Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Diamond, Missouri to Independence, Missouri

Sun, April 8th - Sat, April 21st

We left Arkansas Sunday and stopped at George Washington Carver National Monument in Diamond, Missouri. It is the original homestead of Moses and Susan Carver. They purchased George's mother, Mary, when she was 13 years old. George was Mary's second son, born in 1864. His father was believed to be a slave on a neighboring farm. When he was just a few months old, he and his mother were kidnapped by outlaws from the Civil War guerilla warfare that was going on along the Missouri-Kansas border. Moses hired a Union scout to find them. His mother was never found, but George was returned and paid for with a $300.00 horse. The Carvers raised the boys and when George was about 11, he left home to get an education. The school in what was then Diamond Grove did not allow Blacks, so he ended up in a town in Kansas where he witnessed a violent lynching of a Black man. So he moved on and eventually went to college at Simpson in Indianola, Iowa for art. He put himself through college there and at Iowa State Agricultural College (now University) at Ames doing laundry, cooking and housework. After receiving his Masters in 1896 and teaching at Ames for a short time, he was asked by Booker T. Washington to head up the new Agriculture Department at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. He stayed there 47 years trying to find ways to help poor southern farmers improve their farming methods. He created all kinds of products and uses out of things like peanuts, soybeans, sweet potatoes and taught crop rotation to replenish soil nutrients. He testified before Congress in Washington to get legislation passed to help the farmers. Thomas Edison and Henry Ford consulted with him on industrialized uses of plants. He corresponded with Mahatma Ghandi and FDR. The statue is George as a child in the woods that he loved on the farm. The home was built in the 1880s after the log cabin burned down. George returned here to visit the Moses family and the farm that he loved. The frog was sitting at the edge of the pond behind the house. The cemetery is the Moses family and extended family and some neighbors. George is buried near Booker T. Washington on the Tuskegee campus. The little wagon was financed by a senator and George and his students used it to travel out to farmers to teach them better farming methods. He published 43 agricultural bulletins worldwide including nutrition and recipes, but he was afraid the poor farmers would not be able to read them. A quote of his that I especially liked, "How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in life you will have been all of these." He was the first African American to be honored by having his birthplace made a national monument. There were only two others so honored at that time in the 1940s, Presidents Washington and Lincoln.

Right next to our campground near downtown Independence, Missouri is the 63 acre plot that was dedicated in 1831 by Joseph Smith Jr., prophet and founder of the Church of Christ. This was to be the site of their Temple in the City of Zion, where they believed the Lord would come in the Last Days. He and his brother were assassinated by a mob while they were being held in a jail in Carthage, Illinois for their own protection. His son Joseph III some years later carried on his work establishing the Community of Christ. The World Headquarters is now located here. They were a break-off of the original Mormon Church. Their original Stone Church is across the street with a couple of their original little brick homes.

The spire is covered with satin-finished stainless steel. This is a view of the back side taken from across the street the other direction, where there is a Mormon Church and Visitor Center. They have a nice little free tour in their visitor Center, mostly aimed at inspiring you to join them. The free self-guided audio tour in the Community of Christ Temple is awesome.

You begin in the chapel with paintings of religious sacraments from around the world, like baptisms, weddings, ect. Then you go through the double-door, carved glass entry that leads you up the Worshiper's Path with bible-themed artwork along the way, like the Prodigal's Son and Tree of Life. As you progress upward, around the winding path the lights become brighter and you can hear the music from the sanctuary and there is a peaceful water fountain.

Then you enter the 1,600-seat Sanctuary with the 102-rank, 5,685-pipe organ and spiral staircases on either side leading up to the spiral ceiling. The total effect is very impressive. It was built in 1992.

Beyond the Sanctuary is this 50' x 50' stained glass window symbolizing the harvest of the world's staples--wheat and rice. You can see two balconies on the left side to give you some idea how big this window is. As you leave there is a brick inlaid map of the world in the concrete outside.

This is just one of the many paintings along the hallways, Moses parting the Red Sea. It just caught my eye. I thought it was very good, but I'm no art critic!

