Smoke Signals

May/Jun 2012



Staff Writer



May 1, 1769: The following text comes from The Discovery, Settlement And Present State of Kentucke, (The Narrative of Daniel Boone), by John Filson.

It was on the first of May, in the year 1769, that I resigned my domestic happiness for a time, and left my family and peaceable habitation on the Yadkin River in North Carolina, to wander through the wilderness of America, in the quest of the country of Kentucke, in company with John Finley, John Stewart, Joseph Holden, James Monay, and William Cool. We proceeded successfully, and after a long and fatiguing journey through a mountainous wilderness, in a westward direction, on the seventh day of June following, we found ourselves at the Red River, where John Finley had formerly been trading with the Indians, and, from the top of an eminence, saw with pleasure the beautiful level of Kentucke.

Today, Daniel Boone and his little group of frontier buddies, as well as other men of the same stamp, are referred to as “Long Hunters.” They left their homes, and for long periods of time wandered the vast wilderness. They carried little more than their long rifles, a knife, tomahawk, and a small bag of “possibles.” Some did not even carry a blanket. It was these fearlessly capable and curious men who first opened the new lands. What wonderful sights did they see? What thoughts occupied their minds?

May 7, 1954: Both before and after World War II, much of Southeast Asia, including the country we know today as Vietnam was under French colonial rule. As early as 1919, the Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh appealed to President Woodrow Wilson to intercede with the French to attain self-determination for Indochina. After World War II, the Cold War drew the United States into supporting France against procommunist, anti-colonial guerrilla forces led by Ho Chi Minh. By 1954, the American taxpayers were financing some 80% of this French colonial war, and despite this massive American assistance the French were simply crumbling. Forced into a star-shaped mountaintop fortress called Dien Bien Phu, even the famous French Foreign Legion was unable to prevent an inevitable French disaster on this date. There is a saying that history repeats itself. A recent author worded it slightly different; “Few of us intentionally connect the truth of the past with the realities of where we have ended up today.” Illustrating that human frailty, “The Wall” in Washington DC, America’s grim memorial to her dead soldiers lost in the Vietnam War, is testament to the fact that this page in history could have been read more carefully by our leaders a decade later. “Old men make war; young men die in them.”

May 12, 1932: William Allen, a truck driver, pulls over to relieve a “call of nature” by the side of a rural highway – Mt. Rose Road - in Mercer County, New Jersey. As he steps into the concealment of the woods, he suddenly yells to his co-worker, Orville Wilson, “My God, there’s a child – a dead child over there!” Face down, partly buried in the leaves and dirt of a shallow grave, is a small, badly decomposed body. Animals have eaten some of the parts, but it is wearing the recognizable remains of a flannel undershirt sewn with telltale blue thread, and the feet have the slight deformity of overlapping toes. Nearby is a weathered burlap sack. Four and a half miles to the southeast (two miles walking distance) is the Hopewell, New Jersey, home of one of America’s most famous citizens – Charles Lindbergh. Seventy-two days earlier, in what has been named “The Crime of the Century,” the Lindbergh baby had been kidnapped. A crude ladder, with a split rail causing a rung to give way, had been left leaning against the house next to the window of the upstairs’ nursery. Because of Lindbergh’s nickname, “The Lone Eagle,” the media nicknamed the kidnapped baby “The Eaglet.” Blonde hairs embedded in the material of the burlap sack, led to speculation that the baby had been spirited away in the sack. Death caused by a fractured skull led to further speculation that the baby had been accidentally dropped when the rung on the ladder had given way. However, because Lindbergh quickly identified the corpse and ordered an immediate cremation, conspiracy theories have forever haunted The Lindbergh Kidnapping. Although the kidnapper-murderer, Richard Hauptmann, was captured and executed, one quite tacky theory that still exists today suggests Lindbergh killed and buried his own child.

May 29, 1978: This date is Memorial Day in 1978, and during the weekend a group of touring archaeologists is being guided about Crow Creek, the site of a pre-recorded-history sedentary Indian village in southeastern South Dakota. The newly created Lake Francis Case, which formed behind the Fort Randall Dam on the Missouri River, laps at the edge of the site. A curious archaeologist looking over the bluff toward the water calls the guide’s attention to bones spilling out of the eroded soil. Thus is discovered the largest Native American mass burial site in North America. Subsequent archaeological digs discover the skeletal remains of some 500 people: men, women and children. Virtually all of the remains display evidence of violent death, butchering, and scalping. Some bones show evidence of feeding by wolves and coyotes. The story told by the discovery indicates a village attacked by a neighboring tribe sometime around 1325. Probably in the pre-dawn hours, warriors broke through an uncompleted section of the village’s stockade, slaughtering the panicked inhabitants as they streamed out of their earth-lodges and attempted to throw together some kind of defense. Some villagers escaped to later return, gather the butchered parts of their friends and relatives, and bury them in a partly constructed fortification ditch. One skull studied by archaeological scientists showed evidence that the “poor fellow had been scalped some time before the massacre: his skull shows signs of healing. This time he did not survive.” Agreements between local Sioux tribal representatives and the archaeologists led to the return of all the bones removed and studied, their proper burial, and a sealing of the site with a memorial.


June 6, 1944: This is D-Day: the Normandy invasion of Hitler’s Europe. On the beaches we know what the assault troops were doing as they struggled out of the water up toward the sea wall. We know what the paratroopers were doing behind the beaches as they fought both Germans and confusion. But what was going on aboard the ships? Some were prowling just offshore blazing away at selected targets. Some were bringing in yet more supplies and men. Some were caring for the wounded that were beginning to be moved off the beach. One sixteen-year-old Seaman, Ferris Burke, served on LST 285, a temporary hospital ship. Ferris recalled that the doctors were magnificent as they worked for hours administering to desperately injured soldiers. One doctor requested that he go to the shipfitter's shop and get some pieces of angle iron around two feet long. When Ferris returned with the requested metal, the doctor told him to tape amputated arms and legs to the metal and throw them overboard. It was just awful. Then later, when the shipfitter found out what the metal was used for, he chewed Ferris out. "He said if he had known what the doctor wanted the metal for, he would have given me scrap from around the shop and not the good stuff."

