Jean Baptiste Charbonneau – Our Decisions Affect Our Children…

Today in History, December 23, 1829:

Prince Paul Wilhelm of Wurttemberg leaves St. Louis and heads up the Missouri River. This was actually the second exploration of the American wilderness by the scientifically inclined German prince.

But a side note is what I find fascinating… Several years earlier, in 1822, the Prince had undertaken his first expedition into the west. To do so he needed the permission of the Superintendent of Indian Affairs in St. Louis, William Clark of “Lewis and Clark” fame, who had originally explored the West.

Clark had a foster son, the son of an Indian girl who had greatly assisted the Lewis and Clark Expedition: Sacagawea. Her son, Clark’s foster son, was Jean Baptiste Charbonneau.

Clark was so impressed with the Prince that when the Prince completed his first expedition in 1822, he allowed Jean (age 16) to accompany the Prince to Europe.

The young Jean was the Prince’s constant companion as they toured Europe and North Africa. Jean learned French, German and Spanish and became quite cosmopolitan. The trip back to the wild of America in 1829 was taken in order to bring Jean back to his home with Clark.

An interesting story, and what I take from it is the impact of decisions we make on our fate and the fate of those around us. Sacagawea could have led out her life quietly; but she made a decision that led her son on an odyssey she likely could never have imagined.

Raison D’être – Sam Finishes His Book

Today in History, July 16, 1885: Sam finishes his book.

Sam had led a bit of a rough life. He saw great success, no doubt, but he was also an alcoholic. His father struggled with the demon for a time, and his grandfather had succumbed to it. In those days they didn’t realize it was often a family trait or a disease…it was simply a weakness. Sam had fought the demon his entire adult life. He was brilliant at is chosen profession. He quit it for a time because of his drinking and tried other jobs…farmer, realtor, shopkeeper…none worked out. As brilliant as he was, he had another weakness; he had a big heart and was much to quick to trust people with his money. So Sam spent most of his life broke.

Even with this, events in his life led him in a round about way to the pinnacle of success. He succeeded where others failed miserably due to his tenacity, his organizational skills and his ability to see the big picture. Yet through it all, no matter how much he achieved, his detractors never forgot, and certainly never let him forget, his demons.

Sam had made his fortune at last…but then, in his older years when there was little to no chance of building success anew, his other failure reared its ugly head again. The people he trusted with his money were scoundrels, and he found himself…and more importantly to him, his family, destitute once again.

Living on borrowed money, things got worse. One day while eating a peach his wife had given him, he felt as if he had been stung by something within it. He had no time for doctors and stubbornly toiled for months until the pain was unbearable to relent to his wife’s demands to see his physician. By then, it was too late. The mouth and throat cancer was advanced, and all that could be done was to provide him with pain killers until the end would come.

Sam’s father had been an inveterate braggart, a schemer and an incessant talker. It embarrassed Sam so that he became the exact opposite. Quiet and humble to a fault, it took everything he had to do what he had refused for years…to blow his own horn and tell his own story. But now it was the only way he could leave his wife and children with a means of support. So he threw himself into the task.

For over a year he wrote. He wore a muffler to cover the baseball sized tumor at his throat. Typical of his demeanor, he never complained of the excruciating pain that wracked him day and night…his family only saw him grimace from the pain when he was asleep and unable to hide it.

Sam worked with a purpose…he amazed his publisher by finishing 10,000 words in a day, written out. Mark couldn’t believe it…Mark was one of the most prolific story-telling authors of his time, and could never match Sam, who disliked the task of telling his own story. But now he had to…for his family…for his legacy because his old detractors were only too happy to repeat their own refrain, “See, we told you so.”

Fighting past the pain and past the fog of his medications, he toiled even when he could no longer write, and tortured himself to dictate his story to others.

Finally on July 16, 1885, Sam completed his autobiography. Mark had promised to publish it for a handsome price which would see to it that Sam’s family did not want for anything. It was suspected that Mark had ghostwritten the work…which he adamantly and angrily denied. His friend Sam had written the work…brilliant and surprising as usual.

Having won his last battle, he could let go now. Seven days later on July 23, 1885, Hiram Ulysses Grant, “U.S. Grant” due to an Army administrator’s error in his youth, Sam to his friends, a drunk to his detractors, an amazing horseman and hero of the Mexican-American War, General of the Army and President of the United States, passed from this earth.

Mark Twain saw that “The Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant” was published and the family was treated fairly and well. Sam had found someone trustworthy this time. I’ve read General Grant’s memoirs, and they would be impressive if written by someone in perfect health. They are nothing less that heroic considering the suffering he endured during his final work.

