Sep. 18, 2006

Morning News in the Bighorn Mountains

by William Notter

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Poem: "Morning News in the Bighorn Mountains" by William Notter from More Space Than Anyone Can Stand. © Texas Review Press. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

Morning News in the Bighorn Mountains

The latest movie star is drunk in spite of rehab,
two or three cities had extraordinary killings,
and expensive homes are sliding off the hills
or burning again. There's an energy crisis on,
and peace in the Middle East is close as ever.
In Wyoming, just below timberline,
meteors and lightning storms
keep us entertained at night. Last week,
a squirrel wrecked the mountain bluebirds' nest.
I swat handfuls of moths in the cabin
and set them out each day,
but the birds will not come back to feed.
It snowed last in June, four inches
the day before the solstice. But summer
is winding down—the grass was frosted
this morning when we left the ranger station.
Yellow-bellied marmots are burrowing
under the outhouse vault, and ravens have left the ridges
to gorge on Mormon crickets in the meadows.
Flakes of obsidian and red flint
knapped from arrowheads hundreds of years ago
appear in the trails each day,
and the big fish fossil in the limestone cliff
dissolves a little more with every rain.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of Dr. Samuel Johnson, (books by this author) born in Lichfield, England (1709). He compiled one of the first comprehensive dictionaries of the English language, and finished it single-handedly in just nine years.

Dr. Johnson said, "A man ought to read just as inclination leads him, for what he reads as a task will do him little good."

And he said, "Marriage has many pains, but celibacy has no pleasures."

It was on this day in 1793 that President George Washington laid the cornerstone of the United States Capitol building. He had led a procession of local masons from the banks of the Potomac up Jenkins Hill to the Capitol's construction site. A mason himself, Washington was wearing his Masonic apron that day. He had an umbrella for the sun, but he gave it to a woman in the crowd, saying, "I have been exposed to the sun before in the course of my life." He then used a silver trowel to lay the cornerstone atop a silver plaque.

The Capitol building was subject to numerous additions, improvements, and repairs for the first fifty years of its history. It started life much smaller, with a copper dome. The original 32 senators and 106 representatives had no office space, but worked at desks, like school children. The public area under the dome served as a flea market, where vendors sold everything from silk to light machinery.

The completed version of the building, basically what we know as the Capitol today, was finished in the middle of the Civil War.

It was 155 years ago, on this day in 1851, that the first edition of The New York Times was published in a dirty, candle-lit office just off Wall Street. The founders were Henry J. Raymond and his partner George Jones, and Raymond was motivated to start the paper in part by a desire for revenge. He'd spent 10 years working for Horace Greeley at the New York Tribune, only to be laid off when he caught a fever. He intended The New York Times to put the New York Tribune out of business.

New York was not an easy place to get a newspaper off the ground. There were already dozens of papers in circulation, and the city only had a population of 500,000 people, many of them uneducated. At the time, most newspapers made no attempt at reporting the news objectively. They were full of opinions, and they were often openly associated with specific political parties. Raymond and Jones thought they could make their paper stand out by loading it with facts, instead of opinions.

Within 10 days, The Times had a circulation of 10,000. But it was languishing by the 1890s, and might have gone out of business, when a man named Adolph Ochs bought the paper on the cheap for $75,000 in 1896. He was a young newspaper editor from Chattanooga, Tennessee, and it was he who chose the paper's new motto, printed on the first page of every issue, "All the News That's Fit to Print." Ochs turned it into the most influential paper in the country largely by pouring all the profits back into the paper.

The only other New York newspaper that has survived longer than The New York Times is the New York Post.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




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