With no Saints to honor this day, we turn to this date in 1846, when a wagon party bound for California left Springfield, Illinois. The travelers were George Donner, his brother Jacob, and James Frazier Reed with their families. and other families and settlers, making up what became known to history as the Donner Party.
Each man in the Donner Party had three covered wagons and had hired teamsters to drive the oxen that pulled them; Reed also had two servants, and other settlers and families that joined them also had oxen, teamsters, and wagons. The trip was timed to begin when the spring rains had subsided and grass for the draft animals would be available, and to end before snow made the passage through the Sierra Nevada mountains impassable. The journey west usually took between four and six months via the Oregon Trail, but the Donner Party opted to take a new southern route called Hastings Cutoff, which crossed Utah’s Wasatch Mountains and the Great Salt Lake Desert, and was promoted as a short cut saving time. (Unknown to the Donner Party, the route aggressively promoted by Lansford W. Hastings was actually longer than the standard route on the Oregon Trail, and did not take into account that Hastings had traveled on horseback. To make the route passable by heavy wagons and oxen took weeks of backbreaking work by the men of the Donner Party that ate up all the time they had hoped to save by taking the new route.) The rugged terrain, and difficulties later encountered while traveling along the Humboldt River in present-day Nevada, resulted in the loss of many cattle and wagons, and divisions mounted within the group (including one murder). By the beginning of November 1846 some 87 emigrants had reached the Sierra Nevada, where they became trapped by an early, heavy snowfall near Truckee (now Donner) Lake, high in the mountains. With all of their supplies (including food) already perilously low, the settlers were forced to set up camp for the duration. All of the oxen froze, and were eaten; the horses were eaten, and diets soon consisted of oxhide, strips of which were boiled to make a “disagreeable” glue-like jelly. Social order broke down, with families in debt to other families being forced to give up anything even marginally edible. Ox and horse bones were boiled repeatedly to make soup, and became so brittle they would crumble upon chewing. On December 16th a group of some seventeen emigrants decided to snowshoe across the pass to reach help with six days rations; it took them over thirty days to reach civilization, with several deaths and two murders. Rescuers from California attempted to reach the emigrants, but the first successful relief party did not arrive until the middle of February 1847, almost four months after the wagon train became trapped (the relief parties also became trapped by storms, prolonging the ordeal), and the last of the Donner Party still living did not arrive at Sutter’s Fort until April 29th. Of the 87 members of the party, 48 survived to reach California. Some of the emigrants resorted to cannibalism to survive, eating those who had succumbed to starvation and sickness (or eating murdered people). Save for scattered reports of sailors lost at sea, the very idea of cannibalism was unknown in America, and the popular press sensationalized what were in fact hard decisions faced by desperate people. Historians have described the episode as one of the most spectacular tragedies in Californian history and in the record of western migration. (All in all, not much of a Party.)
First off, I neglected to mention in my Saturday Daily Update that when Richard got gas for the truck he also got the yearly Vehicle Inspection Sticker for the truck. (I neglected to mention this because he did not tell me about it.)
Last night our New Orleans Pelicans beat the Minnesota Timberwolves by the score of 100 to 88. (More anon.)
I did my Bathroom Devotional Reading, put some ear drops in my ear to see how they would do (they expired in 2010), found that Richard has been approved to take Saturday, April 25th off from work (he is going to Jazz Fest to see The Who), and drove myself separately to work in the car, while Richard drove the truck. Once at the casino I did my Bathroom Devotional Reading, ate breakfast in ADR, and signed the Early Out list, with 43.50 hours (if I had had all my hours, I would have had 48.25 hours, but I got out early last Tuesday when I was worried about Richard calling in). Richard was on Three Card Poker. I was on the second Pai Gow table, then went to deal the Shoe Blackjack game in our High Stakes area, and that is where I stayed all day; I did not get out early, as everyone else on the list had more hours than I did. (At about 7:00 am I went to break on the other side, passing by the Three Card Poker table; Richard was very surprised that I was not long gone. I told him that I would not have just left without letting him know.) My ear was not bothering me as much today; I don’t know if it’s because it’s getting better, or if it’s because I’m getting more used to it being clogged up.
