Rando and the Rock Mop Hop

I finally conducted the necessary research to answer the question of Rando Rock vs. The Betty System. While I do not pretend that Rando and his computerized robot mop can hold a wet candle to the Betty System, I am quite happy with it for several reasons.

  1. I have had over a week of dog hair free floors, and never once did I have to vacuum. Randy has it set to run every day at noon, automatically. Yeah. Rock will turn himself on, depart the dock, vacuum, and return to the dock. All Rando does is pick up the dog bed, dog food bowls, and move the chair in his office.
  2. Last week, Rando and the Rock mopped the kitchen floor. The first time still left a lot, but I had to admit, it has been muddy and dogs do not wipe their feet, so I opted to save the research summary for additional testing. Even at that, it looked better than it had before. And did I mention I did not have to do it?
  3. A couple of days ago, Rando and the Rock mopped the kitchen floor again. Randy said he changed the water spray on Rock to the high setting (using most water), and sprayed the floor with the Mr. Clean/water mixture I keep in a spray bottle for the cabinet counters and accidents, as well as when I actually mop a floor. Noted improvement; floors looked adequate, and once again, I did not have to do it. Yeah again!
  4. Today, whilst I was taking a nap, Rando and the Rock mopped the living room floor. Now I am one to give credit where credit is due, and granted, Rando only has to pick up the dog bed and move the desk chair out, load the water, and spray the floor. Rock gets to do all the dirty work. True, Rando gets to rinse the micro fiber mop as Rock cannot yet climb up the cabinet and turn on the water taps to do that for himself without shorting out his battery. The results? Priceless. The living room floor does not take the beating that the kitchen does as there is not near as much traffic on it, and when there is, the mud has all been walked off in the kitchen/dining room and hall. [I know you are thinking Yeah for me! And I did not have to do it.]

I believe after all the years of rinsing out dirty diapers in the toilet, wringing out mops with my bare hands before they invented self-wringing mops–which still involve a certain amount of wet hands, that I am due this little respite. I shall revel in it, wallow in it, bask in it, and never ever learn how to use the Rock.

Posted in Country Philosophy, Mississippi | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Keep on ‘Rock’ing in the yard, Johnny Winter

The cat formerly known as Whitey Bulger

Yes, someone left the “Kind-hearted woman lives here” sign out in the woods again. I came out one morning last week to find this beautiful boy sitting at the edge of the parking spaces, with Beyonce, Dilute, and Scruffy hissing and growling from their various vantage points. While I have named most all of the cats who end up on this hillside with the names of musicians, mostly Mississippi blues men, I started calling him Whitey Bulger. For obvious reasons, Whitey, and the Bulger just came as an afterthought because he seemed to display some gangster boss traits initially. He and Beyonce were just getting into it one morning–my girls will defend their turf and don’t take any lip from the male interlopers who think like tom cats do. I did what I did when Duck II (my second Jimmy Duck Holmes cat) showed up: put the food outside the drive way so he could eat without blood being shed.

As cats will do when you feed them, Whitey started coming around…all the time…and sitting on the steps in the morning waiting for me to come out with the food. He quit hissing and began to meow quietly, following me around. One evening as I sat out with the fire pit, he got closer and sat down quietly looking at me as if taking measure. I started talking to him in my best cat whisperer voice.

Where are your humans, Whitey? You seem like you have been around humans before. Did you get out and get lost? Did someone throw you away? Or are you just visiting from the neighbors?

I started slow-blinking, watching to see if he would slow-blink back. I had just read a research article (yes, there are folks who research cat communication!) earlier in the week about how cats communicate with other cats and even humans with the slow-blink. The researchers found that when the human slow-blinked back at the cat, it would approach sooner than without slow-blinking. [Note: I did not ascertain if the research was with feral cats or tame cats known to the humans.] A couple of days passed and one morning when I went out, Whitey was at the steps, meowing softly and began rubbing up against my leg. When I leaned down, he let me touch him and scratch him behind the ears, while softly talking to me. “Yep, Whitey, you have had humans somewhere along the path.”

Whitey becomes Johnny Winter

I told Randy last night I guessed I had to give Whitey a new name. Once he figured out he is not the alpha-dog cat around here, the girls are slowly accepting his presence–as they did with Duck II before he disappeared one morning never to be seen again. He is now so friendly he weaves in and out of your legs while walking–a moving land mine. He asks to be petted, scratched, talked to, and most of all, asks to be fed and given fresh water. I suppose if he hangs out a little longer, I will try to get him in a cage and take him in to be neutered. While the girls here are spayed, it might save a litter somewhere else down someone else’s road. I also opined last night that I would contact the animal shelter here, and the cat rescue organization to see if he had been reported missing, but that has never resulted in a found human yet in 17 years.

In honor of the tradition of musician names, welcome home, Johnny Winter. And next up, the “Rock” report on mopping: research that is only slightly less important than the slow cat blink.

