Battlefield Louisiana: 5th Night

Tonight was the fifth night of the series that I’m the facilator for, Battlefield Louisiana. We discussed Kate Stone’s Diary, Brokenburn. As usual, attendance was great and the discussion lively. The evening literally flew by. I’m so enjoying this pilot series, that I can hardly believe it’s over next Thursday. My supervisor, Jim Secreto, with the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, was also there and contributed a great deal to the discussion. I was impressed that he had read and absorbed the book we were reading.

I’ve made many new friends in this series, and I’ve learned much more than I intended to. Next week, we will review a book entitled, The Civil War in Louisiana. Tomorrow, I’m headed for Gonzales, Louisiana, with my fellow musician Tom McCandlish, for the SwampCelts Festival. It will be a busy weekend, but I’ll post something each night if the hotel we’re at has wireless.

Tombstone: The Movie

As I was doing busy work related to my writing business on my iBook tonight, I watched the movie, Tombstone again. All my life, I’ve loved good cowboy movies. Every time I visit my parents in Kemp, Oklahoma, I’m reminded of that, for they only watch three types of tv: wrestling, soap operas, and westerns. (The Western Channel is on constantly). There’s something about this movie that keeps drawing me back to it. Tonight, I noticed some particular lines. I found the movie’s script here:

Here are the lines that got my attention tonight. It’s the scene where Wyatt and Josephine “accidentally” run into each other:

Oh look, I haven’t got time to be
Proper, I want to live.  I’m a
woman, I like men.  If that’s
Unladylike then I guess I’m not a
Lady.  At least I’m honest.

Well you’re different, no arguing
That.  But you’re a lady all right.
I’ll take my oath on it.

He looks at her, enchanted, but suddenly his face clouds.

What’s wrong?

I don’t know, doesn’t make any
Sense.  I almost can’t look at
You.  Like it hurts.

I know, me too.  What should we do
About it?

And if you’ve seen the movie, you know the happy ending and what they did about it.

Forgotten Poet of the Civil War: Mollie Moore

Tomorrow night is the fifth meeting of our reading group at the Winnsboro Public Library for the program, Battlefield Louisiana: The Louisiana Experience During the Civil War.  The series is generously sponsored by Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities. Tonight, we discuss Brokenburn: The Journal of Kate Stone 1861-1868.  This is a Civil War classic, and truly valuable for understanding life at the homefront in Louisiana. The book is filled with information that will keep the most diligent researching or chasing down words, places, people, and details.

For example, the book mentions Miss Mollie Moore, who was known as “the Texas song bird.” She was a poet of some renown in those days, and she came to visit Tyler, Texas, about the same time that the Stone family were refugees there. I managed to find one of her poems. Here it is:

Of the Time for Mirth.

                “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven….A time to weep and a time to laugh.”—Bible. 

We know the time to mourn—we know when tears 
Swell ‘neath the eyelids—and when sighs have birth;
We know the time, amid life’s glooms and fears,
For grief—but oh!  when is the time for mirth? 

We marked the shrinking cheek, the paling brow,  
As they we loved passed to the “viewless bourne.”
We saw the shadows press—the tide ebb low—    
We need no task—we know the time to mourn! 

We see our idols crumble on their shrines, 
We feel our fancies wither like the morn,
We see each star grow clouded where it shines,   
Alas!   We know too well the time to mourn! 

We know the time to mourn—we feel the knell         
That sends its clanging echoes o’er the earth
He bid us weep—we know the time—But tell,      
Oh life—canst tell our hearts the time for mirth. 

Is it when household bands group round the door       
At eventide, to watch the sun go down?
When twilight shadows dusk the shining floor, 
And day, with all its weary cares, is gone? 

Say is it then? alas!  what band is whole?              
What hearthstone hath not felt its secret pain?
What household group can hear the curfew toll,     
And think not sadly on its “broken chain?” 

When is the time for mirth?  is it when gay              
And joyous music fills the banquet hall,
And glancing forms, like airy meteors, stray      
And hope and youth and beauty crown them all? 

