election of the President and Vice President, [is] a subject which imperiously demands the consideration of the legislature. That the will of the people shall control the choice of the…Chief Magistracy of the United States is a principle supported by the spirit of the Constitution and held sacred by a large majority of the citizens of the Union.”   But, he said, “it must be admitted that the Constitution in in its letter, in this particular, defective.”  He called on the legislature to urge Congress and legislatures in other states to amend the constitution to make a vote of the people elect the President and Vice-President, and “preventing in any event, an election being made by the House of Representatives.”

He was speaking in the wake of the 1824 election in which neither Andrew Jackson nor John Quincy Adams got a majority of the 261 electoral votes. Two other candidates combined to get 78.   The election was decided by the House of Representatives in favor of Adams although he got 38,000 fewer votes than Jackson, 31 percent of the total to Jackson’s 41 percent.  Missouri had given Adams only four percent of the vote; Jackson 34 percent, and Henry Clay 59.

The day of the terribly-long inaugural address/legislative address ended with James T. Blair on January 14, 1957.  He announced several days ahead of the event that he would speak for only fifteen minutes and would make no recommendations to the legislature in an effort to hold the ceremony to forty-five minutes.  He planned a legislative address a week later and supplemental addresses after that. The practice of separate State of the State and budget messages continued through several succeeding administrations.  Today, the State of the State and the budget message are combined into one address.

With that historical foundation laid, let’s launch a long reflection on more recent and not-so-recent speeches.

Four years ago, Governor Nixon called for cooperation between his administration and the overwhelmingly-Republican legislature, recalling that in his first years in the state senate, there was a Republican governor when the legislature was Democratic and “it was possible to disagree while continuing to advance the common good.’  He hoped his second term would be one in which, “We will put our shared principles ahead of our small differences, and work together…”  But the legislature became even more partisan and their disagreements grew even sharper.  He leaves office as the governor with far more vetoes overridden than any governor in Missouri history.

Nixon’s speech in 2009 was called “A New Day for Missouri,” and was delivered as the country was headed toward the depths of the recession.  He noted Missourians were “united by the common uncertainty of our future.”  But he proclaimed his inauguration marked “a new day for Missouri.  He committed his administration to improving the economy by “making Missouri a magnet for next-generation jobs,” and he promised the state would invest in new technology.  He talked of implementing new policies although he did not get specific.  His speech was filled with generalities, the wording intended to encourage an audience during discouraging times.

Matt Blunt’s speech in 2005 focused on change. “Change begins today, at this hour, in this place,” he said.  Blunt and fellow Republicans had attacked Bob Holden for withholding money from public education during his term to balance the budget in tight economic times.  Blunt had promised he would never balance the budget as Holden had done, proclaiming government was “morally bound” to serve Missouri’s children and their families.  He promised to push for an entrepreneurial climate where good family supporting jobs could be created.  He told the audience the work was beginning to improve the lives of all Missourians, that government had to do a better job of serving the people while remaining frugal and wise.  A few days later he announced in his state of the state speech that he was changing the Medicaid program in ways that cut tens of thousands of people out of it.

In his speech in 2001, Governor Holden called on Missourians to “reach new heights” during the first administration of the 21st century.  His “one Missouri” theme pushed for finding the character to improve health, education, respect for others, job training, better transportation and an improved environment.  But he noted “the greatest barrier we have to building one Missouri is ourselves.”   He noted the state could no longer think of itself as divided by geography (the urban-rural split), by race, by partisan politics—“It’s time Kansas City and St. Louis realize they live in the same state,” he said.  He went on, “The goal of my administration is to unite all Missourians in forging a bright future that holds maximum opportunities for each of us.”

In 1997, Governor Carnahan recalled that in his first term, the state had started reforming its education system, cutting the crime rate and moving people from welfare rolls to payrolls–as he put it.  In addition the state was recovering from its worst flood in recorded history.  “Let there be no doubt,” he said that day, “this administration will vigorously promote education, not just with words, but through plans and hard work that translate into achievement.”  He set a goal of making every youngster computer literate by age 12, and a goal of making sure no company would leave Missouri because of a lack of trained employees. He urged a new partnership between government, business and communities to improve education and education opportunities.