Posted in Acts of Restorative Kindness, Country Philosophy, Diversity Equity and Inclusion, Mississippi Cats | Tagged | 20 Comments

“The Rock” but not Dwayne

The Roborock arrived Monday. After sending Bobsweep into retirement, Rando was leaning toward the Sharkbot. Next thing I know, he says the Rock is on its way. He did his due diligence with even more attention to the diligence this time and decided on Roborock. After a charge in the docking station, Rock got busy in the kitchen…and the living room…and the office which has carpet. He even “mapped” the hall in his computer brain, though he could not access the hall yet. When the Rock was full, the voice came on to announce “check the filter”. The voice sounds a lot like Nuvi…or Siri…or Alexa…you get it, the voice is a woman.

Rando opined that since it was a female voice, the Rock was not a he but a she and I had to call her Robbie. I replied

Behind every functional man is a woman telling him what to do and how to do it. The Rock is just good at following instructions. Really, who has ever heard of a woman called Rock?

Rock will even do the carpet exceptionally well. He goes under furniture, and as soon as Rando raises the doggie gate in the hall a couple of inches, Rock will do the hall. (Note, we learned a long time ago that with multiple dogs in the house, a hall gate prevented a lot of problems at certain times. Steffi and Abby love to play together, but Roadie is not a dog who accepts change well, and he is an elder, and does not appreciate a teenager climbing all over him.)

Rock will do the living room, small part of the hall this side of the gate, the kitchen/dining room, and the office in less time than Bob could do the kitchen/dining room. Bob could not map; the Rock can…and he goes in straight lines section at a time. When he is full, he returns to dock to be emptied and then resumes his work. “Full” is a relative term around here. Being able to have Rock clean up daily means most of the time, he will be able to do all of those rooms without being emptied. Yesterday, Steffi and Abby were rough-housing in the dining room, and though it was all in fun, the fur was still flying.

Rock is on Day 4 here, and so far, it appears he will be just what we need! And, there is that whole perk thing of Rando has the Roborock app on his phone, so he just turns Rock on, and off he goes. Too bad there is not a Rock to do dishes and clean the bathroom. Once again, I say

It is good to be married to a tech geek. 😍

Posted in Country Philosophy, Mississippi | Tagged | 10 Comments

Poliomyelitis: History, myths, vaccines, and naysayers

The Sun-Sentinel (Charleston, Mississippi), July 30, 1936, p. 4
The Sun-Sentinel (Charleston, Mississippi), July 30, 1936, p. 4 continued

I ran across this 1936 news item not long ago, and it has increasingly been on my mind, given all the ongoing updates and debates about COVID-19, vaccines, anti-mask, anti-public health control measures, and now of course, the increasing number of infections within the White House starting with Mr. Trump.

Those of us of a certain age recall a range of things associated with polio. I went to school with children who were affected by polio, walked with significantly impaired gait, wore braces, or used crutches. I remember the stories of the “iron lungs.” Both sets of my grandparents lived in the country and did not have running water in their house until I was 13 for one set, and 20 for the other. The sink in the kitchen was called a dry sink, and had no water taps, just a drain that poured out into the yard. It was usually so dry that rarely did water pool or stand, absorbing quickly into the ground. At my maternal grandparents house though, at certain times of the year, a small ditch to divert the water away from her house would hold water for a while if she was washing clothes (yes in a tub with a washboard) or something else that required a good deal of water that would subsequently be poured out–such as the baths taken in the washtub. We were forbidden to play in the water in that ditch, for fear of polio.

When I found the news item above, it reminded me of that rule, and I was curious as to why it would have been considered a factor. As adults, my siblings and I remarked about the “polio water” behind Mama’s house–the same water that the dog drank if he wanted to. Turns out there is a long history about the polio virus that I never heard of, and much like other viruses including COVID-19, there is a long history of misinformation and denial.

Polio has been in existence as early as 1580-1350 BC according to the Polio Global Eradication Initiative, when early forms of art showed people with “withered limbs.” Studies on Egyptian mummies suggested such a disease because of a child mummy with a shorter leg. In 1789, Dr. Michael Underwood, from Britain described the “first-known clinical description of polio called ‘debility of the lower extremities.” By 1840, German physician Dr. Jacob von Heine theorized poliomyelitis could be contagious. It did cause paralysis and occasionally death, but normally caused only mild symptoms in children, and was extremely rare among either infants or adults.

The first documented outbreak of infantile paralysis in the United States was in 1894, although it was not until 1908 that “Austrian physicians Karl Landsteiner and Erwin Popper hypothesize that polio may be caused by a virus.” By the 1900s, polio was an epidemic, killing the previously immune infants and adults, and frightening everyone. A polio epidemic outbreak in New York in 1916 “heightens concern on both sides of the Atlantic and accelerates research into how the disease is spread” and the Public Health Service documented asymptomatic persons could spread the disease. It was worse in developed countries, cities, and during summer. The disease affected mostly white, wealthy families–but more on that in a bit, please.

