In this third week of the Summer Reading Challenge, I am still reading Leann Sweeney’s Yellow Rose series. It is fun, with a spunky girl heroine who, having lots of money and leisure time, is unhindered in her pursuit of criminals by any inconveniences of daily life. There is a little bit of romance and there are some eccentric family members, but neither is a distraction, and there is no gratuitous violence. The series is set in Texas, so it is just as hot in the books as it is here in real life.

But it is Book Club day, and we are to discuss Mr. White’s Confession. I hope I will be able to go. It is always uncertain in the summer, whether I will be able to leave the store for Book Club, but we really haven’t been overrun by customers yet, so I am hopeful.

I gave a state history workshop yesterday at a local school.

Here is where I stopped for lunch and a bit of a read, a couple of miles from the school where I gave the workshop.

It was practical to have my sandwich on the way back to work, and much nicer than waiting and having it in the windowless back room of the store.

 

This was the pleasant view from the picnic table.

We took my friend M here when she visited us a couple of years ago. There is a beautiful, easy hiking trail of about a mile and half. We had not considered that the climate difference would make a woman from California feel as though we had stuck her in a steam room and expected her to walk a mile and a half on a treadmill in there.

It is a battlefield park. You can, if you like, see the cannons (there’s one in the background on the left), handle cannonballs, look at houses that were overrun by soldiers during the battle, admire a diorama of the action, and of course tour the battlefield with a pamphlet explaining just where the people were killed and so forth.

It struck me as I drove over to the school that they were probably sick of the Civil War, so I offered to skip that part, and they took me up on it eagerly. If your school is practically on the spot where a Civil War battle took place, you are probably fed up with the Civil War and ready to think about the Trail of Tears, or the only battle of the Revolutionary War fought west of the Mississippi, or smallpox even.

It also struck me, though I am through reading Wuthering Heights, that novelists of that time period had a great advantage in that they could kill off their characters quite casually. In a modern novel, you could not have an entire household die of excessive emotional volatility without arousing the notice of the police.

But in the Victorian era (WH was published in 1847, which puts it a couple of decades ahead of our Civil War, but in the same era, certainly), people were quite willing to believe that a person could lose her temper or be sad or nonspecifically weak, and just die, just like that. A broken heart was plenty of reason. Victorian songs often have people dying — or, of course, planning to die, since they are still singing away and trying to make the faithless sweetheart feel bad — because of an unsatisfactory sweetheart.

Our civil war was characterized by enormous numbers of deaths — we have never managed to match it — from poor hygiene and disease as well as those pesky wounds. In our part of the country, boys who had been isolated in the hills met up with boys from other isolated spots and a third of them fell sick before they even got a chance to see a battle. Measles was an absolute scourge. You couldn’t hide your camp from the enemy because the sound of coughing as the boys woke up in the morning was so loud. And then the foul water and terrible food got any remaining fellows.

It was probably just as well to skip it, although I do have some cool lesson plans for the Civil War, stuffed with math and science and music.

I had to go to the grocery after work, and there was a threatening memo posted describing a new procedure. If the procedure were not followed, the memo said, “Affirmative Action will be taken!”

I laughed at the memo. The checker avoided my eyes and said she didn’t know what they had meant. I felt bad. Bad enough that she should have to work in a place where they not only send threatening memos to the staff, but then post them so that every passerby knows someone got in trouble, but then to have one of the passersby find it funny — well, I regretted having laughed. But it is funny, isn’t it?