Four years earlier, in 1993, Carnahan said the measure of his time in office would be, as he put it, “How far did he take us toward the next century?  And how well did he help us prepare for the challenges that lie ahead?”

“I want to leave behind tangible achievements–things we can touch and measure–things that will endure–things that will make a difference in people’s lives,” he said. His focus would be on education.  He said he would make it the real test of his governorship.  Carnahan said it would take a revolution with tougher standards for children, teachers, and others.  And he said money must be provided to make it all happen.  Later that year, the legislature passed the Excellence in Education Act, which raised taxes for education.  He wanted a high school graduation rate of 90 percent by 2000, which proved to be unattainable.

He said his second mission would be economic development and promised the state’s first comprehensive economic development plan.  He said it was time to get serious, and smart, about economic development.  “I am convinced that we have the heart and the will to make great progress and do great things,” he said…”Together, if we try, we can claim the future. Let’s take the risk of trying.”

In 1989, John Ashcroft titled his speech, “Independence and Responsibility, Declarations for the 21st Century.”  He called on Missourians to declare independence from ignorance, declare ourselves free from dependence on government, declare independence from a contaminated environment, and declare independence from degrading drugs and pornography.

In 1985, Ashcroft called for a partnership between state government and the people of Missouri to attract new industry, improve education, solve problems of prison and rehabilitation, and fight child abuse.  He pledged the state to improve teacher salaries but called on teachers to improve the standards of our schools.  He said government cannot solve all problems by itself, but government can lead people to work together to solve problems and meet the challenges of the future.

In 1981, Christopher Bond was returning to office saying the nation had seen government that offered many solutions that raised people’s hopes and expectations had grown.  But promises had been broken; confidence in government was weakened.  He called for renewed pioneering efforts in education, crime-fighting, help for the elderly and poor.  It was a short speech, just over three double-spaced, large-type, typewritten pages.

In 1977, Joseph Teasdale promised breaks with tradition, bemoaned lack of public confidence in government and pledged that elected leaders would be servants, not masters.  He told the audience it was the will of God that he be elected Governor. His speech was also relatively short, although longer than Bond’s 1981 speech.  He said in his inaugural he had a comprehensive legislative program he would announce later.  He did, in a speech in the House chamber that lasted one-hour-17-minutes and 46 seconds, the longest State of the State message on the recent record. I timed it.

In 1973, Christopher Bond’s first inaugural speech was longer than Teasdale’s speech.  He recalled his campaign had been based on an issue of trust, rather an explicit promises for explicit policies.  He spoke of trust, integrity, pride, compassion and confidence.  His speech in 1981, though much shorter, was considerably more specific—in general areas.

Warren Hearnes said in 1969, although not directly, that Missourians would probably face a tax increase during his second administration.  He had made good on a promise of no tax increase in his first four years.  But he could not make a similar promise for his second term.   “To do and be better,” he said “is a goal few achieve. To do it we are required to make sacrifices.  Sacrifice in the sense of the giving of a part of those material things which we enjoy in abundance.”   1969 became the year of his battle with Senator Earl Blackwell.  At the end of that fight, Hearnes tasted political defeat on a major issue for his first time.  He noted then that inauguration day might have been the only day in the whole year that the sun shone on Warren Hearnes.

In 1961, John Dalton promised to gear his administration to strict law enforcement and high ethical standards.  He promised a strong study of Missouri’s tax structure, frankly saying, “We will require additional income if we are to make necessary expansions in our services and I strongly feel that these increases should be levied on non-essentials and not on the necessities of life.”  He promised to formulate legislation for increased industrialization of our state, and stronger laws on traffic safety.

Governor Phil Donnelly called for the state to look forward to the obligations and opportunities of a post-war world when he was sworn in for his first term in 1945. Donnelly, who had been in the legislature for twenty-two years before becoming governor, also knew the state faced challenges when the war ended in an American victory.  He knew it would take “hardheaded resistance” by the governor and the legislature from pressure groups wanting the state to spend an eighteen-million dollar surplus generated by a wartime economy. He said it was a “moral obligation” to set the money aside to take care of “some of the damage this war will inflict on Missouri.”  He knew the state’s unemployment compensation fund would be stressed when war industries closed and laid off thousands of Missourians.  He also knew the war had given “immense impetus to the development of peacetime aviation and called for actions to insure development of airports.

