May 11, 1998

Mending Wall

by Robert Frost


Today's Reading: "Mending Wall" by Robert Frost.

It's the birthday in rural Sheridan County, Nebraska, 1901, of MARI SANDOZ, author the six-volume Great Plains series, that includes the 1942 biography, Crazy Horse, and the 1954 Buffalo Hunters. She wrote books — quote — "to say some of the things of the Indian for which there are no white-man words, suggest something of his innate nature, something of his relationship to the earth and the sky and all that is between." Most writers before her who wrote about the American Indians never conducted the kind of research she did: for Crazy Horse she spent years in library archives then traveled 3,000 miles through Sioux country, interviewing friends and relatives who knew him.

It's the birthday in 1894, Allegheny, Pennsylvania, of MARTHA GRAHAM, the pioneer of modern dance. In the late 1920s she opened a studio in New York and formed a small troupe — originally all women, later adding a few men — and for the next six decades she choreographed nearly 200 works: jagged, tense dances that were the first real alternative to classical ballet.

It's the birthday of IRVING BERLIN, the man who wrote "Blue Skies," "God Bless America," "White Christmas," and about 1,500 other songs. He was born Israel Baline in 1888, in the Russian village of Tyumin. His father was the village cantor and the target of pogroms in the early 1890s so the family left and moved to New York. He published his first song when he was 19, "Marie from Sunny Italy," written after hours at Pelham Café in Chinatown where he waited tables; when the bar closed down he'd stay behind and pluck out tunes on the piano. Because of a printing error, his name appeared on the sheet music as "I. Berlin" and he kept it. He died in 1989 at the age of 101.

MINNESOTA became the 32nd state admitted to the Union on this day in 1858. At the beginning of the 1850s there were only about 6,000 people living in what was then the Territory of Minnesota, and the present-day capitol of St. Paul was a town of about 900. Treaties with the Sioux and Chippewa Indians opened up the area for settlement, and nearly 150,000 people came in six years' time. The boom caused Congress and President James Buchanan to approve statehood in 1858.

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