Just kitty corner from the Temple is The Auditorium with 5,800 seats and a 111-rank pipe organ. Built in the 1920s, it is also part of the Community of Christ complex. It was here in 1948 that Harry Truman signed the executive order to desegregate the armed forces. In 1945 he also announced our country's joining the United Nations here. The United Nations Peace Plaza (statue of the girl) commemorating the 50th anniversary of the signing is just across the street.

This is the original homestead of Harry Truman's grandparents with 600 acres (8 times the size of the average farm at the time) in Grandview. His family at one time was quite wealthy, but lost a lot of their land and wealth during and after the Civil War. His mother at 9 years old watched Union troops loot their farm and terrorize her family. Their home was attacked five times by Union troops and they were relocated by Order No. 11, even though his grandfather signed the Union loyalty oath. It left a lasting impression. She visited Harry only one time in the almost 8 years he was in the White House. His parents farmed it for a while when he was young. His father later lost a bundle on investments and Harry left his job in Independence to help out with the farming. Over the years the farm was sold off by the family and is now shopping centers and housing developments. In 1994 the Park Service acquired the last ten acres where the house stands.

He met Bess in Sunday School when he was six years old and she was five.
This was Bess's grandparent's home, aka the Gate's Mansion. Bess's father committed suicide over finances. Her mother moved them in with her grandparents here when she was 18. Harry was visiting his cousin across the street (when he was 26) and volunteered to return a cake pan. Bess opened the door and he stuck his foot in it. Thus started a nine year campaign to win her over and one of the greatest love letter writing campaigns in history. They have a collection of over 1300 letters Harry wrote to her over their lifetime and some of hers, but Harry either didn't save all of hers or didn't feel the need to share them with us. He was just a farm boy and she came from a wealthy society family and her mother was not impressed by him. He moved into this house with Bess and her mother when they were married. They lived here until they died, him at 88 and her at 97. He worked at a couple sales jobs and borrowed money to invest in mining and oil, but nothing panned out for him. He just ended up deeper in debt. He never thought he would amount to anything. He had a friend whose family was kind of a racketeering operation that heavily influenced the running of the city and county. They asked him to run for County Judge, which was equivalent to County Commissioner. That is how he got his start in politics. He did that for a number of years and they eventually backed him to run for the U.S. Senate. From there he just happened to be in the right place at the right time, when FDR needed a running mate, so he could get rid of Henry Wallace. He served 82 days as Vice President before FDR died and he took on the burden of WWII and the atom bomb, which he knew nothing about until after FDR's death. This is the Jackson County Courthouse where he worked for a number of years before becoming a U.S. Senator. His statue is on the east end and General Andrew Jackson on horseback is on the west end.

This is the Old Log Courthouse that was built in 1827 when Independence, the Queen City of the Trails, was the westernmost city in the country. People came up the Missouri on steamboats to start the 1,600 mile, 3 month journey out west on the Santa Fe Trail in the 1820s, the Oregon Trail starting in 1836 and the California Trail in the 1840s. Truman held court here for a short time in 1932 while the County Courthouse was being renovated. There was an attempted kidnapping of their daughter, Margaret, when she was in first grade that was thwarted by her teacher, probably based on Bess's grandfather Gate's wealth and social status.

This is the Harry S Truman Presidential Library and Museum. S is his full middle name after both of his Grandfathers. After his presidency he came back to Independence. Recognizing the importance of the history of the presidential papers and memorabilia, he started work on the first official presidential library and museum. It cost $1.7 million when it was built and was recently renovated at a cost of $26 million. There was no presidential pension program when he left office. It went into effect five years after he left the White House. He had a small military pension and a few investments, but not really much of an income at that time.

This is a view of the center courtyard from inside the museum. You can see the eternal flame in the center just outside the window. Across the courtyard in the center Harry and Bess are buried with their daughter, Margaret and her husband nearby. To the right side where the two columns are, is Harry's office where he walked to almost every day, about a mile from his home.