June 9, 1934: This date was a big day in the world of ducks. If one looks up “Any-Day-in-History” through Scopes Systems on the Internet (, and looks at the June 9 birthdays throughout history, the following is cited: “1934 Donald Duck: famous fowl.” Yes, this date is the birthday of the Walt Disney cartoon character, Donald Duck. His birthday is cited along with those of Leopold I, the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire; Cole Porter, the famous composer and lyricist; Robert S. McNamara, the US Secretary of Defense under Kennedy and Johnson, and the actor, Johnny Depp, who as did Donald, stared in movies filmed by Walt Disney Studios. Is this – the birthday of Donald Duck – really a matter of history? Well, if one scrolls down further in that “Any-Day-in-History” site, they will find among the historical events of June 9, the1st showing of a Donald Duck cartoon” in 1931, and the first release of a Donald Duck cartoon - The Wise Little Hen – in 1934. So, now wait a minute, if the birthday of Donald Duck is listed as 1934, how can Donald appear in a cartoon in 1931? Cross-referencing with the encyclopedia, shows that Donald Duck first appeared in the “Silly Symphonies” cartoon The Wise Little Hen on this date: June 9, 1934, which is the date the Disney web site recognizes as Donald’s birthday. It also states that he was “mentioned” in a 1931 Disney “storybook.” However, in another Disney cartoon, The Three Caballeros, Donald’s birthday is given as Friday the 13th; the 13th of March, to be exact. History certainly can be confusing! Maybe the truth here is that for Donald, whose appeal to the world’s young-at-heart is timeless, birthdays just are not all that important. Donald has been consistently a favorite, and hopefully for the generations to come he will live forever. The technical artistry of his character has changed little over the years. Donald has always been a white duck with yellow-orange bill, legs, and feet. He is typically dressed in a sailor suit with a cap and no pants – that is, unless he is going swimming.


June 20, 1793: On this date, American inventor Eli Whitney submitted for U.S. patent his cotton gin – a machine that separates cottonseed from the short-staple cotton fiber. It revolutionized the cotton industry in the South, and is considered a major stepping stone in the mass production methods of the Industrial Revolution. Although cotton soon became one of America’s leading exports, flaws in the patent laws allowed others to copy the design, and Eli failed to realize any substantial profit from his invention. Undaunted, Eli turned his attention to the manufacture of firearms. The idea of the standardization of parts making them interchangeable was not new, but Eli Whitney and a gunmaker named Simeon North perfected it in the building of muskets. They believed machines could manufacture identical parts quickly, when traditionally such parts had been tediously created by individual artisans. Financiers in Europe and the United States were skeptical until Eli demonstrated his idea in Washington. He brought the individual parts of ten muskets and in a demonstration he amazed the Secretary of War and interested army officers by assembling ten muskets from piles of different parts. Eli Whitney and Simeon North then assisted in establishing United States Arsenals at Springfield, Massachusetts and Harper’s Ferry, Virginia. Some forty years later, when Whitney’s son, Eli Whitney Jr., was running the gun factory, another inventor, Samuel Colt, sought assistance from Whitney’s expertise. Sold on Colt’s idea of a revolving pistol, General Zachary Taylor wanted a thousand such pistols for service in the Mexican War. Colt had none. He had sold his last revolver to a Texas Ranger, and his Patent Arms Company at Patterson, New Jersey had folded. Thus, the first truly successful production model “Colt” revolvers, which were to eventually become so world-famous, were “Eli Whitney” revolvers from the Whitney factory at Whitneyville, Connecticut.

June 26, 1284: There exist many legends among the peoples of the world. Probably all of us can think of some: vampires, werewolves, the Headless Horseman, the many wonderful oral-tradition stories of the Native Americans, Santa Claus, Bigfoot, St. Patrick banishing snakes from Ireland, and Anastasia, the mysterious surviving daughter of the murdered Tsar. Some legends explain natural phenomena, some the unexplainable, others on how life came to be, and others stem from historical incidents. Sometime in the 1300’s, a stain glass window was created in the German town of Hamelin depicting a colorfully dressed pied-piper leading children. In the 1600’s that window was apparently destroyed, but it related to a legend that occurred on this date. It is called, “The Pied Piper of Hamlin.” The town of Hamlin was suffering from a rat infestation, and one day a stranger offered to remove the rats for a price. The villagers agreed, and using a pipe, the man lured all of the rats into the Weser River with his music. However, although the man was successful and all the rats were drowned, the villagers refused to pay. Angrily leaving, the man returned on this date to seek revenge upon the town. While all the adults were in church, the Pied Piper of Hamlin led 130 children away from the town to forever disappear in a mountain cave. Like many legends, the facts that gave birth to this legend have been obscured, but researchers believe that it has factual basis in some otherwise unrecorded disaster or event. (There is one version suggesting the piper returned the children for a higher price.) Possible causes include The Plague, an outbreak of Cholera, a Children’s Crusade, or the colonization of other areas. Obviously, also like so many other legends, the truth will likely never be known, and the basic premise of the original story will continue to fuel new tales. For example, even the popular author Stephen King has incorporated the “pied piper” into his stories.

Paul “Cougar Heart” Jacobson

NAF #015

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