When we clocked out at 11:00 am, I went straight home through the thunderstorm, and on his way home in the truck Richard stopped at the grocery store. Once I got home I read the morning paper, doctored my ear with hydrogen peroxide, then took a nap, during which Richard joined me. I woke up in time to watch Jeopardy! at 4:30 pm; I then left the house at 5:00 pm. In Rayne I got dinner via the McDonald’s drive through, and in Lafayette I stopped in at the Wal-Mart on Ambassador Caffrey; they did not have any good stuff for ear infections (only for swimmer’s ear), and no wedges of baby swiss cheese. At the Lafayette Public Library – Southside Branch we held our Sci-Fi Fantasy Book Club discussion of The Incrementalists by Steven Brust and Skyler White, and pretty well savaged the book. (As seems usual with our books for this book club, it had interesting concepts that really had not been thought out well, did not go into any detail on other concepts, and had a tendency to devolve into sex.) After our meeting I returned The Incrementalists by Steven Brust and Skyler White to the library. The copy I placed on hold of The Plum Tree by Ellen Marie Wiseman had not come in for me; since I cannot get the book at my local library, or on Overdrive, I will buy it on my Nook, as I need to start reading it on Friday for my Third Tuesday Book Club meeting next Tuesday night. On my way home I stopped at Albertsons on Ambassador Caffrey; they did not have any good stuff for ear infections (only for swimmer’s ear), and no wedges of baby swiss cheese. got home at 9:00 pm, and started working on today’s Daily Update while Richard went on to bed.
We do not have any Saints to honor tomorrow, but tomorrow is the date that is the final postmark date for mailing in one’s Federal Income Tax returns to the Federal Government, and it is also the birthday of Richard’s niece Jenny, the elder daughter of his sister Susan in Iowa. I plan to do my laundry and the Weekly Computer Maintenance. Tomorrow at sunset begins Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day or Holocaust Day), Israel’s day of commemoration for the approximately six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust as a result of the actions carried out by Nazi Germany and its allies, and for the Jewish resistance in that period. Our #2 LSU Baseball team (we moved up one point in the weekly rankings) will play a single home game with Lamar. Our New Orleans Pelicans will play their last regular season game at home against the San Antonio Spurs; at stake is a spot in the NBA Playoffs. If New Orleans wins the game, or if they lose the game and the Oklahoma City Thunder loses their game tomorrow with the Minnesota Timberwolves, then New Orleans will be in the playoffs. Finally, tomorrow I will be participating in the Jeopardy! Adult Online Test, which will begin at 8:00 pm.
Our Parting Quote on this Tuesday evening comes to us from Jonathan Frid, Canadian actor. Born as John Frid in 1924 in Hamilton, Ontario, he served in the Royal Canadian Navy during World War II. He graduated from McMaster University in Hamilton in 1948, and the following year was accepted at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London. He moved to the United States in 1954 and entered Yale University. In 1956 he starred in the premiere of William Snyder’s play A True And Special Friend, and he received a Master of Fine Arts degree in Directing from the Yale School of Drama in 1957. He went on to star in the first productions at the Williamstown Theater in Williamstown, Massachusetts and stage productions in Canada, England and the United States. He began using the stage name Jonathan Frid in 1962, and made his Broadway debut as an understudy in the 1964 play Roar Like a Dove. Early television roles on the Canadian Broadcasting Company included parts in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Our Town, and The Picture of Dorian Gray. In 1968 he joined the cast of the television gothic soap opera Dark Shadows (which had premiered the previous year) in 1967, with the role of the circa 1750 vampire Barnabas Collins. He accepted the role because he was planning to move to the West Coast to pursue a career as an acting teacher, and he anticipated the role as being a short-term job that would earn him extra money for the move. As his character’s popularity soared, he scrapped his plans to move. During his time on the show he played the same role in the movie House of Dark Shadows (1971) After the show’s run he appeared in the 1973 TV movie The Devil’s Daughter starring Shelley Winters, and the following year starred in Oliver Stone’s directorial debut, Seizure (aka Queen of Evil). He took time off from acting and returned to Canada, reviving his stage career in 1978, and doing one-man shows while attending occasional Dark Shadows fan conventions. He succeeded Abe Vigoda in the role of Jonathan Brewster in the 1986-1987 Broadway revival of Arsenic and Old Lace. He retired and returned to Canada in 1994, continuing to perform one-man shows for charities in both Canada and the United States. In 2000 he starred in the play Mass Appeal which enjoyed a successful, limited run in Hamilton and at the Stirling Festival Theatre in Stirling, Ontario. In 2010 he returned to the role of Barnabas for the first time in 39 years in a Dark Shadows audio drama, The Night Whispers. Along with former Dark Shadows castmates Lara Parker, David Selby and Kathryn Leigh Scott, Frid spent three days at Pinewood Studios in June 2011 filming a cameo appearance for the 2012 Tim Burton Dark Shadows film, which became his final film appearance (died 2012): “It was the particular qualities of playing the character Barnabas Collins that I enjoyed, not simply portraying a vampire. As an actor, I have certain instincts and I put them to work. Contrasting qualities are important in any role and can be brought out even when no such qualities are indicated in the script. I think it’s necessary to create a positive and negative force within a particular character. I love to totally submerge myself into a character, rather than simply duplicating my own self. It was the constant changing, the opportunity of going back and forth, from good to evil, that was so thrilling.”