Missouri and the nation were well into the Great Depression when former Congressman Henry Caulfield urged the legislature on January 3, 1929, to practice a “rigid economy,” saying, “It is difficult, if not impossible, for us to conduct the state government properly within present revenue, yet it is our duty not to permit our expenditures to exceed the expectant income.  The practice of over-appropriating the estimated revenue on the theory that the Governor will withhold portions of the sums appropriated is not to be commended. I urge you to limit strictly your appropriations in the aggregate to the amount of the estimated revenue. If, not withstanding the amount of the estimated revenue is not sufficient to meet the stat needs, then I respectfully suggest that you should make provisions for an increase in revenue.”

The 1921 inaugural address of Governor Arthur M. Hyde is notable for the history it observed and for a message that might resonate these ninety-six years later. Hyde was the first governor inaugurated in the rotunda of the new capitol.  The first line of his speech noted a historic chance in Missouri: “The men and women of Missouri have spoken.”   Hyde was the first governor elected after women got the right to vote.

He continued: “Their voice was no uncertain one. The pluralities given to the Republican party were the largest ever given to any party in the history of the State. To the party has come complete control of the Legislature. Every elective official is a Republican.”  But he cautioned against self-congratulation or exultation because of the promises made during the campaign. He said, “We have duties to perform, pledges to redeem, work to do. The largeness of our pluralities measures only the greatness of our opportunities and the solemnity of our duty.”

Joseph W. Folk, inaugurated in 1905 after a populist campaign against corruption, was preceded in the inaugural ceremonies by William Jennings Bryan, who was brought to Jefferson City from his Nebraska home to praise Folk’s victory. Folk, in his address, urged the legislature to pass a number of reform bills. One would allow witness immunity in bribery cases (the state had just been through a legislative bribery scandal in 1903), and an extension of the statute of limitations in bribery cases. He said the state should vigorously prosecute the issuance of railroad passes to political figures (the railroads, as the dominant means of transportation, used the passes to exercise considerable influence on lawmakers).  He favored creation of statewide primary elections to end control of the process by bosses and their machine, and direct election of U. S. Senators instead of the then-present system of legislative elections of them.  And he shook up the “business as usual” concept in the capitol by proposing lobbying be made a crime unless the lobbyists registered with the state and did not stay in the capitol for more than thirty hours.

And Folk, a Democrat with a Republican legislature, reminded lawmakers, “Partisanship is a good thing, sometimes, but Patriotism is a better thing all the time…Some of you are Democrats, some are Republicans; all are Missourians. In the discharge of official duties let us be Missourians before we are anything else. Do not forget that you will be aiding the party you may belong to most by giving the public the highest service. You cannot help your party by injuring the public.”

We find an interesting set of circumstances when we go all the way back to January 5, 1857 when Governor Trusten Polk told the audience in the House chamber of the old capitol, “it will be a never-failing source of gratification to me if I shall be able to contribute in any degree towards inspiring a more sacred reverence for the Constitution of Government under which the several peoples of all the states are united as one people…Fellow citizens: I may often go wrong, even while doing the best I can.  When right, I shall often be thought wrong by those whose positions will not command a view of the whole ground.”

A few weeks later Trusten Polk resigned as governor to become a United States Senator.  In 1861, this governor who promoted reverence for the Constitution was expelled from the U. S. Senate for disloyalty.  He spent the Civil War on the Confederate side.

