My books

The newspaper hits the porch with a thunk. You go out in your robe and slippers, bring the paper inside, and grab a cup of coffee on the way to your easy chair. You take a sip of your coffee and begin to scan the front page of the paper. Some of the stories look interesting and you read them, dismissing the others. You most enjoy the stories of real people doing extraordinary things, especially the ones that make you laugh.

I don’t have a porch and the newspapers I read are digital, but I do enjoy a cup of coffee when I read them in the morning. By the way, the newspapers I read are from the 19th-century. I collect stories from them as I find them and compile them into books. People today are busy so I look for mini-stories that make it easy for a reader to read a bit when they have a few minutes to spare. My books are not novels so are easy to pick up and set down and go back to again a day or two or even a week or two later. The stories are entertaining trivia and a fun escape to another time and place but they have substance, too, and still have lessons to teach us. Though the newspaper may be published in a specific state, like Texas, the stories are from all over the world.

Some of the state legislators are making an awful fuss about what we eat and drink as though poor humanity has not always been consuming it’s peck of dirt in some shape or other. It is pretended that this is a day of adulteration and fraud and that the trouble is that before the cook or man behind the counter mixes up their compounds the manufacturers have about exhausted the percentage of trash the human stomach has been trained to endure. Since the Texas house can not think of cutting off drinks we ought to legislate on whiskey and beer. The law should require some distinction between corn juice and tobacco juice flavored with strychnine, and if taste be most in favor of the latter, and there be a desire to make Texas and land of snakes and sunstrokes then the legislature ought to require that barrels should not pass as containing the “oh be joyful” when they are in fact filled with emotional insanity and such things. Click here to buy Bygone Texas.

 

A steam calliope began to play just as it was passing the courthouse of a New England town.  The judge stopped the argument and ordered the officers of the court to abate the nuisance.  They informed the court that a circus procession was just passing, whereupon the whole assembly, bench, bar, officers and criminal, rushed out into the street without their hats, and in the excitement of the moment the prisoner made good his escape. Click here to buy Bygone Vermont.

The Stick Social:  All day Friday the pupils of the public schools were busy as bees preparing for the evening’s social at the courthouse.  That they worked faithfully was evident when the courthouse was thrown open to the crowd of citizens.  Ample decorations beautified the room and table that was bountifully covered with oval, paper-covered dishes, from which a stick protruded.  The crowd soon filled the house comfortably and the program, consisting of literary and musical good things, were nicely rendered.  Everyone present spoke good words for this part of the entertainment.

Then came the supper––and this is where the fun appeared.  Sticks were sold for five cents and the buyer sat at the table and chose any stick he wished, not knowing whether it brought pie, pickles or sandwiches.  One gentleman took his lady to the table and bought ten sticks for a starter.  His first choice when unwrapped proved to be a sandwich, his second a sandwich and so on to the tenth, which was also a sandwich.  Another unlucky individual drew six pieces of pie, another four dishes of pickles.  Each fresh victim took his share of the laughs and began to trade with his neighbors to obtain variety.
Social intercourse followed the supper and all enjoyed the evening hugely.  Nineteen dollars for the beautifying of the school rooms was cleared from the social and the pupils were pleased in proportion. Click here to buy Bygone Oregon.

Loaded down with 190 bodies of victims of the Titanic disaster, the Mackay-Bennet made port in Halifax, Novia Scotia, today after having buried 116 bodies, many of them identified, at sea.

Captain Lardner, who was in command of the cruise of death, declared in a broken voice that it has been impossible for him to bring in all the bodies recovered. “But they all received the full service for the dead before they slipped her the rail,” he added.

The Mackay-Bennett was sighted at 9:30 this morning. Immediately all shipping in the harbor cleared away for the morgue ship to move down the center of the channel. The bells in the churches of the city began to toll at minute intervals. Every flag dropped to half mast. A file of bluejackets marched to the government wharf and cleared it of all save those who had passes. These were almost all undertakers.

The Mackay-Bennet drew alongside. There were piles of rude, white pine coffins on her forward deck. Midships there were little bundles carelessly wrapped — clothes of the dead. After, there was a great tarpaulin sheet that was stretched over the twisted bodies of those for whom there had been no coffins.

The first body to be positively identified was that of John Jacob Astor.

The sailors of the Mackay-Bennet formed in line and the bodies on board were passed ashore at the rate of one a minute. As soon as they were ashore, the bodies were taken to long on stretchers and put into the coffins that were waiting on the dock.
All day long, through the streets of Halifax, there passed a silent procession of hearses.

By tomorrow most of the bodies will be in the Curling rink which has been turned into a huge morgue where the relatives may come to seek the bodies of their loved ones.  Click here to buy Bygone Illinois.

A beautiful sight was presented to our view on Tuesday afternoon, while yet the storm clouds hid the better portion of the lofty mountain peaks from sight. Slowly the clouds rolled upwards, revealing the timberline with its beautiful snow-white background. In the valley below the sun was shining forth in all its splendor. Truly one hour of such panoramic scenery would cause our eastern friends to go into ecstasies but these wonderful revelations seem to be reserved for the inhabitants of this beautiful valley. Click here to buy Bygone Alamosa.

Denver, Colorado—Harry Mathison is dead set against having chickens as companions at night. He tried to explain it in court here in endeavoring to obtain a divorce. Judge Butler ruled that he did not present sufficient evidence and he is still a married man today. Mathison sued on the ground that his wife let the chickens roost over his bed. The Chicago Day Book, January 8, 1915. Click here to buy Chickens in the News.

 Spite and venom are not always buried with the dead and for this reason a censor of gravestones is employed in a big London cemetery. Click here to buy Ghosts and Graveyards in the News.

A unique wedding notice—The following strange notice is going the rounds, variously credited: “The bride was born of honest but well-meaning parents and could walk alone at six months. At 10 she could run real fast and has never slackened her gait. She has many friends—most of them dead ones. The happy couple took a bridal trip to Westly and will be at home with the old man until they are kicked out.” Click here to buy Marriage in the News.

 

CHICKENS, GHOSTS, AND MARRIAGE are also available in paperback.

Coming in 2017: STORIES FROM A KENTUCKY NEWSPAPER