Oct. 24, 2008


by Jim Daniels

My brother kept
in a frame on the wall
pictures of every motorcycle, car, truck:
in his rusted out Impala convertible
wearing his cap and gown
in his yellow Barracuda
with a girl leaning into him
on his Honda 350
on his Honda 750 with the boys
holding a beer
in his first rig
wearing a baseball hat backwards
in his Mercury Montego
getting married
in his black LTD
trying to sell real estate
back to driving trucks
a shiny new rig
on his Harley Sportster
with his wife on the back
his son in a car seat
with his own steering wheel
my brother leaning over him
in an old Ford pickup
and they are
holding a wrench a rag
a hose a shammy

My brother helmetless
rides off on his Harley
my brother's feet
rarely touch the ground—
waving waving
face pressed to the wind
no camera to save him.

"Wheels" by Jim Daniels from Places/Everyone. © University of Wisconsin Press, 1985. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

On this day in 1929, the U.S. Stock Market crashed. The day became known as "Black Thursday." By the next Tuesday, the market had lost almost 26 billion dollars of value. Banks failed, individual investors lost their savings, and the Great Depression began in America.

It was on this date in 1938 that the Fair Labor Standards Act went into effect, which established the 40-hour work week and a minimum wage. The first minimum wage was 25 cents per hour.

It was on this day in 1901 that Annie Edson Taylor became the first person to survive going over the Niagara Falls. She was 63 years old and had no money. She hoped that the stunt of going over the falls in a barrel would bring her fame and fortune.

She got the idea while reading a newspaper article about the upcoming Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, so she knew there would be a big audience. She had a custom barrel made to order by a Michigan company that normally made barrels for kegs of beer. The barrel was about two feet in diameter across the top, three feet across the middle, and 15 inches across the bottom. It was four and a half feet tall and weighed 160 pounds — the same weight as Annie Edson Taylor. It was constructed from white Kentucky oak and reinforced by iron rings, with a heavy block of steel in the bottom for ballast and a mattress inside for padding.

Annie Edson Taylor climbed into the barrel in the Niagara River, at Little Grass Island. She was wearing a flowing black dress and flowery hat, and carrying her lucky heart-shaped pillow. After she was inside, the top was shut and a bicycle pump increased the air pressure inside the barrel to help with the cushioning. It was pushed into the river at 4:05 p.m. and it headed toward the Canadian side. Shortly after, Annie and the barrel plunged over the falls. It took about 35 minutes from the time Annie pushed off shore to when she was pulled out of the water by rescuers. She got out of the barrel unharmed, except for a few bruises and a small gash on her forehead. Her first words after she emerged were, "Nobody ought ever to do that again."

She had planned a big lecture tour following the stunt, but it wasn't very successful. She tried to earn money by posing in photographs with her barrel, but that didn't work either, and neither did trying to write a novel.

However, several poems were written about her. John Joseph O'Regan wrote:

"All hail to the Queen of the Mist,
     Brave Anna Edson Taylor;
She has beaten all former records,
     By her courage, grit and valor."

And P. M. Reynolds wrote:

"Since earth's creation down the stormy way,
All human feats have been surpassed today.
Mrs. Edson Taylor, in her barrel sound,
Through the wild rapids did in safety bound."

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




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