This is the china purchased in 1951 by the Trumans after the White House had been fully renovated, because it was so stucturally deteriorated at the time. The 1,572 pc. set of china cost $28,271.40. They lived in the Blair House across the street during the renovation (1948-1952) and Truman walked across the street to his offices in the West Wing.

At 2:00 PM on Nov.1, 1950 gunfire woke Truman from a nap. Two Puerto Rican Nationalists tried to shoot their way into Blair House to assassinate him. White House police and the Secret Service stopped them. One attacker died after fatally wounding a guard and injuring two others. The other was wounded and went to prison. These were the guns involved.

This note and purple heart medal were found in one of the desk drawers in President Truman's office after his death. It just breaks your heart and you know he must have received thousands of similar letters. He kept this one all those years and probably never told anyone about it. What a terrible responsibiltiy and burden our presidents carry.

This is the Truman Visitor Center in old downtown Independence on the corner, with the the Jackson County (1859) Marshall's House and Jail Museum to the right. The covered wagon out front does narrated tours around town. For a short time the jail was held by the Union during the Civil War and then taken back by the Confederacy. In 1881 a $5,000 reward was posted for Jesse or Frank James Dead or Alive for bank robbery and murder. When Jesse was shot by one of his own gang in 1882, Frank turned himself into the Governor. They sent him by train down here to the jail. When the train arrived, it was met by mobs of cheering fans, southern sympathizers. On his first day in jail he had over 500 guests. He received all kinds of gifts to decorate his cell and make him more comfortable. They weren't even sure if his cell was ever locked. He rode with Quantrill's Raiders during and after the war, protecting local farms from Union troops. Quantrill was also in jail here for a day for his own protection from a lynch mob. At trial he was aquitted and went on to perform in wild west shows with Cole Younger.

This is the Wagonner Estate, including a 26 room home, carriage house, stables, smoke house, etc. It is across the street from the Waggoner-Gates Flour Mill. His partner, Mr. Gates, was Bess Truman's grandfather. They shipped flour all over the country.

This is the front parlor. I went on the tour by myself. John doesn't get into old houses like I do. He likes the history and I like the architecture and antiques.

This is way at the back of the estate. You can still see the swales, or ruts, made by all the thousands of wagons that left from here to go west on the Santa Fe, Oregon and California Trails. I'm sure thankful to all the pioneers who suffered all those hardships, so we can live the much easier lives we do now.

I also toured the Vaile Mansion which was built by a man who had the U.S mail contract with a partner. It was discovered that they were padding the mail with rocks, so it would weigh more and they would get paid more. When his partner went to trial, he was convicted and went to prison. So he came home and put everything in his wife's name before he went back to Washington for his trial. His wife was sickly and sure he would never come home again, so she committed suicide. So when he got off and came back home, his wife was dead.

One interesting thing they had in this house was a hair wreath. It used to be a custom (1850-1900) when someone in the family died, to make a flower from some of their hair and add it to the wreath. The most recent one would be kept in the center and the top would be left open to symbolize the ascent heavenward and allow the soul to escape to heaven. There is actually a whole museum about this art form here in Independence called Leila's Hair Museum.

Thursday we headed north to John's home town of Greenfield, Iowa to visit friends and family for a week or so. We have enjoyed our visit here very much, as usual. Nice to see everyone again. Thank you Gerry and B.L. for everything, especially the fantastic meals! Tomorrow (Saturday, 21st) we head to Sioux Falls to spend a week with our number one daughter, with a short stop on the way to visit John's Aunt and cousins in Emmetsburg, Iowa. We will be in Brookings Monday, April 30th thru Thursday, May 3rd.

At my Mom's in North Dakota by May 5th for a few days, then on to see the grandkids in Helena, and their Mom and Dad, too, of course. From there we are heading to Alaska about June 1st for the summer. I probably won't do any more blogs till mid-June when we are up in Alaska. Break time for family and friends.

Hope to see you all along the way somewhere, if not this year, maybe next year. Remember what Willie Nelson says, "There are more old drunks than there are old doctors." So cheers to you all!


