Excursion 57, Part 2 (Crossing the Streams)

Growing up in West Texas, as I did, I acquired the habit of looking down over the railings every time I drove over a bridge.  The reason why, of course, was to see if there was any water in the arroyo or canyon or streambed or riverbed below—because more often than not, there wasn’t.  If you did see some water, it was like a pleasant little surprise, something always to be remarked upon as you drove past.  In Ohio, of course, there’s always water under the bridge, but it took me many years for my subconscious to pick up on that, because I was always looking.

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Excursion 49, Part 1 (Swing around the Circle)

In September 2015, I took a page from infamous presidential accident Andrew Johnson, who in 1866 conducted what has come down in history as his “swing around the circle,” a series of campaign stops designed to influence the upcoming Congressional elections in his favor.  It started off okay but, God love him, President Johnson came to Ohio; Ohioans were vocally none too happy to see him, and it went downhill from there. His trip was widely considered a disaster.  Luckily, my own “swing around the circle” was not at all a disaster.  Rather, I embarked upon a pleasant, meandering circle around the area of Ohio between Columbus and Cleveland, a region rather devoted to agriculture.

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Excursion 14, Part 3 (On the Trail of John Hunt Morgan)

In which our intrepid hero encounters the ghost of a Confederate general…

The Civil War has long fascinated me.  Of course, on one level it should, as I have a Ph.D. in American military history.  But it began long before that.  I probably have my grandparents to thank for that, because at some point they purchased American Heritage’s Picture History of the Civil War (1960) for my uncle Dennis, when he was a child.  This amazing book, containing fascinating diagrammatic paintings of battlefields and text written by famed Civil War historian Bruce Catton, remains today about as perfect an introduction to the Civil War as I could imagine.  I soon discovered that they had related gems on their living room bookshelves, including Reader’s Digest abbreviated versions of some of Catton’s histories.  These were among the earliest books I read on military history and certainly had a lifelong influence on me.  They also produced another effect on me that still lasts, too—a wistful realization of the immutability of history.  Sadly, no matter how many books on the Civil War I read, no matter what new material they may uncover, McClellan never manages to take Richmond; Hooker always loses his nerve.  It is Groundhog Day, but where Bill Murray never changes.

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Excursion 3, Part 5 (Rivers and Shacks)

In which our intrepid hero finds himself over a river without a paddle…

On my excursions—which don’t really have any specific endpoint—I drive and take pictures until my enthusiasm begins to wane.  Then I turn around and start heading back, either through more back roads or via faster routes, depending on my patience.  I’ve noticed though, that no matter how I drive back home, I always take far fewer pictures on the return leg of the journey.  Psychologically, I suppose, I have already switched into “get home” mode…

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