Eight years later, Governor Fletcher knew the war would be ending in a few months. In his speech January 2, 1865, he proclaimed, “Henceforth Missouri shall be an asylum for all nationalities and races and peoples; the repository of wealth, and a theater for the development of the labor and enterprise of the hand and spirit of Industry; and the home of free thought, free speech and a free press, where the prejudices of caste and class have no legal embodiment or political encouragement. She shall be a central mart for the interchange of the products of the North and the South, the East and the West, through the rivers of her great basin and the system of railways centering in her metropolis. She shall be a highway for the commerce of the two oceans, borne by the inland transit lines that carry the freights between Europe and Asia. She shall proffer a secure and guarded repose to all consciences and all religious beliefs, un-tied by any secular control, yet upheld and encircled by a public sentiment upon which faith in God has taken a new hold from the experiences of an unparalleled national preservation.”

Some inaugural speeches resonate through the decades.  Some become just speeches.

Lake Benton

Here’s a little something your chronicler stumbled upon while leafing through an old Journal of the Missouri House.  We thought it might be appropriate to mention on this day after thousands of people spent their last long weekend at Missouri’s biggest vacation venue.

In 1929, when the Lake of the Ozarks was a dream of  Union Electric (for younger readers, that was Ameren before some people developed the field of creating brand names that sound clever but don’t mean much), the Missouri legislature decided the lake that would accumulate behind the dam being built near the village of Bagnell should have a name.  The legislature decided the lake should be named for our second U. S. Senator, Thomas Hart Benton.

But Governor Henry Caulfield, a former member of Congress and a former state appeals court judge, vetoed House Bill 930. There was no override.

I have no objection to the avowed purpose of this bill, that is the designation as Lake Benton, although I personally prefer postponing the naming of the Lake until it shall be constructed, and then perhaps giving it a Sylvan name or an Indian name, or perhaps, the name of the engineer who will build the Dam; but I would not veto the bill on that account.

I do object to that portion of the bill which unnecessarily designates Thomas H. Benton as “Missouri’s greatest U.S. Senator.”  I would not object if he were designated as Missouri’s great Senator or one of Missouri’s greatest Senators. I do not question Thomas H. Benton’s greatness, neither do I assert he is not Missouri’s greatest Senator. I do not, however, believe it proper for the legislature to unnecessarily and without any hearing select one of our former Senators and proclaim him the greatest.  Such a course invites controversy and unnecessarily wounds the feelings and arouses the prejudices of those of our citizens who reverse and love Missouri’s other great Senators. When the legislature convenes again, the construction of the Lake may be at least begun, and if the Legislature still deems it proper to designate the Lake as Lake Benton, I will be glad to join with them provided the objectionable portion of the present bill is omitted.

The legislature took Caulfield up on his offer when it next met in 1931.  One bill was introduced to name the lake for Benton.  Another bill was introduced to call it Lake McClurg, honoring Governor Joseph McClurg (1869-71; governors had two-year terms then), who had had a “Big Store on the Osage” at old Linn Creek, which disappeared under the waters as the Osage River backed up behind the dam.  The present Linn Creek was set up on higher ground by some of the residents of the flooded community.

The House indefinitely postponed consideration of the McClurg bill but on February 12 passed the Lake Benton bill, which stayed in the Senate Committee on public Corporations, Railroads, and Internal Improvements until May 1 when the committee recommended the bill not be passed by the full Senate.   No legislation was introduced in 1933 or afterwards which is why the lake behind Bagnell Dam has the “Sylvan name” Caulfield suggested would be more appropriate.

As far as naming the lake for the engineer who designed the dam:  The dam was designed by the Massachusetts firm of Stone and Webster Engineering Corporation that collapsed in 2000 after a major bribery scandal.

Bagnell Dam is named for the community which, in turn, was named for William Bagnell who moved from St. Louis County to set up a railroad tie business along the Osage. His crews turned trees into railroad ties and then floated them downstream.

Beyond 66 degrees 33 minutes

DSC05246Now I know what the poet Robert W. Service meant.

There’s the land (Have you seen it?)

It’s the cussedest land that I know.

From the big, dizzy mountains that screen it

To the deep, deathlike valleys below.

Some say God was tired when He made it;

Some say it’s a fine land to shun;

Maybe, but there’s some as would trade it

For no land on earth—and I’m one.

One day not long ago, I took a little trip.  It started at 5:30 in the afternoon.  I got back to my motel at 1:30 a.m.   And it was still light enough to read a newspaper.

