Daily Update: Thursday, April 14th, 2016

 

04-14 - Donner Party

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; on average, those who survived were part of stable family groups. 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 adrift at sea, the very idea of cannibalism was unknown in America at the time, 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.)

Last night Richard gathered up the trash and wheeled the trash bin out to the curb. I started reading The Yellow Admiral by Patrick O’Brian, and our #9 ranked LSU Tigers won their single home Baseball game with Grambling State by the score of 14 to 11.

I woke up today at 9:30 am, and did my Book Devotional Reading. I then read the Thursday morning papers, did my Internet Devotional Reading, finished my laundry, bagged up the current crop of aluminum cans and tossed the bag of cans in the garage, and started doing my ironing. Richard had been exchanging text messages with Callie, and we got a call that Callie, my Kitten, and Michelle were heading to Lafayette and would meet us at Chuy’s Tex-Mex Mexican restaurant on Ambassador Caffrey. I then finished ironing my Casino pants and apron.

We left the house in the car at 11:15 am; on the way we listened to my music from my USB Flash Drive. (I have well over a hundred songs on my Miscellaneous S**t albums, and I have found that the best way to listen to them is to put all the songs on shuffle.) I also finished reading the March 21st, 2016 issue of my Jesuit America magazine, and started reading the March 28th, 2016 issue of my Jesuit America magazine. We got a call from Michelle when we were in Lafayette; they had found that there was too much of a line at Chuy’s Tex-Mex, and told us to meet them at Agave Cantina off of Camelia. We met them, and had a very good meal and visit; we also agreed that Richard and I will take them to dinner on Sunday. We said our goodbyes, and Richard and I went to the PetSmart near the restaurant to say hello to the cats up for adoption, then went to our usual PetSmart across from Barnes and Noble to say hello to their cats up for adoption. On our way home I finished reading the March 28th, 2016 issue of my Jesuit America magazine.

Arriving home at 2:45 pm, Richard dropped me off and took the car to our car dealership to have them change the oil and rotate the tires. I ironed my Casino shirts, then burned a CD of my March 2016 photos for myself and burned a CD of my March 2016 photos for Liz Ellen. I then cleaned out my purse and my Barnes and Noble bag. Richard arrived home at 3:30 pm, and I made my lunch salads for tomorrow and Sunday. Richard then went to bed, and I watched Jeopardy! at 4:30 pm. I then came to the computer to do today’s Daily Update; and when I finish this Daily Update, I will head to bed.

We do not have any Saints to honor tomorrow. Normally, tomorrow would be the date that is the final postmark date for mailing in one’s Federal Income Tax returns to the Federal Government but that has been moved this year to Monday, April 18th, because Washington, D.C., will celebrate Emancipation Day tomorrow. So instead we will note that on tomorrow’s date in 1912 the British passenger liner RMS Titanic sank in the North Atlantic, resulting in the deaths of more than 1,500 passengers and crew, and the production of several books and movies. It is also the birthday of Richard’s niece Jenny, the elder daughter of his sister Susan in Iowa. In Lafayette at the Cathedral the Most Reverend J. Douglas Deshotel (born in Basile, Louisiana) will be installed as the Seventh Bishop of the Diocese. We will return to the casino for the start of our work week, and on my breaks I will start reading Beneath a Marble Sky by John Shors for my Third Tuesday Book Club. In the afternoon I will start going through my books, and tomorrow evening our #9 ranked LSU Tigers will play the first game of a three-game away Baseball series with Missouri; I will post the score of the game in Saturday’s Daily Update.

Our Parting Quote on this Thursday afternoon comes to us from Percy Sledge, American singer. Born in 1940 in Leighton, Alabama, he worked in a series of agricultural jobs in the fields in Leighton before taking a job as an orderly at Colbert County Hospital in Sheffield, Alabama. Through the mid-1960s he toured the Southeast with the Esquires Combo on weekends, while working at the hospital during the week. A former patient introduced Sledge to a mutual friend, record producer Quin Ivy. An audition followed, and Sledge was signed to a recording contract. Sledge’s soulful voice was perfect for the series of soul ballads produced by Ivy and Marlin Greene. “When a Man Loves a Woman” was Sledge’s first song recorded under the contract, and was released in March 1966. According to Sledge, the inspiration for the song came when his girlfriend left him for a modelling career after he was laid off from a construction job in late 1965, and, because bassist Calvin Lewis and organist Andrew Wright helped him with the song, he gave all the songwriting credits to them. It reached No. 1 in the United States and went on to become an international hit. “When a Man Loves a Woman” was a hit twice in the United Kingdom, reaching No. 4 in 1966 and, on reissue, peaking at No. 2 in 1987. The song was also the first gold record released by Atlantic Records. The soul anthem became the cornerstone of Sledge’s career, and was followed by “Warm and Tender Love” (covered by British singer Elkie Brooks in 1981), “It Tears Me Up”, “Take Time to Know Her” (his second biggest United States hit, reaching No. 11; the song’s lyrics were written by Steve Davis), “Love Me Tender”, and “Cover Me”. Sledge charted with “I’ll Be Your Everything” and “Sunshine” during the 1970s, and became an international concert favorite throughout the world, especially in the Netherlands, Germany, and on the African continent; he averaged 100 concerts a year in South Africa. Sledge’s career enjoyed a renaissance in the 1980s when “When a Man Loves a Woman” re-entered the United Kingdom Singles Chart, peaking at No. 2 behind the reissued Ben E. King classic “Stand by Me”, after being used in a Levi’s commercial. In the early 1990s Michael Bolton brought “When a Man Loves a Woman” back into the limelight again on his hit album Time, Love, & Tenderness. On the week of November 17th to November 23rd, 1991, Bolton’s version also hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, exactly 25 and 1/2 years to the week after Sledge’s did in 1966. In 1994 Saul Davis and Barry Goldberg produced Sledge’s album Blue Night for Philippe Le Bras’ Sky Ranch label and Virgin Records. It featured Bobby Womack, Steve Cropper, and Mick Taylor among others. Blue Night received a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Blues Album, Vocal or Instrumental, and in 1996 it won the W.C. Handy Award for best soul or blues album. In 2004 Davis and Goldberg also produced the Shining Through the Rain album, which preceded Sledge’s induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Songs on the CD were written by Mikael Rickfors, Steve Earle, the Bee Gees, Carla Olson, Denny Freeman, Allan Clarke and Jackie Lomax. The same year Sledge recorded a live album with his band Sunset Drive entitled Percy Sledge and Sunset Drive – Live in Virginia on WRM Records produced by Warren Rodgers. In May 2007  he was inducted into The Louisiana Music Hall Of Fame in his home city of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. In December 2010 Rhino Handmade issued a four-CD retrospective, The Atlantic Recordings, which covered all of the issued Atlantic masters, as well as many of the tracks unissued in the United States (although some were simply the mono versions of songs originally issued in stereo; Disc 1 comprises Sledge’s first two LPs which were not recorded on stereo equipment). In 2011 Sledge toured with Sir Cliff Richard during his Soulicious tour, performing “I’m Your Puppet”. He had twelve children, two of whom became singers (died 2015): “I keep my feet on the ground because of my roots and the way I was raised.”

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