Sunday, April 8, 2012

Arkansas, Fayetteville & Bentonville

Tue, April 3rd - Sat, April 7th

We are camped at Beaver Lake, a reservoir on the White River system in northwest Arkansas with 487 miles of shoreline. We drove into Bentonville to check out Sam Walton's empire. He and his wife started out leasing a Ben Franklin store in Newport after he returned from WWII. After four years they had made their little store the top store in Arkansas, but their landlord would not renew their lease, because he wanted to give the store to his son. So they moved to Bentonville and opened this little five and dime that was only half this size when they started, but they soon bought out the barber shop next door and doubled it's size. It is now a museum that has also taken over the store to the left. Across the street is the town square with Sam's trademark pickup. They have the last pickup he owned in the museum. Asked why he drove an old pickup, he said "I just don't believe a big, showy lifestyle is appropriate. What am I supposed to haul my dogs around in, a Rolls Royce?" When his favorite hunting dog died, he put his name on the Walmart brand dog food to honor him and it is now the world's leading pet food. By 1960 he owned nine Ben Franklins. In 1969 he opened a Walmart in Newport, where he was forced out by the landlord in 1949.

For Walmart's 25th anniversary Coca Cola made a special run of memorial bottles and a Pink Jubilee Barbie Doll was produced.

In 2009 they paid $1 billion in bonuses for full and part-time hourly workers and an additional $780 million in profit sharing and 401 contributions. They were #1 on the Fortune 500 list for the 5th time since 2002. By 2010 they had 8,747 stores (3,796 Walmarts plus 608 Sam's Clubs in U.S. and 4,343 international stores) and employed 2.1 million associates with annual sales of $405 billion. In 2011 they acquired stores throughout Africa. In 1970 the stock went public with 300,000 shares at $16.50. In two years it had quadrupled. It split 2 for 1 seven times. If you had bought 100 shares for $1,650.00 in 1970, 40 years later in 2010 it would have been worth about $10 million.

In 2010 they were named Donor of the Year by F.A. magazine. They are one of the top corporate donors for Feeding America, the nation's leading hunger and relief charity that supplies food to more then 37 million Americans each year. They lend their logistics network and expertise to distribute aid quickly in disasters, working with the Red Cross and Salvation Army. After hurricanes Katrina and Rita they gave $18 million and 2,450 truckloads of supplies. They gave $14.5 million to help build the National WWII Memorial in D.C. They got the Corporate Patriotism Award from the American Veteran magazine for their support of military members and their families. By 2010 they had given $80 million in scholarships. They have committed $2 billion to end hunger in the U.S. "Fighting Hunger Together" by 2015. I know they give lots of donations locally, because they matched funds for our MS fundraisers when I was riding with the bike club in Brookings. They have a goal to eliminate 20 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions from the global supply chain by 2015. They are currently testing two hybrid trucks and two alternatively fueled trucks. In 2008 they committed to reduce global plastic shopping bag waste by an average of 33% per store by 2013. I made the pledge to quit using plastic shopping bags a couple years ago. Now if I could just remember to bring my shopping bags from the car into the store, I could start being part of the solution.

In Fayetteville we took a tour of Bill and Hillary's first home together, and the only one they ever owned besides the one they live in now in New York. Bill was teaching law at the University of Arkansas. Hilary commented what a cute house it was when she came down to visit. So the next time she came to visit, he told her that he had bought it and she would have to marry him, because he couldn't live in it alone. It was the 4th time he had proposed and it did the trick. They were married in the living room. She was just going to wear something from her closet, but when her mother arrived, she said "No way!" and they went down to Dillard's (their corporate offices are here) and bought her wedding dress off the rack.

They were married in this room, and the room behind was campaign headquarters. They only lived here a year and a half, until they moved to Little Rock when Bill became Attorney General. The guy who built the house in 1930 made big money in oil and bought the Fayetteville Daily Leader and moved here. The second guy to own it was the son of Swanson Foods founder, and he and his brother created TV dinners and pot pies. He also married Roberta Fulbright (sister to influential Senator J. William Fulbright, Clinton's mentor) while he lived here. After them the head of the U of A Animal & Science Department lived here. His research was well-known for changing livestock management and revolutionizing breeding methods. He sold the home in 1975 to what he referred to as "...a couple of hippie law students". Hippies maybe, but they were both law professors by that time with 8 and 9 years of college behind them. So the house has an interesting history, none of which they knew until the museum folks started researching it. In the backyard they have started a First Ladies Garden with the favorite flowers of a number of the First Ladies and a little tidbit of information about each of the ladies. Hillary is the first of the wives to ever be part of a president's cabinet, Secretary of State.