Everything around me was American.  The people.  The cars.  The signs.  The language.  The money.  But there also was a slight feeling of disorientation. This was a different America.  It was late June but sometimes it felt like October.  It looked like April.  It looked a lot like Colorado but it was so much more than Colorado.

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  The mountains were higher.  The rivers were colder.  The valleys were wider, far wider.

One of the lodges where Nancy and I stayed will close on September 20, as would most of the businesses in the town, which will become so buttoned-up that the street lights would be turned off, not to be switched on for six months or so when the town would come back to life.

I had just been to two towns with a combined year-around population of thirty-two far off the beaten path—until a path was beaten to them.

This is Alaska and the last frontier really is here, sixty-five miles above the latitude that marks the beginning of the Arctic Circle.

Sixty-six degrees, thirty three minutes is the latitude that marks the Arctic Circle.

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About two million people visit Alaska each year, about three times as many people as live in a state that is larger than Texas, California and Montana combined.  At least that’s what they claim and I am beyond arguing with them.  Less than one percent of those who visit Alaska make it above the Arctic Circle.  So we went and we listened to a man there who has lived a life in that frontier that is so different from our own that this listener could not fully absorb it.

A sign on the Dalton Highway at the Coldfoot turnoff says, “Next Services, 240 miles (380 kilometers).  No more services to the Arctic Ocean Coast.”  The nearest Wal-Mart is in Fairbanks, 270 miles and about six hours’ worth of driving to the south on a partly-paved highway built for trucks taking supplies to Prudhoe Bay, where the pipeline begins.

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The truck stop at Coldfoot is the only place for fuel, food, and lodging along the entire highway.  500 miles.  You better have a big fuel tank and plan a very long day without a hot meal if you don’t plan to stop at Coldfoot, which was named by the few miners who stayed behind that first year when hundreds of others got cold feet and headed south.

Our driver on the way from the airport in Coldfoot to Wiseman told us there’s only one highway patrolman in the district, patrolling an area the size of the state of New York.  With only one road going through the area and little population in that region, there’s no criminal activity to speak of so he spends most of his time making sure hunters follow state and federal wildlife regulations. He keeps his airplane at the airport.

Life in Wiseman and in Coldfoot, Alaska is called subsistence living and it better be something a person is completely committed to doing. The odds are long against survival without that commitment.

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We met in an old miner’s cabin in Wiseman built in 1946 by a character named Harry Leonard, who had moved into the area in 1932 looking for gold. He died in 1989 at the age of 92.  Harry arrived before there were roads and he and a lot of other folks in Wiseman didn’t cotton to the idea of a highway, even if it was gravel, disrupting their wilderness.

And they sure didn’t want any pipeline.  Harry parked a tractor on what was then the pipeline road back in the summer of ’74 and blocked traffic for six hours, claiming the road was interfering with his mineral claims.  State troopers finally convinced him to leave only to see him barge into a pipeline construction camp the next day, waving a gun around and telling the crews to get out.  An AP story reported, “The matter was settled informally, typical of bush justice.”

It’s the great, big, broad land ‘way up yonder,

It’s the forests where silence has lease,

It’s the beauty that thrills me with wonder,

It’s the stillness that fills me with peace.

The growing season is nearing an end in this region for people like Jack Reakoff, the Wiseman resident who spent the better part of an hour talking to us in Harry’s cabin, remembering days before the pipeline, days before the Dalton Highway, days before any kind of a paved road and who explained how one of the main focuses of living in a place like Wiseman is staying alive.

DSC05307His narrative was nothing like television’s version of reality.  What was so interesting was that he talked about his life within the Arctic Circle the same way we would explain our lifestyles here.  Except we would talk about going to Wal-Mart or the mall for things or watching the grocery ads for bargains on groceries and he talked about spending 18-21 days chopping ten to fifteen tons of wood that keeps his home warm during the long winters, growing almost four-hundred pounds of potatoes in his 24×21-foot garden and the vegetables that will help feed his family (“I have about fifty, sixty pounds of carrots and other root vegetables, lots of leafy green things, lettuces and all that for salads.  There’s no…green, leafy lettuces here in the wintertime so I freeze kale and turnip tops and spinach, stuff like that. And I put that in my 22 cubic foot freezer from late April through late September. The rest of the year the freezer’s turned off. And the freezer stays outside night and day.”), and going out even when it’s fifty-below zero to shoot the protein he and his family will need—moose (he’s allowed one a year), caribou, fox, wolf, bear, wolverine, rabbit, and lynx among the possibilities.