The invention of the Iron Lung in 1927 by Philip Drinker and Louis Agassiz Shaw devised a ‘tank respirator’ to maintain respiration, since paralysis of the chest muscles was a major contributor to death. The pump changed the pressure inside an airtight box, causing air to be inhaled and exhaled from the lungs artificially. John Emerson refined the device, cutting the cost by almost half, and developed a bed that could slide into and out of the iron lung as needed. Although other significant developments occurred along the timeline, nothing was as significant as the development of a vaccine–still not present when Russell Lee photographed migrant children in the labor camp.

Lee, R., photographer. (1941) Swimming pool at Athena, Oregon. This pool is near the FSA Farm Security Administration migratory labor camp mobile unit and the children of the camp swim and receive swimming lessons three days a week. Athena Athena. Oregon Umatilla County United States, 1941. July. [Photograph] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/2017790050/.

When Franklin Delano Roosevelt contracted polio at the age of 39 in 1921, the nation was shocked. He had contracted the disease while on a vacation trip to a lake, and suddenly, swimming pools, lakes, or any open water were suspect. Alexandra Linn (2012, Polio and Swimming Pools: Historical Connections) provided insight. That insight would also jive with other issues we would learn about how polio spread–again, in just a bit.

In 1930, the first understanding that polio might be spread by oral infection was discovered, and in 1932, fecal studies found the virus present in human feces. It was not long after until it became clear that there was a relationship between ingestion and the development of polio. The first polio vaccine trials began in 1935, and in 1936, growing poliovirus in human nervous tissue began. The March of Dimes–a national effort to eradicate polio–was begun in 1938. By 1948, Koprowski tested the polio virus vaccine developed on himself and in 1950, on children. Polio cases surged again in 1952, and Salk began the first vaccine tests, giving the vaccine to his family in 1953. In 1954, massive vaccine trials began. Only a few weeks after success was announced the “Cutter Incident” occurred. A doctor reported paralytic polio in a recently vaccinated girl, and then other reports began to emerge. In all of the cases, paralysis began in the vaccinated arm, not in the legs as was common. Most of the cases were reported in children who had received the vaccine from Cutter Laboratories. The Public Health Service of the U. S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare reported the Cutter Labs vaccine had been withdrawn, and the agency consulted with the six pharmaceutics companies manufacturing vaccine. The Surgeon General suspended the vaccination program until investigations could be completed. In the end, 11 persons died and hundreds were paralyzed. Although results were not conclusive, it appeared likely that some of the production methods had NOT followed Salk’s instructions which “resulted in a failure to completely kill the Type 1 (Mahoney) poliovirus in the vaccine” (The History of Vaccines: An Educational Resource by the College of Physicians of Philadelphia).

Before we return to the vaccine development, there are two important aspects of how poliomyelitis evolved, and why we were instructed not to play in what could have been contaminated water (but in all likelihood, was not).

First, we know that polio as a disease was widespread and prevalent for a long time. It just rarely killed or resulted in serious paralysis or deformity. In babies, polio was often similar to a cold if symptoms were present, due to the protective antibodies infants have from mothers at birth. That early exposure immunized babies to that particular type of polio. Only later when children become older and lost those antibodies from the mother did polio infection become devastating. Because the majority of cases affected white, wealthy families, it became clear that the cleaner ones surroundings, the greater the likelihood of a more devastating form of polio, leading to the water conclusion. Since we learned that polio virus was spread through a fecal-oral contact (i.e., virus infected feces transmitted to oral ingestion), the connection between hygiene and infection was revealed. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, modern plumbing, sewer systems, and water treatment systems meant infants were less likely to be exposed to polio at the time they would have maternal antibodies which would protect them against polio. Due again to better hygiene practices and less likelihood that mothers had been exposed themselves, there was no protection for either infants, children, or adults.

Clean water upset a millennia-old balance between poliomyelitis and our immune systems. Once one of the world’s most feared diseases, however, polio is now all but nonexistent. After the epidemic peaked in the 1940s and 50s, polio went into a swift decline thanks to two successful vaccines. Keeping polio at bay, of course, depends on everyone getting their kids vaccinated–or going back to pre-modern standards of cleanliness.

Guy, A. (2014, January 7). How modern sanitation gave us polio. nextnature.net.

After the first U. S. cases were identified in the late 1800s, the numbers grew to a high of nearly 60,000 in 1952. The virus seemed to thrive in the summer months, with a ‘polio season’ peaking in mid- to late-summer, and receding with the cool weather. ..How did this scare change swimming pools, and how did their association with polio fade away?