Not there!  for not a heart that gathers there,       
But hath a steel-beaked vulture at its core,
That feeds while yet the fair cheek seems so fair,       
While yet the young feet kiss the festal floor? 

When is the time for mirth?  is it when bells            
Awake the breathing millions of the earth
With “Victory,” and loud the pean swells    
Its pride?  Oh life!  is that a time for mirth? 

Ah no!  far, far, upon the rough field lying,            
How many sleep the last, the dreamless sleep!
And you proud banner in the free winds flying         
How red it gleams!  so crimson!  let it sweep— 

And let it sweep—and let the bells peal on, 
And let the glad cry rouse the echoing earth!
But dirges, for the brave, the lost, the gone,              
Will come—and ah!  when is the time for mirth? 

Is it when sunshine lies along the grass,   
And roses in the sunshine gaily bloom?
When fragrant jasmines climb the rail?  alas!       
The shades, the groping shadows—how they come! 

We know the time for grief—we know when tears 
Will swell the eyelids, and when sights have birth,
Too oft it comes, griefs, hour, too oft it nears            
Our hearts, but oh!  when is the time for mirth?                                                                      
                Mollie E. Moore.
Tyler, Smith county, Texas, Dec. 7, 1863. 

I found this poem at:


Ballad of Glencoe

Tom and I just learned a new Scottish song for our Scots-Irish band, Angus Dubhghall. Tom likes to think of us as more Scot, and since I’m Welsh, I favor learning more Irish songs. Please don’t try to follow my illogic on that, as you’ll likely go mad. The song we learned was “The Ballad of Glencoe.”  The song is composed by Jim McLean in 1963 and tells of the notorious massacre of the MacDonald clan in February 1692.  To give you a feel for the song, I’ve included the chorus here:

O cruel is the snow that sweeps Glencoe

And covers the grave of Donald

And cruel was the foe that raped Glencoe

And murdered the house o’Macdonald.

This is a great ballad, and several bands, including Smithfield Fair, have put it to music.  It is a great ballad to use to teach high school students. You can find the lyrics and background information about the ballad here:

Alexander: The Movie

Tonight, I’m wrapping up the evening by again watching Alexander (2004). I’ve always admired Alexander, and I think the movie does the Macedonian king credit, if you can get past some of the movie’s flaws. While Oliver Stone’s movie has had its share of critics, I still found the movie and its script inspirational, and I especially noticed some of the lines that are excellent food for thought:

Alexander says, “In the end, all that matters is what you’ve done.”

Alexander also says about his mother, “I am the cracked mirror of her dreams.”

Quoting Alexander, Ptolemy says, “Alexander used to say that we are most alone when we are with the myths.”

These are only a few of the great lines in the movie’s script. You can find many more quotations from the movie here:

GEE (Graduation Exit Examination) Day 1

Our school is in lockdown, due to the state tests being given. Today was the first of four grueling test days for me. I can physically tolerate having to stand the whole time (four hours) but mentally it’s tougher because I can’t read or write while I’m pacing the room making sure the test is secure. At last the first two sessions ended, and I returned the materials. Now, I’m settling back to read Brokenburn: The Journal of Kate Stone 1861-68 to prepare for this Thursday’s session at the Winnsboro library.  The series is called, Battlefield Louisiana. I had read a borrowed copy some years ago, but I’m enjoying this read better. For one thing, it’s my own book and I can mark in it. Second of all, I know MUCH more about the Civil War and Louisiana than I did then.

If you want to know about Antebellum plantation life in north Louisiana, then this is the book you should read. This edition is printed by LSU press, and is rich in footnotes, well-indexed, and has two fine summary/introductions, as well as Stone’s own preface. I’ll leave this post with a quotation from the book that illuminates the frustration women felt with the role and status in society. Kate Stone said,  “I hate weary days of inaction. Yet what can women do but wait and suffer?” 