Summer growing season is June and July at this latitude. He plants his crops in May and covers them with plastic to trap the UV heat that allows his vegetables to be showing above ground by June 1.  He store his vegetables in his cellar which is dug into the permafrost and stays at 34-45 degrees.  That’s a trap door in the middle of Harry’s cabin, for example, that led to his cellar.

This particular valley gets about nine inches of precipitation a year. Reaker calls it a frozen desert.  How can he grow so many vegetables, how can the foliage be so green, with so little precipitation?   It’s because the permafrost keeps the water from soaking far down into the soil. It’s why the trees in most areas are so small and thin even though they might be a century or two old—their roots are shallow because they can’t grow through the permafrost and don’t need to do so because the moisture remains near the surface.

And don’t believe some of the stories you hear or that you see on television. “You hear guys sitting in a bar drinking whiskey telling bear stories—The Alaskans have to tell these stupid bear stories which they’ve heard over and over. It’s like a rumor going around in a room. Pretty soon these bears have bulletproof pelts and bullets bounce off their skulls and it takes multiple…rounds to kill one of them.  Anybody who tells you that it takes multiple magazine round is either really poor shot or they’re drunk and they don’t know what they’re talking about. Those bullets do not bounce off of bears and they’re easy to kill,” he told us, later showing a grizzly bear skull with a bullet hole between the eyes.

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There’s nothing particularly colorful about Jack.  He’s living in his environment and doing what he has to do to survive there—just as we do in our environment.

That’s just part of the stories we heard about life above 66 degrees 33 minutes.  And there were many more from people below that line.

We think we have our magnificent areas here in the lower 48 in terms of mountains and valleys and scenic vistas.   We found Alaska above and below the Arctic Circle to be all of that and many times more.  Here are some things we did not know before we went:

America’s third largest river system is there—the Yukon, stretching 1,980 miles from British Columbia to the Bering Sea.   Seven of our nation’s ten largest national parks are there.  In fact, the largest one, Wrangell-St. Elias, covers 13,005 square miles.  And the second one, Gates of the Arctic (which isn’t far from Wiseman), covers 11,756.  Each of those national parks covers more area than the other three large national parks in the lower 48, COMBINED (Death Valley, Yellowstone, and the Everglades total just 11,094 square miles.

We visited a temperate rainforest in Ketchikan, where fire danger is always low, and forests in the inland national parks, where the fire danger was always high.  We marveled at the seeming frozen power of glaciers and heard their crackings and poppings and boomings as they ground their way forward.  We even flew out to one, the Mead, near Skagway, and hiked around on it for a while in special spiked overboots.

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Glaciers are filthy with the debris of the ground they grind over. If you are familiar with Jefferson City, try to imagine a sheet of ice two-thirds as high as the Gateway Arch stretching from the double diamond interchange on the Whitton Expressway (Highways 50, 54, and 63)  all the way north to the 54/63 interchange across the river, and covering everything east beyond Linn—and moving at five feet a day. Glaciers are forces of nature that can only be experienced by being among them.  Their power—and their vulnerability—leaves one grasping for superlatives.

More than forty percent of the people in Alaska live in one place—Anchorage.  Another four or five percent live in Fairbanks.   The rest are scattered, and we do mean scattered, throughout the vastness of the place.

It’s a long ways and at least three time zones from Missouri to Alaska.  Don’t go there if you want to see quaint and colorful people.  Don’t go if you expect to see the massive herds of  caribou that you see on television (Jack says Hollywood and even some of the depictions on the History and National Geographic Channels don’t reflect reality).

