Thursday, January 20, 2022

City of the Century: The Epic of Chicago and the Making of America by Donald L. Miller-Book Review

Book Review - Five Stars 

City of the Century: The Epic of Chicago and the Making of America

by Donald L. Miller

A classic book worthy of more then five stars. It is extensively researched and magnificently edited. Miller tells this awesome story of American propulsion in the first century of the Industrial Revolution where explosive expansion set a standard that would be a tough act to follow.

I absolutely loved It!


A terrible calamity is impending over the city of Chicago! More I cannot say; more I dare not utter.” The following night, around nine o’clock, a fire broke out on the West Side of the city in the cow barn of Mrs. Patrick O’Leary. Aided by strong winds off the prairie, it turned into a one-and-a-half-day holocaust that consumed the entire core of the city of some 300,000 people, leaving 90,000 homeless and nearly 300 dead. It was the greatest natural disaster up to that time in American history. Frederick Law Olmsted, sent by The Nation to the stricken city, reported that many of those caught in the inferno thought they were witnessing “the burning of the world.”

The morning after the fire, fear gave way to disbelief. Everything was gone.

But more amazing than the destruction was the recovery. The rebuilding began while the ground was still warm in the burned district, and within week after the fire more than five thousand temporary structures had been erected and two hundred permanent buildings were under construction.

1893, when the city held the World’s Colombian Exposition to celebrate—one year late—the four hundredth anniversary of Columbus’s discovery of the New World, Chicago had the busiest and most modern downtown in the country, with a dozen and more of the highest buildings ever constructed. Chicago would never become as big or as consequential as New York, its greatest rival, but it had made good its boast as the city that could accomplish almost anything.

The epic of Chicago is the story of the emergence of modern America. Child of the age of steam, electricity, and international exchange, Chicago “[is] the very embodiment of the world-conquering spirit of the age,” an English writer observed in 1893.

Sunday, January 9, 2022

The Cowboy Wannabe: Doings of Dudley Doolittle


Doings of Dudley Doolittle: This is the name I will use in the sometimes hilarious, outrageous, or cynical short stories posted monthly on

A fictitious name will be used on all the stories. It is there to protest the identity of the guilty.

These true stories are over half a century old or more.

The Cowboy Wannabe

by John M. Grimsrud © December 2021

Dudley Doolittle was born into a real no frills hardscrabble Northwest Wisconsin farm life in the early 1940s. A psychopath from birth, his cowboy lifestyle evolved. A fiercely independent renegade outlaw was what ultimately developed. This was the Dudley Doolittle we came to know.

At the time of our first encounter we were always open to hospitality at our Billings Park home in Superior, Wisconsin, where we kept our refrigerator stocked with beer and our larder of wine and booze was forever there to travelers who ambled in. Needless to say people who are free with their booze acquire lots of fair weather friends.

Dudley Doolittle was introduced to us by his cousin, an old classmate of mine. Our hospitality must have been adequate because Dudley Doolittle became a regular drop in thirsty visitor. We soon met his lovely wife that psychopathic Dudley Doolittle tried to burn to death as she slept in her bed...she escaped!

Dudley Doolittle went from one criminal escapade to another logging tons of time in jail. He loved to brag about his outlaw life style. His cowboy lifestyle inclinations included cattle rustling.

He got caught because of his partner in crime was his brother-in-law Jack, and Jack ratted him out.

There you have a brief look at one of the many social misfits that made our lives lively with never a dull moment.

Now the rest of the story:

While Dudley Doolittle cooled his heels in jail for his capers, his psychopathic mind had the time to think of a fitting justice.

Here is what evolved: Like a patient spider weaving his web his plot was put into action using a beguiling confidence man act of heart warming family friendship. Dudley Doolittle soon had his brother-in-law Jack unconditionally trusting and eager to please.

The web was ready.

As an act of friendship Dudley Doolittle said he wanted to take Jack out on the town, and he said it would be his treat. First to the bar for a friendly libation. A shot of booze to toast their friendship. Dudley Doolittle complimented Jack on his great ability to handle his whiskey.