By the time of the polio scare in the late 1930s and 1940s, chlorine was used widely in public swimming pools as a sanitation measure. Still, this didn’t prevent the panic that arose over the public’s fears that children could be exposed to the poliovirus in community swimming pools. In 1946, however, a study showed that chlorine was actually one of the few known chemicals that could inactivate the virus. Although polio is resistant to common soaps and chemicals of low PH – which is one of the reasons it was able to spread so efficiently — it can be rapidly inactivated by chlorine, as well as by heat and formaldehyde. Formaldehyde was the chemical ultimately used to inactivate the virus in Jonas Salk’s inactivated polio vaccine, or IPV.

Linn, A. (2012, June 28). Polio and Swimming Pools: Historical Connections. The History of Vaccines: An Educational Resource by the College of Physicians of Philadelphia.

The Naysayers

Comments from readers on the Guy (2014) article included “Maybe in addition to going back to ‘pre-modern standards of cleanliness’ mothers could go back to breast feeding and avoid vaccines and potential dangers, and give their babies a ‘safe period’…”

Well, no, not if the mother had not been exposed to polio and transferred the polio antibodies to her infant via breastfeeding.

A reader posted a comment to the Linn article that “the swimming pools and shady swimming holes were the problem. When all the public pools started using an EFFECTIVE level of chlorine, the epidemics end overnight. The Vaccine Industry took credit for ending Polio but it is now obvious that the polio vaccine had nothing to do with stopping the polio epidemics. However, 98 million people vaccinated with the vaccine were dosed with the Simian Virus 40.”

Now let’s take a look at the illogic of this one. It does stand to reason that people could have been exposed to the polio virus in a non-treated swimming pool or swimming hole. We all know that sometimes people pee or poop in a swimming pool, and yes, you can swallow water when swimming. So if the swimming pools were using chlorine in their pools in 1946 or even earlier, then that would not likely have been the cause of the significant outbreaks in the 1950s. The polio vaccine program was suspended in 1955 in the US, but polio was still a disease not only in the US, but also world-wide.

Based on the theory that water is contaminated by the virus in feces, I theorize it unlikely we would have contracted polio from the kitchen sink drainage ditch. It seems unlikely that anyone in the family would have shed the virus into the wash water subsequently tossed out. Indeed, since we were all unprotected at that point, while it is possible an asymptomatic individual had somehow contracted polio, the fecal matter transfer from hands to mouth would have more than likely occurred in other ways–like the fact that we used a common wash basin to wash hands, and a common cup to drink from the water bucket, which could have been contaminated by dirty hands to mouth–which children and adults are known to do. It still freaks me out totally to be in a public bathroom and see an adult leave the room without washing their hands with soap. I will not touch a doorknob or faucet with my bare hand–long before COVID-19.

Now, finally about the opinion that the vaccine developers took credit for ending polio outbreaks in the US when he thought it was chlorinated pools, that is a leap of faith I just cannot make. The point of the article was to explain that swimming pool water was not likely the reason for the outbreaks.

In 1959, Albert Sabin began the trials of his oral polio vaccine in collaboration with the Soviet government. The oral vaccine had a number of advantages over the injected vaccine. In 1960, Merck began work on vaccines and detected a simian virus in the monkey kidney cells used to grow the poliovirus for their vaccine. The virus, SV40, was found to cause tumors in hamsters, was withdrawn from the market, and by 1963, all government screening programs had to screen for simian viruses in polio vaccines. Polio vaccines are screened for all known viruses now, and none of the many studies conducted on the SV40 in the early polio vaccines has shown a relationship between the virus and cancer in humans. It also resulted in moving away from using monkeys for tissue culture and a change to human cells. By 1968, Salk’s IPV was no longer used until 1997 when it was utilized again. The 1988 Global Polio Eradication Initiative was begun; polio was declared eliminated from the Americas in 1994 and eliminated in Europe in 2002. The polio eradication update in 2018 reported only three countries remained endemic at the end of 2017: Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan, although other countries were still at risk, typically countries where there is war and armed conflict making it difficult to reach children for immunization.

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Now this is what I’m talkin’ about: My new BFF

Parking area

The weather has turned cooler here at last, and this is my favorite time of year: fall, when it is gorgeous outside. We have been awaiting this time of year to get started on all the outdoor projects that have been ignored for oh, give-or-take, 17 years and counting. To the uninitiated, Mississippi is a dangerous place to live, and not just for the reasons you might be thinking. I decided yesterday that there should be a law requiring mandated training for anyone who moves from Northwest Texas to Mississippi–merely for preventive proactive purposes.

There were the little things at first, granted. I mean you could leave your papers in a cardboard box in the pasture back home and when you needed your insurance policy 5 years later, they would still be dry and in pristine shape right where you left them. Here, the humidity makes my shoes rot in the closet. Between the kudzu takeover and the water erosion on the hillside, one might wonder why we decided to stay.