Aloha from Hawaii

Today in History, January 14, 1973:

Elvis Presley performs at a concert in Honolulu, Hawaii which was carried live via satellite in 40 countries in Asia and Europe.  The concert would reach 1 to 1.5 Billion viewers.  It would not be aired in the US until April 4 because it conflicted with that years’ Super Bowl.

My mom and countless others were big fans. In 1977 when the news of his unexpected death at age 42 came across the radio, she had to pull the car over because she was crying.

The Star of the West

Today in History, January 9, 1861:

The Star of West is fired upon.

After the election of Abraham Lincoln, a known Republican abolitionist, South Carolina had seceded from the Union in December, 1860. The other Southern states had not yet seceded, the Confederacy not yet formed.

The commander of Ft. Sumter in Charleston (SC) Harbor asked for supplies and more men.

President Buchanan’s administration (Lincoln was not yet in office) dispatched the civilian ship Star of the West to resupply the island fortress.

As the ship entered Charleston Harbor cadets at the Citadel fired upon her and she turned about to escape, continuing to take fire. She suffered only light damage.

Despite this attack, when Lincoln assumed the office of President, other states having seceded, he stated that the North would not fire the first shot…that war would only occur if the states that had seceded fired the first shot.

At the same time he refused to give up Federal forts in the south.

In April Confederate General PGT Beauregard would order an attack on Ft. Sumter, beginning the Civil War. Some historians consider the attack upon the Star of the West to be the beginning of the Civil War, but the attack on Ft. Sumter is generally considered to be the initiation of hostilities.

Bud Wilkinson’s Winning Streak…Owed to 3 Feet and a Few Seconds

TODAY IN HISTORY, JANUARY 2, 1956:

The University of Oklahoma Sooners win at the Orange Bowl.

30 games into a historic 47 game winning streak, legendary OU football coach Bud Wilkinson led his team to victory at the Orange Bowl. Wilkinson set the standard for the program.

All of that very nearly never happened.

Wilkinson had been part of several football victories in Minnesota during the thirties.

When Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, Bud did what many American heroes did, he put his life on hold and joined up. In his case, it was the U.S. Navy.

So it was that Bud became a member of yet another legendary team. The crew of the USS Enterprise had earned 20 Battle Stars during the war.

On May 14, 1945, Lieutenant Charles “Bud” Wilkinson was the Hangar Deck Officer. The Big E was maneuvering violently to avoid an onslaught of Kamikaze planes off the coast of Japan. Finally one of the suicide planes got through, and crashed into the flight deck just aft of the forward aircraft elevator. The explosion sent a large part of the 15 ton elevator 400 feet into the sky. Fourteen men were killed, 60 wounded.

The hangar deck was devastated, 25 aircraft aboard were destroyed.

Lt. Wilkinson happened to be standing on the opposite side of a girder from the blast…by Bud’s reckoning, had he been three feet closer to the explosion, he would have been killed. (Barrett Tillman, “Enterprise”, 2012)

How many Bud Wilkinsons did we lose? And how many owe their success in life to a matter of seconds which saved the coach’s life that day?

Bud Wilkinson would begin his OU odyssey two years later, leading the program from 1947 to 1963.

Texas!

Today in History, December 29, 1845:

The United States annexes the Republic of Texas, the only US state to have been an independent nation.

The Republic had gained quite a bit of debt in it’s short life, and part of the bargain was for the Republic to relinquish parts of modern day Oklahoma, New Mexico, Colorado and Wyoming to the US in exchange for ten million dollars in bonds.

As a sovereign nation, the new state of Texas gained rights most other territories and states did not, which is why Texas has profited from her oil rights on land and off her shores.

Life’s Amazing Turns…Jean Baptiste Charbonneau

Today in History, December 23, 1829:

Prince Paul Wilhelm of Wurttemberg leaves St. Louis and heads up the Missouri River. This was actually the second exploration of the American wilderness by the scientifically inclined German prince. But a side note is what I find fascinating.

Several years earlier, in 1822, the Prince had undertaken his first expedition into the west. To do so he needed the permission of the Superintendent of Indian Affairs in St. Louis, William Clark of “Lewis and Clark” fame.

Clark had a foster son, the son of an Indian woman who had greatly assisted the Lewis and Clark Expedition: Sacagawea. Her son, Clark’s foster son, was Jean Baptiste Charbonneau.

Clark was so impressed with the Prince that when the Prince completed his first expedition in 1822, he arranged for Jean (age 16) to accompany the Prince to Europe.

The young Jean was the Prince’s constant companion as they toured Europe and North Africa. Jean learned French, German and Spanish and became quite cosmopolitan.

The trip back to the wilds of America in 1829 was taken in order to bring Jean back to his home with Clark.

An interesting story, and what I take from it is the impact of decisions we make on our fate and the fate of those around us. Sacagawea could have led out her life quietly; but she made a decision that led her son on an odyssey she likely could never have imagined.