Dudley Doolittle proposed a wager:

He bet Jack he couldn’t drink an ounce of booze a minute for one hour. Dudley Doolittle goaded him on...after all Dudley Doolittle was paying the tab and to sweeten the deal further he promised a hundred dollars for one hour of drinking at Dudley Doolittle’s expense. This was just too good to be true. Dudley Doolittle and Jack shook hands on the wager. The clock was in motion. Dudley Doolittle’s brother-in-law had already downed his first shot and only had 59 more to go.

The bartender lined up the shots on the bar and Dudley Doolittle kept score.

Dudley Doolittle said that he was truly amazed at Jack’s ability. He made it to 45 shots before he fell off the bar stool. No problem, Dudley Doolittle picked him up off the floor, got him back on the bar stool, and a few more shots were put away before Jack finally lost consciousness.

Dudley Doolittle paid the tab, and he told the bartender that he would take good care of Jack. Dudley Doolittle took unconscious Jack home and put him in bed to sleep off the booze.

The next morning Jack was stone cold dead.

Dudley Doolittle said that he even went to the funeral to make sure Jack was truly dead.

The story of the circumstances of Jack’s death made the news. The bartender was charged and nearly went to prison.

The patient plotting spider got his long awaited justice.

Thursday, December 16, 2021

Warlords of Ancient Mexico: How the Mayans and Aztecs Ruled for More Than a Thousand Years by Peter J. Tsouras


Book Review - Five Stars

Warlords of Ancient Mexico: How the Mayans and Aztecs Ruled for More Than a Thousand Years by Peter J. Tsouras

Imperialism was brought to Mexico by the Aztecs who were not builders, creators or innovators but exploiters. Bloody war with human sacrifice and cannibalism was brought by the invading Toltec who influenced the Aztecs and next brought their blood letting sport to the Yucatecan Mayan.

Next Inquisition crazed Cortés a military leader, who finished driving the Moors out of the Iberian Peninsula ending a 700 year war, took on the Aztec empire using Spanish military tactics.

Read this amazing book and learn how this all was accomplished.


Cuitláhuac, the ninth emperor or tlatoani of the Mexica, inflicted the greatest single defeat on European arms in the entire conquest of the Americas when he drove Cortés and his combined Spanish and native army out of Tenochtitlan in 1520, killing over 1,200 Spaniards and 4,000-5,000 Indian allies.

Spanish tongues could not pronounce Náhuatl words. Cortés consistently mangled names. Cuauhnahuac (Near the Trees) became Cuer-navaca. Tollan became Tula. I have tried to use the spelling that most closely corresponds to the original name, hence Huexotzinco instead of Huexotzingo and Tlaxcallan instead of Tlaxcalla.

Cortés reinforced his own contingent and divided it into three separate elements, each of which had as many as 10,000 allies attached. A few desperate Mexica escaped to tell Cortés that each night a horde of people picked over the ruins for something to eat. He ambushed them in the early dawn, killing over 800 women and children, a stratagem in which he took much pride.

the Mexica were dying daily of hunger by the thousands

Alvarado captured a district of the city with a thousand houses; the allies butchered the 12,000 inhabitants of the district against orders. As victory beckoned, Cortés found he had less and less control of his native allies, who were determined to exterminate the Mexica. The city was resembling a vast slaughter house, and the actual perpetrators of the Mexica genocide were their own fellow Indians.

Now instead of Tlaxcallan barbarities, they suffered the gauntlet of Spanish greed.

Women were stripped to find any gold hidden on them. Young men were branded for slavery, and the comely, light-skinned young women carried off. Spanish mastiffs were set upon the priests to tear them to pieces.

Review by John M. Grimsrud

In the South Seas by Robert Louis Stevenson


Book Review - Five Stars

In the South Seas is authored by Robert Louis Stevenson, one of the most distinguished communicators of our time whose extraordinary prestigious vocabulary makes his narration pleasurable.

I loved this book that touched on a variety of subjects ranging from cannibalism to tropical topography, and personal profiles of personalities with insightful detail.