And then, Randy introduced me to my new Best Friend Forever. I told him this morning that I wanted to put him on retainer.

bucket truck and Bobcat

I have always had a deep and abiding respect for and admiration of the men and women who earn their living with physical labor. I came from a long line of working people who sweated in the swelter of summer and froze in the cold of winter. To me, it is a beautiful thing to watch someone who understands how to use heavy equipment (my dad worked for many years as a heavy equipment operator, running a dragline, bulldozer, and front-end loader) and understand how much you have to know to do it well and safely. Without them, we would be in a heap of a mess, and yet, we often do not appreciate them.

up on the hill

Tim and Bob took a break. Randy and J surveyed the work thus far and discussed a retaining wall. I climbed through the opening to gather up all the cat food dishes the raccoons have dragged up the hill for the last umpteen years. I also retrieved two wine bottles and an orange juice container. Who knew raccoons liked wine?

Posted in Acts of Restorative Kindness, Mississippi | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

I’m sorry Bob, but this is not working out the way I had hoped it would. I need you to start packing.

Bob you are not the one for me

I know, Bob. I made a lavish promise that I hoped our love affair would last. But let’s face it–for such a new model, you cannot hold a candle to Rando with a vacuum even when he has done it no more than twice in 39 years. I mean first, you ran out of juice after only a couple of wobbly passes, even though you said you had a full charge. Then for no apparent reason, you just stop charging yourself with only half a charge. That is like magical thinking, Bob, and normally we outgrow that by age 7 or 8.

My tech geek called for support, and they suggested you might have a faulty charger OR a faulty battery, so they shipped both replacements. Now while you were able to sit still long enough for a decent charge, after roaming in a couple of circles like playing hide-and-seek in a blindfold, you still just shut yourself off and went home and refused to charge again. Tech geek said in his educated opinion you had a faulty capacitor and could not carry the load, thus, when you got hot, you shut yourself down. (And when it comes to computers, robots, and other highly complex electric circuitry, he is always right, which is a good thing even if sometimes slightly annoying to be reminded of it).

I will give you credit Bob, and I thank you for choosing that option rather than setting yourself on fire. But please understand where I am coming from here when I say this relationship is not working out. We did our due diligence homework before picking you, and based on consumer reports, you would best meet our needs…which might have been true if you had not had faulty something-or-others.

We have had two Dysons. The the last time, we went with a Shark, because frankly, while I also “think things should just work properly”, Dyson was getting a little uppity with the price tag while the second model was no where close to the quality of the first and did not last near as long nor clean near as well. We opted for the Shark, and believe me, while normally I do not cavort with a shark, this Shark is top notch in my opinion and very cavortable. Tech geek discovered Shark also has a robot vacuum and it will empty himself into his own little trash bin!

So, Bob, you get to go wherever it is that bad Bobs have to go. In all due respect, I will indeed wipe the doggie hair off and send you back with a shine, just to show there are no hard feelings.

To anyone who might be thinking of buying a robot vacuum, I recommend you wait for the Shark review first. As you know, sometimes, things just are not as they have been made out to be. For now, Bob gets a one-way ticket, and Sharkbot gets a home visit.

Posted in Country Philosophy, Mississippi | Tagged | 11 Comments

The Black Legion: Indictments and Disintegration

Peter Amann, the historian who spent years researching the Black Legion, stated:

“Even though intravigilante violence, arson, political ‘contracts,’ and murder-for-fun had expanded the range of nightriding activities beyond the modest ambitions of Dr. Shepard, the Black Legion never forgot its original commitment to monitor community mores” (p. 520). 

This “monitoring community mores” was allegedly what brought them to Charles Poole, but it may have been more than that. Poole was an unemployed auto worker and a Catholic, married to a Protestant who was pregnant with their second child.  She was also related by marriage to one of the “boys” of  “Colonel” Harvey Davis in the Black Legion.  A rumor started that Poole had been beating her, and May 12, 1936, he was abducted and shot five times.  May 27, 12 members of the Black Legion were brought into court accused of Poole’s execution.  The Black Legion was already under investigation for reported arson, floggings, and death threats.  Eight members had already been suspended from state or city jobs for “racial propaganda” (Dozen are Quizzed in Poole Case, May 27, 1936, The Windsor Star, p. 13) and at least six deaths were under investigation for possible connection.  Dayton Dean, the Black Legion member who confessed to the planning and killing of Poole stated:

“I was just following orders from my superiors.  At a meeting (when the slaying was planned) we were all told that Poole had kicked and beaten his wife.  We were told that Mrs. Poole’s baby, which was soon expected, would not be born alive because of the brutality of her husband.  It was just a pack of lies to get us to take drastic action.” (Dozen are Quizzed)

By June, Ray Sprigle of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette had written an account of his interview with the Black Legion “General” V. H. Effinger.

“What and why is the Black Legion.  Thousands of newspaper readers throughout the country have been wondering about the answer to the question since the startling disclosures in Detroit where Charles Poole, a WPA worker, was slain ostensibly because he beat his wife. The actual killer declares that he killed at the command of leaders of the Detroit organization of the Black Legion.