St. Patrick’s Day 2007

I had a busy, very busy St. Patrick’s Day.  I used the morning for Internet marketing work for my books.  I’ve already received three personal and interested responses to my queries that may lead to some brisk sales. That quick response took me by surprise because I wrote these contacts on a Saturday, and I expected to not hear from any until Monday, when the proper work week began.

At 1:30 p.m. I met my fellow band members at the main branch of the Monroe Public Library. We are Angus Dubhghall, a Scots-Irish band. We played some jigs, marches, and reels for the library’s dance troupe that children’s librarian and Irish dancer, Jennifer Schneider, has formed.  The kids she instructs were excited, the parents in attendance proud, and the visitors impressed. As this was our first dance to play for, I was happy that I can now officially call us a dance band.

After the performance at the library, Tom McCandlish and I went to Enoch’s where we sold raffle tickets for Enoch’s annual fund raising for St. Vincent de Paul’s Pharmacy—a very worthy cause. After 2-3 hours, we were relieved by the sisters who work with St. Vincent’s. We spent the rest of the evening talking to friends and meeting new ones. The weather was perfect, the night was festive, and I’m sure St. Patrick feels honored by our devotion to the holiday.

The images of the fast-paced St. Patrick’s Day are still swirling through my mind, but I’m sure they’ll soon settle and I’ll be able to draw writing ideas from them. Arriving home at midnight, I closed the day by writing a poem. State tests begin next week. May St. Patrick help me get through them without losing my mind.

Battlefield Louisiana: The Fourth Night

Last night was the fourth night in the series Battlefield Louisiana: The Louisiana Experience During the Civil War, which I’m facilatating at the Winnsboro Public Library. We were reviewing and discussing Gary Joiner’s Book, One Damn Blunder from Beginning to End: The Red River Campaign of 1864.  

Our alloted time went by quickly. Once again, the room was full, the comments relevant and interesting. We had another show and tell with participants brining all kinds of Civil War period relics and reproductions for a show and tell.  We were able to relate all of these to our reading. We had a grand time. In fact, the members of this reading group were so excited I had trouble getting them out and something happened that almost never happens when I speak somewhere—I kept them past the scheduled quitting time.  The most enjoyable part of this series for me personally is meeting the participants and listening to their stories. One man’s family has been in this part of Louisiana, and on the same land, since around 1840. I can’t wait to write about them. Here too are some stories that need to be told.

Writing Children’s Books

My first children’s book, Jim Limber Davis: A Black Orphan in the Confederate White House, will be in print the first of May. If you live in Monroe, Louisiana, you’ll be able to purchase it at Windows: A Bookshop. I have a signing scheduled there, Saturday,  May19, 2007 from 2-4 in the afternoon.  On thinking about all of the work that lies ahead of me in the promotion of this book, I came upon a great little site giving aspiring authors 10 tips on writing children’s books. You can read the author’s suggestions here:

The book will be published by Pelican Publshing in Gretna, Louisiana. I was fortunate to partner with a fantastic illustrator, Judith Hierstein. Here’s a little note about her from the book’s page:

Judith Hierstein believes that “pictures should begin where the written word ends.” She encourages children to share in her love of learning about other cultures through illustrated books. Ms. Hierstein holds a B.A. in art from the University of Iowa. A former elementary-school teacher, she now teaches high-school graphic and media arts. She sees digital art as “another exciting media to explore when illustrating for children.” Aside from teaching and learning,Hierstein has also illustrated a number of children’s books for Pelican Publishing. Ms. Hierstein resides in Tucson, Arizona.

The Kiss: Work of Auguste Rodin

I love art—art of all kinds. Stumbling again upon Auguste Rodin’s famous statue, The Kiss (1881-82), led me to do some research on the artist himself. I found out that the model for this famous statue was Camille Claudel, his student, collaborator, and mistress. I learned that he associated closely with many influential artists of his day such as writer Jean Cocteau, painter Henri Matisse, and dancer Isadora Duncan.

Here is a great site about Rodin:

I intend to study more of Rodin, perhaps by this summer reading his full biography. Just this cursory glance today at his life today revealed how much I have to learn about so many people.