We have all read of the swiftness of the day’s coming and departure in low latitudes; it is a point on which the scientific and sentimental tourist are at one, and has inspired some tasteful poetry. The period certainly varies with the season; but here is one case exactly noted. Although the dawn was thus preparing by four, the sun was not up till six; and it was half-past five before we could distinguish our expected islands from the clouds on the horizon. Eight degrees south, and the day two hours a-coming. The interval was passed on deck in the silence of expectation, the customary thrill of landfall heightened by the strangeness of the shores that we were then approaching. Slowly they took shape in the attenuating darkness. Ua-huna, piling up to a truncated summit, appeared the first upon the starboard bow; almost abeam arose our destination, Nuka-hiva, whelmed in cloud; and betwixt and to the southward, the first rays of the sun displayed the needles of Ua-pu. These pricked about the line of the horizon; like the pinnacles of some ornate and monstrous church, they stood there, in the sparkling brightness of the morning, the fit signboard of a world of wonders.

The Paumotuan not only saves, grudges, and works, he steals besides; or, to be more precise, he swindles. He will never deny a debt, he only flees his creditor.

He is always keen for an advance; so soon as he has fingered it he disappears. He knows your ship; so soon as it nears one island, he is off to another. You may think you know his name; he has already changed it. Pursuit in that infinity of isles were fruitless.

Review by John M. Grimsrud

Thursday, November 25, 2021




Simple, quick, effective and low cost.
Here you see one of our three compost bins that we recently moved to begin a new cycle. Adjacent is the previous location and one of seven bags of compost generated.
Here another compost bin is beginning to fill as green material begins its transition.
Resting but working this full compost bin is soon adorned by jungle vines that actually help hold in moisture, an essential part of the process. If the contents are continually moist the break down of organic material is greatly accelerated. Add water as often as needed to keep the material moist but not soggy (like a wrung-out sponge). Don’t pack materials too tight as air is essential.

The compost is ready to use when you can no longer recognize the original ingredients.

To harvest:
Pry off the compost basket ring and place it in your next location. Remove all of the material that isn’t fully composted and place it in the new location to begin the cycle again. We like to bag and dry some of the composted material for later use and the rest is put directly on the plants that need it most.
A note; to discourage rodents we never place kitchen scraps containing animal grease, bones or flesh…this is kept in the freezer until garbage pick up day.
We do however dispose of almost all paper and light cardboard that we have torn in to strips or small pieces.
Only small green branches break down well. Sticks make a tangled mess and should be avoided.

We can expect a yield of six to eight bushels of compost in about three months.

Materials and dimensions: Each compost ring is 1.1 meters, 44 inches in diameter and .85 meters, 34 inches tall. (The materials available may dictate your ultimate size.)
The top and bottom stiffener rings are of ¼ inch mild steel rod. The mesh is what ever is available. We used ¾ inch galvanized chicken wire.
For the vertical stiffeners, we used ½ inch PVC plastic pipe. Again sticks or whatever you can get will work. We tied the compost bin together with soft 16 gauge wire. Use whatever you can recycle…string or whatever to tie it together. The rewards of this economical environmentally friendly approach to recycling will soon be apparent when you see first hand the end result…a happy garden that benefited from drag and drop composting.

A website with more advice on composting:  Compost Made Easy  

More tips from Compost Made Easy:

Good Compost Ingredients:
Leaves and other dead plant material
Fruit and vegetable trimmings
Herbicide-free grass clippings
Manure from horses, cattle, goats, poultry and rabbits
Paper or cardboard, torn into strips or hand-sized pieces
Do NOT Add:
Meat scraps
Very fatty, sugary or salty foods
Chips or sawdust from treated wood
Clippings from herbicide-treated lawns
Manure from omnivorous animals (dogs, cats, humans, etc.)

For more on Eco Living Yucatan, click here for our web page.

Sunday, November 21, 2021

I'm Movin' On: The Life and Legacy of Hank Snow - Book Review

Book Review - Five Stars

I'm Movin' On: The Life and Legacy of Hank Snow by Vernon Oickle

Hank Snow emblazoned his mark in American and Canadian history and left a legend that lives on.