What is the philosophy of leaders of an organization such as this, admittedly based upon religious prejudice? What type of men rise to leadership in such an oath-bound secret order?”

Sprigle continued that the interview was conducted and printed “as a matter of information only, with no attempt to either condemn or palliate” (June 9, 1936, p. 13).  Effinger’s comments included:

  • “The charge that the Black Legion had anything to do with the murder of Charles A. Poole in Detroit is a dirty lie.”
  • “I know Dayton Dean, the man who did the shooting and he’s a dirty rat.”
  • “Duncan McCrea [Detroit prosecutor] was not only a member of the Black Legion, but he was a recruiting officer of the legion. He was one of the organizers in Michigan.  He was a good one, too.  He turned in a good many members. Now he’s trying to connect the Black Legion with a drunken killing.”
  • “The organization deplores anything of this nature. It stands wholly for law and order based on justice.”
  • “The Black Legion plays no favorites among parties. We support candidates favorable to the principles of the legion…we make no distinction between Democrats and Republicans…we are unalterably opposed to the other parties. Communists are pledged to overthrow this Government if elected.  And if ever the Communist party should rise to power in this country, then the Black Legion will march.”

Sprigle concluded with the story of being stopped by a leading citizen of Lima, Ohio, introduced to him by the Lima newspaperman as he walked back to the train station to return to Pittsburgh.

“So you are from the Post-Gazette and are investigating the Black Legion?” the prominent citizen whispered.  “Well, I want to tip you off to something.  All of the leaders of this Black Legion are high-ranking Communists.  It is being financed from Moscow.”

Sprigle finished by writing: You paid your 3 cents for this, so take your choice.

The grand jury report from Circuit Judge George B. Hartrick of Pontiac on September 1 named 86 state, county and city employees as members of the hooded order, but also added they found no evidence the Black Legion was a Fascist organization, nor any evidence of foreign money financing them.  

“Hysterical or unthinking action will not cure the curse of bigotry, prejudice, and ‘playboy’ antics which lead adult men under the moon at night, in hood and robe, to tinker with the constitutional safeguards which our forefathers vouchsafed nearly 150 years ago.  It has taken the world nineteen centuries to learn the golden rule of tolerance” (Brains not a clan mark: Judge reports on investigation of Black Legion. (Sept. 1, 1936). The Kansas City Star, p. 3)

Judge Hartrick, conducting hearings for several weeks, said that the Black Legion in Oakland County was disrupted by the bickering of politicians who sought to gain votes.  The grand jury returned indictments charging Effinger and 21 others with criminal syndicalism in an alleged plot to seize the federal government.  Named were a state representative, branch manager of the state liquor control commission, division manager of the state sales tax administration, supervisor of a state hospital, a prosecutor and 2 assistant prosecutors, six deputy sheriffs, county drain commissioner, city treasurer, 2 city assessors, and 2 police chiefs.  The grand jury also released the names of 86 members who were public officials, state officers, and state employees, including a member of the police and fire trial board, director of law, police sergeants, detectives, and patrolmen, and fire department captain and firemen in addition to others .  The Judge stated the Black Legion’s grip was broken and it was up to the public to finish the clean-up (The Detroit Free Press, Sept. 2, 1936, p. 10).

The one question the grand jury nor the judge could answer was 

“With the flashing of the national callword ‘Lixto’ the Black Legion awaited the pre-determined date, Sept. 16, 1936, for what reason?  Was there to be a rebellion against the Government?  Or was that the date of a contemplated Communist revolution in America which the Black Legion would be mobilized to combat?  It is certain that the ‘Iron Guard’ of the inner unit which was recruited from members of the Black Legion for duty in some extraordinary capacity, perhaps, as it is claimed, to take over Government arsenals and powder magazines when the spark of revolution would inflame the land.”

While the judge concluded the failure of the Black Legion was because of politics and low intelligence, Amann concluded that although the Black Legion was nativist, and shared “typical fascist hatreds” (p. 522) such as racism and xenophobia, the movement failed because the American nativism did not encompass the sanction for revolution while still professing country loyalty as did the European model.  To be a patriot in America meant there was no revolution other than The Revolution of 1776: “vigilante nativism and revolutionary fascism were fundamentally incompatible” (p. 524).

I cannot predict, of course, how true that may be in the year 2020.  Certainly there are concerning issues raised daily about the threat to democracy, the efforts to reject any sense of social and economic equality, equity, inclusion, and justice, and the re-defining of patriotism as one in which fundamental rights that have enabled us to protest unjust action by government at all levels would give way to a totalitarian authoritarian regime cloaked in “law and order” language that musters the appointed and elected servants of the people to act in their own interest, and not in the interests of the people who are thusly “governed.”

