Mar. 17, 2012

What Every Girl Wants

by Joyce Sutphen

I wanted a horse. This was long after
we sold the work horses, and I was feeling

restless on the farm. I got up early
to help my father milk the cows, talking

a blue streak about TV cowboys
he never had time to see and trying to

convince him that a horse wouldn't cost
so much and that I'd do all the work.

He listened while he leaned his head
against the flank of a Holstein, pulling

the last line of warm milk into
the stainless bucket. He kept listening

while the milk-machine pumped like an engine,
and the black and silver cups fell off and

dangled down, clanging like bells when he
stepped away, balancing the heavy milker

against the vacuum hose and the leather belt.
I knew he didn't want the trouble

of a horse, but I also knew there was nothing
else I wanted the way I wanted a horse—

another way of saying I wanted
to ride into the sunset and (maybe)

never come back—I think he knew that too.
We'll see, he said, we'll see what we can do.

"What Every Girl Wants" by Joyce Sutphen, from First Words. © Red Dragonfly Press, 2010. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

Today is St. Patrick's Day. St. Patrick himself was English, not Irish. He was born into an aristocratic family, but was kidnapped and taken to Ireland. Eventually, he escaped, went home, became a priest, and returned to Ireland to convert the natives to Christianity.

Until fairly recently, St. Patrick's Day was celebrated only as a religious holiday in Ireland. People were given the day off from work; they went to church, and then they shared a big roast dinner with their families. The pubs were required to remain closed that day, so no green beer — or beer of any sort, for that matter — was allowed to be served in public. It was the Irish in America and Canada that turned the saint's day into the full-blown party that it's become. The first St. Patrick's Day parades were held in America during the 18th century, as a show of loyalty to the mother country and a way to call attention to the plight of working-class Irish immigrants. Boston organized the first parade in 1737, and New York's first was in 1762. During the Revolutionary War, General Washington issued a proclamation in 1780 that gave Irish troops the day off for the holiday.

Parades remain a large part of the day's celebrations, and New York City's is the largest in the world, with the 69th Infantry Regiment leading 150,000 marchers up Fifth Avenue. The first St. Patrick's Day parade in Dublin was held in 1995 to boost tourism. Since then, the parade has grown into a five-day festival and attracts millions of people every year. Consumption of Guinness stout more than doubles on March 17; around 13 million pints will be imbibed worldwide today.

It's the birthday of science fiction author William Gibson (books by this author), born in Conway, South Carolina (1948) and raised, mostly, in the Appalachians of Virginia.

He moved to Canada in 1967 to avoid the draft — although he's admitted since that he was never actually drafted — and settled in Vancouver. His first novel, Neuromancer, was published in 1984, and in it Gibson popularized the term "cyberspace," having coined it in a short story two years earlier. Neuromancer earned him a role as a prophet of the information age, since it predated the Internet by about 10 years.

Gibson's latest book is his first work of nonfiction: a collection of essays called Distrust That Particular Flavor. It was published this past January.

The National Gallery of Art opened in Washington, D.C., on this date in 1941. Financier and collector Andrew W. Mellon had donated the funds for the construction of the museum's main building. Mellon had been building his personal collection since World War I, and in the 1920s, he began quietly accumulating art for the benefit of the country. Just before his death in 1937, he formally bequeathed his entire collection — hundreds of paintings by European artists such as Botticelli, Corot, Perugino, Raphael, Rembrandt, Turner, and Van Dyck — to the United States.

The gallery is located on the National Mall, on Constitution Avenue NW. It is 780 feet long, containing more than half a million square feet; at the time of its completion, it was the largest marble structure in the world.

It's the birthday of frontiersman James "Jim" Bridger, born in Richmond, Virginia (1804). A trapper, scout, and guide, he explored from the Missouri River to Utah, and from southern Colorado up to the Canadian border. He was one of the first white people to see the Great Salt Lake, and one of the first white people to discover the geysers of Yellowstone. No one believed him about the geysers, though, because he was also well known as a teller of tall tales. When telling of the petrified forest — which he really did see — he would embellish the story with descriptions of petrified birds singing petrified songs. He used to tell naive Easterners a yarn about being chased to the edge of a vast lake by a hundred Cheyenne warriors. They were all armed to the teeth, and he had only a single pistol with a single bullet. When they asked him what happened next, he would take a drink of whiskey and then reply, "Well, they shot me and buried me by the lake."

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




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