Beginning in the 1940s, the music talents of Hank Snow took off scratching his way up from the most humble of poverty coupled by child abuse. He persistently and relentlessly remained focused on overcoming his past.

In the 1950s Hank saw his entertainment career climb to success like his golden rocket.

A half century of world wide top of the charts entertainment was achieved with the unrelenting support of his one and only loving wife.

To escape child abuse, at thirteen years of age young Hank went to sea on a Nova Scotia sailing schooner beginning with no pay...only room and board. This was in the depths of the great depression. He felt fortunate to have food and a bed.

On his fourth season on the schooner on the Grand Banks with gale force winds, he was frightened for his life and made the decision to take his chances ashore. This turning point marked his dedicated and determined entrance into a musical career scratching his way out of poverty. The rest is his story in this great book.


Although their marriage got off to a rocky start because of Minnie’s parents’ dissension, Hank and Minnie’s bond would last a lifetime.

Their union survived difficult years of financial struggle, sometimes even destitution, as well as issues with Hank’s drinking, extended separations while Hank pursued his dreams, and the demands that came with international stardom. Hank always said that he and Minnie were just meant to be together and that their love was strong enough to overcome any challenge that got in their way.

Hank often described this “special lady” as his inspiration and his strength. Referring to Minnie as his partner in life, he was also always quick to point out that she deserved a great deal of credit for his accomplishments throughout the years, as she often encouraged him to keep going or to take a risk when things got difficult.

With Landry’s prodding, on April 9, 1935, Hank wrote a letter to A. H. Joseph, manager of the Repertoire and Recording Department for RCA Victorin Montreal. On April 18, Hank received a response, basically a rejection letter. But, like before, he chose to see the response as positive and would not accept “no” for an answer. It may have been his earlier struggles with poverty that gave him his drive, determination, and fighting spirit, Hank later said that when he had first heard the records, he hated how they sounded so tinny and hollow, but Joseph had clearly heard something in the recordings that

Hank couldn’t, because he also sent along the first royalty check of Hank’s career, in the amount of $1.96.

Hank wasn’t opposed to recording songs written by others, many of which went on to become huge Hank Snow hits; most notable of those were compositions such as “(Now And Then There’s) A Fool Such As I,” written by Bill Trader and recorded by Hank in 1952; “I Don’t Hurt Anymore,” written by Don Robertson and Jack Rollins, and recorded by Hank in 1954; and “I’ve Been Everywhere,” written by Geoff Mack and recorded by Hank in 1962.

Review by John M. Grimsrud

Saturday, November 20, 2021

Sea of Grey: An Alan Lewrie Naval Adventure (Alan Lewrie Naval Adventures Book 10) by Dewey Lambdin- Book Review

Book Review - Five Stars 

Sea of Grey: An Alan Lewrie Naval Adventure (Alan Lewrie Naval Adventures Book 10) by Dewey Lambdin

Dewey Lamdin’s historical fiction nautical novels are extraordinarily impressive with factual research coupled with an astounding cornucopia of colorfully descriptive vocabulary.

There is never a dull moment in these exhilarating fast moving and enlightening stories. Reading Dewey Lambdin on my Kindle reader with its built in dictionary and clipping features that stores looked up words in a special vocabulary builder adds real pleasure to the reading experience. The audio books are recommended for their extremely impressive high quality narrative.

We love all of Lambdin’s books, they are gems!


He had written one of those letters asking “ … with the supply of paint on hand, Sirs, and the meagre budget allotted for the task, which side of the ship do you prefer that we paint?”

Since the war started in 1793, Prime Minister William Pitt and his coterie had shoved troops and ships into the Caribbean, eager for possession of every “sugar” island. It had cost the lives of 40,000 soldiers and seamen, so far. Once Fever Season struck, regiments and ships’ companies could be reduced to pitiful handfuls in a trice!