This is Elkhorn Tavern at the Pea Ridge Battlefield (east of Fayetteville). The Rebs were cold, hungry and weary from a difficult three day march and arrived hours behind schedule which compromised the plan of attack. The roar of the big guns could be heard for fifty miles.

This is a view of the battlefield where they met again the next morning. With 10,000 union troops lined up and cannons wheel to wheel across the fields, it must have been quite a sight. After a two hour artillery barrage the Confederate line was crippled and running low on ammunition and they were forced to withdraw.

They had defeated 16,000 Rebs and saved Missouri for the Union March 8, 1862. It was one of the crucial battles to the outcome of the Civil War. Confederate veterans put up a monument here just 25 years after the battle titled "A United Soldiery" honoring both "the untarnished Blue" and "the unsullied Gray" and held the first reunion to include vets from both sides.

World Peace Prayer Fountain Sculpture at the downtown square in Fayetteville. It says "May peace prevail on Earth" on it, in over 100 languages. The sculpture weighs 8,000 pounds and took over 8,000 hours to make. It spins with hand pressure by pushing to the right in the direction of the earth's spin.

This is Razorback Stadium and Frank Boyles Field on the University of Arkansas campus. On the campus they have Senior Walk which was started by the Class of 1906. It has every graduate's name engraved in the sidewalk, now over 120,000 names on nearly five miles of sidewalks throughout the campus. They were all etched by hand until 1986, when the maintainance people invented a machine to do it. In 2002 the university received a $300 million challenge gift from the Walton family, the largest endowment in history given to U.S. public higher education and the 5th largest ever to any American university, public or private. Their Campaign for the 21st Century 1998-2005 had a $500 million goal which they met and raised to $900 million, and reached and raised to $1 billion, and also exceeded that.

Back in Bentonville, we went to see the Crystal Bridges Art Museum, on the recommendation of some local folks. We had never heard of it and it is a world class museum, built with Walton family donations, of course.

It is built down in a wooded ravine on the north edge of town. You go down eight flights of stairs from the parking lot to get to the entrance. It is entirely free, including parking, guided tours and audio tour headsets.

There are three and a half miles of concrete trails surrounding the museum complex, with outdoor sculptures along the way. There are also lots of nature trails leading off into the woods from the main trails and the concrete trails connect to the city biking and hiking trails. With the Dogwood trees and lots of other flowers in bloom, the trails were really beautiful!

The museum is a series of connected pavilions over two creek-fed ponds. The dining room overlooks the pond in the center of the complex and the other pond on the outside of the complex, and the creek runs along part of the hiking trails.

This is one of the sculptures along the trail and a little girl about 3 or 4 years old, had stopped to milk the pig. Cute!

This sculpture is called "Tour de Tree". Can you see the bike? There was also a sculpture on the trail that looked somewhat like a small Stone Henge. It was to commemorate hardships endured by American Indians on the Trail of Tears, when they were forced to migrate from their lands to Oklahoma, over a 700 mile march for some of them. Many thousands died of disease, malnutrition and exposure. The Trail of Tears went thru Fayetteville, the Pea Ridge Battlefield and Little Rock, so we have seen lots of pictures and plaques about it. A very sad and regrettable event in our nation's history.

This is an overview of the museum. Everything in the museum seemed to be American related. Scenes of pioneers, American Indians, famous political figures and battles, or done by American artists. We spent a full day here, really a great art museum. John did catch a mistake they had made and let them know. Their was a portrait of Indians doing some kind of dance, that was labeled Ft. Pierre, North Dakota. Of course, for a lot of folks, Dakota is just some place way up north.

Sunday we head further north to Kansas City and Independence.