Apr. 6, 2001

Some Details of Hebredean House Construction

by Thomas A. Clark

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Poem: "Some Details of Hebridean House Construction," by Thomas A. Clark, from Tormentil and Bleached Bones (Edinburgh University Press).

Some Details of Hebridean House Construction

the walls are built with
unmortared boulders
the external faces having
an inward slope
the corners rounded

roofs are thatched with
straw, ferns or heather
and weighted with stones
hung from heather ropes

instead of overhanging
the roof is set back
on a broad wall-top
which in the course of time
becomes mantled with
grass and verdure
which may provide
occasional browsing
for a sheep or goat

back to the wind
face to the sun
is the general

the floor is of beaten earth
and the main room is reached
by way of the byre
there are no windows and
the frugal flame of the peat
gives the only illumination
smoke wanders and finds
egress by a hole in the roof

in the outer isles the floor is covered
with white sand from the machair

a few steps ascend
the wall near the door
to enable the roof
to be thatched or roped
or the family to sit
in the summer weather
and sew, chat or knit

by the peat store
near to the doorway
is placed a large stone
for the wanderer to sit on

It's the birthday of country singer Merle Haggard, born in Bakersfield, California (1937). He began writing songs while in prison at San Quentin.

It's the birthday of geneticist James D. Watson, born in Chicago (1928). Along with Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins, he was awarded the 1962 Nobel Prize for the discovery of the molecular structure of DNA—deoxyribonucleic acid—the substance at the basis of heredity. He later wrote The Double Helix (1968), an informal account of the DNA discovery.

On this day in 1896 the Olympic games were resumed in Athens, based on the model of the ancient Greek events, which had been discontinued in 393 A.D. Eight countries were represented: Denmark, England, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Switzerland, and the United States.

On this day in 1862, the first day's fighting at the Battle of Shiloh, in the Civil War, ended inconclusively. But the next day the union forces of General U. S. Grant were reinforced, and Confederate General Beauregard ordered a retreat, leaving Federal troops in a stronger position in Tennessee.

On this day in 1830, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints was founded in a log cabin in Fayette, New York, by Joseph Smith, Jr.

It's the birthday of the Shoshoni woman Sacajawea, born in Idaho (1786), who served as interpreter for Lewis and Clark's expedition of 1804. She spoke half a dozen Indian languages, knew about edible plants, and served as camp cook, housekeeper, and peacemaker with the tribes they met along the way.

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