The captain may be spoken of as a lucky captain, and his ships lucky by association, but; t’would take a pagan sea-god to deem us worthy in his sight.” That left unspoken the bald fact of Captain Lewrie’s adultery, his recent dalliance with a half-caste Port-Au-Prince whore, the rumor of which had made the rounds below decks, usually accompanied by hoots of appreciation and admiration, rather than disapproval or envy.

taking an involuntary step away from Mr. Durant, as if to flee Death’s miasma … or the noisome reek of the Yellow Jack’s last agony, when the victim voided his bowels, after many days of inability, and spewed up dark, bloody vomito negro. The stench of Wyman’s dying clung to Durant’s apron, bare arms, and very hair, like a whiff off the River Styx.

Bonaparte?” Lewrie grumbled, slapping the table. “Why, I’ve met the little bastard, in ‘93!

Ran me out of the Adriatic, too, when he invaded Italy in ’96, and beat the Austrians and Piedmontese like a dusty rug. Almost bagged me on the Genoese coast once, too. He’s a dangerous man, I tell you. Never trust the dwarfish, gentlemen. He’s no bigger than a minute, but slipp’ry as an eel … .”

Review by John M. Grimsrud

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas, and Yucatan - Book Review

Book Review - Five Stars 

Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas, and Yucatan by John Lloyd Stephens

This 588 page two volume book is part of four volumes, the second two volumes are entitled Incidents of Travel in Yucatan. They are all remarkably still in print though out of copy right. I own all four paper volumes and have read them more than twice using them for reference, and their magnificent drawings and early photographs for our studies and explorations.

The splendidly impressive descriptions of people, places, topography, flora, fauna, living conditions, government or lack of it, and significant happenings make these books all-time classics. For ease of reading, I read Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas, and Yucatan this time in digital edition on my Kindle reading device which greatly enhances the readability and pleasure. Though the digital edition is very inexpensive and delivered instantaneously to my Kindle worldwide there is one disadvantage, there are none of the drawings and early photographs included. For me that was no problem as I possess the printed editions.


On Wednesday, the 3d of October, 1839, we embarked at New York on board the British brig Mary Ann, Hampton, master, for the Bay of Honduras. The brig was lying in the North River, with her anchor apeak and sails loose, and in a few minutes, in company with a large whaling-ship bound for the Pacific, we were under way. It was before seven o’clock in the morning: the streets and wharfs were still; the Battery was desolate, and, at the moment of leaving it on a voyage of uncertain duration, seemed more beautiful than I had ever known it before.

Being within the limits of the British authority. Though living apart, as a tribe of Caribs, not mingling their blood with that of their conquerors, they were completely civilized; retaining, however, the Indian passion for beads and ornaments.

In every house were a grass hammock, we were exceedingly struck with the great progress made in civilization by these descendants of cannibals, the fiercest of all the Indian tribes whom the Spaniards encountered.

They asked us about our wives, and we learned that our simple-minded host had two, one of whom lived at Hocotan, and that he passed a week alternately with each. We told him that in England he would be transported, and in the North imprisoned for life for such indulgences, to which he responded that they were barbarous countries; and the woman, although she thought a man ought to be content with one.

None can know the value of hospitality but those who have felt the want of it, and they can never forget the welcome of strangers in a strange land.

There was but one side to politics in Guatimala. Both parties have a beautiful way of producing unanimity of opinion, by driving out of the country all who do not agree with them.

The general government had not the least particle of power in the state, and I mention the circumstance to show the utter feebleness of the administration, and the wretched condition of the country generally. It troubled me on one account, as it showed the difficulty and danger of prosecuting the travels I had contemplated.

Review by John M. Grimsrud

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

THE WORLD IN 1800 by Oliver Bernier - Book Review

 Book Review - Five Stars

THE WORLD IN 1800 by Oliver Bernier

This book is an extraordinary compilation of the most profound turning points in human history.

As the age of steam power was about to alter the velocity of mankind's advancement and the world’s population surpasses 1,000,000.000, this exceptional book covers that time like none other. The book is worthy of more than five stars...I loved it!


By 1800, the United States had a constitution that guaranteed this. France was just entering an era of dictatorship, but the way of life that had prevailed in the old European monarchies was clearly seen to be doomed.