I can only hope and believe that the “consent of the governed” will remain in full view and that when the consent is revoked as evidenced by the marches and demonstrations, the challenges in courts and at the voting booth, that we will indeed be able to stand together and acknowledge that there are just some outcomes that are good for all of us, and when some of us do not have the right to liberty, peace, justice and the pursuit of happiness because others usurp that through power grabs and their own selfish interests, we must indeed say it out loud: the foxes guarding the henhouse must be named, and must be voted out of power.  Not saying or doing anything through means such as legal, political, and social action will allow it to continue.  While there may never be another Black Legion, we know that nativism is alive and thriving in the US. 

We must abide no hatred nor allow it to flourish in our communities, or as Judge Hartrick put it: “it is up to the public to clean it up.”

 

 

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The Black Legion: Exposed

Yesterday, I posted the first part of the series on the Black Legion, the organization labeled in 1935 as a terrorist organization by the US government. Yes, you read that correctly: The anti-Catholic, anti-Jewish, anti-Negro, anti-labor organizer offshoot of the Ku Klux Klan of “60,000 to 100,000 armed and disciplined men clustered in the cities of four contiguous midwestern states” and “the most formidable nativist organization around” (Amann, 1983, p. 491) was labeled a terrorist organization.

Among the initiation rituals and vows, the recruits had to demonstrate they were born in the US, white, Protestant, and gentile and that they understood they were joining a terrorist organization, described in the ritual as “classed by our enemies as an outlaw organization” (p. 496).  They were required to promise to commit voter fraud as ordered, perjure themselves if ordered to do so, and support lynch law, secure guns, and oppose immigrants, blacks, Catholics, and Jews.

Because it was an organization that thrived on secrecy, it was also coercive to members who might have been deemed out of line, or if the Legion thought they were immoral. I find the first mention of the Black Legion in the newspapers in March 1935–even though it was 10 years old at that time.

Families of three candidates for County political office last November, county Clerk Lynn D. Allen, County Treasurer Charles A. Sparks, and Lewis Jarrendt, former County drain commissioner, were threatened by the .32 Bullet Club, secret political organization, unless they withdrew from politics, Jarrendt revealed Monday.

Persons battling the organization asserted Monday that they did not expect to obtain any official action to clean up the order because its membership extended into the highest political and business circles. ..the order [Bullet Club] has its basis in a secret organization, reputedly of National scope…known as the Black Legion.

‘We were given orders that we and our families had to work and vote for certain candidates or else’–a former member said.

Three Warned to Quit Politics: Order Held to Blame in Official’s Ouster. (March 5, 1935). Detroit Free Press, p. 8.

A short month later, the Pontiac Police faced the hearing related to the charges that two sergeants were members of the Bullet Club. The police chief had suspended the two men, stating their membership was incompatible with police service. The chief himself had been suspended in December, but reinstated after his trial. He provided evidence that his dismissal was “one of the aims of the Bullet Club and that it was planned to install one of the two currently charged officers as chief, and one as captain. A charge was made, however, that three members of the City Commission were members of the Bullet Club and expected to oppose the officers’ dismissals (Pontiac Police Face Hearing: Bullet Club Evidence to be Presented, April 8, 1935, Detroit Free Press, p. 8).

The secrecy began unraveling, and in August, a complaint by a farmer who alleged he had been forced to join the Black Legion against his will resulted in the state police arresting 3 men connected with the organization. Earlier in August, five men were arrested in connection with a kidnap plot. All had guns and black and red hooded regalia with the skull and crossbones insignia and were charged with carrying concealed weapons.

Next, I will take a look at the murder that would blow the lid off the organization and expose its rotting inner workings to the world. Amann provided a well-documented evolution of the Black Legion and its acts, including arson, bombing, and murder of labor organizers, along with their plans to murder Catholic municipal leaders and others they deemed “radicals.”  They began to plan stealing arms and ammunition from government arsenals and to take over the government.  They explored bacterial infection of “enemies” and had a plan to kill one million Jews during Yom Kippur.  They were able to exploit the political system and escape justice through the cooperation of municipal leaders and police in a number of urban areas.  When the news broke about the Legion’s murder of WPA worker Charles Poole in May 1936, it created a public revulsion the Black Legion was not able to overcome.

Even a Utah paper published a comment about the Black Legion and Hitler when at the 1936 Olympics, Hitler refused to shake the hand of medalist Jesse Owens:

Paging the Black Legion

The Weekly Reflex, Aug. 20, 1936, p. 6.

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The Black Legion: Does this language sound familiar?

Because in retrospect we know that fascism never took in the United States, we are likely to overlook aspects of the American experience that nurtured what might well be described as protofascist proclivities: our hardy nativist tradition, from the Know-Nothings to the second Ku Klux Klan, cultivated attitudes that strikingly paralleled many of the characteristics of European fascism during the interwar period.