The Blackbird Takes Flight

Today in History, December 22, 1964:

The SR-71 “Blackbird” reconnaissance aircraft has it’s first test flight from Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, California.

The remarkable first “stealth” aircraft’s defense against missiles fired at it…was to simply outrun the assault from it’s ceiling of 70,000 feet at Mach 3…2,200 miles per hour. The skin of the aircraft was designed to expand with the heat of the speed.

The American Crisis: “These are the Times that Try Men’s Souls…”

Today in History, December 19, 1776:

“These are the times that try men’s souls; the summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.

Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.”

—Thomas Paine in “The American Crisis”, published on this date in 1776.

The fledgeling war for independence had been going badly, and Gen. Washington had already lost 11,000 of his troops to the comfort of their homes, with many more soon to follow when their enlistments were up. He knew the war could easily be lost to poor morale.

Thomas Paine had the same prescience. His “Common Sense” had helped launch the revolution. Now he took to his pen again to bolster the morale and steadfastness of the American people. The result was that most of Gen. Washington’s troops stayed with him and soon won victories that would further inspire them to fight on.

Mesa Verde & The Antiquities Act

Today in History, December 18, 1888:

Rancher Richard Wetherill and his brother-in-law Charles Mason, with the help of Ute guide Acowitz “discover” some of the Cliff Dwellings in the canyons of the Mesa Verde area of Southwest Colorado.  The Wetherills were certainly not the first to discover the hundreds of amazing ancient homes built into the protection of the cliffs centuries earlier.  However they did persist in a campaign to institute Federal protection of the sites.  The Wetherills were fearful that tourists and vandals would loot and destroy the sites.

Archaeologists tell us ancient Native Americans made the Cliff Dwellings their home for over seven hundred years before moving away within a two generations in the thirteenth century.  As a reference, elsewhere in the world the Mongols were conquering Asia and the seventh Crusades were occurring.

The Wetherill family spent years exploring the canyon dwellings, collecting hundreds of artifacts which now reside in museums.  Unfortunately much of the vandalism did occur and Swedish scientist  Baron Gustaf E. A. Nordenskiöld mapped and collected many artifacts, taking them back to Sweden before the American government acted to protect the site.

After years of pressure from the Wetherill family and many others, and four unsuccessful attempts, Congress finally passed a bill creating the Mesa Verde National Park, which President Theodore Roosevelt signed into law.

In the same month in 1906, Congress passed and President Roosevelt signed into law “An Act for the Preservation of American Antiquities”, or “The Antiquities Act”, inspired to protect sites such as Mesa Verde and others for generations to come. TR made great use of the Antiquities Act to set aside Historic sites for preservation.

According to the National Parks Conservation Association, the have been 157 National Monuments designated by 16 Presidents since President Theodore Roosevelt enthusiastically named 18 sites during his terms as Chief Executive.

Boston Tea Party – Taxation without Representation

Today in History, December 16, 1773:

The Boston Tea Party. After the French and Indian War the British government was struggling financially. To bolster their funds they chose to tax the colonies. The American colonials however, refused to pay taxes when they had no representation in Parliament. The Crown came up with a plan.

They lifted the taxes on other goods, but left the tax on tea in place. At the same time they gave the struggling East India Company a monopoly on sales of tea to the colonies, and gave the Company tax breaks so that they could sell the tea to the colonies at the cheapest price…even after the colonies paid their tax on the tea. The Colonists however refused to buy the tea, realizing the real issue was being taxed without representation and not wanting to set a precedent. Ships loaded with tea were turned away from New York and Philadelphia, and the cargo of tea was even impounded in Charleston. Then on this date in 1773 colonists led by Samuel Adams, dressed as Mohawk Indians, made a midnight raid on three tea ships in Boston Harbor, throwing the cargo overboard. The British responded by limiting Colonists rights even further; the stage was set for revolution.

Kristallnacht…The Night Of Broken Glass

Today in History, November 9, 1938:

Kristallnacht…the Night of Broken Glass.

In order to direct Germany in the direction they wanted, the Nazis believed that they had to give the people someone to blame, someone to hate, for their misfortunes. The Jewish people of Germany and Austria were the perfect targets.

The Nazis used the murder of a low level diplomat in Paris as an excuse.

Hitler ordered storm troopers to ACT as if they were citizens angered by the murder and to vandalize and destroy Jewish businesses, thus “The Night of Broken Glass” from the broken windows.

Many Jews were killed and 30,000 men were arrested and sent to concentration camps. They were released if they promised to leave Germany….100,000+ did so. Kristallnacht would eventually lead to the Holocaust, during which 6,000,000+ Jews were killed in the Nazis attempt at genocide.

Familiar?