08 December 2008

Ice, Brains and History

Notice to Drivers
From: Archangel Ezekiel,
Department of Natural Laws

It has come to my attention that, once again, there are an inordinate number of automobile collisions in West Virginia this weekend. The police and the local newspaper ascribe this spike in accidents to “icy roads.” If this winter is like the past 90 or so in which automobiles have been used prominently in this area, I expect that equally “icy roads” will yield fewer collisions as the season progresses. This is particularly good news to Sts. Christopher (Patron of Travelers), Florian (Firemen) and Michael (Paramedics).

There is, however, no reason to await the diminishment of collisions. I have carefully checked the settings on the Natural Laws, and I assure one and all that the relevant principal factor (coefficient of friction between ice and rubber tires) remains the same as it always has been. There are minor differences given what humans do with tire compounds, tire tread design, inflation and so forth, but the physics is the same. The only explanation I have is that you humans have to relearn driving on icy roads every year. This is illogical. Please try to remember from February to November how to drive, and that will make all our lives easier.

Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance

A couple of weeks ago, my old friend Rev. D. D. Meighen preached at our church. I met him 45 years ago, at The Methodist Temple in Fairmont (now defunct), and he is a fine fellow. His sermon was about Thanksgiving, and he gave a fairly traditional interpretation of the Puritans surviving their very hard first winter. He properly extolled the bravery of the 7 (of 50 survivors) healthy enough to work hard, keep fires burning, food butchered, and so forth, and talked about the joy that they had to have felt for having SOMETHING to give thanks about the next autumn. He didn’t go overboard, either, with the trendy self-flagellation over “our” mistreatment of the Indians. (Aside: I will not apologize. I haven’t mistreated Indians. Nor held slaves. Nor persecuted Jews. Hell, my taxes buy Israel endless F-16's and Indian Nations host gambling tax-free.) However, in mentioning the bravery of the Puritans, we seldom acknowledge that their strategic thinking was pretty lame. The general weather patterns of the North American coastline were known, even in 1620. The Pilgrims left England in AUGUST heading for NEW ENGLAND. Had they gone by 747, they still couldn’t have built shelter and stored food for a New England winter. So, they planned to be ashore with limited supplies and no shelters in place (other than the ship and what they could quickly throw up). Admire bravery. But consider poor judgment, always. Was God going to provide? Of course. He did. He provided these people BRAINS. It's not His fault they failed to use them.

Battlefields Forever

There was a short article recently in the Washington Post about preserving battlefields, this one about preserving the site of Third Winchester from the ravages of development. Mind you, I’m all for preserving stuff from development.
Asphalt ribbons, sewers, the same houses, no trees, and general fugly-ness is turning our natural world into rice pudding. But to preserve something because it was a battlefield? Battles in the Civil War lasted a day or a week at most. Then the armies moved on. Often, there were many deaths. There were brave deeds. And when the armies left and the dead were buried, the earth remained and the woods and fields healed themselves. What is the glory of preserving these places of death?

There are lots of places that I associate with historical and sometimes unpleasant events. When I go to Charleston, I sometimes stay at the Charleston House, which is located at the confluence of the Elk and the Great Kanawha Rivers. This is the campsite of Simon Kenton over one winter in the 1700's. He was one of the famous frontiersmen who settled this part of the country. I’d love to see a little park there, perhaps a recreation of the winter campsite. But no, there’s a hotel sitting on it. OK, there have been significant battles at the confluence of the Monongahela and the Allegheney, when they form the Ohio. For a time, that was the site of Fort Pitt, which became the basis of modern day Pittsburgh. Great place to preserve forever, huh? Damn, they put Three Rivers Stadium right there, then demolished it to make a parking lot for the new football stadium and baseball stadium. How about the site of the very first land battle of the Civil War, Philippi, West Virginia? There was an original covered bridge there that figured in the battle. On part of the battle site is a Sheetz store, which is a 24-hour gasoline, coffee, snacks & bathroom place. A few years ago, someone delivering gasoline had a problem with a hose, but didn’t notice. The store is slightly upgrade from the bridge. Fluids flow downhill. Somehow, there was an ignition source. No more bridge. At GREAT cost, the State had the bridge rebuilt as near to original as possible. To me, that’s silly. It’s still a small bridge, and another bridge is still 100 yards away to carry other than automobiles. Put a park there, a monument or something and call it a day.

Frequently, I drive past the site of the largest mine disaster in American history. Very little is there. Last Friday, I drove right past the site of Lewis Wetzel’s famous leap to escape the Shawnee war party. (Basically, he jumped off a cliff rather than be captured, and fell through trees which broke his fall, and he landed uninjured enough to keep running.) There’s a road there, and low class commercial stuff (tire shops, etc.) at the bottom of the hill. A few months ago, I was reading an article by a local historian about the site of a famous local frontiersman’s last stand. It’s now an industrial park.

We should preserve nature because it is worth it. Important things have happened almost everywhere, and trashing a site because we can’t discover what happened there is piss poor reasoning.

Pippa passes.


1 comment:

sheila222 said...

On Rt 7 somewhere between Fly, Ohio (where the family farm was) and Wheeling, WV there was a historical marker that I read as a child about some fellow taking a leap to escape the Indians who were after him. Was that Wetzel? I can't imagine too many plunged over the cliffbank down to the river doing that.