The goal of this article is to explore the relationship of American nativism to would-be fascism by examining the dynamics of the failure of the one sizeable nativist organization that made the transition to something approaching fascism. (Amann, 1983, p. 490)

Amann, P. H. (1983). Vigilante Fascism: The Black Legion as an American hybrid. Society for Comparative Study of Society and History, 25(3), 490-524.

Thus begins Amann’s analysis of the Black Legion during the 1930s.  What brought me to examine this topic was a chance finding in a 1936 paper:

June 1, 1936, Clarion-Ledger, p 1

Jackson Clarion-Ledger, June 1, 1936, p. 1.

Who, or what, was the Black Legion?  What did the words White Legion mean under the line?  Why was it sent to the Detroit police?  What I would find bears a strong resemblance to an article in the Washington Post, September 5, 2020: White House directs federal agencies to cancel race-related training sessions it calls ‘un-American propaganda’: Administration seeks lists of contracts for those that refer to ‘white privilege,’ according to memo (Dawsey & Stein).  The recent release of Trump’s Executive Order on Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping issued September 22, 2020 only further reinforces the ignorance of history and  long-standing efforts to combat racism, discrimination, sexism, and all the other isms that have been part and parcel of history–not just in the United States but in countries and nations world wide.

The 1936 letter “printed in human blood” was mailed from New York to the Detroit police, warning them in letters “half an inch high” and signed the White Legion (White Legion now warns while ‘Cult’ is on run, May 30, 1936, The Mercury, p. 2).  The Black Legion was exposed when 13 members were arrested on charges of kidnapping and murder.  The Michigan governor stated:

“This assault upon the rights of free citizens is the more abominable because it seeks to wrap itself in the American flag and to hide its crimes behind the Constitution of the United States” (Black Legion Members Give Hoods to Fire: Michigan Terrorists Reported on Run as Governor Denounces Society, May 30, 1936, Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, the Evening News, Wilkes-Barre Record, p. 1 ). 

It took delving into the scholarly literature to understand who the Black Legion was, although the identity of the White Legion was never clear, at least, not from what I have discovered thus far.  This is clearly a topic that deserves more than a simple summary.  I have thus far spent many hours looking at newspaper archives, federal documents, and the scholarly research literature, and concluded that I will address this important and timely topic through a series of posts, relying as much as possible on allowing the words published in newspapers across the nation to speak to the issue.

Amann documented that the group was formed in late 1924 or early 1925 in Bellaire, Ohio as a “direct offshoot from the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan”, and was initially called the Klan Guard (p. 493).  The founder was Dr. William Jacob Shepard, a physician and Grand Cyclops of the Bellaire Klan.  Their first appearance at a Klan activity was in summer of 1925 as guards for the barrels in which Klansmen deposited their dues at the annual meeting.  The new organization had grown rapidly after the Bellaire Klan’s charter was revoked due to “the Black Guard’s popularity” among members who wanted to “trade their white robes for black” (p. 494).

The news of the Black Legion hit in early April 1935 when the Pontiac Police faced a hearing before the Police and Fire Trial Board on charges that two police sergeants were members of the Black Legion’s Bullet Club.  Much more would follow after the murder of Charles A. Poole in May 1936.

 

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Happy Anniversary from Bob: 39 years

Monday, Randy and I celebrated our 39th year of marriage.  Frankly, “celebrate” is not an accurate description, but then there is that whole ‘cannot go out to eat’ or ‘cannot take a trip’ thing going on.  On the other hand, jeans and tee shirt, eating cheese and crackers while watching a movie was pretty symbolic: Marriage, like everything else, has its ups and downs, its sideways and backwards, its hills and valleys.  What matters is weathering the ride no matter if it is sunshine or storm.

Now, about my new friend Bob….Bob island

Most of the time, it is downright good to live with a couple of tech geeks.  After putting up with things in this house for the last 8 years when there was just way too much going on in Texas to be concerned about much in Mississippi other than surviving, we are getting ready to do some long-delayed home improvement.  While looking at kitchen cabinets and flooring, I noted Bob was on sale at Home Depot: Today Only!, Bob was $200 off.  With dogs in the house, that means a lot of dog hair.  I once said–only half-jokingly I admit–I knew it was time to vacuum when the dog hair reached the bottom rung on the chairs.  And there was the time my friend was visiting and asked, “Will it offend you if I sweep the floor?”  I said Heck NO!  Would you like to clean anything else?  It is my go-to line now that I need to invite Sheri to visit so the house gets cleaned.

So, back to Bob and the geeks in the house, Bob got here Monday, just in time for my anniversary present. I know the novelty will wear off soon, but so far, Randy and J have told Bob to “go” twice. Bob is not a substitute for a human vacuum machine, but he will manage to keep the dog hair to a tolerable level on a daily basis. When he is done, he goes “home” and recharges. I have all the earrings, necklaces, rings, or watches I will ever need. It is good to have my new Bob–he will bring me a lot more joy, and possibly, a dog hair free house. Here’s to a lasting love affair..with Bob.

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