Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The first crocus

Spring arrived here Saturday under a few inches snow. I could have taken a photo of that, but figured we'd seen enough snow. So I shoveled enough to clear the sidewalk, scattered a little birdseed and for too much of the day just watched.

All the usual suspects were back with a few additions --- red-winged blackbirds and grackles (or common blackbirds), now back from the South, among them. If there were not so many grackles they would be protected --- beautiful streamlined creatures with blue-black heads and necks, long beaks and striking yellow eyes.

The mourning droves, probably those that live in this neighborhood year-around, feed out front twice daily now. Fun to watch, too, somewhat smaller than pigeons and beautifully colored in a subtle sort of way. Looking down on them as they feed you can see why they might also be called turtle doves sometimes (although I'm not really sure this is the reason) --- they look a little like feathered turtles as they scoot around eating with wings slightly spread and feathers slightly fluffed.

Some states allow hunters to shoot doves for reasons I've never understood. There can't be that much meat on them, so it must be more in the line of target practice and that seems like a waste of life. Iowans have always had a collective fit when the hunter lobby proposed a drove season, so here at least they're still protected.

The doves also remind me in a way of those big boats were used to drive in the 1960s and 1970s, vast vehicles that look odd now as they perambulate on skinny little tires.

In the garden, the fist crocus bloomed Monday and more will be out today --- and that seemed worthy of a photo. The first daffodil installment will be out in a day or two and I spotted my first meadowlark down at the marsh yesterday afternoon. So spring apparently is really here.


I get a kick out of playing history detective now and then and Betty Cross gave me the opportunity yesterday when she stopped in bearing a photoduplicate of a beautifullyl-framed panoramic photo of a couple of hundred people standing in front of an impressive Romanesque Revival building that a gentleman from Baton Rouge had sent, seeking an explanation (it had turned up in his mother's attic). The photo bore an inscription in white ink that read, "B-A-Yeoman-Conclave Mpls 1909." The frame was stamped "J.E. Holmbergs Pictureshop, Chariton, Iowa."

This is only the central portion of the panoramic photograph. The photoduplicate of the original was folded before mailing, hence the vertical line through it.

The owner's grandmother, Marie (Scheridan/Scherdin) Goodman, had lived in Lucas County, he wrote. And some newspaper references suggest their home was nearer Lucas than Chariton.

Deciphering the inscription wasn't that difficult. "B-A-Yeoman" is Brotherhood of American Yeomen" and "Mpls," Minneapolis. So the photo obviously was taken during a gathering of Brotherhood of American Yeomen members held during 1909 in Minneapolis.

Brotherhood of American Yeomen was one of many fraternal insurance societies that sprang up across the country near the turn of the century when the insurance industry was in its infancy (there are those who argue it should never have been allowed to reach maturity). Modern Woodmen of the World is another that comes to mind. There also were Foresters, etc., etc. The Yeomen society was organized at Bancroft in north central Iowa in 1897 but by 1909 had spread across the Midwest and onto the Plains and was headquartered in Des Moines.

Most were patterned after lodges at a time before the Internet when it was necessary to interact with other people face to face in order to socialize. Local Brotherhood of American Yeomen lodges were called homesteads, had an elaborate initiation ceremony, held regular lodge meetings and showered members with brightly colored membership ribbons and pins.

The nearest Yeomen homestead was at Lucas, near which the Scherdins apparently lived, so it seems most likely that family members were lodge members, attended the 1909 Minneapolis conclave and upon receiving a tube containing the tightly rolled panoramic photo of the group offered as a souvenir brought it into Chariton to J.E. Holmberg to have it framed.

Holmberg, identified consistently as a carpenter, probably had a sideline of framing photographs, lithographs and other decorative items for Lucas Countyans.

So that mystery was solved, or at least I think it was; and now I've written to the gentleman in Baton Rouge to tell him all about it.

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