The modern age, was widespread throughout Europe and the Americas. Science, freed at last from the shackles of religion, had begun to explore and explain the world. Manufactures were giving way to industries in which new, advanced techniques prevailed.

A slave, after all, is held to be less than human, a creature not entitled to the basic rights shared by the rest of humankind. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, slavery was the norm in most of the world.

Four European countries, France, Great Britain, Spain, and Portugal, which did not practice slavery on their own soil, traded in slaves and allowed slavery in their colonies.

The United States, a major slaveholder and importer, had been recently founded on the premise that all men were entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. What remained true in so many parts of the world, though, was that the economy was based on slavery: all have said that it was impossible to free the slaves without ruining the nation.

Bonaparte was proving, at the same time, that he was as capable of rebuilding a country as he was of leading an army to victory, France had emerged from the Revolution with no laws, no institutions, no system of education, even. Except for the understanding that the purchasers of nationalized estates were to be protected, there was no principle on which to build; and yet, in less than four years from his assumption of power, a new code of civil, criminal, and commercial law was in place: A new school and university system was created, and a stable currency, managed by a national bank, was set up. All these innovations lasted, virtually unchanged, for more than a century.

In Latin America, independence was irreversible, but the new republics were wracked by political and economic disorder. In the United States, after a further advance of democracy in the 1830s during the presidency of Andrew Jackson, the North and the South began the dispute that eventually brought on the Civil War.

Great Britain went to war with China to force it to buy the opium it produced in India; the United States became ever more eager to trade with Japan; all over Europe, people began to think that Asia and Africa might be ripe for colonization.

Historians sometimes say that the nineteenth century began in 1789. For the 100 years that followed 1800, people thought that much of what was happening to them had begun in 1800.

Review by John M. Grimsrud

Monday, September 20, 2021

Through Five Administrations: Reminiscences of Colonel William H. Crook, Body-Guard to President Lincoln - Book Review

Book Review - Five Stars 

Through Five Administrations: Reminiscences of Colonel William H. Crook, Body-Guard to President Lincoln by William H. Crook

This book relates the rapid and dynamic alteration of American history from the Civil War era to the late 1800s: Half a century of political turmoil as the Industrial Revolution forever accelerates humankind from the slow pace of horse and buggy to steam trains and the age of aviation.

A piece of history not to be overlooked.


What has happened?” He looked at us in amazement, not recognizing Mr. Lincoln. “Why, where have you been? Lee has surrendered.” There is one point which is not understood, I think, about the President’s trip to City Point and Richmond. The streets were alive with people, all very much excited. There were bonfires everywhere. We were all curious to know what had happened. Tad was so excited he couldn’t keep still. We halted the carriage and asked a bystander, “What

has happened?” He looked at us in amazement, not recognizing Mr. Lincoln. “Why, where have you been? Lee has surrendered.” There is one point which is not understood, I think, about the President’s trip to City Point and Richmond. I would like to tell here what my experience has made me believe. The expedition has been spoken of almost as if it were a pleasure trip. Some one says of it, “It was the first recreation the President had known.” Of course, in one sense this was true. He did get away from the routine of office-work. He had pleasant associations with General Grant and General Sherman, and enjoyed genial talks in the open over the camp-fire. But to give the impression that it was a sort of holiday excursion is a mistake.

From it has grown the series of receptions to the Diplomatic Corps, the Army and Navy, the Judiciary, and Congress, which are perhaps the most important general social events of the season. The first of these receptions was in February, 1878. The indiscriminate evening receptions at the White House had been for many years a source of great annoyance. In Lincoln’s time they had been marked by disgraceful vandalism; even when that was not true, there were violations of what one would think the simplest rules of good breeding. Carelessly dressed women who had not even taken the trouble to smooth their hair or wash their faces elbowed—sometimes sharply—women in dainty evening gowns. Sleepy children were dragged into the crush. Cloaks which were often greasy with dirt were worn into the very presence of the receiving party. It had become evident that the time for being democratic was not at evening receptions. Tourists and the curious generally could shake the hand of the President in the afternoon.