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Go and be quiet.  Go and listen.  Go and soak in a place where only one-percent of the land is allowed to be in private hands.  Go to see something gone in our part of the nation.  Go to respond to another Robert W. Service poem:

Have you seen God in His splendors,

            Heard the text that nature renders—

(You’ll never hear it in the family pew.)

The Simple things, the true things

            The silent men who do things?

Then listen to the Wild—it’s calling you.

 

They have cradled you in custom,

            They have primed you with their preaching,

They have soaked you in convention through and through;

            you’re a credit to their teaching.

But can’t you hear the Wild?—it’s calling you.

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Let us probe the silent places,

            Let us seek what luck betides us;

Let us journey to a lonely land I know.

There’s a whisper on the night-wind,

            There’s a star agleam to guide us,

And the Wild is calling, calling….let us go. 

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Notes from a Quiet Street—V

Just some observations when we’re not feeling real bloggity.

The words of Alfred Damon Runyon, 1920s New York newspaperman, seem appropriate to recall in this important political campaign year and form this entry’s scripture reading.

“Son,” the old man said, “as you go around and about in this world, some day you will come upon a man who will lay down in front of you a new deck of cards with the seal unbroken and offer to bet he can make the jack of spades jump out of the deck and squirt cider in your ear.   Son,” the old man continued, “do not bet him because as sure as you do, you are going to get an earful of cider.

—-

Our tour bus stopped at an intersection a few days ago and we spotted this interesting juxtaposition of signs, grabbed our camera, and caught the image just in time.

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The signs struck as kind of funny, particularly given the political climate here and the overt efforts by the Humphreys and the Sinquefields to buy elections.  We thought we might congratulate the Alaskans on their candor but then realized the signs were at a parking lot next to the legislative building and it was the parking that was soliciting money.  Yes, the capital city is Juneau but the legislative building is in Anchorage and there are times when the Governor doesn’t want to live in Juneau and the legislature doesn’t want to meet there.

But the signs did make us think.

Fun times are about to start in Cleveland

Donald Trump is holding a nominating convention in Cleveland in a few days.  The Republican National Committee arranged the dates and the venue and the delegate selection process.   It did not, however, arrange for Donald Trump and that’s why this could be the most entertaining national convention in years.

Conventions have degenerated into carefully orchestrated infomercials but this year the orchestration has turned severely dissonant.  We might actually watch this convention.

Governor Nixon has withheld $115 million dollars approved for spending by the legislature after getting a look at state tax collections and deciding they’re not trending in the right direction to support that spending.  Several legislative leaders have done some huffing and puffing about the action.  We’ll see in September if they want to take the responsibility that will go with overriding the vetoes. The problem with overriding the withholds is that the legislature will bear the sole responsibility if the economy continues to struggle and there really isn’t money available to pay the bills. But so what? By then, there will be a new governor and the legislature will have a lot of new faces so it will be THEIR problem.

Overriding the withholds might not mean much other than the legislature saying, “It’s okay to spend the money.”   The Governor can still tell his department directors to be guided by his withholds.  By January, 2017, his successor will have a better handle on the fiscal outlook to decide whether to give his department directors the same message.  Overriding governor’s spending restrictions then amounts to little.  Legislative grandstanding, maybe.

We’ve been kind of quiet for the last few days being increasingly unimpressed by the political commercials we’re seeing.  They either have no real substance to them or they’re pitchforks-and-broadswords and show no qualities that encourage many disaffected voters to have any increased confidence that we have or will have a rational government in Missouri.

The real reason we haven’t had much to say is because we’re trying to figure out what we can say about our two weeks (more or less) in Alaska. Most of those who have taken a look at the place find themselves lacking adequate superlatives to describe what they’ve experienced and witnessed.

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Denali, from forty miles away.  The highest mountain in the United States. Some people still call it Mt. McKinley.  As impressive as Denali is, remember this:  Everest is about fifty percent bigger.                                                          —-

We passed through Wassilla.  Saw the former Sarah Palin place.  The only things visible from her house are the railroad tracks, a shopping mall, and a whole lot of trees. We were told she lives in Arizona now.  We wonder if she can see New Mexico from there.